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The Peace & Freedom Magazine Don Campau Interview
Originally appeared in Peace & Freedom Vol. 6, No. 2, Summer 1989
Don Campau hosts a radio show in California, playing home-taped music. He also has a label called Lonely Whistle Music, selling compilations of music from his shows, and his own recordings. Interviewed by Gypsy.
Don, you're the host of a radio show called No Pigeonholes, can you tell me a bit more about the set-up at KKUP?
KKUP is a real small station, but because we are in a densely populated area we reach millions of homes. Sadly, few people in our area are actually supportive of alternative radio. One of the main reasons, is that we are pretty spoilt here with quite a few good radio stations already. Our station is one of the few that is totally supported by the listeners. We don't accept grants or anything like that.
I've been doing a show at KKUP since 1978, but from 1985, however, it's been mainly a program of home tapes and underground music. Before KKUP I was at another great station, KTAO, in Los Gatos, California, from 1970 to 1974. I was able to learn a great deal about life, radio and the human condition from one of my personal gurus, Lorenzo W. Milam. He's known here as being one of the godfathers of community radio.
The actual physical set-up at KKUP is rather humble. Although conditions are improving, we have a long way to go in terms of equipment and producing our own programs outside of the studio. We use two turntables, two cassette decks, two CD players, and an ancient open-reel deck. We recently got a fairly nice mixing console and some other stuff. Our fundraisers have been modestly successful lately.
Do you record your own music?
I've been taping since about 1970 or so. We had an avant-garde group, The Roots of Madness, that would perform at laundromats and freeway overpasses. I started multitracking my own music in 1976. It wasn't until 1984 that I started Lonely Whistle and began contacting people for music to play on the show. Now I barely have time to answer the mail, or even contact new people. My own music is just a mix of various sounds I like. Sometimes I do like a real catchy song, and then at other times, I'll really go for some serious noise.
What type of music do you prefer to play on your show?
I'll play any style of music. I always figure it is my job as the host to give the listener the best song, or at least my favourite one. It takes a hell of a lot of tape cueing, but I think it's worth it.
How long has your show been going, and what plans do you have for its future?
Like I said, I've been at KKUP since 1978. Special programs this year have included Al Margolis from New York, performing live, Also, that great home-taper, Kevyn Dymond, drove 400 miles to be on! Joe Newman (The Rudy Shcwartz Project)was here recently and that was fun. Dino DiMuro, R. Michael Torrey, Eric Muhs, and Charles Laurel also guested. Later plans include a live performance by Big City Orchestra.
Do you receive a lot of music from abroad?
Lately, I've been getting more tapes from Europe than from the US. The scene over there is very active right now, and I think that's exciting. The only problem for Americans, is the high mailing costs. I think it's great that there are Euro labels and distributors, like Kentucky Fried Royalty, who will spread the word. I've tried to feature more foreign artists on my own label. It's fun, because there's such a load of good stuff, like Andy Xport (England) and Lord Litter (Germany).
In short, what do you think about the home-taping scene, compared to mainstream music?
Our scene shouldn't even be compared to commercial music. Commercial music has more to do with being in the right place at the right time, with the fashionable product. The beauty of home-taping is in the freedom and independence - we can do anything we want to and we should. Sure, it's not all art, some of it is not even very good, but still there are a lot of fantastic and very talented individuals out there, everywhere.
Is there a band or piece of music that you've heard recently and liked a lot?
I get so many favourite songs over a year's time, that it's hard to make a small lists. Currently, it's Amy Denio's "Never Too Old to POP a Hole", Lord Litter's "Another Dark Night", Heather Perkins "The Hamster Wheel" and Steve Tefzloff's "Cuts" cassette is great.
Why did you decide to play this type of music on your show?
I'd always wanted to do something different on my show. In about 1985, I realized there was a whole sub-culture being ignored. Before that I was into playing weird jazz, avant garde, and ethnic music.
Do you think that home-taping is widespread in the USA?
Yes, I do. The only places that it isn't, are in some of the hardcore Soviet bloc countries, where they can't buy 4-track machines yet.
Do you think there are other stations in the US that do a lot to help promote home-taping?
There's a few here that do play home tapes, but still the majority is commercial rubbish. Most of the weird programs are on college radio these days. Very few independent stations like KKUP actually exist!