Internet Radio Gives Goth A Sanctuary

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Due to a boo-boo during the installation of XM radio in Rocks Off's car, we know longer have a terrestrial radio antenna in our Matrix. Due to the fact that XM became about as empty and mindless as terrestrial radio shortly after the merger with Sirius, we no longer have satellite radio either.

On the Monday after President Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden we glared at our silent radio wishing that we could tune into the AM dial and hear a bit of talk radio on so monumental an occasion, the only time in the last four years we have ever missed traditional radio programming.

Music in our house is provided almost exclusively through iPod and iPhone. The CDs that we haven't uploaded but won't throw away sit in boxes in a closet. Radio shows we like are available via podcast, or better yet through streaming Internet radio. The format has finally become what it was always hyped to be, and we couldn't be happier because it means that we are constantly plugged into DJ Rob and his goth station Sanctuary Radio

Rob started out as a club DJ at the tender age of 16 in the UK back in the mid-1980s. Siousxie, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy, and many more of the now-legendary spooksters were in their heyday dropping iconic songs and looks like they were spare changed from a ripped pocket.

It would be 10 years before Rob would begin tackling the transition from dance floors to airwaves. Rob saw the potential in internet radio, the ability for direct control free of corporate conglomerate as well as the ability to instantly and effortlessly reach the entire wired-in world. 1995 was the year he began using his best playlists to put together Sanctuary Radio.

Unfortunately, many factors stood in his way. Internet radio popularity has only come into its own with the advent of the mobile phone industry's ability to take such things on the go. Also of course, the cost of such an endeavor was daunting in the early days of the internet, and indeed remains so today.

"We are 100 percent commercial-free," says DJ Rob. "The hardest part is the fundraising so we can stay on the air. I hate hate hate having to ask for any money. I wish we could just do this and not have to worry about money. Our listeners have been awesome though and do step up each month with their generous donations. We couldn't do Sanctuary Radio without any of them. And we really never want to run ads and ruin what we have now."

Despite the cost, Rob was able to retire from club DJing in 2005 and launch what has become one of the best goth music stations in the world as a full-fledged, 24/7 radio entity. Sanctuary maintains both a main station, where we are currently enjoying the Bauhaus bass line and blatant masturbation references She Wants Revenge's "These Things," as well as a Resurrection channel specializing in forgotten tracks from the golden age of goth.

That Rob has divided Sanctuary into these two distinct approaches speaks volumes of the future of our beloved dark genre. Looking back with hindsight, you see a very definite progression of the births of the various goth subgenres, but the movement has in some ways stalled in the new millennium. That's not to say that new bands are not out there coming up with the next big thing in black. It's just that the mainstream has only seen fit to throw us HIM, Evanescence, and maybe a little Crystal Castles every now and then to tide us over.

"Here's your black ball with a bat painted on it," they seem to say. "Now go play. Daddy's drinking."

That is reason enough to cheer something like Sanctuary. As the record industry as we all understand it continues to gutterball itself in the lowest common denominator we are forced to return to the time when goth rose in terms of discovery.

Now, rather than traveling in miles to that little record store where the proprietor could lead you to what the FM gods were trying to keep from you we travel miles through wi-fi and cable to the hidden bits of cyberspace to hear the coming thing.

"Goth really isn't Goth as it was back in the late 70s through 80s when I started spinning it," says Rob. "Sisters and Siouxsie were called Goth but are now considered 'darkwave' and are pretty mainstream stuff. And darkwave now includes a lot of electronica and synthpopy stuff.

"I think things are splitting off between the rivetheads who love hardcore industrial like Combichrist and Hocico, and people who like the synthpop stuff like Wolfsheim and VNV Nation. I think the future will be bright for all dark genres as long as the clubs, DJs, bands, and labels do not ignore the under-18 crowd."

Currently, Rob receives over fifty releases a week, and personally listens to every single track on every single one in an effort to continue to bring emerging artists and new listeners together in a way they would not otherwise have a chance to.

Still, not even as experienced a DJ as Rob can always pick a song that will be loved by all. That and his ever-present need to raise money to keep Sanctuary Radio going led him and his assistant production manager Pixie into an experiment that we think could be the future of all forms of radio.

Basically, Rob started getting emails from listeners complaining about specific songs on the playlist. No big deal, right? Just take the song off the playlist and everyone's happy. Well, the problem was that a lot of the time the song that was the subject of the complaint was another listener's request. One could say this was a no-win situation, but Rob proved he was a goth Solomon when he started charging people to ban songs.

It was simple, really. Listeners could make a small donation and in return Rob would remove a song from the playlist for a certain amount of time. The idea took off, and listeners became even more involved while Sanctuary grew a little closer to financial security. If we could do this with Clear Channel stations we promise you we'd be broke. Happy that Nickelback was a scorched dollar sign on the airwaves, but broke.

Internet radio grows more powerful every day as the airwaves grow more and more homogenized in an effort to reduce pop music down to its blandest and least offensive form. That or to grasp for the straws of yesterday rather than swim forward.

DJ Rob and stations like his Sanctuary Radio are the revolution, and the return of music to the hands of the underground. As long as there remain DJs who seek to give new and exciting music a forum to thrive in, then goth and all real music will have a future to survive and possibly rule.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.