UPSO's recording of a broken radio station


106 Responses to “UPSO's recording of a broken radio station”

  1. Scary_UK says:

    There was a station near Liverpool that got into financial troubles last year and ended up getting locked out of the building by its landlord.

    It tured into an odd ghost station as the automation kept going; broadcasting the adverts, music and jingles as usual but without any of the usual live elements. Because there was no one there, the news and travel beds played out to their full length and it gradually got more and more out of sync – going to non exsistant news bulletins at odd times etc Eventually it was in breach of license and the transmitter turned off

  2. Kevbo says:

    #71 I remember that too! Think it was around ’87. I was at UB at the time.

  3. RingMod76 says:

    Thanks Freddie! :-)

  4. proto opus says:

    then there was dan rather’s goof:

    At school, Rather joined KSAM as a play-by-play sports announcer. This earned him a scholarship, and the owner liked him so much he was appointed to cover almost all regional sports and news in addition to work as a DJ at night. Rather almost lost his job one night when, on his break and away from the station while a religious program aired, he received a call from his boss.

    “Have you listened to my radio station lately,” the boss asked.

    “No, sir,” Rather replied.

    “Well, you better get back there and fix it, and then you’re fired.” The turntable’s needle had stuck on “Go to hell,” which was playing over and over. Rather kept his job (and was paid 40 cents an hour) and graduated in three years.

  5. arkizzle says:

    R E M I X

    Here you go, UPSO! Sorry about the crunchy video, it took some tinkering to even get it workable :)

  6. Summer says:

    #93: Must’ve been the spring of ’87, then. By mid-August that year, I’d moved to Ohio. But yeah, I think you’re right.

    #73: Reading about “numbers stations” brings me a vague memory of running across something like that years and years ago (in the 70′s or 80′s) while listening to my dad’s shortwave radio. Weird.

  7. grimc says:

    It’s got an cool beat when you lay earbuds on your desk and turn the volume down to a level where you can’t hear the words clearly. Kind of mid 90′s club.

  8. avraamov says:

    Diana Deutsch F.M

  9. upso says:

    YES YES YES!!!

  10. SidFudd says:

    My friend Aaron had a show on KUOI-FM Moscow, Idaho in the mid-1990s, and one night he played “Clapping Music” by Steve Reich. The station was set up at the time so that software was monitoring the broadcast signal 24/7 to listen for artifacts of dead air. “Clapping Music” is scored for two people clapping in a regular rhythm that starts to syncopate. At some point the software must have decided that this minimalist piece was only static, because it automatically shut down the transmitter, then powered it up again.

    I suppose listeners who weren’t familiar with Reich’s work may have thought the brief burst of white noise was simply the second movement.

  11. reglobb says:

    nice one freddie!

    there’s a blog post of terry riley’s “you’re nogood” out there, where he’s taken soul artist Harvey Averne’s “You’re no good” and looped, off-synched and generally mangled it into a hypnotic, ecstatic-soul soup.

  12. mr_josh says:

    Turns out that “and final reduction” is very close to the alien phrase meaning, “You are scheduled for destruction”. They heard it in an earth broadcast and redirected it to us as a warning.

  13. stuiethegod says:

    somebody scratched the Muzac…

    #11. The voice seems to change because the acoustics differ as the microphone moves around the car.

    #5. up load it now, I want.

  14. mdh says:

    semiotix ftw

  15. ill lich says:

    Philistines. He’s saying “come out to show them.” How can you not recognize the seminal minimalist composition of the 20th century?

  16. Scary_UK says:

    #96 station automation can usually be dialled into remotely by an engineer.

    That way they can make changes to the output without having to leave their house. Not sure it’s so useful when the system crashes though

  17. bhorn says:

    In the 1980s KOME in San Jose had a Rolling Stones record stuck in a groove for an hour or so that said: “And sex and sex and sex and sex!”. I am pretty sure that after the first few minutes of it they left it on the air deliberately.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Infinite Reduction?

  19. Zoip says:

    #72/82 (and a few others who mentioned this) – you’re right, many radio stations use an automated system to play music saved in a database on computers, most of the time accompanied by ‘voice tracks’ which are pre-recorded announcer parts, using an offshoot of the same software. In Canada, the most common programs are Scott Systems and to a lesser extent, Media Touch.

