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Brave new host 

'Shoog Radio' begins its seventh year with a veteran rocker at the helm.

click to enlarge NEW MAN IN CHARGE: Local musician Scott Diffee is now the host of 'Shoog Radio.' - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • NEW MAN IN CHARGE: Local musician Scott Diffee is now the host of 'Shoog Radio.'

The venerable KABF-FM, 88.3, music program "Shoog Radio" turned 6 years old this year. Since its birth in February 2011, the all-Arkansas radio show has gone from a simple idea to a ratings behemoth that airs on a 100,000-watt station. The station's signal reaches almost all of Arkansas — roughly 50,000 square miles — and is broadcast live 24/7.

I co-hosted "Shoog Radio" from 2013 to 2016. One day, KABF's board president, Toney Orr, recounted a story to my co-host, Kara Bibb, and me: While Orr was visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, two women spotted his Arkansas Razorbacks T-shirt and asked if he was from Arkansas. "Do you listen to KABF?" they asked. "It's a radio station out of Arkansas. You need to check out this one radio show, 'Shoog Radio.' " 

From the beginning, "Shoog Radio" had a great ethos under its hood: that it should shine an unwavering spotlight on the state's music scene. Its founders, Cheyenne Matthews and Christy Ewing, pitched the idea to KABF programming director John Cain, and in no time "Shoog Radio" was on the air. The show amassed a long list of guests (musicians, actors, writers and artists) and an even longer list of listeners, boosting Arkansas's reputation as a Southern musical mecca with weekly playlists of tracks from the likes of Ginsu Wives, Sweet Eagle, The Big Dam Horns and Hector Faceplant.

But, while the show's philosophy has remained constant, its leadership has not. "Shoog Radio" has had many hosts over the years; and now in 2017, the show has a new driver behind the wheel: local rocker Scott Diffee. 

For newbies, Diffee is famous here in the Natural State, having fronted myriad great bands: Go Fast, The Shallows, The Martyrs. His credentials check out like a grocery list. Born and raised in Arkansas? Check. Brought up in the Arkansas music scene? Check. In fact, Diffee played Vino's debut night show; it's hard to get more ingrained in a town's music scene than to be able to claim you played opening night at its version of CBGB.

I was able to take some time to interview Diffee recently at his tattoo shop, The Parlor. Here is some of our conversation: 

How did you get the hosting slot? 

Cheyenne asked me, and I'm not gonna turn it down. I'm a hard worker and I'm open-minded. 

What is your plan for the direction of the show? 

I want to branch out to everybody, all cities, all themes. The whole state, older stuff that shouldn't be forgotten and what's going on now. This is my chance to give back to the scene. You know, this scene has given me everything. If it wasn't for the local music scene, my tattooing wouldn't have been anything. I've been tattooing for 26 years, but I worked at Vino's before I ever opened my shop.

So, you're from Little Rock? 

I was raised on Arkansas Avenue. I rode bicycles. That's how I got to go downtown all the time. If I went this way, it was all hilly, so I'd ride downtown instead. That's how I ended up at Vino's. Next thing you know, I'm meeting skaters, artists, musicians. Then I got a guitar. I had a perm and a Stratocaster and a little amp. I was in the first band that played the first night at Vino's — the grand opening night.

Someone told me you painted the famous Vino's logo on the stage?

Yep. Me and my wife painted that thing with duct tape and newspaper. We got paid $100. I took that money up to the [state] health department and took the test to get my license [to tattoo]. Six months later, I had my license. 

And now you're opening a venue at your tattoo shop? What's it called? Tell me about how it came to be.

The Sonic Temple. So, we noticed that smaller venues are becoming more popular. Here [at The Sonic Temple], bands from out of town can play a show, then spend the night, wash their clothes, cook food, rehearse. We had Bask play here for the first time, and they loved it. We had kids outside watching them play by a bonfire. It was great. We want to be able to have a place where kids can come and hang out, some of the misfits who feel odd, out of place. We're gonna have some skateboard ramps out front and kids can come hang out and listen to records, watch bands. That's why I took on the radio show because, you know, I want to help.

***

"I want to help." That probably sums up "Shoog Radio" best. The show, conceived in the spirit of friendship and idealism, toddles past its sixth year as a bona fide radio institution. It's a testament to the blood, sweat and tears of generations of tireless Arkansas musicians, and embodies their desire to champion one another as brothers and sisters rather than compete against each other as contestants. In doing so, it attracts the very best in Arkansas music, which is why decorated music veteran Scott Diffee is now in charge of the show's future. Good luck, Mr. Diffee. The "Shoog Radio" audience is listening.  

'Shoog Radio' airs noon-2 p.m. Tuesdays on KABF-FM, 88.3. For a full program schedule, visit kabf.org.

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