So you wanna be on the radio, punk?

Kingston’s kings of noise offer a quick and painless guide to CFRC 101.9

Contrary to popular myth, Queen’s does indeed have a campus radio station—here in the bowels of Carruthers Hall.
Contrary to popular myth, Queen’s does indeed have a campus radio station—here in the bowels of Carruthers Hall.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

From juggling classes to avoiding scurvy, it’s pretty overwhelming being a frosh.

Most overwhelming of all may be the plethora of campus clubs and institutions that will quite literally be thrust in all your froshy faces come Orientation Week in September.

Your friendly neighbourhood Postscript Editor is here to help you in that decision. When I was in first year, I knew that Queen’s had a campus radio station, but I’d be damned if I knew anything about it, other than it was located in the catacombs of some building called Carruther’s Hall.

Three years later, many good friends have passed through those basement doors and into audio legend—at least in the Kingston-to- Belleville reception region. I’ve always wanted a radio show. Who doesn’t enjoy listening to themselves blather on about the latest Beastie Boys album?

The fact of the matter is, if you have even a trifling interest in being on the radio, there shouldn’t be anything to stop you. With this cavalier attitude in mind, I went and spoke to the resident “Mics” of CFRC—program manager Mike McCarthy and business manager Mike Sallot. They’re two of the nicest guys you’d ever hope to meet —“We’re friendly,” McCarthy insisted—and are more than qualified to tell you exactly why CFRC is one of the most venerable and fun organizations at Queen’s.

It’s “older than God,” in the words of Sallot. CFRC is the oldest campus radio station in the country. The first broadcast took place on October 27, 1923, when the ramshackle station, constructed by a pair of young Queen’s science and technology professors, broadcasted a rugby game.

Since then, the station has pumped out a number of distinguished alumni, including up-and-coming Toronto indie rocker Matthew Barber, Sheila Rogers of the CBC, Tragically Hip guitarist Gord Sinclair, and Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail. The station draws over 100 volunteers every year. “It’s a great training ground for the broadcast journalists of tomorrow,” Sallot said.

Anyone and everyone can have a show. “You don’t have to be a techno whiz to be on the radio,” McCarthy said. The equipment is remarkably easy to use, and generally after a few hour-long training sessions, most volunteers are ready to be on the air. Once you’ve mastered the broadcasting equipment, CFRC boasts a number of wonderful toys to play with, including a set of turntables, a high-class CD Player, and most prominently, a $5,000 Roland VS 1680 editing suite that is often loaned out to local bands to record demos free of charge.

“You don’t have to be a record-obsessed music geek to work here either,” Sallot said. Of course, if you are, the station is heaven on earth— they receive 80 new albums a week and their library contains a catalogue of over 85,000 records and CDs, from Alien Sex Fiend to Led Zeppelin to the most wildly obscure vinyl imaginable.

That being said, CFRC broadcasts a myriad of shows that don’t revolve solely around music. There are talk shows in Mandarin, Portuguese and French, a news collective called Groundswell, and a number of eclectic spoken word shows.

“We’re not going to grill you on obscure Smiths B-sides from the ‘80s,” Sallot added. “Anyone can work here, even someone with a minimal interest in music.”

Of course if you are into music, the station has an open mic show, an Afro-Funk show, a radio top five show, a show called Zombie Apocalypse (where host Josh Goodbaum pretends he’s broadcasting songs from a zombie-infested shopping mall PA system),a reggae show called “From Kingston to Kingston,” a number of Can-rock shows, a trip-hop show, and a plethora of shows focused on indie, experimental and underground music. There’s something for virtually every taste, whether your favourite genre is hip hop or Scandinavian black metal.

You don’t have to be a quirky Queen’s arts student to be a DJ. CFRC has volunteers from all faculties, from engineering to law to graduate students. A number of Kingstonians also have shows—the station broadcasts all over Kingston, not just Queen’s. Members of local rock bands Mystic Caravan and License to Whore broadcast their musical obsessions on a weekly basis.

There’s a great community in Kingston. CFRC has a lot of connections to the local music and activist scenes, and strives to bring its volunteers together as much as possible. There are volunteer appreciation nights throughout the year, an awards ceremony at the Faculty Club, and a Halloween party, where Sallot dressed up as Johnny Rotten (don’t tell him I told you that). CFRC also provides an excellent opportunity to get close to bands when they stop by for a Kingston gig. There’s nothing like using the auspices of a campus media outlet to get what you want.

It’s just a really good time. “The best two years of my life have been spent here,” McCarthy said. McCarthy and Sallot both began as volunteers with their own radio shows at CFRC (McCarthy had a stoner-rock show called “The Outer Atmosphere,” and Sallot still hosts his indie-electro-beats extravaganza “Fever Pitch”). Along with last year’s business manager Steve Birek, Sallot launched Kingston’s only alternative music night at the Scherzo called “Dance to the Underground.”

“I wouldn’t have stuck around here if it wasn’t so much fun,” Sallot said.

They both gradually moved through the radio’s ranks to get where they are today. And they’ve benefited from their experience in more ways than anyone can imagine. “There’s nothing sexier than being a radio DJ,” Sallot said.

Next year, CFRC hopes to build an archive on their website, cfrc.ca, of archived broadcasts so people can catch up on shows they’ve missed or check out new music they’re curious about. They are also launching a contest during Frosh Week to find “an interesting personality” to host a morning show, so keep your eyes open. “Dance to the Underground” will also continue next school year on a monthly basis.

Now that you know what CFRC is all about, there’s no excuse for you not to meander over to the station. They won’t bite. Even if you hate Morrissey.

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