When Jon Solomon does a thing, he really does a thing. He runs the record label Comedy Minus One, admins Now Fizzing (the largest online seltzer community imaginable) AND has been hosting a Holiday radio show on WPRB Princeton for THIRTY YEARS. While the show tends to be 25 hours long, this year it will be 30 hours long to celebrate this milestone. We discuss all of the above, and, of course, coffee!
Hi Jon, thanks for taking some time to Spill The Beans. Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
Ok! Sure! My name is Jon Solomon and I’m a big fan of both the coffee Glassworks roasts and this ongoing series. Thanks for having me. Hello from New Jersey! I’m a DJ at 103.3 fm WPRB and run the label Comedy Minus One among other pursuits.
Jon Solomon, photo by Nicole Scheller.
This December 24 at 3:00 pm ET I will kick kick off the 30th-annual edition of my Holiday Radio Show and instead of a traditional 25 hours this year’s marathon is going to be 30 hours in length running until 9:00 pm ET on Christmas night.
You have been putting out records for years, first as the label My Pal God and now Comedy Minus One. How did you get started and how did it evolve for you?
I have been interested in music since I was a kid, printing microfilm displays of Billboard charts from old newspapers at my local public library. Then I discovered punk rock in grade school and everything changed.
Comedy Minus One began just over 11 years ago. I wanted a fresh start, better accounting (please don’t set up Quickbooks when you’re in college without someone to help you, dear reader) and to receive fewer emails from people thinking we were a religious institution. It felt unfair to MPG to just hit a “reset button” on that label Marvel Comics Year Zero style, so CMO was born.
We’ve put out about 45 records of various sizes in physical and digital form and instead of religious emails we mostly hear from fledgling comedians.
There are some special projects in store for 2019 and beyond.
With both of these record labels, you’ve dealt with a multitude of amazing artists. What are some experiences that stand out to you?
Flying out to Chicago for a Memorial Day show in 2017 with four Comedy Minus One bands was a real treat that felt like “family,” even though I was nursing two herniated discs in my back at the time. Ouch.
Poster by Ryan Nelson.But, if I think about the question a touch longer I’ll go with simply HEARING the first Bottomless Pit record “Hammer of the Gods” and knowing that it was what the first Comedy Minus One release needed to be.
If I was going to be starting something new it had to be with an album important to me and special. That powerful record was very much both.
What would you consider the biggest influences when you are considering a band to work with, and how have you seen these evolve over time?
Jeez. I like pairing with people who get what I do and have realistic expectations for what we can accomplish together. A good sense of humor and perspective mixed with a willingness to work hard to not lose money is also welcomed.
You have been doing a 24 hour radio broadcast from the early evening on Christmas eve through the evening on Christmas day on WPRB Princeton FOR THIRTY YEARS.
How old were you when you started?
I was 15, and had just become a DJ at WPRB a couple of months prior.
How did this start, and what inspired you to keep going at such a young age?
There was a time slot available on Christmas Eve and I was the first person to sign up for it in the lobby of the station (this was of course before the Internet made such things easier). I stayed on the air all night and decided that the next year I wanted to try and do 24 hours for some inexplicable reason.
Which I did.
Most of what I played that Christmas was from the station’s dusty library of holiday music combined with some very lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng songs, full versions of the Nutcracker, whatever it took to get across the finish line.
I don’t think I’d ever pulled an “all nighter” prior and when some friends from high school stopped by WPRB, I remember one of them appearing to grow in size in front of my eyes.
That is how exhausted I was.
This year is a milestone, with a special 30 hour version taking place. Any surprises people can look forward to?
Well, the show will be longer.
Hopefully that extension results in fewer moments come late December onwards where I don’t suddenly exclaim “Oh no! I totally forgot to play [BLANK]!” to an empty room.
Jon on the air, with assistant. Photo by Nicole Scheller.
The marathon will open with a special two hour mix I am still formulating and close with something special for three bonus hours.
In between all the favorite moments that have developed over three decades of broadcasts shall happen:
A new “Christmas story” debuting every hour! The All-Ramones-inspired set at 12:34 am ET! The All-Misfits-inspired set at 1:38 pm ET! The All-Fall and All-Joel RL Phelps Xmas sets down the stretch! Snaildartha: The Story of Jerry The Christmas Snail! Lindstrom’s 40:00+ Little Drummer Boy! The Sonics, The Wailers, and The Galaxies plus other traditions within the tradition.
