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
Still, the night is a success, ”at full capacity,“ says Troubadour bookermanager Paul McGuigan. ”I wish all my shows were as successful.“ Which is good. Because perhaps even more important than netting $2,780 is building recognition for the site. It‘s critical, actually: Whereas one stumbles onto a radio station by flipping through the dial, one must type in a Web address to get to an Internet site. So tonight there are brief ”station identification“ breaks between sets, in which Kill Radio DJs take the stage to let loose about everything from corporate monopoly to personal sentiments. The crowd oscillates between enthusiastic (if a bit clueless) to downright dismissive. ”Let’s get on with the show!“ two rockers rage while awaiting Frusciante‘s solo set. But when Quinn Russell strides up to the mike in a gray garage mechanic’s jumper (”working-class chic“), her short black hair parted into two stubby pigtails, the crowd and Kill Radio are one.
”We‘re a group of people just like you -- anybody can be involved -- who decided we wanted to have a voice that wasn’t censored by the corporate bastards,“ Russell wails. (Cheers from the crowd.) ”So we did it.“ (A lone hoot of appreciation from the back, near the men‘s toilet.) ”We’re not anybody with money, or any special credentials. We got a fuckin‘ Internet hookup, we got a group of, like, 30 people who want to be DJs, we play music, we talk a lot of shit, and that’s why you should listen to Kill Radio.“
It is easy to forget, amid hollers from the crowd and De Facto‘s trippy dub with spacy keyboard effects, that it is Internet radio we’re talking about, with all its inherent limitations and technical imperfections. At the end of the night, however, after hundreds of potential listeners stream out of the Troubadour with Web-address stickers stuffed in their pockets and stuck to the bottom of their shoes, it is an overdue bill that, ultimately, gets in the way. RegenerationTV‘s server, located in a warehouse downtown, cuts it off, and Kill Radio goes down for two days.
”Fuck the FCC. Fuck them.“ Monkey Man takes his motto (”We can say fuck: Pirate Cat Radio“) seriously, delivering his morning on-air rant. ”There’s no reason for the FCC anymore. Go there, kids, and burn it down.“ Then he gives the street address in Cerritos, with ZIP code. ”Burn it, tear it down, flatten it. Of course, they could hold me responsible . . . Fuck, do it anyway. Attack, attack, attack. That would be so swell.“
It‘s no wonder, then, that on April 5, Monkey Man found the FCC rooting around on his roof. ”I knew what was happening. A tall Asian man and a short, stubby little woman up on my roof taking pictures.“ The FCC served him a ”notice of unlicensed operations,“ threatening a $10,000 fine and possibly a year in jail. ”I’ll just find another spot to broadcast from,“ he says. Now a devoted Kill Radio fan since running into two DJs at a Kinko‘s, Monkey Man says he refuses to go down without first giving the collective some airplay, so he’s been plugging his DSL line into his mixer and broadcasting its shows on the FM band -- pirating the pirates.
Chris Burnett admits it would be tempting to tap into Monkey Man‘s audience, but he says matter-of-factly, ”Pirating is illegal.“ The collective even developed a written ”loose-lips protocol“ stating, in part: ”Kill Radio is a Webcast-only station. As such, we do not promote, nor endorse, anyone who broadcasts Kill Radio illegally . . .“ Kimo Arbas says simply, ”We don’t want to get shut down.“
”If this continues, all these little leftist groups and little music groups, we‘ll have a halfway-decent counterculture again,“ says Edi Vache one late night in the radio room. Edi wears, appropriately, a floppy velvet ’70s cap and thick platform sneakers. ”The seeds for another left-wing movement like the ‘60s are in place. But I think they probably need figureheads. And I think they need leaders. One of the problems with Kill Radio, even, is that there is no leader, there’s no one in charge that you can look to.“
And there are other nitpicky problems interfering with saving the world: Not everyone has a key to the front door. (Per the routine, before a recent midnight show Hassan Jamal stood on the sidewalk with a crate of vinyl records in his arms, pelting gravel at the window so someone would let him in.) The collective is still young, and there are recurring issues that have yet to be resolved: archiving programs, figuring out a system -- that works -- for collecting rent, compiling a comprehensive list of shows. Though listenership is growing, from 54 page requests the first month to 5,043 in April, Urb magazine associate editor Dan Chamberlain points out that online, ”Everyone makes their own music, everyone has their own radio show. It‘s very hard to cultivate an audience.“
The Star 98.7 billboard has been replaced with a black-and-white MOCA ad, a dispiriting intersection of art and commerce. But more often now, potential DJs drop by, inquiring about how to get a time slot, and new faces regularly pop up at meetings. There is talk of launching a local news hour that, perhaps, other Independent Media Centers and community radio stations around the country might pick up, and the collective would like eventually to purchase its own DSL line and broadcast 24 hours. Certainly it’s not lacking for anything to play, or to say.