Concept drawing of the new Gathering Space/Reception Area (courtesy SkB Architects).
  • Concept drawing of the new Gathering Space/Reception Area (courtesy SkB Architects).

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Popular listener-supported Seattle radio station KEXP plans to break ground for its new, bigger, and refurbished location on January 28, 2015, with the goal to have it operational by December. The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at the Northwest Rooms of Seattle Center (at the corner of First Avenue North and Republican Street). Also, on January 14, KEXP will host one-hour tours—open to the press and the public from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.—of its current (113 Dexter Avenue North) and future premises, dubbed the New Home. (You need to RSVP to ethan@kexp.org to schedule a time.)

To find out more about these matters, I conducted an interview with KEXP's development communications manager/on-air host and former Stranger contributor Kurt B. Reighley (aka DJ El Toro). (By the way, Reighley is a great selector and his enunciation on the mic is unparalleled.)

I understand that the New Live Room will have space for 50 spectators. Will KEXP be selling tickets to performances? If not, how will people get access to the shows, as demand will surely outstrip capacity? Will there be seats?
The audience viewing area of the new Live Room is actually designed to accommodate up to 75 guests. This space will be SRO so we can welcome (comfortably) the maximum number of music lovers possible. We’re still finalizing the ticketing/reservation systems for in-studios, to ensure the smoothest possible experience, but they will be free to the public.

Is it known yet who will play the first in-studio set?
Not yet, but we’ve been soliciting suggestions since fundraising began at the end of 2012. My current favorite came from Randy Engstrom of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture during yesterday’s #AskSeaArts session on Twitter: "@Ahamefulejoluo and the band from Now I'm Fine that just played @OtB_SEA." I’d lay very strong odds that the first in-studio will showcase a local artist, since promoting music from the Pacific Northwest is integral to our mission. Leading favorites among New Home donors include Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

Are there plans to increase the number of in-studio performances?
Are there plans to add more days to the year? KEXP currently hosts more than 400 in-studios annually at our cramped Dexter Street facility alone, plus remote sessions from New York, Portland, Reykjavik, and Austin. In both 2012 and 2013, that added up to approximately 550 live sessions. But certainly we hope that more access and better amenities, for both music lovers and artists, will inspire even more bands (especially touring artists) to visit KEXP’s New Home and play in-studio for our listeners and Seattle Center visitors.

Chimurenga Renaissance live on KEXP,  June 15, 2014.
  • Dave Lichterman
  • Chimurenga Renaissance live on KEXP, June 15, 2014.

Will all of the current KEXP library migrate to the new HQ, or will the station have a record/CD sale to lighten its load?
Oh dear God, my back aches just thinking about that migration. We are currently working on a KEXP digital library so our DJs and producers won’t be as dependent on physical media like LPs, cassettes, and compact discs, but I doubt we’ll have a sale anytime soon. Even the most unlikely titles come in handy, especially during listener suggestion-driven theme shows (like John in the Morning’s “Guilty Pleasures” shows). Doubles and retired copies are offered to our volunteers, who play a vital role in keeping KEXP humming along.

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What will you miss most about the current KEXP dwelling? What will you miss least about it?
I’ll be very sad to say good-bye to Jonathan Wakuda’s mural that wraps around the Dexter Street building. Also, as uncomfortable as the current Live Room can get, I’ve had experiences in there that dumbfounded Teenage Me, like co-hosting a Dinosaur Jr. in-studio with Henry Rollins. In the “no regrets” column, our aging HVAC system routinely wreaks havoc throughout the building, and I will not miss the nights when I was on-air and the temperature fluctuated between oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-faint hot and bone-chilling cold.

Here's the FAQ page for KEXP's New Home.

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