by: Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
Heather McCoy has had a lifelong obsession with radio starting at age three when her parents bought her first radio-tape recorder. From there she always scourged the latest Best catalog for the newest audio equipment. She says she never learned how to play an instrument but has had a lifetime obsession with music that eventually led to landing at KUCI in 2005 with her show, “Racheal Ray's Cooking Accident.” Being a part of the KUCI community ever since, she became the assistant engineer and was responsible for broadcasting the live 2011 Greek Song Fest for the first time in the event's history. Also in 2011 she tried her hand at the Public Affairs side of programing with “A Face In The Crowd.” Although she says the show was extremely high maintenance and only lasted two quarters, her love for Public Affairs never wavered. She now can be heard as a frequent guest on “Limbaugh for Liberals” as well as engineer and co-host of “ZEROtalk” and “Real People of Orange County.”
Your love of music began when you were three. Who were your favorite bands?
Well at the age of three, you’re pretty much hostage to what ever your parents are listening to, so I loved the Ventures, Beach Boys, the Carpenters and classical music. I was equally fascinated with the technology that made recorded music possible. A reward back then was if I behaved, my parents would take me to either Federated or Best to look at all of the stereo systems.
What about your favorite song?
I don’t remember a favorite song back then. Currently my iTunes program tells me that “Birdie Brain” by the Fiery Furnaces is what I’ve listened to the most as of late, but with me I really don’t have a favorite song. I have like a huge list of 70 songs that I find a perfect in everyway possible and consider them my favorites.
How did you learn of KUCI in 2005?
I knew of KUCI in 1998 when I was really into the very last stages of the Orange County Ska movement, but I didn’t know community members could DJ on KUCI too. I’d listen to KUCI online from ’98 to ‘05 while I was doing homework. I had a PE class at Orange Coast College and I met our old engineer Mike Boyle at a promotional tent. He let me know that community members were welcome too. I started training class a few weeks later.
The title of your show is intriguing. How did it come about?
I was on a trip to meet a girlfriend in Prescott, Arizona, in 2004. After our day’s activities we’d usually take dinner to our hotel room and watch Rachael Ray on Food Network. Back then Rachael was one of the only Food Network stars on the channel, so her three shows were in heavy rotation. What a fun spazzy girl she was. Then a year later, when I had to come up with a show title, I knew I wanted a wild freeform show and if you think of different genres of music as ingredients for a recipe, the end product that I cook up every Tuesday night is a cooking accident. Put the two together and voila! Now I just need Gordon Ramsey to tell me what a disaster I’ve made!
Talk about the focus of your show.
There is not focus to my show. I’m a pretty fickle girl and I can’t play the same types of thing every week or I’ll get bored. If I’m bored I know my audience is bored. Plus I like a lot of different styles of music. The other reason for a lack of focus, music genre- wise, is because during my junior college days, between classes I’d read Billboard magazine at the school library and I’d read about a term used quite often—“branded entertainment”—applied to almost every type of entertainment category from Britney Spears to Punk Rock bands. Not having a real brand theoretically would make the show harder to market if I did that, but it gives the listeners much more of an experience of never knowing what I’ll play from week to week. Hopefully the common thread that ties the show together is it’s me and all stuff I love.
When you had a PA show (A Face in the Crowd), were you surprised with how PA differs from DJing a music show?
That’s a tough question to answer because a “Face in the Crowd” wasn’t a regular PA show. I booked only one guest and it was never live in studio A. Except for that one guest, it was just me with a microphone and flash recorder roaming around different spots in Orange County looking for people to interview. Sounds easy right? Now throw in the fact that most of the places that people gather now are on private property. For one show, I tried to interview people in line two hours before a Donny and Marie Osmond CD signing at a Wal-Mart. I tried to get clearance from Wal-Mart security to do this but was denied and then had other security starting gather around me so I left before something bad happened. The other thing I learned is that although some people are pretty exhibitionistic online though social media like Facebook, as soon as you say you’re from a radio station and want to interview them, people are rather shy. So a 30-minute show took like 3 ½ hours to record. Based on my work with other PA shows, “Real People of Orange County” and “ZEROtalk,” I would say the thing that PA and music shows have in common is that you always have to explore different avenues to come up with new content for your shows to keep them fresh and relevant for the listening audience.
