Monday, December 8, 2014

"The path you tread is narrow."

It's been said that I've given up on radio, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I love radio.  The Magick of Radio.  In real time.  I adore it.

Which is why I never listen to it.  Or in the rarest of circumstances.  Like a comet's return.  Radio is like Democracy.  It could work, if only given a chance. 

I may have mentioned before that at Santa Barbara City College I took a Radio Drama class.  Taught by a radio veteran, the class mainly focused on recreating the Golden Age of Radio: Lux Radio Theatre and Jack Armstrong.  This would have been cool if Radio in 1971 still produced Inner Sanctum.  But it didn't.  I wanted to develop ideas started by the Goon Show, pushed by the Beatles and mutated by the Firesign Theatre, but further...with Sound and Muzik and all its potential.

Well this was frowned upon by the instructor, so impatient and undisciplined me dropped out of the class.  Another student dropped out of the second same class.  We were the only two.  And ironically, we were the only two who went into professional radio.  My only regret with dropping out was missing the end of term appearance of famed local voice actor Don Messick, of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons.  A friend of the instructor, he was the end of term bonus for class members.  My wife, a cartoon freak of the highest order--ahem!  I mean, connoisseur of Fine Anime--would probably be more attentive if I could say I schmoozed with Race Bannon.

But I digress...

What this class should have taught is the reality of corporate radio, as it gobbled up the Mom & Pop local stations of Everytown, U.S.A.  If students had been given an insight into how radio was really run, the drop out level would have been massive.  Humongous.  Not to be confused with Jazz Great, Hugh Mingus.  Now, he was big.

So I'm beginning to identify with the antiquated class of the Golden Age of Radio.  SPACE PIRATE RADIO was and is a Progressive Program.  I can stake a claim in that area of description.  But sometimes evolution is a detriment, especially in technology.  New and Improved can often be a serious destroyer to creativity.  Am I dinosaur of the Analog Age?  Probably.  One facet of watching my radio career evolve was a dissolving of the ability to do Magickal Things in the studio as equipment changed.  Effects like Echo and its depth and timing would disappear when new mixing boards came in.  One had the ability to do an infinite panorama of sound effects with crappy old Teac tape recorders and cart machines.  The telephone plugged into the same cart machine, a stack of carts ranging in time from 40 seconds to under ten minutes.  Bring the volume pod up from lower six to eight or ten and you entered into a séance conversation.  Push it past 2pm and you rode a wave to wipe out of feedback.  The audio equivalent of Fritz Lang or the Cabinet of Doctor Caligari.  The Krell were running the studio.

When SPACE PIRATE RADIO returned to a soulless KTYD in 1997, one could not be more horrified with the computerized collection of compressed Classic Rock, the monitors hanging in Orwellian fashion.  Where was the mix?  The music and Magick of the Segue?  The personal touch of the Disc Jockey CUEING his own records?  The timing? 

The best one could hope for was that the studio still had a turntable hooked up (one if you were lucky, as opposed to two, or the luxury of three) and two functional CD machines.  There were times when only one CD machine was working.  You can imagine how a mix would sound like.  The bridge had to be improvised on anything that fed sound out on the air, while a speedy eject and cue of separate disc had to be executed.  Not ideal for seamless audio landscapes or thematic blendings.
So find me a studio that is equipped with a microphone or two, two or three CD machines and at least one decent turntable (without the rumble of gears so prevalent in later stations) and I'm there.

This stream of thought will continue, but to pause on a positive note, I would just like to comment on the Fidelity Experience.  As good as music sounds to me now, both new and old, and there is a ton of new music out there I would love to play for ecstasy of life is playing a song, LIVE, ON AIR, and blasting it through the studio monitors.
On the Eighth Floor of the Granada Building, window open, blue light on, candle lit, sandalwood incense burning in corkboard wall, German wine in glass.  After 2 AM.
The Sound of that Music.  Pure Bliss... :)