Pirate captains weren't known for their enlightened attitude toward questions regarding their authority. And, it appears neither are the captains of pirate radio stations. Moments after DJs at San Francisco's own Pirate Cat Radio broached the query of who, exactly, owns the station — and where their monthly dues payments are going — they claim founder Daniel "Monkey" Roberts (below) abruptly pulled the plug on the station.
Pirate Cat Radio has been offline since Feb. 13. DJs have no idea if they're still staffers — or if the station even still exists — following the abortive staff meeting they say inspired Roberts to scuttle the ship.
The impasse began in November when Roberts brought in an outside investor who answered a "Wanna Buy Pirate Cat Radio?" ad on Craigslist. But while that investor — who declined to be interviewed — claims he now owns 80 percent of the station, Roberts told staff he'd sold only the controlling interest in the Pirate Cat Radio Cafe. The station, Roberts told his staffers, had actually been sold in August, to a nonprofit that controls Pescadero's KPDO 89.3 FM. Roberts runs that station; his revival of it was the subject of an SF Weekly cover story last year ("The Radio Pirate Goes Legit," Ashley Harrell, 5/26/10).
Complicating matters further, while staffers were instructed to pay their $30 monthly dues to the new investor in December, in January they were instead told to deposit the loot in a bank account for the Pescadero nonprofit — controlled by Roberts. That started "a discussion about where exactly the money was going," DJ Green Ego says. Adds DJ Patrick "Nylon" Simms, "We don't know. We're in the dark. We're trying to get some answers."
That'll be a challenge — because no one seems to know where Roberts is. None of the Pirate Cat staffers has seen him since the holidays. KPDO DJs haven't seen him for more than a month. His lawyer, Michael Couzens, says Roberts told him on Feb. 16 that he was in the United Kingdom. His Facebook page lists his home city as Moscow. He was attending the Feb. 13 Pirate Cat meeting via Skype, and a KPDO DJ says Roberts has been running the station via daily calls to an assistant from parts unknown. Messages left for Roberts were not returned as of press time.
With Pirate Cat Radio offline, the DJs didn't pay Roberts any dues this month. Instead, they used the money to kickstart what they're calling the PCR Collective, which broadcasts out of the Pirate Cat Radio Cafe. "We're trying to continue on," Simms says. "It is too important to us."