Sunday, August 25, 2013

On Your Radio

Growing up, I listened to the radio a lot. It really shaped what I was listening to, whether it was disco, top 40 the harder-edged rock I grew to love, and later the so-called alternative sounds that I mainly listen to today. Of course, as my music collection grew, I listened to those purchases in their various formats, but I still managed to listen to radio a fair amount.

I liked the idea of a DJ serving a curator of sorts, sharing what he or she considered was music I needed to hear and introducing me to worthy artists new and old. As mainstream radio grew increasingly formatted in the '80s, it became more of a challenge to find stations worth listening to. Our move to New England helped, as stations like WFNX, WBCN and WAAF provided some interesting alternatives for a while; that was 20 years ago. Now only of those stations remains (WAAF) and it's a shadow of  its former self; the other two fell victim to the corporatization of radio and no longer exist.

But there's still college radio, which I occasionally listen to, and online radio, where you can find versions of WBCN and WFNX operating. And podcasting has really replaced radio for me, with a plethora of shows that I listen to regularly. Recently on CompCon, I talked to my friend Amanda Guest, a former co-worker who is launching her own online radio station, BFF.fm (you can hear our discussion in episodes 289 and 290). She is doing the old-school way, renting studio space and buying a console. We had discussed the possibility of me doing a show remotely, basically recording it like a podcast and sending her the file to run in a regular time slot. At first I kind of dismissed it, but then I was driving to work one day last month and listening to WMBR, the MIT station, and I thought, "Hell, I can do this."

And even though I'm probably overextended as it is in terms of extracurricular activities (running, podcasting, writing a column, coaching soccer), once I got the idea in my head, I couldn't let it go. So I got in touch with Amanda and my show was born. It's called Stuck in Thee Garage (after the old Dirtbombs show) and it's two hours of me playing rock music; BFF is all about underground music, so it's not stuff you'll likely hear on mainstream radio (although these days, there's a lot of stuff you don't hear on mainstream radio).

But I look to inspirations like the great Boston college stations and Henry Rollins' weekly show for KCRW. I've decided to split up the show into two halves; the first hour is new music I'm digging, while the second is music centered around a particular theme. I recorded the first episode just before we went to Hilton Head two weeks ago, even though it's not supposed to air until next Friday. BFF is making its actual debut this week, with a show or two each night (at least that's the plan I was told a few weeks ago; things can change). My time slot is Fridays at 11 p.m. Eastern/8 Pacific (the station's based in San Francisco), running after Amanda's great show Radioculars. I actually won't be able to listen to the show live because I'll be doing some podcast recording at Ric Dube's house, but I've already heard it a few times.

It's an exciting venture for me, just because radio was always something I wanted to do but never acted on. At UNH, I was working at the school paper for much of my last two years so there was no time to be a DJ even if I had thought to try it. A few years later, I was a tad envious of my brother, an intensely private man who nevertheless had his own radio show at Dartmouth College; of course, he never let me listen to recordings of it, so I have to assume he was good at it. He certainly has great taste in music, so I'm sure it was an excellent show. But my radio "dreams" lay dormant for years, until I launched CompCon in 2006 as a form of radio, I suppose. I've incorporated music into the podcast from the beginning, so it has elements of radio, but this is my first attempt at a straight-out music show.

The first show has minimal talking from me, other than to back announce the songs and do station IDs, but I expect that will change as I get more comfortable with the format. Of course, it won't be the same as doing a live show in an actual radio studio, but there's no way I can pull that off. No time; hell, there's barely enough time to do this every week, but I'm doing it anyway. The good thing about getting that first show done early is I'll always be ahead of the game as long as I record a show each week. I just finished making the playlist today; I just have to record my voiceovers and put the whole thing together sometime this week.

So if you get a chance and you're near an Internet-enabled device this coming Friday at 11 p.m. Eastern (if everything goes as planned), check out BFF.fm and listen to my show. I think it's pretty good. Hopefully they'll archive the old shows on their site; not sure what the plan is there. But this is something I plan to stick with. I've got a buddy working on some artwork and a logo for the show and I'll build a separate Internet Home Page for it soon. Like just about everything else I do, I'm not expecting a huge audience or fame and fortune. It's yet another thing that I find interesting, and hey, it beats sniffing glue.

UPDATE: I just found out that my show will make its debut on Friday, September 6 at 11 p.m. Eastern/8 Pacific. So there you have it...please check it out if you can.