The current issue of Rolling Stone suggests that Internet radio is worth noticing mainly because it's providing a new forum for old-fashioned heavy metal. But this implication sells the concept short in a major way. A wide range of stations have popped up of late, and many of them have interests that extend far beyond old Scorpions albums; take, for instance, the Wicca Pagan Broadcasting Network, recently profiled in these pages ("All Pagan, All the Time," March 5). Moreover, the growing homogenization of standard broadcast radio is apt to inspire people of every description and taste to grab their mouses and start clicking.
That's the dream of David Fodel, one of the men behind RadioValve, a Boulder-based Internet-only radio station that specializes in dance music. The outlet, which can be accessed at www.radiovalve.net, has been a going concern since February 28, when it cybercast a concert by Mix Master Morris at Fiske Planetarium. And although the station is still in a nascent stage, Fodel is pleased by the number of Net surfers it's attracted thus far. "We're getting between 6,000 and 7,000 listeners a week at this point, and we haven't done any marketing except through what I guess you could call digital word of mouth," he says. "And word's definitely getting around. We've had listeners from Belgium, Italy and Argentina, and a random sprinkling from all across the country."
RadioValve, which Fodel co-founded with partner Brian Comerford, isn't the sole source of techno sounds on the Internet. Pirate Radio, out of England, intermittently offers similar fare, as does WOMB, a Florida outfit that simulcasts the music heard on a broadcast station with the same call letters, and quite a few others sport regular electronic-music features. But as far as Fodel knows, RadioValve is the sole Internet-only entity presenting a continuous flow of such sounds 24 hours a day. Furthermore, the station doesn't merely skim the surface of the style. More than twenty specialty shows are heard every week, including SubHarmonic, which examines the roots of techno; TestTone, a platform for abstract efforts; and a program in which rhythms from the Goa, India, scene are explored in depth. "We also have a show that focuses a little bit on what the major labels have put out--crossover, breakbeat stuff like the Chemical Brothers," Fodel says. "But we don't just play their latest stuff. We look at where the individuals and different groupings came from and play their earlier music, too. We give a little of the history, which I think is good for novices to find out about."
The most ambitious item on the schedule thus far is ChatterValve, a live call-in show hosted by Ginger Perry and Clark ov Saturn that takes place every other Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. (The next broadcast takes place on Friday, April 24.) Saturn is a longtime presence in the Denver underground thanks to his membership in pH-10 and LD-50; he's also the host of cable TV's Tele Deutsch. But he's especially excited about the potential for ChatterValve. "The idea is doing a talk-show format, but with electronic music underneath it all," he says. "But what makes that even better is that people can tune in all over the world--and since we have an 800 number, they can actually call in live." (The phone number will be available every Friday on the RadioValve site. Interested parties can also contact Saturn and Perry via e-mail at chattervalve@USA.NET.)
WITH A MEDIUM AS YOUNG AS INTERNET RADIO, TECHNICAL PROBLEMS ARE INEVITABLE, AND CHATTERVALVE HAS ALREADY EXPERIENCED PLENTY OF THEM; DURING ITS MARCH 27 TEST RUN, ONLY ABOUT HALF AN HOUR OF AUDIO COULD BE HEARD OUTSIDE THE STUDIO. BUT TECHNOLOGY CAN MAKE UP FOR A MULTITUDE OF SINS. FOR EXAMPLE, THIS FIRST SHOW WAS RECORDED AND ARCHIVED SO THAT LISTENERS CAN CALL IT UP WHENEVER THEY'D LIKE. DIGGING INTO THE PAST MAY NOT ALWAYS BE FREE, THOUGH. FODEL SEES RADIOVALVE'S ARCHIVES AS A POTENTIAL SOURCE OF INCOME. "WE'RE CONSIDERING MAKING ALL OF OUR ARCHIVES AVAILABLE BY SUBSCRIPTION," HE SAYS. "YOU'D PAY A SUBSCRIPTION FEE PER YEAR, AND THAT WOULD GIVE YOU ACCESS TO EVERYTHING WE'VE DONE WHENEVER YOU WANT."
