Every Saturday night from midnight to 6 a.m., Andrea ‘Enthal spins the latest underground rock records as host of “12 O’Clock Rock” on KPFK-FM (90.7). With her becalmed voice and unpretentious aura of hip authority, she seems tailor-made for the late-night FM airwaves.
But in reality, ‘Enthal is anything but your typical rock ‘n’ roll night owl.
“I’m usually in bed by 10 o’clock!” she says with a laugh. “I tend to fake being a night person. On Sunday and Monday I go through jet lag. . . . When I’m driving home (from the station in Studio City to Agoura Hills) after the show, there’s this service station that I sometimes pull behind to take a nap.”
Somewhat amazingly, ‘Enthal has been sacrificing her preferred Saturday evening bedtime for the past 13 years. That’s 13 years without getting paid by the publicly supported radio station and sans an extended vacation from “12 O’Clock Rock.” ‘Enthal says she hosts the program 50 to 51 weeks out of the year. Even her rare Saturday night off is usually due to being preempted rather than personal choice.
“Fortunately, I haven’t been too sick on a Saturday night to do the show,” she says. “I realize that if I’m going to bother to do the program, I should do it and not farm it out.”
“12 O’Clock Rock” is clearly a labor of love for ‘Enthal, 39. (She legally shortened her name from Rosenthal.) The program allows her the opportunity to expose music that has virtually no chance of getting commercial air play.
Working within KPFK’s relatively unfettered creative atmosphere, ‘Enthal presents artists who are usually recognizable to only the most ardent underground rock fan. The program is composed mostly of unknown, do-it-yourself bands such as Drag King, Polvo and Totem Pole of Losers.
Unlike many college and public-radio stations that program rock music, ‘Enthal rarely plays records associated with major labels. The only big label record to infiltrate “12 O’Clock Rock” in 1993 was a disc by the Butthole Surfers, a former independent-label band now signed to Capitol Records.
“I’m not choosing these records to be ‘indie’ (elitist),” ‘Enthal says. “There is no great shame in being on a major label. Just because nine other records that (label) put out before you sucked doesn’t mean your record sucks because of that.
“But there is a conscious decision to play music that cannot otherwise be heard. Some people feel that if they listen to (alternative rock station) KROQ, (mainstream-classic rock station) KLOS and (heavy-metal oriented) KNAC, that they’ve heard all the music out there. But maybe only 12 (new) records are being played on each of those stations (at a given time). Last year I received 2,507 records that didn’t get played on KROQ, KLOS or KNAC.”
‘Enthal is one of the few remaining rock radio hosts who staunchly support the vinyl record format. “12 O’Clock Rock” only occasionally features music on compact disc, which she finds sterile sounding and lacking the warmth of vinyl records. ‘Enthal also believes the higher price of CDs discourages consumers from taking a chance on new, unpublicized bands. “Nobody is going to pay $15 for an unknown band,” she complains. “(The record buyer) is channeled to buy the old Beatle album which they’ve already heard.”
Vinyl records may be nearly extinct on a major market level. But according to ‘Enthal, vinyl singles are flourishing in the rock underground. Since 1991, the number of 7-inch singles she’s received from independent bands in locations as diverse as Indiana and Slovenia has increased by more than 50%.
‘Enthal likens the current explosion of garage bands making self-financed records to the grass-roots punk rock explosion of the late ‘70s.
“It seems every band in every garage in America has sprouted a label in order to release their own singles,” says ‘Enthal, who also works as a free-lance rock journalist. “It frustrates the hell out of me that the mainstream (media) only sees Nirvana and hasn’t picked up on this whole explosion of 40,000 other bands. They saw (punk rock) in ’77, but they can’t see that this is even bigger than ’77. This involves (many more bands).”
Raised in Pennsylvania, ‘Enthal grew up with a minimal interest in popular music. But after hearing the iconoclastic group Pere Ubu during the height of the punk movement, she was hooked by this new wave of revolutionary bands.
Thirteen years of hosting “12 O’Clock Rock” hasn’t dulled any of ‘Enthal’s enthusiasm for underground rock. “I’m excited to find each of these bands,” she says. “That’s where the (spirit) of rock really is–it’s somebody in a garage having a good time playing for their 12 friends and giving it up after three years to go live the rest of their lives. That’s the reality of music. The reality isn’t about being a drugged-out rock star any more than the reality of playing basketball means everybody is going to be in the NBA.”
As for ‘Enthal, she’s clearly not ready for a life without “12 O’Clock Rock.” She’s very willing to host the show into her doddering old age. “Assuming no big diseases get me and they don’t throw me out, yes, I will be bringing my rocking chair,” she says.