Programmer Profiles: DJ Larry Hacken, Heavyweight Sounds

Sep 11, 2019

DJ Larry Hacken, also known by the moniker of his beloved KZYZ radio program “Heavyweight Sound,” has built a reputation as an accomplished reggae deejay and radio host over the past 20-plus years. He has over three decades of experience collecting Jamaican music and has a reputation for his knowledge of reggae rarities and obscure artists.

As a young music listener in the 1970s, he first heard reggae singers like Desmond Dekker and Dave and Ansel Collins, but wasn’t aware of their Jamaican heritage.  While as student at Sonoma State in 1977, it was the sound of Bob Marley that drew him to the music that would become a lifelong passion. He saw the reggae icon perform live in Oakland in 1980 and saw Peter Tosh the following year.

While reggae gained a foothold in the US through an unlikely relationship with the vibrant punk scene that had nurtured it in England, Larry was involved in promoting concerts at his school and specifically brought Dead Kennedys to Sonoma State (for a show in a dormitory dining room!) Take that, Dean!

With reggae exploding on the West Coast and the Bay Area at the heart of the action, Larry made it his goal to see every reggae show possible in the early 80s, and nearly every major touring reggae act had made it to San Francisco by 1985.

An accomplished artist, Hacken pursued an MFA in sculpture and painting from the San Francisco Art Institute, graduating in 1987. He made a living selling his work in California and Oregon for several years and was reviewed favorably by critics including Kenneth Baker at the San Francisco Chronicle. Hacken moved to Mendocino in 1994 and taught metal sculpture at the Mendocino Art Center.

His real passion, collecting and playing reggae vinyl recordings, caught its stride when he started on the air at KZYZ in 1998, where he has been a fixture ever since. He also hosted a program on the commercial station KMFB from 2009 to 2012.

Along the way, Hacken has made trips abroad, travelling extensively to Europe, Asia, and Australia, and of course, to Jamaica, but Hacken enjoys living in Mendocino, which alleviates some of the need to travel to Jamaica. Every year, Jamaica travels to Boonville, which has become the home of one of the major annual events on the global reggae calendar, the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival. Hacken gets to host his musical idols in person and has been a festival deejay every year, while conducting artist interviews for the radio station and hosting an annual post-festival program with many artists in the studio.

Hacken has made friends and formed close associations in the world of Jamaican music, bringing artists to Mendocino County, including the late Mikey Dread Campbell, who even named a song in honor of Hacken’s worldly interests.

Most recently, Hacken has been hosting a bi-monthly dance party at Dick's Place in Mendocino California. 

Written by:

Carter Van Pelt 

Reggae Journalist, Promoter, DJ & Radio Host of “Easter Standard Time” WKCR-FM (New York, NY)