Interview by Jackson Tucker
Library and Studio pictures by Maquel Parks
Live photo by Leslie Leonard
Interview by Jackson Tucker
Library and Studio pictures by Maquel Parks
Live photo by Leslie Leonard
On a random Sunday evening, I was able to visit the The Space Hall in Columbia, an ethereal venue that’s usually sci-fi themed, and got to see a place without any fancy lights, no origami hanging from the ceilings, and no bamboo-lined walls. I was able to view the space in its raw form without being decorated for an event. Today, Garnet and Black, USC’s student run magazine, used The Space Hall as a professional portrait studio. I was able to take a tour of the place, and chat with the Space Hall’s directors, Sean Shoppell and Richard Voltz.
What is space hall?
“The Space Hall of Columbia is a multi-purpose arts space located in the basement of Tapp’s Arts Center. Our main focuses right now have been placed on live music events, while also developing a community dark room and photo lighting studio.”
How did this idea form and who is responsible for the development of this space?
“It’s a little difficult to pinpoint where the idea for this project started, but I do know that a huge influence came from all the house shows I went to or set up while I was still in college. House shows always gave me a sense of community and freedom that I’d have a hard time finding at a normal venue. There was a time when there were about 5 separate house show spots running in town which meant there was a show almost every day of every weekend. But that is were the true beauty of house shows are, they can’t last forever.
Around the time that a couple of those house show spots started phasing out was when I went to live up in NYC to potentially drop out of college/ have an internship/pursue “the dream”. It was a beautiful experience that helped me learn a lot about what it means to be a creative today. As important as it is to be creative and have talent, it is just as important to have time for practice and time to relax. For me while I was up there I was working the whole time trying to stay sort of not broke, any free time was spent on a train or in traffic. It made me appreciate what “free time” meant and that you don’t have to move to a “name brand” city to “make it.” If anything, you should only move to one of those places after you’ve “made it” or you have a ton of money or you’re ready to really work your ass off. Added to that I’d never found anything that gave me that feeling of community that I’d had while I was here in Columbia.
With the hopes to actually finish college, have free time, and pursue creative endeavors more fully, I came back to Columbia. This was around the time that a few friends I’d worked with before decided we wanted to try and do something in Columbia. We took a record label idea and revived it as an arts collective, each of us bringing together our different strengths, ideas, and dreams of what we saw we could do to help the community. My goal from day one was a new arts space, something that could help refresh Columbia’s artistic community. After almost exactly a year of trial and error with the collective, we decided to dissolve and focus on our personal goals. It was during our last event with the collective that I knew I really wanted to focus on starting up a new space and I just started thinking “Yeah Space Hall is a good name for something” but I had no idea what it would actually be.
For a few months I spent time looking around town for buildings that could be potential arts spaces but I realized I had no money and no plan to do anything with a space. That was when I began to think “What kind of artists could really use the help right now?” The first thing that came to mind was photographers. Columbia has such a incredible under the radar photography scene here, and there isn’t much access to tools for them to use. There are no public dark rooms in South Carolina and any local photo studios are going to cost too much for artists trying to get their foot in the door [except for the really dope photo studio at the Richland County Library that is completely free to use, you should definitely check it out].
Through sheer luck of the stars aligning, my old photography professor Gordon was able to help with donations related to everything needed to start the dark room and lighting studio while at the same time Tapp’s Art Center were looking to add a dark room to their building. Space Hall owes so much to both Tapp’s and Gordon for making this a reality. Tapp’s especially, has been the place that give me high hopes for the future of Columbia’s arts and culture. The sense of community with the people who work there really shows me how much potential this city has.”
How would you describe this type of space to a prospective artist?
“Space Hall is best described as a raw space. Somewhere, that if you have enough time and effort, you could do close to anything you want in it.”
What’s unique about space hall that sets it apart from other venues in Columbia?
