Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Interview: Meat Radio

Telling our readers that they should ignore the Dallas Clear Channel Radio empire feels a little like telling a male SMU undergrad that he should idolize Alex P. Keaton. It is pretty well understood that commercial radio is and has been dead in Dallas for quit some time, and smart people hardly need to be reminded of it. Maybe it was never good, and maybe commercial radio as an outlet for artistic expression always has and always will fail. That is a discussion we could have all day, although most of us hardly seem to have the time or energy to do so.

That being said, building yourself a small FM transmitter and shouting all of this out on the airwaves in an East Dallas neighborhood is entirely different from simply having a discussion, and the fact that someone is doing just that on 102.5 FM on Thursday-Sunday nights actually gives us a good reason to talk about what we already know. My first encounter with Meat Radio came a couple months back when I happened to flip onto 102.5 FM while driving around in Lakewood. I was pretty amazed to hear a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah song on the radio, and was even more amazed to hear the rest of the album played right after it. Who or what the hell was doing this? Where are they doing it from? Why are they doing it? These were questions that I started asking myself, and have been curious about ever since.

Listening to Meat Radio on and off since that day has convinced me that it is important, and not because it is revolutionary in its mission or presentation. Rather, I think Meat Radio is important and exciting because it is NOT revolutionary. Pirate radio has been done before and will be done again. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and britpop and soul have been played on the radio before and will be played again. Political radio programs have been around for decades, and will likely be around for decades to come. The important thing about Meat Radio isn't how strange it is but rather how normal it seems, and how perfectly pleasant it is to listen to. From what we have gathered, a group of thoughtful people got together and built a transmitter and a small studio because they like playing records and are interested in developing some sense of community in a town that sorely needs it. Their desire to do these things shouldn't be a shock. What is shocking is that more people AREN'T doing this. What is shocking is that doing what they do is a federal offense, and that you couldn't possibly start such a station legally without millions of dollars and the requisite amount of government access that you need in order to satisfy the FCC. No, the importance of Meat Radio isn't really its content, but rather the conviction and the courage of the people behind it. And the fact that they seem to want to play good music and have good conversations rather than change the world in that Christian Slater cheese kind of way makes me admire the whole project even more, and prompts me to ask the ten million dollar question: How could something like this be illegal? I'll ask this question from time to time, but then quickly remember what I already know: the Clear Channels of the world have the money, lobbyists and influence to make sure that the government makes the world difficult for Meat Radios everywhere. Heres to hoping that they miss ours.

Tell us what Meat Radio is. How many people are involved, what is your studio like and how did you get your hands on an FM transmitter?

Meat Radio is community radio station broadcasting on 102.5 in East Dallas. We have a typical DJ setup with cd players, record players, a microphone and a hot line called the Meat Line to find out who the hell is listening. According to Myspace we are 145 deep. Visit freeradio.org and learn to build one or google "FM transmitter".

What inspired you to start Meat Radio?

Meat Radio was started because KZPS 92.5 played Led Zeppelin for the 4th billion time. I remember them announcing it and then continued with a Rock Block Weekend of CCR. Also I thought it would be great if local artist and djs had a smoke free environment to get there stuff heard. I was also inspired by WFMU in New Jersey and KBLT in L.A. The girl who started KBLT, Sue Carpenter, wrote a book called "40 Watts From Nowhere" which is worth reading. What is your mission for the station? Just to play good music, keep it interesting and support local artist & the community.

What are your general feelings about the state of commercial radio and companies like Clear Channel doing away with local play lists, etc.?

I could go on and on about this. Dallas radio is awful. Except for a few shows here and there, it's a wasteland of the overplayed and uninteresting. Which everyone knows. Nothing new there. Clear Channel & Viacom are businesses trying to generate as much profits as possible and get as many listeners as possible. When that's your motivation things like localism, community get thrown out the window.

What do you know about the FCC regulations that might affect your project, and are you afraid of encountering legal issues?

I've read up on the FCC and their tactics and weighed the risks and still think it's a worthy venture. It's not if we run into the FCC but when and we'll deal with that when we get there. The FCC & the NAB (National Broadcasters Association) are the real pirates. Companies like Clear Channel just took advantage of the situation that the FCC created. When the 1996 Telecommunications Act was passed it had major impact on radio. The '96 Act made two key changes: it eliminated the cap on the number of radio stations companies could own nationally, and it raised the limit on the number of stations that could be owned in local markets. So Big Radio just gobbled up as much radio space as possible eliminating locally focused radio.

What kind of music do you play, and what kinds do you want to play more of? Could you give us a schedule of current shows?

