By Ashley Zimmerman
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By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
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By Michele Eve Sandberg
By Abel Folgar
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It's the Fourth of July, and Hollywood native Mr. Entertainment is celebrating the First Amendment in front of two turntables and a microphone. He's broadcasting live from inside a pine-paneled closet-cum-DJ booth, and the records he's spinning suggest a central theme.
"Many songs tonight have to do with pussy," he explains to listeners, who might have missed earlier plays of Parliament's "Chocolate City," IceT's "Let's Get Buck Naked and Fuck," and Lenny Bruce's cymbal-banging monologue "Come." "It's freedom day," Mr. Entertainment announces calmly. "We're free to do anything we want, so that's what I'm doing. Tonight is about songs you're not allowed to play on the radio."
But this isn't an FCC-muzzled radio station. It's EyeQRadio (www.eyeqradio.com), one of the few Internet-only radio stations Webcasting out of South Florida. Because the station is strictly online, its content is ignored by the gimlet eye of the FCC, the Big Brother monitor of all interstate and international radio communications that ensures no one says pussy on the radio without the subsequent cat. This lack of censorship frees EyeQRadio to say and play whatever it wants. Maybe that's why it's the only radio station on the planet with a moratorium on playing Celine Dion and other FM horrors.
Fortunately EyeQRadio slaps down a cyberspace welcome mat for everything else: Frank Zappa at the Filmore, midcentury prison and work songs recorded at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, Devo, dance hall music, Middle Eastern chants, and even -- gasp! -- live and recorded local music. Fact is, David Chaskes, cofounder of EyeQRadio, cites local bands as paramount in his decision to pursue a kind of radio programming that can loosely be described as aural buffet meets flagrante delicto.
"The reason this station's here is because there's so much good music bubbling out of South Florida; it was just a matter of time before somebody put the hardware and pipelines in place to let that good music out," says Chaskes, a video editor and producer who also gigs as bassist for local rockers Dharma Bomb.
Ensconced in a one-bedroom walkup in North Miami Beach, EyeQRadio's Web page incorporates real-audio streaming, a technology that basically allows anyone visiting any Website to receive audio (or video) in real time instead of waiting for entire files to download. To tune in, all a visitor needs is a multimedia computer, access to the Internet, a RealPlayer program, and a click-happy finger.
The station birthed its 24-hour-live-programming format on June 15, but the idea behind the sound came in May, a scant day after Chaskes' production company moved into the walkup already inhabited by a brethren Web-only station, the Womb (www.thewomb.com). Pioneers in their own right, the Womb's creators began busting out block beats and other modes of electronica in 1996. Last year the FCC shut down the pirate radio station, and the Womb became online-only.
"I thought that here in South Florida, we could create another portal for music. The idea was always around, and suddenly the hardware was surrounding me," Chaskes says. He offered to swap half of the rent and utilities for a portion of the Womb's bandwidth and then turned to Hollywood resident and local radio guru Steve Alvin for help in developing the station's artistic vision and snagging groovy local DJs.
"It just happens. People just come and start working beside me," says Alvin, a.k.a. the Beast, who has been titillating local audiences with his irreverent radio shows since 1985 on stations like WDNA-FM (89.9), WAXY-AM (790), and more recently at slipstreampresents.com. Along with his penchant for tie-dyed Tshirts, Merit Ultra Lights, and a furious desire to help create uncensored radio programming, Alvin was brought on board by Chaskes. "When it comes to radio, he's a teacher. He's my teacher. It's where he belongs," says Chaskes.
Faster than you could flip off the FCC, Alvin assembled a collage of DJs, his only prerequisites being that they had their arms in the local music scene "up to here," he motions, clamping his right hand on his left bicep. "Most of them I know; I've worked with them in one way or another over the years. And I trust them. We don't want to bring people in that are not there for our cause. These are people who believe in what we believe in."
What EyeQRadio chants as its principal mantra is the word live. The station trumpets ten hours a day of live programming, unlike many other Internet-only radio stations that are typically one-man bands and don't have the people resources to meet the demands of live-radio format. EyeQRadio features real artists inside the booth making creative choices instead of a computerized carousel droning market-popular CDs.
"There's nothing necessarily interesting about that," says Chaskes. "The DJs here are free to be pioneers. They're not going to have a marketing executive knocking on the door saying, 'Hey! That content's not appropriate for the advertisers.'"
Good thing. Otherwise, listeners might miss out on Squid McKay's regular Sunday-night slot, Radio the Way It Could Be. The show bills itself as "sonic theater" and features, among other sequences, McKay crooning improvisational narratives about the natural world. He recently riffed on the habitats of mosquitoes and the flight of great blue herons over a backdrop of ethereal, slow-rolling horns and flutes. "You'll note the velvet-lined curtains," he whispered. "Just push them aside. Don't fail to notice the faint smell of hard-boiled eggs."