“When it comes to our live events we do as much as we can to make it a unique experience each time. We make sure that when you come to see a live performance, you’re not just coming to see the live act, you’re there to really experience something new. With that, we also try to do all we can to give credit where it’s due. There’s so many moving parts of a live show that kind of go unrecognized on a public level. Everything from who sets up the sound system, to the photographer who takes pictures at the show. It’s kind of like the show is a big cell and each different aspect plays an important role which makes it important to recognize them and their work.
For example, my brother Michael Shoppell [aka Grawix] is the most talented VJ artist in town, and if you’ve seen a show in the past two years, where there have been crazy visual projections, it’s a very good chance that he there was standing in the back of the room making it look that cool the whole time. Chris Johnson is also another important collaborator with the Space Hall who’s talent with sound equipment has truly been a blessing on the local music scene.
Another side of that is we want to teach people those same skills to help them learn how to do something related to live events. Zoe Hedquist, who is a talented photographer works with the Space Hall as the Dark Room Manager, has also been learning how to operate lights for live events. Basically, the more people who learn how to do these behind the scenes kind of things only helps build for better more unique shows in the future.”
What type of art do you want to be included in this space?
“We want to try and do all that we can. Our strengths continue to be live music events, but we hope to have everything from galleries to film screening.”
What events at space hall have been the most successful / how were they successful?
“There’s a lot of different ways to look at success, which is something this process has been teaching me. When I first started throwing shows and events a big concern for me and everyone else was numbers. Which is important but not the ultimate barometer for success. The main focus for us is to give people an experience that was fulfilling. Be it a time you danced all night, or something where you heard something that made you laugh, cry, or dream.
Our most important and successful event to date has definitely got to be our “Venus Rising” show. Everything from the performers involved, and everyone who came out gave me that’s “oh shit this real” moment. The line-up featured three all female fronted R&B singers. Their experience that night, and what it felt to help these incredible artists have a chance to perform, doesn’t compare to anything else when it comes to success.
Another thing that added to that show’s success is in thanks to Lee Garrett, Space Hall’s Live Event Coordinator, who put together the most incredible collection of art for the show’s campaign. His attention to detail and his talent for original flyer art is a style of it it’s own”
What’s to come for space hall? Are you excited for any future exhibitions/ shows?
“We have a lot of things lined up to come — that it’s hard to say what’s most exciting, but for as of now, I know we are excited as hell that the dark room we’ve been working on is almost finished. Richard Voltz who is our Photo Programs Director, has been deep in the basement pretty much every day working on the dark room.
We will be having a big first Thursday opening on March first. So if you have any film you want to get developed soon send it out way.”
If you guys could host any type of exhibition/ concert/ or gallery, what would your ideal show be?
“I’ve always wanted to make a VR drone system where you can pilot a drone in outer space like around the International space station or something . There’s also the idea of making 3D visual graphics shows. So maybe one of those things could happen soon.”
The Space Hall of Columbia is located in Studio 31 in the basement of Tapp’s Art Center.
Interview and Photos by Maquel Parks // DJ Corduroy
Jennifer Waits is the co-founder, College Radio and Culture Editor, and Social Media Director of Radio Survivor, a blog that advocates for the importance of FM, AM, Short-Wave, HD and satellite radio. She is also the founder of Spinning Indie, a blog that is dedicated solely to College Radio. She has visited over 100 college radio stations, and has been a DJ since 1986.
In this interview, she tells us about the importance of College Radio in an increasingly complex media landscape, and explains why the future of radio is more optimistic than it may seem.
In your experience, what distinguishes college radio from other public radio stations?
College radio is pretty diverse, with many different types of stations; but in general, it’s special because it provides opportunities to college students. At many college radio stations, students are completely in charge, running a radio station, training their peers, and creating programming.
How has the industry strengthened since you first went on air?
