KAMP radio: living for tomorrow

by Jon Roig

Arizona Daily Wildcat

This summer, I had the opportunity to

DJ a show on KAMP... I'm not even

sure if DJ is the right term the show was being "broadcast" on Tucson Cablevision Channel 60. My roommate, Josh, was listening. I told him to buy cat food ... he made me play Gwar.

What struck me as odd was all the activity going on in that little room in the basement of the Student Union. Phone calls were being made, plans were drawn up, and serious discussions about the future of KAMP were being had.

"Our transmitter will be up in 3 weeks," somebody said I don't remember who but everyone down there BELIEVED.

KAMP has always been a world unto itself. Self-important is probably a good way to describe the KAMP populace, and I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way.

"They remind me a lot of the Christians," said one student. "They're all terribly, terribly nice, but no matter what they think, what they're doing has almost no impact on the general student population."

But that's all going to change now. Turn your dial to 1620 AM and there's KAMP. It's a little staticky right now, but that'll all change "in three weeks" when the transmitter is fixed and turned up to full power.

I'm not saying they're bad people or that they're doing a bad thing. On the contrary, I think it's great that KAMP has a transmitter. They've just drifted away from the real world a little bit. Case in point: their "Media Relations Director," Marc Gurstel, HAD to be at the meeting I had with KAMP's program director, Alan Wagner. Alan is the architect of many of the changes going on at KAMP. Marc Gurstel is . a nice guy, but, honestly, I'm not sure why he was there something to do with preventing Alan from talking trash about the other local radio stations. Anyway, he was surprisingly informative about certain bureaucratic functions at KAMP, while Alan was more of a visionary (of sorts).

KAMP will change the world, and after talking to Alan, even I am thinking of attempting to get my own show. I mean, college radio is great I spent my formative years attempting to find a way to get better reception of UC Berkeley's influential KPFA station.

"I think there's a lot of people with a real interest in good music and a lot of people are starting to realize that all the music they're hearing everywhere has to originate somewhere," says Alan of college radio's purpose. "People at commercial radio stations or at MTV aren't saying 'oh, this band is really good, I think I'm going to play them.' They usually try to cover their asses, so to speak, so they use the college radio charts to provide the basis for what's going to be the next 'buzz' bin thing.

"We don't play bands that are getting played in other places. A good percentage of [the music KAMP plays] ends up in those other places, in like 4 months or so . it just takes people a while to accept it."

And they've been at it since 1987. It's a rather bizarre situation a major university with 35,000 students and, until now, no student radio station to speak of. But there have always been plenty of volunteers willing to help out and participate in the KAMP fantasy.

According to Alan, "KAMP is more than just a radio station; none of us are getting paid, so it's got a lot of aspects of a club, as well. We've got barbecues, parties it's a good way for people to have a good time and meet a lot of really interesting people."

Anyone can show up at their meetings on Wednesday nights at 5:00 p.m., Old Chem. (Room 209). They're always looking for new recruits.

I don't mean that to sound sinister KAMP has always been about big ideas and giant leaps of faith, but now, with a transmitter and the potential to reach a very large audience (including people living in the dorms), KAMP, with Alan at the helm, seems poised to make an impact on Tucson. And they didn't have to sell their collective souls to do it.

"We got a lot of help [getting a transmitter] from Associated Student Union Activities Board. We're budgeted right now at around $2400," says Mark. "Senator Ethan Orr pushed a proposal through ASUA which allotted us a transmitter and antenna, which we've been asking for a long time for about 5 years. It just wasn't possible with our funding to pay that kind of amount, so we made a little trade-off with them; we're going to do a lot of public service announcements for them or for any organization."

College campuses, such as ours, are somewhat exempt from normal FCC regulations as long as they stick to certain frequency limits and obey all FCC rules, KAMP can avoid the licensing fees that are associated with commercial radio. While the exact range of the 30 watt AM transmitter isn't known, it can certainly reach the dorms and beyond.

And with that comes the new responsibility of serving a much larger audience. KAMP's format is being changed and reformulated as they come to grips with the audience's wants and needs; both news and sports departments are being added hopefully, giving much-needed coverage to lesser noticed sports like softball and ice hockey. Rather than just letting DJ's play anything they want (as it's been in the past), they're trying to keep with a fairly consistent top 35 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with specialty shows like an 80s show, punk rock show, or a live spoken-word show from 8 p.m. to midnight. There are even hip-hop shows, now that there aren't any other stations around to fill that void.

"Right now we're out to prove to everybody, including the University, that a student run radio station can work. At a school with 35,000 people, it kind of surprised me that it took us this long," says Alan. "We really wanted an FM station, that was key. But an AM for now is OK to getting people's awareness up. We've got a lot of other aspects than just the music."

For instance, the KAMP concert series occurring in The Cellar in the Student Union the first Friday of every month (including this Friday). At a cost of only $2 to get in, they're hoping it'll be a great magnet for people stuck on campus without a car or an ID, or who aren't into the whole party scene.

My conversation with Alan ended when Mark's beeper went off there was urgent KAMP business to be taken care of. An oddly appropriate end. Maybe, one day, there really will be urgent KAMP business to take care of.

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