I first encountered Jeremy Lansman in 1961. I first spoke with him yesterday evening.
In the intervening 46 years, Lansman has become a legendary hero, a creator of urban legends, iconoclast extraordinaire, and an historic figure in Alaska broadcasting. He created the first digital broadcasting outlet in Alaska with second-hand equipment bought on e-Bay. He runs what is as close as it comes to actual FM-band alternative radio in Alaska, with his KWMD-KABN digital radio network. Although KYES Channel 5 television in Anchorage, doesn't exactly qualify as alternative media, it was the first broadcast outlet in Alaska to carry Democracy Now, the most courageous radio-television news program in he United States.
My first encounter with Lansman was probably when he was at KRAB-FM radio in Seattle, shortly after he had been in on the ground floor of the station with Lorenzo Milam and Gary Margeson. I was a sophomore in high school. Lansman, not much older, had, with his two partners, created the model for community-supported alternative radio media in the Pacific Northwest. For Christmas during my freshman year in high school, I had gotten a Hitachi AM-FM radio. I mostly listened to the two Classical music radio stations on Seattle FM - KING and KISW. One day, I discovered Classical music at the very top of the FM dial, where there hadn't been anything the week before. A few days later, I tuned back to the new station. They were playing music that sounded so strange, I stopped what I was doing, wondering "Is this real?" KRAB-FM was playing through all the Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano, by John Cage.
I don't know if Lansman was the announcer, but I began listening to KRAB-FM a lot. Not only did they play avant garde music, they played anything but what you heard elsewhere: folk music, Pete Seeger, Woodie Guthrie, country blues, old timey, and a fair amount of jazz. Even more important, though my interest wasn't in this at all, they covered community affairs events in Seattle.
In early 1970, I began hosting KRAB's Morning Show. It was mostly Baroque music when I took it over. I gradually brought in more Renaissance music. The second year, I began playing more and more music from around the world. The third year, after the station bought a huge collection of Native American music, I played that too.
Lansman had since moved on. While I worked at KRAB, he was the dynamic figure behind KDNA-FM in St. Louis, a hybrid commercial/community-supported, alternative station. In between, he'd started KBOO-FM in Portland, Oregon, and had helped Lorenzo Milam start up KTAO-FM in Los Gatos, California. The four stations - KRAB, KBOO, KDNA and KTAO - were what was called the KRAB Nebula. Lansman battled all sorts of government and religious opponents during his tenure at KDNA. Eventually, looking for new frontiers, he came to Alaska.
Back in 2004, Scott Christianson, from the Anchorage Press, wrote a great cover story about Jeremy's odyssey. There's also a great tribute to Lansman's early days, written by the God of alternative radio, Lorenzo Milam, at Ralphmag.com.
Steve Aufrecht at What Do I Know? suggested to me that I contact Lansman. Steve's just the latest person to suggest that. A couple of years ago, then-Anchorage Assemblyman Pamela Jennings suggested I get in touch with Jeremy. Jennings worked as Program Director for KRAB-FM back in the early 1970s. Before that, in 2002, Joan Rabinowitz, the Executive Director at Jack Straw Productions in Seattle - the successor organization of KRAB-FM, asked me why I had never sought out Jeremy. I told her "I really don't know."
I still don't know, but Jeremy and I talked for a long time on the phone yesterday. Some of it was about the old days. Lorenzo Milam told this story about Jeremy in the old days.
Jeremy had an old Hallicrafters Short Wave receiver, and told me we could listen to some of the repeater stations of Radio Moscow from the eastern part of Russia. However, to do so, he said, we had to match the ground conditions of the transmitting antenna. He did this by the simple expedient of placing the Hallicrafter's antenna in the freezer compartment of our refrigerator, and running a wire to the receiver.
Some of the stuff Jeremy and I talked about was our hope for the future of broadcasting in Alaska. I hope to meet him soon and help him create that future.