Mutiny Radio Café creates hybrid dining and listening experience

Mutiny Radio Cafe

Alex Gahan interviews San Francisco native singer/songwriter Maya Songbird on her show Nocturna, that airs every Sunday from 8 to 10 p.m. on Mutiny Radio. Photo by Jessica Goss.

People are sitting around tables chatting, coffee is being ordered at the counter and music is being played over the loudspeakers. But the Mutiny Radio Café is more than just the home of the infamous bacon maple latte; it’s also a community owned and run radio station.

Mutiny Radio, broadcasted daily inside the cafe itself, started in June of last year as a collective decision of the DJs of Pirate Cat Radio. They realized the dues they were paying for shows were being misused by the previous owners. Other issues had arisen about the way Pirate Cat Radio was managed, so the staff decided to branch off and start a new radio station. Most of the DJs changed stations and a few new ones have volunteered since.

“We continue to evolve, not only as individual shows, with the introduction of live feeds from on-location broadcasts and presence at large scale music festivals and events,” said Molly Kish, a DJ at the station. “But also as a cafe, which now includes monthly art installations and even more live performances and interviews.”

Many members of the staff were unhappy with how Pirate Cat Radio was run. They felt like they were unable to have a say in the way the radio was being managed.

“If the staff wanted to move forward, it was essential that we discard our previous identity and come up with something new,” said DJ Aisha Spearman, who has been at the station for a few years. “On June 1, we officially became Mutiny Radio, voted into being by staff members. We like to think of ourselves as a participatory democracy, instead of a monarchy.”

After completing an internship, DJs usually have shows once a week, consisting of mostly music and interviews with different themes. To have a show, DJs must pay $30 per month or volunteer for one shift each month in the cafe. Being an intern usually involves working a shift at the cafe and helping out with two shows for the radio.

“You basically get what you put into it,” Spearman said.

Kish explains that usually before a show she talks with her guests and tries to make them feel more comfortable. She’ll also try to talk with the people in the cafe and get a feel for the general vibe of the audience. People who have shows will often try to incorporate audience participation.

“Some of the more interesting things I’ve witnessed as a Mutiny DJ usually are directly related to the audience we acquire, as well as people you come into contact with operating as a collective,” said Kish, who describes her show as off the cuff and spontaneously assembled. “It’s almost as if I continue to test myself in order to maintain a sort of cohesive chaos, to further exemplify the fact the independent radio is raw and uncensored.”

Although the radio station has had a growth of listeners, it is currently going through financial hardships. Although funding comes predominantly through the cafe and dues that the DJs pay, they currently require more money to function and are looking for other means of funding.

Listen in to Mutiny Radio’s live broadcast at pcrcollective.org.