Upon sitting (and sweating) trying to think of a goddamn good way to start this first Behind the Scene reboot, I was having a hard time, to say the least. The issue is this: in the short two days I spent at UNregular Radio, I watched and heard so much shit existing on a never-ending spectrum of bat-shit adjectives go down that there’s nearly too much to remember.
Take my quick notes, for instance. How do I begin to connect the disordered dots among:
“Shit is fire,” Dab rap, click languages, Hannah Montana light switch, LOCAL, Ninjutsu, Warheads, Bob Marley, “Just don’t choke on your pizza,” pornos, and meow?
And that’s completely ignoring the page-and-a-half detailing a conversation that broke out on the censorship of FM/AM radio, the infinite possibilities of the Internet, and the role of the modern DJ.
Let’s zoom in on my first day hanging with the UNregular Radio crew. Last Wednesday I headed over to their Downtown Crossing studio on one of those 90+ degree-days when the heat was too sweltering to do barely anything. I enter the studio through the solid green door on the street and am immediately smacked with something nearly more refreshing than a mojito popsicle melting over your head: cool air, reeking of weed. I climb up the steps, enter the studio and experience one of those moments where you’re surrounded by a whole lot of people you don’t know.
Eventually I situate myself in the studio where the Dex Muthafukin Ter Show was about to begin at noon. To be honest, I didn’t know much about the way a radio station operates and still am no master. I write for a reason. I figured from the highly comedic aura one could sense even from their website, that the hosts maybe just picked songs at random that they wanted to hear that moment and boom, there the tunes were, streaming over the Internet. I figured it was pretty lax.
So let’s just take this moment to make a side note to cut the whole “UNregular radio hosts smoke a lot of pot” nudges and subtle references and jokes. Yeah, they smoke a lot (A LOT) of weed on the job, but these people don’t even breathe the same air as lackadaisical, free loading jerk offs. These are some fucking pothead professionals who know their shit and have such a good time doing it that they could inspire an entire generation of discontented suits to stock up on silly string and finally become the Spiderman impersonators they’ve only dreamt of.
It’s seven minutes ’til show time and Dex says, “So this will give us a good couple of minutes to get that stuff in there. We got six minutes after it starts, so we’ll just come in after the UNregular Radio thing right there, just like normal. Alright, wanna give me a mic check right quick? This is gonna be so much fun!” He has a small list next to him of what he wants to play during the show, and crosses out item by item as it progresses.
“Dex Muthafukin Ter over here and gee howdy holy fuck don’t we have a fantastic show for you today!”
The show’s begun and Dex is sitting next to Smokol, the Jew-fro-doning, Jesse Eisenberg in, quite frankly, every movie he’s ever been in, reasonable-minded counterpart to Dex’s here, there, everywhere, clown-like personality. More literal than figurative on that clown reference, since that day he’s wearing a “No Green No Scene” t-shirt of the same color, a red backwards “High Times” trucker hat, plaid grandpa-high waisted pants, and what I can only assume are his signature suspenders.
And oh yeah, he’s fucking hysterical.
Dex: Are you stoked about this?
Smokol: I’m actually stoked.
Dex: You are actually stoked. Like literally.
Smokol: Like, I’m on fire.
Dex: You’re Stokol! You like that one? Yeah? No good?
Smokol: No it’s good because that means the name can be anything, like any sound that could work, there’s a potential option in a particular circumstance.
This particular Dex Muthafuckin Ter Show is slightly special, since it’s Dex’s last show before he flies off to San Francisco for the High Times Cannabis Cup. So this is akin to a preview show. Also sitting in the egg-crate padded studio for the Dex Muthafukin Ter show is John Loftus, the very man who started UNregular Radio, back when it was just renting space at the Leather District’s Sanctum Sound. He takes a seat next to one of the mics and pops in the show with a comment every so often.
We go to break and I have to ask what led John to create all of … this.
“I kind of just watched [FM/AM radio] decline as it started getting bought up by bigger companies and then FCC regulations stopped them from being able to say certain things. So DJs started going away and they had no personality. It started to be the same playlist over and over,” he says.
“[I wanted] to have people that could show their personalities, also have the ability to play music that they want to play for you, not have something that’s handed to them as a playlist.
Because people trust DJs to give them music that they can listen to, that they’ll like. That was being taken away and you were listening to what was being paid for and it just gets pumped into your head.”
“People always ask if we’re ever going to be FM and I’m like, why would we want to?” says Smokol.
“I mean [on FM] you can still have your independent channel and have the freedom to be trusted as a DJ or as a person that people want to listen to, but those are only people in your town. You know what I mean?”
“With Internet radio you can reach the whole world, yeah. And you can be way more influential,” says Dex.
John comes in, “This is a great place to base an Internet radio station out of because we can hit so many different scenes. Between music and comedy and art, and, you know, everything that’s out there … All that type of stuff. There’s so many different artists in Boston, different kinds, that allowing people to see it just puts a spotlight on Boston.”
“Hell yeah,” I hear someone say.
“And we are in!” Dex says. We’re back from break.
What started with a single streaming Internet channel at Sanctum Sound has turned in to a 24/7 live radio machine (after UNregular’s move to their current HQ February 2010) with over 35 live shows on four channels: UNcensored, Meow, Boston Proper, UR Fest. UNcensored is UNregular’s OG, completely raw and dirty “like Fenway Park after a playoff loss.” Meow is the second channel, in addition to a sound that cats happen to make. Boston Proper is UNregular’s SFW channel, sans swears and hard drug and sex references, in case your work environment isn’t down with all dat dirt. UR Fest does live coverage of events and music festivals.
When they say 24/7, they’re not lying. Even Christmas and New Year’s. I checked. And when they say uncensored, they’re really not lying.
