Many people have asked me how I got to where I am now, and in an effort to sort it all out, I started looking back at my story. Over the next few weeks, I plan on posting that story here in the Gearhead Blog. I already posted previously how I got my start in the music industry by DJing at the Oregon State University radio station, KBVR fm 88.7, located in Corvallis, OR. So the story will continue on from there....
Spring,, 1990. My taste in music was changing and growing, and that was being reflected in my radio show. I was starting to hang out with another DJ, Deb Dupas, more, who was really into the whole hardcore and pop punk scene. Of course I had been exposed to alot of that music because of KBVR, and while it wasn't my scene, but I was willing to learn.
The energy of that music was intoxicating; raw angry aggreesive bursts of noise, clearly conveying the angst and rage that was buried in the soul of the singer. I had been in love with the whole early LA punk scene: X, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, The Middle Class, Screamers..... The hardcore scene was the same energy and aggression of that music, minus the melody which I loved so much. But I got inspired, and started playing hardcore on my show. I had a two hour show from 10 pm to Midnight, and I would try to cram as many songs as I could into those two hours.
No this was before CDs, so all the songs that were played on the air had to to cued up by hand, which was a laborious process. Pot down the channel of the turntable that was being cued up, put on the headphones, select a track, and then find the VERY beginning of that track by a process of moving the record back and forth across the grooves until you found the absolute beginning of where the sound was recorded on the record. Then, you had to remember how the track you were playing ended: was it a cold abrupt end, or did it fade out? If it faded out, then the next step was easy; just reverse the record a quarter of a turn so that when you hit start, you wouldn't hear the turntable picking up speed, and the ending track and beginning track would blend easily together to create the smooth seamless "segue" you hear on the radio.
If the track you were playing ended "cold", meaning abruptly, then starting the next record was more challenging, requiring a "cold" start. You had to start the turntable of the cued up track, make sure the channel was potted up to full level, then hold the record up away from the turn table, so that it wouldn't start playing as the turntable spun. Then, at the EXACT moment the track that was playing ended, you dropped the record onto the turntable, so it started right as the last track ended; seamless segue from cold end to cold start. This was my favorite style of DJing, because it really got the blood flowing.
Normal pop songs are about 3 minutes, so doing this dance of potting and cuing up the next track was easy. When you're playing hardcore records, its a totally different scenario. Most hardcore songs range from 30 seconds to a minute and a half, and most ended with cold endings, so if you lost concentration at all, you would miss your beginning, and have the dreaded "dead air"; a moment of silence during your set which was the bane of broadcasting live.
I still remember the feeling of power, and the exhilaration of those shows. I would record each track on a sheet which kept count of how many tracks I played during the show, each week trying to beat my last number. I think my best week was over 80 tracks in 2 hours, and that included announcing all the songs, the artists, giving information on the record labels and bands, and reading all the required PSAs and station IDs.
By the end of my two hours, I felt like I had run a marathon, and was tired but satisfied, and ready to join my friends at Squirrel's, the local beer joint down on 2nd St., where we would meet each night to drink and talk and swap stories about the music we were listening to, the bands we had seen or our radio shows, and dream about building up the Corvallis music scene by discussing which bands were on tour and who might be willing to come through to play our humble town.
During one of those marathon radio sessions, I got turned onto a Misfits inspired band called Half Life from Pittsburgh. They were Deb's favorite band, so much so that she had painted their logo on the back of one of her jackets. I played their single "I Got it Bad...And That Ain't Good" on the air, and remember thinking, "well, its a little slower than some of the other hardcore stuff she's turned me on to, so it will be good to fit it into my show when I need a breather." I didn't think much more about them, but included their single regularly in my set because it was a bit longer than some of the other tracks I was playing. Little did I know then that the bass player of this band would play an influential role in my life to come.
Springtime unfolded, and I started thinking again about San Francisco. My one friend from my first attempt to move there in 1988, Harry, had regularly been writing to me and sharing all the news of the punk scene in SF. He had asked to come visit so we arranged a weekend for his trip to Oregon. It seemed like there were romantic overtones to the letters he was sending, and I was starting to feel like it would be nice to have a boyfriend. So I was looking forward to his visit to see if maybe there might be some amourous spark or not. That visit would change the course of my life in unforseen ways.
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Gearhead Owner Michelle Haunold
I've been writing about music, pop culture, independent lifestyles and attitudes for over twenty-five years.