Every Saturday I present on Radio Seagull, from 6-8am UK/Irish time, repeated later the same day 6-8pm. (or 7-9 European time)
If you enjoy indie and alternative music, you’ll get lots of it, with the occasional folk or country and the odd piece of classic rock. I aim each week to have a minimum of 50% of the show made up of brand new material – mostly tracks from forthcoming or just released albums, EPs and the odd single, along with demos and unsigned bands.
Below is my running order from yesterday, to give you a flavour of the kind and variety of music played.
You can pick up Radio Seagull on AM in The Netherlands and eastern UK (1602khz and currently testing for a limited period on 1395khz) and online everywhere else via www.radioseagull.com
|Von Shakes||Happy Song|
|Chris Rea||Never Tie Me Down|
|Arcade Fire||Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)|
|Juliana Hatfield||Sex and Drugs|
|The Retrospective Soundtrack Players||Send Me the Hell Back Home [20″ fade]|
|Grateful Dead||Touch Of Grey|
|Ida Maria||10,000 Lovers|
|CSS||Rhythm to the Rebels|
|Wolventrix||Wanderlust – Single|
|Joe Bonamassa||The Meaning of the Blues|
|Cheap Girls||Cored to Empty (Demo Version)|
|Dinosaur Pile Up||Birds & Planes|
|The Presidents Of The United States Of America||Truckstop Butterfly|
|The Waterboys||White Birds|
|Rocket from the Tombs||Romeo & Juliet|
|Big Audio Dynamite||E=Mc²|
|*** RS Jingle ***||xxsj-DRY-Seagull ID only ACP|
|Howling Bells||Gold Suns, White Guns|
|Lanterns On The Lake||A Kingdom|
|Samiam||Happy for You|
|Chris Rea||Dance With Me All Night Long|
|Michael Schenker Group||Armed And Ready|
Every Saturday from 0600 to 0800 and again at 1800-2000 GMT (or an hour later if you are in Central European Timezone) I present a two-hour rock and indie show on Radio Seagull, an English-language station based in Northern Holland, which can be heard locally on 1602 AM, or globally via the Seagull website.
Once a year, usually in early summer, Seagull puts to sea in its lightship the Jenni Baynton, and the crew of broadcasters and engineers live and work together for a period of weeks, but for the rest of the year I prepare and present the shows from my own studio in Dublin, and link across to the Seagull transmitter through a fast broadband connection.
The joy of Seagull is that within the parameter of being broadly a rock station, it is entirely free format, so I have 100% free choice in what I choose to play, and how I structure the show each week. As long as I include a couple of scheduled adverts/promos, and time correctly to let the local studio in The Netherlands insert an ad-break at the top of the hour, the show is absolutely my own to do with as i please.
If I want to play an ultra-long prog-rock track, I can, if I want to put a softer pop tune inbetween some new rock releases I do, and no one will query my judgement. There is no need to “play safe” so I can goas far down the road of new releases from little-known bands as I like. Or I can theme the show on a whim if I want.
Seagull works on the principle of using presenters who are passionate about what they do, and trusts them totally. It’s a heady freedom, and I love it.
Working free-format is a breeze if you are doing a one-off, but can be more demanding if you are doing a show every week – avoiding the trap of going down the same routes too often, keeping it fresh, and knowing when and where you have played something before. Thankfully technology makes this so much easier these days, but even so, I probably spend about 5 hours – an entire evening each week – preparing the Saturday shows. It’s always worth it though.
A few people have asked about Seagull and what we play, and others about the mechanics of it, so i thought a quick walk-through of how I prepare a show, and the finished playlist would be fun to write and put up.
So here is my Seagull show for Saturday 19th February 2011, from blank page to finished playlist.
I use a wonderful piece of software called MegaSeg to manage my personal music library, put together playlists, and act as a ‘virtual studio” when I am presenting the shows. I purchased this rather than using one of the various shareware packages that are around because of its depth of features – you could run a complete radio station via MegaSeg if you needed to, and I find that it has paid for itself several times over in the ease of access it gives me to store and search my music, and the flexibility it allows me in building and presenting a show.
So, looking at the playlist window, we start of with a clean slate:
In the screenshot above, I’ve added in markers to indicate the two hours of the show, and the couple of promos that need to be played in each. At the bottom is shows me the total running time of the current playlist (2 mins 39 secs ).
The first thing I will do will be to select and put in all of the new music that I am going to feature in the show. I generally like to have about 50% of the content of the show being brand new or very recent material. Again, there is no specific rule for this on Seagull – I am free to use as much or as little new music as I like, the 50ish 5 is my own personal preference, based on the fact that I enjoy discovering and sharing new sounds, and that having a high content of new material is one way of keeping a free-format show sounding fresh month after month.
