[INTERVIEW] 10 Questions with Rudy Panucci

1. Where and when did Radio Free Charleston start?
RFC started as a radio show in 1989, on 96.1 FM, which was then WVNS, an oldies station. After working over 100 days straight, often covering two shifts, I was rewarded with the 2 AM to 6 AM Sunday morning spot–and the freedom to play whatever I wanted. Local music became a large part of that, and within months it was the highest-rated shift on the station. Which lead to the radio show being cancelled in 1990. Sixteen years later I revived it as a video show as part of the PopCult blog.


2. Who are your film and musical influences?
The RFC video show is largely influenced by the old USA Network series “Night Flight,” but there are elements of Ernie Kovacs, Monty Python, The Marx Brothers and Tex Avery buried in there, too. Musically, I’m a Beatles freak, but I also have pretty scattered tastes, everything from punk to prog to swing to classical and more.

3. How do you choose the music and animation that’s going to be in the show?
I go looking for it, and have been lucky finding it. In the beginning of the web show I was mainly looking up old friends from the radio days. Since then i’ve tracked down a few new talents on my own, plus I’ve had some pretty savvy folks like Nick Harrah send a few bands my way. Through RFC Big Shot Melanie Larch I’ve tapped into the CYAC kids who work with Dan Kehde and Mark Scarpelli. It’s amazing the depth of talent we have around here.

Most of the animation is table scraps from my brother, RFC Big Shot Frank Panucci. He’s largely responsible for the look of the show. Even though I’ve been doing the post-production solo since around episode ten, Frank really set the tone.

Some of the short films have come, literally, in the mail in plain brown wrappers. P-Dox and The Plant Ro Duction crew are both pretty mysterious lots.

The No Pants Players have also been major contributors to RFC since the first episode. Our recent Halloween show could never have happened without their help.


4. Who films Radio Free Charleston? We know you’re the guy in front of the camera, who’s behind the camera?
Most of the host segments are shot by Melanie Larch, but we have had other folks on occasion, like Frank Panucci, RFC Big Shot Brian Young and, recently, Flare Baroshi. Most of the band shoots are by me and Melanie, but we’ve had lots of guest camera people, particularly on the stuff we’ve recorded at our production partners, LiveMix Studio. All the principles at LiveMix, Brian Young, Kai Haynes and Greg Wegman, have been behind the camera at various times.

A special “apocryphal” episode of Radio Free Charleston, featuring music from Stephen Beckner and Captain Crash and The Beauty Queen. Shot and assembled on November 2, 2008. Musical performances shot October 25.

5. Flare Baroshi ‘s “Vampire Mafia” is a great video. Any plans for future music videos?
We plan to do more work with Flare, and we’ll be running some videos that she’ll do on her own. She’s really an incredible talent, one of several kids that we’ve had on the show that seem to be destined for greatness. I’d also like to do some music videos with Andy Park and WATT 4, among other local acts. We’re also open to running music videos that folks make on their own. We’ve done that with The ButtonFlies a couple of times. I love it when folks bring us finished videos–it’s less work for me. :-)

6. How many Radio Free Charleston’s can we expect to see next year?
I’ll do at least 24 shows, barring a runaway bus incident. Probably more, if I get restless. I’m sketching out plans to do at least six tribute shows, one for DEVO,another Beatles Show, and shows dedicated to each of The Beatles solo careers. We’ll probably also do another “show without words” at some point.

A brief look at the “Pandora’s Toy Box” exhibit of custom toys, as shown at the Good News Mountaineer Garage Gallery from May to June, 2008. Music was composed and peformed for this piece by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch.

7. How can people find out more about Radio Free Charleston?
I wish I knew. Getting print coverage, even when we were affiliated with the Gazette, was always a bit like swimming upstream in molten lead. Even our big third anniversary show with Ann Magnuson, Unknown Hinson, The reunited Pistol Whippers and the lead singer of GWAR only got a couple of paragraphs on page five. The goal is to take the show to a broadcast outlet eventually, but I haven’t had time to explore all my options in that regard yet. I’ve also sort of dropped the ball on self-promotion a bit. I get so caught up in the production of the show–I do almost all of the editing and sound production on the show–that I don’t have time to do the basic things, like sending out press releases or courting the media.I still haven’t gotten around to setting up a fan page on Facebook.

An animated video for the song “Requiem For Pepperland” which was recorded in 1989, but never performed live by the band. The video was created in October 2007 by Rudy Panucci for the Radio Free Charleston webcast at www.thegazz.com. Episode 28 is a Beatles tribute, and this clip was made expressly for that purpose. The show was originally posted on October 9, John Lennon’s birthday. The video is animated as a tribute to Heinz Edelmann, designer of The Yellow Submarine feature film. It was designed, drawn and animated over the course of four days.

8. Do you have a website?
We have the MySpace page, www.myspace.com/radiofreecharleston, where all the shows can be seen, and all production notes are archived. Sadly, squatters grabbed the radiofreecharleston.com URL a month after we relaunched as a webshow, and they’re using it for an Americana web radio site or something.

The Hellblinki Sextet, performing at The Blue Parrot in Charleston, WV. The song is “Don’t Go Down To The Woods” The video was directed and edited by Rudy Panucci for Radio Free Charleston. Additional camera: Melanie Larch.

9. Any big plans for the 100 episode of Radio Free Charleston?
Nothing definite is planned yet, but I’m leaning toward some kind of jam session show, where we mix up players from different bands. I got a real kick out of pairing Melanie Larch, who had previously been on the show singing “Ave Maria”, with The Diablo Blues Band on our Christmas show.

10. What’s in the future for Rudy Panucci and Radio Free Charleston?
I plan to keep plugging away with the webshow. I want to take RFC to broadcast, but I want to do it right, with the right broadcast partner. And there’s no way I’m going to do the show where I have to pay for airtime. I don’t have time to produce the show and sell advertising. Besides, selling advertising is the last thing in the world I ever want to have to deal with. My future is hopefully filled with getting enough mundane paying work to keep doing the show as often as I’m able. I’m still trying to figure out how I managed to produce over eight hours of RFC in 2009.

As for the future content–expect more new artists and old favorites, more animation from Frank, more short films from Plant Ro Duction and Scott Elkins and God only knows what else.

suit and tie

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