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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