By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
So she did. Ferguson spent four years on the road filming the documentary Children of the Revolution, and when she returned to Los Angeles last August, via anti-globalization protests in Washington, D.C., she helped organize the L.A. Independent Media Center to cover the Democratic Convention. Mainly, she worked with its radio group -- which would later morph into Kill Radio. ”After the convention was over, we said, ‘We’re not going anywhere.‘ It was very immediate. I see Kill Radio as a symbol of the rebirth of idealism,“ she says, adding that if Leary were still alive, he might very well be a DJ too. ”It stands for everything he stood for: a person’s right to intellectual freedom and expression. He‘d join it, he’d have been interviewed on it, we‘d have given him a weekly show.“
Tonight, our intellectual freedom-fighters are a Beavis and Butt-head--like duo: white, suburban-looking, scraggly-haired kids in baggy pants and stretched-out T’s, currently debating the virtues of malt liquor over beer and making on-air prank phone calls. This is Buddyhead, the radio wing of an L.A. Webzine--record label devoted to indie rock, art, punk and skateboarding. The weekly Buddyhead show is a surreal, proudly juvenile, aimless three hours of fun during which every device in the room -- CD player, telephone, computer, turntable, tape deck, cell phone, mixing board, e-mail, mike -- all motor along at once.
Travis Keller and Aaron Farley, who are handsome in a post-pubescent, man-child way, are broadcasting in the dark tonight, ashtrays piled high with butts, open Colt 45s on the console, the only light streaming in from street lamps and a diffuse, greenish glow from the computer screens. Despite the fact that the Buddyhead zine gets 2-3 million hits per day and was just written up in Spin, these two clearly do the radio show to entertain themselves. And it‘s Kill Radio’s highest-rated show by far. Keller, whose official title is ”editorphotographerjerkface,“ says that though they believe in what the station stands for -- ”It‘s cool“ -- they don’t go to meetings. ”We‘re exempt. What are they gonna do, kick us out? We’re their biggest draw.“ Then he adds, ”We don‘t follow rules, anyway.“
I’m enjoying a strong secondhand smoke when Buddyhead regulars Jesse and Jeremy bust in as if this were their dorm room: ”I got firecrackers!“ Jeremy roars. Jesse marches in with a brown paper bag loaded with cold beers and a fat phone book under his arm. ”Prank phone calls!“ Keller, who has long, styled sideburns and wears a red-and-white Vegas cap backward, ignores the two, clicking back and forth between a list of MP3s and his e-mail. Farley takes them in with contemplative, squinty eyes, then continues telling about his day job. He drives gay porn around, he says. A beat of silence. ”No, I don‘t drive around a bunch of naked dudes in the back of a truck,“ he laughs. He’s a part-time runner for a printing company.
Pissing off their audience, apparently, is the ultimate high. ”This is a brand-new classic rock song,“ Farley says. ”Blink 182 . . .“ The tune blasts from the speakers, sounding something like: ”cocksucker, motherfucker . . . ho‘s, take off your clothes, get naked.“ This repeats painfully. ”We got drunk one night and played this song, like, 30 times,“ Farley boasts. Then he and Keller crawl underneath the desk to hook up the telephone line. Jesse’s face lights up. ”Prank phone calls!“
That the Buddyhead phenomenon would surface on a radical left-wing media outlet somehow makes sense. In this age of commodification, Kill Radio refuses to package itself neatly, and its programming is purposefully random. At its most focused, the content is fiercely political (if at times oppressively correct), but at heart it‘s deeply personal, what Chris Wicke describes as harking back to a sweet and central aspect of adolescence. ”It’s like making mixed tapes when you‘re a kid,“ he says. ”One of the most fun parts about growing up and getting into music is not only discovering the music you love, but sharing it with other people. Late nights with friends, just drinking some beer. My show is kind of a celebration of that. We just do it live.“
Kill Radio, short for Kill Corporate Radio (motto: ”L.A.’s most unruly radio station“), launched in October with the mission not only of broadcasting a mishmash of punk, indie rock and Noam Chomsky, but of using the station ”as a tool for promoting social and economic justice.“ So much for starting small. While many of the 35 DJs came from the Independent Media Center and related activist backgrounds, a handful of others resurfaced from the defunct punk rock pirate station KBLT. They range in age from 18 to 50, are more male than female, and are not, perhaps, as diverse as the collective would like, though they are trying to shake up the ethnic mix (they‘d like the Korean Immigrant Workers Association to host a time slot).
There is an unspoken split, it seems, between ”the kids,“ as Hassan Jamal refers to the more political faction, and the older KBLT DJs, who have been kicking around L.A. longer and who, while politically liberal, want not much more from the station than a place to continue their shows. ”The kids . . . are taking this P.C. thing too far,“ says Jamal. ”They don’t want any white men over 40 to be DJs. It‘s almost like right-wing Republicans.“ Jamal, also a playwright, adds, ”I mean, I’m glad there are kids who think like that -- there isn‘t any hatred at the station. But I was selling Black Panther papers on the corner when I was, like, 15. My politics come out in my art now.“