    Occasionally, the databases can become buggy or something like a lightening strike can affect a station, causing something like this to happen (and making the op/engineer who has to get up at whatever ungodly hour really angry that they have to drive to work and fix said problem). That said, I wish more stations had overnight and evening employees so this wasn’t so common. I’m fortunate to work at a cluster of stations in Ottawa that do have a decent staff, but I’ve worked at stations with a skeleton crew. It’s very creepy being the only person in the whole building on a Sunday morning, technical problems or not…I’m not even a Boomer, but I miss the heyday of radio.

  20. optuser says:


  21. Anonymous says:

    A man driving his car turns on the radio. He then pulls over to
    the side of the road and shoots himself.


    He worked as a DJ at a radio station. He decided to kill his
    wife, and so he put on a long record and quickly drove home and killed
    her, figuring he had a perfect alibi; he’d been at work. On the way
    back he turned on his show, only to discover that the record was

  22. Brother Provisional says:

    @#1 Anonymous.

    My ears agree with you. The loop begins with “reduction.” and then continues with “And Fina/”. Its definitely the end and beginning of two sentences. Of course, this makes little sense and our brains hear the illusion all sorts of other information.

  23. escoton says:

    Who cares about the radio…
    This clip is all about the GLASSES!!!

  24. Sunfell says:

    I miss KOME… They had the coolest stickers.

    I was watching an obscure Bay Area UHF TV channel one afternoon when the tape apparently broke and they went to tone-and-bars. Then, I heard somebody say, “Please adjust your set, this is not the fault of the station!” There was a pause, then, “Just kidding. We’ll have this fixed shortly”.

    I fell out laughing.

  25. jccalhoun says:

    Reading this my first guess would be a Christian radio station. There are seemingly a million of them in Northern Indiana. I’m guessing my guess is right since there is a Christian station in Northern Indiana with that frequency the only other 91.9 in Northern Indiana is a school radio station that is only 250 watts (although I can see a school run radio station being slightly less than professional)

  26. angrystan says:

    I apologize for the absence of whimsy, but …

    As noted above, the radio is tuned to WQKO, licensed to Howe, Indiana. It is the only 91.9 in Indiana along his route. This station is an affiliate of “Calvary Radio Network”, and is invariably a fully automated radio station. Such stations have a minimal staff; usually the telephones are answered at some far distant location and the technical people are contracted from a great distance away.

    These stations not only have no proper staff, but precious little audience as well. The Christian Center movement will, however, pay handsomely for clearance (read: broadcast) under any circumstances. This is why the “under 92″ band has sausaged as many of these stations as possible for the last fifteen years. The lack of audience and distant staff explain how such an error could last for so very long. An “Audio Vault” rarely goes wrong, but when it does this is what you get.

    It is an unfortunate state of affairs, but is a hallmark of the end of broadcast radio which I find very sad.

    The phrase is the last syllable of another word followed by “final redemption”, a catch phrase for death in the Christian Center movement.

  27. Chris Schmidt says:

    This reminded me of a piece RadioLab did a few years ago.

    They spoke with a professor who described how the human mind “hears” music in human language when put in this context.

    An article on the phenomenon:

    RadioLab episode:

  28. mastercontroller says:

    That’s just what it sounds like in my head all the time.

  29. Reverend Joe Borfo says:

    You have completely lost it, man.

  30. RingMod76 says:

    I can’t believe nobody has linked to this:

    Far, far creepier!!!

  31. InsertFingerHere says:

    The joke here in Winnipeg is when there’s a problem on the #1 AM station in the market, CJOB, they pop in a Dan Hill mix tape.

    Anything they need to fill for half an hour in the wee twilight of morning.. bang, Dan Hill. For like 25 years, it’s been the same friggen mix tape. But at least they have some form of backup. These all computerized stations, the playout computer isn’t supposed to crash (so says the vendor) so they don’t bother with any form of backup. Then when the shit does hit the fan, it’s the office receptionist calling tech support trying to find out how to reboot the ‘electroDJ’ in the broom closet.

