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 Rockers Gather to Celebrate Legendary L.A. Rock Station

Jennifer Vineyard

"You can't stop rock & roll," insists Kiss' Paul Stanley. Nor can you stop its institutions. And for Los Angeles metalheads, KNAC 105.5 FM was the institution that pumped out the sound of their favorite Sunset Strip clubs. In the Eighties, the station helped turn the local metal scene into a national one, changing the face of rock music and even setting a few fashion trends along the way (who can forget big hair?).

Bands like Motley Crue, Ratt and Poison, as well as non-glam metalers Metallica, Anthrax, Guns n' Roses and Jane's Addiction, thrived as a result. "We wouldn't have been Poison without KNAC," singer Bret Michaels says. "Metal's always been kind of underground, but it's got a loyal following. KNAC fostered that. It was one of the best things that could have happened for hard rock."

All of this would just be a history lesson if it weren't for the fact that KNAC is back. After going off the air February 15, 1995 (a tough time for metal), KNAC has a new home on the Internet. As a radio station, KNAC may have suffered from a weak signal and a crowded L.A. market, but has no such problems. With web cams and audio streams, it's as strong as its listeners' computer systems can allow.

General manager Rob Jones, who worked at the original station and helped launch the site, estimates the new incarnation has a base of an estimated 200,000 listeners and two to three million page views per week -- which reaches many more people than the original station ever did. And the rockers the radio station once championed are more involved than ever -- Poison drummer Rikki Rocket animates a drug and sex version of Pokemon (called, appropriately enough, "Tokemon") for the site, while Kiss acts as its spokesband.

Though the site has been up since 1998, it's just now finding its audience according to Jones' number crunching. And to celebrate KNAC's rebirth, as it were, metal heroes and their fans turned out last Saturday at the Hollywood Palladium for the station's Karnival One party. In a twist on another L.A. rock institution, Karnival One was based in spirit on RIP magazine's legendary annual parties (thanks to former RIP editor Lonn Friend's new position as executive editor of the site). RIP's metal-gone-wild parties of years past generally featured some sort of all-star jam at the end, with surprise appearances culled from celeb guests.

This year, which was webcast on the site, Anthrax and Rollins Band headlined but weren't announced until two days prior to the event, though rumors circulated for weeks about potential surprise guests -- from Sammy Hagar's pre-Van Halen outfit Montrose, to Slayer, to System of a Down. Attending the gala were such notables as Dave Navarro, Wayne Kramer, Twiggy Ramirez, Hole's Eric Erlandson, as well as members of Iron Maiden, Kiss, Life of Agony and Poison.

"It's a testimonial to the brand name, to the power of KNAC," Friend said about the celeb-studded crowd. "We only just got the bill finalized. No one even really knew who was going to play. I could've asked more people [to play], but I didn't want to prostitute my friendships or add any pressure. If the jams happen, it's magic on its own."

The station may not need support much longer, as metal starts swinging back into the mainstream, Jones said. "Look at the album sales for Buckcherry, look at ticket sales for Kiss," he said. "There's the stereotype from the Eighties that the typical heavy metal fan had $20 in his pocket. Ten of that was for weed, the other ten for beer. But the corporate world is forgetting that in 2000, the same guy is now making $100,000 as a systems analyst and drives a BMW. And he still rocks."

Copyright 2000 Rollingstone Magazine
(March 11, 2000)


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