Riff Raff

Radio Free Richmond For the last three years, Richard Edmondson has played a cat-and-mouse game with the Federal Communications Commission. Edmondson operates San Francisco Liberation Radio, a tiny 40-watt station that broadcasts on S.F.'s west side. The station airs leftist political commentary and music and news programs six hours a day; Edmondson himself is a radical middle-aged Rasputin. Micropower stations like his are romantically individualistic, but they're technically illegal; the FCC is notorious for making life very difficult for people like Edmondson. But he now has a bigger beef: He says that a flunky for big-bucks stations KFOG and KNBR set him up for a bust. He actually has an audiotape from an exchange at last April's annual National Association of Broadcasters meeting. (The

NAB is a trade organization and political lobbying group for corporate radio.) On the tape, one can hear KFOG and KNBR Chief Engineer Bill Ruck presenting photos clipped from local press of SFLR's house, equipment, and DJs directly to Beverly Baker, chief of the Compliance and Information Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission. Edmondson says the FCC has since slapped SFLR with a $10,000 fine. "I have no intention of paying the fine," Edmondson says. Ruck's actions were pretty low, he feels: "What this tape shows is that Mr. Ruck is essentially an informant for the FCC ... and such actions are fundamentally anti-democratic and typify the behavior of a greedy, mendacious corporate thug." Ruck -- who at the NAB meeting said he was speaking for himself and not the radio stations -- declined to comment on this charge. Also on the tape, the FCC's Baker says she welcomes an era where the big guys help stamp out the little ones: "Our goal is to get them all off the air, and we're depending on broadcasters to let us know about violations in their area, especially if they cause interference or if they are causing economic harm by securing advertisers." Edmondson says that SFLR has done nothing to warrant being turned in: "We have not made a dime on SFLR and all donations go back into maintaining the station." And on the tape, Ruck concedes that the station's not causing any technical problems, either: "The effects have been fairly benign, and I have to be honest, it really has not crippled KFOG." Edmondson's mad. "The FCC and Ruck feel that we don't have a right to exist," he says. "They would rather that we crawl into a hole and die, but we are not going to do that. On the contrary, we are going to broadcast as long as possible." Ruck says he staunchly supports community radio in the Bay Area, but doesn't endorse an entity that runs contrary to established law: "There is an open public and free method to change FCC rules -- one simply finds a problem and files a petition for rule-making. The commission will review the petition, and if there is enough public response they will change it. It's just that simple and has no other cost than time." Ruck's got a point of course, but it's harder to do that when the big dogs spend all their free time stomping on the little ones. (R.A.)

That Was Fast In the months since the A&R hounds started baying early this year, Creeper Lagoon learned one of rock's most tired lessons: Overnight success can take a long time. The band is a four-piece indie pop outfit that pastes slacker rock to looped beats and subtle samples. Although various Creeper lineups have released a few independent EPs and singles over the past seven years, the band didn't become a local live fixture until the 1995 Noise Pop Festival. Things began to get interesting earlier this year when some of the group's tapes ended up in the right hands and created a buzz; by the time Creeper played three dates in Los Angeles in July, the audiences were stocked with major-label types. Offers had been fluttering around after the band released an EP on tiny Oakland rap label Dogday, but the betting line was on Dreamworks, David Geffen's new label. (A big hint: Dreamworks A&R guy Luke Wood helped record the EP.) Pretty soon the group was talking with the Dust Brothers, the production wizards behind the last Beck record; things were moving fast for a band that didn't even have a solid lineup until early 1997. To combat the hype, Creeper kept their profile low, trying to avoid the type of very public bidding war that brought a much-rumored $1 million-plus to Third Eye Blind. Singer/guitarist Sharky Laguana (yeah, really) says the Dust Brothers quietly offered to put out the first record on their own label, Nickel Bag. He says Dreamworks made an offer around the same time. The solution: sign to Dreamworks, who would license the first record to Nickel Bag. This arrangement retains the band's indie cred, sort of, though the distinction is a bit fine; while Nickel Bag isn't technically a Dreamworks subsidiary, Dust Bro Mike Simpson is himself an A&R guy for Dreamworks. According to Creeper manager (and S.F. Examiner contributing rock writer) Jordan Kurland, the band has been negotiating with the label for months, but only completed the deal recently. He didn't want to talk details, but Laguana says the cash promised for "more than one record" was modest but "competitive" with other labels. "We didn't get the shaft," says Laguana. The Dust Brothers will remix three of the tracks off the same $3,000 recording Creeper has had lying around for a year now, and the band will retrack three more songs with another producer in Los Angeles. For now, both Laguana and Kurland are playing up the Nickel Bag connection. "We're a young enough band that I don't want the baggage of a major," says Laguana. "We don't want anyone to think this is a setup for Dreamworks." (J.S.)

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