Over the Edge (radio)
|Running time||3 hours|
|Recording studio||Berkeley, California|
|Air dates||since June 1981|
Joyce is also a member of the pioneering sound collage band Negativland, members of which frequently make guest appearances on Over the Edge. A series of Over the Edge episodes have been released under the Negativland name. Critic Ned Raggett describes Over the Edge as "a merry trip into an alternate world," while critic Stephen Cramer describes Over the Edge as "the longest-running block of free-form radio in the history of radio ... essentially live performance art."
Founded in 1981, OTE is broadcast live on KPFA in Berkeley, California, every second, third, and fourth Thursday morning from midnight to 3 a.m. On the rare occasion of a month with a fifth Thursday OTE runs an additional two hours, from midnight to 5 a.m. The show is also available on-line, streamed live from KPFA.org (which podcasts the show), or from Negativland.com, where many older episodes are available as well.
Joyce has broadcast OTE since June 1981, usually solo, but sometimes with collaborators, who are often members of Negativland, too. OTE began as a rather conventional music show, though Joyce gradually experimented with the format, due to his disapproval for what he saw as radio's primary function (encouraging listeners to buy music recordings). The show has changed time slots a few times, but now broadcasts in the Thursday midnight to 3 a.m. slot. Due to various obligations on the part of Joyce and the KPFA DJs on before and after him, the show is sometimes not aired at all, or is sometimes much longer. Usually these kinds of scheduling changes are announced the week previous, or in the closing minutes of the previous show.
Joyce declares that with OTE, he and his collaborators "create 'direct-reference' collages, manipulating and mixing both found and original sounds to produce a new kind of audio animal. O.T.E. is always concerned with recycling existing cultural elements to some new, unintended effect."
Joyce uses sound collage techniques, weaving many sources together throughout the program to create a "conversational" form of audio presentation. Sources might include recordings of other radio programs (including old time radio shows, commercials, talk shows, or news programs), portions of documentary films, songs and more, all typically—but not always—related to a pre-selected theme.
Joyce usually plays a "bed" of unobtrusive background music, and adds reverberation or other special effects to sound sources. He also employs the "Booper" to create electronic and synthesized tones that he incorporates into the show.
OTE's theme music is the track "12 O'Clock (in two parts)" from Heaven and Hell (1975), by Vangelis. Most of the time, this song begins each show, though in some cases other sounds may play over it, and the song may be slowed down or sped up, depending on the shows theme. At about two-thirds of the way through the song during a natural pause in the music, the song stops and Joyce plays a teaser, which indicates a topic or theme he'll explore for the episode.
Following the theme music, Joyce will usually announce the theme of the show, and when appropriate, say a few words that relate to previous or upcoming events. Usually at the top of the hour Joyce will perform a station identification for KPFA, and near the end of the show will make a similar closing announcement. At the very end of each episode Joyce plays a recording of a woman's voice reading a statement attributed to photographer Man Ray: "To create is divine. To reproduce is human."
Throughout most shows, regardless of content, Joyce will play spots that identify the show as being part of the Universal Media Netweb. This is part of an ongoing plot that connects the majority of Over the Edge broadcasts.
Occasionally, Over the Edge will subvert or toy with established OTE formats when it suits the theme of the show. Joyce (or others) will feign personas or characters, and will sometimes even skip the theme music and other show conventions, to better create the feel and sound of another kind of show. There have even been cases where fans have become quite confused, which is ironic given that the collage nature of the show tends to confuse the average radio listener.
The audience phone participation ("Receptacle Programming") is another element of the format: listeners are encouraged to call in, and are placed on-air, sometimes two or three at a time, with no prior screening. Listeners can then play their own recordings for OTE, offer commentary or non-sequiturs, or, less often, converse with Joyce. People are allowed to remain on the air as long as Joyce judges their contributions valuable, from a few seconds to several minutes or more. The highly improvisational content and late hour of the broadcast attract a variety of colorful callers.
According to Joyce, Receptacle Programming is, ideally, a collaboration:
Receptacle programming is there to deposit ideas and sounds from the real, live, simultaneous life outside our broadcast studio. Real-time participation allows a direct interaction with our mix as it is happening. Thus, musicians can join in with an over-the phone instrument and follow our live beat or provide a responsive bed for our elements. This, as we like to say, is best accomplished by listening to the show on stereo headphones tuned to KPFA when you call, and holding the telephone like a microphone. Then the caller is "in" the mix, hearing his or her own real-time sounds being broadcast right along with our mix in headphone stereo. Some callers have their own mixers which they connect to their phones and send in their own rather elaborate mixes of music and tapes with their own effects added.
