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Denise Mercedes Interview with WFMU DJ Personality,

Sound Engineer & Artist Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris


Diane's Kamikaze’s Fun Machine - Making ears bleed since 1985 !!!!! Thursdays Noon-3pm WFMU-FM 91.1 (NYC/East Central NJ), 90.1 FM (Hudson Valley, lower Catskills, Western NJ) Worldwide streaming and archived online: http://www.wfmu.org


It is a great pleasure and honor to present my first interview for MusicRealms with the multi-talented and accomplished Diane Farris!! Thx Richie Realms for this opportunity** For those of us involved in the world of rock whether as performers or fans, it’s important and necessary to fully recognize and give props to the hardworking, creative people not always standing under the spotlight and glory of a stage, but who are vital links in the chain of our music community. Without impressive talents like hers in the mix = helping musicians along their way, our efforts would be a whole lot tougher in getting the music out there. Diane Farris, popular DJ-WFMU, has spent 3 decades promoting heavy music and exposing her radio audience to a wide variety of it – and, giving us insights into the artists behind those recordings that we know, love, and are inspired by. Her knowledge base of music is astounding, which is what motivated me to call her a ‘walking encyclopedia of rock’ when spending some time at the station as an on-air guest with Stimulators bassist, Nick Marden. Diane is a hero for keeping the flame burning by also including new or relatively unknown bands that have something special, and giving them a shot of airtime as well. You’ll always enjoy the exciting show and learn something when listening to this engaging host on her weekly program … so be sure to TUNE IN & take a lissen!!**!!


Diane Kamikaze’s Fun Machine Thursdays Noon-3pm WFMU-FM 91.1


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

Can you provide a little info on the WFMU station itself? That would be very helpful for readers.


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

WFMU is a listener supported, freeform, independent community station in Jersey City. We are the longest running freeform station in the United States. As mentioned before, we originally were a college station, and Upsala College went belly up in 1995. The station had gotten some funding from the school over time. Once that changed, we paid our bills by having fundraisers, and loyal listeners support our operating budget. Our programs range from flat-out uncategorizable strangeness to rock and roll, experimental music, 78 RPM Records, psychedelia, hip-hop, electronica, hand-cranked wax cylinders, punk, metal, gospel, exotica, R&B, radio improvisation, cooking instructions, found sound, call-in shows, interviews with music personalities, spoken word collages, soundtracks in languages other than English as well as country music and jazz.


WFMU has DJs that are well heeled in various styles of music and will take you around the world and through the ages in just a couple of hours. WFMU has also been named at various times as the best radio station in the country, whether it’s Rolling Stone, CMJ, the Village Voice, - we’ve been recognized by many. We’re the station that has fun, is playful and off the wall. There is no required programming; each DJ is free to play what they wish, within FCC regulations.


We broadcast on 2 FM frequencies in the NY/NJ /PA area, the best known is 91.1FM, and we have a huge online presence at wfmu.org, which includes live audio streaming in several formats, over 8 years of audio archives and podcasts. We were the first station to stream live audio in the form of an iPhone app - and we have one for Android as well.


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

What made you decide to become a DJ?


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

I became a DJ because of my love of music and the idea of bringing it to people. I believe that everyone “can” have “good” taste in music if they are shown where to look! Music has always been common ground for me, & most of my most important life relationships are somehow based in music. I started in college and doubt I will ever stop.


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

Was it more difficult getting the position as a woman in the business?


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

I guess to be slightly technical here, none of the DJs get paid here. I see it as an opportunity, and not really a business. The radio station is a valid business in that there are many expenses undertaken to run it, but there are few employees and the programmers all volunteer. I love what I do and spend more time in production and preparation for the show than I do with most of the jobs I have had in my life, comparatively speaking. It’s not like being a lifelong rocker shuts off for me when I’m off the air, you know. It’s in my blood.


When I first started at WFMU, it was still a college station (Upsala College, East Orange, NJ). I was a listener for years, and had been on 2 other stations when I was in college. I audited a class at Upsala to get my foot in the door. Although I am the senior female DJ at WFMU, I wouldn’t say gender enters into qualifying for a program. It’s about content, what you bring to the airwaves and how much you are willing to give back. All DJs at WFMU help out with a myriad of things aside from doing their programs; I do live engineering and have trained newer engineers joining the station, in addition to being responsible for stocking all the bathrooms and the kitchen with paper towels weekly!


