Meet the Mad Scientist Operating Pirate Radio Station KUNT out of a Denton Dorm Room
The Mad Scientist is 19, his breadth of technological knowledge seems somewhat prodigious, and he wishes to remain anonymous. From his dorm room he broadcasts his pirate radio station, KUNT, which he describes as a pulpit for great local bands mixed with some regional, national and international acts. But mostly local.
Attached to the head bedpost in his room is a roughly six-foot long antenna that is always on, and always live. He says that if you touch it, you'll get a wicked electric jolt, and the question seems to be: Isn't he scared that he'll shock the shit out of himself when he sleeps?
"Oh yeah, me and my girlfriend are terrified of it," he says. "But it's for the cause, man." The Mad Scientist has been broadcasting KUNT from Denton since October of 2012 on 88.9 on the FM band. He selected 88.9 because it's the least used segment on the entire range of possible frequencies, and this serves two purposes. It doesn't alert any other broadcasters to his scent, and there's not much bleed from other stations into his frequency.
KUNT can't be heard too far away from UNT, and that's because of the low wattages he broadcasts through, but within that range are a lot of music listeners, and he's got some fans, including Gutterth, the infamous DFW record label and booking/promotions syndicate.
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He says he gets a little flak sometimes from other radio subcultures. "There're entire cultures of people who do radio," he explains. "Like CB people and H.A.M. radio people, and AM pirates and FM pirates. FM pirates are kind of the most looked down upon by all the groups, because CBers and H.A.M.s and some AMers, they all have licenses. So when they see an FM pirate [operating] they get kind of flustered about it. I don't know why. I guess they're just jerks."
The Mad Scientist broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, expect during school breaks, when he has to pack up and briefly return home.
Forced hiatuses aside, KUNT plays all manner of great local bands. The Mad Scientist lists some of his favorite bands to broadcast as Two Knights out of Arlington, Empire Empire out of New Hampshire, The Angelus, Dear Human, Eccotone, Deer Vibes, New Science Projects, Big Fiction, The Harlem Renaissance, Record Hop (a band that he wishes would get back together), Fishboy and Ryan Thomas Becker ("You gotta mention him!"), just to name a few.
A typical broadcast day for the Mad Scientist involves simply letting his computer playlist do its thing, interspersing Stephen Hawking-sounding station identification bumpers every 10 songs or so. Occasionally he'll put on his headset and mention a particularly cool song or band in his own voice, but it's not something he does often, mainly because he doesn't want to say anything that might get him into trouble with anyone.
Rarely, KUNT will go off the air due to technical problems, but when that happens, he simply reboots his computer and the station is back on within minutes.
The Mad Scientist agrees to do a range check with me in my car to see how far from his dorm room 88.9 broadcasts, and as we drive toward the square, the station is sometimes clear, like when we crest hills, and sometimes static, like when we drive beside tall buildings. The sound gets spotty as we pass the square and cruise toward City Hall. Once we reach the county courthouse building, a half mile east of the Square, the broadcast is nearly pure static.
We head back to his dorm room, and as we reach the north side of the Square, the station kicks in clear again. Sarah Jaffe is playing, and The Mad Scientist says he really likes her music.
He has goals of reaching out much farther than the Square and areas equidistant all around the perimeter of his dorm-room broadcast point, but for now, he seems satisfied enough that it reaches as far as it does, and that he is able to play the music he loves for the people in the area who care to listen.
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