IN THE MEANTIME, ADVERTISING PROVIDES RADIOVALVE'S PRIMARY SOURCE OF INCOME. THE STATION IS A LONG WAY FROM BEING IN THE BLACK, BUT FODEL BELIEVES THAT SITUATION WILL EVENTUALLY BE REVERSED, IN PART BECAUSE "WE CAN GUARANTEE THAT ADS WILL BE HEARD. THE WAY WE STRUCTURE THE PROGRAMMING, WE PLAY A SET NUMBER OF ADVERTISEMENTS PRIOR TO A LISTENER JUMPING INTO THE LIVE STREAM. ON TOP OF THAT, OUR EQUIPMENT ALLOWS US TO TELL ADVERTISERS EXACTLY WHO'S LISTENING AND FOR HOW LONG. THAT'S A REAL ADVANTAGE OVER REGULAR RADIO, WHICH RELIES ON RANDOM SURVEYS TO DETERMINE LISTENERSHIP."
AS FODEL'S WORDS UNDERLINE, HIS OPERATION IS A BUSINESS, AND IF IT DOESN'T MAKE ENOUGH BUCKS, IT WON'T BE AROUND FOR LONG. BUT WITH RADIO IN DENVER AND ACROSS THE COUNTRY AT SUCH A LOW CREATIVE EBB, FODEL IS CONFIDENT THAT RADIOVALVE CAN FIND A NICHE. "IN THIS AREA, THE COMMERCIAL STATIONS DON'T BELIEVE THERE'S A LARGE ENOUGH MARKET TO HAVE A TECHNO-ONLY STATION; OTHERWISE THERE'D BE ONE," HE SAYS. "BUT ON A GLOBAL SCALE, THERE'S CERTAINLY ENOUGH PEOPLE TO SUPPORT ONE. AND THE INTERNET ALLOWS US TO REACH A WHOLE LOT OF THEM."
Traditional radio may seem easier to understand than its Internet sibling, but that's not always true, as KKYD-AM/1340 demonstrates. The station previously broadcast children's music. Now, however, it's primarily airing satellite-delivered "beat" music, and plans call for the schedule to be supplemented by locally produced paid programming such as CPR, which can be heard Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m. The initials stand for "Colorado Punk Radio," and that's precisely what host Robert McMurray, known on the air as Trip, intends to dish out. "I'm going to be playing a lot of the best national punk music, but a quarter of the show will be dedicated to local stuff," says McMurray, a onetime musician who's promoted area shows by groups such as the Lunachicks. "I'll be playing Pinhead Circus, Homesick Abortions and a lot more."
McMurray has rounded up enough advertising to cover half his nut for six weeks' worth of shows. (He debuted April 20; his second effort gets under way on Monday, April 27.) Whether CPR lives longer than that will depend on his securing more sponsors. "It's really hard to get people to believe in something like this," he concedes. "But I think more will start coming along as soon as I get going."
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Twist & Shout Records is celebrating its tenth anniversary beginning on Friday, April 24, with a series of giveaways, including a set of Impulse! Records offerings on vinyl. Call 722-9952 to find out more.
Wouldn't you like to know. On Thursday, April 23, Zakir Hussain plays his tabla for the first of two nights at Unity Church of Boulder. On Friday, April 24, Fat Mama chows down at the Fox Theatre, and Magical Strings are plucked at the Swallow Hill Music Hall. On Saturday, April 25, King Rat introduces its latest album, Knockin' Up Heaven's Whore, to the folks at Cricket on the Hill, with Negative Man and TARD; the Blast-Off Heads explode at the Lion's Lair, with the Chokers; Emilio Emilio, the guitarist so nice they named him twice, jams at the Bluebird Theater; the aforementioned Pinhead Circus steps into the center ring at CU-Boulder's Club 156 alongside 30 Foot Fall and Qualm; and the Stocktunes harmonize at the Mercury Cafe. On Sunday, April 26, DJ Maseo and Posdonous of De La Soul, Tash from the Alkaholiks, and other guests spin at the Foz Theatre; Acetone brings the Velveteen Monster to the Soiled Dove; Small Town Paranoids are worried sick at Soapy Smith's; and the Gerry Hemingway Quartet asks for whom the bell tolls at Maximilian's. And on Wednesday, April 29, Hank & the Hankstirs celebrate the release of a new CD at Herman's, with the Dave Delacroix Band. The disc is called It Doesn't Matter, but it does. It really does.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com.