Affectionately known as John in the Morning, John Richards is KEXP's associate program director and the morning show host and producer. The beloved independent radio station just moved into brand-new studios at Seattle Center, and on April 16, is celebrating the grand opening. Where recently spoke with Richards about his favorite Seattle bands, his best memory from KEXP and what he can’t fly without.
You’re now in the new studios at Seattle Center, and the grand opening celebration is April 16. What are you looking forward to most in the new building?
For the public, I’m most excited that they get to come in and see in-studio sessions live. I’m so psyched about the La Marzocco spot opening up. They’re putting in a beautiful showroom for their machines. People can come in and get coffee at this location while the show is going on. Selfishly, I’m hoping to get an emergency button I can hit to get coffee into the booth. So that, to me, is really exciting.
What is planned for the grand opening?
April 16 is going to be record store day, and it going to be our grand opening. We’re going to have tons of events. Very big bands will be performing in the open space and in the courtyard next to KEXP. That’s going to be open to the public. Saturday is the big public grand opening, the Thursday and Friday before that are events for our donors. We’re going to be having three solid days of events. Saturday we’re asking the entire city to come down.
Do you have a favorite memory from KEXP?
There are two, and they’re both iconic locations. The first one was when we did Raw Power, and it was on top of the Pike Place Market. We had Mike McCready, Duff McKagan, Barrett Martin, Mark Arm: All music royalty, covering The Stooges on this iconic location I’ve been going to for years. Nine thousand people showed up and I got to stand on top of the Market and talk to the people and introduce the band. It was the most Seattle experience I’ve ever had. The other was on top of the Space Needle, introducing Mudhoney. You just can’t get more Seattle than that unless a Boeing jet lands right there and Russell Wilson runs by.
What is your favorite restaurant?
I’m vegan so my favorite straight up vegan place by far is the Wayward [Vegan Café], up in the Green Lake area. I’ve probably eaten there four times this last week. It’s run by great people, it always has good music, it has the best grub. It’s so refreshing to be able to order anything. It’s great breakfast—it’s an all-day breakfast menu. The dinner menu is good.
Joule, down in the Fremont area. Plenty of options for me and plenty of options for meat-eaters as well. The smoked tofu at Joule; if I could eat anything, it would be that. It’s amazing food. If I am going out on a date night with my wife, Joule is the first place we look to.
Any favorite bars?
I don’t get to go out very often. I do not go out on weeknights, I haven’t for a long, long time. In my neighborhood in the Phinney Ridge area, Oliver’s Twist is where I go. It’s in my neighborhood, it’s super chill, it’s a really good atmosphere. I think any great bar in our city needs to fit the neighborhood, and I think that one does. They have some great bartenders that play really good music. The drinks are very good. My wife and I go there sometimes as part of our date night just to plan our lives. We will sit there and write on napkins. It is by far my favorite in town.
Best place to see a band play?
My favorite’s Neumos. I know the owners really well, they’re great guys. The staff is great. They book KEXP-friendly bands all the time. Barboza is down below, Moe Bar is part of it next door. Two options for bands, many options for dinking. Weekly I get about a half a dozen people asking where to go, and I always mention Neumos.
What are your favorite Seattle bands right now?
There’s two. The first is Grace Love & The True Loves. To me this band, if there’s any justice in the world, the whole world will know this band. They’re a mix of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and Fitz and The Tantrums. You can not not have a good time at their shows. They were just in the studio yesterday. The other one, this came out of nowhere. They’re somewhere between Modest Mouse and Nirvana, they’re called Low Cut High Tops. This is a 23-year-old kid who just put this out, and it’s phenomenal beginning to end.
Favorite Seattle landmark?
It might be the Space Needle to be honest with you. It’s such a cliché answer almost ... To me, it’s just always called me. I’ve been at festivals, I’ve been on top … and now we broadcast right at the shadow of the Space Needle. Nothing jumps out more in this city than the Space Needle. That to me is the most iconic landmark in the city.
What is your favorite spot to spend time with your family?
Probably the main place outside of our home where we head out is Green Lake. I’ve run Green Lake for two decades now. Both my children when they were brand new babies I walked around Green Lake [and] when my wife was pregnant and we had to walk. Every time we want fresh air and want to get out, we go to Green Lake.
Favorite shopping spots?
For me, Ian is where I go for men’s clothes. I love Ian. It's perfect for Seattle. It has such a good selection of clothes that fit like a Seattle guy that’s not trying too hard. They’re super helpful there and they always have good stuff coming in and out. For music you go to Easy Street [Records & Cafe] without a question. And breakfast and coffee.
What is your fondest Seattle memory?
It was Benaroya Hall, which is a good Seattle place to mention, and it was the Sigor Rós show. That show was the moment where [my wife and I] knew we were going to be together the rest of our lives. It was at a music show, it was my favorite band. It was the most exhilarating, emotional show of my life. We went to Wild Ginger, which I love, and then we went to the show. We ran out of the theater before it was done, before anyone else left. We grabbed a handful of confetti they shot off, and to this day I still have that confetti.
What is your favorite vacation destination?
We tend to go somewhere new all the time. We just traveled to northern India, which was part vacation part, we know some monks and support a music school and orphanage. Before that we’d gone to Scotland and Paris and London. The place we keep going back to is the west coast of Mexico. North of Puerto Vallarta. We have a friend there with a house and we’ll stay there sometimes. If I could go back to any location, I’d go back to Scotland.
Any must-pack items when traveling?
Headphones. Multiple headphones. I probably own two-dozen pairs of headphones. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t bring headphones. I’m such a headphone snob. I’ve had them on a good portion of my life. I have these little Bose running headphones that I use. The thing you want to have with you, as well, is some Bluetooth speakers at all times. The only other is a bag full of vegan snacks. I have a whole system now of what to bring. I will carry food all the way to the destination knowing some of it’s coming back with me.
Window or aisle?
Always aisle no matter what. I will get claustrophobic and I will do anything to be on the aisle. I understand on an overseas trip they lean against the window, but I love knowing there’s an aisle right there.