we are not alone: part deux

we are not alone: part deux

Lance Stinson and Rob
Buck were in jail, and
they felt safe. It wasn’t
actually a jail that they
were in–rather some
cramped little office
with bars on the
windows. It was Bike
Week and M4 Radio
was doing a remote
“broadcast” at
Tennessee’s Saloon in
Sanford, Florida. A
rather bleak area of
Sanford, you might say.
The bar was crawling
with leather clad bikers
and middle-aged babes with low-cut blouses and skin
like rawhide and as cyclists blasted right into the front
door with engines roaring, the two radio jocks, known
as Stammerin’ Banzai and McGyver respectively,
hunkered down over the equipment in that tiny room
and worked. The music that cranked out of the
speakers was rowdy enough because once the
itinerant duo got a good look at the crowd, they
figured that the usual eclectic mix of international
independent music wouldn’t fly. Despite a frantic
leaning towards harder edged tunes, a few missteps
resulted in drunken bikers yelling obscenities about
killing the DJ if the quality of music didn’t improve. The
bars made them feel safe, but they were a little too
wide. Perhaps a beer bottle could still make its way
through there, if it was aimed properly. Hell, maybe a
gun? Did Hell’s Angels use guns? No, they preferred to
knife or stomp their victims to death. The pair dove
into their limited traveling CD collection and began
cuing more carefully.

M4 Radio is run on a
next-to-nothing budget
funded by co-owner
and program director
Stormy and Stinson,
whose trademark
stutter earned him his
moniker. They, along
with resourceful
engineer (hence the
“McGyver” tag) Buck,
had spent plenty of
low-rent hours at a
small AM station in
Sanford, dealing with
aging broadcast equipment from the 40’s and an
apathetic station management. 1400 WTRR eventually
went all-Spanish and left the crew without a broadcast
home. A supposed deal with Genesis Media Group to
buy them out and supply a much-needed influx of cash
fell through. But slowly and surely, equipment was
charged on fried-out credit cards with efforts towards
becoming a 24-hour internet radio station. Stacks of
digital recorders, CD players and a central mixing
board with more ins and outs than Parliament House
on a Saturday night began to pile-up in McGyver’s
spacious bedroom studio. Each 4-hour show is
recorded onto digital minidisc in a traditional
programming block. A backup copy is saved on
standard VHS tape in case of equipment foul-up, which
happens from time to time.

“Aw fuck,” swears
McGyver as he stops
recording and clicks
the stopwatch . He
reaches behind the
equalizer and I sit back
from the microphone.
Banzai does the same,
then begins doing a
little dance. It’s been
nine or ten weeks as of this writing, that’s when I was
asked to join the in- studio crew based on an
appearance on the show when it was still at WTRR .
AUDRA JOST and I went there to play live and spin
some of our music. Our banter that day painted a path
directly to the bed on which I sit as McGyver wiggles
wires around. “The left channel just went out, I’m
gonna have to get inside this thing.” This guy is an
invaluable asset to the show. His uncanny musician’s
ear (he’s a skilled drummer) results in professional
“broadcasts” that feature entertaining audio collages
and a seamless flow of music. He’s also the guy that
reins in the madness and keeps us on a professional
time schedule. Banzai is a manic presence, exuberant
and puppy-like with a gleeful appreciation for sexual
innuendo . Though the first show was sloppy and
meandering (a twelve-pack of Icehouse will do that),
the current shows are slick as goose-shit and feature
an ever-growing collection of unsigned music from
around the world.

The search for a station
continues, but the
internet is a growing
radio market. Through
the magic of
RealAudio, web surfers
can listen to local
broadcasts from just
about every major city
in the world! Some are
recorded programs, like M4 Radio, while others are
actually broadcast live through a process called
“streaming”. And you thought choosing between thirty
or so stations on the car radio was too many choices
and not enough of what you want. A simple glance at
the Real Audio Event Guide shows that literally
hundreds and thousands of internet radio stations are
at your fingertips. Another close glance will reveal
very few supporters of independent music and
practically none that follow a basic radio format. For
ease of transport and production sake, the M4 Radio
show is recorded in five one-hour blocks. Using
pre-recorded inserts on minidisc, McGyver controls the
sound effects and music cues that bracket ad slots and
the spaces between song blocks. He spins the discs
that Stormy has playlisted, they come from bands that
send in their material and also music that we get from
bands in the clubs or at events. Very often,
hot-off-the-press CDR’s are getting “airplay” on
M4radio.com long before the larger stations even get
wind of a local album release. After four hours of
music is recorded and saved onto digital minidiscs, we
do a one-hour block of entertainment news. The mood
is casual and light, there’s not a lot of drama, though
Banzai has become the show’s whipping boy. With
McGyver providing plenty of affability and myself as
the living cartoon, Banzai is somewhat the Village
Idiot and a good amount of ribbing has to do with his
“heterosexual latin male sex God” facade. PD Stormy
hasn’t been on-air for some time and a fifth M4 voice,
Ron Betts, is overseas at press time . The show is
recorded weekly on Sunday’s and plans to double
programming are in the works. It’s a full days work,
gathering the CD’s , making up playlists, researching
band info and actually producing the show in sound
bites and live bits when the equipment isn’t glitching.
Now, Mterviews will present one-hour up close and
personal talks with bands, listening to their music and
getting into their heads about not only tunes, but the
times as well. M4radio.com Presents is a new concert
showcase that has already featured MIRRORED IMAGE,
SEASONS OF THE WOLF, BRANIAC’S DAUGHTER and
SHOES FOR PAUL. After a talk with DAVID SEGAL of
Alien Surf Productions (“Bootleg: Orlando”), plans for
M4 Video are in the beginning stages as well.

“There, that
oughta hold it
until
tomorrow,”
says McGyver,
as he slides the
component
back into place
and gives the
front panel a
flick of his
finger. “Alright,
let’s see if she floats.” He cues up an intro and raises a
couple of faders on his Mackie board. Both LED bars
light up on the machine and he picks up the stopwatch
and clears the display. “Yess! Okay, let’s do it, we’re
pushing midnight.” Indeed, a late start due to vehicular
problems and there were real jobs waiting in the
morning and the problems that come with them. With
renewed energy, we pull the microphones closer and
prepare to do the last hour with spirit. I’ve got a
strange history of getting involved with the focus of my
columns at times, but that speaks to the
inter-connected symbiosis that exists within Orlando
and other parts of the state. Not the same bloodwater
frenzy that accompanies the corporate moshing of the
bigger showbiz towns. Remember, there’s lots of
freshwater here and considerably more dolphins than
sharks. Unfortunately, even at 24 hours a day–there
wouldn’t be enough airtime for local bands from all
over, all styles of music. What there needs to be are
specialized formats for local music, just like the
corporates. That way, everybody cooperates, no-one
gets squeezed out, everybody wins. It sounds so
simple, but it really could work like that. Till then,
M4radio.com is a first step towards giving
independents a true voice in the towering face of
corporate music. r ui.ru.u

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