A Wave of New Sounds: The Double Life of a KUCI DJ and UCI Student

On a chilly Friday morning Christina Nersesian met me in the parking lot with a phone in her hand and a smile on her face. As we walked into the trailer marked ‘KUCI’ in the back of Lot 8, I was suddenly transported from a world of students, books and backpacks to one of posters of alternative rock bands and shelf upon shelf of dog-eared album covers.
Conceived in the closet of a UC Irvine engineering building in 1964, KUCI was the brainchild of engineering major Craig Will. Will later turned his project over to Earl Arbuckle, KUCI’s first chief engineer, and by October 1969 KUCI received official permission from the Federal Communications Commission to broadcast on air.
Today, KUCI has expanded outside of Irvine’s borders and broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to listeners around Orange County and the world.
Growing alongside the school, it has had its share of battles against music politics and rival university radio stations, but according to its Web site, ‘We are the last bastion against crappy, sound-alike radio in Orange County. We are the voice of freedom for all the independent music that gets snubbed by the major labels. We are the defenders of the faith for those who choose to express a different opinion. We are Corporate Rock’s worst nightmare. We are KUCI.’
In the fashion of a true independent radio station, KUCI plays only unsigned and underground bands. It also features a variety of talk shows that appeal to listeners of all ages and tastes. From legal advice in the afternoon to discussions about modern politics to a show called ‘The Politics of Food,’ the radio station is remarkably diverse.
That morning as I took my first step through the door, I heard voices chatting through the speakers while soothing music played in the background. A flashing red light warned me that someone somewhere was on the air. Later, my guide informed me that it was ‘Yoga World,’ a yoga show dedicated to giving morning listeners their weekly hour of Zen.
In the middle of the room, a twisted-looking dryer lay with vintage radio knobs and wacky disc-shaped plates on the surface. Satisfying my curiosity, Christina kindly introduced me to Drytertron 3000. Like the station itself, Drytertron 3000 is another mad invention created by one of KUCI’s engineering technicians. Part scrap metal and part radio, it is KUCI’s very own mobile DJ unit that holds two CD players and can accommodate any iPod or laptop. Drytertron 3000 not only looks cool but comes in handy during KUCI’s annual fund drive, a 10-day event held once a year to reach out to the community and help fund KUCI’s operations.
‘KUCI isn’t just for students; it’s for community members as well. You don’t need to be a student to be a part of KUCI,’ Nersesian said. This fourth-year literary journalism major is the host of ‘The Motley Music Show’ by night.
For Nersesian, the life of a KUCI DJ consists of coming into the office every Wednesday night from 10 p.m. to midnight. She serenades her listeners with whatever gets her groove on, either from her iPod or from the abundant collection of CDs in KUCI’s library. Once on air, she uses her skills to mix disclaimers and public service announcements in between every song break and, at times, even invites friends on the air to discuss their concert experiences and opinions on local and sometimes obscure bands.
Nersesian’s DJ career started when a close friend suggested that she take a training class on campus that meets once a week for a quarter, offering students and nonstudents alike the opportunity to have their own show on the air. Intrigued by the idea, Nersesian submitted a CD demo of her show at the end of her training and, upon receiving good reviews from her superiors, ‘The Motley Music Show’ was born.
‘The Motley Music Show’ features a selection of genres ranging from rock to alternative to soundtracks from popular movies like the ‘The Science of Sleep.’ Though being a KUCI DJ may not be as glamorous as many might envision, Nersesian says it’s a job that is purely an act of love.
‘Its just fun. You come and you do it and people go, ‘You don’t get paid