Fans of DFW alternative-rock station KDGE “The Edge” were jarred last fall when owner iHeartRadio decided to change the format to adult contemporary, after more than 27 years and two frequencies as North Texas’ best-known modern-rock station.
Although some of the alt-rock moved over to corporate sibling KEGL/97.1 FM “The Eagle,” and stations such as KKXT/91.7 FM and Fort Worth’s KTCU/88.7 FM took up a little more of the slack, the market has been without a full-time terrestrial modern-rock station since that November format flip.
But one of the Edge’s original air personalities, with perhaps the most familiar name, is bringing it back in an online version called Fuzz Box, which will launch Friday on Vokal, a Dallas-based streaming/podcasting site. Although it won’t be called “The Edge,” Fuzz Box could be the Edge of some longtime Edge fans’ dreams.
“I describe it as ‘the path not taken’,” says George Gimarc, who was one of the Edge’s charter DJs and helped designed the station’s original format. “What would have happened if The Edge hadn’t gone down the path where it chased off most of the talented air staff and we had never played an Incubus or a Linkin Park record? What if we’d continued playing really great rock ‘n’ roll and pop music instead of falling prey to the whims of what the industry told us we needed to play?”
Althoug KDGE (which now plays the Star 102.1 format) has been at 102.1 FM since 2000, it launched at 94.5 FM on Friday, June 30, 1989. Fuzz Box is scheduled to launch at 6 a.m. on the same day, 28 years later.
“That was not a long-range plan,” Gimarc says. “When we were looking at the schedule, trying to figure out when to roll this thing out, I went, ‘June 30th? That’s a Friday! Hell, let’s just do that.’ It was more opportunistic than planned.”
In a 2014 interview to mark the station’s 25th anniversary, Gimarc said that in the early days, it strove for a musical balance. “We would make sure we played some real guitar-heavy bands,” he said then. “That could've been the Cult or, later, Nirvana and Pearl Jam. We'd also have the Americana sort of sounds, the R.E.M./10,000 Maniacs. You'd have the pop stuff, which would be like Annie Lennox/Eurythmics. Then you'd have the kind of disco/boogie/gay Erasure sort of thing. And we had the silly novelty stuff like the B-52's or Devo. And that became the stew. That became the mix.”
It sounds Fuzz Box’s stew will have a similar recipe — with a lot more ingredients.
“The station’s playlist extends all the way back to the ’70s, and it will extend all the way to the current day, but it will all have that constant thread of song that remind us of that period of music from the ’90s,” Gimarc says. “Because there are plenty of bands out now that are very parallel with the sort of sound. Eight or 10 years ago, bands like Jet and Supergrass, Oasis, those were really great bands that remind me of Buzzcocks or the Jam. But a lot of people saw them as entirely new-sounding.”
Gimarc says that the station will lean pretty heavily on the ’90s, however, with 1995-’96 being the sweet spot. But expect a lot of freedom in the format.
“We have no consultants,” Gimarc says. “We don’t really care about what kind of audience numbers we get. We’re just going to have fun with it.”
One of 1989’s other big radio stories — bigger than the launch of the Edge — was the demise of KZEW/97.9 FM “The Zoo,” the album-rock station that had been on since 1973 (coincidentally, both the Edge and the Zoo ended around Christmastime, so that they morphed into holiday-music stations before the more “permanent” formats began).
This spring, Gimarc — also a former KZEW personality — brought back The Zoo in an online version, also on Vokal. But the online alt-rock station had been in the works longer. Longer than you might think.
“The realityis that Fuzz Box, as it stands, I designed it, named it, put the first demos together 11 years ago,” Gimarc says. “That’s how long the fuse is on it. And I couldn’t find anybody who was interested in putting it on the air. And then when I started talking to the people at Vokal, they said, ‘We want to talk to you about doing an alternative format, and I said, ‘I’ve already got one ready.’
“Then they found out that I was connected back to the Zoo and they said, ‘Oh, wow, we’d really like you to do the Zoo as well,” he adds. “The Zoo had an easier launch because it had a much deeper, more easily acquired fan base. So we launched the Zoo first.” At the Zoo, Gimarc hosted a long-running proto-Edge program called “The Rock and Roll Alternative,” and it’s possible he’ll put up archival versions of that show as podcasts on Vokal.
Gimarc also plans to launch his Today’s Comedy channel — dedicated to stand-up comedy — on Vokal in a couple of months. But with Fuzz Box reviving the spirit of the Edge and the Zoo format back, it does sound like Gimarc is trying to bring back a little bit of DFW radio history.
“That’s much kinder than saying that I’m ‘robbing the graveyard,’ ” Gimarc quips. “But both of these stations, and I happened to work for both of them, have real and true fan bases that are not being served anymore.”
UPDATE: There will be a launch party for Fuzz Box at 7 p.m. Friday at Lee Harvey’s, 1807 Gould St. just south of downtown Dallas, Fuzz Box assistant program director (and former Edge personality) Devin Pike tells us. Marc Solomon will perform at 9:30 p.m., and Pike will do DJ sets as well.