11: The Reason I Started the Oakland Underground and Joined Urban Geographer

By: Zach Micklea

Like countless others in the scene, music has been the biggest part of my life since childhood. I grew up listening to everything from Patsy Cline and Pete Seger to Nirvana and Bad Brains. Something drew me to it. Maybe it was the honesty and passion I heard that I did not necessarily get as a young kid, but that’s a different story. Everything about music put me in a trance. Chord progression, harmonies, effects and poetry. All of it.    

I played a handful of instruments growing up and was in a few bands, but I did not get as much enjoyment out of that as I did with finding new artists and going to shows to watch them perform. The shows I was going to were primarily small local shows, so I grew some kind of closeness to Michigan music.

When the band thing didn’t transpire, I became distracted. Distracted from what my purpose is. I worked a number of odd end jobs after high school, including a cashier at a gas station, a technician at a Chrysler dealership and even a mason tender in Ann Arbor last summer. 

During that summer, I worked at the University of Michigan and had my first moment of clarity in years. I knew what I wanted to do and I knew how to do it, and I knew working construction was never going to be a part of it. I wanted to promote the music that had been the one constant thing in my life. I quit my job shortly after and was accepted at Oakland University.

On my first day at Oakland, I applied to the school’s radio station, WXOU. I had to start at the bottom with a prerecorded show that aired Thursdays at two in the morning. I already knew what my format would be — Michigan music, promoting local shows and interviews local musicians. 

I needed a name for the show.

I picked Oakland, because the majority of bands I was promoting were from Oakland County and an even bigger majority of the shows I went to were there. The word underground is a bit obvious. The music I was promoting was not Bob Seger or Kid Rock. It was the small artists that had all of the talent in the world, but were still unrecognized.

I worked as a prerecorded show for around four months, until being asked to go live in May of this year. The response I was seeing was amazing. People were reaching out to me online and in-person to say how they love hearing Michigan music on the radio and seeing my twitter feed giving updates on a lot of local bands.

Bands were sending me their music to play and asking me to mention their shows on the air. I began landing artists like American Opera on the show. It was taking off.

My biggest resource is Twitter. That is where I first saw Urban Geographer (UG). I saw the vinyl compilation of all Michigan artists, the shows being promoted and what the its purpose is. 

I reached out to talk with Thomas, Creative Director and Founder of UG, and asked to work together. We met a few times to bounce ideas off each other about how exactly we can work together.

About a month later, Thomas offered me the position of Art Director. I accepted, because I knew it was a perfect fit for me, and what I plan to accomplish, and I knew that I could be a real asset to this incredible company. He had resources I did not have and vice versa.

I told Thomas when I joined he and I are going to do something amazing. As each UG show passes, that statement becomes truer.

The future of Michigan music and UG is big, so please join us for the ride.