If you’ve seen the 2013 documentary The Punk Singer, you know Kathleen Hannawas stuck out at sea for a long time when she was creatively paralyzed and overwhelmed by the day-to-day challenges of Lyme disease. One of the harshest consequences of her illness was profound fatigue, something that severely limited her capacity to write or perform music. At times, she found it difficult to even speak.
Lucky for us– oh, and for Hanna too– she’s doing much better these days, so much so that even though her band The Julie Ruin, like, just released their new album, Hanna is making an appearance this week at a speaker store in Soho, of all places, called Sonos.
Everyone knows New York real estate is tough. Two people who know it particularly well are Tom Tenney and Robert Prichard. Both were involved with experimental Lower East Side performance space Surf Reality, which garnered repeat mentions in the Times for their contributions to the alternative comedy scene of the mid-late ’90s and was one of the home bases for the Art Star community, along with nearby Collective Unconscious. Surf Reality went a similar route of many experimental venues in the neighborhood, and closed in 2003. It’s since been replaced with a Bikram yoga studio. Faced with the inevitability of an unaffordable rent and changing tides, they turned to the airwaves and began online community radio station Radio Free Brooklyn in May of 2015.
Sheri Barclay, founder of KPISS radio inside the studio (Photo: Nicole Disser)
You’d be a fool to think that KPISS radio is some ramshackle operation. Sure, they might be tucked away in the far-back confines of Punk Alley– an assortment of shipping containers right along the Bushwick/ Bed-Stuy border where you’ll find a record store, used book purveyors, and even a mini-shop dedicated to paraphernalia from local punk bands. One by one, they’ve opened up over the last couple of years, joining maybe a dozen more smalltime vendors that were already there every day doin’ their thing, and about a year ago KPISS joined them. There’s no doubt that the KPISS.FM digs– a rectangular box with a couch and some turntables, mics, and other broadcast equipment behind a sheet of plexiglass– are pretty humble. “The last tenant was this guy who basically pissed all over the studio,” explained the station’s founder, Sheri Barclay. “No one would rent it, but I would. I called it KPISS in his honor.”
Unless you’re one of the lucky few who rememeber “random encounters with Prince” while nightclubbing in the East Village in the early ’80s, then you’d probably give your raspberry beret to have met the man. Rich Russo had the opportunity to do just that, back in the East Village of the ’90s–though it didn’t turn out very well.
The Lot Radio is currently in ‘beta mode’ (Photo: Nicole Disser)
Over the weekend, a new radio station with a focus on the multifaceted New York City music scene entered what founder Francois Vaxelaire described as “beta mode.” The Lot Radio occupies a shipping container plopped on a lonesome triangular strip of land near the Williamsburg-Greenpoint border. Bound by a sulky chainlink fence that’s just 63 feet on its longest side, the lot looks like some cosmic accident at the awkward intersection of Nassau, Banker, and North 15th Streets, rather than a place where anything other than weeds ever grew. But since January, Francois has been visiting frequently, and even if things are not quite where he’d hoped they’d be by now, a handful of people came by on Sunday to turn on the equipment, hit record, and start digitally broadcasting. “It was more to test everything, to see if everything was working,” Francois explained. “It was.”
WGRL’s recording studio is inside this Airstream trailer (Photo by Kavitha Surana)
“The world of podcasting is really white and really male-dominated if you look at the charts,” said Julia Furlan, the founder of Buzzfeed Audio. She was reflecting on the state of women in media after the official launch for Where Girl Radio Lives (WGRL), the podcast of the Lower East Side Girls Club. “The people who really started it out were these tech nerds 10 or 15 years ago. Now the industry is getting bigger and more diverse and more exciting– but it doesn’t happen by accident.”
This afternoon Furlan, along with eight other accomplished female radio producers and media insiders, gathered at the WGRL podcast kick off. So much for those tired all-male panel excuses that there just aren’t enough ladies out there.