"This is Texas" starts our broadcasting on Thursday nights hosted by D. Cha Cha. She's really involved in the local music scene and knows as much about Dallas, Denton and Austin bands as anyone I know. She's plays all Texas artists and usually has guests from the scene to host with her. Grits N Gravy is the exploration of Rock and Roll from its earliest roots and its influences. They choose to focus more on the glory years of Rock and Roll (i.e. 1964 - 1975). Typically, they choose to feature an artist each week, which in the past has included Sam Cooke, Howlin' Wolf and more recently The Rolling Stones, but they always mix the featured artist's songs within a rotation of our own choosing that is usually knee deep in early blues, folk, country and gospel. Gabriel and Jeff always make a point to get right with Jesus within every broadcast to make up for all the sex, drugs and rock and roll that surrounds it. DinoPop! is on Sunday nights starting at 9pm hosted by Peter Pants Wiskers and DJ Meat. These guys are pop freaks. They focus on Power Pop, Garage and Brit pop from the 60's through the 90's. When there are no shows airing we have an eclectic play list that's made of a bit of everything from Blues to Italian Disco with some local guys thrown in. Sometimes the Human Rights Radio show Democracy Now! is broadcast.

Are you looking to expand your operations with more shows, a bigger broadcast area, working with more people, etc.?

Yeah I'd like to get more shows started. Some community information show would be nice or a Circus music show. We are only on Thur - Sun. as of now. The station doesn't make any money and everyone volunteers their own time.

Here is the question we ask everyone: what is your opinion of the current state of Dallas music?

I think there are some really good bands out there but don't have enough exposure for whatever reason. We hope to remedy that, a least for East Dallas. But we can't play you if we don't have your music. So send us your stuff at meatradio@gmail.com. We also like free cds.

Some say that Naughty By Nature's "Hip Hop Hooray" was one the best second single to be released in the past 15 years by any pop music artist that had previously been labeled a "one hit wonder." However, a good argument can be made that Color Me Badd's "I Adore Mi Amore" was equally successful. If you could have five minutes to write a witty comment about either, would you? No comment

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Jeff from Grits N Gravy said...

My ability to make this point should not reflect poorly in any way on Grits 'N' Gravy, what we attempt to provide in music or broadcast integrity or the ghost of Howlin' Wolf. Disclaimer aside, Naughty By Nature's "Hip Hop Hooray" was by far more significant than Color Me Badd's "I Adore Mi Amore". The comparisons are almost as humorous as the intent of the question. Which was a perfect capper to the interview. However, the case is easily made by the fact that Color Me Badd, whether it be 'I Wanna Sex U Up' or 'I Adore Mi Amore' were passing hits that can now be filed alongside the other acts and hits by similar artists (see Snow, All-4-One). They were typical for the time.

Naughty By Nature found a second hit, and a hip hop rallying cry, with 'Hip Hop Hooray'. Hip Hop, which is not a genre filled with such anthems, found a call to arms and another early claim on the popular charts with 'Hip Hop Hooray'. It's impact could be felt from the Jersey shores to the suburbs or Des Moines. Hip hop was here and it was time to celebrate. No one was celebrating Color Me Badd. Black kids barely acknowledged it and white girls quickly forgot it.

Now who's down with OPP?

1:23 PM  
Blogger jonofdeath said...

What? No it list? How will ever know what I should do? Anyway, just got back from Metric. Probably one of the best shows I've ever been to.

1:46 AM  
Blogger wakka-wakka said...

Metric was better than I thought they'd be, but I'm still not that into them.

What did you think of Islands, Jonofdeath? Personally, I liked them alright, but would rather have seen a Unicorns show. And a lot of their songs sound like parts of Unicorns songs...and when they didn't develop into Unicorns songs I was disappointed. I didn't expect this to happen, but was still disappointed.

And the opening band sounded like Driveshaft.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

trust me you DON'T want to see the unicorns live. their albums go over pretty well but live they are just fucking annoying.... it partly has to do w/ annoying fans, but seriously... i saw them in OKC about 2 years ago and i left shortly after the openers (who were a pre-fame Arcade Fire... clearly they blew the unicorns out of the water).

...maybe you've seen them and they were less obnoxious, but i thought they were just bratty as hell... and so did my sources who saw them in austin during that same tour.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a current issue with pirate radio

10:47 PM  
Blogger jonofdeath said...

yeah, Islands were good. I actually enjoyed them a lot better than the Unicorns. I thought that with the type of music Islands was doing, the people's personality were not as annoying. However, I did find the 3 "island rythms" a bit much. I think one would have sufficed. I didn't see the opening band. Didn't really care to. But yeah, Metric was great. Freakin' great. Well, I think I went too far with that. I apologize.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous gabriel from grits and gravy said...

Thanks for the support. I really appreciate the kind words.
Hopefully we can keep this going for a while.

6:12 PM  
Blogger wakka-wakka said...

No need to apologize, Jonofdeath. It was probably the epilepsy inducing light show that caused the overstatement. I understand. And thanks for the anecdote, anonymous. I'm less disappointed that I never got to see their live show. I'll always have (and love) the record...

But really, I think we're all losing sight of the fact that this post was originally about Meat Radio, which is one of the coolest things to happen to Dallas in a real long time. Those dudes have some balls to do what they do. I salute them (their balls).

10:35 AM  

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