Editor’s note: The California Aggie recently sent reporter Katie Darfler to spend the day with KDVS to see what it feels like on the other side of the air waves.
Walking past life-sized Star Trek cardboard cut-outs, I entered into a room plastered from floor to ceiling with bright stickers and band promotion posters. In the waiting room, speakers amplified the radio show airing live just one room over.
Venturing into the depths of Freeborn Hall to KDVS, UC Davis’ freeform radio station, I spent a couple of hours with two KDVS radio hosts.
Daniel Harkin, a senior comparative literature major and KDVS radio host, opened a sticker-covered door to give me a tour of the radio station. To my left, three people with headphones on in the middle of their show; straight ahead of me, a larger music library than I’d ever seen.
As we walked down aisles of shelves of CDs and vinyl, Harkin pointed out the music genres: international, folk, funk, soul, reggae, classical, Latin, Brazilian, punk rock, hip hop, electronic and jazz. The music library holds “thousands upon thousands” of CDs and vinyl records.
“It’s the second largest music collection in California,” Harkin said.
Harkin comes in a couple hours before his show – 8 to 10 p.m. on Monday – pulls albums off the shelves, listens through them, writes down all the information and then does his show.
While KDVS is freeform radio, operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, there are some limitations as to what can be played. Certain curse words are forbidden by the Federal Communications Commission and DJs must listen through songs to be sure of their content.
Zach Barnes, a junior English and communication double major and KDVS host, found a loophole.
“With international songs you can’t really tell if they’re cursing,” Barnes said.
KDVS has a wide range of radio shows that include talk shows, sports programs and music shows.
“Our youngest volunteers are 14 years old and our oldest are probably 60 or 70,” Barnes said. “It’s just a very wide, different array of tastes and views. Whatever you like, we have it somewhere.”
After touring the station, I sat in on a music radio show with Kern Haug, a senior English major, and his co-host.
“You’re listening to Kittens in Conundrums. This is The Colonel,” said Haug, using his DJ name.
Haug is just one of the hundreds of people who volunteer at KDVS. Together, they co-host their electronic, rock, indie and experimental music radio show on Monday afternoons from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
French ambient music throbs in the background as Haug and his co-host exchange banter about their music tastes. The studio walls are sound-proof, computer screens show the KDVS website and a sound board rests on the studio desk.
CDs and vinyl pulled for the show rested in a United States Postal Service box. Their music was called a mixture of new-wave, experimental rock, early-’80s electronic and synth-punk.
In between songs, Haug showed me the ropes of being a radio host. One has to first volunteer for 50 hours to be eligible to become a DJ. Oftentimes, new volunteers will have shows in the middle of the night, such as 4 to 6 a.m.
Pesach Perlin, a sophomore classics major, walks by overhearing our conversation about late-night volunteering. His DJ name is Pesocrates.
“Four to six is so hard. I just got so tired, I couldn’t even pronounce things right,” Perlin said.
But Haug has paid his dues and now hosts his show during the daylight. Once several songs played, and Haug and his co-host updated their streaming website, it was time for an air break.
After detailing the song, artist and album of the most recent tracks for their listeners, Haug made several announcements. Then he played a brief Public Service Announcement about county and state parks in the area. He showed me a list of “carts” or specific announcements he could play throughout the show.
Around the top of the hour, radio hosts are required to announce or play a pre-recorded station ID which says, ‘KDVS Davis, 90.3 FM.’
“We’ll have famous people come down and record,” Haug said.
David Hasselhoff recorded one such station ID for KDVS.
The radio continued to play as we removed our headphones and began to talk about their time at the station.
Haug has been volunteering at KDVS for years and is clearly passionate about working at a freeform station.
The station we now know as KDVS began in an all-male dorm laundry room in 1963, and has grown tremendously since.
“People often have a conception of what a college radio station is like, or what college radio people are like,” Haug said. “I always thought a radio station would be fun, so I just wandered down here and started getting involved.”
KATIE DARFLER can be firstname.lastname@example.org.