A British DJ in the Lone Star State
Drive time morning radio hosts have one goal in mind; to help the people sitting in hellacious rush hour traffic make it to work without punching through their windshield. In Austin, Texas, this calming influence comes from a very unlikely source, an irreverent British woman by the name of Deb O’Keefe. O’Keefe and co-host Jason Dick create the best odd couple since Oscar and Felix when they get in the studio of 101X and do their work.
“It brightens my day whenever I run into someone who tells me, ‘Oh my God. I would kill myself if it wasn’t for your show in the morning,’” O’Keefe says. “That’s why we’re here. We just try to be as funny and creative—and sometimes as stupid—as possible. That way we can get people to work without thinking about how crappy mornings are.”
It’s easy to point out the differences between the two hosts—O’Keefe likes to jokingly point out how much better her tattoos are when compared to Dick’s—but as time goes by O’Keefe is clearly settling into becoming an Austinite.
After following a guy to the United States, O’Keefe developed a lasting love with the Texan capital, a love that would out last her love of the boyfriend. Roughly 14 years later O’Keefe quips that it would take an enormous paycheck to get her to consider relocating.
The sunny heart of Texas is one of the last places that you would ever expect a woman from England to feel at home, but O’Keefe has found that Austin allows her to balance her love of rock with her affinity for outdoor sports.
“I’m not the first to say this but Austin is like a little oasis in Texas,” O’Keefe says. “It’s such a different spot. Not just in attitudes that you find down here but also the scenery—it’s really hilly, there are lakes. It’s a lovely, lovely place if you like to be outdoors.
“You need that hard shell skin that fights off those Texas rays, it’s very hot,” O’Keefe continues. “For a pale, English chick it was really tough. I went through years of burning and now I have leathery skin.”
All that sun could wreak havoc on a person’s ink, luckily O’Keefe thought this through and keeps most of her ink in places that only see limited exposure to the sun. The majority of her work is on the inside of her arms so it is mostly safe from being bleached by the sun’s evil rays, yet still on full display. Despite living in dreary England at the time O’Keefe protected her very first tattoo from the sun by hiding it on her ass.
At the time O’Keefe was dating a gentleman who was just a few years older than her—actually 17 years older—and living a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Part of this lifestyle consisted of listening to a lot of Iron Maiden as well as hanging out with her boyfriend’s buddy, Steve Harris, bassist and founding member of Iron Maiden. After diligently waiting until she was 21 to get inked O’Keefe turned to a man who done a few drawings of the band’s infamous mascot “Eddie.”
“It’s a dragon on my ass, so I’m the girl with the dragon tattoo,” O’Keefe jokes. “I was still a little bit scared about tattoos so I got it done on my butt cheek and there it has lived, in relative obscurity. For years I thought about getting it covered up but what’s the point? You can’t erase the past.”
For most people Austin’s amazing music scene is one of the main factors driving people to the city. On one hand, as a DJ at an alternative rock station O’Keefe definitely appreciates all of the amazing bands coming through town. On the other hand, her shift at the station begins at 6 a.m.
“It’s like the biggest tease in the world since I have to get up at 4:45 in the morning,” O’Keefe laments. “When I hear that a great band is coming the middle of the week I think, Fuck! If I go my show suffers, if I don’t go I’m miserable.”
In her younger years O’Keefe toyed with the idea of pulling an all-nighter so as to not miss out on the nightlife. After an episode of vomiting and another that resulted in a suspension she has decided that her 9 o’clock bedtime should be a firm rule instead of a suggestion.
Luckily for O’Keefe tattoo artists don’t keep the crazy, late night hours that musicians do and she has been able to get some ink done by many of the amazing artists living in Austin. Scott Spencer of the Inkery tattooed O’Keefe with a tattoo that she holds very dear to her heart thanks to the personal meaning associated with it.
“We sat down for a couple of hours and designed these two swallows together,” O’Keefe says. “The two birds are holding a red thread that is going into a heart shape, it’s my favorite. I think it will always be my favorite tattoo and I have had loads done since. It’s really eye catching and really original.”
Without even noticing it O’Keefe ended up creating a bit of a theme with her tattoos. All of her script-based tattoos are on her right arm while all of her tattoos of animals are on the left. O’Keefe is an enormous animal lover who donates a great deal of her time and money to helping various charities that work with animals of all shapes and sizes. On a trip to Thailand O’Keefe worked alongside an elephant named Jackya and now the pachyderm’s portrait is inked into her skin.
“I had been assigned an elephant that had been rescued by the park after her owners had blinded her in both eyes with an arrow when she refused to do logging work after her baby had died,” O’Keefe says. “I trekked into the jungle with her, slept with her, fed her, went into a river with her. I was just honored to be in her presence. It was an amazing experience.”
In fact, O’Keefe’s affinity for animals is so strong that it bleeds over into her script arm in the form of a tattoo that reads “Forever Blue,” Blue is her beloved pit bull. Many of the animal charities that O’Keefe works with in Austin—Love-A-Bull, Emancipet, and Austin Pets Alive—work toward breaking down the stereotype that pit bulls are dangerous animals. Donating money is one thing but O’Keefe likes to help out in a deeper way by fostering rescue dogs.
“At the same time it is one of the most amazing and one of the most frustrating things that you can do,” O’Keefe explains. “It’s a lot of work and then a lot of sadness when you have to let them go, but in the end it is totally worth it.”
Next time that you are stuck in traffic and about to listen to your mind flip around on your radio dial and try to find Jason & Deb as they try to soothe you any way they can. If you don’t have the privilege of living within the power of 101X’s antennae follow the advice of one of O’Keefe’s many tattoos.
“I have some Sanskrit script on my main driving arm, it’s a message of kindness and understanding,” O’Keefe explains. “It reminds me that instead of getting mad at people I should look and my arm and just swear on the inside. Be chill.”