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An Electronic Pirate Radio Station Just Launched Out of a Shipping Container in Brooklyn

The Lot Radio will broadcast shows from KUNQ, Tygapaw, Falty DL, and more.

Alexander Iadarola

Photo courtesy of The Lot

Brooklyn online radio station The Lot Radio launched in what they've called "beta mode" two weekends ago. Housed in a shipping container in a small triangular lot near the Williamsburg-Greenpoint border, the station was founded by Brooklyn-based, Belgium-born photographer, videographer, and music enthusiast Francois Vaxelaire. While they're still getting their operation together—seeing who is going to be involved, figuring out everyone's roles, getting their proper permits for their coffee kiosk—they've already developed some of-the-moment programming. [Editor's note: Michelle Lhooq, THUMP's Features Editor, is involved with programming for the radio station.]

The station will air regular shows from Ninja Tune producer, Falty DL; Fake Accent and Shottas NYC curator, Tygapaw; crucial NYC collective, Discwoman; French artist, Joakim; NYC stalwart, Purple Tape Pedigree; party and label, Let's Play House, and more. The queer artist collective KUNQ will also do a show called "BURNING BOAT," which will feature "a round table dialogue of what's happening now in 'club' music, contemporary politics and art" according to a statement from collective member False Witness, along with their always on-point musical selections. MikeQ's Qween Beat label as well as Nita Aviance and Will Automagic's duo, The Carry Nation, are also set to come on board soon. Check out some of their recorded shows here, and read an interview THUMP did with Vaxelaire about the project below.

Photo courtesy of Studio EmileDubuisson

THUMP: What is your background in music? What motivated you to start a radio station in a shipping container?
Francois Vaxelaire: Music always had a really important part in my life, but except DJing in my basement with friends when I was 15 back in Brussels, I have no music "background." I'm passionate about music as it is still one of the last parts of society that allows passion and freedom. It is this passion that I see in everyone that is "into" music that made me want to start a radio station. I have lived here more than 5 years and I've been seeing so much talent, energy and diversity that I wanted to set up some sort of platform for that energy to be shared outside of clubs, warehouses, concert venues, "early day apartment meetings" ... A place where all those people that are irrational, attracted, and in love with music could come and share their passion.

The shipping container is just a solution: on my way to work I've been passing by a little triangular lot in Greenpoint that has an insane view of the city and no direct neighbor for years. Everybody knows that weird place in the neighborhood. But one day, on my way to work a "for lease" sign was posted. And for some strange reason the idea of the radio come almost automatically, it just made sense!

And I thought the easiest solution was to rent that place and turn an old shipping container in a radio station.

Have there been any regulation-based challenges to setting this up? Is it harder to start a pirate radio station in NYC than other places?
That's when I learned it wasn't the easiest! I've been struggling to get the permits to have a container on an empty lot for 6 months and now I'm still struggling with the department of health to get my permit to be able to sell coffee, as we have divided the container in two, half coffee kiosk, half radio studio. The coffee kiosk is there to fund the radio station. It allow us to stay independent so we don't have to look for sponsorship and fundings.

The crazy thing is that it's easy to set up a radio station, but not easy to have a coffee kiosk on an empty lot. Regulation in New York City is absolutely insane and everyone in the administration told me I was crazy and that I should stop this project. But I was obsessed with this idea so much that I was able to power through.

We are still fighting for the coffee shop to get all the permits we need, but we decided to open the radio station in "beta" mode, just to get things started and get the word out. It's only been 10 days maybe, and the reception has been crazy! We thought we would have a show or two per day but we are already streaming everyday from 11am to midnight non-stop. Soon we will also re-stream some shows so that we will have music on 24/7.

Photo courtesy of Studio Emile Dubuisson

What are some of the shows coming up? What sorts of things have you been thinking about as you're curating the programming?
The schedule is really still a work in progress but we've got so many exciting shows and people on board that it's hard to list. For this we are working with Chris Cherry who works at Trans Pecos [venue in Ridgewood Brooklyn], Lloyd Harris who you might know better as Lloydski from Tiki Disco and Michelle [Lhooq], a friend of Chris who has been helping us a lot since we opened.

Weekdays we have a (late) morning show hosted by Lloydski, his guest this week are Max Pask, Jacques Renault and Felipe Mendez.

Today [February 17] we have Joakim starting his monthly show, we're really excited to have him on board! FaltyDL is starting to pass by from time to time and we are happy about that. We also have incredible good energy from the Discwoman crew coming on Sundays as well as the super positive Tygapaw and the amazing KUNQ collective on Fridays.

But really, this is just the beginning.

What are your plans going into the future with the station?
We plan to get those permits for the coffee kiosk resolved as soon as possible so that we can welcome people in the place to hang out. We want people to feel that this place is different, that it's not a "business." It's a little island of passion somewhere in Greenpoint sharing our passion for music and people who make it. We want to create a bridge between the online and offline world. We want to start having international guests coming on the radio when they are passing by NYC. We are also working on a better website and on a simple app. We are a work in progress and it will stay that way I think!

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