    Some of the other stations in the city are all remote admin, the play lists come from the States, the ‘DJ’ does a 30s shout out to the local station (“Hey, it’s -45c in the ‘Peg, here are the Judds on QX-103 FM.”) then they record another shout out for another city, take requests on a 1-800 number…

    Driving, I might pop CBC Radio 1 or CJOB on for news, but otherwise I’m listening saved streams of Technicolor Web Of Sound off a thumb drive.

  32. optuser says:

    I danced to this. Does this qualify as a bona fide break beat?

    Reminds me of the “Night of the Living Baseheads” loop.

    Also reminds me of a film marathon I was at a few years ago. The fire alarm went off, so we had to clear the auditorium. The building was checked and deemed safe. We were allowed back in with the alarm still going off. After a few minutes, people started clapping a beat to the rhythm of the alarm. It sounded awesome.

  33. bservies says:

    I could only handle listening to about 15 seconds of the recording, but perhaps it is a vinyl record skipping on a recording of an old sermon? Or the digital equivalent, I suppose.

  34. buddy66 says:

    I’m an old radio head, retired a long time now, and I find this stuff you guys are relating unutterably sad…

    I drink one for Bob and Ray.

  35. Freddie Freelance says:

    I’ve ripped wav files of the soundtrack for your remixing pleasure:

    UPSO 91.9

    UPSO 91.9 stereo

  36. gollux says:

    Gotta admit it wasn’t that radio announcer’s dreaded item known as “Dead Air”.

  37. Trevour says:

    My local AM station did this over Christmas. Our situation was this – instead of running regular programming (we happen to use Media Touch), we compiled a huge 48-hour playlist in Winamp to cover Christmas Eve & Day. It contained Christmas specials, music, etc. Somewhere along the line, the PC went into sleep mode, which crapped out the massive Winamp playlist. Whatever song was playing started skipping sometime very early Christmas morning. Who knows, it was probably like that for a few hours. I happened to be up at 5am and heard it. So I raced over and had to reset the thing myself. Creepy is right – nothing like stepping into a dark control room with a looping phrase singing back to you.

  38. caesar female says:

    and sign-up reduction. The vo sounds like a guy reading ad copy.

  39. necaver says:

    I worked in a small AM station in Ohio in the ’50s. On Sunday mornings it was a one-man operation: the announcer ran the board and remotely controlled the transmitter. One Sunday the morning man put on a 16-inch transcription record of a sermon and went out for coffee. When he got back a few minutes later all the phone lines were lit up. The record had gotten stuck and was saying, “For Christ’s sake, for Christ’s sake, for Christ’s sake, … ”

  40. buddy66 says:

    A gag: I was hosting a faux talk show/chat room one night and my board operator and I got into a running argument, also faux, and he threatened to take the station off the air and go home. We escalated our spat, back and forth, and he indeed “took it off the air” — by segueing to a tape of recorded white noise that we had made the night before when we legitimately went off the air on schedule at 2 a.m.

    I came back on ten seconds later and apologized to the audience and the FCC for an illegal shut-down, which was followed by the sounds of a scuffle, another ten seconds of white noise, another apology, another scuffle…and then sign off.

    The station manager spent a week explaining to all and sundry, including the claque of wingnuts who monitored us around the clock for any broadcast violation to complain about to the FCC, that the station had not actually gone off the air; that the sound of the static of the stars was actually a taped recording, and that we had violated no FCC rules; it was just, sigh, another gag.

    We were labeled insane by everyone, friends and foes, but I like to think we brought a little excitement to the sour lives of the wingnuts who lived to take our station off the air. Nobody hated the First Amendment more.

    There was nobody but them listening anyway.

  41. slida says:

    I guess maybe it’s an aural illusion, but it seems like it’s switching between “and find a reduction” and “and find a redemption”, without a pattern. Definite techno loopy goodness anyway.

  42. minTphresh says:

    “…fine a production, and…”

  43. diggum says:

    there was a broadcast channel here in seattle, 28 or 32 or something, that was stuck in a loop like this, only it went on for months. literally, most of last year we’d be in the bedroom flipping channels and invariably this preacher, frozen in time repeating the same 1/4 second holler over and over and over and over.

    it was oddly discomforting when we flipped by a month or two ago and it was just some normal old church broadcast.


  44. Timothy Hutton says:

    We had a slightly less annoying phenomenon when a local talk radio station changed format – they had a multi-day countdown (Friday to Monday AM when the new format took over.

