In the winter of 2000, I was working as an art teacher in Sherman Oaks when a co-worker asked me if I wanted to attend a meeting with her at a pirate radio station. “They’re giving away radio shows,” she said, and when I demurred that I didn’t know how to DJ, she told me they’d teach me how. I thought for a second, and despite the fact that I’m pretty shy & tend to not throw myself into work situations with strangers, I decided to give it a shot. It was an uncharacteristic decision.
It changed the course of my entire life.
Joining killradio.org, an online radio station with a sometimes-pirate terrestrial broadcast, brought me into contact with people I never would have met in a million years: anarchists, eco-punks, jazz poets, Bollywood-music geeks, Black Bloc-ers, traveling minstrels, bike messengers, indie DJs, Food Not Bombs chefs, radicals and militant members of movements that prioritized the democratization of media outlets. It was the first move that sparked a series of cascading events in my life that… …made me into the person I am today. I can now trace my lifestyle, the friends I keep, my tastes and many of my core beliefs to my time volunteering at this radio collective. I likely would have stayed a teacher and not shifted gears into writing had I not become involved with killradio.org. I would have not met a number of boyfriends, not had my life affected by–well, by pretty much all my current friends, and as a result I would not have been encouraged to stick with my painting or my writing. I wouldn’t have gone to burning man. I wouldn’t have the job I do today. I would have lived a life far less informed by music, art or social ideals. I sure as hell would have been more boring.
For several years I hosted my Wednesday night radio show from 11pm to 1am from killradio’s first location above the Good Luck Bar on Hillhurst Avenue. Our online stream never seemed to host more than 20 or so listeners, but I always knew our mysterious pirate signal was beaming out from somewhere over Echo Park, Los Feliz, or Silver Lake, on the frequency once occupied by the legendary now-defunct Silver Lake pirate station, KBLT. I’d invite friends and guests, host bands, and play the new cd’s I was constantly buying (and going broke from constantly buying). We’d throw on a long track, run downstairs for Chinese whiskey, throw back the bracing shot & book it back up the stairs just in time to crossfade from Built To Spill into Texas Is The Reason, from The Gloria Record into Calexico.
Being run on a “consensus model” meant that the organization moved slowly and the one-a-month meetings were a huge drag, but everyone seemed to really value the hard-won decisions we all fought, argued, and came to an agreement upon. After our meetings we’d all go out for drinks at Akbar, or the 4100, or the Good Luck, and my social life blossomed with new friends, new adventures, new sets of streets and places I’d never known existed.
After many madcap adventures, fabulous friends and amazing events I had to let go of my radio show after about three years. As with most volunteer-run organizations, the day-to-day gruntwork had fallen to the 5 percent of people who actually did the footwork (me and a couple other folks) and I was burnt out. Not to mention a regular day job made it nigh on impossible to stay up ’til 2am getting wasted and playing records every Wednesday night. I bid a sad farewell to the station, but my life was forever ignited and altered. I’ve continued to stay in touch and follow their progress.
It’s truly amazing they’ve lasted as long as they have, from their inception as a backpack full of radio equipment broadcasting events during the violent clashes of the 2001 2000 (hi, I forgot what year it was) LA Democratic Convention, to today. Being a nonprofit operated by a bunch of artists, anarchists and the edgiest of music geeks makes for a station that can barely pay its rent each month by the skin of its teeth. Now, with a website that’s been hacked and a financial crisis that’s mimicked a horrendous slo-mo slide down a cliff, killradio.org is in crisis mode. They may lose their lease. Their equipment is badly in need of repair. Their DJs are decamping because they can no longer afford the monthly $20 dues.
Over the years many of you have heard about this wild and edgy “out there” station, its antics and its inextricable involvement with the Los Angeles art and music scenes. If any of you have the ability to make a donation, you can claim it on your taxes and you’d be helping what’s become an LA institution–our REAL indie radio–to survive.
While their home page remains hacked, you can still listen to them here. Many of the dj’s are still hosting shows daily.
And perhaps most importantly, here‘s where you can donate (click the “donate” button in the left sidebar under the photos & music player).