You are also a huge fan of seltzer, as am I. You admin a Facebook group called Now Fizzing that has grown to thousands of members since I was asked to join in the very early days. I drink this stuff all the time, and am constantly jealous of the amazing options that exist outside of the Chicago market. How does this group affect your life and what are your favorites?
I’ve been on a big “store brands” kick and I think Soleil makes the best grapefruit seltzer around. Look for it at your Acme or Jewel. Hal’s New York actually does a coffee seltzer that you as a “coffee guy” might want to find a bottle of. It is WEIRD, yet COMPELLING. Unlike the new La Croix Coffea Exotica cola seltzer that is rolling out, it does contain caffeine.
Now Fizzing has been going for four years and has uniformly improved my life through the people I’ve been fortunate to know via a mutual love of bubbly beverages. It is a real honor to moderate one of the rare remaining positive places on the Internet.
The best is meeting people who only know me through NF and have no idea I do a radio show, run a label, or am involved in any of the other projects that were once how I was easily identified.
I used to go to record stores when visiting different towns, now I seem to find myself checking out the beverage aisles of local groceries when on the road…
Ok, it’s coffee time. Do you like that stuff?
I didn’t always, but I do.
I used to only enjoy coffee-flavored things growing up (Dannon coffee yogurt in particular) but couldn’t stand hot coffee.
My mom drinks dark black coffee straight-up exclusively, so that was really all I knew.
Thick sludge the color of an endless void.
It was only when my now-wife and I started dating and she would prepare a bagel with cream cheese plus iced coffee at her apartment in Brooklyn every morning that I finally understood.
The funny thing is that the first Monday in December I actually GIVE UP COFFEE until December 26th as part of my Xmas marathon prep. Sweets too.
That is seriously looming as I type!
Switching over to tea for the final weeks until I get off the air really helps keep me retain an even keel. But it is harder to give up the coffee each year.
Green tea, chai and seltzer during the marathon exclusively.
Boy, that coffee when I get up on 12/26 tastes amazing though.
What do you look for in a good cup of coffee?
Well, I’m one of those “iced coffee always” people, save for a rare hot cup of coffee after dinner at a wedding.
I enjoy a strong coffee flavor and usually cut my drink with a mild soy milk. We mostly opt for lighter roasts at Ice Station Solomon. There’s a place about 30 minutes up the road called OQ which routinely prepares the best beans in our general area, yet I lack the vocabulary to explain what is so terrific about what they do.
That Ipsento beverage with espresso, honey, coconut milk and cayenne is something I keep trying to recreate in the comfort of my own home. I’ve come pretty close!
How do you make coffee at home?
Beside the above, a few ways - including this hand-pull espresso shot deal called a ROK that my friend Liz lent me and then refused to take back.
The Baratza Encore grinder rules.
My wife Nicole will usually make a pot of coffee when she heads out.
16 oz exactly goes from the scale to the Encore to the Rok for max effect.
If you are grabbing a coffee at a cafe, what is your go-to?
It used to be an iced soy latte but often these days I opt for an iced Americano. I think I am still searching for my perfect drink that is intensely coffee but not simply coffee. Tell me what to order, Spillin' The Beans readers and I’ll make that my next beverage. Seriously! Find me on Twitter or Facebook and share what you think that drink should be!
That was something important my aforementioned friend Liz imparted when I thought we needed an espresso maker at home - go out for the special coffee drinks and just improve your drip and grind quality at home.
Are there coffees from particular regions that you are particularly fond of?
I think fondly about this strong Ethiopian coffee I had once after a meal with a heavy ginger taste to it, but I also recall how I mentioned this drink at a different Ethiopian restaurant to the owner and he told me that was “for tourists.”
How do you feel that coffee intersects with your creativity?Well, I can’t really imagine starting a morning without a pint glass of iced coffee and/or a double shot from the ROK, which is best served in said pint glass with a quick pour of maple syrup at the bottom for starters, amid 4-5 ice cubes, unsweetened soy milk and some cinnamon if I remember.
I usually get a drink underway, open the blinds in the living room and dining room, find my allergy medicine + probiotic and then reconvene in the kitchen to take a first sip and get my day going at the dining room table.
Thanks so much, Jon. Lastly, have you heard any good jokes lately?
Well, I know a pretty good modem joke but it is a little baud-y...