By Kathleen Vanesian
By Amy Silverman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Jim Louvau
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Benjamin Leatherman
By New Times
By Becky Bartkowski
In the early Sixties, long before words like radical and counterculture would become bland marketing doublespeak for rap groups and chain stores, a handful of beat college and FM stations around the country started freeform radio programming. The radio stations employed self-ruling DJs who eschewed starch-shirted formats and championed sounds and attitudes rooted in contempt for corporate hierarchy.
For discontented kids -- and later, the hippies -- the commercial freeform format was considered a soundtrack to free thought. These radio stations propelled the popularity of everything from Hendrix to Zappa to Grand Funk, playing the songs of artists that conventional radio wouldn't go near.
The format's popularity peaked in the early Seventies. Eventually, mainstays such as New York's WNEW and San Francisco's KMPX switched back to traditional commercialized playlists.
When President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, it lifted the cap on how many stations any one corporation could own, thus encouraging even more corporate homogeny.
In Phoenix the closest thing to radio freeform is upstart station KFNX-AM 1100. Day programming at KFNX runs a colorful talk-radio gamut of psychics and galactic channelers to homeopaths and lawyerspeak. Nighttime programming sees everything from punk rock and wrestling specialty shows to a program called Dead Air, hosted by a guy calling himself Harry Gothic Jr.
Friday nights in KFNX studios, back-to-back radio shows that fall neatly into anti-radio categories bring together a motley mix of transgender sex workers, fetishists, punks and drunks.
From midnight to 1 a.m. it's the skateboarding mayhem of State of the Skate. Airing from 1 to 3 a.m. is the penetrating Playtime Afterhours.
State of the Skate starts off with languid-eyed DJ Jason Stone saying this to sideman Jay Biaz and anybody listening in radio land: "Oh, dude, we gotta plug this into the other outlet in the studio. For some reason this cord is still bunk."
Stone's shaved head and chin pubes afford him a look that contradicts his disarming stoner drawl. But Stone is more aware of his surroundings than he lets on. Tonight, after downing many beers at a skateboard video première across town, Stone still commands the mixing-board and DJ duties like a seasoned radio jock. The amateur antics only aid in making the show more listenable.
Biaz is the more eloquent of the two, a kind of Butt-Head foil to Stone's Beavis. And the spontaneous on-air exchange between Stone and Biaz is like two pals shooting the shit over beers:
"Dude, I did a big fat accidental trek this weekend," says Stone. "I was skating with some cats, and I was trying to be cool and stuff, and I was trying to do like a nollie, and I landed in disaster slide and slid."
"Did you revert?" asks Biaz.
"No, dude, I didn't revert, but I rolled it right in. I was pretty stoked."
Stone and Biaz have been at State of the Skate for nearly five months. A slim roster of advertisers, plus sponsorship from Cowtown Skateboards, now supports the hourlong Friday night slot. Both Stone and Biaz contend that theirs is the only radio show of its kind in the country.
"The [skateboard] pros trip out when they hear about this show," Stone says. "I mean, we also play music and other shit but the basic idea for this show is to help the push to get more [skate] parks. There are only two free concrete skating parks in the city.
"Another reason is to just get skateboarders together and spot-trade."
Spot-trading is usually one guy phoning in to share a newly discovered skating locale, maybe on a loading dock behind some grocery store or in some abandoned backyard swimming pool.
A witching-hour skateboard show is an invitation for a high percentage of whacked call-ins. One guy calling himself Tyrannosaurus Testicles phones almost weekly. He says things like, "It's all about doing the atomic elbow job or panty-gagging your old lady." A group of skaters calling themselves the Scabs are regular callers as well.
"Those guys the Scabs are into super toboggan, dude," says Stone. "They're into big water reservoirs and full pipes, 22-, 24-feet high."
Stone says that if the Scabs get wind of a gnarly full pipe to skate, nothing stands in their way. A recent trip to Colorado in search of such a pipe saw Stone negotiating "psycho beavers" from blow-up rafts and "bee-infested rocks." And this came after hours of car travel and miles of arduous hiking.
"Last I heard, the Scabs were under downtown Phoenix, floating, looking for a full pipe to skate," says Stone. "They probably went down through a manhole. It's insane shit, but that's what those guys are all about."
At half-past midnight, the show's guests arrive, Mike Brink (Brink Skateboards) and his team of skateboarders. One of the skaters takes his penis out and unsheepishly slips it into a mike clip attached to the top of a small mike stand. His cohorts hoot approvingly.
The topical conversation veers from fornication to porn to the "Christian mothers who saw the Today Show" and are now trying to ban Larry Flynt's skater-friendly Big Brother magazine for having adult content.