We couldn’t help but feature vinyl DJ, Mackenzie Leonard on halloween weekend, after all the name of her radio show on Kalamazoo, Michigan’s 89.1 WIDR FM, is Enter The Crypt with Delta of Venus. Mackenzie’s show is on Western Michigan University’s student and community radio station, where she plays Rockabilly, Goth Rock, New Wave, French and various other International and non-English speaking bands, and everything in between, all from her personal collection. In addition to the show, she’s also had the opportunity to DJ several Vintage In The Zoo events (a vintage market), and other local events.
In her free time, Mackenzie loves to digitize analog music, spend time with her cat, Lorelei, and take care of disabled individuals in her paid job with a local mental health agency. “I’m also active in my church and love to read and spend time with friends.“
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
A chance meeting with the WIDR program director in 2022 at a school event. The program director in asked me if I wanted to host a program at their station. Thus Enter The Crypt was born; I call where I keep my vinyl, the crypt and Delta of Venus came from an Anaïs Nin book I own. I had wanted to share my love for music with others on the airwaves for a while, and was at a place in my life where I was ready to try something new after some major life changes; the biggest being the death of her father a year earlier.
I love sharing music with others. Having my own radio show has also helped me amplify my voice and other disabled voices through the power of radio. I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2018 at 20 years old. Receiving that diagnosis helped me better understand myself and how I assimilate the world, as well as being able to better understand my strengths and limitations. When you support Enter The Crypt, you support content created by a disabled woman. I don’t get paid for my work, but the joy I get from it is more than money can buy. Enter The Crypt has also offered me opportunities to get in contact with artists such as Greg Godovitz of Goddo, Robert Haimer (Rest In Peace, my friend!) and Bill Mumy of Barnes and Barnes, Andy Cahan of The Turtles, and countless local artists in the area.
What is a day in the life like?
I prepare a general idea of my playlist for the week ahead at my home, and promote my show on my social media platforms one to two days before the show airs. On the day of, I head into the studio, turn our recording equipment on through SoundStudio, perform a transmitter check, set up my media to be played on the turntables in the studio, and switch our DJ system from auto to manual. I then state our station’s legal I.D. and begin the program. Every two songs I state our station ID, song information, and what program listeners are hearing. My program runs for two hours on Fridays from 10am-12pm as of now. I sign off with our legal ID and information on mine and the station’s social media information and prepare the studio for the next DJ to begin their program.
In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
I have two: Interviewing Andy Cahan of The Turtles and Flo & Eddie was a ton of fun. Also, digitizing a 1988 rockabilly album from a local band that I found at an estate sale for $1 was extremely fun, and has taken me down really unexpected paths in learning about some of the local music scene in the area.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Screening music to make sure it meets FCC guidelines (i.e. no profanity). That takes a long time, but is essential to keeping my show and our station on the air.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
If an opportunity presents itself, go for it. If it brings you joy, share that with the world. Life is too short not to smile. Also keep learning!
At my station we take both students and community members as airstaff. I’m a student myself, but will be transitioning into a community member role at the station within the next year, as I will have finally completed my degree. Also, seek out local artists in your area. Learn from them. Promote their music. Learn from other DJs too, and be open to listen to constructive critique. Creating a respectful culture helps personal growth and a station to thrive.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Yes! I’ve been collecting for 16 years. My father and I often took trips to one of the local record stores together, Green Light Music, where he would let me pick out records to play on my turntable at home (which at that time was my mom’s turntable from 1979). Vinyl gave me access to music at that time that was special. I grew up out in the country and my family didn’t have much access to internet resources like many families do today. Years later, I’m still a vinyl collector. I always joke with my family that if you looked in the record store as I was growing up, often times you’d see a bunch of middle-aged men flipping through vinyl, and then a young disabled girl flipping through vinyl which was me. I fell in love and now own over 1,000 records, the majority I’ve bought myself, and a technics turntable that I repaired myself to listen to records.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
I definitely worry about the use of AI in creative media and how that may affect the industry in the future. To me, a robot can’t create the depth of thought or innovation a musician or artist that has worked on their craft can.
Who has been influential to you and your growth as a professional in this industry?
Kendra Shepherd of Needlejuice Records (Artist for Barnes and Barnes, Napoleon XIV), Miss Mei of WFMU. Mei’s work has inspired me to digitize more music. Billy Mrak (Aloft), Chris Haner, and Liz from Greenlight Music, Greg Scholl of Phoenix Records and Boutique, Greg Godovitz (Goddo), Scott Spears (The Wild Woodys), Andy Cahan (The Turtles), and Robert Haimer (Barnes and Barnes– RIP). Also, the many wonderful airstaff on WIDR past and present – especially: Messenger Dove, DJ Dan Steely, Emily Sabourin, Cully Cooper, Sydney Kott, Ryan Misak and many others!
Anything else you’d like to add; if not tell us what you’re listening to:
I’m autistic. Being a disabled woman in this industry has been an interesting experience but I’m happy to be able to create more visibility about disabled folks in the industry! Also: My favorite genre is Rockabilly.
Enter the Crypt: @enterthecryptwidrfm
Enter the Crypt: @EntertheCrypt