Thursday, August 12, 2010

Radio Station Field Trip 24 - Radio Valencia in San Francisco

Entrance to Chez Poulet, home of Radio Valencia in San Francisco

Yesterday, brand new community radio station Radio Valencia began broadcasting online from their studio in San Francisco. I've been following their behind-the-scenes story for a few months now and checked out their digs back in June before things were up and running. On Tuesday I made a return trip to Radio Valencia to see the progress that they'd made and was excited to be on the premises when they had their first successful test of their webstream. Several of us ran back and forth between the studio and an adjacent kitchen (where a laptop tuned to the station's webstream URL was located) so that we could see if the music and voices from the studio were being transmitted to the web. We were all jubilant when voice and music finally came through and in that moment the inherent magic of radio could not be disputed.

TradeMark Gunderson and John Hell 
First live webcast of Radio Valencia on August 10, 2010

After Tuesday's successful testing of the webstream, live DJs began swarming into the studio yesterday afternoon.  The inaugural live broadcast started at 5pm with DJ Dirty Needles. Ronnie James Coltrane followed at 8pm (with a mix of jazz and metal) and the night of live DJs ended with DJ Fiasco and Karen Carpenter from 10pm to midnight. Tonight there will be live shows starting at 8pm and tomorrow live programming begins at noon and continues mostly uninterrupted until midnight.

The first component of an community arts project dreamed up by San Francisco artist/performer/activist and former mayoral candidate Chicken John, Radio Valencia is located in Chicken John's Mission District warehouse (dubbed Chez Poulet). It's ultimately expected to be a broader-scale community resource and there are hopes that it will become a full-fledged non-profit arts entity.

Radio Valencia Studio

Chicken John approached some of his friends from the underground arts scene in San Francisco to see if they'd be interested in creating a new community radio station in his warehouse space. The crew that ultimately got Radio Valencia up and running all cut their teeth in creative DIY movements like Burning Man and have also graced the airwaves at college radio stations, pirate operations, and at various LPFM stations operated during the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.

One of the lead co-conspirators (and my tour guide) is John Hell, who was initially approached by Chicken John with the idea of building a station. John Hell, who was also instrumental in getting FCCFREE Radio off the ground last year, jumped at the idea and Radio Valencia was on its way. I debriefed a bit with John Hell today as he was basking in the glow of the station's successful launch less than 24 hours ago. John Hell said,

"I'm pretty frickin' excited. It was getting to the point a few days ago, after taking over three months putting this together, that I felt like a chef that enjoys making the meals, but isn't so hungry when the meal is ready; excited his meal would be enjoyed by the dinner guests. But when I was there in the studio, yesterday, I felt really excited. Beyond words. It's got to be how Dr. Frankenstein felt. Really. I just hope this monster only crushes corporate competition."

In the coming weeks Radio Valencia will be adding more shows (24 weekly shows are scheduled so far), making tweaks to their set-up (a turntable is already out for repairs), and is planning an official launch party in the style of a baby shower (after Burning Man, of course).

Nakamichi Cassette Deck (with pitch control!) at Radio Valencia

I was impressed (as were a few DJs who stopped by) that the small studio is already outfitted with turntables, CD players, a cassette deck, studio monitors, a computer, and a modest library of donated CDs, LPs and cassettes. Of course DJs will also be able to hook up laptops and other devices to the board, but it was awesome to see that Radio Valencia is encouraging DJs to use physical music as well. John Hell said that he's hoping that the library will grow with donations from DJs, record labels and bands. He acknowledged, "Most shows will have to bring their own music," but is hoping that many DJs will utilize non-digital music. According to John, "There was no way I was  going to have a radio station without turntables and cassettes. I love vinyl! Everyone is totally in agreement with that, I'm hoping. I'm guessing. I'm assuming. What's a radio station without record players? What? I can't believe anyone would even consider such a sin."

DJs at Radio Valencia will have the option of doing their shows live from the station or from a remote location. The hope is that they will also be able to air shows and live events from the adjacent warehouse space as well.

Cassette and Vinyl Library at Radio Valencia

When there is no live DJ, automated programming kicks in. TradeMark Gunderson of the band Evolution Control Committee hand-selected all of the music and customized the automation system. As he worked in the studio on Tuesday, dusting playa dust from Burning Man's past off of cables, he told me that he has 24,000 pieces of music, 4 promos, and 1 station ID loaded into automation. He organized the music by genre, including (but not limited to) electronica, dub, weird/outsider, and soundtracks. The system is set up to play 2 pieces in a row of the same genre, making for a more natural-sounding music mix for listeners.

View of the Street from Radio Valencia Studio

As a big "consumer" and "manipulator" of music, TradeMark said that the material he included in the station's automation gives a sense of the type of material that he collects for his craft. It's truly a fascinating mixture of music. While tuning in to Radio Valencia I heard Japanese psychedelic band Acid Mothers Temple, rock from Billy Childish, edgy electronic sounds, international music, a strange promo for the movie Dr. Jeckle & Sister Hyde, and a really weird song hyping the merits of Ernst and Young. TradeMark G will be doing his own show on Radio Valencia on Tuesday nights from 8 to 10pm and will be broadcasting it remotely from his home studio so that he can have access to his massive library of physical music as well.

Congratulations to Radio Valencia on the launch of their station. Now if I only had time to spare, I might be tempted to join in the fun. If you have the urge to help out at the station, drop a note to mrjohnhell@yahoo.com to find out about how to become a DJ.



Previous Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips:

Field Trip to WECB at Emerson College
College Radio Field Trip 2 - Cal Poly's KCPR
College Radio Field Trip 3 - Notre Dame's WVFI
Radio Station Field Trip 4 - WFMU in Jersey City
Radio Station Field Trip 5 - East Village Radio in NYC
Radio Station Field Trip 6 - WNYU in New York City
Radio Station Field Trip 7 - Northwestern's WNUR
Radio Station Field Trip 8 - Stanford's KZSU
Radio Station Field Trip 9 - University of San Francisco's KUSF
Radio Station Field Trip 10 - Santa Clara University Station KSCU
Radio Station Field Trip 11 - UC Berkeley's KALX
Radio Station Field Trip 12 - KSJS at San Jose State University
Radio Station Field Trip 13 - WBAR at Barnard College
Radio Station Field Trip 14 - KFJC at Foothill College
Radio Station Field Trip 15 - UC Santa Cruz Station KZSC
Radio Station Field Trip 16 - Haverford College Station WHRC
Radio Station Field Trip 17 - FCCFree Radio in San Francisco
Radio Station Field Trip 18 - Flirt FM in Galway, Ireland
Radio Station Field Trip 19 - RXP 101.9 FM in New York City
Radio Station Field Trip 20- WGBK at Glenbrook South High School
Radio Station Field Trip 21 - KPDO in Pescadero, California 
Radio Station Field Trip 22 - KZYX in Philo, California 
Radio Station Field Trip 23 - San Francisco's Pirate Cat Radio
Radio Station Field Trip 10.5 - KSCU's New Digs at Santa Clara University (2010)

1 comment:

TradeMark G. said...

Wow, great write-up with lots of detail and enough play-by-play that I visualized myself back on that day doing the kitchen run to hear our first words on the air... hah! Great having you there, and hope to see you again...

- TradeMark G.