Back in 2009 there was this community radio station started up that got a lot of attention and piqued everyone's interest. --- UtahFM was founded with the idea changing community radio after one of the major format changes KRCL has had over the past few years, broadcasting over an internet stream and originally made up of many released volunteer hosts. While the station itself received a lot of acclaim for the on-air work, behind the scenes it was almost chaos after the first year, and over time the station lost most of it's shows and original studio to be boxed up and barely broadcast out of a closet.
In 2012 the station found new ownership, and with a resurgence of talent and finding a new downtown home, the rebraned 801FM launched this past April. With a new era of community radio in mind, the station has redefined themselves and are looking to expand in ways UtahFM couldn't before. Today we're going to chat with the Co-Station Managers, Margarita Satini and John Satini, as well as Program Director for 801FM, Mike Tui, about the station's history from UtahFM until now, along with thoughts on the programming changes and looking ahead to the future. (All pictures courtesy of 801FM.)
Margarita Satini, John Satini & Mike Tui
Gavin: Hey everyone! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Margarita: Hi and thanks for taking interest in our station. We are a nonprofit, community online radio station known as 801FM.com I’d like to think that we offer an alternate to Utah’s mainstream media. I’m sure that Tui and John have their say as to what it is we offer, who we are, what we do.
John: I’m John Satini and I’m originally from California when I was young and have a great love for creativity, especially in the film/video and multi-media world.
Tui: Welp, I’m the Program Director for 801FM which apparently means It’s my job to fill the schedule with quality programing and I’m responsible for the on-air experience of the station. I had to Google that. I also devour podcasts, comics, cartoons, and I have a monthly action-figure budget. I’m a dork.
Gavin: Prior to 801FM, what was everyone's experience with community radio, either as listeners or participants?
Margarita: John Satini and I had our own online radio show called RitaLove & The Brothers and our show really catered to Pacific Islander current events, focused on Pacific Islander stereotypes, events, Pacific Islanders making a difference in our P.I. community, shedding light on our own movers and shakers, providing a forum for our Pacific Islanders to tell their stories, share their talents, and just plain get social, get involved.
John: Actually I’m still down as a volunteer at KRCL and have been for years. It’s been years since I’ve actually volunteered but I’m still on the list as one. I started with my Uncles Reggae show “Redeye Roots.”
Tui: I moved to Utah from Hawaii when I was a teenager and I was excited to find a Reggae show on KRCL. I listened to it religiously all through High School. Later I attended Dixie State and randomly found myself enrolled in a broadcasting class because I heard it was an easy A. But I ended up loving it and was able to get a show on the college station in St. George with another friend of mine. The only listeners we had were our homies at the dorms, but they’d turn on their radios, put the speakers in the windows, and blast it while everyone chilled on the grass outside. They’d call in and make requests, we’d give them shout outs. It was so much fun. That’s where I caught the bug.
Gavin: Getting right to it, when did each of you first discover UtahFM?
Margarita: I discovered UtahFM about three or four years ago. Its when RitaLove & the Brothers was born, on UtahFM’s watch.
John: I actually discovered it when listening to my sister who was invited on a UtahFM show, who later started her own show. Shortly after that I shared that show with her. “RitaLove & The Brothers.”
Tui: My cousin turned me on to UtahFM when it first started. He had a bunch of UtahFM stickers and gave them to me. It was the first time I’d ever heard of internet radio, and I loved the innovative nature of it. At that time, I didn’t have internet at home so I’d listen to it at work through headphones on my computer. It was the only place I could listen. In a weird way, the limited access I had to UtahFM made it special. A treat. Something to look forward to. UtahFM was my shining light at work. The one thing that kept me motivated to get out of bed and go in to an otherwise dreadful, miserable, depressing job. Years later, I started hosting open mics for poetry and spoken word and I knew someone who had a show on UtahFM. He asked me to have a segment on his show. We called it “SayWord” and invited a bunch of local poets and spoken word artists to come on and do their thing. That experience is what gave me the confidence to believe I could start podcasting on my own a few years ago. I never would’ve guessed I’d be in this position with the station when I first discovered UtahFM. It’s extremely humbling, and I am so grateful to be here.
Gavin: How did the opportunity come about to take over operations and the online stream?