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

You studied Live Sound at the Recording Workshop. Can you provide some info on this?


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

The Recording Workshop has a great curriculum. They are in Chillicothe, OH, where I lived for several months when I was in the program in the late 1990s. I had been assisting on WFMU live sessions prior, but I really didn’t have any working knowledge of gain structure and other important audio elements. The programs at The Recording Workshop helped me get on my own two feet in terms of engineering. It also came at an important time for me, as I felt that with engineering skills I could do more than just spin records on my program, and be more of a support for the heavy music community. After that training, I went out on at least a tour per year for quite some time, although I owned, ran and worked at my own tattoo shop full time for that period as well.


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

When did you begin your show at WFMU?


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

I have been on the air at WFMU for 30 years.


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

I’d like to bring up the massive record library you showed me & Nick Marden at the station, that is at least some of the reference material for your show. Approximately how many recordings are in there?


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

Yay! I actually counted sections of our record library and did some math to multiply it out… WFMU currently has over 110,000 recordings in its main physical library. This includes 45s, LPs, CDs and Cassettes. We also have a large number of boxed sets and odd shaped collections that I didn’t count. WFMU has a “basement” library that holds recordings that don’t get as much play. I didn’t count the basement, but from the size that I know the basement to be and the way recordings are housed there (i.e.; all CDs are placed in slip sleeves, so take up much less room), my guess would be another 30,000 recordings reside downstairs. I always feel lucky to have such a resource, it’s amazing here! I don’t know if there are other stations that are as well endowed as we are!


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

How do you decide your playlist/show themes?


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

I usually build my program around something, whether it’s a new record I really want to feature, and sounds that would blend in with it, a guest I have coming up, or even if I want to keep away from a certain sound I’ve been concentrating on lately. I often LOVE the element of surprise and will bring with me a bunch of non-sequitur music. But I have to say, I rarely plan anything out, as in, “this song, then that one, then this one after that…” For me doing radio is very organic. I hear elements in a song and I know what feel I want to go for next. Sometimes it’s just knowing a song’s ending, and pairing it with a great intro, sometimes it’s a mood, and sometimes I’ll just play something because I want to hear it, or because I know it will sound BIZARRE next to what it’s coming out of!


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

The show is interactive i.e. fans are digitally responding as you play the music. It seems audience participation is an important aspect of your program. Is there a regular Kamikaze online crew/fans or do different people chime in as well?


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

At times, yes, and WFMU has the greatest listeners! I have a segment I call PEER PRESSURE, that you and Nick were my guests on, where I have invited people who are notable in music in some way, and I interview them, and they also guest DJ! Sometimes the listeners come up with the greatest questions for the guests! Because we have a wonderful interactive playlist system, listeners can ask questions. If I’m live with the guest, I can relay them right away. It’s really pretty great and very useful. I would say that there is a general core group of people who chime in during the show, presumably from their jobs, but every week I see at least a few names that I don’t recognize, who are checking in.


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

You play a cross-genre selection of artists: Punk, hardcore, deathmetal, classic metal, rock, etc. How do you find the new music that you include?


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

I am a fiend. I listen to music all the time and I have to admit, I’m always taking notes about new things that I hear. I have pads of notes, and I have a pretty good memory, and I’m never afraid to listen to something new. I audition things at the station hours before my program, and afterwards as well. WFMU gets tremendous service from all types of labels and music publishers - it’s a mixed bag, but we have a mighty “new bin” to peruse.


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

Can you give me the names of some of the memorable artists, authors you’ve featured in interviews? Anecdotes very helpful**


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

I recently interviewed Dennis Dunaway, the bassist from the original Alice Cooper Group. He has written a book of memoirs that was recently released and is just the friendliest guy. We spoke for nearly 2 hours. One listener commented, “it just seemed like he wanted to talk.” I have had Hugh Cornwell on the program several times. Between The Alice Cooper Group and The Stranglers, these were my two somewhat foundational bands in my life. If you had told me when I was in high school that I’d be having conversations with either of them, it would have blown my mind.

One of the greatest moments when speaking to a guest— When I had Jon Zazula of Megaforce Records fame - the man who discovered Metallica and put out their first records - he recalled a time back in the beginning, when Metallica was staying at his family’s house and he came home from work to witness Cliff Burton reading his daughter a children’s book.


—When I spoke with Justin Broadrick of Godflesh/Jesu/Napalm Death, I asked him to describe his home studio, and it was so cool to me that he was walking around describing each guitar and piece of gear like family members.


