Milwaukee Talks: 88Nine RadioMilwaukee's Marcus Doucette

Marcus Doucette cannot be compartmentalized when it comes to his person, his spirituality or his musical tastes. Born in Milwaukee to a black mother and a white father, he grew up in a Sikh ashram where he practiced yoga daily and music was ever-present in the religious services.

Doucette attended public schools during elementary and high school and went to college at Marquette University, all of which further contributed to the diversity in his life and his taste in music.

"As a biracial dude from the '70s and '80s, I neither knew what I was 'supposed' to be into nor did I need to distinguish my taste against those of any other. And this is probably why I love 88Nine, that I can be a DJ that's like me as a person and individual," says Doucette.

Doucette is a DJ at 88Nine RadioMilwaukee where he holds down the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. time slot. He hosts the popular world music program "Sound Travels" every weekday at noon and Sundays at 7 p.m. His rich, recognizable voice and vast musical knowledge has helped shape the independent station into a true Milwaukee gem.

Recently, OnMilwaukee.com kicked back with Doucette and talked about music, neighborhoods, yoga, goals, loneliness and whether or not he gets recognized in public often.

OnMilwaukee.com: Before you were on the radio, people always told you that you should be in radio. Why exactly did they say this? Is radio something you wanted to do for a long time, or did it come to you later?

Marcus Doucette: So before there was radio, there was regular life. Not that radio isn't, it just was a different chapter of mine and to make a living I did all sorts of stuff, from landscaping and painting houses to teaching and telemarketing. Right before I started working in radio for real, I was waiting tables.

When you're doing work that isn't your true calling or even in a position that you aren't sure what it is you should do, people, situations and really the universe will give you hints as to what that should be, and if the truth is the opportunity you are waiting to grasp, you'll figure it out because the answers are almost always in front of you and probably in plain sight.

For me, whenever and wherever I was working, people of a certain age would remark that I should be in radio. I never paid it much mind because it's a hard business to get into and like everything else, you gotta know someone. And that's before you can show them that you know something at all.

Now I'd been a DJ for a while, and had my own gigs and was collecting records mainly because I loved music. I'd gotten into it later in life than many, and was making up for lost time by digging deep and buying in bunches. I DJ'ed wherever I could and one night I met Tom Crawford, station manager at 91.7 WMSE. We met in the context of one of my gigs, got to talking and in the course of a deep conversation about the world music I was spinning, ended up getting offered a chance to DJ on 91.7.

From there, I volunteered for a couple of years, got a bit better and when 88Nine came along, got a serendipitous call that ended up in an interview. Now I'm on the air every day on RadioMilwaukee.

OMC: Where did you grow up? Are you from a musical family?

MD: I was born in Milwaukee, spent grade school years in Kansas City and moved back during high school. I went to Tosa East, college at Marquette and have been here ever since.

My family isn't particularly musical, though I remember when I was little my dad played a bit of acoustic guitar, that he'd later quit. I did grow up in a Sikh ashram however, and in this environment there was always music and singing.

Sikh religious services are very musical, often with tablas, harmoniums and guitars and such as the musical background to poetic readings of what I would call scripture. So I guess in a way, my family is musical, just another kind of gospel.

OMC: Have you ever been in a band?

MD: I've never been in a band. And I grew up listening first to the chants, mantras and music of Western Sikh Dharma, and later on, music of the eras and contexts I was in. With my mom, soul, funk and classic black music. With my dad's side of the family, classic rock. Around my friends, '80s pop and the nascent hip hop that was entering, naively, what we now call its golden era. And alone, I would listen to really weird stuff, like Indian Ragas, deep Celtic roots, even some classical music. Somehow all of this still sits in my aesthetic for music. Never mattered what format, though I was around tapes, CDs – when they got cheap enough to afford – and records, as well. For what it's worth, records are still the best, just not always practical. Page 1 of 3 (view all on one page)

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Talkbacks

Pops.Jim.60 | Aug. 27, 2011 at 11:30 p.m. (report)

Marcus is great. He has a beautiful spirit and is strong, full of love. When he was born my teacher, Yogi Bhajan gave him the name Guru Amrit Singh, which means: the one who dispels the darkness by imparting the essence. Seems like he's fulfilling his destiny. We are lucky to know him. His mother and I always told him that when you put black and white together it comes out gold, like him..I'm proud for him! Peace.

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Pops.Jim.60 | Aug. 27, 2011 at 11:22 p.m. (report)

Great interview. Marcus is all that he seems and more..he has a huge heart and a most beautiful mind. He has " it ". His mother and I always told him that when you put black and white together it comes out gold! Marcus is a true citizen of the world. And ww love and admire his spirit. Peace. Pops.

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sueo | Aug. 25, 2011 at 9:50 p.m. (report)

great article about a great DJ on a great station!

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Midwest | Aug. 24, 2011 at 2:30 p.m. (report)

As far as Q&As go on OMC, this is one of the best. Radio Milwaukee is a gem on the radio dial, as is Doucette.

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