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[whitespace] Monkey Man

Monkey Man puts Pirate Cat radio on the airwaves from the privacy of his bedroom

By Jeff Kearns

DOWN AT THE VERY END of the FM dial, on a frequency of 87.9 megahertz, the Pirate Cat is broadcasting a nonstop sonic assault of punk and ska. At the controls is Monkey Man (his on-air persona), a recent high school graduate who built the station in his bedroom.

Monkey Man is not going to shell out the $10,000 annual fee to the FCC for a broadcast license anytime soon, and even if he did, the FCC won't license puny little stations under 100 watts.

"They say they're there to protect people, but really it's just censorship," he insists.

Monkey Man's friend DJ Comrade Annoyance and other friends help keep the station on the air around the clock, although they sometimes resort to putting the five-disc CD player on repeat. Comrade Annoyance, who is still in high school, won't give his name either, because he's on probation for a minor computer-hacking incident.

Comrade Annoyance is also no fan of the FCC.

"In this country, nobody can have their voice heard unless they're rich. They're trying to keep microbroadcasters from getting out."

Monkey Man stepped into the world of microbroadcasting about a year ago with his friend Michael Magic at Free-Radio San Jose, 93.7 FM, but had to leave the station after some of his on-air hijinks went too far. After that, he started working with Dr. Slick, whose station, Free-Radio Los Gatos, is on 91.3 FM on Sunday and Wednesday nights from 8 to 11pm.

"Then Dr. Slick said I should get my own station, so I went down to Fry's and got one of those little radio kits for, like, $30." Dr. Slick gave Monkey Man an old one-watt amplifier, and another friend, Austin Tatious of KKUD (104.1) in Willow Glen, donated a mixing board. Pirate Cat was on the air.

The current setup doesn't look like much. In the corner of Monkey Man's bedroom, there is a six-channel mixing board to adjust the levels, a microphone, a CD player, a tape player and a turntable on top of an iguana cage. The amplifier and transmitter are under the bed, and there's an antenna outside in a tree and another small antenna on the roof.

Monkey Man, who lives in Los Gatos with his mother, says Mom doesn't have a problem with the radio station in the house.

Pirate Cat went live last September, broadcasting one watt, but recently bumped up its signal strength with a new transmitter, which Monkey Man says puts out "more than five but less than 30 watts" and comes in from Sunnyvale to the summit on Highway 17.

Monkey Man says there are a lot of other microbroadcasters--in San Jose, Santa Cruz, Berkeley and across the country. He estimates there are from 500 to 700 stations with more than one watt in California alone.

And he's not worried about the FCC picking on him.

"They have to inform you they're listening, then prove that it's coming from where you are," he says. "But after that, you can get fined $10,000 a day."

Nevertheless, Monkey Man is trying to raise the profile of his station. Last week, he made a Jolly Roger of his own and spray-painted the name of his station and frequency on a plastic tarp he tied to the Blossom Hill Road overpass above Highway 17.

"We were getting about 40 calls a day," he says. "People were calling from their cell phones, saying they liked what we were doing and making requests."

Someone from the California Highway Patrol called in and dared Monkey Man to put up his sign on the other side of the Blossom Hill Road overpass. He did, as one motorcycle officer watched below, but the CHP came out the following morning and took down the sign. Monkey Man says passing motorists jeered.

Monkey Man isn't sure what he is going to do with his life. He might take a job doing research on the Web at a title company in San Jose. He wants to go to Santa Clara University, he says, because it's a good school with a good radio station, KSCU (103.3). He's thinking about majoring in communications or political science.

After college, Monkey Man says what he really wants is a job in radio. "I could be a DJ forever, but I wouldn't want to DJ for a corporate station," he says, then reconsiders. "Unless they gave me a suitcase full of money."

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From the May 14-20, 1998 issue of Metro.

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