OK, so in the shot above, I have now added in my new music content, and the playlist comes to 1 hour 13 mins, so probably around 60% or so on this occasion. From the current timestamp (the number bottom left) compared to the previous shot, you will see that it has taken around an hour for me to settle on the blend of new tracks I’ll be playing today.
Most of these will be very new (just out, or possibly pre release), some will be from within the last 2-3 months, and a couple may possibly be older, but from a newly released album or compilation.
At this point, the tracks are not in a specific order, I have just placed them into the playlist roughly equally distributed between the two hours. I’ll know better what running order I want once I’ve added the other material. I do however know that I want the 16 minute Trail of Dead track, “Tao of the Dead Pt. 2” to come out of the ad break in the first hour, so I’ve put it in place there.
These tracks are a mixture of album and EP tracks, with the odd single. Usually each week there is one album or EP which I have just bought, and I will feature two tracks from, one per hour – this week it is The Fallen Drakes.
In the shot above we are looking at the Library window, which allows me to choose from the roughly 10,000 tracks I have available (including jingles, promos, adverts as well as music). MegaSeg has a very powerful search function which is instant as you type in the words to be searched for, or you can view the entire library listed by Artist, by Album, by Song Title, by duration, by Genre, or by Date Added (the latter being useful for isolating the newest material).
In this view above, we are looking at the library by duration – this is very useful when you need to complete a playlist to time exactly to the finish of an hour, and need, for example, a choice of all the tracks that are 5 mins 43 in duration, as seen here. I also use the view-by-duration as a good way of randomising the library when i am picking older tracks to play – whereas when viewing by album or artist your eye might be drawn to better known tracks, if you pick a randon time on the list and scroll up or down from it, you will quite often pick up a good collection of varied tracks that might not have lept out at you in the more ordered view.
I have now added enough older material to fill out the the remaining 47 minutes (and it’s taken me a bit more than two hours just to make those choices!). The total playlist length is now 2 hours, 2 mins and 21 seconds – slightly over-long, but that will get cut down shortly. It’s still not neccessarily in the final order though, but I’ve made sure to choose the start track in each hour carefully – I like to have something reasonably strong, and not too quiet to start off the hour.
You will notice that whereas some of the songs have just a duration, others have more info – for example “Wild Angels” by Magnum says :24/5:32/F. This means that the intro on the song is 24 seconds before vocals start, it is 5 mins 32 long, and ends with a gradual fade (the other options are “C” for a “Cold” or sudden ending, and “S” for “Sustain” when it ends on a drawn out note or flourish).
I will need to go through and set this on the other tracks in the playlist – once I have done this, the library will remember this information, so I’l never have to do it again for that track.
In the picture above I am editing the details for Heather Nova’s “Walk This World”.
Setting the intro length is handy, but setting the endpoint is essential. Almost all commercial CD releases of music include a couple of seconds of silence after the end of the track, sometimes as much as 4 or 5 seconds, and it is important to tell the system the exact point at which you wish it to cut to the next track if you are to avoid gaps. Similarly, it is occasionally neccessary to set a start point a second or two into the recording if it starts with silence – this is especially a problem with non-commercial and demo CDs from bands. You also have a drop-down menu for recording the ending type.
Going through and doing this for each track on the playlist will usually take another hour. As the system stores these settings, gradually more and more of my library will be already done, but I’ll always have to edit the details on the new arrivals.
Here is the playlist somewhat later – all track details now recorded, and endpoints set – note this has knocked a full 2 minutes of the duration of the playlist – that’s a lot of little silences!
I have also put in a couple of jingles (will drop in more when I’m actually presenting), plus there are some spots marked “BREAK: Wait for Segue“. This is where I have commanded the system to stop, and wait for me to manually restart it – this is for places where I want to speak for a bit longer, and won’t be using the song intro, and also for the end of the hour, where the studio in The Netherlands will insert an ad break at the top of the hour.
All of this, which has taken probably around 3 hours or more, can be done at any stage, several days in advance of the show if neccessary. All I need to do at this point is save the playlist (which I’ve been doing regularly as i built it of course) and it is ready to be called up when it is time to do the show.
Almost always i will make odd adjustments on the spot as I am going through the show, and the odd song will be changed as the whim, or the mood of the music inspires me to a new choice. And usually one or two tracks will end up being dropped in the end, as the speech bits in the BREAK segments take up some time.
In the end, I always re-save after finishing the show, so that I have a record of what was played, which can be useful to check back on.
Mega-Seg can also output the playlist as a PDF, so here is the final version of todays Seagull show, so you can see the entire list that we couldn’t fit in the screenshots.
