By Lexze Mercado-Olin, River Ridge High School intern
KAOS, a commercial-free radio station, has been a voice and outlet for local artists in the South Sound/Thurston County area for nearly 40 years. Located on The Evergreen State College campus, KAOS broadcasts on both F.M. radio as well as online. However, unlike many other radio stations, their independent music policy makes them quite unique. The policy enforces the idea that 80% of the music played is from distributors and independent record labels. They take little known and new artists and stream them for listeners to appreciate and enjoy. This leaves only 20% of the music played from a major record label. Though every now and then you may hear a familiar song, KAOS really focuses on exposing music by the community, for the community.
In fact, the community itself helps keeps KAOS up and running with their financial support. Student activity fees play a huge role in the station’s funding along with sponsoring from local businesses and listener memberships. Satisfied and generous listeners can call in or pledge online to become KAOS members.
The KAOS DJs show their dedication and passion by devoting their time both on and off the air. “We’re all volunteers, no one is paid,” says DJ Quentin Mahoney. Four times a year, training sessions are offered to the public for aspiring DJs. Anyone interested can find applications at the station or on the KAOS website under “volunteer.” KAOS offers many different off-air volunteer opportunities as well such as sound engineering and helping out with an assortment of events. Even youth have the opportunity to show up at the station and certify to broadcast.
Jose Gutierrez Jr., also known as “Luvva J Pimpizzi,” has been part of the KAOS family since the age of 16. “I was mowing my lawn in the back yard in the summer of 1987 when I listened to Nancy G, the first hip-hop host I heard on KAOS and she inspired me to get involved,” he says. Jose currently is host of shows Live from I-5 and The Block Party.
Prior to broadcasting, each DJ arranges their own play list with songs from the music library, approved by the station’s music director. On a daily basis anywhere from 10 to 100 songs can be submitted from artists out of all genres to be added to the music library. When it comes time to select music, each host has the freedom to play what they want listeners to hear. Unlike most stations, there’s constantly new music being exposed rather than the same tracks being recycled throughout the day.
KAOS serves as a station for the public, connecting the community. Jose refers to it as “the last of a dying breed of radio stations.” The DJs of KAOS are thrilled and proud to be part of a bigger picture, pulling the community closer together.
“Because it’s made for the community, I feel comfortable. It’s like a family,” says DJ Emma Martinchick. Emma hosts the Ladies First Block Party, featuring female artists of hip-hop. “The playlists are very thoughtful,” adds student Carter Brown who enjoys exploring new music and the variety of genres KAOS offers.
Without a doubt, listeners love the concept and close community ties that KAOS has. Listener and artist Eli Manuel Abrams Galdamez calls KAOS “the pulse of the people here.”
“It gets down to the roots of the greener experience,” says Eli. Not only is he an intrigued listener, but has performed live on the station as well.
“I’m not really into schedule,” says 22 year-old Leah Bodenhameran, an Evergreen student who appreciates the music she discovers while supporting the local arts. The diversity of the song selections and how they aren’t all main stream is such a big part of what makes KAOS so unique. “It’s delighting how the DJs talk about musicians they genuinely care about. It’s like getting a music lesson,” Leah further explains.
Over the years KAOS and has grown upon the community, taking a latch onto its listeners. Members of the community are tuning into broadcasts daily to experience fresh, talented artists as well as the passionate KAOS team. The next time you’re cruising in your car or just lounging around your house, be sure to tune into 89.3 and experience KAOS radio; the true station of the people.