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Online DJs tune out corporate playlists

By Tyler Landis
Metro Monthly Staff Writer

With a motto like “Blasting forth with complete disregard for the mainstream!” you’d think the minds behind Rukus Radio were a pack of crusaders looking to liberate Internet listeners everywhere.

Quite the contrary. Moe Angelo, Trevor Quillan, and Chris Rutushin have their own sense of style, but seem content with being ordinary guys with a huge passion for music.

While their listeners may know them as Trevor Q and Moestrodamus, it was acoustic performer Trevor Quillan and Kelleys bassist Moe Angelo who got the ball rolling for Rukus Radio back in 2007 during a chance encounter at “Vex Fest IV,” an annual musical festival in downtown Youngstown.

Shortly after, the two were recording podcasts and brewing an idea for a radio show. The result is a Youngstown-based Internet radio station that has been broadcasting free of FCC regulation for a few years now.

The station has a singular identity. Each D.J. has a distinctive style and sound, but everything played on the station is categorized under the umbrella of independent music.

However, listeners won’t hear what is being played on most radio stations. Rukus’ mission is to expose listeners to an eclectic variety of bands and musical genres. Quillan and Angelo take pride in the fact that the station can say or do whatever it wants.

Because they are unencumbered by FCC regulation that means just about anything goes.

“We’re like the extended home show,” Quillan says. Angelo’s free spirited demeanor is what best embodies the themes and tropes of Rukus. “All these stations get playlists from above, we don’t have that,” Angelo says. Each show doesn’t consist of a tidy script or checklist of topics; it’s all very loose with its on-the-go approach.

D.J. Rutushin’s show “Happy Hours,” airs every Monday from 9 to 11 p.m. and features interviews and music from indie artists who Rutushin has had shows with or met during his travels. “It’s about having fun and strays away from sad bastardly music,” Rutushin said.

Angelo’s show, “Notes from the Underground,” is a multi-genre live program that features new releases. It airs every Wednesday from 9 to 11 p.m.

“The Jam Band Breakfast,” hosted by Trevor Q, is the station’s daily morning show and primarily focuses on all aspects of the “jamband” genre. It airs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until noon.

In addition, “The Rukus Roundtable” airs every Sunday from 9 to 11p.m. and features a discussion forum and a revolving cast of characters.

“Chris [Rutushin] does a fantastic job of knowing what he’s doing the entire show, where I tend to wing it a little more often. It all goes to show the acceptance that anything and everything is O.K.,” Angelo said. Quillan’s on-air style is similar to Angelo’s: He lets the vibe of the day lead the show.
“When I get up, I sit in the captain’s chair and just go from there. The first song I choose dictates the rest of the show,” Quillan said.

Sitting with these guys is like getting a musical and a geek education all at once. “Star Wars” references are spat from all three at a dizzying speed. True to their indie-music focus, each dons a T-shirt with the name of a less-realized band. Their laid-back chemistry and keen insight into each other’s refined taste is what makes one believe that Rukus will be around as long as these guys are friends.

In terms of where Rukus can go in the future, signs point upward. “We definitely have plans to make it grow; we’re constantly adding people and content,” said Angelo.

Quillan said they were definitely not running at full capacity, describing the station as a “duct-tape operation.” “If we wanted to full out blast this thing, it’d probably cost us a couple thousand a month,” Quillan said.

For now, running the station and having other jobs keeps the guys busy. “We’re working jobs to try to build a job,” Quillan said.

With future plans to expand the station, the men behind Rukus realize that it’ll get more expensive. However, Quillan is tickled by the idea that they’re able to run the station for very little right now, prompting Rutushin to jump in and advise Quillan not to pull back the curtain.

Still, Rukus boasts a modest – but increasing – following on their site.” It’s our own social network, our version of MySpace or Facebook,” Quinlan said. “People can be a member for free which gives them the freedom to create a profile, chat, post blog entries, and upload music or videos.”

The site had gone from zero members last May, to approximately 600. Although Rukus enjoys exposing listeners to their favorite bands, the guys remain snake-bitten over the lack of support they’ve received from some local bands. “We’ve done our fair share of promoting Youngstown,” Angelo says, but admits that the response could be a lot better.

To hear Rukus Radio, visit http://www.rukusradio.com. You can listen live and most shows are available for downloading after their original air date.

© 2010, The Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.

The crew at Rukus Radio. Electronic image by Jack Hughes.

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