Interview by Dennis Wornick
At the top of an unsuspecting building in Chinatown, Los Angeles, extraordinary noises and words are being beamed into the sky. You probably wont hear it coming out of your cars stereo unless you are driving in the immediate vicinity, but that doesn’t stop the eclectic crew of volunteers who crowd into KCHUNG pirate radio five nights a week to play records, drink beer, and talk about whatever they want. Fortunately, the FCC hasn’t caught on yet, but I hope future listeners will, because KCHUNG is fucking awesome!
John Martin, a.k.a “Johnnie Jungleguts”, is one of those nightly denizens. He has a show every Wednesday at 8:30pm. According to Johnnie; he makes “Bad paintings of beautiful animals. Wild things for wild things.” In what could maybe be construed as a comical hint towards the size of KCHUNG’s loyal listenership, he once summarized his art practice on the air by reciting a piece he calls “How To Explain Paintings To A Small Audience” an homage to Joseph Beuys 1965 performance “How To Explain Pictures To A Dead Hare” in which he walked around a gallery whispering to a hare corpse while his face was covered in gold leaf and honey. Beuys is a frequent topic of discussion on Jungleguts, because of his disposition towards social practice and the way he utilized fine art to highlight environmental concerns.
A few weeks ago, I joined Johnnie for one of his broadcasts. Like any radioman worth his salt, Johnnie always opens his segment each evening with the same mantra:
“Hi I’m Johnnie Jungleguts and this is Jungleguts, the only conservation talk show broadcasting live from KCHUNG radio 1630 Am! As always Jungleguts is brought to you by “Open Drawing”, open drawing offers free supplies, artistic critique, and love to artists who want and need it, It happens every Tuesday 7-10pm at Center for the Arts Eagle Rock”
Dennis Wornick: Tell me about the new space the station recently moved into?
Johnnie Jungleguts: The old location was called the “Chudhole” because a lot of people who DJ on KCHUNG like to watch the movie C.H.U.D. and call people “Chuds”, and the first broadcast was out of a basement in an undisclosed location so it was hot and Chuds are cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers and so we were down underground, truly underground radio in the Chudhole, and then we got the new space at the stop of a multi story building and we just started calling it the “Skychud”.
And it’s a beautiful, multi-use space, right now were surrounded by sound equipment bathed in a soft incandescent pink light, isolated inside the recording cube where we can see through to the other areas where people are socializing and milling around.
Yes this sliding glass door is one of the most exciting new features about Skychud.
It is quite hot in here though as well.
Yeah in fact a lot of potential tenants passed on the opportunity to rent this part of the building because there’s no AC but we snatched it right up so were still here sweatin’ it at the Skychud like we were sweatin’ in the Chudhole.
I think that embodies the whole work ethos that’s happening here.
A lot of people really love KCHUNG. It’s a great format to be involved in, this project contributes a lot of different possibilities to the idea of what radio can be and it’s also really exciting to see the diversity of programming. We have a sports show called “Slam Dunks from the Free Throw Line” with a female sports commentator named Lady C, an ambient show, most genres of music from folk to rap, and then there are the talk shows like “Customer Service” with Steven Van Dyke, Steven records conversations with customer service representatives and plays them on the radio which is pretty exciting because their personal exchanges in their conversation. I don’t think the employees are allowed to stop talking to you, sure to the agreement of their job so its very interesting to see what unfolds and what tenuous and brief friendships occur.
We’ve all been there in a moment of loneliness, despair or pure joy and we find ourselves in a surprising discourse with someone many miles away in a cubicle in Bombay and you come to the realization that actually, we are the same person.
We’ve been broadcasting for over a year now at a couple different locations, we also have a blog and that’s a good way to see old episodes and other content that you can’t air on the radio that’s not audio specific. Many of the KCHUNG DJ’s and I hope that many more get involved.
A lot of the people here seem to be interested with supplementing their radio shows with blogs like “BigBoyScene”.
“BigBoyScene”, that’s about being a big boy and it’s also about Big Dog clothing, there’s “Oshepp”, run by artist Orion Sheperd, which mostly features American flag memorabilia or any image incorporating that flag design.