So there we have one of my Seagull Saturday shows, from conception through to transmission.
If you enjoyed reading this, why not give it a listen some Saturday?
Radio Seagull – 1602khz in Northern Netherlands
Steve Conway – 6-8am and 6-8pm Saturdays (7-9 am and pm European time)
Monday 12th July sees my return to Radio Caroline after an 11 year break, and so I will now be presenting regular weekly shows for three stations – Radio Seagull (on Saturdays), Phantom 105.2 (Sundays) and Radio Caroline (Mondays).
So why three stations, and how can I justify each of them as being “the best” to their listeners?
To answer that, I have to track back in time quite a bit, a quarter of a century, to my first steps into the world of radio. This month marks 25 years since I did my first ever radio show, on South East Sound, a small landbased pirate in South London, which was campaigning for a rock music licence for the capital city which had just 2 commercial stations at that time.
Now, 25 years on, we live in a world where there is vastly more choice available, in no small part due to the efforts of the people behind stations such as South East Sound, Caroline and Phantom over the years and I’m delighted to be regularly broadcasting on three unique and strong independent operations in European radio.
Dublin’s Phantom 105.2 is at the centre of music culture in one of the most vibrant and creative cities in these islands, and I feel very privileged to be still going strong after 10 years with the station. I learn something new, discover something fresh and exciting every time I walk into the Phantom studios, and I love that.
Joining the crew at Radio Seagull has allowed me to be really creative in mixing classic and prog rock of 5 decades with new material in an environment where nothing is off limits, and it’s great to be able to bring some of the new Irish rock bands to an audience in The Netherlands and further afield.
And Radio Caroline, still a proud independent voice after all these years, gives me access to a huge potential audience in the UK via the Sky Digital system, and lets me indulge in my taste for a wide range of musical genres. Caroline has always been about real people sharing their passion for music in a down to earth style, and so many of the people I admire as real radio broadcasters have passed through it’s studios – or never left!
Back in 1985 when I joined South East Sound in London we were campaigning for more radio serving more interests, and I think it’s great that we have so much more choice in 2010, and that I can now be involved in three stations which though all different in content and coverage, are all keeping the flag flying for independent, alternative music and diverse voices on the airwaves.
Radio Seagull 1800-2000 (UK/Irish time) every Saturday
Phantom 105.2 1200-1500 on Sundays
Radio Caroline 1400-1600 on Mondays.
After a few weeks away for a minor medical procedure, I’m back on the radio this weekend with my regular Sunday show on Dublin’s Phantom 105.2fm, plus I’m covering an extra slot on Saturday too.
Sat 26th 1200-1430
Sun 27th 1200-1500
It’ll be nice to catch up with all the latest music – I never walk out of Phantom Towers without having picked up at least one new band or release that I want to buy.
You can catch me on Phantom via 105.2fm in Dublin and surrounding counties, on UPC Digital Cable Ch 935 around Ireland, and worldwide via Phantom.ie or the Phantom iPhone app
Watch this space for forthcoming details of new regular shows on a station elsewhere in Europe . .
I would do anything for music, but I won’t will do that.
I’ve promised myself that in the next 12 months I’m going to try to do lots of things I’ve never done before, especially ones that push me out of my comfort zone.
So when Hotpress photographer Ruth Medjber put a call out for nude models “of all ages, shapes and sizes” for an album cover photo-shoot, I put my hands up – and my trousers down!
Over the years I’ve done some strange things for the love of music. I’ve carried heavy car batteries through the woods at unearthly hours on Sunday mornings (to get the alternative rock station South East Sound on the air in London back in the 80s) , I’ve risked death climbing onto the roof of a ship in 110mph winds to catch a rogue guy wire threatening to entangle with a 50kw broadcast antenna – still switched on at the time (keeping Radio Caroline on air during the Great Hurricane of 1987 – see Shiprocked for details) and I’ve enthusiastically lent airtime on shows on Phantom to hopeful bands looking for their first first airplay.
So taking my clothes off in a warm theatre, surrounded by other naked people shouldn’t be such a big deal really.
But nudity is linked to so many hangups and vulnerabilities, and there is the whole body image thing – yes, we men do have it too, especially when we are the wrong side of fourty, and the wrong side of fourteen stone to boot. Plus, in my whole adult life I don’t think I’ve ever been naked in front of anyone that I wasn’t about to have sex with.
I approach The Gate Theatre in Dublin full of an old man’s anxieties.
Will I be the only older person here? The only fuller figure? The only person coming on his own? Will that make me look like a dirty old man? Will people be looking at me? How do I avoid looking at other people while not obviously looking away either? Oh God, why do we have to make things so complex?