There are only two rules for callers: (1) When the phone stops ringing, you're on the air; (2) Don't say "Hello."
Many fans and regular callers of the show have home-brewed their own electronic devices to aid in sending sound over the phone.
Joyce typically follows one theme for an entire program. Topics vary wildly, from motion pictures, to various music and copyright issues and the CIA; one episode each was devoted to Ken Nordine and to radio comedy team Bob and Ray.
Usually only a few times a year, Joyce does an episode in a series called "Another UFO". Each episode examines one facet of the unidentified flying object phenomenon, such as alien abduction, cattle mutilation, or the Roswell UFO incident. These episodes are a fan favorite, and a subject that Joyce himself is continually fascinated with.
In 2006 Joyce began two on-going series: "How Radio Isn't Done" (about pirate radio and other broadcasting renegades and / or bloopers), and "How Radio Was Done" (about the history of radio as a cultural phenomenon, with recorded samplings of what that sounded like).
Characters and story
Over the Edge often uses personas and characters, created by Joyce and his cohorts, to give the show a textual depth and continuity over time. The show purports to be part of the "Universal Media Netweb," a broadcasting entity that offers any number of shows, and specializes in Receptacle Programming. The UMN employs a number of people, including Joyce, and is responsible for the UMN spots that Joyce plays throughout his shows. While new developments in this storyline ebb and flow as Joyce's interests shift and change over time, there are recurring characters that crop up fairly often.
C. Elliot Friday
UMN is supposedly funded by a wealthy recluse, C. Elliot Friday, who lives in a secret retreat on Howland Island, and emerges every four years to run for President on the Universal Party ticket.
Crosley Bendix is a radio personality (played by Joyce) for a series of commentaries. Bendix was touted as the Cultural Reviewer, and typically greets listeners with a cheery "Good hello!" Bendix introduced listeners to "squant", the fictitious "fourth primary color", which was also the only primary color to have its own unique scent.
Discography with Negativland
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s and beyond, Over the Edge has also been an outlet for Negativland's creativity. The group participated in many of the shows, a few of which have been released as edited-down CDs:
- Over the Edge Vol. 1: JAMCON'84 (1985)
- Over the Edge Vol. 1½: The Starting Line with Dick Goodbody (1995, partial reissue)
- Over the Edge Vol. 2: Pastor Dick: Muriel's Purse Fund (1990)
- Over the Edge Vol. 3: The Weatherman's Dumb Stupid Come-Out Line (1990)
- Over the Edge Vol. 4: Dick Vaughn's Moribund Music of the '70s (2001, expanded reissue)
- Over the Edge Vol. 5: Crosley Bendix Radio Reviews (1993)
- Over the Edge Vol. 6: The Willsaphone Stupid Show (1994)
- Over the Edge Vol. 7: Time Zones Exchange Project (1994)
- Over the Edge Vol. 8: Sex Dirt (1995)
- It's All in Your Head FM: Over the Edge Live on Stage (2006)
Beyond the edge
Don Joyce died of heart failure on July 22, 2015. After a tribute special, Over the Edge continued with fellow Negativlander Jon Leidecker ("Wobbly") and KPFA's Robert Cole ("KRob") at the helm. Leidecker plays the best of Joyce's work, including surprises from Don's cache of tapes discovered after his death, plus electronic and experimental music. Leidecker plans to change the name of the show to reflect its evolution. Joyce's assistants had been working for several years on digitizing all the Over the Edge tapes and arranged to store them on the Internet Archive for free download. Uploads of this material began in late October 2015, and literally thousands of shows will eventually be available.
- allmusic ((( Over the Edge, Vol. 5: Crosley Bendix Radio Reviews > Overview )))
- allmusic ((( Over the Edge, Vol. 6: The Willsaphone Stupid Show > Overview )))
- Crosley Bendix, Director of Stylistic Premonitions, U.M.N. "Squant Story". Retrieved 2013-02-17.
- Don Joyce, Negativland Sound Collagist and Radio DJ, Dead at 71. Rolling Stone, July 23, 2015.
- Tribute to Don Joyce by Jon Leidecker, People Like Us, July 31, 2015.
- Over the Edge, on KPFA's website
- Over the Edge, on Negativland's website
- Radio Feature, The Some Assembly Required Interview with Don Joyce (2001)
- Over the Edge Radio Archive at archive.org