Well, well, wellington. Here’s where we revive our extremely popular past series called People Who Work Here, which is a privacy invading series of questions that gets to the proverbial “heart of the matter.” The matter this time around just happens to be webguru (remember that term? HAHAHA, the worst!) Garrett Kelly, who also happens to be the co-founder of Hollow Earth Radio (soon to be KHUH, read more here!), a cool dad, an adventurous dresser, and all around essential asset to the local music scene. See for yourself:
Hey Garrett, whatcha wearing?
Is that a trick question? I wear the required uniform Derek. You will never see me in the office without at least my backwards LOSER trucker hat, Sub Pop slip-on shoes, a Hardly Art hoodie and/or my ‘S>U>P B<R<O’ t-shirt. That is not to say that I don’t also find time to curate my own personal fashion. I once ran a successful fashion blog called ”Sequins In Seattle“ and I even did my own runway show once. I like to say that “I can fashion men’s style from the maternity aisle.” The premise of the blog was on my unique ‘faux-pas forward’ fashion tips; I focused on advice like how, say, you should never pre-wash clothes from the thrift store (“it removes the ‘essence’ of former owners and robs the garment of its natural ‘patina’). I embrace stains and traditionally “inappropriate” rips and holes.
This image above is when I went to this software developer conference a couple years ago and this famous Apple blogger walked up to me at a bar unprovoked and decided to tell me that I looked “fucking ridiculous” in front of a bunch of people. It was pretty humiliating even though I am well aware that uh…yeah, of course I look fucking ridiculous! I still can’t believe he thought it was okay to just say that to a stranger though. Dick.
I’ve been consciously wearing controversial clothing since high school and hardly think twice about it now. When chain wallets used to be big in the late 90’s, I made one out of a curly telephone cord; it reached down to my ankle and would always get caught on door handles and stuff. I think I did shit like that mostly as a litmus test to weed out assholes. I remember one time I was wearing this long flowy skirt thing in Arcata and some prescription pink rhinestone glasses and some jerk drove by and yelled out “GET SOME LEVI’S.” But I just laughed when that happened.
Tell me a little about your childhood.
I grew up in California. Up until about third grade I lived in Lafayette in the Bay Area. We lived by this creek across the street from a junior high and I remember when I was a kid I was scared of punk rockers because they would always tromp through our yard and drink beer behind our fence and throw bottles into our pool late at night. I remember once my mom and my sister spent a day making booby traps. We dug this hole on the other side of the fence that the punk rockers would jump over and we filled it with blackberry brambles and dog shit. My mom was in on all of this. I guess she was fed up with them so she put us to work making dog shit traps.
Then in third grade my parents decided to move to a town called Knightsen, which proudly boasts that it has “‘more horses than people.” This place was truly in the middle of nowhere, just orchards and farms and nothing much to do. There weren’t like… sidewalks. During these years I got real into country music, line-dancing, shredded beef jerky that came in cans like chewing tobacco, and my local 4-H chapter. My sister and I worked with pygmy goats because I was too sensitive to raise a cow or pig and saw what happened at the end of the year when crying kids had to sell their animals at auction at the county fair. So we raised these miniature show goats and our family bottle fed one that lived in the house for a couple of months. It wore diapers, slept on the couch and watched Rush Limbaugh on TV. His name was Norman. My family is, and continues to be, real weird.
My favorite middle school experience was one time I got to be team captain in P.E. so I got to pick my team for kickball. I used the opportunity to pick those with the most underdeveloped athletic ability first (I was also of this persuasion). It was the most satisfying fucking experience of my entire life. I remember the look on people’s faces when I made that first pick. “WAIT, YOU PICKED HORACE?????” Oh man, it was so glorious, and I’m pretty sure Horace felt so awesome getting picked first. It soon became pretty obvious what I was doing as I continued to pick my team of losers, of which I was captain, and we were all stoked to be on that team anyway. We tried really hard… and of course we lost in epically pathetic ways. Bad News Bears style. But it was excellent, like some shit out of a movie.
For a visual, here is a funny video of me in 6th grade hamming it up, lip syncing to Garth Brooks at Epcot Center:
High school was a much more interesting experience. By that point I was starting to dig really deep into ‘weird’ music (you know, like GREEN DAY). I eventually found myself gravitating towards all the freaks and weirdos and I will now proceed to go on and on about how important that time in my life was for me. I think most people tend to feel they had really shitty high school experiences, but for me I definitely want to go back in time and relive it over and over again. It really started to take off in sophomore year, my friends and I decided that we needed to be in a school club in order to have some extracurricular activities for our college applications. We decided to form our own, which we called the Facial Hair / Rock N’ Roll Appreciation club.
We really didn’t have any official business, but we did end up putting together a music festival on campus during lunch called Facial Hair Week. We even made a documentary about it. You can see me jumping around like an idiot while this guy Josh rubs expired jellies and jams all over his nipples.
High school was an opportunity to hang out with my friends and push limits. Here’s another great video of my friend Jake walking around campus skronking on a clarinet and annoying the lunch cooks.
I am also featured in the main band in that video (the Perpetual Elvis Machine) playing my preferred musical instrument at the time: the Tupperware. You may also notice me at the end of that video, acting like a turd, talking to the Vice Principal about how he’s violating my constitutional rights to play a terrible rendition of “Silent Night” while people try to enjoy their lunch. I guess why I loved that time so much is that we were kids who were really in the middle of nowhere, there was absolutely NOTHING going on in our town, but we decided to just do our own thing to entertain each other. My parents had this unfinished addition to our house where my band the Amish Playboys would play, and every couple of months we would have shows there with all four or five local bands and the occasional performance art troupe. I remember this parent chaperon got really weirded out one time when he came in there and one of my friends had stripped down to tightie whities & wrapped himself in cellophane, rolling around in Twinkies performing a song called “Necrophiliac Blues.”
OK, here’s another thing that happened senior year. So, when homecoming came around I decided for some reason that I was going to campaign to get on the Top Ten Court. I thought it would just be really funny if I made it to the homecoming court because clearly I was not Top Ten material. I figured if I could get all the stoner kids, and all the band dorks and all the math club kids (who ate lunch on the far side of campus so no one would try to put them in a garbage can) to vote for me, I might have chance. I didn’t REALLY think it would work but IT TOTALLY DID. It was a little awkward because when they called my name to go down to the football field at the rally in front of the entire school it was the 19 most popular people at school and then, me.
Anyway, when the actual homecoming election happened, I think there was this sort of rallying cry among certain sections of the school to elect me Homecoming King just because it was such a stupid idea. I was that guy who wore that bright orange polyester jacket with an obnoxious amount of over-sized buttons/pins on it and the phone cord chain wallet that always got caught on door hinges. And so it actually worked. They crowned me king. Overall, it was a glorious moment I think, not just for me, but just for all the weirdos at my school in general. I wore the rented tuxedo all weekend and walked around Berkeley in it with my homecoming crown. Definitely a major moment in my life.
Speaking of childhoods, you’re in the middle of molding a child right now! What is the best part of having a baby?
Actually our co-worker Gabe said something to me about having a kid that has stuck with me. He said, with kids, you get to live your life all over again but this time from the perspective of the adult. I guess I never knew I would care this much about the tiniest things - like seeing his teeth pop out, or like when he figured out how to turn on the mobile and the music in his crib by himself and it was this little moment of like - oh, he’s just now figured out that he wants that. Like he’s just become autonomous and figured out that he wants to listen to some jams now and just chill out. You know? That’s pretty cool. He told his first joke this week. After an especially large lunch I patted his belly and said how big it was and he said: “Ho Ho Ho”.
Here’s a knock knock joke he’s still work-shopping:
We have a band together too, that’s pretty cool. We played a show the other day. In the video below, the first song is an untitled drone piece.
The second one is an ecstatic song about Uki’s blankets Blue and NoneNone.
How old is your new human? What is his name?
Our new human is two years old now. His name is Ukiah. Ukiah Cricket Song Kelly. He is going to either totally hate that name, or embrace it big time. I can really see him at the Evergreen State College just full embodying his name.
What does your baby like to eat most?
He’s really into blueberries. Some other things on his top ten are: broccoli, sweet potatoes, raspberries, corn, and peaches. Judging from today he’s also into eating dust bunnies and licking this weird hole that is in our hardwood floor.
You’re part of the excellent Hollow Earth Radio station here in Seattle. Did you start that radio station?
Yes, my wife Amber and I started the radio station in 2006. I was living in this punk house called the 414 House right next to I5 and we had all these bands come to our house to play for 30 or 40 people and I thought it would be cool to maybe figure out a way to record and/or broadcast them over the internet. Also, truth be told, I was just getting into that online world SECOND LIFE and I thought it would be funny to build a virtual version of my falling apart house, and stream what was going on there.
Around this same time, my wife Amber was working on a project which she called Sound Friend. She had messaged a stranger on MySpace to be her Sound Friend with rules that they would never actually meet, but would exchange phone numbers. They would just call each other when a particularly interesting or strange sound was occurring and play it for the other person and then just hang up. We were trying to think of a way to turn that into a website but we decided to just start this radio station incorporating these sentiments instead. From the very beginning the radio has always been about playing sounds that are sorta unfamiliar and unknown, making amateur field recordings, and sharing underrepresented bits of audio. To this day there is a phone line that people can call: 206-588-KHER and leave a voicemail that we will download and put on air. And our overall focus is just on trying to create radio that you wouldn’t hear anywhere else, featuring regular people that don’t typically get access to the airwaves.
What has been the most rewarding thing about Hollow Earth Radio?
There’s a couple of things. It’s pretty awesome that it has grown up and out of my house. It was bonkers having it in our basement and then our attic for so long, with DJs coming over at all hours, waking me up at 10am with funk bands or tromping through my house while I was eating a bowl of cereal in my boxers. Now we’ve got a public space in the Central District on 20th & Union and people can just walk in off the street. And so many folks are involved now and taking over leadership positions that it has finally become less of Amber and Garrett’s thing and more of a public/community hangout space. I walk in sometimes now and brand new volunteers accidentally meet and greet me like I am a stranger. I think that’s a good thing. There are so many people involved with their own interests and tastes and wild ideas, it’s really cool to see what people are making happen on their own. Also, this year the station was granted a LPFM (Low-Power FM) frequency, so we’re about to broadcast on the airwaves as 100.3 KHUH. It’s kind of mind boggling that something that just started in our basement will now be out there competing and carving out a niche as a real radio station. We’re also right in the middle of trying to raise funds to get up and broadcasting on the Seattle FM airwaves. People can pledge to help us acquire a transmitter and an antenna and we’ve got a bunch of rad perks including rare Jesse LeDoux prints, a Somali music mixtape called Au Revoir, Mogadishu, some Jan Terri autographed head shots, and even an all-expense paid Sasquatch hunt Adventure!
Magma Festival is also a pretty amazing thing that emerged out of the radio project as well; originally it was just a series of benefit shows we held the second year we were around in order to raise some money to pay for the station costs and we put on weekend shows throughout the month in all-ages and alternative venues around town. After the first year though, it quickly took on another role as an excuse for figuring out a way to curate dream shows that I never thought would happen in a million years. For instance, one year we convinced the Thrown Ups to reunite. This was Mark Arm & Steve Turner’s 1980’s drunk punk band with Ed Fotheringham & Seighton Beezer where they just get hammered and improvise disgusting rock songs. At that same show, we got Al Larsen (Some Velvet Sidewalk) to come out from Buffalo, NY and play some songs too. Now, this is pretty embarrassing to bring up, but I’ve probably watched that movie Hype! like a jazillion times. When I used to play those shows in my garage in High School my band used to do this cover of that Some Velvet Sidewalk song “Mousetrap” and I would jump in the air and land on my knees and totally imitate that scene from the movie.
So it was a big deal to me to have Al come out and I got to play drums on some songs with him. Tom Price’s band played that show, and the Human Skab (formerly this eight year old from Elma, WA who put out a tape in 1986), and Rich Jensen & Alex Kostelnik gave some irreverent grunge lectures. The Thrown Ups did their thing, Ed taped a bunch of Ziploc bags full of shaving cream all over his body, then popped the bags like zits and sprayed them on the audience. It was pure improv grunge mess.
After that I didn’t think we would be able to do anything bigger or better than that, but then the next year we did this really special show on the train called Light Rail / Dark Rail. We curated this whole free show on the train where different musicians would get on at each stop, and something like 400 people showed up. It was just totally packed. It was this really amazing experience, there was all this energy around it… like that it was possible to just take existing spaces and make something HAPPEN in them like they belong to everyone, you know?
Have you ever seen a ghost?
Yes, kinda. I had this experience once where I was cooking at the stove and I felt like out of the corner of my eye there was someone staring at me. I turned really quick to look and had this flash of seeing someone there. The crazy thing though, is that what was looking at me was ME. It looked like me. This really happened! It was so quick and it was just a flash but it really freaked me out. I’m writing a zine about it right now because I have a theory that it was me as a time traveler breaking into my past. I can go on and on about this subject - aliens, mothman, timehunters. Try me.
Ghost hunters came over to the Hollow Earth Radio house to look for ghosts once. They brought this thing called a Speakjet - it basically has a Speak n’ Spell chip in it and also picks up fluctuations in EMF. Apparently the Speak n’ Spell chip has all the human allophones in it and the idea is that if a ghost can somehow manipulate the electromagnetic field, perhaps over time it can figure out how to talk using the SpeakJet. It sounds really cool.
