Cole Cuchna, prince of the podcast
Sacramento native and Sac State music theory grad produces Dissect one of the most popular podcasts in the world
“I’m a white kid from the suburbs of America, if you can’t tell by my voice.” Cole Cuchna is talking to an invisible but not insubstantial audience, 22 episodes into his musical analysis podcast, Dissect, which last year spent some time as the most listened-to podcast on iTunes. As it turns out, he’s a lot of other things too: former keyboardist for the SAMMIES-award winning band, The New Humans; former director of education at Temple Coffee; and a former Sac State music composition student who didn’t know how to read music. His degree in composition certainly seems exceedingly relevant in his tightly produced analysis of iconic hip-hop albums. But his technical knowledge is handily outshined by his sincere desire to engage with and understand the world around him. That’s probably what makes him a pretty good dad, too.
Why did you choose podcasting as your medium?
Well. I was listening to a lot of podcasts at the time my daughter was born—a lot of times, I would just put on podcasts and play with her. I’m the type of person that if I like something, I always kind of want to try it. And the accessibility of podcasts was attractive. All you need is a microphone and you can essentially self-publish.
Have you started to think about the sorts of things you want to be introducing her to?
Yeah, I’m already kind of doing that and make it a point to listen to a broad array of music. We listen to a little kid’s music, but I play her hip-hop. I play her jazz. I play her the Beatles. I play her classical music. You know, all the things that I love. She’s [about to] be 3, so I think now is the prime time where she is actually going to be actively thinking about it, too. So that’ll be fun. Already when we watch a Daniel Tiger episode, I’ll ask her questions about what she thought about it, just trying to get her brain actively thinking about the things that she consumes and not just be like a passive consumer.
Do you worry about her getting older and falling for the Britney Spears or Justin Bieber of her time?
Oh, I think she will, and I think that’s totally fine. I don’t think that those things pay off until you reach early adulthood, and that’s kind of when you find yourself. All the stuff you lay out as a kid comes back around after you kind of go through your awkward teenage years. It’s unavoidable and it’s super important too, so I don’t really want to influence that too much. It’s important that she discovers things on her own. And I get that the rebellion part is important to that, too. When we get there, I’m sure it’ll be really hard, but I’m prepared for it.
Tell me about taking music composition classes without knowing how to read music.
I auditioned on piano with a song that I wrote myself, so that kind of skirted me having to read music. They never asked, so I was just like, “OK.” I just kind of busted my ass to catch up. I was taking college-level music courses but at the same time also taking these online courses that you just download at one time so you can take them as you go, like homework. So I was learning the fundamentals while taking classes at Sac State. And eventually, they merged together and I ended up graduating on the dean’s list. That’s actually one of my proudest things, because I literally almost quit because it was so hard in the beginning. But sticking through it, and then to get recognized, was kind of a big deal. It was really confidence-building to overcome the struggle of it all and succeed or whatever.
What’s in contention for season 3?
Frank Ocean is the biggest request, so I’ve definitely been giving that some thought. Tyler the Creator. I’ve been looking at Ctrl by SZA. Solange is another one. I would actually love to do Beyoncé, but I don’t think it would work out because she’s exclusive to Tidal and I don’t know if Tidal and Spotify are going to get along in the end. Her Lemonade album was phenomenal. And Lauryn Hill actually has the 20-year anniversary of Miseducation coming up, which would be kind of cool to come back to … But I think definitely for season 4 we’ll branch out into another genre.
Do you know how you’d like that to be?
Yeah, I think I’ll have to be careful to not alienate the audience. I’ll try to pick something that I kind of know will appeal to hip-hop and R&B listeners. For instance, I think Radiohead would be amazing, and I think that’s a great bridge, and they’re like my favorite band ever, so that would be great.
How do you see yourself?
I try to make my time as valuable to the world as possible. Everything that I do, I do for me first, to be honest. But I feel like hopefully Dissect is a service in some way that people could use for discovering new ideas and new approaches—not just to music but hopefully to life in general. I always felt this purpose in life that’s driven me to provide the world with good energy. To bring beauty to the world. For me, personally, that’s been through art and creative endeavors. So that’s who I feel I am, or who I’m working to become all the time. Which is hopefully everyone’s purpose in some way. I hope everybody feels a responsibility to give the world beautiful things.