Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Apr 28th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Breaking the Waves

PirateFlag FRSCFree Radio Santa Cruz celebrates 18 years of subversive programming

Though the term “free radio” comes to us from the Summer of Love—a time when some folks splashed the word “free” on their nouns like an all-purpose verbal condiment—you can rest assured that the name Free Radio Santa Cruz (FRSC) is no mere tip of the hat to the psychedelic era. For the past 18 years, the colorful characters at the helm of our community’s own pirate radio station have been enjoying the freedom to broadcast whatever they damn well please, be it up-to-the-minute, uncensored local and worldwide news, programs in the Spanish language, shows produced by children, teens and homeless people, or all manner of music, from death metal to free jazz.

In a town with a long history of free expression and a refreshing lack of billboards, the commercial-free, DIY-style FRSC is regarded by many as an emblem of local culture. Illegality notwithstanding, the station has received two commendations from the City of Santa Cruz, not to mention an award from Santa Cruz Action Network. Not too shabby for an organization that began with a humble 20-watt transmitter in someone’s bedroom.

When Coral Reef, a DJ for FRSC since its inception in 1995, reflects on the station’s evolution, the first thing that comes to her mind is the current studio’s relatively high ceiling. “I haven’t hit my head on it in years,” she states lightheartedly, also noting that when she started at Free Radio, “there were no computers used there. We used cassette and video tapes, got there as early as 5:30 a.m. and stayed as late as 3 a.m.” 

John Malkin, who has been hosting FRSC’s weekly show “The Great Leap Forward” since 1998, says he’s seen the station’s format become more structured over time. In contrast to the anything-goes ethos of the early years, nowadays you can look up the station’s schedule at freakradio.org, and “95 percent of the time, you will hear my show at the time it’s scheduled.” 

Malkin, who has interviewed the likes of Thich Nhat Hanh, Amy Goodman, Tandy Beal, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Michael Franti and the Hindu guru Ammachi for FRSC, is the organizer of FRSC’s benefit concert at the Resource ae Kelle Bob FRSCCommunity members get ready to celebrate 18 years of Free Radio Santa Cruz at a benefit concert starring guitarist Henry Kaiser.Center of Nonviolence on Saturday, June 15. Performing at the event are Grammy-winning guitarist Henry Kaiser, who has appeared on more than 250 albums and played with musicians like David Lindley, Fred Frith, John Medeski and Zakir Hussain (Kaiser also does underwater camerawork in Antarctica, and he handled the sound engineering for the Werner Herzog film Grizzly Man), and local musician brothers Rick and Bill Walker, whose combined credits include performances and collaborations with Babatunde Olatunji, Ali Farka Touré, Hamza El Din and the late Bob Brozman.

Saturday’s event isn’t FRSC’s first benefit: A 2004 concert featuring performers like Utah Phillips, The Devil Makes Three and Bob Brozman helped raise funds to rebuild the station after a Federal Communications Commision (FCC) raid. “It wasn’t a fair fight,” Malkin laughingly says of the raid. “They had these semi-automatic rifles, and we had CDs.”

The station’s staff currently faces a slightly less daunting challenge: It needs a new site for its transmitter and antenna. “Unless we find a new location, we won’t be able to broadcast locally,” Malkin says. “We’ll just be on the Internet until we find a place.” With a chuckle, he adds, “It just requires someone who finds it agreeable to host an illegal radio transmitter.”

It’s likely that Malkin and co. will find a taker, what with all the locals who consider Free Radio Santa Cruz an institution worth preserving. In the words of R Duck, whose “live improvised electronic sculptures” have been a Friday night FRSC fixture since 2002, “Some things should be for public use and not to be turned into another commercial wasteland—in the case of radio, overplayed top 40 hits and two-sided news reporting.”

Many an advocate will argue that the absence of bosses, stockholders and sponsors makes FRSC’s content not just more substantive, but also more in-depth than your standard radio fare. Malkin’s interviews, for example, generally run for a full hour. By contrast, he notes, “I’ve been on some other stations where five minutes is kind of a big deal. And other people [on FRSC] might have two- or three-hour shows where they’re talking in detail about local issues, political issues.”

And, of course, there’s the diversity of the station’s material. As FRSC programmer Uncle Dennis states, “You might not like what you hear all the time, but it is totally unique, and perhaps in an hour or three, a different show will have you turning up the volume.” 


The Free Radio Santa Cruz Benefit Concert takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 15 at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, 612 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10/adv, $15-$101.3/door, by charitable contribution. No one turned away for lack of funds. To listen to Free Radio Santa Cruz, tune into 101.3 FM or visit freakradio.org.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Dark Magic

40 years on the movie beat in Santa Cruz
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

If you could live in Santa Cruz in any era besides now, which would you choose?

Probably the ’70s, because Santa Cruz is such a fly-your-freak-flag place. That was when free love and hippiness was in vogue. Shane Reber, Santa Cruz, Caretaker

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise