The Voice of Mercury was a pirate radio station that (variably) was broadcasting from around Los Angeles on 104.7 MHz. It also was the semi-official station for a number of the caravans to DefCon, and had more than one transmission actually at DefCon proper. It also had a short stint as a web broadcast, and from time to time pops up in places like turntable.fm.
The format of the Voice was.. eclectic. Basically, we played anything, and everything. We even transmitted ARRL code bulletins and hours of elevator music. The weirder, the better. Obscure techno remixes? Check. Primitive electronica, like the works of Raymond Scott? Check. “Please Boot For Me, Old Amiga” (our “parody” of Don’t Cry for Me Argentina)? Check.
And at the top of the hour, our now somewhat famous standard disclaimer.
It all started at a RadioShack.
Sometime in 1991, a couple of us got ahold of a Ramsey FM-10 transmitter and thought it would be interesting to set up a micropower radio station serving the Orange Plaza Historic District. With it’s anemic low power, we may have had a total of 10 listeners: but to those few listeners living in downtown Orange, we were apparently something worth listening to. Back then, we played a bizarre mix of big band and swing during the day, and electronica at night. Sometimes live, sometimes pre-recorded on tape. Having a cohort who worked at Muzak meant that we had access to all kinds of weird music.. and weird technology to play 8 hours of programming on a loop tape.
Then, in 1995, DEFCON III and the Kalifornia Kar Karavan happened. I will refrain from further comment, but a good place to start to see the mania that ensued is here on YouTube.
From there, we eventually obtained a better transmitter, and broadcasted from the Los Angeles Research Coalition’s prototype “Hacker Space” in a non-descript warehouse somewhere in the vicinity of Long Beach. At it’s most powerful, the signal could be heard on the campus of CSULB.
From there, the Voice of Mercury became one of three “micropower” stations broadcasting from Los Angeles’ Silver Lake district. Our bizarre mix of music and other programming got a bit of attention, to say the least. And we continued to pack the transmitter up and drag it to Las Vegas for DEFCON for at least a few more years.
We also pulled more than our fair share of pranks. Some DefCon attendees probably still want a piece of me after “MmmBop Non-Stop”, a nearly 24-hour marathon of .. well, you know what. I think there are still a few people who think that homicide is an appropriate punishment for subjecting Las Vegas to 24 hours of Hansen.
As time went on, the Voice of Mercury eventually moved to a more “legal” status as a station on Motion Broadcasting, a fledgling Internet broadcaster in Bakersfield, along with Radio Invasion (another “pirate-gone-legit” web broadcaster). We even collected some regular programming: a neopagan talk show, “Wally on the Wadio”, and the shenanigans of Charlie deSilva and the “Ranting Guy”. With the disappearance of Motion Broadcasting, the Voice of Mercury went dark as a permanent fixture.
But it never was really gone. From time to time, and for events like Burning Man, DEFCON, and other such things, we’d drag it out and flog the dead horse one more time.
Today, the Voice of Mercury exists as a private “closed-circuit” stream for feedle and his personal friends and cow-orkers. There’s infrequently live programming that may make it’s way onto public streams. A much tamer version of The Voice of Mercury exists on Live365. Here’s a player.