I am the first to arrive. The first of the “naked people” or models that is – the band are already in situ, and getting groomed for their photo session.
The Red Labels are a great bunch of guys, who carry a good tune, and if this photo shoot helps build awareness of their new EP then I’m all for it. But that doesn’t get rid of the awkwardness.
The photographer Ruth arrives, very professional and calming, and the other models start to arrive in twos and threes, roughly half and half male and female, most in their twenties or thirties, but a few around my age. I am not the only person to arrive on their own, thankfully, nor the only older man. Well that’s all right then.
People mostly stick in their groups, and I chat to another guy on his own, an actor who wants to use this opportunity to get used to being naked on stage, in case he needs to do it sometime for a role. I tell him how I’m trying to stretch myself out of my comfort zone, and observe that I might get some colourful new experience to help me as a writer.
The bright lights are set up, and Ruth tells us that there will be two main poses – one of us all, naked, sitting in the seats of the theatre, around the (fully clothed) band members, with masks to anonymise ourselves. There will then be another shoot on stage, with the band surrounded by a semi-cricle of naked people, all backs to the camera, but wearing the masks on the back of our head, to make us into spooky-faced arse people.
We’re then moved around to get the best mix of people in different positions, and for lighting tests. We’re all still fully clothed at this stage, but the nervous excitement, the joking and the giggling is growing. Two women put sitting together recognise each other – one is married to the other’s cousin. there are squeals of laughter and conspiratorial excitement as this is discovered. We are given the masks – we will wear these in the frontal shots too for anonimity, and then the moment of no return comes – it is time to take off our clothes.
Any initial embarrassment I might have expected to feel is quickly knocked out of my mind by the simple practical problem of HOW to get undressed while crammed into a theatre seat in the middle of a crowd of people. It’s easy enough to get the shirt off and the trousers down, but getting them off my ankles and my socks off too without belting a stranger in the process requires a lot of coordination. Around me I can see a flurry of arms, legs and breasts flying all over the place as my fellow models come to grips with the same dilemma. And then we are all naked, masks on, and sitting giggling in our seats as Ruth takes shot after shot trying to get the right angle.
I think she is having a harder time of it then us – we can see very little with our masks on, we are jokey and giddy, she can see everything, and has to try to get us to settle down and stay in position for the shot.
Then it is time to set up the other shot, and if there was any modesty to be had while sitting demurely in the rows of seating, it is lost in the scramble up onto the stage. There are no steps up from the floor, and there is no way that a naked man or woman can heave themselves up the 4 feet onto the edge of the stage gracefully.
And so we go up in a flurry of arses, which is good, because it is our backsides that are in demand for the next shot.
Ruth wants the semi-circle to be male-female-male-female all along the line, but there are too many men at my end.
“Don’t worry, they probably won’t be able to tell from behind” I say to the guy next to me.
“Are you saying I have a bird’s arse?” he asks me good naturedly, before calling out to the group “Hey, do I have an arse like a girl? Do I?”
Ruth is on hand to redistribute the sexes, and I find myself standing close in line between two women, as naked as I am, and forced into physical contact, arm brushing arm as we stand together.
They are warm. It seems strange to me, and yet it shouldn’t. All people are warm, its just that we don’t normally come into contact with the bare skin of each other as we rush through the crowds in town. There is something very bonding about that warmth, it takes away any last nervousness, and I can chat happily to them without any self consciousness. Perhaps, I wonder, there might be more peace and equality in society if we all had to go about naked, and regularly hugged each other. Can’t see it catching on in the Irish climate (geographic or moral) though.
Someone slaps the redhead beside me on the bottom and she looks around.
“That wasn’t me” I say.
“Oh I know” she says “but I wouldn’t blame you if it was. There are some things so wonderful and sexy you just have to touch them them don’t you?
“Like breasts” she adds, and starts making the hand gesture for cupping breasts “You just have to touch breasts”
“Oh yes” I agree, with never a truer thought to come out of my mouth “you have to touch breasts”.
Well, so much for me being the shy one was wasn’t going to look or talk. Far from the disrobing being the difficult moment, it seems that when the clothes came off, the barriers came down. Some of the people in the photo-shoot have taken part in other art-shots of naked groups in Dublin in the past, and I can see now why they are so relaxed about doing it again.
We seem to be standing there arm to arm for a long time while the shots are taken – we can hear but not see what is going on, though as the masks are now on the back of our heads, we can at least give each other the odd smile and have some degree of eye contact.
Getting down from the stage is easier than getting up, and now it is time to don clothes, and become somehow more anonymous again.
Leaving the building, I can’t help but think that maybe the clothes are a heavier disguise than the mask.