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Press Coverage

Scene Magazine - 12/04/2002

We were published as being one of the Top 10 local spins on 669 (midnight to 4 a.m. Fridays) on WCSB-FM/89.3 for Nov. 29. Here's a scan of the list.

Scene Magazine - 07/20/2001

The Button
10 Family Minutes
(self-released)

The weird world of Paul Ryan, Sam Harmon, and Jay Kennnedy has always been buoyantly confined to the midnight-hour chaos of their Sunday night radio show on WRUW-FM/91.1 called Press the Button. The program is a wild sound collage of sketches, skits and shtick culled from everyday occurrences and noises strung together in an entertaining anti-talk radio scheme. As ambitious as the radio show is, the series of "Public Service Announcements" strung together on the Button's 10 Family Minutes stretches the trio's routine to its limits.

Fired off as messages from "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," the full-length CD starts with a weird conception of God, who's had a rough week (creating and such) as he hurtles down an open elevator shaft. The strangeness continues through bits about highway signs (one that reads "You are now entering God's Kingdom," to which a booming-voices God says to curious onlookers, "I like the sign") and closes with a vignette featuring Jesus himself wandering through a crowded mall, sporting a "WWID?" (What Would I Do?) T-shirt.10 Family Minutes accomplishes what it sets out to do - it will certainly irritate the humorless, agitate the religious, and "press buttons." If funny is what the Button is after (and that seems to be the case), it scores more often than not with this bit of conceptual psychosis. -Kurt Hernon

Scene Magazine - 12/27/1999

"The Jerky DJ's"
Author: Aaron Steinbgerg

Press the Button, Cleveland, OH, WRUW, 91.1 FM, Monday mornings from 12-3

"We're used to talking to each other in complete sentences. If you took the same very
conversation and broke it into fragments, you might understand it better." Or so believes Jay
Kennedy, one of three Cleveland radio hoodlums responsible for the late-nite WRUW show, Press
the Button. He and pals Paul Smith (a.k.a. Paul Ryan) and Sam Harmon (a.k.a. Dr. Asbestos)
have taken this concept to heart. For the better part of three hours every week, these guys
devote themselves and WRUW's basement broadcasting studio to a radio show that attempts to
convince you of just that. Seven minutes into Monday morning at 91.1, the show begins with a
somewhat conventional farce, the mock talk show, the Paul Ryan Report.

It's conventional compared with what's to come, but it certainly has its piquant elements (one
recent target, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, sustained a nearly hour long
roasting in a radio play that the church was later erroneously credited with producing). But
by hour two, rest assured, if you tune in to WRUW your radio will be awash in audio swamp:
television and film dialogue and random voice samples commingle with floating,
constantly-shifting swatches of background music.

One week, insurance commercials might be cut and re-pasted to the tune of live contemporary
classical music; the next, you might hear dialogue from this week's episodes of ER and Chicago
Hope rent from context and then juxtaposed--all to a soundtrack of echo effects and static. As
loyal listeners may already know, the hospital drama episode of Press The Button actually
exists and aired a few weeks ago. The three sampled dialogue from ER, Chicago Hope and various
other hospital dramas over the last several decades, shuffled them and looped them into the
show. Over the muted wail of torch singers and the cadence of heart monitor bleeps, Anthony
Edwards complains. "I literally don't fit in," he says. George Cloony asks, "what about
anesthesia?" "No time," says Edwards. "I'm going to local."

"People always ask what the talk show's about, but its not really a talk show. People ask what
the music is about but it's not really music," explains Kennedy. "Some weeks there's no music
at all--just fragmented words throughout the whole program. Sometimes there's a mixture of
both. Its not consistent, but I think that's the beauty and that's why people should tune in."

