Now We Are 16: A Blasphuphmus Radio History

Austin Rich, 1998, Blitzhaus, Preparing For A Broadcast
Austin Rich, 1998, Blitzhaus, Preparing For A Broadcast

On April 15th in 1998, I was drunk and determined not to miss my first appearance as the weekly host of a program that aired from 4 AM to 6 AM on KWVA in Eugene, Oregon.  I meandered down to the station after closing down the bar in my neighborhood, and popped into the studio to meet with a somewhat confused Station Manager.  She looked at me, asked if I knew what I was doing, to which I replied, “Of course.”  (I did not.)  Shaking her head, she left, asking me not to swear on the air, and soon enough I let the last song end, turned on the mic, and have not stopped broadcasting (or causing people to shake their heads) ever since.

Trying to tell someone that you are involved in Free Format, Non-Commercial Community Radio is a bit like trying to tell someone that you like to not get paid for things that you do.  Usually, the Free Format Non-Commercial Community part of the statement is glossed over, and they latch onto the “radio” part.  “Where are you on the air?  When?  What do you play?”  The answers to these questions very quickly bore most people, and when you don’t mention their favorite station, or that you incessantly play their favorite band, they no longer care anymore.  Go ahead and try to explain to them that you are involved in a conceptual program, presented over a long period of time, and involves non-musical audio recordings, odd narrative bits revealed in voice overs, mixed in with obscure and possibly unknown musical artists.  See where it gets ya.  I’ll wait.

The lack of traditional continuity is another issue.  When I explain that the show has been on a number of stations since 1998, and that the show has had a few different titles in that time, people get easily confused.  The fact that I have hosted other programs that are not related to Blasphuphmus Radio can only confuse people more, and the various numbering schema that we’ve used to organize the show only complicates the matters more.

There are other matters that make it difficult to make sense of: our name (Blasphuphmus?  Huh?), my name, the number of “last ever broadcasts” I’ve participated in.  There’s also the fact that most radio anymore is no longer happening on the AM or the FM.  Podcasts?  Archives?  Webstreams?  Inevitable questions come up: how are you live on the Inter-Web-A-Tron?  How come I can’t listen in my car?

What is this all about?

Good question.  I think, if I knew all of these answers, then there would no longer be a point to all of this for myself, either.  Radio, in many ways, is about discovery, and as I continue to make my own discoveries, I am compelled to share them with those around me.  For me, the outside world is something to be inquisitive about, and I don’t think that I can adequately answer the questions that regularly come up if the people asking are the kinds that gloss over the phrase, “Free-Format, Non-Commercial.”  Radio is, for lack of a better means of describing it, an audio puzzle that I am constantly trying to solve.  You have to be interested in those kinds of puzzles to really want to try and crack it yourself.

If you are a dedicated listener, then my suspicion is that you aren’t so much looking for an answer per se, but for a new question to reveal itself to you.  “Who is this?  What is this?  Where can I find it?  Is there more like it?”  These are the questions that we’re confronted with constantly as music fans.  These are questions that are never adequately answered, nor should it be in my mind.  The entire reason I’m involved in radio is because there is a nagging desire to find new puzzles to solve, and my hope is that there are enough of you who enjoy these puzzles that make being in broadcasting worth it to you, too.

In trying to solve this puzzle for myself over the last 16 years, I have seen and heard some amazing things.  (I have also seen and heard some awful things, but we try not to think about Bush & Creed these days.)  I have met some incredible artists, all of whom were very excited to be a part of this project that I’ve been slowly building in this time: Exene Cervenka, Monogamy Party, Dinosaur Jr., DEAD (from Australia), Camper Van Beethoven, Gaythiest, Dr. Frank, RABBITS, Devotchka, and over 250 other bands that I can’t possibly name all in this space (but you can stream or download nearly all of them from here.)  I’ve gotten to broadcast on the air with all of my best friends over the years, and have some of the most memorable recordings of those shows.  I have gotten to interview a countless numbers of people, and have learned some incredible stories about people I know and appreciate.  And, I have been able to spend entire evenings by myself, alone with a pair of turntables, playing records for the entire world to hear.

To be honest, our 16th Anniversary this year snuck up on me.  Last year’s two-day extravaganza was really huge, and while some of the previous anniversaries have had worthwhile celebrations too, it didn’t really occur to me that the date had arrived until it was almost upon me.  And in a way, that is fitting.  More than drawing attention to arbitrary milestones and numbers that might sound as if I’m just boasting, being involved in radio is about showing up every week, year in, year out, and meeting the particular challenge that lies ahead.

As Blasphuphmus Radio continues to grow and expand, it is worth it to stop and smell the roses of our past, and see where we have wound up.  In 1998, you either listened live, or I made you a tape that I had recorded off of the board so you could hear the show.  Now, you stream the content whenever and wherever you want – live for otherwise – and we have listeners in Alaska, Macedonia, here in town, and in outer space.  In 1998, we had one host, one program, and were on the air in the early hours of the morning on one station, heard in only one town in a remote part of the Pacific Northwest.  Now, we have a number of shows all part of our family, with a variety of hosts, themes, and subjects, available whenever and wherever you happen to be.  In 1998, radio was a single medium format – audio – and very few other forms of media was even considered to cross over with that method of deliver.  Now, video and photos are an everyday part of our program, and it would weird if we didn’t offer at least a photo, if not captured in a variety of ways.

There are more changes and expansions for us on the horizon, and as we adopt new technologies in an effort to bring you the best program we can, we want to look back at our humble beginnings and trace the insane (and incredibly diverse) history that we offer.  We have always been interested in finding new musical questions to ask, and present them to the world in a way that, hopefully, causes listeners to ask other questions, too.  We have been, to quote John Flasburgh of They Might Be Giants, an outward-looking entity, trying to make sense of (and participate within) a creative universe that is harsh and sometimes forbidding.

To know that many of you have been listening – a few of you for many many years now – is not only a testament to the fact that our inquisitive nature is paying off, but that we have a lot more in store that we should be asking questions about.

I mean, I still don’t know anything about Chinese Opera.  I wonder what it sounds like?

Here’s to the next 16 years.  Cheers.

Until next time: Be Seeing You.

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