“I’m also personally a huge fan of…you’ve got a live microphone in front of your face, if you want to say something you fucking say it and you deal with the consequences on your own,” says Dex.
It seems inevitable that Internet radio will sooner rather than later be streamed not just on our smart phones and laptops but while we’re in the car, too. And once this happens, and once the bigger companies get in there too and bring the masses, there’s no stopping Internet radio from being just as popular as FM/AM. And we all know what popular means … regulation. A doomed and censored medium.
“I mean, well, if you look at SOPA and PIPA and now CISPA. They keep trying to encroach on it one way or another and eventually they’re going to, because it’s a source of information. And when you control information, that’s a lot of power and that’s something that, you know, governments tend to like to try to regulate,” says John.
If the first day was my informative intro to Internet Radio 101 and Its Possibilities, then the second day was Mic Up and Dive In.
I show up on Thursday for The Boston Local Music Show (TBLMS) around 1:10pm, which means I’m 70 minutes late for the 4-hour local music heavenly goodness. When I get to UNregular I (as stealthily as possible, which means not at all) head to the studio where “the very shiny new” Jonny Katz is currently on air, drinking PBR tall boys with members from the rock ‘n roll Leaders Led and funk Akashic Record.
This is my first time watching UNregular hosts sit down with members of a band(s), since yesterday’s Dex Muthafuckin’ Ter Show was mostly all staff. The guests are treated to less of a tedious back-and-forth Q & A about how their bands were formed and the next venue they’re playing at, etc., and more of a casual shooting the shit, just some friends cooling off with a beer or two and telling war tales; it’s an inside joke that they’re letting listeners in on.
“Just like a random civilian’s car. Not a police cruiser, nothing, just slams him into the car, grabs his hands, puts them behind his back, everything. I run up to the cop, which was, in retrospect, a stupid idea. And I’m like, ‘Hey, what the fuck? Blah blah blah,’” Leaders Led’s Guy Bardascino says.
“And you went for his gun?” jokes Jonny.
“Yeah [laughs]. I very calmly, very professionally, reach for his gun and his mace,” says Guy.
After that segment, Jukebox the Ghost has finished setting up to play three live songs for TBLMS. They start playing “Oh, Emily” off their album Safe Travels, which was just released earlier this month, as almost everyone who’s at UNregular that day crowds around to check it out. I switch off between sitting on this countertop in front of the band and standing to snap some photos and record video. Jukebox isn’t exactly local (DC born, Brooklyn based), but they were playing at Brighton Music Hall that night, so we’ll let it slide.
Plus they rocked. If I wasn’t a fan before, I totally am now. [Ok fine, I wasn’t before, and now (literally, right now) I’m Spotify-ing the fuck out of them.]
Jukebox the Ghost pack up after playing “The Spiritual,” and ten or so minutes later I’m back in the TBLMS studio with Jonny Katz, but now we’re joined by DAve Crespo (Congrats on the wedding, dude!) and Greg Loughman of Somerville’s Lowman, a clear play on Greg’s last name. They ask me if I want to get on the mic for the next part of the show, and I agree.
During that segment Dave and Jonny (who I feel complied to mention is a fellow member of the NY Jew tribe—I knew that kid looked familiar) discuss Lowman’s show the next night at McGann’s, of course, but we also all hit such hot-button topics as
blood drinking, Zoophilia, late-night convenience store snacks, Macho Man Randy Savage, corn poops, and oh yeah, semen champagne.
I really done did the Dig proud that afternoon.
Dave and Jonny also balance each other out perfectly, although it’s a far cry from the back-and-forth of yesterday’s Dex and Smokol. Crespo does the whole veteran radio host thing, while Jonny is the goofy, slightly more vulgar, raspy-voiced kid that occasionally gets ragged on.
This is the Local Music Show. If you want to reference lyrics from, I don’t know, fucking … Mean Creek or something, go for it. But don’t give me any of that national bullshit.
Jonny: What? I thought I made that up.
Crespo: You’re a dick. You’re making a malarkey of this show. This show has standards.
Next up are Mary Lee Desmond (also of Streight Angular) and Zach Schaefer from Red Hot Box Studios, a Cambridge-based studio and production company. While Greg Loughman’s segment was roughly all ridiculous shit and jokes, with Mary and Zach it’s ridiculous shit; i.e. a conversation about what the role of the “fluffer” is in a porno, but also a discussion with dissenting opinions on the Boston music scene and using the Internet to promote yourself as an artist.
Crespo: Mary, it disheartens me to hear you say that. *Why?* Because although I recognize it to be true, I don’t want it to be true.
Mary: Well it’s good that you recognize it, but you also have to understand that you’re using the Internet to promote yourself and you guys also do a lot of local shows … How did you really get yourself out there? The Internet, right?
Crespo: So you’re saying the industry in Boston is not physically in Boston, it is the idea of it on the Internet?
Mary: No, not really. Agree to disagree. We’re both right in our own ways.
There may have been a bit of a misunderstanding on the matter, but once the show wrapped up everyone was standing around and talking, about work, yes, but also about such pressing topics as dog sitting (I had to pull up a picture of Nallah on my iPhone to show Zach.)
And that was basically the energy of my entire experience at UNregular. I so badly want to make some corny pun. Something like: “Things got weird. So weird, in fact, some may deem it UNregular.” *Chuckle* You so witty, self. *Tap on back*
But in all humorless and completely serious seriousness, reporting and writing on UNregular was an engaging, enjoyable and down-right fucking awesome experience.
Even now when I stream whatever show’s going on, I feel like I really know these guys I spent such a small amount of time with.
There’s some honest “Instant Feedback” right there.