Tim Pyles loves Sundays. That’s when he gets to play the local bands that excite him... on 100,000 watts.
“The Schizophonics…the Sesh…Adam from Burning of Rome…the Prayers, even though they are controversial. [Front man] Rafa is pretty powerful.”
Pyles has built a career as the pied piper of unsigned local bands.
“I love the San Diego scene. But it’s so easy to be lazy in this town and belittle it if you don’t understand it.”
Pyles admits that even though Sunday night is naturally not a big ratings trove, he knows the local-music radio shows have provided career-launching platforms for P.O.D., Jewel, and Blink-182.
The Pyles-hosted Loudspeaker show heard 7–10 p.m. Sundays on 91X is built on the thrill of discovering the latest breakout band and real-life storytelling.
Like when he described the loss of his close friend Steve Rodriguez of the Dragons. (“That one really got me.”)
One recent show featured a friend of the drummer who was killed by a falling tree en route to a gig. “I was sad I had to admit I hadn’t met her,” says Pyles, who is really good with names, stories, and factoids. Recently he interviewed a member from San Diego’s all-female ’70s punk band the Dinettes, which was spearheading a fundraiser to help pay for one-way airfare for Gary Heffern, the frontman for proto-punk band Penetrators, who was hoping to return from Finland.
A 91X promotion-team employee, Pyles took over Loudspeaker in 1998. He switched teams to host cross-town FM 94/9’s The Local 9-4-9 in 2004 at the urging of DJ Mike Halloran, who had also left 91X. After ten years at The Local 9-4-9, Halloran lured Pyles back to Loudspeaker and 91X in 2014.
Pyles has parlayed his role as radio ringleader into other connected jobs. He hosts a separate new music show called FTW and has other part-time on-air gigs at 91X. He books his own nights at the Casbah and the Hard Rock, and holds down a part-time gig for a national promotion company that tracks other U.S. radio specialty shows.
Pyles continues the legacy of Loudspeaker, the locals-only radio tradition started on 91X in the mid ’80s by Marco Collins.
“Marco was the host, and I would go out and see bands and bring in new music, usually a cassette, sometimes vinyl,” says former 91X intern Lou Niles. “When we started, local bands didn’t have CDs. That wasn’t until a few years later.”
When Collins left to work in the record industry in 1989, Niles took over Loudspeaker, which then didn’t come on until midnight.
Niles’s six years at Loudspeaker happened to be when San Diego was emerging as an incubator for new talent. Record execs and other college and alt-rock stations across the country looked forward to that week’s Loudspeaker playlist, which included such buzz bands as Crash Worship, aMiniature, Three Mile Pilot, rust, and No Knife. “Every week I had to type it up on a typewriter, glue on my logo and hand-fax it, one by one to Geffen, Columbia, and people at William Morris [Agency].”
Niles, who has a family and a day-job as a sustainability consultant, was pulled back into the Loudspeaker orbit two years ago when Pyles returned. Niles drops into Loudspeaker as a cohost with his latest local discoveries or some memories from the San Diego scene of the ’90s, like when he went out on tour with Rochelle Rochelle or Inch. (“I was on Steve Poltz’s first tour.”)
His renewed Loudspeaker mojo inspired him to produce his In Your Neighborhood artist interview show under his Love Machine Films production company. That show has so far featured segments with P.O.D., Jewel, and hip-hop artist D-Dove. (“On one show, me and Cody Lovaas went surfing.”)
Niles also curates his own free-admission local band night at the Pour House in his hometown of Oceanside, which he says is getting him excited about local music all over again due to bands like Inspired and the Sleep, Art Dealers, and Wove.
“There is a big gap for live shows in North County.”
When Pyles returned to 91X and Loudspeaker, Timothy “T.J.” Joseph took the reins of The Local 9-4-9. Like Pyles, T.J. is diversified. He co-owns recording and rehearsal studios and has played in local bands since the ’90s.
While he will play tracks he recorded by other bands at his Phaser Control studio, he says he will not play any cuts by his current band Palace Ballroom on his show.
While Pyles’s and T.J.’s show overlap on Sunday, the two support each other.
“I first went on [with] Tim Pyles as a guest in 1999,” says T.J. who then fronted Buckfast Superbee. “It was incredibly exciting for any band to get played and interviewed on the radio.” He says his concept for The Local 9-4-9 is to make it sound like “it’s a party in the studio” with people who are deeply involved in local music.
“It’s hard to sustain a viable life as an artist in a conservative town like San Diego. It’s not a thriving music town like Seattle or Austin.... There are a lot of kids making music in their bedrooms that no one would hear if it weren’t for people like Tim Pyles, Lou Niles, Mike Halloran, and me.”
DJ Sean “Pandar” maintains his Hot Shot feature is the only local broadcast opportunity for unsigned local pop and hip-hop artists. Pandar is live 6 to midnight on Z-90. The Hot Shot segment airs weekday nights at 11 p.m.
“We grab four local artists and each day for four days we air a short snippet of their song. People vote which song they like the best. On the fifth day we air the song that won.”
DJ Nemo is a local producer who makes beats for rappers. He says the Hot Shot contest gave him exposure that brought him into contact with L.A.-based rapper AD (“Juice”), who has since used his tracks.
“San Diego has some crazy, undiscovered EDM artists,” says Pandar, who promises his Hot Shot segment is open to all kinds of music. Many longtime locals miss those local-band album compilations like KGB’s Homegrown or 91X’s Local Heroes. While modern digital realities may not make such collections financially viable, those series are still valued collectibles.
Steve West helped put the first Local Heroes albums together after he arrived at 91X in 1983. West now anchors the Sunday morning Legends of Alternative show on FM 94/9.
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He supports local rockers by promoting the subculture tribute nights at the Music Box, which features tribute bands named the Cured, the Red Not Chili Peppers, Strange Love (Depeche Mode), and Still Ill (the Smiths).
Boogie-woogie keyboardist Sue Palmer has been a vital part of the live-music scene since the late ’70s (Candye Kane, Tobacco Road, Motel Swing Orchestra). She’s always been a fan of KSDS/88.3 FM.
“They play jazz and blues and everything I’ve been a part of,” she says. “I always brought them my CDs to play. They were always kind and supportive.”
That support led her to work up the nerve to ask for her own show. She produces and hosts San Diego Connected every Sunday at 5 p.m., featuring tracks by locals or San Diego-connected musicians.
“Making [an onstage] set list is similar to making lists for the show. It’s all about figuring out which songs work well together.”
KSDS is also home to other devoted San Diego musicians-turned-DJs, such as Barry Farrar (Jazz 88 All Stars), Jeff Dalrymple (San Diego Symphony) and Drew Miller (Euphoria Brass Band).