Discover: Heat Rocks

Oliver Wang explains how Heat Rocks came to be and why it's different.

Posted by Lindsay Pavlas on 25th November 2019. 5 minute read

Heat Rocks Logo

Hosts Morgan Rhodes and Oliver Wang

Our Roots

The roots of Heat Rocks took hold when Morgan Rhodes and I first met. Over five years ago, we were paired together for a new music review segment that ran on KPCC’s morning show. Morgan and I hadn’t known one another prior, but we soon discovered a kindred musical spirit in one another. And even if we only met up every month or so, we felt like we had good chemistry as a duo.

In the early winter of 2016, we began to chat about the possibility of working on a podcast together. When we thought about using the album as a point of entry, we knew that the format might feel anachronistic in an age of infinite playlists. However, we also believed that albums continue to serve as powerful sign-posts for historical and cultural eras, to say nothing about how they become markers for our individual “audio-biographies.” Put more simply, for many of us, we can chronicle our life journeys via the albums we encounter along the way.

At its heart, Heat Rocks is a music appreciation podcast. We like to get into the intimate relationships we have with music, but also try to critically engage with the social and cultural importance of those albums and artists, as well. We often describe Heat Rocks as a “deep dive” into an album, but where that dive takes us is unpredictable. It’s part of what makes doing the show so much fun.

Our Guests

Artists were always going to be an obvious choice of guest and one observation Morgan made early on is that artists are often asked to talk about their own albums… but not necessarily other people’s work. As such, we felt like Heat Rocks would offer them a unique opportunity to pay homage to the artists and albums that shaped their own musical imagination. However, as Morgan (music supervisor) and I (professor, music writer, DJ) come to music from different directions, we wanted to make sure our guest pool included other people who have equally meaningful relationships to albums, even if they’re not specifically music-makers.

100+ Episodes and Counting

We taped our first episodes during the summer of 2017 and then launched Episode #1 on October 2nd, featuring the great Joi Gilliam, talking to us about Betty Davis’s scorching 1974 album, They Say I’m Different. For me, the biggest joy with taping the 100+ episodes since is that once a week, I get to have smart conversations about music. As a journalist, I’m always hoping an interviewee gifts me with some brilliant insight about whatever we’re talking about and with Heat Rocks, every guest has dropped gems on us throughout the course of our episodes. It’s delightful in the truest sense of the term.

The Beauty of Discovery

We always stress to listeners that they don’t need to be fans, let alone experts, of the albums we talk about. As noted , we might be a music appreciation podcast but we also hope we can be a music discovery one, too. There’s been more than a few albums that I discovered through doing the show and the thrill of finding something new to listen to never gets old. We hope our listeners feel the same way.

Watch the Heat Rocks Trailer!

This trailer for Heat Rocks was conceptualized by Morgan and shot and edited by Danny Simmons. It dropped in late September of 2017 and was a pitch perfect introduction to Morgan and Oliver’s partnership.