Margarita: Well after UtahFM’s demise, my show was growing and we were providing so much community service by providing a forum to our Pacific Islanders.. we were interviewing musicians, athletes, everyday unsung heroes, we were providing a platform that they never really had, and then to have UtahFM just shut down on us was disheartening. I think we were off air for about 2-3 months but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to do something. So I started to form a plan. I’d find a place for our studio, and then I’d hit up Hector Galaviz who was our IT guy during our UtahFM days. I bugged him for weeks, gave him all sorts of scenarios as to why it was a great idea to resurrect UtahFM and finally I convinced him and we did it. Hector Galaviz, John Satini and myself.
John: RitaLove had the vision of getting UtahFM up and going again. It was in a recession for a time and she had the drive and determination to resurrect it from it’s apparitional situation.
Gavin: What was the state you found the station in when you got control of it?
Margarita: It was just dead. We didn’t have the passion that I’m sure it had at the time it was initially created. It just needed a lot of TLC.
John: In a storage unit. That pretty much sums it up in a whole. We found all the equipment in a storage unit downtown Salt Lake City collecting dust.
Tui: When I first joined UtahFM, they were trying to bounce back and rebuild themselves from the huge meltdown that shut them down and took them off the air. There were only three shows airing weekly, and the rest of the time there was an mp3 CD with about 100 songs playing on a loop. Margarita had been paying out of her own pocket for the rent and licensing for two years just to keep the station alive. It was nothing like what I remembered when I was coming on as a guest years before. But it was exciting. I saw a platform with so many possibilities. It was like standing in front of a blank canvas with a million different colors of paint.
Gavin: At what point did you first move it downtown onto 2nd East and start to rebuild it?
John: I can’t remember, two years ago I think? I could be wrong.
Margarita: That was a while back – we are now residents at the Utah Arts Alliance which is the perfect fit for us. We feel that we’re surrounded by kindred spirits. Other artists, musicians, maybe even Liberals. Ha!
Gavin: What was the process like in putting it back in working order and getting original programming back on the air?
John: It has been a journey. It’s the rags to riches story of online radio. It went from dusting off the equipment in the storage unit and moving from place to place and dealing with different personnel from time to time switching them in and out. It’s been quite the adventure.
Tui: When I saw how many open slots were available, I was excited. It was an opportunity to create something original. Something new. We’ve been very selective about bringing shows on. We didn’t want to just fill slots with button pushers and board operators, or people who wanted to do it because they thought it would be cool to be on the radio. We wanted to do something different. Give the station a new voice. An identity. The idea was to fill the schedule with original programs, and offer unique entertainment that listeners couldn’t get anywhere else. So we really take time to help each show grow and develop into its own living, breathing organism. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It’s been difficult and frustrating at times, dealing with old equipment, slow internet connections, hardware malfunctions, etc. But witnessing this station evolve, seeing the passion and dedication of all of the hosts and staff doing everything they can to help it grow has been incredible. Completely inspiring. Everything has happened in baby steps thus far. One show at a time. And each show started differently. Some were existing podcasts that wanted to move to a live show format. Others started as an idea in the middle of a random conversation. Some were just happy accidents that became a “thing.” But somehow, we just got really lucky and found ourselves surrounded by the most talented, funny, creative, and passionate individuals. I feel very fortunate to be a part of something so amazing.
Gavin: What were some of the first shows you brought in and how did they fare in the new format?
Tui: The first show we brought in was A Steady Diet of Music with Brandon Hobbs and Nick T Skunk. We had been recording the show at Brewvies and releasing it as a bi-weekly podcast. Marc Olsen, who had been (and still is) my partner in crime in the podcasting world, had the idea to have Brandon and Skunk try doing their show as a live broadcast on UtahFM. The podcast was a talk show. Brandon and Skunk would bring on musicians and attack them with random questions that had nothing to do with music. It was hilarious. Listeners really got to know the artist as a person, and it felt more like “haning out” and funny stories and laughing, rather than an interview. I liked Marc’s idea a lot so I pitched it to Brandon and Skunk. They were somewhat hesitant about moving the podcast to a live show because it meant they’d have to change the format of their show, and Skunk fears change (his words, not mine). The first live show at the station was uncomfortable for them and they didn’t like it at all. I thought for sure they’d want to go back to podcasting. But they put their heads together and started coming up with new segments, adding playlists of music to their show, and inviting the guests to play acoustic sets live in studio. Later they added Andrew as a co-host, and now they are a hilarious trifecta of random questions and dick jokes, and I absolutely love their show.