    Here’s a link to a google search that shows this is reasonably common, though when it happened here I’d never heard of it before.

  45. RingMod76 says:

    @86 – can you create a smaller (~1-2MB) version for easier downloading and use? Audiomulch sometimes chokes on files that big…

  46. Anonymous says:


  47. codeman38 says:

    Somewhat related to Diana Deutsch’s research, a jazz pianist named Henry Hey has done some hilariously on-point accompaniment of political speeches. This arrangement of a Bush speech may be the best of these.

  48. ggatin says:

    An fina preduption?

    I can see this getting sampled and going viral.

  49. TheCrawNotTheCraw says:

    This reminds me of Steve Reich’s seminal tape-loop music, like “Come Out To Show Them” .

  50. Freddie Freelance says:

    OK, putting the audio through a Steve Reich-type treatment, I’ve taken 20 copies, offset each by 2 seconds, and overlapped them until they turn into slowly evolving waves of repetitive, rhythmic noise:

    UPSO 919 Waves

  51. Max Throttle says:

    This is great stuff. Check out a recordning by Steve Reich titled “It’s Gonna Rain”. Very similar, but intentional.

  52. trr says:

    I’m surprised so many people hear it as “reduction”. The “p” sound is definite to me, so I hear “production”.

  53. arkizzle says:


    Something messed up with the video codec, had to convert and reconvert the shit out of it to be able to use it! All good though, just waiting for the file to be done and I’ll stick my audio track on it..

    Stand by.

  54. arkizzle says:

    ..ok, maybe sit down and wait (or find somthing to kill the time), because this is gonna take an hour apparently.. :(

    Sit by, or go and come back..

    Wait, what are you guys gonna do? Can I come with?

  55. Nur says:

    I think the recorder had the right idea when he turned the camera to look at the poor soul who had to listen to it (well, “had to”?). It’s not really so much about the sound or the journey.

    It’s the fact that listening to it can turn the strongest minds into gibbering wrecks.

  56. Ferenczy says:

    i agree with #2
    …only the techno remix should be superimposed on the Techno Viking…

    … then the Evil in this thing would be complete

  57. Caroline says:

    Several years ago, on a thundery summer afternoon, I was out shopping with my boyfriend and heard “Hollaback Girl” in the store. It was in heavy rotation on the top 40 station at the time. Then we stopped for a sandwich and “Hollaback Girl” was playing there, too. “Huh,” we thought, “this must be a different station, or it’s in really heavy rotation.” Then we heard it again. Thought we were losing our minds. Got in the car to go home, and I turned on the top 40 station just to see. They played it three times on the way home.

    As we got home, the DJ broke in to explain. The station had been hit by lightning, frying the computer. He had been running the station manually, using two CD players. Then one CD player broke. Then the “Hollaback Girl” single had gotten stuck inside the second CD player. He explained that FCC regulations demanded that he play music. He couldn’t just talk, or go off the air. Then he played “Hollaback Girl” again.

    In between plays, he took short calls. “I have a request: Will you please stop playing that song?” “NOPE!” A few times I’ve been around that track….

    This went on for a solid couple of hours before they got the computer back up, as I recall.

    It’s a matter of taste whether “Hollaback Girl” on infinite repeat is more or less brain-melting than “…reduction. And fina…” on infinite repeat.

  58. vivian says:

    I’m pretty sure they’re saying “Final reduction”. It was probably an ad for Circuit City.

  59. zuzu says:

    I think it’s an Underworld track…


    p.s. I also record when Clear QAM digital television channels fuck up at the head-end and send out super glitchy visuals with the text “video signal lost” or some such. They make great VJ material.

  60. Andrewb says:

    He’s saying, “redemption and financing”. It’s a phrase commonly used at the end of auto commercials. Probably an ad for a local car dealership.

  61. upso says:

    awesome freddie! if anyone makes remixs, please keep me posted, and link them on the vimeo page!

  62. Nixx says:

    To all the people who dig this, check out the fascinating phenomenon of numbers stations. They’re entrancing in a similar way, only they consist of streams of random numbers being recited by various voices. You can listen all over the internet, but a vast catalog has been compiled under the Conet Project, available for free and legal download (near the bottom of the page).