College radio is ever-changing, but differences in technology have meant that students have more ways to do radio than when I first started. Back then, it was mainly limited to licensed terrestrial radio (AM/FM), carrier current, cable, and very low power campus-only stations. In 2017, college radio stations still have AM, FM and cable, but also have opportunities to stream online, broadcast over LPFM, use HD radio channels, be heard over a few satellite radio stations, as well as through apps and streaming services. It’s a multi-media world now and one of the things that excites me about college radio is its embrace of video in order to augment the formerly audio-only broadcasts.
What have been the biggest setbacks?
The main challenges of college radio are as old as college radio itself: funding and an ever-changing student population. Beyond that, there’s the complex media landscape today, so some folks get the impression that radio is less relevant. In reality, radio is still one of the most consumed forms of media.
How has the demise of the College Music Journal affected college radio?
I don’t get the impression that CMJ’s troubles have had a major effect on college radio overall. It’s unfortunate that CMJ is no longer doing its annual music marathons, as that was a rite of passage for many of us former college radio Music Directors. I have fond memories of traveling to New York City to attend CMJ and I saw some great panel discussions and amazing live music over the years. CMJ’s college radio charts have been useful for many stations and when it started to become clear that CMJ was in trouble, a number of charting services appeared on the scene as alternatives.
Why is it important to keep college radio stations on air?
I believe that our airwaves should be full of a wide range of programming, including a breadth of non-commercial radio options, including high school, college, and community radio. Local radio is special and is increasingly lacking on the commercial side of the dial; which makes it even more important for college and community radio to step up and fill that void. Additionally, college radio stations can be voices for their campuses and places where students, faculty and administrators can share hyper-local stories, events, athletic competitions, concerts, and more.
How are college stations adapting to an increasingly difficult climate?
I’m not sure that it is an increasingly difficult climate. In fact, I’ve been inspired by the recent increase in low power FM (LPFM) radio stations, thanks to the Local Community Radio Act. College radio groups were among the recipients of new LPFM licenses, with more than 75 college radio stations obtaining construction permits following the 2013 application window. Additionally, online-only college radio stations are still being launched, which provides more evidence of the ongoing relevance of college radio in 2017.
What is lost what a station loses their signal?
Once a college radio station loses an FM or AM license, it’s very unlikely that it will get one again. Audiences for terrestrial AM/FM radio are much larger than for streaming-only radio stations, mainly because the radio dial is finite and the internet is flooded with audio options. In recent years a few stations that have lost full power licenses have returned to the airwaves over LPFM, including Rice University’s KTRU. Although students will say that they are most likely to tune in online, it’s also the case that having an FM or AM signal is perceived by many as a sign of legitimacy, of “real” radio.
What should communities do to help support their local college radio station?
Listen, donate, evangelize. College radio stations should also ensure that they are staying relevant to their campus and community. I think it’s important to document the good work that stations are doing and to share the positive impact of your college radio station with administrators. Invite them to tour the station, talk to them about why college radio is important to students, and make sure that they are on your side. Also, take pride in your station by telling your station’s story, including its history. Preserve artifacts, digitize vintage audio and ephemera, and reach out to alumni to hear their stories.
What can students gain from getting involved in their campus radio station?
For many of us, college radio was one of our most treasured experiences while in college. I’ve heard tales of people nearly flunking out of school because of their devotion to working at a college station. It can be one of those rare chances for students to be in charge, so it’s a powerful learning experience. Students gain leadership and communication skills in addition to all of the radio station-specific benefits. For some, it’s the place where they learn how to interact with the music industry (labels, venues, musicians, etc.), while for others it’s a chance to manage a website, control a social media feed, do sports play-by-play, or learn audio and video editing. In an increasingly multi-media world, college radio stations are the perfect place to experiment and learn.
By Jordan Smith
Guided By Voices has been extremely influential not only to independent music, but the development of college radio. Earlier this month, one of our DJs was fortunate enough to interview Kevin March, their longtime drummer, before their headlining performance at this year’s Jam Room Music Festival. Here they discuss Robert’s songwriting, the future of the band and the legacy they’ve built. Listen to the full interview above, and tune in to The Cesspool on Monday nights for more post-punk music and discussion.