What is your favorite movie?
My favorite movie is called I Don’t Hate Las Vegas Anymore and it’s by the director Caveh Zahedi. I randomly picked it up at the video store because the box said that it was “Directed By God.” How could I pass that up? I was a Religious Studies major in college and at the time I was really freaking out about stuff like the fact that we are REALLY, RIGHT NOW, ON A PLANET FLOATING IN SPACE. Just totally obsessed that ‘we are on a planet’ and that’s REALLY REAL. So I picked up this movie and I took it home and it plunged me even deeper into my navel gazing early-twenties existential crisis.
So the premise of this movie is that it’s a documentary by Caveh about taking his dad to Vegas to confront him about some issues he had with his childhood. He had written a script with dialog and even got a grant to make a specific kind of film, but while they are driving to Vegas he decides to completely throw the script out the window and instead let God direct the film. So he goes there blindly, with his dad and his little brother, with no script, and decides that the fate of the movie and what actually happens in it is totally in the hands of God/Fate/Reality whatever. No script, just film what happens as it happens and have faith that it will turn out. Caveh wrestles with how he is constantly trying to take on the director role himself instead of just surrendering to what happens in real life. Meanwhile, the movie is just totally flopping because there is like absolutely no plot. Right? And so Caveh decides to try to spice it up, so a good portion of the movie becomes Caveh trying to convince his family to take ecstasy with him. Anyway, I absolutely love it.
Caveh is definitely my favorite director. He’s also made movies where he takes an assload of mushrooms (I Was Possessed By God). In the Bathtub of the World is basically a documentary where he just films something in his life every day for a year. He managed to make something funny & profound using all these little life moments - great scenes of annoying his girlfriend while she’s upset with him and crying in the bathroom or a pigeon getting into his apartment and shitting all over the carpet, etc. etc. I can go on and on about his films, someone just put out a boxset of all his feature films and shorts and it’s excellent. He’s also doing this new online television show called The Show About The Show, where each episode is about the making of the previous episode.
You and I share a love for outsider performers. Can you tell me about one that you particularly like?
Jan Terri is one of my favorite artists. I don’t really like labeling it as outsider - but yes, I have always been drawn to people who are just doing their own thing and I suppose don’t fit within the mainstream. Folks that get picked last for the kickball team, so to speak.
What I mean is that I found Jan when I was searching YouTube for “Worst Music Video Ever.” At first I was so perplexed by what I was watching, but I dug deeper and found all her music videos. I thought they were really funny. I mean, they are supposed to make you laugh and feel good. She just wants to have fun! She does not give a shit what you think and she’s just going to do her thing and rock out. She’s hella DIY without the DIY uniform. I admire her. But the more I listened to the songs, the more I realized just how much I love each of them. If I was stranded on a desert island, these are the songs I would want to keep.
She’s another one of those people I was just dying to see perform and a couple of years ago I managed to track her down. She hadn’t played live in a really long time, (she had a brief stint opening for Marilyn Manson actually). She was happy to come out and and play and I asked a primo Seattle group (Heatwarmer) to be her backing band and learn all her songs. People went absolutely bananas - crowd surfing and catching Milky Ways that she was throwing out during Journey to Mars. She really is the best.
Jan’s music videos:
And here’s video of Jan playing with the local Seattle group Heatwarmer:
What music are you listening to lately?
Right now I’m digging hard on Lonnie Holley. Have you heard this guy?
It’s experimental R&B and he also makes all this beautiful art literally out of garbage. A true artist, constantly making things.
I first heard this set on WFMU and it was just so strange and beautiful!
I also still listen to Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die like once a week. It’s my go to album. I’m into this Forgotify thing: It finds you songs on Spotify that no one has ever listened to. I love a million local bands: dreamdecay, HEALTH PROBLEMS, Chaostic Magic, The Color Out Of Space, DoNormaal, The Webs, some surprises, Tyler Potts, Briana Marela, My Parade, Sue Ann Harkey, SIC ILL, #tits, FANTASY A, Domesticates, Your Heart Breaks, Lori Goldston. It hurts, I probably could spend all afternoon typing out all the local bands I love.
I put together this Spotify playlist to go along with this blog post. It’s eight hours of music I’ve collected on Spotify (a lot of it using Forgotify). It’s meant to be enjoyed over the course of an entire 8 hour work day.
You didn’t ask this, but I am going to volunteer that I am currently in a band with Smitty from Mr. Epp & the Calculations and Eric from Noggin and Brittnie Fuller (she plays a saxophone, but never blows through it, just makes it feedback through distortion pedals and controls it through the keys. She kinda plays it like the bass. She’s great!)
