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Host, Stars' End

Chuck Van Zyl

Top 10+ Things You Might Not Know About Star's End Host Chuck van Zyl

Are you currently using prescription medications and/or recreational drugs?

No, just caffeine, by way of coffee.

How old are you?

I was born in the year prior to the launch of the first Sputnik.

What is your height and weight?

I am 6'4" and some distance under 200 lbs.

How is it that you are so thin?

Listening to spacemusic keeps you thin; although it may cause drowsiness. So please be careful if you must operate heavy machinery while tuned in to Star's End!

What do you tell people who accuse you of being too thin?

It takes a lean horse to run a long race.

Where do you come from?

I've always lived in Upper Darby, a working class, inner-ring suburb on the western edge of Philadelphia. I like it just fine. Our (unofficial) current town slogan is "The World in One Zip Code".

Where did you attend college?

In 1974 (after 12 years of public education in the Upper Darby school system) I went on to Delaware County Community College - which is where I first became involved in radio. DCCC had a little carrier current station and I have many fond memories of my years there. I eventually obtained an Associates degree, transferred to Temple University and graduated from there in 1981 with a BA in business.

When did you found Star's End on WXPN?

I did not found Star's End. John Diliberto (host of Echoes) along with another Penn student got the show on the air around 1976. I was an avid XPN listener and entered the station in 1980 as a community volunteer. Soon after the orientation and mentoring process I got a monthly Star's End air shift. At that time there was a rotation of several DJs. As the years passed our numbers dwindled. I've been sole host of Star's End since 1993.

What music makes up the Star's End theme?

The opening theme music is made up of three different pieces:

For the first several seconds of the theme there is a cascade-like synthesizer sound. That part is from the album X by Klaus Schulze. The rising sequencer tone pattern that follows is extracted from the title piece of the album Phaedra by Tangerine Dream. The next part is a languid melody played repeatedly with an organ tone, then drops into the sound of bowed metal sculptures. This is from the album Sonanze by Roberto Cacciapaglia.

This theme has opened the show for over 30 years and represents the idea of mixing several individual pieces of music into a continuous whole, which is the aspiration of Star's End. On another level, this process also demonstrates commonalties between a diverse range of artists and musical styles.

Is the weekly broadcast of Star's End pre-recorded?

No, I am in the studio spinning CDs and LPs all night every week. I think it is a more intimate experience for the listener if they know I'm out there somewhere, staying up late playing all this music for them.

Have you ever fallen asleep on-air while hosting Star's End?

Yes, years ago. But not recently (fingers crossed).

How many record shops have you worked at?

Just one. I worked at Jerry's Records in The Bazaar of All Nations in Clifton Heights, PA for several years during college. The Bazaar was a pretty odd place, but that's what was so great about it.

Where was your press photo taken?

It's a self-timer shot taken in the bathroom at XPN. Who knew there is such good lighting in there?

Of all the motorcycles you've owned, what was your favorite?

I once had a 1983 Harley Davidson XLX Sportster. I bought it new. It was heavy and loud and I used to feel great riding it.

What's it like to be in the Daintree Rainforest at night?

Really incredible! Without a flashlight it is completely dark, except for the starlight that shines down through the jungle canopy - and loud! This place is teeming with life and all the bugs, frogs and other creatures sing like nothing I've ever heard before. The air is cool and damp and tastes fresh. It is something like Eden.

What books have you been reading recently?

The book, This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust has been very good. It looks at the ramifications of the Civil War's massive casualties on America's attitudes toward life, death and faith. I also find interesting, The American Resting Place by Marilyn Yalom, which is an insightful, historical overview of the cemetery movement in the United States.

What are your top five movies?

It's difficult to narrow it down to just five! But here goes:
The Big Lebowski (Hey, careful man, there's a beverage here!)
Apocalypse Now (I wanted a mission, and for my sins hey gave me one)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) (Gort, Klaatu barada niktu)
Cinema Paradiso (Toto!)
The Godfather 1 & 2 (Leave the gun, take the cannolis)
The English Patient (Sezarelm means love)

What bands have you been in?

I became interested in synthesizers shortly after I began presenting Star's End, and been making my own Electronic Music ever since. I've also played out live for at least as many years, recently in the duo "The Ministry of Inside Things."

What of the community that supports the local Spacemusic scene?

The Gatherings Concert Series seems to be the most consistent place where our Spacemusic community gets together. It has been presenting performances by a fascinating range of innovative artists for well over 15 years - and I'm really happy to be part of it.

What is your favorite café?

Chapterhouse at 9th & Bainbridge in Philadelphia. Let's go!