—Dave Lombardo describing the bee scene he was in in Cremaster 2 was pretty hairy, and humorous at the same time.


—When performance artist/ Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black founder,/vocalist Kembra Pfahler was on the show, it was the afternoon of a very important show in NYC for TVHKB, and we were experiencing a blizzard. It was intense - she kept having to get off the phone, and momentarily I would speak with someone who was helping her out, but we kept the show going. She picked some great music for her playlist, and ultimately the Karen Black show had to be cancelled, but she was a real trooper through the whole thing— she could have just postponed the radio appearance, but didn’t, and it was a very real program in the fact that she was dealing with the impending cancellation of a large production in real time- on the radio!


And there have been so many guests that reveal personal things about them that have nothing to do with music, but makes them more human - Steve Ignorant of Crass talking about being a coastal /boat first aid volunteer, Tim Leitch - known as the drummer from FEAR, then named Spit Stix, talking about working with the elderly, Brann Dailor from Mastodon coming on the air just after the passing of his grandmother… I love that I have the opportunity to first, really acknowledge my guests and let them know they make a difference in the music world, and then also, to let them be themselves, and have the listeners hear a little bit about them that creates a bit of shared humanity - either through our conversation or through the music they’ve chosen to play- or both.


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

Do you have a favorite genre of music? Why if so?


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

I have always loved abrasive music. I grew up in a household where I was one of 3 drummers. It’s all about the beat. It’s rare I can listen to minimal or light compositions. Right now there are so many genres - especially within metal, I hesitate to choose one. Suffice it to say that I have a good enough handle on most genres of metal, rock and punk (all plural) that I mix it up pretty well. AND I love Devo!


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

With all the current styles/genres/sub-genres of contemporary rock music, many of which seem to fall into predictable patterns of their predecessors, have you come across any really new or outstanding bands? What separates them? Music? Lyrics? The artist themselves are interesting…growing? What????


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

Live performance makes a big difference to me. As much as I love singing along, I don’t put much weight in lyrics - ha, unless they are really, really stupid! I like to see where a band takes their music on the stage and what kind of energy they play with. Some bands write great music, and I’ve witnessed them phone it in live, which is incredibly disappointing.


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

Where do you see rock music going moving forward? (Trends, whatever…)


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

You know, I’m not entirely sure and I have never been great at picking trends or hearing “hits”. I hear a lot of new bands within stoner rock, and post- metal genres and notice there are a lot of newer female fronted heavier bands. With everything, there’s some I like and some I don’t. I am, however, happy to support a movement involving more women in heavy music. It’s a drag that it has to be mentioned in 2015, but it does. There are a lot of ambient and folk angles mixed in with metal, although not much of it I have embraced personally! Also, I would love to see more venues, and I always will.


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

You are also a visual artist! I’ve recently seen some of your enchanting Martian paintings on facebook … Can you please elaborate on the important ‘artistic’ aspect of your life?


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

I paint, collage, sew and create a whole variety artwork currently. I have a website and a blog. I was a tattoo artist for decades, and I’m experimenting with a lot of different styles and mediums at the time. I work to get my paintings in group shows in the NY/NJ area, and to have my own shows. I also create wearables in the form of screen and block printed scarves, and custom oven mitts. It’s a little bit of a mixed bag, but it keeps me on my toes.


website: http://www.openclothesoriginals.com


My most recent blog post: http://vividvizion.blogspot.com/2015/11/martians.htm


I post a lot of my art on Instagram and Twitter, as well as music postings. Please follow me on both


MusicRealms, Denise Mercedes:

Do you have a closing statement for our MusicRealms readers?


Diane ‘Kamikaze’ Farris:

By 2025, I promise that we live in a world where all people are vitally connected to the music that moves them!


For more information on Diane Farris, please check the links below.


website: www.openclothesoriginals.com


my most recent blog post: http://vividvizion.blogspot.com/2015/11/martians.html


Diane's Playlists: http://www.wfmu.org/playlists/DK


Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/6qb3c39 OR Diane Farr


Art: http://vividvizion.blogspot.com



You can Also Visit Her At:

http://www.wfmu.org/~diane

Diane "kamikaze" Farris


Diane Kamikaze’s Fun Machine Thursdays Noon-3pm WFMU-FM 91.1


Diane's Playlists:


Diane's Art:



You can Also Visit Her At:

http://www.wfmu.org/~diane


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