Every Wednesday, M.J. Ouimette’s mom picks him up from Minturn Middle School to attend an after-school activity, like many of his friends. But while his fellow 7th graders might head off to band practice, soccer or ballet, M.J. spends his time playing punk, metal and classic rock from 3-5 p.m. on Radio Free Minturn. “I really like to play classic rock, punk and hard rock; sometimes I’ll go as mellow as Bob Dylan, but other times I’ll go as far as Metallica,” Ouimette says. “I usually don’t go that heavy, and I’ll slowly build up to it. I really like Social Distortion, Jimi Hendrix, Ozzy Osbourne and Rancid.”Meanwhile, Vail’s Dick Gustafson has a history in radio: As a DJ for KRVV in the 1980s, he poured his earnings from the station into his record collection, and now he shares his thousand-strong catalog on Radio Free Minturn on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until noon.”I bill it as The Big Band show, but I include music from musicals, from stage productions and movies, and I include some patriotic music from time to time, just to remind (listeners) what country they’re in and should support,” Gustafson says. “I play Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, Billie Holliday, Oscar Peterson, Louie Armstrong and sometimes a little jazz like Dizzie Gillespie or Charlie Parker.”
Radio Free Minturn features programs highlighting the latest in everything from hardcore metal to obscure indie pop, but Gustafson, 71, and the 12-year-old Ouimette represent the extremes available within one radio station. As conglomerates swallow radio stations across the country, turning the airwaves into a monochromatic wasteland along the way, Radio Free Minturn stands as a rare outpost of eclecticism, artistry and taste.”This is a very casual-type operation – you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to,” Gustafson says. “My whole goal is to have fun, and I hope other people are enjoying it too, If I can bring a bit of fresh air to what they’re listening to, then I’ve done what I set out to do.”Ouimette likes broadening people’s horizons as well – and he’s even picked up a few loyal listeners at his school. “Sometimes I get calls in the studio, and I’ll do shoutouts so my friends can say, ‘hey, my name’s on the radio!'” Ouimette says. “I’m not sure if everybody listens or even likes the music, but they think it’s pretty cool.”
Ouimette likes listening to and playing music on the radio for now, but he’s got an eye to be more of an active rock n’ roll participant in the future. He plays both guitar and drums, but favors the skins, and he counts The Who’s Keith Moon, Rush’s Neil Peart and Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham as influences.”This is a fun gig right now, and I’ll do it for a few more years, but I’m really looking to be a rock journalist or start a band myself,” he says. “Me and my friend Tyler already came up with a band name: Poison the Youth. We’re not saying we want to ‘poison the youth;’ it’s more about the news and things that are already going on with kids as it is right now.”While Ouimette celebrates all that is loud, rocking and spontaneous, Gustafson couldn’t have more of a different philosophy in his playlists, which he usually plans ahead in detail, especially since many of his songs come from records that must be converted to CDs.”Today’s music goes on and on ad nauseum – they play the same things four hundred times and call it music,” he says. “I play music from a time when (musicians) played more than three chords, they had a story to tell and they told it with the least amount of words needed. It’s all real horns, real pianos and no synthesizers or artificial crap. I’m a purist and I do not like electronic music.”The fact that such divergent tastes and philosophies can share a soundbooth and co-exist on one station remains the beauty of Radio Free Minturn. Ouimette shares crash ‘n’ bash tunes while Gustafson celebrates the foundations of 20th-century pop music, and the listener is the better for it. In the end, both DJs share the same broadcasting philosphy.
“It’s refreshing that someone has offered the opportunity for people to express themselves – not to mention a great way to cut your teeth in radio,” Gustafson says. “I hope it becomes a real staple in the Vail Valley.”Ouimette, though generations away, agrees.”It’s fun to show the community what type of music I like and see what other people like,” Ouimette says. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado