April 5th 2017 is a year to the day of my first broadcast on Freeform Portland. Not my first radio show, not by any means, but I remember it felt good to be on the air, and does so every day I do my show. Getting to Freeform Portland is a life long story. Here is the short version.
As a kid, I always loved music. I remember listening to 45s at a friend’s house, over and over we listened to “Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and the theme song to the movie “M.A.S.H.” When I turned eleven and went to middle school, and in the school library “discovered” The Beatles. I often checked out their albums and listened to them with friends using headphones and listening posts. “Revolver” was an early favorite of mine. I was drawn to the more psychedelic tracks, such as “tomorrow never knows”
Exposure to music was generally by radio for me, hits of the day. But as this was the mid-seventies that meant some singer songwriter tracks, emerging disco tracks…which to me did not appeal. I remember a cousin of mine having the first record by AC/DC, which I sorta liked for the energy. I could not have explained it in these terms at that time, but I think I recognized the churned up Chuck Berry riffs at the heart of their music. A friend of my brother had a ping pong table, and some afternoons were spent at his house, playing ping pong and listening to his early records by KISS, who seemed silly to me. Sorry, I never grew to like them.
Everything changed for me in 1977. The real year punk broke. The band Devo appeared on Saturday Night Live. You can Google it now and find youtube clips. So it is easy to watch and see what a transformative experience it might have been. If you view it with that context in mind. Disco was on the rise, and here comes Devo. Robotic rhythms and motions. Automatons who exploded lightning in my brain. I was hooked. The following week at school many folks mentioned how weird it was, they seemed offput. But I was just being launched on a journey.
It was during this time and throughout high school that I began to buy records. New wave pop bands, all with names such as “The…” or Rhino anthology collections by bands like The Chocolate Watchband. This time period preceded the reissue craze that exists today. Only current records seemed to be available, records from three or more years past did not seem to be around, and I had not heard of a used record store. Not yet at least.
Following high school, I rented rooms in other people’s houses, worked in restaurants making Mexican food, or pizzas. And some of my money still went buying records. Two amazing things happened in the early eighties for me. The Walkman was invented, and I met Raymond Didyk.
The Walkman was amazing. A device that allowed you to listen to music everywhere. Music became portable. You had your own soundtrack. And, you could make mix tapes so the songs would vary and be of your own choosing. Which brings me to Raymond Didyk. A friend of mine worked for him, and I met him when I agreed to help them move some furniture. Putting a piece of furniture in the back of Raymond’s truck I heard the music he had left playing. I heard a familiar guitar style, and the voice of Tom Verlaine. I stopped for a moment, perplexed both by the fact I did not know the song and that someone else I knew listened to Television.
That song was “Glory” from the second album by Television “Adventure,” which at that time I was too naive to have sought out. Raymund Didyk and I became fast friends, bonding over music. He had vast collection of records and introduced to Link Wray, Bo Diddley, Fairport Convention, the original Modern Lovers, The Fall, and any number of garage and psychedelic records…he was amazing and so kind. He would allow me to come over to his house on my days off from work, to explore his record collection and make tapes from myself. He changed my life for the better, and saying so, no matter how many times I do so, will never be Thanks enough.
He also introduced me to a used record store in Monterey California called Recycled Records. I visited infrequently for a while as it was a long bus drive from my home in Carmel Valley. But circumstances changed and I found myself employed by The Bagel Bakery on Lighthouse Avenue in Monterey, four blocks down the street from Recycled Records. So my infrequent visits became daily visits. I never noticed that the new arrivals bin only changed once a week. I seemed to discover something new there all the time. I became friendly with the small staff, the owner and one other employee, and invariable asked for a job each day as I left the store. Not sure if I wore them down exactly but one day they said yes.
The very same week I started working in the record store I saw an ad on the bulletin board in the store. A flyer really about a local community radio station needed new DJs. I answered the ad, and soon afterwards was I working at a record store and had a weekly radio show. Pretty sure at the time my life felt like it could not have been any better.
I started my first radio show in 1988 on KAZU 90.3 fm, which had its studio on the second floor above a Mexican restaurant named Peppers. The name of my show was “Blank Generation” and I was on the air every Saturday from midnight to three am. I was certainly nervous but the person before me, a DJ named Mr. Hedge, was a complete professional and very kind. He helped me through many issues. And also demonstrated so clearly and well how to time your show, to end at the stated time, and make way for the next DJ. To this day his example and lessons are ones that I carry with me into radio studios when I do my show.
