Now We Are 20: Reflecting on Two Decades of Radio Life

The Beginning
(Originally broadcast on 15 April 1998 on KWVA.)

This was my first ever radio broadcast.   4 A.M. – 7 A.M. on KWVA.  What follows is a recreation, based on playlists, recordings, and memories from that evening.  This is an approximation of what it was like to listen to my show in those days.

Here’s the backstory: I have been obsessed since I was 10, when I got my own radio / cassette combo, and a box of tapes to go with it. (Plus a couple blank tapes.) Staying up, past my bedtime, listening to radio dramas (not called “Old Time Radio” among fans) and classic rock DJs as my pre-adolescent mind tried to wrap itself around all the things I was hearing. It stuck with me, as I started calling KZEL to request songs and chat with the DJ, my mom already working in that field herself. It was KZEL that broke grunge to me, my friends at school how suggested KRVM, and as alternative began to find it’s way to the sleepy town of Cottage Grove, I found myself wanting to break out of the confines, and find the world I was hearing through the radio.

Pump Up The Volume is sort of the nail in the coffin, isn’t it? Suggesting a winder world of radio and music that is not what you once thought it was. When I finally did burst out of Cottage Grove for Eugene, KWVA was the station we all huddled around, and you would hear it all over town, blasting out of coffee shops and front porch freak-outs. It was almost as instructive as the tapes Colin & kiisu would make for me, and this inevitably led to the Colin Mix tape that featured Negativland heavily. I connected with them, and copied my roommates’ albums immediately, to find that I loved this group. As I dug into them more, I had heard tale that they did a radio show, which sort of blew my mind. A band, that does a radio show? I love radio! I need to heard this!

By the time I was staying with Little Jon, I had not only come into recordings (through CDs and tapes friends would mail me), but our mutual friend Shane With No Last Name starting a morning mix show on KWVA. All of these vectors sort of coalesced, and I obsessively taped Shane’s show (and a lot of KWVA), anticipating each new entry into his “9 AM Slayer” segment, and getting to know the station in general.

I immediately filled out an application to become a DJ, and submitted it, only to wait for some time, not hearing a peep. I was a little discouraged, as it seemed like it had been so easy for Shane to get his show. I must have done something wrong. At the time I was still making ‘zines, so I focused my energy into that, until one day, several months later, when I was in the area and dropped into the station. I asked about my application, and there it was, in a pile of “to be read” applications. None of the staff had actually seen it yet. I hadn’t done anything wrong, and nothing sinister was afoot. The first rule of radio was learned: if you keep showing up, you’ll eventually get on the air.

It wasn’t long before I got a call back, and was asked to start out in the “beginner” slot. This is the dreaded 4 AM to 6 AM airtime (with a 3 AM to 3:30 AM “arrival” time). I took it, because I was 23 and full of energy and what was I gonna do with my time, anyway? This was the ’90’s, and everything was cheap. I was working part time jobs and living with roommates. Of course I’ll leave the bar, pick up some records, cruise on down to the radio station and DJ for a couple hours. What else am I going to do?

And so, on April 15th, 1998 (a Wednesday), I waltzed into the KWVA studio at 3 AM, and began a tradition that has now lasted me 20 years. Fortunately, these days, I don’t go in at 3 AM anymore.

In the time since I’ve been on at a number of stations here in Oregon, and 14 years ago we began podcasting, which has changed the game considerably. I’ve moved, changed the name, hosted up to three or four shows at once, and for years and years on end, hosted a weekly live band, too. (I’ve recorded somewhere around 300 radio performances in that time.) And if we roll the clock back to include the ‘zines and bands I’ve been in, and the live shows at venues I’ve put on too, and we’ve got 25 years of this nonsense I’ve been making, trying to carve out my own version of art in that time.

It’s a lot to process. But I’m entirely grateful for this career that I’ve managed to sort out for myself. Being on the radio for 20 years has not only given me a chance to figure out who I am and what I want, but has given me a creative outlet that really feels comfortable. When I set out to make a new radio show, it feels as exciting as it was to show up to KWVA 20 years ago, and have the station manager look me up and down, and say, “Okay, when I leave at four, you’re on. You’ve got the place to yourself. Don’t screw it up.”

Hopefully, I haven’t. Making radio has been incredibly rewarding, and I’ve met incredible people in that 20 years, who have all contributed to making this show possible, week after week. When I get discouraged, I return to radio. When I’m happy, I can say it in a show. Before I had this outlet I would make tapes, obsessively, sending them out to friends, trying to perfect the mix. While I keep redefining what that mix “is” as I get older, I have to say I’m fairly happy with the shows I’ve made over the years. It reflects who I am, and how I’ve changed. While the show that I pitched to KWVA – an Over The Edge clone – was not the show I ended up making, as the years progressed and as my tastes changed and evolved (and as I moved from station to station), the show I originally pitched became the show I do now, and you can hear that 20 year evolution if you’ve been along for the ride.

But that isn’t to say that my show wasn’t more conventional at times. I used to do an all 60’s Rock show. For a spell it was strictly punk. I went through a phase of just playing everything at once and hoping for the best, and then a full pre-planned and pre-produced phase, that sometimes felt that way, too. For years it was just live bands, and I even did a brief stint doing only progressive rock. My show is difficult to pin down because I don’t really want it to be any one thing, restricting it to a format of which I can then grow tired. But as the years wore on it was clear that I was gravitating more and more to something that was obviously influenced by Over The Edge, even though it did not start that way.

On April 15th, I was more than a little drunk, and the station manager actually left before it was officially 4 AM. (She had been called in suddenly to cover for the 2 AM – 4 AM gent, who suddenly didn’t show up.) And to make matters worse, the DJ after me didn’t show up either, so the Programming Director came in and relieved me. Most likely I was actually on from 3:45 to 6:50 (or something like that), but I didn’t keep track of thing then as precisely as I do now. (A phrase which could probably go on my tombstone.)

