KZND radio personality and local music booster Fatguy throws one last hurrah

Rachel Kenshalo

Fatguy, the recently departed program director and DJ for 94.7 KZND The End, is leaving Alaska after three years as a strong advocate of Anchorage's music scene. Before doing so, he's hosting Fatguy's Last Stand on Friday. The event will feature 17 local bands playing on two stages at Koot's. For the under-21 crowd, the party continues Saturday at the Fiesta Room.

Not surprisingly, Fatguy isn't the name listed on his birth certificate. Nee Jon Marte, he grew up in foster care and spent his childhood moving around quite a bit, first in California and his later years in Alabama and Mississippi. Moving as much as he did, he was an easy target for bullies. His coping mechanism was to "flip the script" and dub himself Fatguy, a name that stuck from his early teens throughout his radio career.

Marte said that he was immediately in awe of the Anchorage music scene. "When I first got to town, I saw The Hoons play live," he explained. "I thought they were amazing, and I was hooked."

From there, he took it upon himself to see as many local bands as possible and discovered a wealth of talent in Alaska. Marte decided that, given the alternative format of the station, KZND needed to be a big part of the scene and help foster its growth.

Marte's goal when joining KZND was to give the station more of a local focus. He implemented a radio show featuring local music on the weekend and added local songs to the regular rotation.

He also tried to focus on the arts in general. "Alaska's got some amazing talent; we've got world-class artists, poets, comedians, the works," he said. "We need more publicity for them and more media through which they can share their art with the community."

Along with his radio show, Marte's weekly Live and Local Freakshow at Koot's was another effort to highlight local music. He also organized a number of tribute shows, where local bands covered songs by artists like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Metallica, David Bowie and The Cure.

He added that the local music scene over the last three years has "grown in leaps and bounds." Marte attributed part of this to the "pendulum swing," saying that Anchorage traditionally has seen phases when indie alternative is king and periods where death metal dominates. Alaska is often noted for its metal (think 36 Crazyfists), but indie and alternative have grown as well (Portugal. The Man).

Marte said record labels have shown interest in several local bands, and he feels a sense of pride in having a small hand in helping foster those bands' growth. "Bands are thirsting for knowledge, trying to get better," he explained.

Marte doesn't take leaving Alaska lightly, saying he'll miss the Colombian accent of Enzo Montana from Decepticide, City in Ashes drummer Cory Hagadon's "Hot Topic hair" and all the friendships he made in the scene.

The feeling is mutual among many local musicians. Brock Lindow, former Fatguy radio co-host and frontman for 36 Crazyfists added, "The guy bleeds for the music scene."

Greg Chaille, promotions director at Chilkoot Charlie's said, "He worked very hard to promote his station, in addition to his charity work."

That charity work is Pump Up the Kids, a program for foster care children started by Marte. Growing up in foster care himself, he recognized a need where other charitable holiday programs left off. He noticed that other holiday toy drives, (which he was quick to point out provide an excellent service) were geared towards younger children. Fatguy envisioned a slightly different program.

"We adopted every teenage foster kid in Alaska and made sure they had a Christmas or holiday that was appropriate for them," he explained. "It was beyond simple toy drives - we were able to take care of the teenagers by asking what they wanted for Christmas. Over 600 foster teenagers received guitars, Xboxes, snowboards and other fairly high-priced items that foster kids normally couldn't ask for or hope to receive."

It's an issue that hits close to home. "Growing up in foster care, I know what it's like," he added. "You can't forget the teenagers; they are in the highest risk group. Holidays are especially tough for them, and if we can offer hope and support from the community, it could change mindsets, and maybe it could be the difference between losing these kids to drugs and suicide and violence."

Though Fatguy and KZND ultimately decided to part ways, his charitable legacy will live on at the radio station, which will continue the Pump Up the Kids program.

Of course, his mark will be left on the local music scene as well. Before moving to the West Coast to look for new work on the airways, Fatguy will say goodbye with one last hurrah, and part of the proceeds benefit Pump Up the Kids.

"I wanted to do one last show before leaving town, with as many bands I've worked with as possible," he explained.

Turquoise Boy, Lavoy, Sicarius, Decepticide, Bolt Action Beaver, T.I.A. and many others are among the bands playing the Koot's concert, while Divides, Noise Brigade, Thunderfish, To The Depths and Witness the End play the all-ages show Saturday.

"I love this place, and I'm really going to miss it," he said. "I love the music and love the people here, they are amazing to each other, and we are privileged to work in a symbiotic sense with stations and the bands."

By Rachel Kenshalo
Daily News correspondent