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"And now, a word from our sponsor: Haaaayyyyyaaaayiii!" Phoenix's newest DJ DC Thomas erupts into the mike with a barrage of high-pitched ninja screeches. His hair is cropped into a bristly buzz, his wiry frame clothed in black tees and patched pants, the back of his neck tattooed with an enormous supermarket bar code. DC recovers from his screech and adds in a weary tone, "If I have to do another Karate Mart commercial, I'm gonna fuckin' puke."
"Yeah, but they did give us the money," DC's female guest reminds him.
"Capitalists, capitalists," Thomas says with a tsk-tsk in his voice, before slipping into the bland drone of a regular commercial radio announcer. "You should shop at Karate Mart," he tells his listeners, then breaks into another round of manic ninja shrieking.
Ask DC Thomas how his new radio show is going, and he shrugs and deadpans, "I don't get to play my music, I don't get to pick the guests anymore; it's total anarchy." But Thomas is not complaining. Anarchy is the whole point.
Although the anarcho-punk-themed Reality Asylum, which made its on-air debut in December, has all the trappings of a pirate operation run out of somebody's basement, it's actually one of several punk shows on corporate-owned KFNX-AM 1100. The station is the new home of talk-radio behemoths such as Don Imus and Tom Leykis, whose syndicated blather started filling the station's day slots this week, and whose ad revenues, ironically, are what allow the station to open its doors to other, more diverse viewpoints. And KFNX's policy as a stalwart supporter of freedom of speech means content more annoying than the polka music and Irish drinking songs it plays on Sundays also has a right to be aired.
The station's most controversial show is its Saturday afternoon broadcast of über-racist William Pierce's weekly address, wedged between shows on medicine and computer technology. Thomas and the Anarcho-Punk Federation, of which he is a founding member, are not thrilled to share airspace with white supremacists like Pierce, who operates a racist group called National Alliance from the group's headquarters in West Virginia. But Thomas resigns himself to the realities of putting the First Amendment in practice.
"Even though we despise them, if anything this allows them to shoot themselves in the foot by spreading their stupid ideology and letting people listen to their crap for what it is," he says.
Pierce's latest episode, titled "Journalists and Canadians," aired just a few hours before Thomas' show last Saturday and included observations like "the mass media in Canada are as much under Jewish control as in the United States."
Program director Jason Stone, a 27-year-old diehard skateboarder, has hosted his own show, State of the Skate, for the four years that the station has also run Pierce's rants. But just because Stone plays it doesn't mean he has to like it, he says. What it does mean is he gets paid for it, although Stone won't say how much KFNX charges the National Alliance to air Pierce's show.
"I hate William Pierce," Stone says quickly. "I don't like his show or agree with his views. But if you're going to stand for freedom of speech, you have to do so across the board, whether you agree with someone or not."
Which also means taking a chance on someone like Thomas, who Stone says approached him at a punk show last fall and asked to be put on the air. "I gave him a list of banned words, showed him how to work the mikes and he took off." Stone says. "Now he gets in the studio and he rocks; he just rocks."
The format of Reality Asylum is all over the place; anarchist treatises about social injustice, political activism and corporate lambastes are interspersed with raw, thrashing punk music. Songs from Wesley Willis ("The vultures the vultures the vultures the vultures the vultures ate my dead ass up") or Oi Polloi's "Dealer in Death" ("How many creatures must die/To provide the animal fat for your apple pie?") are common. "Sellout pricks" like Blink-182 are not. "We don't play any songs about girlfriends," Thomas says. "It's all about the message."
Thomas and his guests also talk about the activities of anarchist-friendly groups like Anti-Racist Action and Earth First!, report on demonstrations like a recent one outside the INS building, and register the success of last weekend's punk show.
The money KFNX makes from ads sold during the day -- when the station bills itself as "Hot Talk 1100" -- helps subsidize the evening programming, when, at 8 p.m., KFNX Jekyll-and-Hydes into "Revolution Radio," of which Reality Asylum is the newest addition. Shows on street punk, indie punk, hard-core punk, underground news, hip-hop, poetry, and even gossip from the Scottsdale club scene fill the evening slots.
"I believe everyone should have a chance," Stone says. "As long as someone has some kind of drive and is organized and wants to do a quality show, it's fine be me."
Even if it means putting up with an hour of William Pierce every week and starting each Monday wading through dozens of voice-mails listeners leave in response to the show. "There are some people who stand behind him and cheer us for having him on. Other people are really offended by him and call almost in tears." It is, Stone reasons, the price you pay for freedom of speech.