On October 14, Elf Power returned to Columbia to play the Jam Room Music Festival. One of our DJs had the chance to chat with Andrew Rieger about their newest album, influences, and recording techniques, Listen to the full interview above!
American Football released their second album a year ago and we are looking back on our interview with frontman Mike Kinsella. Read our review of American Football [LP2] below and listen to the interview above!
“It took 17 years, but American Football is back with their second self-titled album. It’s new, fresh, material that feels familiar, but in a good way. I was so excited for this album, and I still am. I love this album precisely because it’s exactly what I expected and so much more: it’ a cozy sweater on an autumn day, it’s your favorite cup of coffee or tea when it’s raining outside, it’s that feeling you get when your favorite person laughs at your jokes. It’s indie-emo gold. This is the band that essentially created emo music as we know it, the band that inspired the tidal wave of music that has unfortunately become somewhat of a mockery, including bands like Dashboard Confessional, Death Cab for Cutie, Jack’s Mannequin, and so many more. Because of the 17-year gap between albums, this go around sees songs focused more on the fragility of adult relationships, the destructive power of impulse, and heartbreak when the culprit isn’t so obvious. It has a sense of listless wistfulness, twinkling guitars and confessional lyrics that characterize the genre that American Football helped create.”
As part of WUSC’s Free Speech Initiative, News Director Nick Vogt and myself interviewed Randy Covington on 90.5 Minutes of the News.
Covington is the Director of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers Newsplex and a professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He has worked at television stations across the United States, for the Associated Press and in radio. As part of the Newsplex, he travels around the world to present workshops on investigative journalism and new media.
In our conversation with Professor Covington, we focused on free speech around the world. “Generally, the medium that has the largest audience is television,” he said. “It’s not by coincidence that in much of the world television is government owned and government controlled.”
Covington, who has experience training reporters in Russia, cited the country as an example. According to him, once Vladimir Putin took power, he moved to limit independent television stations in Russia in order to silence dissenting opinions.
We also talked about the role of governments in restricting the newest place people are expressing themselves – the Internet. With the Arab Spring and the “Umbrella Revolution” in Hong Kong, the Internet took center stage. “They try their best,” Covington said of authoritarian regimes. “This Internet thing – it’s like whack-a-mole. You think you’ve got it under control, but all of the sudden this information is getting out. People will seek the truth.”
Another role of the Internet and new media is citizen journalism. How do citizen journalists fit in with free speech? According to Covington, “traditional media organizations have yet to embrace the power of the crowd. As a result, we suffer. But it’s not like they are going to do our story about why this government agency is corrupt. We’re gonna have to do that story – but they’re going to help us.”
Towards the end of our interview, we focused on an incident that made headlines last October. Covington, along with his colleague Joe Bergantino, was arrested in Russia on alleged visa violations. Covington suspects it was attempt by the FSB (the successor to the KGB) to stifle their workshop on investigative journalism because it was just a little too much free speech for the government to handle.
The pair were hauled into court. “The thing that struck my attention when I walked in was this big iron cage that they used to put the defendants in,” he said. “Fortunately they trusted us and didn’t put us in the big iron cage.”
Covington recounted how the session began. “[Bergantino] was up first and he’s trying to make the argument ‘I have a visa from the U.S. embassy’…and the judge cut him off and says ‘you don’t really need to make that argument, because you’re guilty.”
Ultimately, neither was jailed or fined, but they were ordered to stop the workshop.
Covington says one of the most jarring things about the whole incident was the reaction he got from two hotel employees when he asked their opinion on his arrest as they were checking out. “I have never seen such fear in my life as the fear I saw in their eyes,” he said. “For me, that…really hammered home what we take for granted.”
As Covington and Jay Bender both pointed out during our Free Speech Initiative interviews, we do take free speech for granted. Hopefully our conversations about it on WUSC have helped to educate about the need for and importance of free speech.
