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Interview with Ray Harkins of 100 Words Podcast

by Finn McKenty
music & audio

ray harkins

Photo: Kevin Knight

Give us the elevator pitch on yourself and the 100 Words Or Less Podcast— who, what, why, and all that.

RH: 100 Words or Less is an examination of people involved with the creation of independent culture through music, art and film. It’s specifically filtered through the lens of the DIY music scene. I host an hour long podcast with one guest and we discuss their life and ultimately why they do what they do. It’s very insightful to track a persons upbringing and life choices to see where it has taken them.

You’ve got almost 100 episodes under your belt now. What have you learned since starting?

RH: For me, it’s consistency and the ability to listen. Trying to make your interview subject comfortable to share things about their life that they don’t typically share in a public forum is difficult so relating to your guest and sharing a bit of yourself helps break those barriers down. The consistency aspect is making sure that the people who pay attention to the show get rewarded for their support and know that every Wednesday, they will get a new episode of the show. It also helps to enlist other people who listen to the show and give you honest feedback on what transpires. Constructive criticism is key.

Along the same lines, what keeps you going? Most blogs, podcasts or other projects that involve regular updates kind of fizzle out after an initial burst of enthusiasm, but you show up in my iTunes promptly every Wednesday. How do you keep going?

RH: When I first started, I gave myself an internal goal of a years worth of shows to see if anyone would care. A lot of it is due to my personality of really pouring myself into whatever it is I do, but then also pushing myself to not be “typical” and lose that enthusiasm that most people do when contributing to something. I am very hard on myself and the goals I set, I really try to focus on that and enjoy the process of creating rather than focus on being “successful”.

What are some of your favorite episodes of 100 Words? I think mine is the Sam McPheeters one. He literally seemed like a different person than the guy we all knew him as back in the day, and it was great to hear that he is in a better place now.

RH: I loved my talk with Davey Havok as he typically has to be very guarded when it comes to interviews about himself but because we were friendly before, he gave more of himself to me and the feedback I got on that episode was huge. I really enjoyed the Kyle Kinane episode as we didn’t know each other at all, but he agreed to be on the show and found the experience of talking about how music influenced his comedy to be very refreshing. I was also very starstruck to speak to Aaron Turner from Isis/Hydrahead Records as his music and work ethic is something I look up to.

Your guests span several generations of music, from old guard guys like Elgin James to new school kids like Big Chocolate and Balance & Composure. What’s the reaction been to that mix? Is it two different audiences, do people tend to like both, or what?

RH: It’s interesting because I do find that people who are regular listeners, love the variety. I try to not be “old guy in independent music talks to other old guys about the glory days” and I also don’t want to be “Let’s just talk to this band because they are young and hot right now”. I think people sense that and know that even if they don’t like a particular guests music or art, they will find common threads. One of the best emails I got was from a regular listener in Scotland who never really knew what hardcore music was at all, until he found the show. Fast forward a few months later and he emails me that he goes to a Touche Amore (a previous guest of the show) in his town only because of their appearance on my podcast. It’s a bit mind-blowing to think that this show can usher a person into an entire scene but that is very gratifying.

Ray rocking out with his band Taken at their reunion back in 2008 or so

You and I are both products of the 90s DIY hardcore scene who have somehow or another ended up as (relatively) functional, normal-ish adults. In a lot of ways, as crazy and dumb as that era was at times, I feel like the values and ideas I learned from the DIY scene are some of the most valuable assets for me as a businessperson. Looking back, what are your thoughts on the “DIY hardcore as business school” idea?

RH: It is amazing to reflect and examine how those values are so life shaping. Everything I am involved in and have been fortunate enough to have in my life from my career to my wife, have all stemmed from music. I think the experience of being responsible at a young age (high school) and creating something out of nothing is very liberating and opens up portals in your own head that give you the power to do things on your own terms. All of the small things that you think at the time are so incredibly irrelevant, end up giving you valuable lessons on how to conduct yourself in the real world. DIY culture in general is so important and gives you so many life tools that simply aren’t learned until you actually pick it up and run with it yourself.

Podcasting as a medium has really come into its own in the past year or two.What excites you so much about it? Personally, I respond more to podcasts that have a “cool, fun conversation between some friends” vibe than the ones that try to replicate the traditional talk radio/talk show format. How about you?

RH: I agree, the format is very exciting because there typically is no one telling you what it “needs to be”. I have always been a fan of radio and at an early age fell in love with the old time radio dramas of the 1930’s and 40’s. The storytelling format of radio is incredibly intimate and podcasts mimic that. You feel like you are in the room with the person and their guests which at that point, you become an active participate rather than a passive listener. While I personally love structure from a show, it doesn’t necessarily need to be formal for me to enjoy it.

That’s it for me. Anything you’d like to add or plug? Thanks for your time!

RH: Thanks for this opportunity Finn! What CreativeLive is doing is incredibly inspiring and is a great entry point for people to pick up something they are passionate about or fine tune abilities you have already been working on for years.

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Finn McKenty

Finn is the producer of CreativeLive’s audio channel.

You can email him at finn [dot] mckenty [at] creativelive [dot] com

@finn_mckenty