We are called Clearinghouse.
I play drums, timpani, and my iPhone. I was formerly in The Pica Beats, Beast Please Be Still, WaMu, Sexually Transmitted Rainbow, My Printer Broke, Kilboy Fuckbot, and many many other whatever bands. Here’s me playing in a band called Contact Mike in the parking lot of a local, highly respected Seattle burger joint. I am the one in a sequin gown dunking my head in a bucket of ice water with a under-water microphone in my mouth. Yes, someone is mic’ing a cheese grater attached to their face and grating some cheddar. This was for an amazing local guerrilla festival called Pizza Crawl where folks walk around eating slices in Capitol Hill and listen to experimental music in alleyways and street medians. A new favorite Seattle institution.
Just this past trip some dude bro with tribal tattoos all over his body came into the sauna while I was in there and started doing these weird naked Wrestlemania poses and grunting & hollering, so I booked it out of there.
You seem to know a thing or two about computers, what are your first computer memories?
My first computer memory may be bullshit, I don’t know. I feel like I have this vague memory that my mom somehow got the school to put a bunch of computers in our house so she could test out software on them or something. But I have no idea how that would have happened. But I have this memory of a ton of computers in our living room, all Commodore 64s, and instead of floppy disks you would use cassette tapes! That sounds totally fake doesn’t it? But look it’s real.
We did have a computer growing up but I was never interested in programming. I do remember that somehow we had this strip poker game and I would try to play but I was REALLY bad at poker.
What do you like most about computers?
When the internet came I just lost my shit. I was SOOOOOOOOOOO into it. I wanted to talk to strangers so bad. I just remember at first going to people’s houses who had AOL and just being blown away. It was like that movie War Games with Mathew Broderick! The first thing that happened is that our family got an email address and we had this dial-up system so you could write some emails, dial up, send/download your email, and then log off. I didn’t know anyone else’s email address though, so I remember trying to just guess at email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc. and send a bunch of mail out hoping that someone would get it and write back to me. No one ever wrote back though. :( But, the mystery of that, just throwing that out into the aether was always really exciting to me. That old modem sound, my god, just the absolute best sound in the entire world.
Similarly, I was pretty into my dad’s CB radio he had in his car. I was always trying to get people to talk to me on that, like truckers. I would spend hours trying to make contact.
Do you sleep well at night?
Do you prefer baths or showers?
Have you ever been in a car accident? If so, please tell me about it.
When I was in 5th grade I drove a riding lawnmower into someone’s brand new truck. The girl I was in love with (her name was Desi), tried to prank me by putting the lawnmower into some mode where it was going really fast and I didn’t know how to put the brakes on and I wound up hitting the side of this dude’s car, and then scraping all down the side, just ripping it to shreds. It was like $1,700 worth of damage. My parents were not too happy & never taught me to drive. I didn’t get my license until I was 23.
I was just telling this story about Desi the other day and I then I remembered that I attended her birthday party in 5th grade; it was at a rollerrink and I told the DJ to dedicate a song from Garrett to Desi. The song was ‘I Love You’ by Vanilla Ice. A b-side. But the DJ screwed it up saying it backwards: ‘the next song is FROM Desi to Garrett, it’s Vanilla Ice’s ‘I Love You.’” She was mortified. I hid in the bathroom. This may have been why she was fucking with the riding lawnmower trying to get me to crash.
What are your favorite foods?
I’m pretty into sauerkraut. My wife got me a 3 gallon crock to make my own for XMAS. I like dark chocolate, anything over 85%. I sometimes dip it into almond butter. Mangoes. Seaweed. Sushi, especially fishy tasting things like mackerel. Sardines. I like food that is skunky. I like the taste of ganja food but I can’t do that shit or I start to freak out about the FACT THAT WE ARE ON THE PLANET EARTH RIGHT NOW. WE’RE IN THE MIDDLE OF SPACE FLOATING AROUND AND ONE DAY WE REALLY ARE GOING TO DIE AND THAT’S GOING TO BE IT OMG.
What is your favorite movie?
You already asked me that. Are you taking this seriously? I thought you were going to ask me about an early Halloween costume. That’s what you promised me when you asked if I agreed to this. And I then I got my mom to send me this picture of me when I was in kindergarten and I dressed up as a devil. But now I can’t find it. But anyway, my student 8th grade “buddy” was a punk rocker (this must have been before I was scared of them) and I remember he drew an anarchy symbol on my shoe and my mom thought it was like a gang symbol or something.