I was at KAZU for seven years. Seven fantastic years and only left when I moved to Portland.
I moved to Portland with my wife and her children in 1995. Jumped a few hurdles in life here and there. Always renting, so lived in a few different neighborhoods, and worked a couple different jobs, at Music Millennium and Djangos. Both great record stores that helped to continue to expose me to music, and make friends.
Ten years passed, quick as you like, and I began to think about how fun it would be to have a radio show again. But how I asked myself. The local community radio station in Portland, KBOO 90.7 fm, was well established and entrenched. Getting a show on that station seemed an impossibility. Then I heard whispers about a pirate radio station…the Portland Radio Authority…based somewhere in Portland…broadcasting with a tiny bit of wattage. Not too long after first hearing of them, I read an article the station had been raided by the police or FBI, but that did not stop them apparently, they soon converted to an Internet radio station exclusively. I think I must have found their web site or contact details. And pretty soon, like falling off a bridge, I had another radio show.
This new show I entitled “It’s A nice world to visit” after a song by Ann-Margret produced by Lee Hazelwood. First off because it was a cool track with blasting fuzz guitar, but more importantly it had the word “nice” in the title. At that time, myself and the world were all too jaded and cynical and I wanted to turn a corner. Embrace something positive. To this end, I also adopted an on air DJ name, Noah Fence. I wanted what I thought was a good pun, such as the name adopted by the singer of the band, Fear. His name was Lee Ving. And I just giggled a bit just writing.
Funny thing about adopting a name, I fooled myself. I assumed I would come into the radio studio, announce myself as Noah Fence and some other hidden aspect of my personality would burst out. It never happened. I suppose I am more myself than I will ever properly realize.
Another side benefit of being on the Portland Radio Authority was playing records at bars and clubs. During my time away from radio, DJs had become a more popular idea, so often clubs would have folks in to play records before bands performed, as well as between the bands. My first ever live DJ gig was at the Someday Lounge. And if I recall correctly I played at least one record at the wrong speed. No one seemed to notice. It had never occurred to me until that moment that the audience, either in a live setting or over the radio, would consist of passive listeners. That cue errors and such would go unnoticed. Now I know I was my own worst critic, and learned the freedom to laugh it off and forgive myself. Making friends I managed to play at several places in town, such as regular gigs at East End and Ground Kontrol.
My time at the Portland Radio Authority was well spent, well enjoyed by me, but the station struggled. Getting the rent and utility bills paid eventually become such a task, the station folded.
And into this void came Xray.fm, a new local radio station, both on fm and the internet, started by some folks who had been involved with the Portland Radio Authority and as it turned out, people with no prior experience with radio. They took over the Portland Radio Authority space and equipment, and brought along a handful of Portland Radio Authority DJs, including myself.
My show moved to Xray.fm but the name remained the same. I was returned to late night broadcasting. When the station moved to its proper location, it was a mile or so from my home. I began riding a bike in the dark down empty streets. All the while, mixing a variety of music, new tracks and old favorites for my audience, such as it is.
But life changes. And I lost a job I had held for a decade. My wife and I were forced to move due to our financial situation. And I gave up my show on Xray.fm. That was in September 2015 and before the year end, I saw on Facebook people talking about a new radio station. All music, no talk. The kind of station that fit my aptitude, all rock, very little talk, and also my schedule. As what I needed most to be back on the radio was a daytime slot.
Freeform Portland began broadcasting in April 2016 and I am happy to say, a year later, that all is well and working out. My show is on every Wednesday morning at 8am, and I am an early riser and morning person. So love nothing more than getting up, putting some music choices together, riding to the studio on the commuter train and broadcasting my show. I love it today as much as I ever have. Drawing on my ever present love of music, and my radio inspirations, chief among them John Peel. Whose show I never heard when I was young. It was just something you read about. It was something you noted, when you heard a band you liked had done a Peel session, playing live on his show. Every show I do, it is always my hope that I will play some song sometime that someone will hear for the first time, and it will be like lightning in their brain.