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BEHIND THE SCENES with Mitra Kaboli and Kaitlin Prest


Tell us about the birth of Audio Smut - how did the podcast come to be?

KP: Audio Smut has been born and reborn several times since 2006...

Chapter 1, 2006: Three sex workers founded a show on a badass community radio station, CKUT 90.3 fm, in Montreal.

Chapter 2, 2008: The original hosts stepped down and a new collective formed. The sound of the show transformed from two-way interview style to pre-produced stories with a playful sonic approach. This is when I came onboard. We experimented A LOT - both with sound and with being extremely sexually explicit. We put contact mics in places where the sun don't shine. We wrote, recorded and produced campy radio dramas, with slaps and squeals reverberating through the door of the studio. All of this went on the air at 6pm on the last Wednesday of the month: drive time.

Chapter 3, 2010: We discovered podcasting and started the first Audio Smut website.

Chapter 4, 2011: The show almost died, but then a friend and fellow producer encouraged us to keep doing it because nothing like Audio Smut exists. The show moved to New York, and Mitra and I envisioned what it would sound like as a professional quality radio show.

Chapter 5, 2013: We archive all past episodes of Audio Smut , called it "research" and launched "the new" Audio Smut.

Chapter 6: TBD.

Why a podcast about "your body, your heart, and your junk?

KP: This is becoming my schtick, but here goes: Our bodies, our love lives and our sex lives are things that everyone deals with every day. I think it's important for us to have sources of reliable information about the private sphere, that come from media we trust. A lot of the information we have access to about intimacy is based on fiction, fantasy and what sells. I think it's important to do work that attempts to honestly document the intimate parts of our humanity.

Let's talk about that bat mitzvah video! When did you realize you had access to it, and how did this impact the way you crafted the story?

MK: When I first moved to New York, I saw the bat mitzvah video at one of Harvey's performances. He had the footage projected onto a screen behind him while he was performing one of his songs. And at the end, he played the same clip I used at the end of the piece: "Thank you for coming to my bat mitzvah, I hope to see you at my wedding." That performance directly inspired the concept of the show. I had been sitting on the idea of "Coming of Age" for two years.

How do you decide how much explaining to do when you're telling a story about a topic - like gender transitioning - that some listeners are deeply familiar with and many are not at all?

MK: We are riding a fine line. We don't want to alienate anyone, ever. But our mission is to normalize the wide range of sexual and personal experiences that people have. This extends far beyond talking about gender and transitioning. Bodies and sex come in many varieties and flavors. But we all experience the same feelings of love, pleasure and intimacy. So, ultimately, everyone can relate to the basics.

KP: Our mission has always been to straddle that line between producing content that represents the experience of a specific community (queer, feminist, POC) and producing content that is accessible to people outside of those communities. The way we try to do that is to tell stories that access universal-human-condition questions (am I normal? Will I ever find love? Am I good at sex?), but through the perspectives of people you hear less often in popular culture. At the end of the day, we're making this for people who rarely see themselves reflected in the media. So we don't really explain things that are "normal" to a trans person but foreign to, say, a cisgendered male. A trans person sees things that are foreign to them in the media every single day.

It's very rare to hear sex talked about so openly as on Audio Smut. How do you set the tone of openness and trust with your interview subjects?

KP: I do not judge. In traditional journalism, a journalist's job is to be critical, and to ask challenging questions. I avoid asking challenging questions, and just wholeheartedly listen. There is nothing that someone can say to me that will make me cringe, or furrow my brow. Whatever it may be - whether it's getting paid to poop on someone, or having a sexual relationship with a dolphin - I go in with an assumption that under different circumstances it could have been me.

MK: Confession time: with a lot of the interviews I do, since the subject matter is really personal, I let my subjects listen to a draft that is close to finished, or the final product. I know that journalistically speaking, you aren't supposed to do that, but this is touchy material.

Let's do a short guided meditation. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine that you have a six-months and $100,000 to produce an episode Audio Smut . What would you do? What would it sound like?

KP: Mitra and I both have it bad for radio drama. So this is my dream: It would be a documentary radio drama, a la Gregory Whitehead (or like our latest release, "Movies In Your Head"!) It would involve translating a monumental pile of documentary material into something that makes full use of the magic of radio. After hearing it you would feel like you had just lived another lifetime - the way you feel when you wake up from an epic dream. We would likely work with a composer, maybe Shani Aviram, who is amazing. The work would be developed into a live performance piece, maybe involving puppets from this artist I love, Bekky O'Neill. It would live on as a sound installation, installed somewhere perfectly suited to it, somewhere intimate. Ok so I'm unrealistically squishing all of my radio dreams into this one meditation... I can't help it.