Tui: The next show we brought on was Femme Fatalacast with Cori, Syd, and Kelsie. I met Cori when we were both guests on the podcast Pop Culture Massacre, and I was immediately impressed with her. She was funny, intelligent, witty, and beautiful. So, of course, when Cori told me she was thinking about starting a podcast of her own and asked if I’d help her out, I didn’t even have to think about it. She was perfect to host a show. It was a no-brainer. Her idea was to have a show hosted by a panel of women, talking from the female perspective about a different topic each week, but marketed to a male audience. Femme Fatalacast debuted on UtahFM the next week. Their show is big on listener interaction through Facebook, website polls, calls, and Google hangouts. Cori has an advice segment called “Tips from the Taco Cart”, Syd takes confessions from listeners and gives them penance, and Kelsie does “Noobs with Boobs” where she tries something she’s never done before and talks about her experience. It’s a completely original show and I’m so proud of what these girls have created. After those two shows proved to be successful, I just kept running in to and meeting all the right people. And one after another, started bringing shows on. It’s been completely serendipitous every single time.
Gavin: At what point did you decide you wanted to re-brand the station, and what made you choose 801 FM?
Margarita: 2013 – we just felt it was time to separate ourselves from UtahFM’s history and rebrand with a name that represented the new face of 801FM.
John: Rebranding has always been an idea I’ve been playing with because UtahFM wasn’t doing it for me since the City of Salt Lake was getting bigger and more people seem to be moving in and digging what it had to offer. I ran the idea first through Rita Love and she loved it. It was an idea that was suppose to have a more city swag. I stepped outside of a coffee shop and pointed out to the city and my vision of this new brand and everyone liked it.
Gavin: What was the process like in putting a new brand on the station and essentially resurrecting it?
John: Well, the name was first and most important to me it was a name I had thought of for quite some time after being under UtahFM. It just seemed a little catered towards an elderly type feel; I love the elderly don’t get me wrong. I really wanted to move the city though on the marketing side with something that had that city swag. So I came up with 801FM.
Tui: The process took a lot longer and was a lot more involved that we had originally planned. We went through a bunch of different logo ideas, went back and forth on what to use for a slogan, had to put a new website together. And because none of the original founding members of UtahFM were with the station anymore, we had to do a lot of digging for information, passwords, account numbers, it got kind of chaotic. We planned on making our first public appearance as 801FM at FanX Comic Con in April. We had a vendor booth to promote the station and raise funds, and two of our shows, Femme Fatalacast and Beyond The Routine, were scheduled to do live panel recordings in the podcast theater. So the week before FanX was a scramble. We finalized the logo, Skunk got T-shirts printed up, Scott Rogers got us a banner, Johnny Tuero got us a vendor booth, and Justin Jones from our tech team built our new website. It turned out to be a huge success. We gained a lot of exposure and got some new listeners and fans. Everyone pitched in with money for printing costs, hosts took turns running the booth, several of us were able to get celebrity interviews for the station. It was a new experience for all of us, and we had no idea what the hell we were doing, but we crushed it. I was so incredibly proud of everyone.
Gavin: What made you decide to move into the Utah Arts Hub as your new home?
Margarita: I’ll let Tui answer that question but it was something we felt we needed to do.
Tui: The studio space we were in before was just depressing. It was dark, drab, heavy, and I’m pretty sure the building was haunted. On top of that, the Janitor didn’t like Skunk and was mean to him. And, I’m sorry, if you’ve ever met Skunk and you don’t like him, you’re probably some kind of jerk. In addition to that, we were just about to launch the rebrand to 801FM and we figured with the new name and new image, it was time for a change of scenery. I started looking around for office space we could move to, and the Utah Arts Hub came up. Walking around that place just had a bright, creative, vibrant feeling to it. Surrounded by artists, musicians, dancers, and creativity, our people. Derek Dyer showed us around, and after I walked through the building, I knew it was the spot. It was home. We are very very fortunate to be at the Utah Arts Hub.
