July MD of the Month:

Abbi Allan

KFAI Minneapolis

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Tell us about KFAI.  How it got started and how you first heard about it.

KFAI is a community radio station that specializes in giving a platform for music and media for the community and emphasis on those who are underrepresented in the community. It looks and sounds like the twin cities more than any other radio station out there. All DJs are volunteers and do their own programing entirely. I keep any recommendations to a minimum personally because everyone is like a PHD in their area of expertise. It’s an honor to be part of such a great family and it makes me believe in world peace. I heard about it when myself and 2 other people were asked to apply with a punk radio show some 18 years ago.

How long have you been at KFAI? What is your history there?

Fall of 2000. I was volunteering at Extreme Noise Records and we were approached by the programming director at the time. He wanted to see if we could get an authentic punk rock show to apply to the station to diversify the rock sound that was there. I had radio experience and then was asked to join with 2 other guys.

I’d come from WALF with 4 years of radio and 2 years being the music director. They needed a new Music Director at KFAI so I jumped in. I did the music director job until around 2012/2013 and then quit abruptly. Recently the station got a fantastic new station manager (Leah Honsky) and the whole energy there felt like home again, so I came back last year. I love her vision for the station and she really sees and supports what a special place KFAI is. She truly respects each person and is allowing for so many people to move forward in their goals and try new things. So… Despite having next to no free time, I had to come back.

The music director is a volunteer position, so really a major labor of love that is totally worth it. I believe in the cause and representation that KFAI brings to the air and web and will do anything to keep that going. KFAI turned 40 years old this spring, and I hope to see it go another 40 more and then some.

While doing the music director job, I’ve had a variety of radio shows: Radio Riot, Dart Gun Radio, Local Sound Department, a residency called the Kepler Series, and now I’m co-hosting a show Radio Vortex.

What are you most proud of accomplishing/changing at KFAI?

Ha! Inventing a new system to replace the old database system so I can work from home.

Actually, it’s a lot of what the Station Manager did to make the whole music department become something more than one person, or one person and a bunch of other people who did a lot of work and never got enough credit. Now we have a real team and that’s really exciting and makes room for even more potential going forward.

We have Michael Cyrs who is doing the weekly Top 5 record reviews of the physical records we get and helps identify the genres for classification purposes. He’s a great writer and an even better ear. I love that he’s doing the write ups because; 1 – again, everyone else at the station is a master in their areas of musical interest and it’s hard to wade into other’s professional pools. 2 – I don’t want to appear like I have a dog in the fight or am personally endorsing one record or another. 3 – I’m most happy with 3-chord songs that are about 2 minutes long. Music has changed so much lately so it’s good to have someone younger with their ear to the ground and has both the historical knowledge and still contemporary perspective. I hope we get even more reviewers so we have a greater representation and can be a community resource for the cities. Maybe even our own publication?!?! Who knows? What is great is I can leave that to Michael and I can just focus on statistics more or less (records and where they are, # of plays, etc.), because that in itself is complicated enough. Watch for Michael in the future as a professional music reviewer. He’s got a really bright future so we are lucky to have him.

There’s also Bob Larson, who processes all the records and keeps our shelves stocked and regularly rotating between sections so our on air DJ’s have immediate access to the latest records. It’s a lot of work to process everything and he’s so on top of it. He’s one of those people that really makes things run that works like crazy behind the scenes and our DJ’s are so lucky to have them.

Mason Butler is my personal hero working on getting the KFAI digital library going. It’s a lot of infrastructure he’s been creating and I could write a novel about all the things he does for not only the music department but for the station as well. He’s really moving things forward to the current era. It’s refreshing to see given when I was here years before there was some resistance to that change. We’re a station with a lot of us still loving vinyl and the liner notes (me included), so change is hard, but he’s really been making it happen and always looking forward to what we will need to stay current and have access to all that the station might need.

And then there are so many people doing things and I wish I had time to celebrate them all! That’s why the station is so great – community radio, community run. Again, it makes me believe that world peace is possible.

What is your favorite album of 2018 so far?

I’m guilty of loving a lot of re-releases like the U Men and Terminal Mind… Last year right at the end of the year there were so many great soul revival records and I keep hoping for a bit more of that coming down the pike. Marriage + Cancer, Turnstile, Burning Peppermints, The Distractor makes me smile ear to ear; but I’m still waiting for that album that I can’t get enough of, or the whole album feels like and sounds like an album. Besides Beyoncé because everything she does I just love. She’s an artistic genius. I thought the Curtis Harding record last year was amazing… The Childish Gambino single, like most people have noted is also brilliant so I’m curious what’s coming next from him. I think the purpose of the music video is becoming a more involved art form that is really adding to the content behind the music rather than an advertisement for it. I’m old, so I’m sure all the young people are rolling their eyes, but it’s something that I’m seeing in music that I’m really excited by… but I’m also a visual artists so maybe it’s just more exciting to me because it’s in my wheelhouse.