The show certainly has its moments of anarchy. More than a few, perhaps. But for Kennedy and
company, Press The Button has a definite working manifesto and a definite whipping boy. "The
subdivisions of commercial radio are too black and white . . .it's either straight music or
talk radio," says Kennedy. "There's no in-between." With Press the Button, Kennedy, Harmon
and Smith blur the distinction between radio as strictly music, talk or white noise. They hope
for nothing less than to change the way you listen--not just to the radio but to anything and
everything. "Normally when you're driving home and you're listening to NPR or something, you
kind of zone," says Kennedy. "And every once and a while when you hear something that
interests you, then you pick up on it. What we're trying to do is keep it constantly
interesting; keep that mind working all the time. We don't do that as humans as often as we
should. We just listen to music, trance out, and not pay so much attention to it. But in
fragmenting it into smaller bits and putting it together with other fragments, we try to think
about what these fragments, what they mean to us. Its a learning experience as we do the show
and as you're listening to the show."

Largely, the show accomplishes this by constantly frustrating the listener's expectations. Tune
in for what sounds like a talk show on the Cleveland Browns, and within a few minutes, you may
be listening to anything from an agricultural talk show to random sound. Aside from the Paul
Ryan Report, Press The Button allows almost no continuity. "If you tune in to it at first, you
might think, oh this is regular music, this is a regular talk show. But if you sit there for
longer then 10 seconds, all of a sudden, the sentence will stop and a new voice will start,
saying something completely unrelated. And [the listener] will be like, wait a minute. They'll
try to put those two samples together. [They will] think, oh, this must be what they must have
meant. [Then] they'll hear another fragment, totally unrelated to that, and they'll try to
relate those to the other two and think, oh that's what they meant. and you'll find yourself
studying what you're listening to."

The Press the Button aesthetic, equal parts John Cage, William Burroughs and Cleveland
late-nite talk show, germinated at the college radio station at Mercyhurst College, where
Kennedy and Smith both worked in the mid 90's. Engineering proto-Press The Button soundscapes
that alienated the Station Manager, the two were actually banned from airing anything they had
collaborated on or even participating in each other's shows. "We were doing similar
experimental pieces except they were a little more abstract, a little less fragmentary," says
Kennedy. "The station manager, an older guy, did talk radio in the seventies. He hated what
we were doing." Undaunted, Kennedy and Smith continued to produce and record material; for
what, they didn't know. Eventually, the material ended up on a CD, "The Button . . .For
Dummies." (Faced with two hours worth of material, Kennedy and Smith skipped on the double
album concept and burned two hours onto the single CD--one hour in the right channel and one in
the left.)

The show got started in earnest when Kennedy met up with Harmon, a WRUW DJ spinning underground
electronica. 2 and 1/2 years ago, Harmon invited Kennedy on to his show, and the conventional
format was dropped in favor of the sample-heavy, cut-and-paste sound of Press The Button. A
year later, Smith moved to Cleveland and joined the show.

At present, the trio enjoys the company of a constant stream of student musicians from Oberlin,
expiramental, classical, and jazz players who hang at the studio and play much of what ends up
as background music for the show. They have also been fine tuning their show in the hopes of
taking it live some day soon. "Ideally, we want to play quadriphonic--four speakers around the
audience so that we could have a spinning effect," says Kennedy.

In the near future, Kennedy, Harmon and Smith will be preparing the release of their third
recording. According to Kennedy, the CD will be more structured and feature what might
actually be called songs. Some might even have rhythms. But the radio show is still their
main gig (with generally 12 hrs. of production for every 3 hr. show), and the plunder of our
sonic world is still their passion. Says Kennedy, "everything you hear on the news, all the
music that you listen to, new or old, everything you hear when you're walking in the streets.
All of that is audio. None of that is safe from us."

THE CLEVELAND FREE TIMES, 11-18-98
by Laura DeMarco

Not Just Noise

    Late night radio fans have been buzzing about WRUW, 91.1 FM's
Press The Button program since it began a year and a half ago on

Sunday nights/Monday mornings from midnight to 3 am. The show,

which each week assembles a found-sound collage around a specific

theme, is one of the most interesting contributions to Cleveland radio

in a long time - even for the lower end of the dial. And now you don't

even have to stay up late to experience the efforts of co-host masterminds

Jay Kennedy and Sam Harmon. The duo released a CD entitled The Button

last August that, thanks to frequent on-air plugs of their Website, is starting
to really take off.