  63. wanion says:

    I was sort of hoping the comments would all be along the lines of, “I didn’t hear anything, just a car commercial and then some light rock…” like it was a transmission only UPSO could hear.

  64. Summer says:

    When I was in college, along about 1985 or ’86 IIRC, a radio station in Buffalo, NY switched formats. The new call letters were to be WBYR, nicknamed “The Bear”, and it was to be an AOR station. For several days before the new format went live, the station broadcast a loop of a heartbeat like sound, periodically inserting announcements about the coming of the Bear.

    I remember thinking it was quite freaky.

  65. Anonymous says:

    “…reduction. And fina…”


  66. Anonymous says:

    This is what happens when the local radio station fires all it’s local staff and basically turns itself into a glorified winAmp machine.

    Most stations these days have a “morning” show and perhaps an “afternoon drive” hosted by actual real local people. Those are peak listening times. Other than that, they run syndicated garbage, much like elevator or shopping mall music, but of course in the format the station pretends to represent.

    The trend began in the late 80′s for smaller stations, but now even major market players resort to this horrible way of programming. Late night radio was the first to go like this, Art Bell might be a popular guy with listeners, but he killed the jobs of all the overnight announcers he displaced with his syndicated programming.

    Repeats like the one in the video, result from a momentary or ongoing loss of (in the old days) telephone signal or today, Internet connection. That tiny snippett was all that remained in the buffer and it got repeated until the technician drove over to fix the problem. (Most stations aren’t even staffed any more, they consist of a few racks of equipment, a dedicated line to the transmitter all housed in a tiny office in a strip mall somewhere.

    It’s sad really. Radio used to be such a wonderful, spontaneous thing.


  67. Bucket says:

    Needs techo remix.

  68. se7a7n7 says:

    And find a reduction…

  69. Evil Jim says:

    I haven’t had exactly this problem happen but once in a great while a local radio station will have some problems while someone is asleep at the switch.

    The last time it happened there was lots of dead air interspersed with garbled conversation from the program. I tried calling the station to let them know something wasn’t working but the line was either busy or there was no answer at all. I blame aliens.

  70. mdh says:

    C-Span at my house has a werd crossover with an FM station also carried on the coaxial cable, causing some awesome mixe of out national leadership and songs from the 60′s, 70′s, and 80′s. It’s usually a little to prophetic to watch. Maybe I should record some and send it in?

  71. upso says:

    editing that video made me insane

  72. flamy says:

    And finite reduction.

  73. Scotrail says:

    Was it like you were in an episode of “Lost”?

  74. technogeek says:

    I agree with “and finite reduction”.

    On the other hand, I’m one of the weird folks who like Steve Reich’s loop-and-phase-based compositions, particularly including “Come Out”, so I have a lot of practice listening to and reassembling looped phonemes. (If you found this aurally interesting, I do recommend that recording — it’s a wonderful demonstration of just how complex and musical normal speech is. It will also drive folks who don’t understand minimalism and “new music” stark raving bonkers, which I consider an additional point in its favor.)

  75. sk8rboi69 says:

    awesome frames!

  76. Bryan C says:

    I remember back in the mid-80′s, when cable TV was still fairly new, my sister and I were watching afternoon cartoons when we found a channel playing the same ad over and over again. A guy was carving a turkey when his knife snapped. His wife exclaimed “Someday we’ll get new knives!”

    We kept watching for quite a while to see how many times they’d repeat it. And because we were strange kids.

  77. zuzu says:

    For several days before the new format went live, the station broadcast a loop of a heartbeat like sound, periodically inserting announcements about the coming of the Bear. I remember thinking it was quite freaky.

    Ever hear numbers stations on shortwave?

    * Conet Project free online

  78. technogeek says:

    (FWIW, I’m sitting here playing counter-rhythms and humming harmonies.)

  79. Evil Jim says:

    This weirdness is reminding me a lot of the great short film AM1200.

  80. guy_jin says:

    are you sure this isn’t some kind of experimental techno station?

  81. zuzu says:

    (Most stations aren’t even staffed any more, they consist of a few racks of equipment, a dedicated line to the transmitter all housed in a tiny office in a strip mall somewhere.)

    Hackers, take note!

  82. semiotix says:

    Hmm. What is that voice saying? Here’s what I got after listening to it for a while. The funny thing is that it seems to change periodically.