I recently made my first submission to that. It was a photo of a “USA” gasoline station. So I guess they sell petrol for patriots.
Hopefully it had a lot of white. Shep likes the color white a lot.
There are some other great blogs related to KCHUNG. “Cussing for Kids”, the brainchild of Jesse Spears a painter and member of Crazy Band and Zen Mafia. That’s mostly car photos and other ephemera appropriated from Craigslist, clippings of personal ads blown into larger sizes, that is a must see, Zen Mafia of course is a classic ZMFTW. Members include Cali Dewitt, the owner of indie record/publishing label Teenage Teardrops as well as various others operating under pseudonyms like Gaper and The Twins.
Fuck the world! Fuck the rest! I think that with Zen Mafia you see a lot of different people involved in all sorts of mediums or creative endeavors coming together in a like-minded way and that seems to sort of permeate what happens here at KCHUNG a lot.
Well I think the Zen Mafia site is where a lot of those people really let their hair down, so to speak, and put up whatever nonsense they want, In the words of crazy band “morals are gay, keep them away” and I think that has a lot to do with the “Zen Mafia mindset, but the more extreme baby brother of Zen Mafia, the carnage to Zen Mafia’s venom is Cumblor.
The infamous Cumblor.
That one is a hot mess, a royal mess, but a fearless bitch and it goes all in.
How did your involvement with the station first begin?
I started out having a show after my friend told me about the station, I took the open time space on Wednesday night that Sol offered me. When this happened I felt like I wasn’t doing much artistically at the time and KCHUNG makes me feel like I’m doing something creative every week, no matter what. Actually looking back I realized I had always loved putting myself out there in a radio type way. When I was in high school I went to a boarding school where everyone had phones in their room, I figured out a way to manipulate the phone network so that I could send answering machine messages to large portions of the school with the click of three or four buttons, so I developed essentially a two minute radio show every night. And that’s what led me to believe that KCHUNG would be a good fit. My show uses mainly an interview format that focuses on wildlife conservation and issues of animal welfare. So far I’ve had several artists as guests; Fritz Haeg, Luke Fishbeck, and an amazing wildlife illustrator named Andrea Lofthouse-Quesada, who does illustration for science textbooks and has done the only drawings in the world of certain bug genitalia.
Wow, that sounds like a well-rounded group. If you don’t mind I wanted to back track a little bit. Earlier on you mentioned something about Sol, and coming to KCHUNG as an outsider with a relationship to the station based on what I see and hear on the website, the name Sol holds a mythic quality for me. He seems to live in the shadows somewhat but apparently he’s the wizard mastermind who manages all the logistics of the station?
Sol (Solomon Bothwell) is a mild mannered gentleman, he’s actually in Norway right now teaching people skills to set up their own pirate radio stations. And he’s a real pro when it comes to radio. He’s put in more hours at KCHUNG than anyone else. He’s the Mother Theresa of KCHUNG, the go to guy for any questions. That being said, KCHUNG doesn’t have a board, it doesn’t have any kind of a specific hierarchy, and I don’t think Sol would ever like to think of himself as the president or the de-facto leader.
So maybe he’s not a visionary of the spectrum of programming that goes on here but he is indebted to working towards the ongoing creation of a forum where people feel they can reach out and disseminate different types of information through an experimental, uncensored outlet?
Right, and he works very had to preserve that. I don’t really know the answer to that question in terms of how a lot of the programming originated, it was really a first come first serve basis and it was very fortuitous that the people who heard about the idea of starting KCHUNG got on board and actually made it happen as a collective effort. I can’t really think of a KCHUNG show that I don’t thoroughly enjoy in one way or another. They’re all relatively loose, but that’s what we like about it.
I think Sol’s ability to put the station in the technological position of having archiving and live streaming capabilities is notable just because it gives people the ability to reach a wider audience and take a hyper localized organization and make it more inclusive.
Yeah I just look up to Sol so much, he s a real hero of mine. So yeah, shout out to big Sol!
Alright thanks for having me on tonight. Denski over and out!