Hello, thank you.

I am Matthew Bates. Somewhere along the way, many years ago, my nom de guerre became Mat Diablo. Silly, I know. I am professionally interested in the creation, discovery and consumption of music and radio content. I am personally interested in classic motorcycles, anything snow-related, family, and churros.

I AM GETTING MY TWITTER ON.
TeeVee
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Sunday
Sep112011

RIP KRZQ.

So- this is considerably sadder than I thought it would be. And it's ironic. On the day that KRZQ is to be laid to rest, I am attending a conference in San Francisco where one of the primary topics of discussion is the rapid migration of listeners from old radio- stations like KRZQ- to new radio- personalized radio services like the company that I currently work for. In that sense, it's not surprising that the crazy circus known as KRZQ has run it's course- but it is still tremendously sad.

I've been working on this post since last Thursday, hoping to do justice to what KRZQ actually meant. My good friend Stephen Kallao wrote a piece about the recent demise of Chicago's long-standing Alternative radio station, Q101. You can read it here. If you read it, you will see the profound effect that one radio station, and one group of individuals can have on the lives of their listeners. KRZQ was my Q101.

At noon today, KRZQ-FM in Reno, NV will cease to broadcast it's "Alternative" format in favor of a "CHR" "Hot AC" radio format.

I worked at KRZQ from 1998-1999ish and again from 2002ish-2006. During that time, I held a variety of positions- starting as overnight DJ and ending as Program Director. I've been lucky- I've had a tremendously rewarding career in this business of music, and it is all due to KRZQ. I mean that in the holistic sense- if not for it's mere existence, I wouldn't have connected with and identified the culture and music that has informed my life up until this point. If I hadn't worked at KRZQ, there's nowhere else that I could have received the experience, education, and perspective that allowed me to proceed and succeed in this business of music. And if it weren't for the people- the family of KRZQ, I wouldn't be the person I am today. I would just be an awkward, unhappy, music-obsessed kid from Gardnerville, NV. I would have never found my calling and my community. I owe everything that I have today to KRZQ. 

And that's what's so goddamn sad about this whole thing- the idea that kids that really need it- as I did- will not be given the opportunities that were presented to me just by virtue of KRZQ's existence.. Whether it's the culture that they are exposed to as a listener, or the guidance that they would be given as a part of the family- it's gone. 

KRZQ really should have never existed in Reno. But the fact that it did had a tremendous impact on the entire culture of the Reno/Tahoe area. It signed on in March of 1992 and announced itself by playing "High" by The Cure. At the time, there were only a handful of radio stations in the entire country doing what they did. It was, at it's inception, an Alternative station in the the truest sense of the word. Not Disturbed, but The Smiths. Not Linkin Park, but Catherine Wheel. Not Godsmack, but The Cranberries. And like I said- there was no indication that Reno was the kind of city that needed or would accept this sort of progressive contemporary cultural outlet. But KRZQ changed all that. It fundamentally changed the entire make-up of Reno and the surrounding area for the better. By bringing concerts that otherwise would have never stopped in that sleepy town, by identifying emerging movements like the snow/skate culture and providing a place for those fans to congregate around. By showing awkward kids that it was OK to be different. Those kids are all adults now, and I shudder to think where they would be without KRZQ's influence and legacy. It's impossible that the mere existence of KRZQ did not have a profound effect on the entire cultural make up of the Reno-Tahoe area.

My personal story is a familiar one- I was raised in a rural area, devoid of the kind of culture and activity that would appeal to a music and literature obsessed 12 year old kid. I was profoundly unhappy, but I had no idea what to do about it. KRZQ represented a beacon of sorts- a connection to a world of culture, music, and art that I desperately wanted to be a part of. More accurately, it represented a community of like-minded people. Prior to the advent of KRZQ, there was no such cultural aggregator in the area- no hub from which that community could rally around.

The best thing about it all- I get the sense that the folks involved didn't really know what they were building or what a profound effect it was having on the entire community. Most of these people have since become friends, and I suspect that they were just working really hard to build...something, and they were having the times of their lives doing it. KRZQ had that intangible "it". It's impossible to articulate, but it was clearly reflected in the product. 

If you were part of the KRZQ family, there was no concept of "leaving your work at the office". No concept of the "9-5" job. We lived together, slept with each other, fought over stupid shit like siblings, and bled for...a radio station. We fought and bled for the cause that this radio station represented. Great music, a place where it was OK to be a freak, and a way out of an otherwise mundane and alienated existence. And what an incredible work ethic we all developed as a result?

