I am standing in Milly’s Pizza shop window on Broadway in Brooklyn, New York watching Sheri Barclay set up her pirate radio station. Most of the equipment is packed into a purple suitcase and as customers come and go ordering a variety of quality pizzas, Sheri connects the mixing desks, the turntables and computer now resting on the wooden window ledge.
Sheri begins to set up her station
Within minutes she is testing her station KPISS, the Golden Stream. While not broadcasting on FM everything about her station screams irreverence and fun from the station name and tagline to her website .fm domain address. She claims her pirate status through the station being unlicensed
Sheri in the shop window of KPISS
The noise of a passing subway train on the raised tracks along Broadway and the screaming siren of a passing NYFD ambulance is deafening but as I don a pair of headphones and take one of the two microphones to continue my interview with Sheri, it is genuinely impressive the noise reduction and the background noises now create an authentic New York ambiance missing from New York’s legal formatted stations. It is raw radio at its very best.
Sheri is an enthusiastic youthful bundle of energy whose passion for her station is a breath of fresh air. While Sheri is a native New Yorker her mother is from Israel and her father from New York. With her father's Irish heritage she feels she is ‘15% Irish Jew or something like that’. She is one of our own. She began KPISS three years earlier from a shipping container in an alley about 150m from her present location on an alleyway known as Punk Alley. But issues with the landlords and power outages there forced an urgent move and in return for advertising Milly’s Pizza Parlour became the stations new headquarters. The Pizza owner was only too happy to accommodate KPISS as he has seen business increase not only from the on-air advertising, but the novelty of a radio station located in his shop window. 'It's the most sacred place in Brooklyn. Eating a pizza or ravioli or patties if you prefer (they also have salads) makes Milly's a divine experience.'
The Original Location of KPISS
As our interview continued a curious local came into the shop to see what was going on and while Sheri was polite, she was a busy woman setting up her station and being interviewed by this stranger from Ireland she was firm. She directed the gentlemen to her website and he was gone. The downside for Sheri in moving to Milly’s was its accessibility early in the mornings as she must wait until the owner opens in advance of the lunchtime rush. This meant KPISS lost their breakfast and morning programming and connected presenters. She bemoans the fact that she lost quality and popular DJs by losing the breakfast slots and lost others who enjoyed the anonymity of the shipping container studio but were not as comfortable broadcasting from a shop window. Shows like Brooklyn Bullshit, Doctor Zoddity Ghoully Show and Silly Seffy can all be found on KPISS.
Sheri does not do much from the broadcast side and concentrates on managing her stations finances, their new quality website (link below) which Sheri designed herself and maintains and the impressive archive of the stations output. She also has a roster of almost 50 DJ’s to organise. Several local celebrities’ hove dropped in not just for pizza but to be interviewed and this has helped to raise the profile of the station. The finances for the station come from a mix of sources. The DJ’s pay to play and Sheri while offering training courses uses her personal finances to keep the station going.
Sheri speaks of the future of KPISS including a move back to a dedicated radio studio but still intends to keep the successful pizza shopfront studio and she hopes to create a brand for global success with ‘KPISS Vietnam’ a distinct possibility.
The stations output is an eclectic mix of programmes while the spontaneity of pirate or free radio is there. Sheri insists that her DJ’s follow a sort of format by scripting and uploading playlists to her web presence and archive which is a bit hit and miss creating more work for Sheri.
I can both recommend Brooklyn’s premier station KPISS and the pizza at Milly’s.