Kayla Liederbach, also known as Kayla Kush, the host of the WSUM show “U DUB,” fits the portrait of a modern day Renaissance woman—one who possesses a love for reggae. Madison, being far away from the glistening warmth of Jamaica, may seem like an unlikely place for a young reggae savant to call home. But surprisingly, Madison is home to a burgeoning reggae scene. At the local epicenter of roots reggae and dub music stands Kayla, who over the course of four years has transformed her show “U DUB” into an entity in the local reggae community and a platform for the transmission of multiple reggae genres. The current titleholder of “DJ of the Year” sat down to discuss her show, her nominations at the upcoming Madison Area Music Awards and her second “U DUB” compilation album slated for release this year.
Besides being a DJ at WSUM, you’re immersed in the Madison music community. Where can people find you outside the station?
When I’m not at WSUM, I work as content editor at a music service called Murfie, and I host a podcast for it featuring all types of music. (I sneak a lot of reggae in there.) I also occasionally bartend at the Blue Velvet Lounge on West Gilman Street and can make a mean martini.
Describe the format of your show.
You’ll hear tons of great roots reggae and dub music. I frequently do interviews with my favorite bands and new bands. Every once in a while, you’ll catch a band playing a live set in the WSUM studio. What you don’t see is me dancing all crazy in the main studio (until the day WSUM gets a webcam).
What reggae bands frequent your show?
Wisconsin bands like TUGG, Natty Nation and Roots Collective. This year, The Simpkin Project, from California, and Kiwi, from Jersey City, joined the list of “U DUB” guests.
Some of my all-time favorite interviews have been with Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and John Brown’s Body. You can check them out on my Soundcloud.
Last year, you released a compilation album of featured recordings from your show. What do have in the works for Live on U DUB, Volume 2?
So far I have bangin’ recordings from Edi Gbordze & Timbukale (Madison), Sebeh Tree (Madison), Sol Tribe (Texas) and Perspective Heights (Milwaukee). I’m trying to get everything together in time for the Spring Reggae Jam on April 16 at the High Noon Saloon.
I would like to make that the official album release and have free copies available for the first people who arrive. That’s gonna be a fun night—I’ll be spinning sets between Fortunate Youth, True Press, Pewee Dread and Perspective Heights!
Best reggae artist of all time?
Oh man! It’s impossible to pick just one! I would say oldies like The Gladiators, Burning Spear, Tappa Zukie, King Tubby and Roots Radics. My favorite new reggae bands are Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, John Brown’s Body, The Expanders and Slightly Stoopid.
Currently, you hold the title of “DJ of the Year.” This year you are nominated for two MAMAS: “DJ of the Year” and “Local Radio Personality of the Year.” What does it mean to be “DJ of the Year?” How is it different from “Local Radio Personality of the Year?”
Winning “DJ of the Year” means people are having positive reactions to what I’m doing, which is the whole point. Also, I’m the first woman to win “DJ of the Year.” The music industry and DJ world are very male-dominated in a numbers sense, so it feels good to know I can do it well and get myself and WSUM recognition. It would be so sweet to hold “DJ of the Year” two years in a row. C’mon, Madison, let’s do it!
“Local Radio Personality” and DJ are two very separate things. The latter is spinning sets during shows at venues like the Majestic, the Frequency, the Dragonfly Lounge, etc., while the former is putting together an hour-long radio program each week filled with music, guest interviews, interesting discussions about reggae history, local events and hemp and medical marijuana legalization.
Since you started as a DJ, how has your show changed?
My music collection has grown exponentially. I started collecting and spinning vinyl records over a year ago. DJ Trichrome is a huge mentor of mine and I was lucky to be able to see first-hand how fun and meaningful it is to spin vintage roots on wax.
Why should people listen to your show?
The music! The good vibes!