On Air
Broken Sound Fast, Loud, and Sometimes Emotional

Mike Kaspar and Nathan Callahan | Co-hosts of Weekly Signals

3 December 2013 Host Spotlight

by: Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

BDB: It’s been 7 years since I last interviewed the two of you on KUCI’s host Spotlight. When and how did your show, Weekly Signals, come about?

MK: In the early 1990s, when we met on a presidential campaign, Nathan and I were working on press releases together, incessantly talking politics and culture. We were working our way up the political operative totem pole. I had a comedy show on KUCI called “Happy Go Lucky,” and our good friend and attorney, Jan Rainbird, suggested we take our political views in front of two microphones and a transmitter. How could we not take his advice? The first KUCI broadcast of Weekly Signals was on September 30, 2003. So we just celebrated our tenth anniversary.

NC: Yes. I bought Mike a tin picture frame.

BDB: Happy anniversary, then. How did you choose to co-host the show?

MK: Nathan and I can talk about anything for hours.

NC: Once, when a DJ that followed our show unexpectedly took the day off, Mike and I ad-libbed a four hour time slot talking about synthetic fabrics and the War in Iraq — polyester, Bin Laden, nylon, yellowcake, rayon, Hans Blix, spandex, Abu Ghraib, Kevlar.

MK: As I was saying, Weekly Signals is a discipline — a haiku. We only have an hour, so we force ourselves to be minimal, yet impactful, about the important news events of the week.

BDB: What about the show’s format?

NC: It’s a Dada version of liberal talk shows. We start off with something frivolous and disconnected to get warmed up: the weather, the Dodgers, shoe polish, the full moon. Then it’s time to visit our hound, Mahler the Fake News Dog, for the Weekly Signals Weekly Review — an interpretive guide to current events. We discuss things like the biochemical changes triggered by human-made greenhouse gas emissions, Seventh Day Adventists, phages, the Pope’s Harley, cholera, fatbergs, deadly hornet attacks, TomTatoes, Pussy Riot, the Islamist Alliance, Silvio Berlusconi, child beauty pageants, McCutcheon v. the Federal Election Commission, the annual World Championship Squirrel Cook Off…

Mahler: Woof.

MK: There’s also segments on Secret Stuff, the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, and Mahler’s favorite: Drones in the News.

Mahler: Yip.

MK: Along the way we try to define what it all means — the language of reporting, the posing of politicians, the media conglomerates ulterior motives. Weekly Signals Weekly Review is a kind of “how to read the news” show and Mahler, the Fake News Dog, keeps us on track.

NC: After that, it’s on to The SoCal Byte, where I single-handedly tackle topics that range from my love of crows and my father’s stroke, to nuclear holocaust and the shortfalls of enthusiasm.

MK: There was a time, on Weekly Signals, when we interviewed people like Garrison Keillor, Monty Python’s Terry Jones, George McGovern; Arianna Huffington, Joseph Wilson, Daniel Ellsberg. . . .You can listen to all of them at our interview archive. But for now, we’re interview-free.

NC: By the way you can listen to Weekly Signals in central Orange County California on air at 88.9 FM. We’re also online worldwide on KUCI’s live web feed. You can stream our show’s two segments The Weekly Review and The SoCal Byte anytime.

BDB: The two of you have been involved at KUCI doing more than just Weekly Signals. Tell us about it.

MK: My history with KUCI began in the fall of 2002 with the show I mentioned earlier, a music/comedy show that broadcast every Friday from 4 – 6 in the morning, Happy-Go-Lucky. After a couple of quarters with Happy-Go-Lucky, Nathan Callahan and I teamed up to do Weekly Signals and a few years later, Film School. These days, I’m the host of Film School, interviewing two independent film directors every week about their current film. The show has featured interviews with directors like Noah Baumbach, Albert Maysles, Kirby Dick, Sarah Poley, and Haskell Wexler.

In addition to my roles as a DJ and Public Affairs host, I served for two years as Public Affairs Director and then two years as KUCI’s General Manager.

KUCI-FM has been a huge part of my life for more than a decade. During that time I’ve interviewed literally hundreds of renowned filmmakers, artists, scientists, authors, politicians, philosophers and journalists. Being the host of Film School and co-host of Weekly Signals continues to be an enriching and extraordinary experience for me.

BDB: And you, Nathan?

NC: As Mike said, I co-hosted Film School with him for a few years. I also sidekicked a show with Joy Hought, called The Politics of Food. I DJed a music program called Cows in Art Class doing live mixes of things like Salvadore Dali interviews, aircraft radio calls, African drumming, Stephen Hawking, jungle birds, Morton Subotnik and, of course, cows.

I’m also KUCI’s webmaster. There’s an archive full of great stuff at KUCI online. You can listen to our live online stream; listen to past interviews with musicians like Devo, Ziggy Marley, and Sparks; visit our special events page and hear lectures by the Dalai Lama, David Lynch, President Jimmy Carter, or that evil bastard father of the H bomb Edward Teller’

Mahler: Grrrrrrrrrrrr

BDB: How do you spend your time when you’re not at KUCI?

NC: I walk my dog, trim trees and plant agave in my garden. I also write. Right now I’m wrapping up a book about my family. The working title is Mixed Nuts. I’ve also got a graphic novel in the works with illustrator Louis Netter tentatively titled FUBAR. It’s about the world of government secrecy. There’s a tale in it about the French village of Pont Saint-Esprit where, in 1954, the CIA covertly hosed the population with LSD. The town literally went crazy. I’m also working on a historical fiction with a touch of magic realism called The Open Air Museum that takes place in alternate realities, art museums and a Volkswagon van. It’s a story about two of my dear deceased friends, coffee-maker Carl Diedrich and artist Michael Woodcock.

BDB: How about your time away, Mike?

MK: When I am not at KUCI, I spend a lot of time driving back and forth to work in Los Angeles, hanging out at the beach, playing softball, watching movies, preparing for Friday morning’s Weekly Signals and Film School. Film School means watching at least two films a week, updating the filmschoolradio.com website and editing the interviews for podcasts. For work, I’m a public relations specialist for a government agency.

BDB: You’ve lived in Orange County for most of your lives. Have you ever left with a vow never to return? What keeps you here?

NC: We’re life-long Southern Californians. I was born in Hollywood, raised in the glow of Rocketdyne and ripened in Orange County during the halcyon days of Governor Jerry Brown the first. This is one of the most enchanting places in the world — Jet Propulsion Laboratories, Disneyland, Hollywood, Laguna, LACMA, UCI — all points connected in a mind-boggling cabaret. It’s the home of free-speech, free form radio KUCI FM.

MK: We live in the Promised Land.

BDB: What else should we know about you and your shows?

MK: Weekly Signals and Film School. Every Friday. 8-10 am.

Mahler: Woof.

— December 3, 2014


Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is host of Writers on Writing, Wednesdays at 9 a.m., and a contributor to USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series (Akashic, 2013). Watch the book trailer at penonfire.com.