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Listeners Setting Their Dials to 'Screw Radio' : Broadcasting: The program, which airs daily on KWIZ (96.7), has drawn a loyal following by offering an offbeat mix of rock, talk and comedy.

March 14, 1994|JON MATSUMOTO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SANTA ANA — When Greg Ginn began to lease time on radio station KWIZ (96.7) here last July, his principal intentions were to learn how to produce a radio show and to give valuable exposure to artists on his own SST, Cruz and New Alliance record labels.

It was a fairly shrewd maneuver considering that virtually all of Ginn's adventurous bands and spoken word artists--a group that includes noise-punk unit Rig, avant-jazz group Bazooka and poet Wanda Coleman--routinely are shunned by commercial radio.

In December, Ginn's indelicately dubbed "Screw Radio" program (which can be heard weeknights and Sundays from midnight to 1 a.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 to 10 p.m.) broadened its scope. No longer just a platform from which to plug a designated set of underground artists, it now is part rock, part talk and part comedy.

"It's easy to go on the radio and just play music," says Ginn, who first came to prominence in the early '80s as the guitarist and primary songwriter for the trailblazing Los Angeles punk band Black Flag. "So it was important to have another element that revealed the (irreverent, satirical) vibe surrounding the record labels. The show's picked up a lot of listeners through the talk and humor, and that's turned a lot of new people on to the music."

Broadcast from Ginn's Casa Destroy recording studio in Long Beach, Screw Radio is given its uniquely offbeat character by its nerdy host, "Poindexter Stewart," and his loyal sidekicks, two Southern rednecks named Jimbo and Buford. Between sets of songs, the three spout off about anything and everything from their distaste for Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder to the logic behind the latest L.A. Clippers basketball trade. They also field calls from listeners, many of whom seem to share their wacky irreverence and sometimes risque sense of humor.

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Poindexter Stewart actually is the usually mild-mannered and soft-spoken Ginn in the guise of a wimpy, whiny and slightly hyper radio personality and alternative rock musician (Ginn even released an album under the Stewart name last year).

"The character is kind of modeled after the most irritating person I can imagine," Ginn explains with a laugh. "It started as a parody of what I see as the superficial elements in the (alternative rock) record business. It's kind of a slacker thing: The character is lazy but expects a lot.

"But it's more complicated than that. That's the starting-off point for Poindexter Stewart. I also try to make a lot of my own points with it, even though they're kind of coming from this lame personality.'

Occasionally, for instance, Screw Radio gets on a decidedly political track. Ginn recalls one program that turned into a lengthy and heated debate over illegal immigration, with listeners on both sides of the issue calling in.

Most of the talk, though, is loose chatter and humor, especially during the two-hour weekend shows. Ginn says some regular callers have gone as far as to create their own specific characters for the show.

"One regular calls in and sings Black Flag songs with this (Latino) accent," Ginn says. "He totally changes the words to the songs. We have the greatest regular callers. It's amazing how creative they've been."

Still, Ginn says he doesn't want the phone calls and jokes to overshadow the music being played. The show not only features prerecorded music but also band interviews and occasional live performances by SST, New Alliance and Cruz artists. The instrumental group Gone--which includes Ginn, bassist Steve Sharp (who plays the Jimbo character) and drummer Gregory Moore--is Screw Radio's official house band.

Mondays are devoted entirely to the music of Black Flag. In what can be seen as a measure of the group's tremendous influence, Ginn notes that the listenership on Mondays includes many young people who latched onto Black Flag after its breakup in 1986. The band's bassist, Chuck Dukowski, "came on recently and we got a lot of calls and a lot of questions. I don't remember any of the callers actually having seen the band."

Ginn begins a two-month tour of the United States Wednesday to promote his own most recent albums and Screw Radio will be altering its regular format yet again: Poindexter Stewart, Buford and Jimbo will be reporting from the road via prerecorded tapes, though they do plan to call into the show live occasionally.

Ginn says that originally he had no intention of hosting Screw Radio. Overseeing the show and his three labels, and rehearsing and recording material for his own musical projects, was leaving him with little free time, so he'd lined up someone named Andy Dunkley to host. But Dunkley left at the end of last year, and Ginn found himself piloting the show both on and off the air.

"When I first started (hosting), I was totally scared," he recalls. "But now it's very comfortable. I look forward to it every day. I haven't missed a show since I started. It's a stretch because I have a lot of other things to do, but I like radio so much that it's really like a dream come true."

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