If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that my first radio show was ~ORE~, which I co-hosted for two years with Tony Youngblood. Lately, I’ve been exploring the history of WDBX-FM, but Tony’s most THEATRE INTANGIBLE entry got me thinking about digging back into the history of ~ORE~. You’ll want to read the sister entry (fact: like ships, all blogs are female) before continuing here.
I’ve been with ~ORE~ in one fashion or another since it got started, at Southern Illinois University’s WIDB radio in 1998. By that time, I was a confirmed music obsessive, but I had yet to do anything with radio. Tony’s on-air collages caught my ear, and I started helping him compile raw material each week, which we would sift through during the live broadcasts. More often than not, the results were something of a trainwreck– but I gradually began to realize that I was building my listening skills, learning to improvise in a sound environment, and getting a serious education in composition as well. In effect, ~ORE~ was like experimental music bootcamp. The grind of producing a new episode each week with zero budget, amidst a full college workload was often intense. But ~ORE~ opened my mind to the possibilities of radio and music in ways that I hadn’t thought possible. I distinctly remember pitching one show idea to Tony that would take place entirely in engineering, re-routing cables and signals to see what would happen to the broadcast signal. Although we didn’t ever go through with this (admittedly rather hazardous) idea, the concept of multi-layered improvisation existing at all levels of the radio chain stuck with me– we could alter the music, we could alter the broadcast, we could alter the radios receiving it, we could alter the listeners… and they could alter us. The possibilities were simply staggering.
Tony and I had apparently soaked up Wu-Tang Clan’s greatest lesson, too– make it a franchise. Thus, the original ~ORE~ was endowed with “Prefab Audio Extrapolations” as a tagline. Even while fighting to keep up with a one-hour weekly broadcast, we were thinking of the future! At times, it seemed like anyone who was listening was actually AT the broadcasts, or helping make them. Although we were doing something amazingly different on the SIU campus, we didn’t exist in a bubble. Flyers and chalk were our outreach. Wednesday nights, we’d gather under the dim yellow lights of Faner Hall, and begin our amazingly huge chalk runs. We got our friends and family into it with us, making teams to cover as much of the 900-foot length of the breezeway as possible before the chalk bucket ran out. By morning, Faner was a pastel mess of dogs and cows spouting absurdist essays extolling the virtues of experimental radio, mixed with the inevitable Xeroxed flyers cooked up special for the occasion. Although the flyers rarely made much sense, we knew that they would reach others like us– weirdos, makers, noise-enthusiasts, record collector scum, freaks… our people.
When Tony graduated, I tried to carry on with ~ORE~ as best as I could. Now having found myself in the somewhat ironic position of being a more senior member of WIDB (I found this funny, because I had never officially joined), I made some effort to have a positive effect on the greater course of the station. But WIDB was floundering and directionless– and worse yet, it was splitting into two “factions”. On one side, WIDB had a core group of specialty-show DJs and music fans who were happy to continue WIDB’s long tradition of broadcasting in an oddball college radio format. They recognized that the freedom we were allowed for selecting our music brought with it a responsibility to showcase recordings and artists outside the mainstream, something that a commercial station cannot often do. On the other side, there were those who wished to emulate these same commercial stations, rendering WIDB little more than a warm-up “practice” space for those seeking jobs in corporate broadcasting. Worse yet, they wanted to cede more and more time to the automated programming, and were removing the specialty shows one by one.
The climate was rough, to say the least. WIDB had re-branded itself as “The Revolution,” an insipid and hollow slogan ironically describing whole days filled with nothing but a computer playing mp3 files in the back room for the bored, captive audience in the Student Center. I took to showing up at random times, shutting the PC off, and broadcasting miniature shows for anyone who would listen. Other DJs also stepped up to the plate– I heard others interrupting the automation as well, discussing the change over the air, or refusing to play the nonsense dictated by new programming rules.
But eventually, it got to be too much. I was tired, and ~ORE~ was beaten. I’d seen the new programming schedule, which literally crowned the station manager victorious by awarding him my old time slot. It reduced specialty shows by more than half, pushing them entirely to the weekends. The “Quiet Storm” broadcasting, which was arguably our most popular offering, was slashed dramatically. This was bizarro-world WIDB, and I wanted no part of it. On the night of the last ~ORE~ broadcast, the senior staff of WIDB was taking part in a pep rally on campus, attempting to out-shout other student organizations to show their spirit. I couldn’t think of a more fitting end to my days with the station– playing my favorite tunes to a dark student union, while the staff screamed about how amazing we were. After my last record was over, I posted some flyers to announce the occasion… and ~ORE~ Prefab Audio Extrapolations was dead.
Here’s some early flyer art for ~ORE~, and a bunch of other photos besides. I’ll do my best to explain them:
This was the core of the ~ORE~ family. I always liked this flyer, and felt that it represented us all well. Our “Mysterious DJ” was Will Bernel, AKA DJ Shad, AKA Willie Dynamite. I owe him a lot as a fellow DJ, and would love to chat with him again sometime!
This flyer is one of our “stealth” postings. Our flyers were often torn down by a campus Christian group, so I’d try to hide them in plain view for longer shelf life.
I love this one– “who gives a shit about our soundless room?!” Be sure to click these to see them large, okay?
On the surface, this one makes no sense whatsoever. In actuality, it describes the exact plot of “Doug’s Party,” our most infamous episode.
I re-worked the dialogue in this flyer many, many times, even employing it later at WDBX-FM.
I made this flyer in January of 1999, long before Franz Ferdinand would rip me off, lol.
Open these windows in a new tab– here, heeere, and heeeeeeeere— to see more of my flyer art!
Here’s Matty Smith, the station manager who was intent on turning WIDB into a total shitpile. As you can see, he was a complete tool. I got him to pose with a sign that had been posted at WIDB since I arrived, allowing me to subtly alter the content for greater veracity. Also present– a very young DJ Mo!
Here was Matty’s proposed schedule. See all the “pre-programmed” stuff? YIKES!
Long Live ~ORE~
I’ve got to imagine that WIDB is a different place now. New DJs, new ideas, and a couple solid webstreams have seen to that. Do yourself a favor and check them out— tell them DaveX said “hi”.