|Photo by Slobodan Dimitrov|
DJ Monkey Man, who has been running Pirate Cat Radio (FM 87.9) out of his bedroom for the past year, is packing it all in and up. With just a few hours left before he pulls the plug, Monkey Man is already loading boxes into a U-Haul truck parked in front of Marlon Manor, an enormous beige stucco apartment complex on a quiet residential side street in Hollywood. For someone who has been screwing the airwaves since 1997 setting up radio stations in backyard sheds, parking garages, hotel rooms and cars and who is evidently in love with the word fuck (Fuck the FCC, fuck them!), Monkey Man is somewhat of a surprise: Hes a slight, articulate, suburban-looking kid barely over the legal drinking age, wearing an oversized Johnny Rotten T-shirt and black-rimmed eyeglasses held together with duct tape. And his real name, he reveals, is Daniel Roberts.
Since last March, Roberts has been broadcasting around the clock to indie radio fans within a 20-mile radius of his 30-watt transmitter from Silver Lake to as far west as the 405 everything from punk rock to classical music to all 12 episodes of the BBC radio drama The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Now, hes moving to Santa Cruz to live with his girlfriend. And so far only one of his friends, fans and fellow DJs has shown up to help him move. Its depressing, he says.
Inside, Adam Ants King of the Wild Frontier is blasting onto the airwaves, and the house phone, which is also the number announced on-air, rings every five minutes. Ikea-like furniture has been pushed into the center of the living room, boxes and beat-up suitcases are everywhere. It feels like a well-off college seniors last day on campus: candles burned down to their bases, dried flowers in empty wine bottles, framed movie posters, a lava lamp, a guitar leaning against one wall, volleyball and scuba equipment against another. Wally, a beefy club promoter who is also a DJ at the station, wraps dishes in newspaper while Roberts buzzes energetically between rooms, tossing random items board games, old Converse All-Stars into open crates, answering questions and holding a cordless phone to one ear and his cell phone to the other.
Hey, Andre. Yeah, the transmitter . . . Oh, hi, Mom, how are you? (rolls eyes) . . . Andre, you still there? Hang on a sec . . . Im okay, Mom, just packing everything up . . . Andre? Like 300 bucks for that . . .
All the while he takes long drags off a cigarette and crouches down periodically to mark boxes PICTURES or DISHES with a thick black marker.
At one point, Roberts tells me, he had $5,000 worth of equipment four computers, two CD players, a tape deck, two record players, and a CD jukebox in the bedroom. But now, only the transmitter, mixing board and mic remain, alongside a lone PC that basically runs 87.9 by itself, with pre-recorded station identification breaks. Im hardly ever around, he says. I work full time.
Originally from the Bay Area, Roberts came south for a Web-design job at Disney (literally a Mickey Mouse company, he says, so disorganized!) and got Pirate Cat Radio going immediately. When I first moved to L.A., I expected to see the best in television and hear the best in radio. But its all pointless crap. We dont get to see anything real. No ones willing to take a risk. I do my show to add more diversity so its not just Britney Spears and Limp Bizkit. It caught on fast, capturing as many as 600 to 1,000 listeners per hour. (Arbitron, he says, calculates that each caller equals approximately 100 listeners.) I was surprised by how many people started listening. People â call in all the time and say, L.A. radio sucks, theres nothing like this out there, its the only thing worth listening to . . . , and I totally agree.
Tell her about the girl, Wally chimes in from the kitchen. The one who wanted to hear the Smiths all the time.
Oh, a week ago, some girl called in and said she was gonna commit suicide since I was going off the air.
The Stubborn All-Stars are playing when another friend arrives to help move the heavier furniture. Jason, ruddy-complexioned with bright orange hair, discovered Pirate Cat Radio while valet parking at the Standard. Id mess with the radio, and I heard him. It was the best! he says. Id program it into everyones dial 87.9 . . . 87.9 . . . 87.9 especially the rental cars.