New radio station kicks out the jams

Graham C Wheat

Graham C Wheat, Features Editor

Don’t adjust your radio dials, that eclectic sound you hear is KSVG 89.7 Savage Radio invading the airwaves of Bakersfield.

After six long years from the first idea, to being on the air, the project that has been the brainchild of Jake Chavez and Greg Looney, is finally broadcasting their mix of punk, reggae, and college rock over the signal through Bakersfield’s newest community radio station.

For approximately two months they have been broadcasting elusively from a small room, with the day’s music playlist on loose-leaf paper and old Black Flag posters by Ray Pettibon on the walls, Savage radio is slowly turning Bakersfield ears to their brand of underground rock.

“We knew it was going to be Do-It-Yourself, but we are broke and happy,” said Looney on the nature and process of starting a community radio station.

Both men devoted hundreds, if not thousands, of hours to make this radio station come together. Whether it was spending 12-hour days constructing the transmitter tower, or sinking retirement funds and tip money for the purchase of radio-quality mixers, both men were diligent and dedicated to getting what both believe was a necessity for the community of Bakersfield.

Looney elaborated on what that necessity was.

“When you listen to Sirius or XM radio, those people are broadcasting from New York,” said Looney. “The show might be good, but you don’t know who that guy is. [Savage Radio] is about a community, and doing something for the people of this town that we really needed. It needed a personal touch.”

Both Chavez and Looney should have a good idea of what is good for this town musically. Chavez is the former owner of the now defunct Downtown Records, and has had his finger on the pulse of good reggae, punk and ska music since he was a teenager.

Looney is a bartender at a popular Bakersfield watering hole and whose musical past lay in the punk genres.

Both also had a brief affair with radio at Bakersfield College’s former radio station and a pirate radio station in Bakersfield during the 90’s.

It truly is a community process and family affair at KSVG.

“We are like brothers and sisters,” said Looney. “We fight like brothers and sisters, but we all have the same goal.”

All 15 volunteer disc jockeys, including Looney and Chavez, pick their own music to broadcast during their shows, such as DJ Tiny’s two-hour block “The Nerd Drive at Five,” where she plays artists like Weezer or They Might Be Giants. All music is hand selected from the DJ’s personal collection, which includes local artists too.

“We wanted a different vibe with our DJ’s,” said Chavez.

As Looney was signing off and sitting back down for the interview, he couldn’t stop remarking about a new song by a British band The Cribs called “Chi-Town” that he had played during his program. The excitement that they feel playing their music is translating through the airwaves.

“Two of my good friends are married and used to listen to their iPods in the car,” said Chavez explaining some of the communities excitement. “They used to fight all the time over what to listen to. They said now they just turn on 89.7 and no more fighting.

“KSVG, keeping couples together since 2013.”

Looney acknowledged the idea of their proverbial punk rock phoenix rising from the ashes of radio in a digital age.

“We are like a steampunk radio station,” said Chavez, “We’re just kinda old school.”

“We are more punk than we thought,” added Looney.

Each told of the difficulties they have had with becoming a broadcast-quality radio station, giving an example of learning the fine art of the broadcast mixer in the first two weeks.

“We turned the gain way up and thought, ‘hey it’s loud, it must be good,’” said Looney.

“Our friend who is good with technical stuff like that took one look at it and figured out why we had splashy vocals,” added Chavez, referring to DJ’s vocals being too loud.

Now that the radio station is off the ground with listeners tuning in, Chavez and Looney are focused on expanding the stations listening area and audience.

Chavez began by elaborating on the difficult process of being a community radio station.

“We have to promote our station literally one at a time,” Chavez said.  “Every kid I talk to, I ask them, ‘have you heard the station?’”

As Chavez made this comment, DJ JoeSex, who’s show consists of dark ambient electronic music among other things, brought a fresh batch of Savage stickers that he personally made to distribute throughout Bakersfield.

“Now it is all about building,” Chavez said. “We have to focus on getting a better signal, getting our station on the Internet, and getting more sponsors.”

To reach that goal both men spoke of ideas like a St. Patrick’s Day benefit show, forming a Savage Radio street team to spread the word, and making friends with BC and CSUB to get the college student contingent.

“We just need to multiply,” said Looney.

Currently, the station broadcasts from noon to midnight daily, though there are plans in place to convert to a 24-hour station soon.

“Any day now,” said Looney.

No matter the difficulties, both men are confident in the people of Bakersfield and the passion that those people have for good music. Their motto for the station is taken from a Black Flag show flyer, “If punx could only unite, we could do anything.”

Chavez associated the birth of the station to exactly that.

“That’s really what it was,” he said. “Whether at the tower site, or here in the studio, it was our friends from the punk rock community coming to help us.”

“Now it’s just punks with jobs,” added Looney.

As for the definitive aim of the station, Chavez joked, “Our ultimate goal is to be the number two radio station in Bakersfield, because we will never beat KUZZ.”