They don't have a high-tech studio or backing from Clear Channel. But Quincy "Q. Dot" Henry and Maurice Thornton still reach the masses armed with only a couple of laptops, an Internet connection and a pair of microphones at Henry's Federal Way apartment.
On Wednesday nights, hundreds tune in to GoJuiceRadio.com to listen to the duo’s talk and local music show, Tre’dmarks Radio. And Henry kicked off a recent show with the story of how he lost a wad of cash.
“I reach into my pocket, and there’s nothing there,” he said with an incredulous grin. “Nothing. Not even lint. It’s not like the pocket fell out. The money was just gone.”
Thornton laughs. “So you don’t remember puttin’ your hand in your pocket?”
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“I wanna think it fell out,” Henry replies. “Either way, the only thing helping me sleep at night is whoever got it must have needed it more than I did at the moment.”
The scene was several steps removed from the corporate broadcasting confines of, say, KUBE-FM (93.3). Between segments, Henry played bass-heavy local hip-hop tracks he had cued up in iTunes. The show’s mascot, a 4-month-old bulldog named Bongo, scampered around, vying for attention.
At one point there was a knock at the door and J.D. Hawthorne, aka rapper Fame Rilla, was suddenly part of the show.
Over the course of an hour, the conversation took spontaneous turns, from the recent Picasso exhibit at Seattle Art Museum, to the genius of Dr. Dre and Kanye West, to promotion tips and how the Internet both helps and hurts independent musicians.
“The Internet has really spoiled us,” Thornton says. “It’s given us too much of the outside influences, so a lot of people forget there’s a lot of good local music right in their area.”
That’s an underlying theme on Go Juice Radio and local shows and podcasts that are developing cult followings online. With corporate radio airwaves still largely unattainable for local musicians, many are taking matters into their own hands and launching their own shows.
Henry is a rapper. With little broadcasting experience – just a brief stint on the college station at Central Washington University in Ellensburg – he launched Go Juice Radio in 2007 to promote his music and his record label, Tre’dmark Records.
“I looked at it as a way to just promote my stuff, and it freakishly got a whole bunch of listeners,” he said. “I started checking the stats and, lo and behold, it was getting 600, 700 listeners a day. And I wasn’t promotin’ it.”
Henry estimated that about 30,000 listeners tune in to Go Juice Radio monthly to hear cuts from local artists – Dyme Def, Spaceman, EvergreenOne & Todd Sykes, Lisa Dank – alongside top 40 hits.
“For the first two years it was on, it was just out of control,” Henry said. “It kind of came at the right time. Not only was I gaining notoriety as an artist, I started seeing that a lot of other artists locally were starting to really make pushes nationally.”
LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL
Around the time Go Juice Radio was gaining traction, the seeds for the Northwest Convergence Zone were being planted down the road in Tacoma. Former radio disc jockeys Darrell Fortune and Joe Cain launched the podcast in June 2009, inspired by their passion for local music and the relative lack of media in South Sound.
“I had lived over in Moses Lake and around Spokane, and Spokane is about the same size as Tacoma, and they have a ton of stations,” Fortune said. “And I noticed that Seattle radio and the Seattle media completely ignore Tacoma, especially when it comes to music.
“I was listening to a lot of podcasts on iTunes and so forth, and it just clicked. And I’m like, well, I’ve done radio. Joe’s done radio. We have equipment. We just bought a few more things and said, ‘Let’s try it, let’s just see what happens.’ ”
The duo started broadcasting from Fortune’s garage in June 2009, but has since temporarily relocated to show producer David Davenport’s home in University Place while Fortune moves. Fortune’s crew includes technician Alex Davenport (aka Wonderboy), social media specialist Patrick Mangum (the Saint), and sound technician Craig Sharman (Squeeze). Big Wheel Stunt Show drummer Justin Gimse and local singer-songwriter Sherri Minter, also known as Voxxy Vallejo, co-host the show.
Over the course of a year and a half, they’ve brought a who’s who of the local music and comedy scenes down to the “man cave,” from club regulars Ben Union, Vicci Martinez and Roman Holiday to local legends the Fabulous Wailers, the Sonics and Little Bill Engelhardt.
“I like what they’re doing,” said local rocker Ben Fuller, who has been on a few times to talk about his band, China Davis, and the 253 Heart festival he promotes. “It’s pretty cool. It takes a lot of ambition to put local music out there, and I think they’ve helped out.”
“They’re really into it. They’re really pumped,” said Reylan Fernandez, lead singer of Tacoma garage-rock band the Dignitaries. “They’ve got what they’re doing down to a science. It’s supportive and it gets you out there.”
OUT OF SEATTLE’S SHADOW
When the show started, only friends, family and a few random strangers listened. Fortune points to last year’s anniversary party at Tacoma’s Stonegate Pizza as an eye-opening turning point: 400 people showed up and the show’s producers stepped up their efforts to promote and attract top-notch guests.
By late last year, the Convergence Zone had grown popular enough to take fifth place in the Best Radio Personality category of King 5’s Best of Western Washington poll.
Fortune said 10,000 to 15,000 monthly listeners now tune in online at www.nw convergencezone.com or download the show from iTunes.
Fuller could definitely tell someone was listening when he was a guest last spring. “There was definitely a spike (in Web traffic) after that,” he said of his own site. “I noticed all of a sudden we got at least 500 more hits, which is pretty big.”
Fernandez said the Dignitaries got 100-plus “likes” on Facebook following their first appearance. “In our little Tacoma bubble, we can go out so far, but the Internet brings you out to the world,” he said.
The show’s influence is likely to expand this week. Producers will launch a 24-hour music site on Friday that will showcase local, independent music from around the Northwest at www.nwczradio.com.
“This isn’t a full-time thing,” Fortune said. “This is all out of love. I don’t expect to ever go full time, make enough money where I can quit my job.
“Really what we love is getting the word out about these talented people, and quit taking a back seat to Seattle and the media up there, and to show people that Tacoma and the South Sound really have something going on besides drive-bys.”
Ernest Jasmin: 253-274-7389 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/tacomarockcity