DJ BLeeK Swinney on Framing, Reinvention and Being an Urban Mutant

Kerry Swinney has been a fine art framer with Denbigh for ten years, but he has been framing on and off for the last two decades. He estimates that he has framed somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 pieces of art – which by any standard would make him a certified expert.

But, to speak of Kerry only in terms framing doesn’t even scratch the surface.” Framing is just something that I do because I’m good at it,” he said. “But, I’ve lived a lot of lives. I’ve reinvented myself a lot of times.” So, what does he call himself? “I’m a Professional weirdo,” said Kerry, “I think of myself as a DJ and an artist. I’m also a peaceful guy. Just don’t threaten my dog. I’ll amp out.”

Kerry, also known as DJ BLeek Swinny, has been involved with radio since 1983. He only took a break from radio when he join the Air Force, but he remembers looking around himself and thinking, ‘I don’t relate to any of this and obviously it’s not working out for me.’ “I had a clean record but I just didn’t relate. I wanted to talk about art and there no one to have those conversations with. So, I got out and went to art school.”

After art school at Northwest College of Art, Kerry moved to Seattle and started working in Galleries before he headed to Merritt B.C. with his ‘amazing wife Mia,’ where he operated a coffee cart, had a pirate radio station – Free-Cast MFCR – and started a small-town zine revolution. “I started a zine in Merrrit reviewing music and interviewing bands,” said Kerry. “Seattle was booming with zines at the time, and when I started this zine and the local high school kids caught on. Soon there were more zines per-capita in Merritt than anywhere else in Canada.” Sook Yin Lee came out to Merrit and interviewed Kerry about his Zines and Pirate Radio Station for Much Music. He was also featured in Hal Niedzviecki’s book, We Want Some Too – Underground Desire and The Revolution of Mass Culture. This was in the 90’s before smart phones and social media. Kerry summarizes the book as, “A long thesis about how the media presents to us that we are all stars, but that’s impossible. You aren’t all going to be the big TV or Music Star, but you can do it in your one small way.”

Kerry has been famous ‘in his own small way’ with CiTR UBC Campus Radio and as a writer for Discorder Magazine. For the past eight years he has been hosting the radio show BLeek’s Alt Vault. The show’s tagline is ‘No hit’s all the time,’ and features a sub-genera of music called mutant pop, “Otherwise know as mutant rock, noise rock, or dark wave,” said Kerry. “It’s off-kilter, weird and out of phase.” For Kerry part of the pleasure of the show is the limited fan base and the fact that the music he plays doesn’t have a wide appeal. Recently, BLeek’s Alt Vault has undergone a rebrand and it’s now called ‘Urban Mutant.’ “It’s the same show, different name.” “We are all mutants around here – Andrew, Justin, Paul,” said Kerry referring to his Denbigh co-workers. “Andrew [Lee]’s new album, Holy Hum is brilliant.”

Recently, Kerry has also helped the online radio station, Hollow Earth Radio, hit the air waves online in Seattle KHUH-LP or online Hollow Earth “I like researching and finding the stuff. The more obscure I can find the better,” said Kerry. “I’ve been working on the playlists and the behind the scenes record library, production and promos, announcements and editing. We just went on Air.”

Besides framing for Denbigh, building a tree house, putting a station on air, hosting his own show and caring for Stanley – his fluffy little rescue dog – Kerry still makes time for art. He has been working on some small art collages as well as a few audio art projects where he samples and re-contextualizes sounds – a practice that he categorizes as ‘plunderphonics.’ “Listen to it,” he said, “And you’ll find out just how weird I really am.”