We were allowed to fail- in some cases fail spectacularly. That made us all better.

Life will go on- the ignorant knuckledraggers over at the buttrock radio station will continue to perpetuate and reinforce an unfair stereotype of the Reno-Tahoe area, only now they will do it unchallenged by the people that think that the Biggest Little City can be more, and is more.

It's clear to me that music-based terrestrial radio is in the middle of a long decline, with plenty of important questions being raised about it's relevance and long-term viability. Music discovery and content via traditional radio is quickly being supplanted by a myriad of web-based options, including the company that I work for. And that presents people like me with an exciting challenge- how do we recreate that vibe, that sense of community, that music discovery, on a new platform, for a new generation?

Because I don't know what replaces KRZQ for the next round of unhappy and disenfranchised 12 year old kids.

I couldn't possibly call out and thank everyone that was involved with the magic that was KRZQ from my personal perspective. But I do want to thank a few people-

Jayn Said, Ollie, Big Leo (and Vic "The Brick" Brickhouse), Strange Advance Lance, etc.- Thanks for giving me something to aspire to and for being the window in to a cooler world than the one I knew. Most importantly, thanks for facilitating my earliest music discovery. Thanks for playing Adorable, thanks for interviewing Frank Black at a record store, thanks for bringing the Mighty Mighty Bosstones to Reno 500 times. Bonus points go to Leo for later on breaking my heart by revealing himself to be a Neo-Con.

Smiling Marty taught me what it was to be an entertainer.

Marc Young taught me how to be disciplined in a chaotic environment.

Rip taught me to be a great radio programmer and tolerated my considerable shortcomings.

Heather- we all wanted to be you.

Valerie- you made this insane idea financially viable by believing in it.

Homie- the visionary.

Jeremy- became a brother and made me smarter.

Mel- tolerated more crap than anyone reasonably should have to in a professional setting- most of it from me. She took her accumulated experience and became the best human being that many of us will ever know.

El Muchacho, Johnny Karate, Sims- the best partners in crime any PD could ask for.

Blaze- Even though he is more commonly known as Rob Brooks these days, I can't call him anything but "Blaze" any more than I can call my father anything but "Dad". He is responsible for everything that KRZQ is and was more so than anyone else. He's the one that built the thing, stuck it out, went down with the ship multiple times, and fell on his sword for all of us, multiple times. And he is the only one that should be putting KRZQ down, as miserable as that must be for him. He is still one of my closest friends and greatest mentor- and that transcends the existence of any radio station.

Last night, Blaze sent out a text message at 10p or so that made me get into the shower and cry. And c'mon- that's a hilarious image, right? Feel free to make fun of that in a few weeks. After all- one of the greatest lessons that I learned at KRZQ still holds true: Time plus Tragedy equals Comedy.

After KRZQ goes away today, I'm still left with more questions than answers. Like- does anyone know where that fucking blimp is? And what ever happened to Strange Advance Lance? And what will become of the dudes from Barbequed Salad that hosted the original "It Hurts When I Pee"? And where will the Joey Vegas Band go now?

I love you, KRZQ. Thanks for giving me an opportunity that literally changed my life.

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References (3)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Why should anybody care about the demise of an alternative rock radio station in a city where most people reading this do not live? Because of this attitude where big media and other corporations believe people are not smart enough to accept anything “different” whether it be music or any other ...
  • Response
    RIP KRZQ. - Hi there. - Mat Diablo - Matt Diablo - Matthew Bates
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    999 An essential part of each female wardrobe are her shoes.

Reader Comments (23)

Thank you for posting this Mat!
KRZQ is and always will be the greatest radio station I've ever heard. I will miss it in my car, at my desk at work, and... well pretty much everywhere in Reno.
Thank you for being a big part of my listening experience for so many years. You and Mel made the station for me for a long long time.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

From one programmer to another, let me tell you my heart goes out to all of you over there. I always thought you had a cool station and was glad it was out there. I'm sorry for your loss and I don't mean that in a sarcastic way. Radio hurts sometimes. Hang in there.

xoxo
Stephanie Bell
Chico, CA

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Great tribute! Thanks for sharing Mat.

