By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Portly and formidable, he swept through the lobby like a latter-day Blackbeard, passing logos of the many radio stations housed in the same building — JACK FM, K-EARTH — and headed straight for the KROQ studio.
He sat in his chair and put on his headphones. It was October 17, his first night helming the KROQ galleon live on air, and pillaging conditions looked favorable.
His producer, First Mate Mark Sovel, aka "Mister Shovel," eyed the crow's nest — KROQ's two giant transmitters, known for beaming all manner of pop-metal treachery (Linkin Park, System of a Down) to the station's 2 million listeners. On this night, however, the skies belonged to Cap'n Jonesy, who had in mind something a little different for the landlubbers. A spot of Best Coast, Zola Jesus, 22-20s, new Klaxons or some Sufjan Stevens, perhaps?
Armed with the best of today's skinny-jean indies, Jones leaned back in his chair, arms crossed, watching the seconds count down to 7 p.m. He let out a soft burp — baaarp — and glanced at his co-conspirator. "You ready, Mister Shovel?"
All was going smoothly until Mister Shovel realized the song they just put on might contain a curse word. There's no margin for error — this is KROQ. The lyric, from a Benji Hughes song, sounds a bit like "puking off a fucking dick," he pointed out, off-air. Jonesy assured him it's "puking off a parking deck."
"OK," countered Sovel. "But does the word 'puking' count as swearing?"
The pirates, risen from cousin Davy Jones' locker, were back in business.
Sunday evening's show was the first time in two years Jonesy's Jukebox had been broadcast live on terrestrial radio. Until then, Steve Jones had been the radio DJ Los Angeles loved to mourn.
Jonesy's Jukebox, his freewheeling confection of random music, burps, guitar noodlings and whistling (and some truly stellar guests — Malcolm McLaren, Chrissie Hynde — all personal friends of Jonesy's), had been off the airwaves since January 15, 2009, when Indie 103.1, its home for five years, was pulled off the air by owner Entravision. The economic downturn, then in its nadir, had claimed its highest-profile local casualty yet. Indie was relaunched online, lacking its main draw: Jonesy.
Indie's dramatic and unexpected demise intensified the sense of dread then gripping the city, whose media and music-industry workers were reeling from the layoffs and cutbacks spawned by the recession.
Without warning, the daily escapism provided by Jones, the Sire of Wilshire, was gone. In its place was a looped, doom-laden recording: "This is an important message for the Indie 103.1 radio audience. Indie 103.1 will cease broadcasting over this frequency effective immediately."
It was a psychological tremor that jolted Los Angeles' community of Jones-loving Coachella-goers, ex-punks and literati to its core. If tough-as-bricks former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones hadn't been able to survive the storm, what chance did the rest of us stand?
Jones and Sovel, Indie's music director, cleared their desks, wondering what to do next. Jones rented a car and went on a road trip around America for six weeks. He stayed at Roy Orbison's estate in Nashville. He drove to upstate New York. He stayed in weird old motels and soul-searched and realized that he'd never really spent time by himself before. The solitude helped him realize a few things. Maybe he'd gotten a little too comfortable at Indie. Maybe it was indeed time for a change.
Back home, he ignored multiple invitations to host television talk shows, none of which felt quite right. Even though his natural inclination was to be lazy, the thought of sitting at home and playing computer games didn't hold much appeal anymore, he said. Five years of hosting a daily radio show in the entertainment capital of the globe had changed him. Indie was the first time in his life he had ever shown up for work, every day. In his mid-50s, drifting around America, Steve Jones realized he was a man with purpose — and nowhere to put it.
KROQ, Indie's one-time arch-rival, had been courting Jones for years. Kevin Weatherly, senior vice president of programming at CBS Radio, KROQ's parent company, knew the city was (ahem) jonesing for Jonesy.
At first glance, it was an odd coupling, since Indie had been the anti-KROQ, the champion (at least on the surface) of things noncorporate, a lovably disorganized DIY effort that celebrated all that was nonconformist about Los Angeles. The self-styled "world famous" KROQ, on the other hand, was Indie's Type A big brother, backed by big money, a powerful transmission signal and listener figures that made Indie's wilt in comparison.
But Jones, for all his mispronunciations, belches and charming faux pas, possessed the one thing KROQ hasn't had since the '90s: underground credibility.
Back home, Jonesy tried out Internet radio, taking Jonesy's Jukebox to IAmRogue.com. Unbound by FCC regulations, he was cursing, farting and burping more than ever, but it didn't matter. Nobody was listening.