Gavin: What was it like setting up the studio and putting together a new base of operations?
Tui: I can’t talk enough about how much everyone pulled together and helped out. From packing up and cleaning the old studio, to moving all the equipment out in trucks, providing storage, and moving everything in at the Arts Hub, it was pretty easy. When you have a team of people so dedicated and willing to help, it just goes smoothly.
Gavin: Being an internet station, you're staying with the original theme of playing whatever you'd like and saying what you'd like without FCC regulations. How is it having that kind of freedom in the programming?
Margarita: I think its what allows our DJ’s to thrive, they get to be themselves without “BIG BROTHER” hovering over them, controlling their freedom to just BE.
John: That freedom is great knowing it’s there. I don’t curse on our show much respect to RitaLove but it’s good to know that there are no restraints.
Tui: I can’t imagine ever doing it any other way. It’s complete artistic and creative freedom. A lot of the shows we’ve brought on are not safe for work and have a heavy dose of adult content. But we also have a lot of shows that are totally clean. And then we have what I call our “PG-13” shows. That kind freedom, to let each show have its own personality, is crucial to the diversity we are striving for and the voice of 801FM. It also allows us to confidently boast that we really do provide entertainment and programing you can’t get anywhere else on the traditional dial. If we had to subject ourselves to FCC regulations, it wouldn’t be 801FM, and I wouldn’t be here.
Gavin: Since the relaunch, what shows have you brought on board to fill the schedule?
John: Tui would know, he’s the program director. I could tell you the ones we had to let go? but on a different setting, hahahaha!
Tui: Well, first I need to give some love to Heart of Darkness, hosted by Ryan Sessions. He’s been doing his industrial, experimental, electronic show since the early days of UtahFM and it’s the longest running program on the station. Aside from his show and RitaLove & The Brothers, all the rest of the programs were brought on over the past year. So, here they are in no particular order:
A Steady Diet of Music: Musicians talking about everything except music…. but sometimes music.
Femme Fatalacast: A cultural roundtable discussion, tackling a new topic each week.
Dead Air Radio: For all things Horror. Film, music, toys, cultural discussion and appreciation.
A Tree With Roots: For the preservation of song. A vinyl journey through the history of music.
A-Holes by Society: Debauchery and Hedonism. Don’t take ‘em too seriously, they’re a bunch of A-Holes.
Radio 616: Tales from the Multiverse: Weekly Wednesday comic book rants, reviews, and spotlights.
Westside Shaman: Spirituality from the Streets: Metaphysical discussions for the common man.
Beyond The Routine: Weekly dose of pop culture, tech gadgets, movies, and video games.
The Dating Apocalypse: Stories and discussions about the horrors of the dating world.
Rabble Rabble Rabble: A comedy show bringing you current events, news, and stuff and things.
Me, Me, Meee!: Rants, opinions, and jabbering from the mind of a strong, assertive woman.
3DS Show: The official show for Utah 3DS Streetpass. Discussions and reviews about the House of Mario.
Get Up Stand Up: Bringing the newest and latest in Reggae music.
No School Like The Old School: The hottest Oldies, Soul, and R&B.
Gavin: One of the bigger draws to the original UtahFM was it gave local music a home to thrive after almost being entirely wiped clean from FM radio. Are you making any headway to add local music back into regular rotation when there are no shows airing?
Margarita: I feel that this is one of our station's greatest strengths. Proving a platform for our local artists to be heard where would NOT get this opportunity with a mainstream station.
Tui: We absolutely want to support and promote local artists. But what we are doing when shows aren’t airing live, is playing recorded re-broadcasts of the shows. So the focus right now is on bringing in original, unique, quality shows to the programming so that any time you tune in, you’re getting something entertaining. One of our shows. Every show has a theme, a niche. I feel shows like A Steady Diet of Music, who spotlight a single artist as a guest for an entire episode promotes them miles beyond putting their music in a playlist to be heard randomly throughout the day. We want to be more than a digital jukebox. Of course we still support local music and always will, but I think we are revamping the way we support and promote them.
Gavin: For those who would like to contribute and get their own show on the air, what do they need to do?
