What I wanted to do with this concert was have an evening where people would just get together, enjoy the music, and dance. It's why I had Chris Millspaugh design the concert poster to pay homage to 1950s dance party posters.
Why the bands?
The Mahoots and Ricky Dean Sinatra are both legendary Lawrence bands who haven't played in KC in awhile. The Mahoots play garage rock but are also influenced by the New York Dolls and Dylan's so-called rock and roll period in the 60s. In recent years they have been more of a recording band, but every so often they get coaxed into playing live and they can still get a crowd up and dancing. If you went to school in Lawrence in the late 80s/early 90s and you were a music fan or someone who just liked to party, you knew about Ricky Dean Sinatra. They were the band to go see in those days. They opened for bands like the Reverend Horton Heat, Southern Culture on the Skids, and the Homestead Grays. And Howard Iceberg is Kansas City's best songwriter. He's always written great rock and roll songs and now he's got a band that can play them as they should be played.
Any other local acts you're excited about right now?
I like the Experimental Instrument Orchestra, Cowboy Indian Bear, Oriole Post, Kasey Rausch, Hidden pictures. The recent Hidden Pictures EP has probably the best local song I've heard all year, "Anne Apparently." It's perfect pop.
Where does KKFI put the money from these benefits?
All the money made from the concert, with the exception of the small percentage the bands get, go to pay expenses at KKFI, keep the lights on, keep the power cranking and sustain the station for another year. We don't have huge salaries to pay out or lots of overhead. The money gets plowed directly into paying the bills, essentially. I'm personally likely losing money on this concert so KKFI can benefit. The bands are also playing for much less than they usually receive because they believe in community radio and want to support it.
How's Signal to Noise going?
For the last couple of years the show has broadcast on Sunday nights from 8 pm to 10 pm. I've been with KKFI since we went on the air. The show was originally called "Matrix" until that name became overused by realty companies, hair products, and movies, so about ten years ago i changed the name to "Signal to Noise." It's free-form radio in the purest sense of the word. Each week's show is usually something very different than the week before as far as what I play.
How long have you been doing radio?
I started on KRC in 1972 at Rockhurst College doing -- what else -- free-form radio on Friday nights. I was a student at UMKC but lied to the folks at Rockhurst that I was a broadcast major, so I got the gig. It was a fertile learning experience for me. I learned about non-mainstream artists like Pearls Before Swine, Pharoah Sanders, Eric Andersen, the Last Poets. I started with KKFI around 1988, about a year before we went on the air. The reason I've done the show for so long is that I get to play whatever I want with no one telling me what I have to play. I love putting together sets of different kinds of music and having them make sense to the listener. I'm just as likely to play the Dead Kennedys as Frank Sinatra on any given show. I like to surprise and delight the listeners if I can.
What are you thoughts on the future of community radio in the digital age?
When there are so many places where entertainment and information are available, what often gets lost is the sense of community -- the sense that we live in a varied local culture and that we're all in this together. The major broadcast stations are all owned by big corporations as we all know. When it started out, radio used to be local. You'd hear your friends and sometimes neighbors on the air playing music or announcing. You'd find out what's happening locally -- news that you might not find in the paper.
Community radio is a way of connecting with all of that. KKFI provides local musicians a place where they can play extended sets, it focuses on local news that you're not going to hear about in the Star, it provides alternative national/world news with shows like "Democracy Now" that don't skew toward right-wing talking points. As the big radio corporations start to become irrelevant to a generation that's geared toward online entertainment, local radio has a depth and focus that you can't get anywhere else. I hope the trend is to become smaller and more local, like it used to be, since corporate radio is looking like a concept that has run its course -- it's too safe and homogenized. It's just not interesting anymore. Since KKFI is programmed by the DJs who are all passionate about what they do, the listener has more options in one place than any other media outlet in town. Why go to the mall when you can find everything at the neighborhood store? That's our concept.
What else are you working on?
Now that I have more spare time these days, I've started a tiny record label called Intelligent Design Records. My aim is to put out limited edition CDs of local artists whose work has either gone unreleased or overlooked. The first was a compilation of Howard Iceberg & the Titanics' early recordings, called Maiden Voyage. These were originally released only on cassettes in the 1980s and early 1990s. As a second release I had planned to do a compilation CD of the music of a KC pop band called the Now. But then I heard stories in Lawrence that Ricky Dean Sinatra, who had only released one song during their heyday, had a few hours of recordings that had never come out.
Once I got the DAT tapes from the band and listened to them, I realized it was a goldmine of great recordings that needed to be released. Here was a band who had a rabid following, but their fans couldn't get any of their songs on record. So Galaxy of Love was my second release. This summer I put together a compilation of mostly unreleased material from Lawrence bands called RSVP, which was produced as a benefit cd for an upcoming community radio station in lawrence called KAWR. It includes tracks from Grant Fitch of Paw, Lonnie Fisher, Drakkar Sauna, the Mahoots, Uncle Dirtytoes, the Lonesome Hobos, Hidden Pictures, Arthur Dodge, and other local artists who went into their archives and gave me songs they had not officially released.