By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
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By Troy Farah
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It's impossible to talk about Valley music for long without the subject turning to the sad state of local radio. Even natives frequently shake their heads in disgust, unable to comprehend that a market of this size could be stuck with so few credible music options.
The most glaring omission has long been punk rock. Arbitron-minded radio conglomerates just have too much to lose by unleashing the real stuff during drive time. In other markets this size, college radio would fill the void; but we all know what a sad nonentity ASU's radio station is. Right under our noses, however, three recent entries in the Valley's radio sweepstakes have begun to gather some momentum. These specialty shows--the Punk Rock Radio Show on KFNX-AM 1100, Ska-Punk on KEDJ-FM 106.3, and Red Radio Underground on KUPD-FM 98--certainly don't cure the disease, but at least they intermittently relieve the symptoms.
Upon entering the studios of KFNX, it's hard not to notice that the man in charge, Johnny Ductape, is getting progressively more annoyed because the station is loaded with people who invited themselves in. The scene could hardly be more punk rock. "Man, we got to do something about this," Ductape says. "Next time there's going to be more control." More often than not, though, chaos is the order of the day at the Punk Rock Radio Show.
Ductape is a man of average stature, blessed with a surprisingly deep voice. His on-air cohort, Bob Noxious, is a large fellow with a devilish beard. At the moment, he is surveying the anarchy that seems to be brewing around him.
Beer cans are strewn about the studio. People are chatting loudly. One girl is noticeably drunk, but trying to maintain coherence.
Ductape and Noxious launched their show two-and-a-half months ago as a midnight-to-2 a.m. combination of punk music and freeform discourse, three nights a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). On January 29, they began working under a new schedule: Fridays and Saturdays, 10 p.m. to midnight.
The idea of an uncompromising punk-rock radio show broadcasting in the Valley on a weeknight is startling enough, but what makes this show truly bizarre is the fact that it's the only music program on a station loaded with talk shows, many of them of the sappy, Chicken Soup for the Soul variety. Ductape had been doing weather and traffic reports at the station for about five months, and he decided it was worth a shot to see if he could get a music show on the air.
"The station is fairly new, it's about seven months old," he says. "It was elevator music; now it's talk, alternative talk, that kinda crap. It's just my nature to find out what's what, so I started asking the big boss. He gave me a good deal on airtime. Here we go off at midnight, but they'd like to go 24-7. Well, because it's a new station, he liked the idea of music."
As a result, Ductape can now boast, "We're the most popular show on the station."
The two radio renegades pay the station $125 an hour for the airtime, and work on selling advertising themselves. "Everything is done by us, advertising, promotions," Noxious says. "If we could get more advertisers, we could stay on more days or later at night. We'd like people congruent to the scene, like tattoo shops and record stores. Our goal is five days a week."
Early installments of the show found the twosome getting people to call in late so the show could stay on after 2 a.m., or giving away a 12-pack of beer to loyal listeners. "We can give away anything we want," Ductape says. "We're not selling it. We can give away a woman. As long as you're over 21, we can give it as a gift. We have a waiver form.
"I got the idea as a gimmick to get people to listen to us after 1 a.m., especially the working dads who still have the Black Flag stripes tattooed on [them]. I checked it out with the FCC and stuff."
Unorthodox as their broadcasting style may be, these guys aren't without DJ experience. Noxious hosted a ska show on the now-defunct KUKQ, not too big a stretch considering that he also played guitar for the similarly defunct ska band Kongo Shock.
"Larry Mac gave me my first break into radio," Noxious says. "He started the ska show, and I took it over. Johnny was a friend of mine, so I asked him to co-host. Johnny got bit by the radio bug."
"I was deciding whether to be a fireman or a DJ," Ductape says. "So I flipped a coin. So I went to radio school and into my first show."
Both DJs say it wasn't very hard to get the Punk Rock Radio Show on the air at KFNX. "As soon as I drew it up, I took it to Francis Battaglia, the owner, and his little brother Matt, who's the station manager, and they got me decent prices for airtime.
"Since they shut off at midnight, it took a slight twisting of the arm to let us on, and make a few bucks they weren't making in the first place," Noxious says.