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UCLA

Vikings, Vandals and Anti-Morning Radio

UCLA grad Joe Escalante is more than just an indie-radio host, and not just because he's bass player for The Vandals.

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By Paul Feinberg '85

Published Jul 18, 2008 10:56 AM


Ready? Pop quiz. Joe Escalante '85 is:

art

Radio host/bullfighter Joe Escalante

A: an attorney who studied Viking civilization at UCLA
B: the bass player for punk-rock semi-legends The Vandals
C: an amateur bullfighter
D: host of "The Last of the Famous International Morning Shows," heard locally on Indie Radio 103.1
E: all of the above

If you answered E ...

Thirty minutes before his 6:00 am shift begins, Escalante sets up his computer, checks his email and then he hits the airwaves, bringing the Southland what he calls "anti-morning radio." It's radio for grown-ups who still dig cool tunes from the Black Keys to the Detroit Cobras, from the Angry Samoans to Tokyo Police Club. Adding to the show's hip cachet, Escalante's sports correspondent is actor Timothy Oliphant and his weatherman is the director David Lynch. Escalante has an unusual amount of freedom when it comes to choosing the music he plays, selecting the tracks he likes from the station's vast programming library.

When Escalante entered UCLA he wanted to be a lawyer. Naturally, he studied Vikings. "I was under the impression that it didn't really matter what you majored in as long as you did well," Escalante explains. "So, I looked for something that was interesting and Viking civilization was interesting to me. It was a really small department and that made a big difference."

He also lived a bit of a double life.

"In my freshman year, [The Vandals] started up and I just did weekends [with the band] and in the summer we toured," Escalante says. "We were just suburban punk kids. In Orange County, it was a lifestyle — you got beat up every day — but we weren't living on the streets."

After graduation, he "did the punk rock thing," touring and recording with The Vandals, while managing to complete a summer program in Iceland before entering law school. Escalante worked for more than a decade as an entertainment lawyer — and somehow found the time to indulge his lifelong passion for bullfighting by training to be an amateur matador. Eventually, he landed an hour-a-week show on Indie — "Barely Legal Radio" — offering legal advice to bands' members and others in the 'biz. The show proved popular and when Indie needed a new morning man, Escalante got the nod.

He says the show helped break him out of his "punk rock bubble," exposing him to wider styles of indie music that he now really enjoys. He compares some of today's punk rockers to civil war re-enactors, but admires a new punk scene in South L.A. and Compton that he says "is a bit imitative, but it's not commercially viable and that's the key. They're not trying to get rich and that was the agreement when we got into it. We just did it because we liked punk rock music."

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