Chris

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris Williams

pretty bummed right now... i moved away from reno years ago and just stumbled across a post about what happened. KRZQ was such an important part of my life. i remember calling to request a song and ending up talking to whoever was at the station for awhile.everyone there was just genuinely cool and truly gave a shit about the community. i have so many great memories of concerts from amazing bands that wouldn't have come to our little town if not for you guys. some of the most memorable nights of my life happened at club panic. that was a blast! i remember frequently asking you to play the smiths,and you nodding at me like,hell yeah i'll play the smiths! man... i hate that the kids in reno may not have memories like mine now that KRZQ is gone. i'll never forget you guys!!
much love,
courtney

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercourtney

Mat - this post had me laughing through a few tears. I don't think that people who don't do radio can quite comprehend what it's like to be part of a radio station - especially one that you grew up listening to. And back in the 90s, before Nextgen and AudioVault, they were really 24-hour-a-day living breathing things. There was always someone there. Sure, it might be your job, but it is undoubtedly even more of your passion. I remember so many days where I would get to 91X at 10 or 11 in the morning, program music all day, do my 7-10pm airshift, and then go home and make a mix tape or CD for fun. Let's face it - we're kind of obsessed with music. And these radio stations shaped our musical tastes as kids and teenagers. Did the people who started KRZQ know the impact it would have on you? Probably not. But I hope they get to read your post, because I know they will appreciate knowing. I said it on facebook, but want to re-state here that you guys who worked at KRZQ over the years are some of my absolute favorite people in radio. So much talent has come out of that station. I'm really sorry for the loss of another alt legend.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris Muckley

Yea! Why did I put up with so much of your shit?!!!

Love you,

Mel

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMel

Hey, Mat.

Thanks for this. I'm glad to hear you're doing big things and I'm glad to know that Reno and a tiny independent radio station could be a springboard for someone to follow their dreams.

Mel: thanks for putting the spotlight on local bands during your tour as Program Director. It helped attract the right kind of attention and helped shake off the stigma that local bands are talentless noisemakers.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGarrett

I was one of the nameless rabble of interns at KRZQ for all of 3 months. Thanks to KRZQ for helping me realize quickly that "opportunity" in the radio business meant putting in numerous hours with little reward, being belittiled and made to feel stupid by those with less education,no talent, and terrible music tastes, brown nosing people 4 years younger because they had been with the station for a year, and most of all, that there's no money to be made in radio and that it was a dying industry, even three years ago. Thanks to KRZQ for letting me know what Im worth and what I won't put up with and that my talents were far more financially compensated in another industry. RIP KRZQ indeed.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMS

Thank you Mat and Thank you to everyone who made KRZQ possible. My life is more cultured and fulfilled because of your influence.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt (with two t's)

Mat,

Without KRZQ i may have never got into bands like The Smiths or Ned’s atomic dust bin, without giving up my Saturday nights to sit at home and listen to wake the neighbors (1999) i could have never heard Jimmy Eat World before they were "cool".
Without KRZQ i would have never learned that Depeche Mode was the best company a kid could have on those depressed, brooding nights that come along with being a teenager. And without you, i never would have learned the terms "carson-igen", “the sex”, or "yard car"
i remember telling Jeremy once that even though your main competitor is overlapping you in a lot of your playlist, i listen to you guys (at the time Jeremy, you, sexual Andy and Mel who were the bulk of the air time) because you guys really made the listeners feel like part of something that was not just another radio station, but that they were part of a community, part of something Reno could be proud of.
i wanted to say thank you (to you and all those who made KRZQ possible) for making me feel like I belonged to something special. I couldn’t have survived my teens and early 20’s without you guys.
sincerely,
Former disenfranchised kid

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike M

I grew up with KRZQ. When I turned on the radio yesterday afternoon, I about vomited. Its a sad day here in Northern Nevada. As much as I hate to admit it, satellite radio is looking better. I crave my alternative music and won't settle for top 40. Is there anything that can be done to bring KRZQ back?

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersgirl

No mention of Buzz Heshman ?

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike

I have to admit i was a bigger listener to the major competitor but when they would play somthing that was god awful and sucked KRZQ usually had something good on. plus they always played more songs from when i was in jr high and brought back memories.... maybe not good ones but memories indeed. it sucks cuase now i dont have a "buffer" station as horrible as that sounds I will really miss it.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTrevor

Mat w/1 T thank for the memories. KRZQ was a huge Influence in my life as well and I will missed. Another great radio station for your listening pleasure is 99.1 the V in mountain home Idaho .