    And finite reduction…

    Anne Finé Productions…

    Andiron feed ducks in…

    And final deductions…


    Ants minah bird functions…


    And dinette compunction…

  83. TedJohnson says:

    This is new technology in Indiana. All radio stations do this when a driver either lingers in the left lane when not using it to pass, or plays with hand-held electronics while driving.

  84. technogeek says:

    #45: What you’re hearing as P, others are hearing as T. Given the low bandwidth and compression of this recording, I’m not sure the tongue stop and lip plosive are actually reliably distinguishable from each other…

    Half of what we think we hear, especially in speech, is interpolated even in the best of circumstances.

  85. Freddie Freelance says:

    @88, I ripped these at 44.1 KHz, making them pretty big. I’ll put out some smaller versions.

    I made a true mono wav rip of the file @ 15.5MB in size:

    UPSO 91.1 Mono

    Here’s a 30 second snippet:

    UPSO 91.1 30.5

    Ans here’s an 8-bit, 8KHz downgraded sample:

    UPSO 91.1 downsample

  86. upso says:

    heres another amazing remix (video & audio)

  87. kthugha says:

    i agree with flamy, “and finite reduction”

    i also agree with 1 and 9. is this audio under creative commons? i’ll get to work on a remix…

  88. guy_jin says:

    without knowing exactly where he went, I’d bet that it’s an NPR station malfunctioning – at least, all the frequencies below 92 are supposed to be reserved for nonprofit radio stations. could be religious, though.

  89. grimshaw says:

    I think it’s an Underworld track…

  90. upso says:

    @tedjohnson.. haha
    if you think that’s bad, watch this video:
    i caught everything BUT my car crash

  91. Anonymous says:

    A fine reproduction.

  92. upso says:

    this is under creative commons yes..
    (that is, if all I need to do is say yes)
    please feel free to remix!

    and yes… it did sort of feel like my own personal episode of LOST. there were points where it really felt like it was talking directly to me.

  93. nutbastard says:


    i believe if they played it on the radio, and the sample is under a certain length it’s all good for fair use.

    i could totally be wrong, though. but if i were you i wouldn’t worry about it.

  94. Anonymous says:

    While driving across Montana, a friend and I happened upon a station like this around midnight. The audio was a bunch of random snips of conversations, like we had pressed “scan” and gotten all talk radio stations. Driving through eastern Montana in the dark with a broken radio station for company is a quick way to give yourself the creeps.

  95. skatanic says:

    That is so crazy. It seems to provide a little insight into how the brain processes sounds, for me anyways. I started out hearing the words that i had read (“and find a production”), but it changed into different words and eventually I stopped hearing words all together. A few seconds later I started to hear words again. This is definitely similar to the way many visual illusions work. The brain simply doesn’t have enough information to classify what it’s sensing so keeps trying new interpretations. This epitomizes the amazing problem solving adaptions we have developed. Even after 3 minutes of the exact same enigmatic input my brain was still coming up with different was to interpret the sound.

    Granted, I can easily see how this might be excruciatingly annoying to some people, but I was completely fascinated.

  96. Rufus J Squirrel says:

    That’s definitely NPR. It’s a guy ending a news package with “reduction.” and a girl saying “and fin…” as in “finally” – like the end of whatever show it was. Judging by the time it (the show) probably started at 1PM and fucked up right before 2. I imagine it ran for over an hour.

    Great remixes from everyone, by the way.

  97. trr says:

    Sounds like Angrystan knows what he’s talking about. I’d rather that not be the real story, but….

  98. upso says:

    arkizzle, can’t wait to hear it!
    and yeah… i kept waiting to hear someone come on.. and at some point it struck me that the entire studio must be empty.

    i vividly recall doing radio shows in college.. and if we had more than 5 seconds of dead air WE were dead. it’s a sad state of affairs

  99. Anonymous says:

    Regarding Diana Deutsch and music in speech. Steven Reich did a whole musical piece using that phenomenon.

  100. Anonymous says:

    my version of audio hijack is on the fritz, has anyone hijacked the audio for use and put it up somewhere to download?

  101. Abracapocus says:

    and you managed to listen to that for a 1/2 hour?

  102. upso says:

    i will take all responsibility for any laws broken why remixxxing this hot track

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