Lidia Vomito, DJ of the Graveyard Hour
Source: Chicago Reader
“You can tune in to Release the Hounds from 10 PM till midnight on the first and third Mondays of every month, either via Lumpen Radio’s online stream or at 105.5 FM. Robertson begins the show with his Metal Hour, spinning obscure and classic metal and hardcore; Vomito closes it out with her Graveyard Hour, where she explores darkwave, goth, industrial, horror soundtracks, and more.”
Lidia Vomito is a Chicago DJ and vinyl collector who also works at the Loop location of Reckless Records. She got her start as a punk and metal DJ in the mid-2000s, and in 2015 she launched the Lumpen Radio show Release the Hounds to share her passion for dark and heavy music. Her best friend and longtime DJ partner, Bryan “Chump Change” Robertson, joined a few months later, and the two have been cohosting ever since. Robertson also fronts long-running hardcore outfit Spare Change, and in 2005 he and Vomito founded the defunct Rock Bottom Records in Bridgeport.
These days Vomito says she wants to collaborate with DJs in other cities and countries. As she builds those connections, she continues to expose local audiences to new and classic music. You can tune in to Release the Hounds from 10 PM till midnight on the first and third Mondays of every month, either via Lumpen Radio’s online stream or at 105.5 FM. Robertson begins the show with his Metal Hour, spinning obscure and classic metal and hardcore; Vomito closes it out with her Graveyard Hour, where she explores darkwave, goth, industrial, horror soundtracks, and more.
As told to Jamie Ludwig
Iwas raised in Chicago, but I also grew up in Mexico for a little bit. When I first came here from Mexico, I started listening to my father’s records. That’s where it all stems from. Music was constantly playing in my home. For so many Mexican families, music is everything. The very first English bands I ever heard on vinyl were Creedence and Bootsy Collins and Deep Purple. And my dad had a lot of Spanish music like Pedro Infante, mariachi, rancheras, and norteños. So I became an immediate collector of music, buying cassettes as a kid.
In 2000, I started collecting vinyl. I gave up all other formats and decided, “This is where I want to be.” [Playing vinyl gives me] chills. It’s the sound. It’s the whole ritual, right down to the record, the artwork. That’s how I found out about a lot of bands—just looking at the T-shirts [that musicians wore in photos]. Like, “I love this band, and they have this T-shirt on. And that one’s got that T-shirt. I’ve gotta listen to that!”
There’s a revival of vinyl happening, even though it’s so expensive now. Before, we didn’t take care of our records as much; we were constantly playing them and stacking them on top of each other. Now you have to take care of them and baby them.
I didn’t really take out my vinyl for a long time, just for fear of it getting damaged or stolen. But I’ve been DJing since 2005 or 2006, starting with clubs, and [around 2010] I started doing radio at WLUW. It wasn’t my show, but they said, “Keep coming!” And then I did some shows with WZRD and now with WLPN-LP. I did metal and punk for many years, and that became an obsession. It’s like a downward spiral—you just keep trying to find more obscure records, whether they’re from Belgium or Chile. And I love to expose [people to them].
Now there’s Rebel Radio, but before that no one was really playing metal or punk on the airwaves in Chicago. When I started doing Release the Hounds, I thought, “This is a place where I can expand.” My roots are really goth and industrial—from the early to mid-90s—so I wanted to go back into that. I’d dedicated my DJ career to punk and metal, but with this I get to explore.
Music scenes were so, so segregated. You were a punk or a metalhead or you were into goth or new wave. So if you mixed any of those genres together, it was an automatic disqualification. Like, the metalheads would leave. Or the goths. It just never balanced.
Now we’re in a time where everything is a little more accepted. People just truly love music. There’s none of this cliquishness or these ideas of what’s cool and what’s not—nobody cares! This whole resurrection of postpunk, I’ve never seen that before. And darkwave! It is massive, and I’m here for it. Death metal is also huge right now. It’s a great time to be around and see it happen.
I have a hard time accepting any compliments, but it means so much to me when someone says, “Hey, I listened to your show, and I learned so much.” That means so much more to me than anything that I’ve ever done. I feel like, “Oh, they’re listening—someone’s actually listening!” It brings me back to being a kid and listening to my favorite radio host and thinking, “That’s going to be me someday.” And then making little cassettes with my best friend and acting like radio personalities.
[When I DJ, my choice of songs] just depends on the type of event that it’s going to be. I try to bring new bands, and of course I always pay respect to the classics—because to me, they will never be forgotten, and I want people to always know where the music comes from. So I always pay homage, but there’s a new generation I love too. I love the sounds, and I love the new bands that are coming out, especially from California and Detroit and of course Chicago. And Texas.
I’m always supporting local and traveling bands, no matter what. Always DIY. That’s another reason this show means a lot to me; my quest is to always bring in new bands and new sounds I want people to hear. I know everyone is streaming and doing the Spotify thing. It is what it is. I’m indifferent to it. I’m always on Bandcamp trying to find new music, or I’m constantly looking at people’s Spotifys to see what things sound like. I love to support our local record stores. We all support each other, and you can’t say [vinyl] is dying—it’s thriving. If I don’t get a record at Reckless or one of our other record stores here, I’ll buy directly from the band and have them send it to me.
I love to support the bands directly too and see them live and buy from them, so they can keep producing and keep going. It’s a hard business, and I think the only way bands can really make money is to tour.
I don’t even know [how many records I own]. It’s a combination—my whole basement, basically. My best friend and I—my DJ partner [Bryan “Chump Change” Robertson] lives directly downstairs from me. So I’m like, “Hey, I’m gonna put my records down there too, man.” So it’s like a tiny little museum, and then I have upstairs to do too. . . . He takes care of the Metal Hour on Release the Hounds, and I trust him fully because he’s been collecting records since ’85—hardcore since ’85—and we owned the record store together.
Then I’ll do the second hour, and that’s my way of being able to express myself fully. That’s where there are no barriers and nothing’s holding me down. Nothing. I love playing metal and punk, but I love to be able to explore other styles and play some darkwave and postpunk—because it has a really unique sound—and other kinds of music as well, like garage and soundtracks.
I can’t go out to the club and play soundtracks, you know? I’d put everybody to sleep or something. But at the radio station, I can play all the horror soundtracks I like and fulfill that horror-host kind of element. I’ve been a big fan of horror films since I was very young, so I always want to incorporate that. It’s all intertwined. I like to visualize people sitting in their homes and turning on the radio and making their own visuals in their minds as they listen. It’s sort of like Lights Out or these [old-time] radio shows that would create these haunted-house sounds. People tell me all the time, “I heard your show, and I feel like I’m in a haunted mansion or some sort of Bela Lugosi Dracula film.”
An episode of Release the Hounds from October, where Lidio Vomito takes over at about 1:06
I don’t actually know who is listening. I wish I had a way to find out, but at the same time, I don’t know if I really want to know. I feel like I’m in this room, and I’m playing for an audience, but I’m really playing for myself. That’s really what it comes down to. My friend was telling me there is a way to find out who is listening, and I was like, “Don’t tell me! I don’t want to visualize a crowd.” I just want to be in my room and speak into the mike, and I’m playing for whoever cares to know. But it’s really for my inner child.
When you fall in love with rock ’n’ roll, you never turn your back on it. You’re in, and it’s not a phase. Once it bites you, once it hits you, that’s it. You’re in it forever.