Tui: Go to www.801FM.com and write to us on the “contact us” page. I’ll email you an application and we can talk about what you want to do. But bring your A game. We want original ideas. I’d also love to get some more podcasts to join us and switch to a live format. I’m really picky, but I’m also very open minded and I love brainstorming. Everyone has a voice, everyone has a story. So if you have an idea for a show or you already have a podcast that you think would do well live, let’s start talking. You have a voice. We want to hear it.
Gavin: Are there any plans to expand beyond what you've built now (aside from shows) or are you comfortable where things are at the moment?
Margarita: Right now we plan to focus on adding more quality shows, and eventually down the road I can see 801FM.com expanding.
John: Yes! RitaLove along with my wife LadyHawk hahaha all these alias names here, are in the process of putting some big events together that will be held annually for the entire City.
Tui: Oh God YES!!! If I’m ever comfortable with where we are at, that’s a sign I’m getting bored and I’m in the wrong place. We don’t want to overwhelm ourselves and try to do too much too quickly, so we are moving in phases. Phase 1 is just wrapping up: the rebrand, new logo and website, getting at least one show on each day of the week, and getting all our shows recorded and rebroadcast throughout the day. The next move is to make a big push to have a strong presence in Salt Lake. Lots of live events, fundraisers, conventions, you’ll start seeing us around town a lot more, so make sure you come say hi. We also really want to reach out to the community and be a part of what’s going on. We don’t just want to promote local music, we want to promote local business, art, food, we want to promote Salt Lake. We are also experimenting and figuring out ways people can find us and listen to us as easily as possible. Because we aren’t on the traditional airwaves, it will continue to be an issue we deal with. But we have absolute freedom and aren’t subject to the FCC or anyone else, so it’s a trade off.
Gavin: What do you hope to achieve with the station now, both with the community and listenership?
John: My biggest concern is RitaLove and her vision; her dream that she had from the beginning. She has shared that with me from time and time again and I can see it in her eyes how much she really loves getting in touch with the people in the 801 - SLC through the internet. Providing all sorts of avenues for them to be informed or to listen to music or to even come together. I do tend to give her a hard time here and there and she gives it back 10-fold but it’s okay, she’s my big sister. So sister then listeners for me. It’s always been my job to get her back, that’s what I do best.
Gavin: What can we expect from all of you and the station over the rest of the year?
John: Well, I usually can be a tough one to deal with because once I see how something can get from point A to point B it’s hard to negotiate with me, it really is. I do slowly start to understand that there are other ways to get there so I’m humble occasionally by RitaLove. Tui is a mover and shaker I can totally see the passion he has for the online radio station and radio period, you can’t teach that to anyone that’s just pure LOVE for the field. We are blessed to have him part of 801FM, He’s the engine that gets the car moving Rita is the Driver and I’m in the passenger seat as second eyes. What to expect: with minds like this expect nothing but big and little moves but all lead to greatness.
Tui: We are a completely different station now. We are still in infancy stage. Still growing. We’re still finding our voice and figuring out what we are. But the ball is rolling, and we don’t have any plans to stop or slow down. I am so incredibly grateful to be in this position, working with such amazing people, and having a blast doing it. I’m thankful that Margarita and John saw something in me and gave me a chance to come in and help them build this thing. Thank you both so much.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
John: Yes. RugbyMade.com has been a sponsor of the station for a while now and www.jayhawkfilms.com for shooting the RitaLove promo vid. Thanks to City Weekly, you’re the best.
Tui: Follow me on Instagram: @gartogg. I use my Gamorrean Guard action figure as an avatar and everyone in my life is represented by an action figure or a toy. We go around and take pictures. It’s ridiculously silly, but it’s cute. I also want to promote Johnny Tuero’s podcasts, Pop Culture Massacre (geeky reviews and stuff), What Was That? (a paranormal show), and Ears on Main Street (all things Disney). He had these shows on 801FM, but due to scheduling and time constraints he couldn’t continue doing them as live shows anymore. But you can listen and subscribe to the podcasts on iTunes and Stitcher. And I want to send a shout out to KCQN. Chett Tapp’s 80’s New Wave internet radio station. Listen to them when you’re not listening to 801FM. Support all of us internet radio freaks. Much love.