FANTASTICA: What does wet-sanding a bonzer have in common with three Italian lounge singers? Why, Captain Ambience, of course.
Most work days you can find J.P. St. Pierre at northern San Diego’s finest surfboard manufacturing shop, Moonlight Glassing, where he wet-sands and polishes the quality surf crafts that ship out daily from the San Marcos factory. But one night a week a transformation occurs. J.P.’s persona melts into a strange amalgamation of Phil Henry, Hugh Hefner and Henry Mancini. He becomes Captain Ambience, directing the pirate radio ship, at dirty.org, known as Thrift Store Radio.
What, you might ask, is Thrift Store Radio? Imagine yourself in a smoky, dimly-lit, pre-Castro Havana nightclub listening to Johnny Cash cover a Harry Belafonte tune, while Duke Kahanamoku does back-up on the congas and a saucy cigarette vendor tries to push some Camels on you.
Well that’s a good start, but Captain Ambience and Thrift Store Radio are much more than that.
Captain Ambience spins an eclectic array of records to the Internet masses from a quirky little “studio” located down what J.P. explains as the “last dirt road in Southern California,” at a friend’s house in Leucadia. The “studio” is also a hangout for local Leucadia surfers who maintain and share the lifestyle of groovy old North County. And really, Leucadia is the last holdout–the Alamo if you will–of an area that looks more and more like Laguna Niguel than groovy Leucadia. Yet Captain Ambience (a moniker pinned on J.P. after he transformed a squalorly bachelor pad into a hip Tiki lounge) maintains the smooth Leucadia groove by spinning tunes which include an eclectic mix of genres like 50s Hawaiian, classic surf, Crime Jazz, Mambo, lounge instrumentals and old-school country.
But don’t try to pigeonhole the good Captain–even he doesn’t know what type of vinyl he’ll come across next. A big part of JP’s hobby includes scouring thrift stores and garage sales for discarded albums, usually from the 50s and 60s. “I’m not really a music expert,” he explains. “I just pick them by the album covers.” If the cover art portrays a buxom brunette, martini in hand, lounging casually on a leopard skin throw rug, it’ll probably make its way into the collection. “Hopefully it’ll have some cool tunes on it,” J.P. adds “And if it does, it’ll probably make it on the air.”
Along with the musical programming, Captain Ambience spices up the show by parodying local FM radio, spitting out a few jokes, and offering up some stinging, but good-hearted, commentary. “Dirty.org is usually run by a crew of capable, well-known DJs,” explains J.P. “My show isn’t even mentioned on their website. Thrift Store Radio is the pirating of pirate internet radio–basically a mutiny.” If you want to join in on the pillaging, there’s a chat room on Dirty.org. You can chime in with your own spin on things, or offer up a request.
To listen to Captain Ambience and his Thrift Store Radio tune into on Tuesday nights (unless he’s sanding my board) between 6 and 7p.m.