By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
In the meantime, Burnett says, Kill Radio has begun setting aside money for emergencies such as retroactive fines. ”They‘re going after anyone with an independent voice,“ he says. ”They’re scared to death of the Internet because they don‘t understand it.“
”Yo, yo, this is Underground Frequencies here . . .“ Eminem blasts from the speakers. In its strange mix of anger and sincerity, wherein one moment the DJs are banging their heads to Charles Manson’s Lie and the next fretting over community outreach, the collective sets aside Saturday afternoons for Youth Organizing Communities, a statewide group dedicated to educating and empowering young people (motto: ”Schools not jails“). Kill Radio offers free DJ training, plus a three-hour weekly time slot. The result is a mess of rap, rock, punk, hip-hop, techno and rave, depending on who‘s in the hot seat, and the YOC kids make a point of playing CDs by ”backyard bands“ that can’t get commercial airplay.
This afternoon Tafarai Bayne, 19, and Adrian Gonzalez, 21, are up. Bayne‘s face is all angles, and he describes his ’fro as ”wild-ass hair.“ Gonzalez is softer-looking, with a trace of baby fat padding his cheeks, and wears wire-rim glasses. They are at once confident and amateurish, riffing off each other with ease and delight, as if ”playing DJ“ in the basement of their parents‘ house.
B: ”I’m gonna put on some Bob Dylan.“
G: [wincing] ”No worries . . .“
B: ”You don‘t like Dylan, man?“
G: ”Did I say that?“
B: ”Get out, you’re fired.“
B: ”I promised you folks some Dylan, so, okay, this is Bob Dylan‘s ’Hurricane,‘ my favorite song ever.“
Bayne falls back into his seat with a satiated sigh. In just one hour they’ll sprint, intelligently, among the topics of L.A. Unified, standardized testing, a George W. Bush, taxes and the future of democracy. In short: They do not shut up.
”One thing I‘ve learned by being more informed,“ Bayne says, ”is that the more you know, the more depressed you get. ’Cause the state of the world is pretty depressing.“
”Well then, on the other side of that token,“ Gonzalez counters, ”I‘m not gonna be a victim, you know? This -- Kill Radio -- it helps me get my own thoughts organized a little bit better, like what I say. And kind of getting that feedback. And having the confidence to not just say it to [friends], but to more people.“
Dylan is winding along in the background, and these two hardly let a breath go by before picking up on each other’s riffs.
G: ”We‘re not given the opportunity to be equal, we’re not.“
B: ”Equal opportunity bullshit.“
G: ”Democracy my ass.“
B: ”This is not a real democracy.“
G: ”Every couple of years, to shut us up, we‘re given one day to vote for who’s the next person to oppress us.“
When their friend Sherry Chovan arrives, skateboard in tow, Bayne, previously a self-possessed, politically precocious teen, backslides into Silly Putty, with amorous glances and talk of where they should go boarding or which party to hit later that night. Chovan slips into a seat at the console and pastes herself into the conversation, voicing off about the religious right and oppression of women, Pocahontas and whitewashed history books.
C: ”We didn‘t know Helen Keller was a radical feminist communist.“
B: ”Yeah, they tell you about how she overcame her blindness, but they didn’t tell you that after she started learning about this world, she said ‘fuck y’all‘ and started doing her own thing, and making change as a communist. I’m not saying I‘m a communist, but any change is better than what we’ve got. Try to make change.“
And they go on like this, huddled around the mike, three silhouettes against the window, a flood of hot sunlight delineating Chovan‘s dreads, Bayne’s ‘fro and Gonzalez’s snug baseball cap. As Angelenos buzz through the intersection below on their way to the nearest Trader Joe‘s, yoga class or movie theater, these three remain holed up inside, rapping earnestly about racial injustice, capitalism and Proposition 21. Because, on this Saturday afternoon, the mike is open.
Though it calls itself a collective, there appears to be no sense of community at Kill Radio, apart from a core group of DJs who attend every meeting. Many slip in late at night, staying just long enough to do their hourlong shows. Some don’t listen to the station at all, or even know their comrades‘ names. The radio room functions as a sort of revolving door for personal, creative agendas, with one or two DJs present at any time. But once you get on the mailing list, everything changes. This is where the community is -- it is a virtual community.
All day long, e-mails trickle in: ”I had a fantabulous show last night“; ”Pay yo rent or I go high-heeled boots on yer ass“; ”The theme for this week’s show is rock en español“; ”All right you pinko, no-boss-having misfits . . .“; ”Can someone cover my show tonight?“ Occasionally, it‘s a rant or weekend highlight that just had to be shared; often, it’s a political petition. And there is much correspondence from bands nationwide, sending in MP3s and asking for airplay, or local bands with enthusiastic words: ”We support any organization that is working to change the monotonous boredom that is mainstream radio,“ writes Super Human Strength. ”We‘d love to do any future benefit shows to help your cause.“
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