What do you listen to when you’re in the car?
When I’m in the KUCI signal area I always listen to always KUCI. That’s what a good program director must do. I’m without a Smartphone so when my car wanders from our tiny playpen, or signal range, I listen to everything from 1090 sports radio to KKLA 99.5 FM crazy Christian radio!!!! Frank Pastore is the best! I also listen to Stephanie Miller and Mike Malloy on KTLK 1150 and The Bob and Tom Show via podcast. I have my radio tuned to KUSC 91.5 for my mellower moments. When I don’t have my radio on I have my iPod on shuffle mode so I don’t take my hands off the wheel to change records.
Oh pretty much the same as my car but more KUCI because I live in Northern Santa Ana so we pick up the signal.
On KUCI, what do you listen to?
What don’t I listen to? In the last few years we’ve had nothing but really great shows on the air. The shows I love the most would be (in no particular order): “Weekly Signals,” “Shaving your Eyebrows,” “Sunny Beats,” “The Morose Mississippi,” “George Had a Hat,” “Funk Your Face,” “The Chat Room,” “Trash–O–Matic Garbage A Go-Go,” “Memories of the Future,” “Planetary Radio,” “Echoes of Something Lovely,” “Delirium Drop,” “Writers on Writing,” “Beatification,” and “Light Waves, Dark Matter,” just to name a few.
What has been the best thing about your experience at KUCI, thus far?
Broadcasting Greek Songfest live for the first time in both KUCI’s and Songfest’s history. I love doing things like that to show the audience that we’re more then just jukebox with PA shows in between. Special events like that are one more way we serve the community we’re broadcasting in.
How has the station changed since you first arrived?
The only thing that has really changed is the amount of funding help we get from the University. I know most economists have called the last four years a recession, but from where I sit it feels more like a depression. Tuition has risen so high we’ve lost a lot of really good student DJs due to the fact they want to take a 20 unit quarter load and try to finish college in 3 years. There is no more room or time to look around, smell the roses and get a full college experience. A side effect of this is it feels so much harder to get volunteers to do much needed work around the station.
Any changes you’d like to see come about?
I’d like to get our funding back up to normal. I think we’ve had around a 30% cut from the University in the last four years. When you cut 30% from hardly much at all to start with, things get really hard. KUCI is part of the learning experience that UCI offers. Our volunteers/DJs come away with so much real world experience and vastly improved communications skills. It’s really amazing to hear a KUCI regular’s skim tape when they first started to how much more polished and confident they sound on-air during their final quarter on the air.
What’s your feeling about the twice-a-year fund drive? Is it working?
Yeah, I think it is. The spring drive has always been our main drive and surprisingly the fall drive hasn’t had much if any of a substitution effect on our main fund raising efforts, so I think it’s a step in the right direction. Even with the added fall fund drive, KUCI still has less pledge-drive on-air time then most LA public radio stations.
When you’re not at KUCI, how do you spend your leisure time?
Sadly, I don’t have a lot of leisure time lately. I watch a ton of movies; my favorite one I’ve seen of late is the Terry Gilliam directed Brazil. I do a fair amount of hiking, reading, exercising and swimming. I would really love to spend another two weeks in Sweden sometime.
Any last words, or advice for readers who are thinking of going through KUCI’s training so they can apply for a show?
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is host of “Writers and Writing” Wednesdays at 9 a.m. PT. She is founder of the Pen on Fire Writers Salon and author of Pen on Fire. Her story, “Crazy for You,” is anthologized in Orange County Noir (Akashic, 2010). More at penonfire.com. If you’re a KUCI DJ or Public Affairs host, and wish to be featured in this spot, email email Barbara .