Pirate Radio Dialogue

The culture associated with UK house and bass music, for the past 20 years or so, has been radio-centric. From what I can tell and read, pirate radio, especially ones that play the type of music I play on my show (dubstep, grime, funky, house and bass), have as much to do with the general electronic hype machine than blogs, zines, etc do. Even today, when radio listenership isn’t as high as it used to be– the UK listeners manage to keep a strong, healthy relationship with their radio channels. I mean, you get a DJ on these shows to mix in a tune you made, and if people react positively to it, DJs will find you and ask for more tunes, and eventually ask to release your stuff. I feel like that’s sorta been the model for a while– which I guess is really similar to how bands and musicians networked their music years ago when radio was a hegemonic medium. With the internet, though, the model looks like its changed a bit, and there are more factors going into things like single/album leaks and social networking (twitter, facebook, soundcloud, dubstepforum).

The U.S. has such a different relationship with radio, though, and growing up in a highly-urban city in the U.S., the influx of pirate radio stations is small and temporary. We have a really pluralistic clear-channel radio presence, with a ton of FCC regulation and scouting, so pirate stations are constantly being forced out of the sky. In the UK, it seems that pirate stations can stay at bay for years without the FCC or any authority noticing. You might have setbacks with like landlords or noise-complaints, but for the most part things will stay solid. And the internet is so vast now, that you can even stream a live set, with video and everything, from your own home. It’s just part of the music culture.

Rinse FM isn’t really a pirate station anymore– they were awarded an FM license last year, so now they’re a legitimate enterprise. Before they were just legitimate and respected within the UK underground bubble– but now they won’t get arrested for it.

My relationship with Rinse is pretty new, compared to other listeners. This station has been up and running for probably around 15 years, and I started listening to them in November 2010. First time listening was when I downloaded Dusk & Blackdown’s November 2010 podcast. I downloaded it off of Blackdown’s blog and I remember being so clueless as to what to expect. I had never heard UK pirate radio before. The pirate radio channels I’ve heard in Miami are ones stealing b-level frequencies like my radio station’s 96.9 fm channel. It gets taken from a small pirate station, with a ridiculous morning show called The Wild West Morning Show, and a really heavy free-format, going from Michael Jackson to Nicki Minaj. Pretty entertaining when you drive through that small strip on the 836 highway by Jackson Memorial Hospital near Downtown.
Anyway, that’s really all I know of any pirate station in Miami– I somehow pictured a bunch of hooded dudes huddled around a shitty mic-mixer-deck setup in a really dimly-lit bedroom (next room was their mother’s). Just as DIY as I could possibly imagine a pirate station to be.

Dusk & Blackdown’s show is actually a very quality program. As hosts, they’re not very chatty. They’ll sometimes interject between songs to talk about how amazing the tune is, or how people on dissensus should listen to this tune because it’s relevant. For the most part, the tone is very dark and rhythmic, so bordering the tone of 04’/05′ dubstep with the kind housy, UK funky rhythm that’s relevant right now. So in other words, it kinda sounds like the KeySound Recordings output, which is the label they spearhead.

That November podcast started off with Jamie XX’s Far Nearer. I state that because that tune just came out a week ago via Numbers. It’s June right now. That means Dusk & Blackdown had that tune playing on the radio 7 months before its release. This is what they do: they play dubplates and unreleased material as the draw. Some of the stuff they spin will never even be released. Their show draws attention because every tune is exclusive, with a you heard-it-here-first special. I think I’ve heard Blackdown say that they sorta realized you won’t get anywhere as a DJ (these days) just spinning old stuff, so they decided to just play unreleased, forthcoming stuff.

Back then, looking at the tracklist for that episode was like binary code. Seriously– I had no idea what I was looking at. It was like looking at a webpage visual, and then later looking at its html code. Looking at it now, though, Dusk/Blackdown played a lot of stuff that’s already out now: Egyptrixx’s “Rooks Theme”, Hyetal & Baobinga’s new record, Addison Groove’s “Work It”, Starkey’s “Playing with Fire”,, Jamie George’s “Flying Saucer”, Darq E Freaker’s “Cherryade”, and Visionist’s “Come In” (which isn’t actually out yet, but soon on 502).

One tune I never got tired of from that episode, and I always fast-forwarded to it was Maxwell D’s “Funky w/ Bars”, in which he raps over Champion’s “Lighter Riddim”. I think I just really liked the riddim a lot, more than Maxwell D’s verses. The rhythm had the obvious funky bongo tempo, but with a really metallic wobble sound. Not like “metal” rock music, but like the mineral itself. It sounded very much like the rubbing of a metal and capturing the bass waves from it, and building a tune out of it. Very similar to this kuduro tune I heard on the Kuduro Connection compilation called “Uahh” by Costuleta ft. Zoca Zoca. Sweet tune, with the same exact metallic bass/wobble.

Anyway, this all has a point. Since listening to Dusk & Blackdown’s show, I’ve listened to several other shows and am slowly finding what shows I like and dislike. Everybody’s show is just a little different, even if they play the same stuff. Some are so likeable and fun to listen to, some I find frustrating to get through. So I’m making it a point to listen to everyone’s show on Rinse and sorta give my comments on it on here. I’m not necessarily tracking each and every episode on Rinse, on a day-by-day basis, but sorta choose a show and analyze it a bit, like a film or an album. I think it’ll be good for my writing and my general knowledge of the whole scene. I’m also not limiting myself to just Rinse. I’ll also seek out Sub FM episodes, too, and see what other stations I can check out. And if you see any other pirate stations I should check out, let me know via comments.

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