Monday, July 28, 2014

Radio Station Field Trip 54 - Mutiny Radio in San Francisco

Entrance to Mutiny Radio in San Francisco. Photo: J. Waits
On June 18, 2014 I ventured to San Francisco's Mission District to visit Mutiny Radio, four years after my first visit to the space (back when it was Pirate Cat Radio). A lot has changed in that time, so it was great to have the opportunity to see what the community radio station has been up to. Mutiny's News Director (known as The Stranger) and Music Director (DJ Tanner) toured me around and caught me up on the current state of things at the station.

DJ The Stranger at Mutiny Radio. Photo: J. Waits
Mutiny Radio launched as an online station in 2011, after its predecessor station Pirate Cat Radio ceased operations in San Francisco. The founder of Pirate Cat, Daniel Roberts (aka Monkey) left the station and the remaining staff formed a collective in order to continue doing community radio from the same studio. Monkey has continued with other radio projects, including resurrecting Pirate Cat Radio in unknown locations, while still facing possible fines from the FCC for alleged pre-2011 unlicensed broadcasts.

View from Mutiny studio into gallery/performance space. Photo: J. Waits
Although things have been going well for Mutiny since 2011, they suffered a security breach earlier this year in which their former website ( was compromised and taken over by an unknown entity (their old website now carries Pirate Cat branding). Because of that, they had to change the URL for the station's website to and let their listeners know that the old site was no longer under their control.

Donation Alien at Mutiny Radio. Photo: J. Waits
Despite that setback, the Stranger and DJ Tanner were in good spirits when I visited the station a few months after the changes to the website. Mutiny had just gotten more exposure thanks to inclusion in a community radio documentary produced by the Exploratorium. Additionally, the station was at the beginning of a series of fundraising events in order to raise money for rent and equipment. When I checked back in with the Stranger this week, he told me that Mutiny successfully reached its goal for the 30-day June fundraiser. He said, "We made our goal (and then some!) within our personal deadline, and the events were all a great deal of fun. With the support our awesome listeners gave us, we'll be able to make our needed technical upgrades and further grow as a community."

Mutiny schedule. Photo: J. Waits
With around 40-50 DJs (all of whom either pay dues or bring in underwriting), Mutiny has a varied schedule of music and public affairs programming. Reflecting the diversity of San Francisco, some of the shows are multi-lingual, broadcasting in English, Greek, Spanish, and French. Additionally, cultural affairs shows run the gamut from progressive politics/science news to a labor rights show to a LGBT-themed program.

DJ Tanner and The Stranger at Mutiny Radio. Photo: J. Waits
The Stranger told me that the station is run in a "democratic" fashion, with decisions made by consensus. There are monthly meetings and he said that the station has a "cool vibe." He also told me that the shift to streaming and podcasts "changed the culture a little bit" at the station and he pointed out that it doesn't make sense to "risk everything [by doing pirate broadcasting] for little reward."

Music at Mutiny Radio (photo: J. Waits)
Today, DJs play a wide mix of music using physical and digital formats. The station has a small library of mostly donated vinyl, cassettes and CDs, as well as a digital library of over 30,000 tracks. There's a lot of freedom at Mutiny and DJs are allowed to play what they want as long as it isn't "hateful."

Sesame Street Record at Mutiny. Photo: J. Waits
Some of the genres represented on Mutiny include hip hop, soul, old school psychedelic, country, folk, electronic, heavy metal, and local music. The Stranger told me that there are some pretty interesting shows, including one that is focused entirely on the card game Magic. Another program, Post Scripts, features two hosts remembering 1990s movies live on the air. One host will watch a '90s film, while the other won't have seen it in a long time. During the 2-hour show the hosts riff off each other as they recount the film.

Radio-themed art on wall at Mutiny. Photo: J.Waits
Although the Stranger started at Mutiny back in 2008 when it was Pirate Cat Radio, he said that the majority of the staff have only been at the station during its Mutiny era. He said, "it's kind of nice to have fresh blood in here." Music Director DJ Tanner began at the station in January 2013 and started out doing a vinyl-only show. He told me that he loves the sense of community at the station, saying that shows like Diamond Dave's program the Common Thread Collective (Fridays from 3-6pm) work to highlight unique subcultures of San Francisco. He added that at Mutiny, "we are holding onto the idealism of San Francisco."

Boys and Girls Club Community Partner Certificate. Photo: J. Waits
As part of the station's desire to connect with varied communities in the city, it's been doing a number of different events. It will participate in a neighborhood block party later this summer and has hosted a wide range of events, including stand-up comedy, open mics, meet-ups, music showcases, screenings, and political events at its space in the Mission. Although the space used to house a cafe in addition to the station, today it uses the former cafe space for a gallery and events.

View of the street from Mutiny. Photo: J. Waits
The Stranger said that it's definitely advantageous for Mutiny to be located at street level, with windows facing the neighborhood. Families and kids have wandered into the studio and Mutiny has even worked with the Boys and Girls Club to offer radio training classes.

Mutiny Radio T-shirt. Photo: J. Waits

DJ Tanner said there's a "kaleidoscope of people and ideas" at Mutiny and that through that he's been put in touch with people from all walks of life. Thanks to The Stranger and DJ Tanner for sharing the Mutiny Radio world with me.

Here's a complete list of all of my Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips. I'm still catching up and hope to have more visits from stations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, D.C. and San Francisco posted soon.

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