Combat and Noise

Neurosis' Scott Kelly taps local musicians to helm his Internet radio station.

The origins of Scott Kelly’s brainchild, Combat Music Radio, began
in People’s Park, in the shadows of 924 Gilman Street, in small studios
scattered around town. These were the meccas for punk rockers from
Oakland in the 1980s. They created music and bonded together as a
community of rebels.

That was when Kelly, vocalist and guitarist for the band Neurosis,
met Amanda Hines, Ben Sizemore, and Eugene Robinson. The three shared
musical tastes and met up at shows for their respective bands —
Hines played for Narcotica, Sizemore for Econochrist, and Robinson in
Oxbow. So when Kelly started his own radio show from his home in
southern Oregon in 2005, all he had to do was call up his old friends
to fill the hours.

The three are current DJs on Kelly’s Combat Music Radio (or KMBT),
an Internet radio station that blends combat, blood sports with rock,
punk, and metal. Shows include interviews with Mixed Martial Arts
athletes.

“We’re the procreators,” Kelly said. “We play what interests us,
what we want to play.”Kelly first had the idea to start up what he
envisioned as a college radio show five years ago. But he quickly
abandoned the idea when he saw the amount of exposure he could get
— and the money he could save — by having a radio show that
was broadcast on the Internet.

“I realized it was dumb because there was this much bigger thing out
there,” Kelly said. “Once that clicked, I saw this thing is reaching
much more people.”And so a show was born out of a “caveman
perspective,” as Kelly calls it, mostly because Kelly does not consider
himself a “tech guy.” However, he eventually found the format simple
and easy to maintain. Hosts of Combat Music Radio’s radio shows burn
their segments onto MP3s and post them to the site, much like a
blog.

Kelly has expanded his show to five days a week and estimates he has
about 20,000 listeners. He has no marketing strategy other than word of
mouth, plus bringing in hosts that are “out there doing stuff” and have
networks of their own to attract listeners.Amanda Hines, who runs the
local production company Lava Booking, hosts the show Lava or Leave
It
. She got the job via text message from Kelly. To Hines, the fit
was natural; her mother was a radio host.Hines has a Rolodex that both
enhances her show and attracts musicians and fans of the scene. She has
featured many of the bands that have played on her Lava Nights in San
Jose and at the Stork Club. But her first interview was
with her mother — the two discussed the life and career of Hines’
grandmother, who started in the pro-wrestling promotion biz in
1958.

Although the station’s programming centers around combat sports,
such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Mixed Martial Arts events,
as well as professional wrestling, hosts are pretty much given as much
freedom as they want. It just so happens that they share the same
musical tastes, which results in a pretty cohesive format.

Ben Sizemore, who moved to Oakland from Little Rock in 1989,
remembers the days when punks and the underground movement were still
“dangerous and offensive.” Sizemore says the movement was tight-knit,
with bands practicing in the same spaces and rocking out at the same
venues. He met Kelly in the early 1990s, and a friendship manifested
out of their common love for punk rock and dedication to the scene.When
Sizemore got the call from Kelly that one of the hosts had dropped off
the show, Sizemore was quick to raise his hand and offer up his
extensive record collection to start his own show, a one-hour segment
called Pressure’s On. The show consists of anarcho-punk,
early-1980s American punk, and Euro punk, along with a number of other
variations of the genre.

The best part of Kelly’s program, Sizemore says, is the freedom
— not only the freedom to play anything you want, but also the
freedom of the Internet, which opens up his audience, allows him to
cuss, and lets him dabble here and there. He often provides links to
videos and articles related to whatever his theme is for his show, such
as links to casualty reports if he is playing antiwar songs, of which
there are plenty.

Paul Moloney, editor of the Internet newsletter RAIN, says this
freedom, along with the proliferation of broadband connections, is the
real reason Internet radio stations are starting to pop up more rapidly
around the world. Additionally, regulation for radio has not quite
caught up with technology.

“One of the great things about the Internet is that the barriers to
entry are low,” Moloney said. “You don’t have to have an FCC license,
which would require you to be tightly regulated.”

While Kelly’s numbers are nowhere near sites like Pandora, he hopes
one day for the site to become profitable. For now, the show is
sponsored solely by donations and Kelly’s pocket. But despite the fact
that the station is “just noise,” as Kelly describes it, it is gaining
popularity — in the true spirit of “good ol’ fashion punk rock.”

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