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersupernova

I have listened to KRZQ since the beginning. I saw Beck and Rollins Band at the Livestock Events Center because of KRZQ. I saw Pearl Jam at Lawlor because of KRZQ. I went through Kurt Cobain's death with KRZQ. KRZQ introduced me to AFI and brought them to Lawlor. I saw Incubus at Lawlor because of KRZQ. Music will never be the same in Reno. I sincerely thank you for all the wonderful, meaningful memories KRZQ has given me. Radio in Reno sucks now.

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Thank you so much for the post! I didn't and still dont want to believe that you guys are gone. But atleast with reading this there is a better feeling knowing that I can still remember my whole hghschool adventure listening to you guys. Through the good and the bad times KRZQ was always there for me when I was down.

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Word.

RIP best station in town. I'm on my way to check out where you work, Mat.

bv

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbv

Leave town for three weeks and look what happens. I joked fairly regularly that I was KRZQ's oldest continuous listener at age 45. Yep folks I was there on day one. For those who remember the day that 96.5 transitioned from a mediocre rock station whose only redeeming quality was they played fewer commercials then KOZZ to the alternative scene builder and sustainer that it later became. The early days were far from smooth. Strangely enough a good friend of mine had temporarily lost her mind and was dating one of the pre-alt KRZQ deejays. He was a stereotypical hair metal DJ of the day. Clad in spandex, short on substance and long on jabber. (He actually use to record his show and then take it home and listen to it. Eek!!!) The station changed formats and he lost his mind. He'd call my friend and ask what he should play because he had absolutely no idea that music existed outside of Van Halen. I think he and the rest of the transition DJ's lasted no more then 3-6 months before they scattered off to KOZZ or some other retro crappy station.
Let's talk a little about pre alt-KRZQ. KUNR allowed an alternative show from midnight to 2:00 am on Friday night. The Bottom Forty. I lived for it. It was the first place I heard Bauhaus, the Cure, The Smith's, Sonic Youth, and all those bands that eventually came out of Seattle in the early ninties. If someone were to suggest to me at that time that within a few years there would be a 24/7 alternative station in Reno I would of given them a roll of the eyes and replied very sarcastically,"yeah right."
Anyone who has uttered the phrase Reno sucks in the last 10-15 years should be swatted on the nose with a rolled up copy of the San Fran Cronicles pink pages. Before alt-KRZQ there were two venues who would consider allowing an alternative band to take the stage. The Zephyr Bar and the now defunct across from the University hovel known as the Beer Barrel. A count of current live venues in the News and Review totaled 38 and thats not counting the Casinos. KRZQ put Reno on the map for touring bands. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that bands are not going to consistently come to an area unless they are guaranteed that enough people are going to show up to at least pay for road expenses. There have been numerous alternative shows over the past 15 years that KRZQ didn't have a thing to do with, but believe me damn few would have been successful if it weren't for the alterna-nation that KRZQ created. When Satellite radio became all the rage a few years ago numerous people asked when I was going to get hooked up. I answered the question with a question. I asked how many live shows that satellite radio had promoted in the area? For those who don't know the obvious answer then here it is -- none.

It wasn't perfect. I'm sure the DJ's would have liked to play a more diverse play list then the corporate lackeys would allow, but in over 13 years of life on the road I still haven't come across a station that was discernibly better. It's a sad sad day.
Thanks for the post Matt.

October 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRich

I was another of KRZQ's nameless interns. For a year and a half I was like a lost puppy trying to belong somewhere I didn't really. When you told me they would be starting a new intern program in a few months and I should reaply then, it was my opportunity to take a step back and look at what I really wanted. So I took an acting for the camera class at TMCC and got back into acting which is what I really love. But I'll always remember the Jimmy Eat World and Modest Mouse concerts I had the opportunity to go to and you and Jeremy and Johnny Karate and Nate and especially Mel who was always trying to draw me out of my shell. I'll always remember KRZQ.

October 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIrene

Mat, my story is like yours and now I'm left without a radio station with great music the has nothing to do with trying to hook up or anything like thar.
RIP GREATEST radio station Reno and the world will have ever known.
It was fun while it lasted

November 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrachy

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