Pirate Radio Comes to OCby Lauren Viera
Free time at Oberlin College is hard to come by. Nevertheless, students often insist on taking on way too many extracurricular activities than they can handle. Some choose to spend several hours a week volunteering for OPIRG, or even tutoring at the local elementary school. Other students devote hours a week to an extra ensemble or play in a campus band. For seniors Joe Bonn, Paul Davis and Jacob Ciocci, the extra-curricular activity of choice this spring was WSUP 91.9 FM: Oberlin's first and only pirate radio station.
The inspiration to pursue the project was initially fueled by Bonn, Ciocci and Davis's shared frustration with corporate radio. With the help of their own fictional heroes - Dwane Delario and Donald P. Grady, who played major roles in Bonn's senior recital and Ciocci's senior art show, respectively - the students pooled their wits and technological knowledge to found WSUP, Whassup Radio.
"[Dwane and Donald] were really our inspiration," said Ciocci. "Their ideas inspired us."
Davis agreed. "I think Dwane and Donald have become disgusted with the monopoly of FM radio, and how five radio stations dominate the airwaves. Artistic communication has been destroyed by the media conglomerates' control."
Though some might argue that the College's own WOBC exists primarily to defeat the rise of the monopolies, the students behind WSUP are hesitant to admit that college radio is truly independent radio. Incidentally, all three students were involved with WOBC at some point within their four-year Oberin careers, but weren't entirely satisfied with the "freedom" of working for college radio.
In retrospect, Davis admited that he was disenchanted with his time at WOBC. "Judging from my experience as a former DJ and RPM music director," he said," most of my time was still spent calling major labels and asking them to send us CDs. It definitely put a corporate attitude on what was going on."
Ciocci said, "[Compared to WSUP] there's also a difference in a group of 20 college students working and running a radio station [like WOBC] that has to adhere to specific college and FCC regulations."
"There was nothing that couldn't be said on WSUP," said Davis regarding the lack of censorship.
Bonn agreed, saying, "The flexibility of programming you're able to have is the reason you make a pirate radio station in the first place. That's the reason you listen to it, too: you never know what's going to happen."
WSUP primarily served to broadcast Bonn's senior recital earlier this month, but the three students also scheduled loose programming for the few days previous to the recital earlier. Truth be told, WSUP programming was only in effect for three short days, but what glorious days they were. Wednesday May 10 marked WSUP's programming debut, which featured senior Rob Reich on improvised accordion solos alternating with grindcore interludes. Senior Corey Arcangel was also included in WSUP's debut voyage, hosting his "I Love Pirates" show under the alias Hi-Jacker, featuring an advertised "hour of terror" with the best of Buffalo, New York's finest early '90's rock 'n' roll. Senior Liz Hosmer and junior Raja Das also had shows, the latter hosting a show appropriately entitled "Butt-to-Butt Rescessitation," which was arguably "the best funk show I've ever heard," according to Ciocci.
WSUP's programming climax came Friday May 12 with Bonn's senior recital, preceeded by an hour of conversation with Visiting Professor of Composition Brenda Hutchinson. The bulk of the recital featured Bonn's alias Dwane Delario playing an hour of recent "compositions and investigations in the sounds of Nintendo and other 8-bit items." Bonn noted that the crowning glory of his recital was the Giant Wheel of Soft Rock. No further explanation necessary.
Unfortunately, WSUP was disassembled shortly thereafter, due to both technological and time constraints. Some of the station's parts were not owned by the WSUP foundation which presented strategical problems, and the fact that all three WSUP employers will graduate Monday meant all along that the station's legacy would have to be carried on by other means once the seniors skip town. One Conservatory professor even suggested to the students that they consider leaving the disassembled radio parts with a continuing student to build the legacy, which Bonn felt was a good idea, though maintenance was a concern. Nevertheless, the students have hope for future prospects.
"WSUP will continue," Davis said. "WSUP just might be taking Free Radio Chicago by storm."
Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
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