    The compilation reveals a method to the duo's madness: mixing together
song samples, machine noise, TV snippets and all sorts of other assorted
sounds, they create a sonic stew that's chaotic but not unmusical. For now
the two are selling it from their Webpage (www.pressthebutton.com), though
they're talking to found-sound pioneer Negativland's Seeland label about putting
out a single they've composed about the controversy within the Recording
Industry Association of Amercia about the legalities of sampling, called "RIA-Art,"
as well as their next LP, tentaively titled The Stages of Life.

    Visit the Website, listen to the show or write to The Button Press

at 26151 Lakeshorte Blvd. #2000, Euclid, OH, 44132 to find out more.


A local minister who wishes to remain nameless says

"repetitive at first, but curious. Then, the repetition seemed to make
sense as it evolved into the next stage of the show. The show is a

continuing evolutionary process that makes itself an original format. The

samples don't satirize themselves like they would in a noise show.

They are chopped up and turned against themselves, yes. but they are

often turned into complete sentences! These sentences have obviously different

meanings, but are sometimes funny, and other times very deep and relevent to

to the theme, or to where the sample came from. It's not a talk show, but is

ironically much more interactive than a talk show. Press The Button is evolved

freedom╔plain and simple."

 

From the CWRU Observer, 10/97

WRUW-Who knew such great Radio came out of Mather Memorial Building?
They say that radio is an art and not a science. (I don't know who "they"

are, but nevermind that, it helps the premise of this article.) Well, if

it is art, then the boys who do Press the Button are abstract painters.

They start with the blank canvas, and with bold strokes, create a bright,

colorful ▀ower: how pretty, how trite. Then suddenly, in a frenetic,

manic blizzard of rage they splatter black tar on the picture. Then they

dissect the petals and crush the leaves. They throw the canvas against the

wall and stomp on it. Then the callers spit on their hands and smear

peanut butter and jelly over their faces before plastering the remains of

the canvas with their stained faces. This is the lunacy that is Press the

Button. This is truly radio without walls, without boundaries.

Jay Kennedy from Press The Button comments that while "most radio
shows are format driven, we are 'theme' driven. By theme, I mean a topic

that will be the only guaranteed constant element of every show. Our goal

is to satirize that theme without using conventional expression. If we used

the same expression every week, then it would defeat our point of not being

conventional, because repetition of expression is conventional. We offer

different expression that remains new to listeners, and therefore never

boring. It's a chance for listeners to escape conventionalism, and to create

their own way of thinking." Woah.

However, if you believe that radio is a science, then Press the Button
could only be seen as a madman's experiment. Dr. Asbestos and Jay

Kennedy have the radio-monster on their operating table. "What have we

created?", they ask themselves. If only lightning would strike to bring

their creation to life. And then it does. The electricity sizzles through

the phone lines as they take caller after caller. The callers bring their

experiment in radio to life. Can you imagine: the scientists in the

laboratories of WRUW have allowed their creature to be brought to life by

the listening public.

The show, in its simplest form, starts with a topic followed by a
mix of samples (pre-recorded bits of sound), listener input, and talk.

Jay Kennedy loves to push the envelope of creativity. "What's best

about this," he says, is "like with many works of art, the meaning of each

bit of satire we do will be unique to the observer. For one person, the

show might have meaning to his own personal life, while for another person,

the show might just be funny.  The uniqueness is that the show is not chaos. It is

developed every week with a new theme, and hours of preparation behind

it."

From a review of the Snuggles Tape compilation "Red Hand Dave"

Just finished plowing through the Snuggles tape compilation and I enjoyed
it thoroughly. Looks like we've come up with some strong stuff. I

particularly enjoyed CUTTING UP WITH RUSSELL MAST of MacDonald's

"Golden Ticket" segment, and all "Press The Button"s stuff. Fun fun listening,

everything. I reckon a volume could come out like this every year!