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An interview with pirate radio guru Andrew Yoder
by Gareth Branwyn

There be pirates in these United States! No, not the guys in the funny hats who twist their beards and snarl "Argh," and no, not the rogue bandits who tool around in Road Warrior-like vehicles threatening UN relief convoys. These pirates are far more benign. They come from diverse walks of life and don't neccesarily stand out in a crowd. They're regular Janes and Joes with a secret (and illegal) after-hours hobby. When no one's looking, they slip into the sheds behind their houses or climb into their cars, or head into the woods to set up shop as illegal "pirate" radio stations. They live out DJ fantasies, spread religious, political, and kook propaganda, or just wreak havoc over the airwaves. Their stations are cobbled together from home audio equipment, Radio Shack odds and ends, and transmitters built from kits or from modified ham gear.
The stations sport names like Radio Virus (WRV), Voice of the Graveyard (WTNU), Black Liberation Radio, Voice of Stench, Testosterone-Free Radio (WYMN), and Anarchy One. The stations that fear detection from the FCC blip onto the airwaves at unannounced times and on different frequencies. They play their music, say their piece, make a few raspberries at the FCC and then disappear back into the ether. The bolder ones, those who want to challenge the corporate-friendly policies of the FCC (which make it impossible for low-income, community-based radio to exist), act like regular commercial broadcasters. They announce schedules, give out their address and phone number, have call-ins, and generally operate in steely defiance of The Man. Several of these stations, like Free Radio Berkeley, are engaged in ongoing court battles to stay on the air.

Andrew Yoder has tracked pirate radio for over a decade. He's written a number of books on the subject, the most recent, a primer and history called Pirate Radio: The Incredible Saga of America's Underground Illegal Broadcasters (HighText). Yoder spends countless hours surfing the hissing, crackling, and garbled voices found on the radio fringes. He keeps detailed logs of his travels, hastily scribbled into notebooks, and records pirates for posterity whenever he gets the chance. We tracked him down on the OTHER lawless communications frontier (the Internet) to ask him what's up with pirate radio.

Station IDs!
STIM: Andrew Yoder:
"What are some of the weirdest things that you've heard over the airwaves?" "One genuinely weird station that I heard was WPIG. The station was operated by "Ira," who sang lots of kid's songs a cappella with a speech impediment. [...] When the FCC finally closed WPIG, it was discovered that Ira was broadcasting from a group home in New Jersey."


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