Interview With:

Kari Gaffney

Kari-On Productions

Tell us a bit about the career path that led to where you are now.

My career path was a natural extension from being a musician and coming from a family deeply involved in the industry from a production standpoint in TV and radio. The earliest influence was my grandmother, who was a radio personality at CBC during the war (CBC Year Book 1946 Kathleen Alexander), and co-stared with such luminary actors as Lorne Green (Bonanza, Battlestar Galactica and Galactica 1980), Lloyd Bachner (Dynasty, Batman – whom she almost married) and more. Later she and my father moved to Los Angeles, where she took up acting in films as one of the many tap dancers in chorus’. I have to say for all of us (I have many in my family involved in the entertainment industry) she was the matriarch that instilled the arts as a passion, whether we pursued it as a living or not.

I began Kari-On Productions as a company to help my fellow musician friends and family members with publishing rights, it grew into a record label, then distribution. In fact, my first and second album became one of the very few independently nationally distributed artists in the nation with, the now defunct, Borders, Books and Music. Also, I had the great pleasure of touring with my husband, who is also a musician, and raising a son (now a 27-year-old) on the road. We loved the adventure, but longed to be home more often, and when our son was ready for High School, we decided to get off the road and develop a music career that allowed us to stay home.

Why does college/community radio matter in today’s fragmented environment?

The service created by college and community radio programming is a glue to any local market and at times with HD or streaming, the opportunity for a listener to connect with their hometown, anytime and anywhere. Additionally, the opportunity to still hear deeply independent programming curated by a personality that has worked hard to create an audience and rapport with that audience, is the exact same ingredient of why live music still is king. Streaming music does not offer that same curation that a hosted DJ programming does. It’s the human factor that makes college and community radio so unique, and its ability to present music that has never or seldom been heard. Just like musicians work hard to create a following, so do DJs and radio stations. In the ever-growing landscape of music, college and community radio is one platform, I hope never goes away. Its independence of programming is so important for future generations of musicians and listeners alike.

What is your favorite experience you’ve had in your career? Perhaps a musical idol you got to meet? A festival you were able to attend? A project you were involved with promoting?

Growing up in the Los Angeles music scene in the 70s and 80s, when luminary venues were afoot, I had many family friends involved from a production, writing, technical, tv or other. The music industry has brought many experiences for me; that are quite rewarding. I was on the soundstage for Madonna’s “Like a Virgin Tour,” I was backstage at Prince’s “Purple Rain” tour and went to the after party, with artists such as David Lee Roth and beyond attending. I have been to backstage concerts at the Forum in Inglewood, CA., and went to school with members of Mötley Crüe (Neil & Lee) at Charter Oak High School in Covina CA. I have been to private parties with the who’s who of Hollywood. In fact, until I was 18 years old I had never experienced a concert as an audience member, as I was only allowed to go to these events chaperoned by family friends who were in the industry.

As a musician, I opened for countless major artists in many genres. As a promoter, I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with many artists in my genre that are truthfully all quite unique, creative, and groundbreaking. I think the most “A-ha” moment for me was when I opened years ago for David Gates of Bread. As I was sitting backstage, it was profound how many songs of my youth he had penned. I found myself remembering almost every tune as a soundtrack at some moment in my life growing up. Though my music palette is vast, and I have met heroes from my youth in Punk, Jazz, Metal, Rock, Country, R&B and Adult Contemporary genres, it was the inner acknowledgement of songwriting, a personal passion for me as I too still write tune for others, that was a legacy that would last well beyond my time on earth. Not being a particularly steadfast fan of Bread, it was profound to me how many tunes I actually knew and loved. Though my life has been filled with many great experiences it was the recognition of the osmosis moment that left a lasting impression for me.

What band/artist outside the realm of college/community radio would people be surprised to hear you love?

Being a jazz and world promoter, I guess most would be stunned to know I am an avid lover of Punk oldies. I mosh-pitted with the best of them in my youth. Groups like Wendy O Williams, 999, Dead Kennedy’s and of course, Sid himself and the Sex Pistols, will always be in my playlist, and my dirty little secret. I still remember hearing the B52’s, who were first introduced to me by Rodney on the Rock, as a young adult on KROQ when it first launched, at that time “Rock Lobster” was throbbing the airwaves.

What job do you think you would you be doing if you weren’t a promoter?

Anything that involved creativity, that is the essence of my being. I must be creative, or I feel like life is very boring and mundane. I would continue to write songs, but I also would explore my other passions, which are growing food, herbs, and spices. I guess it would allow me to have more time to devote to my passion of food.

Do you think college/community radio will ever actually be an all-digital format? And if so, when?

That part I don’t know, the amount of infrastructure invested in terrestrial radio is vast. I hope it doesn’t go away, as a listener myself it is that independence I enjoy so much, and I feel it would be a mistake to do away with it and the communities it serves.

You just won a million dollars. What are you going to do with it?

I think I would pursue my passion for growing food, I am already doing this on the weekends. My husband and I are working on Urban Farming techniques through the processes of Aquaponics, Fogponics, Aeroponics and dirt farming. We are testing and trying techniques of creating all organic fertilizers through worm castings. Both being vegetarian, it began as a selfish project begging the question of “how do we get better quality food in our area.” Then after buying exclusively from local farmers it morphed into a passion to create new techniques in our community that would benefit our local market. We have a very ambitious group of ladies in our community that coordinate with the state of Georgia from a locally grown standpoint, that are always burgeoning new and groundbreaking ideas. It takes a lot of seed money (no pun) to farm, the infrastructure is a humbling task, but I would say that would be my “next life” pursuit to be sure.

What is/are your current favorite TV obsession(s)? What was your favorite movie of 2017?

I am a huge documentary person. I have to say the most profound documentary for me is actually available on Netflix right now, titled “Rotten,” it talks about how adulterated our food supply is and, for me, resonated as to why I am pursuing alternative methods of food production in my personal time. From a more commercial standpoint, Star Wars, as I have been following it since it released in theaters in 1977.

If someone came to town, what is your favorite restaurant you’d take them to?

That is an easy one for me. A fellow musician friend owns a restaurant called the “Bees Knees.” He buys local and creates unique dishes. It is a Vegetarian-friendly global tapas menu in a snug, casual setting with a full bar and sidewalk tables. If someone wanted true comfort food there is a restaurant that is always packed to the gills (LOL), called Old McDonald’s Fish Camp. I actually took a couple of radio friends who came into town there. It is an all you can eat southern cuisine funky place that is very southern, with hush puppies, corn bread, fried cat-fish, fried alligator and more. The theme is fried and being so – you might need a vein cleaner after this meal.

You’re stranded on a desert island. What five well known people (dead or alive) would you like to have there with you?

That is a great question. Probably Edison for my practical side, Mozart for my edification of ear, Elon Musk for his ingenuity and invention skills, Paramahansa Yogananda for his spiritual guidance and knowledge, and Beverly Lynn Bennett, a chef known for her vegan dishes and raw approach to dishes.