You can hear part of our interview with Randy Covington here.
For WUSC News, I’m Ben Turner.
As part of WUSC’s Free Speech initiative, News Director Nick Vogt and myself interviewed Jay Bender on 90.5 Minutes of the News.
Bender is the Reid H. Montgomery Freedom of Information Chair at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he teaches media law. He also teaches media law at the School of Law and is a practicing attorney specializing in first amendment law. He has represented the South Carolina Press Association and the South Carolina Broadcasters Association, as well as various reporters and media outlets.
We talked with Professor Bender about free speech. He stressed that the right of free speech is always a struggle. “During times of turmoil, the government puts great pressure on unorthodox speakers and speakers who urge a view contrary to government policy and it’s been that way throughout our history,” Bender said.
Most people know free speech in America isn’t absolute. The classic example is not being allowed to yell “fire” in a crowded theater when there’s no fire. According to Bender, “the Supreme Court has seen the first amendment as a right or a protection to be balanced against other interests the government might have.” This balance includes restrictions against obscenities and speech likely to incite violence.
Professor Bender brought up something we are acutely aware of at WUSC – the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) restriction we must obey against airing swearing on the airwaves. This limits the music we can play and the on-air commentary we can offer, but it’s one of those restrictions the government has deemed in the public interest.
Many people believe individuals abuse their rights, such as the Westboro Baptist church or the KKK. Bender agrees “free speech could certainly be abused in a private context…but the government cannot be offended by speech, particularly where it’s commentary on the operations of government and criticism of government officials.”
He pushed back against the recent push to limit criticism of religion or try to limit “hate speech” against groups. “What is hate speech?” Bender asked. “How do you draw the line between hate speech and protected speech?”
Bender tackled the issue of campus protests, comparing the protest at USC after the events in Ferguson with the protests on the campus of Coastal Carolina. He praised the reaction of USCPD, who worked with protesters and criticized campus police at Coastal, who arrested several students for defacing property when they drew chalk outlines on sidewalks.
Bender praised USC on free speech, arguing “this university in recent times has been tolerant of speech and I applaud the administration for that. It was not always the case.”
He encouraged students to speak out, noting “one of the beauties of being young is you have the opportunity to explore a lot of things and the limits of free speech would be one of those.”
Throughout the interview, Bender offered a spirit defense of free speech. “Citizens benefit when problems can be exposed and discussed,” he said. “One of the philosophical justifications of the first amendment is that it is a safety valve. It allows the society that has unhappiness to express itself and discuss possible solutions.”
You can hear our full interview with Jay Bender here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=La5xuH3uvYY
For WUSC News, I’m Ben Turner.
Recently, I (Rupert Hudson, WUSC Music Director) interviewed Evan Acheson, the lead singer and piano player of Calgary, Canada-based band Boreal Sons. He was a lovely man and we chatted about haters, their new album, and maple syrup (not sure if we actually talked about that but it was implied).
I’m very exciting to be interviewing you today. Especially because of the beautiful connection we have through your guitarist Logan (I went to high school with him). How did you meet him?
Yeah, we call him the ruggedly handsome one. I met him a while ago through some friends. We went to the same live music events in Calgary. I think I’d met him very briefly and I was driving in rush hour traffic one day. I looked over and he was the car right where I wanted to be in traffic. We kind of had this silent moment and with motioning charades I said “would I be able to sneak in front of you there?” Of course, he waved me him. That’s why I let him in the band. I owed it to him.
Who else do you have in your band and how did you meet them?
Well, I play the piano and sing, and Logan has the guitars covered. Zack is on percussion and I have known him my whole life. Our parents were friends. And finally, Reagan is the bass player and I met him through an organization called Young Life.
Tell me a bit about your childhood.