Do you have a favorite artist or album you never get tired of listening to?

Yes and No. I don’t want to say ‘I’d never get tired of it,’ because you know what will happen… A few; Dirt Black and White discography, Agent Orange’s Living in darkness, Rudimentary Peni, Gun Club’s first album, Born Against, Lemon Heads Hate Your Friends… L7 Bricks are Heavy and Smell the Magic were my first records so they always have a big soft spot in my heart. Stiff Little Fingers Nobody’s Hero, Penis Envy by Crass. Crisis Deathshead Extermination. Sam Cooke. Tom Waits Alice, the Replacements & Husker Du (local love)… so many….That was definitely not one.

When I was a kid my parent’s first date was Yellow Submarine, so there were a lot of Beatles played in the house so that’s always going to be a memory machine. The other albums we had were Sounds & Songs of the Humpback Whale, a Muppets soundtrack, and I think Mickey’s disco. So my mind exploded the first time I heard Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl”. But, I bet I know all the words to those whales singing. “whhooooaaaaa….eepeepe eep eeep”.

What is your favorite live show you have ever attended?

Naked Raygun at the Triple Rock. I’d also say those last few shows I saw at the Triple Rock before it closed, but that was as much about the punk community in the cities as it was the music.

Who is an artist or band outside the realm of college radio that people might be surprised to know you love?

Some people are surprised or more tickled by my love for Beyoncé. I don’t know why that surprises people. She’s so punk rock. She gets more punk rock every year too.

What is your best childhood memory?

Catch with my dad. The first time we got a fish tank. When my cat had kittens or dog had puppies. The first time I heard Rock on the radio. Seeing hot air balloons fly over the house.

What event in your life would you say shaped you the most as a person?

Not sure, I think I’m still forming ☺

I think the time my dad told me about teaching “you’re here to teach, not to punish” – I think that made me realize that there are a lot of things that can be better than the way they were done before and we all have the chance to make someone else’s life better if we make sure our perspective is a compassionate one. Doesn’t mean I always do that, but I do live by that when teaching for sure.

If you could choose, what time period in the past would you most want to travel back to and visit and why?

The early 80’s because being 6 in 1984 was cool. I’d go back to visit myself and give myself a list of times when someone will tell me ‘you can’t’ or put doubt in my head to tell them to pissoff or ignore them and a list of times where I’m really going to need to be my own best support. And then I’d go record shopping. Maybe see if I could meet Jim Henson.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in Minneapolis you always make sure to take guests/visitors to?

My favorite restaurant closed. The Pilgrimage. So did the Triple Rock which everyone needed a po-boy. So then I go back to just comfort food. Pizza Luce and Grumpies Downtown. It’s not ‘ooh la la’ but it feels like home. Oh wait!!! Khyber Pass – that place is amazing! Definitely go there! And it happens to be owned by a KFAI community member to boot.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

Don’t be afraid to make bad art.

Lightning Round:

Dog or Cat? Dobermans! But I do love my kitties. But totally dogs.

Cold drinks or hot ones? Cold

Morning Person or Night Owl?
Depends on when you need me. I’m an adjunct professor; I sleep when I can afford it or get it in.

City or Country?

Watch TV or Read A Book?
It depends. But I find I can make art and do music director things while watching TV… so TV for the multi-tasking, but I feel better about myself as a human when reading a book. But I do love TV.

Winter or Summer?
ALL the seasons!

Winter: Good = snow and good working weather
Bad = ice and driving
Spring: Good = all the flowers and rain
Bad = grading and smells
Summer: Good – gardening, thunderstorms and no grading
Bad – heat and biting bugs
Fall: Good – collecting seeds and cool weather
Bad = grading starts

Dine or Delivery?
Either. As long as I’m not cooking it’s a personal vacation.

Fly or drive? They are both scary.

Pants or Shorts? I’m too old for shorts. Unless your name is Angus Young. That guy gets a forever pass.

Do you have any current favorite TV show obsessions?

Nature and Nova. – Anything medical surgical, pandemic, zombie or fire fighting. But I love retro-series from the 80’s

What is the best movie you’ve seen so far in 2018?

There are several that I want to see that I haven’t yet… but that I’ve seen, I loved Coco and Shape of Water.

Finally, and most importantly:  What is the ideal number of pillows for a good night’s sleep?

Enough to build a fort with my dogs and Ben will tolerate.