By: Scott Pfeiffer

Several trends have placed radio in America today in extremely dire straits. The FCC may eliminate all limits on the number of broadcasting stations allowed under a single ownership, which will help huge multinational corporations turn the media into a monopoly. At the same time, our music isn't played an the radio because stations only play music that they think will appeal to listeners with money. This is part of what makes Fresno-based pirate radio station ZOOM BLACK MAGIC so important. In the last few years, ZBM has been adding stations to its network, while police have been trying to suppress it. Recently I had a chance to talk with Zoom's legendary program director Black Rose. Rose is a white-haired gentleman who, as you'll read in the following interview, truly loves music; who cares about radio and the community, and who's not afraid to say "fuck you" to the system. Pirate radio is essential--support it any way you can.

ROC: What is Zoom Black Magic and how did it get started?

BLACK ROSE: Zoom Black Magic is the voice of the disenfranchised people all over the world. There was no-one catering to the black community. If you wanted to contribute something, there was no way for you to actively get involved. Anything avant-garde is considered a no-no. We came to the conclusion that we would have to rely on other means. (An engineer) showed me how AM and FM worked, He asked me, "Would you like a radio station? You take my equipment and use it for awhile." That was-my start down the road to infamy. We started in Fresno, CA. I learned how to build antennas and I jumped into it. The response of the black community has been apathetic...they thought the FCC had a way of knowing they were listening to a pirate station. I wasn't speaking about black nationalism or overthrowing the government, but it's the idea of a black man in Fresno having the audacity to challenge the system. They saw me like a field negro and nationwide, the response I've gotten, not a one responded in a positive manner. We were taking a constitutional position, knowing that the FCC has been informed by the justice Department that the Supreme Court doesn't want the issue brought before them. The cover would have been blown off the scam, so they never pressed charges.

ROC: What are the motives of FCC harassment?

BR: They don't want me on the air because they could sell the air space.

ROC: How many pirate radio stations are there?

BR: You have 100 or more stations that come on haphazardly. Some operate overtly.

ROC: Is what you're doing illegal technically?

BR: It's illegal, but my position is that it's not unlawful. Title 47 is rather questionable at this point. The FCC is selling frequencies on the AM spectrum, but they're not going to minorities or low income groups.

ROC: What is the goal ZBM's programming?

BR: The goal is to enlighten and to provide people with the entertainment they need. Our goal is to build a network of these stations around the country where we can exchange information. That is the ultimate goal of ZBM. The technology is available at an affordable price and you do have people that are sympathetic to your position.

ROC: Can the new technology help us fight censorship?

BR: Fighting censorship through pirate radio is what we're all going to have to do. It's viewed as extreme measures, but we live in extreme times. Technology is such that if you know how to assemble one you can put a transmitter together that will operate on the FM spectrum. The technology is there. Since everything is in chip form, they even have the modules. That will be kept out of the hands of the average consumer. We know what this scam is all about.

ROC: Have rappers supported you?

BR: Yes, yes. I'm going to work with the LA Freestyle Fellowship. In LA, we're going to set up some time for the headbangers. In Oakland, I'm going to work with the Mau Mau Rhythm Collective. From rock to jazz, we're gonna deal with it. It's R&B...we cover the music spectrum. We want the people to call us with their weddings, deaths, if they lost their dog. People send in tapes from the community. The major labels send product, but why help the greedy when we should be helping the needy?

ROC: In October, you broadcast Ice Cube's "THE PREDATOR" album. Ice Cube's record was #1 on the pop and R&B charts, and yet most radio stations wouldn't play it. Why is this?

BR: Anyone of that nature that's highly controversial is not going to get airplay because the system we're living under does not (allow it). The young people are not so much influenced, but it might cause someone to ask questions, to think. The big dogs that run the country (don't want that).

ROC: Anything else you'd like to say?

BR: The lack of response I've gotten from the black hierarchy is disheartening. We're international Zoom Black Magic, the world station. I can't own a frequency, the airwaves belong to the people. That's Zoom Black Magic. We love to terrorize mainstream stations.

FRESNO, CA 93706

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