XBOM Radio offers a “radioactive” broadcast
A mushroom cloud in the distance dominates the clear blue winter sky in early 1951 – the first of a series of atomic tests at the Nevada Test Site (now the Nevada National Security Site) in just 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Imagine for a moment if, instead of being isolated from the post-war tests, the nuclear bombs had wiped out most of the population – except for a few lucky survivors who live amid the fallout in the city of neon .
A survivor named Geiger plays music from a bunker in the Mojave Desert. He’s an interesting and somewhat crazy character that resembles Hunter S. Thompson. And he does not play what he wants. He plays what he has.
It’s the creative and imaginative story of XBOM Radio, an online radio station and HD3 channel founded by “Gonzo” Greg Spillane and Matt Zophiel that spans the Las Vegas metro area to Barstow, California. It’s the tagline: “Post-apocalyptic hit radio from an underground bunker in the Mojave just outside the Lost Vegas radioactive blast zone.”
During the day, Spillane works for a local radio station. He is the voice behind Geiger. Zophiel spends his days working in the tech industry. After the sun goes down, XBOM Radio takes center stage.
The duo took the “weird” audio project to the airwaves around 2014. It grew out of the carefully selected playlists used between acts of a post-apocalyptic burlesque show where Zophiel was the ring master and Spillane filled the role of sound guy after the DJ is gone.
Zophiel tasked Spillane with finding music that would match the vibe of the world ending in 1967 and similar to what legendary DJ Wolfman Jack would play.
At the start of the burlesque concert, Spillane’s playlist consisted overwhelmingly of rockabilly hits.
“The thing about rockabilly is if you play all rockabilly it gets really Caucasian really fast,” Spillane said as he and Zophiel laughed. “From there, we added soul, pop, it’s this crazy mix that it ended up being. The idea was that it was a radio station to support the Nuclear Bombshells Show, the burlesque troupe. So it originally started out as a hacked station that may or may not have originally aired in Wasteland Weekend, the annual post-apocalyptic festival that takes place in the Mojave.
An opportunity has arisen to put XBOM Radio on the airwaves to reach the masses.
“Then we put it on the internet because you can, and it’s been going on ever since,” Spillane said. “It ended up on channel HD3 because the radio stations I work with bought a fancy new HD transmitter that has extra channels. And they said, ‘We have two. We just need another to fill in the other,” and I said, “Well, I got something. ”
HD radio stations broadcast a digital signal over traditional radio frequencies, allowing up to three additional channels of new content. The sound quality is inferior to a good FM signal.
“I really think the optimal listening experience reduces the amount of AM sounds,” Matt said.
Initially, XBOM Radio was put on channel HD3 as a test, “because it has AM sound, and I seriously think they forgot it’s on”,
XBOM is basically a pirated station that exists between mainstream radio frequencies. There is no marketing to raise awareness. He is accidentally discovered by listeners trying to find a soundtrack for their ride.
“People find us organically. They come to town or live here and click scan on their radios, and we pop up. ‘What is that? What is happening?’ “said Spillane.
“Wasteland people use it as background music at work,” Zophiel added.
Between her day job and her voice-over gigs, Spillane spends her free time finding music and content for XBOM Radio on YouTube and internet forums where record collectors document rare tracks.
“We wanted that vintage Vegas feel 50 years after the bombshell,” Zophiel said.
The cut-off point for most of the music is the Cuban Missile Crisis, though the timeline does get a bit fuzzy as some 1930s tunes and a bit of punk are sprinkled in. “said Spillane.
Between the groovy tracks, vintage throwbacks, and catchy instrumental tunes, there are ballads and radio spots that most today would find distasteful, controversial, and bordering on offensive.
“There’s a number of songs that are pretty awful to hear in our waking days, ‘Bobby Sox Squaw’ for example, that comes up every once in a while and I guess it’s presented as a historical document,” said Spillane. “There are also some terribly bad songs, mostly for kitsch purposes. For example, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” set in a devastated post-apocalyptic hellscape is, well, on purpose.
In a way, XBOM Radio is meant to spark a cultural conversation. Various characters appear in satirical radio spots dreamed up by the burlesque troupe between shows. The listeners are introduced to Mr. Cross, who perpetually runs for president of the trash, though no one knows if that’s even a thing.
Then there’s Neon the Last Show Girl and the sultry-voiced Ringmaster, who appear between tracks with satirical one-liners.
“The weird post-apocalypse ads were reflected when we were at live events for a weekend or a week at a time,” Zophiel said. “The cast would sit around eating and come up with ‘What’s the gag the censors won’t let us do? And we would come back with about 10 of them.
Spillane would invite the troupe to his home studio to record the spots, and he would produce them for the station. In addition to fictional advertisements, it mixes real wartime and government public service announcements about “duck and cover” exercises and the dangers of nuclear war.
Newscasts from the golden age of broadcast journalism and old jingles from recognizable fast food brands are also included to transport listeners to another dimension of time.
Spillane and Zophiel agree that XBOM Radio is a way to rebel against the grit of today’s corporate-controlled radio.
“It’s fun to do radio without having to look at the charts and play what all the other stations in the world are playing. Just doing something new and making it sound good, and finding all the good things to put between records that match the personality, that’s the philosophy of this thing,” Spillane said.
Zophiel says that corporate radio has “done everything to get everything human out of it. There is no DJ. They have the scientifically designed top 40. Each track is an earworm because it uses this 4×4 progression. You could make $100,000 a year as a DJ in the 80s because the ads came to you, not the station. And those guys, there’s no place for those guys in the modern radio industry.
While Greg echoes that sentiment, XBOM Radio uses much of the same technology used in pop radio, such as categories and algorithms.
The founders accept that the station could disappear from the HD3 airwaves tomorrow, even if it would continue to exist on the Internet, where it broadcasts 24/7 on XBOMRadio.com.
“There’s been talk of doing covert late-night radio shows on rotation,” Zophiel said. “There would be no Internet marketing. You would just have to drive and hear it and say, “What the hell is that?” And every 15 minutes or so we’d announce, “We’re doing something weird at this time every weekend” and let it grow on its own.
With its kitsch and social commentary through music, XBOM Radio offers a unique look at the history of the mid-20th century, a time when racism was rampant, the struggle for gender equality intensified and protests against the realities of war graced television. screens and analogue radio.
Listeners can help spread the music by donating on its website, following the station on social media, and spreading the word about it.