The show had the incredibly unwieldy name of The Church of Blasphuphmus (Not Jesus) Hour, and up until 2013, some variant of that name was the one I used, on the air, no less. I got a few complaints about the “anti-religious” sentiment, but very little, considering how long I kept the name around. Since then, the name has changed a few times, but Mid-Valley Mutations seems to suit best the nonsense I’ve created, and feels like a good roadmap, too. While the old name was informed by the religion kiisu & Colin made up (and I willingly began to join in on), I can’t help but acknowledge all that the SubGenius did for me, and for them, in giving us ideas, too.

Through the miracle of tape and digital archiving, there is actually a recording of my first broadcast. The recording that follows is a re-creation of it that I made, using the surviving tapes, playlists, and guesswork as to what was popular then, and in particular, what I remember hearing / playing on KWVA in those days. (So, the re-creation is only as good as that.) In those days, it wasn’t as practical for me to record and keep all the tapes necessary to archive my entire show, and I played a fair amount of music that I already owned in other formats. So when archiving my KWVA shows, I would cut out the songs I owned elsewhere, and just keep the other bits. I rarely saved commercials, and I regularly lost huge sections of shows. (Near the end of my KWVA run, I just stopped taping entirely, and have still not yet found the supposed recording I made of my “last” KWVA show, before I moved to Portland.)

Suffice it to say, the recording here is a pretty good reproduction of what my show was like back then, but also, is like a journal entry from that day, from that year, that I can look back on. Because I’ve recorded so many of them, and because there are plenty of specific places and dates associated with all of them, the really do act as a way I can “listen” to my own story, and get a sense of who I was and what I’ve become in 20 years. This first show is not “great,” but it is a nice slice of nostalgia, and it shows the potential of what was to come.

I’ll be including occasional other selections from the archives to bring out some of my favorite moments from my radio years. I’ve done a few shows that I think are very indicative of the fun I’ve gotten to have on the radio over the years, and I want to share those moments with you now that I’ve had a couple of decades to reflect on them.

Most importantly, thank you. Without an audience, there is no art. And without you, the listener, there is no show.

Be seeing you.

* * * * * *

KWVA Studio

The Beginning

HOUR 1

01.) Strychnine * Strychnine * Born to Loose * Industrial Strength Records
02.) Millionaire * ?? * ?? * ??
03.) Teenagers From Mars * Misfits * Collection * Caroline Records
04.) Christine * The Con Men * Live In-Studio * KWVA Radio
05.) Dicks Hate The Police * The Dicks * 1980-1986 * Alternative Tentacles Records
06.) Stereo Phasing Test / Television * Man… Or Astro-Man? * Experiment Zero * Touch & Go Records
07.) Cramp Stomp * The Cramps * Big Beat from Badsville * Epitaph Records
08.) Selector Pt. 2 * Dub Narcotic Sound System
09.) Buenos Tardes Amigos * Ween
10.) Fade In / Fade Out * Red Aunts

11.) Forest Fire * Dead Kennedys * Plastic Surgery Disasters * Alternative Tentacles Records
12.) BluBlud * KARP
13.) KWVA In-Studio Performance * The Outclass
14.) My Novel * Oswald 5-0
15.) Let’s Go Away * The Wipers
16.) Neat Neat Neat * The Damned * Damned Damned Damned * Stiff Records
17.) Justification * Against All Authority
18.) Streamline Yr Skull * New Bomb Turks

HOUR 2

19.) Embryodead (Aghast View Remix) * :wampscut:
20.) Shaved Women * Crass
21.) Praying Hands * Devo
22.) Caught In My Eye * Germs
23.) Smokin’ Banana Peels * Dead Milkmen
24.) Hexenzsene * Unwound
25.) Metanoia * King Missile
26.) The Way Of The World * Flipper

27.) Happy Hero * Negativland * Dispepsi * Seeland Records

28.) Kill All The White Man (Live) * NOFX * I Heard They Suck Live!! * Fat Wreck Chords
29.) Germfree Adolescents * X-Ray Spex
30.) Universal Corner * X
31.) Hustler * Blatz
32.) Gargoyle Waiting * …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
33.) Persistent Vision * Rites of Spring
34.) Whirling Hall Of Knives * Butthole Surfers
35.) Treat Me Right * The Con Men * Live In-Studio * KWVA Radio

HOUR 3

36.) Titanium Expose * Sonic Youth * Goo * DGC Records
37.) Birthday Sandwhich * godheadSilo
38.) Theme * Los Mex Pistols * Unreleased Radio Promo Tape

39.) Runnin’ Through My Bones * Tight Bros. From Way Back When
40.) Ain’t No Woman Gonna Make A George Jones Outta Me * Daniel Johnston *
41.) This Is Radio Clash * The Clash * The Story of The Clash, Volume I * Epic Records
42.) Egg Raid On Mojo * Beastie Boys

43.) Excuse Me, But Pardon My French * Unwound * The Future of What * Kill Rock Stars Records
44.) Balalaika Gap * Camper Van Beethoven
45.) Born To Do Dishes * The Queers
46.) Sidewalk Warrior * Screeching Weasle
45.) Jello Biafra * Wesley Willis
46.) Hangin’ Tough * New Kids On The Block * Hangin’ Tough * Columbia Records

47.) False Start * Bikini Kill
48.) In My Mind * Crimpshrine
49.) Kasimir S. Pulaski Day * Big Black

04.) Tennessee Stud * Jimmie Driftwood * The Wilderness Road * RCA / Victor Records

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