Well, I was homeschooled, which was interesting. Actually, I thought that I had a very normal childhood. My mom was a teacher and she taught my three little brothers and me. The four of us were very good buddies growing up and I had lots of friends in the neighbourhood with whom I would go build tree forts in the woods and ride our bikes.
Are you on tour right now?
We are in the middle of a long tour right now but we have a few days off in Calgary. We toured the west coast of Canada and we got to play a bunch of really fun shows out in the Vancouver/Victoria area and also in the mountains. We’re getting ready to head east now. We haven’t really played anywhere on the eastern side of the continent so we are going to be doing a lot of driving in the next few days. We are so excited for new adventures and new sights. Our mechanic just put new tires on our van and he assures us everything will be a-ok for our massive trek.
Have you had trouble with your van before?
Well, we had an old tour van that was a lot of maintenance and trouble. In the end, it burst into flames on the highway. I called our mechanic and described to him what our engine looked like and he said “I think that’s probably all she’s got in her.” Zack, Reagan and I had been at a wedding and Logan was visiting friends in another part of Vancouver and we called him. Like a knight in shining armor, he borrowed a large van in Vancouver and drove 3 or 4 hours to come pick us up.
Your new album Threadbare was just released, how does that feel?
It’s great. It’s our first full-length album. We’ve had a couple of EPs previously but this is our first album where we sat down and strategically planned it out. We worked with an awesome producer and made our greatest effort and best product to date.
What has the reaction in Canada been like? Have certain cities asked you to come play there because of this album or did you plan it out?
Well, it was mostly us, but we have been getting a lot of media coverage. We’ve been working with some people to help us with publicity and they have been a huge help. We have got a few blog articles and album reviews about Threadbare. Everyone has been extremely supportive.
Well, we have loved your album on WUSC. I think you were #5 on our charts this week.
Holy smokes! I’ve never even been to South Carolina.
You’ve got to come here! Anyways, do you have any good stories that come from your most recent tour?
There was this cool bar we played at in Victoria, BC called The Copper Owl. It was a bizarre experience. The venue used to be a gay bar but now hipsters have claimed it. It’s like, a guy sits down with a PBR, another guy sits down with a fancy cocktail and they can hit it off. They can be best buds. It was quite small but made for a really intimate show. There was torrential downpour that night and crazy amounts of wind. I think it was a special moment as people sought shelter from the storm and huddled around.
Are you going anywhere in the next month and a half that you haven’t been?
I think I’m most excited to go to the east coast of Canada because I’ve never been there at all. Not even on a family vacation. I’m looking forward to seeing the beautiful landscape. I’ve heard there are lots of rocky cliffs near the sea and that the people are really lovely. We’re travelling through Quebec as well, and I’ve never been there either.
I see you’re playing at a place called Burritoville in Montreal.
I’ve heard from sources that is a beautiful old building, which should be fun. I’ve also heard that they have great Mexican food.
Have you had to deal with haters at all with your band?
No, not really. Oh wait, today we got a 2/5 star review. But you know, you’re going to get that so whatever. It is interesting though. I think having people give their honest opinions and poor reviews is not a bad thing altogether. It at least gives us a gauge for how many people are actually hearing it now. I mean, we’re not out there to win everybody over. It was such an awesome experience just to make this album and express ourselves genuinely and honestly. We can only improve from here so we are open to hearing honest criticism.
What is your personal favorite song to play live from the album?
Oh, good question. I think it would be Sparks, which is track 2 on the album. It’s a bit more groovy than some of our previous stuff. We’ve been playing a real Fender Rhodes keyboard on tour and the sound of it mixed with the drums, the whole band playing together and the movement of the chord changes is a lot of fun. Also, the song Coward has a bit of gnarly, staticky guitar solo on the recording but live we have been having a lot of fun trying to make it loud and crazy. Some of our fans who have been listening to our softer, quieter stuff will hopefully be surprised in a pleasant way by how these songs sound.
Thank you so much Evan for doing this interview.
Thank you! I hope to see you in Canada sometime soon.