In The Middle with KMAH Radio

Former Editor-in-Chief, Reece Parker, caught up with KMAH Radio founder, Kristan Caryl, to discuss everything – even where they sourced their iconic sofa.
How did you come about creating KMAH? What was the trigger in terms of the idea and how did it all work logistically? (Also, where did you source the iconic sofa?)

I, Kristan Caryl, am a music journalist and have been for ten years. I got sick of promoters, DJs, producers and party people all upping and leaving for Berlin or London and wanted to try and start something community minded that might encourage people to stay in Leeds. 

I decided to contact a couple of people I knew and respected for what they were doing in the city’s music scene. One was Arthur Barr, who had got his own vinyl label off the ground, and the other was Hamish Cole, who ran Butter Side Up, the most tasteful party in town. He then asked if his friend and music lover Mike Stockell could get involved, and Arthur tapped up Mike Lawton for the website side of things, and that’s how the family came together. From there we just winged it and made it up as we went along. 

The world famous sofa was spotted at a local charity shop then dragged up four flights of fire escape, which was a laugh. 

What sort of challenges have you had to face running a not-for-profit radio station?

Funding is one. Internet, council tax, rent, gear, streaming, needles, promo, web hosting, Soundcloud… all these things cost. Making sure all the gear works and the internet is good enough, running reliable software to take care of playing pre-records and repeats. Having a responsible and capable team of volunteers to help us cover the live shows is also vital. Really though, it’s all very doable, it just takes lots of dedication and for us to be online 24/7 to deal with problems as and when they arise. And they do arise, unpredictably, quite often, though nothing too major. 

Getting robbed was quite a set back, but we turned that into a positive: when someone started a Crowdsource page for us and it reached twice as much as we needed to replace the CDJs, PC and mixer that was stolen, I decided to give the rest to local homeless charity Simon on the Streets, so with an extra donation from our sponsors, they ended up with £2500 in all. 

Who have been your favourite DJs you’ve had play out for you?

At first we went after big names from round Europe and got them (Bill Brewster, Mark E, Dave Futureboogie, A Sagittarian, Man Power, Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, John Heckle and so on) but over time I’ve realised I’m more motivated by local bedroom stars who have just as much music and are just as passionate. Giving them a platform to shine and get a bigger profile has been great. I’m not naming names as everyone is as important as everyone else to making us what we are. 

Having Amp Fiddler fly in to do a live show for our 2nd Birthday was pretty special though. 

What ideas/ ethos underpins KMAH?

So long as the music is interesting and different, anyone of any age, race, faith, gender or religion can have a show. We’re a community station who engenders inclusivity and want the whole city to feel a part of it. 

Would you please outline what happened when you were broken into and had equipment stolen in 2016, and then how you reacted/ the reasoning underpinning your response?

Oops, I answered that already. But the thinking behind it was that after the initial response of ‘oh fucking hell, we’re fucked’ I realised that we were still in a very privileged position and that there are a lot more worse things that could happen to you than having your radio station broken into, such as being drug dependent and homeless, as are too many people in Leeds. So we decided to try and help rather demonise those less fortunate than us. 

How do you see KMAH developing in the future? 

We all have full time jobs outside of the radio so it’s taken a while but this could be a big year for us. The plan is more events, more community focus, more off site live streams, more opportunities for everyone. 

You work alongside some of the most exciting underground collectives and DJs in Leeds. Are there any hidden gems flying under the radar who you think deserve more recognition?

Tune in at any point from midday to midnight any day of the week and you will hear great music played by passionate people. From Gip, the 50 something year old Salvo’s restaurant owner and his immense jazz knowledge to Plugkeisha, one of our most recent signings and a grime, juke etc. specialist, everyone has real knowledge. 

The 8MANA and Tight Lines crews are also very creative collectives of MCs and beat makers; plenty of our interns have graduated to have their own shows that cover everything from hip hop to classical; we have the soulful vibes of big Leeds DJ Comfy Bella on board, Manchester’s house and techno loving Meat Free crew, Cosmic Slop resident Mike G’s always eve opening World Treasures Music show, a rotating assembly of people from Outlaws Yacht Club who dig deeper than anyone and so many more.

I’m biased but if you’re a proper music lover then you’re likely to enjoy just about every single show we put out. The only thing we don’t deal in is rock and heavy metal. They’ve had their time. 

Reece Parker

(Main image: Crack Magazine)