PHOTO: Phantom 105.2 Launch Lineup (Oct 2006)

A couple of days before the launch of the new legal Phantom 105.2 in October 2006, I used an all-staff meeting as an excuse to take a “class of 2006” photo.  Here’s how we looked back in those oh-so-optimistic days . . .

Phantom 105.2 staff just before launch, October 2006 (Steve Conway)

Phantom 105.2 staff just before launch, October 2006 (Steve Conway)

Click on the picture for a larger version.

Front row (left to right) Jack Hyland, Peter Vamos, Simon Maher, Brian Daly, Ger Roe, Neil Austin.

Of the 32 faces in the photo, 16 are male and 16 female . . perfect gender balance without even trying.

As pirate and legal station, Phantom employed me for 11 happy years, and produced tens of thousands of hours of wonderful radio.

Born of idealism, strangled by corporatism, it will be fondly remembered and much missed.

Steve


Me And My Tranny

Tranny memories . . and a new toy to play with.

Roberts

I remember when I got my first radio. It was a little thing, not unlike the one pictured above, but with a big speaker grille occupying most of the front space (unlike the one pictured, which is designed to be used with headphones, but which is the nearest distant relative I still possess).

It was cheap, plastic, and could be held easily in one hand. The sound from it was a little tinny, but it was mine – finally I could choose my own listening, my own place, time, and station. The controls were simple – one wheel for volume (which also controlled on/off) and another for tuning. The radio being small, and the wheel sticky, tuning in stations, especially on FM, was almost an art form. And with cheap components it whistled and whined on AM, and would frequently de-tune from whatever station you were listening to.

Back in those days, you still referred to these things as a “transistor radio” – hence the nickname “tranny“, which at that time either had not acquired any more adult meanings, or perhaps such things were beyond my innocent world. The “transistor” radio was one of those phases we go through linguistically, where we specifically incorporate the name of some new component into the name of a thing, even though most of the users would have little knowledge of what a transistor actually is, or how it differed from a non transistor radio. These technical names attach themselves to things for a period, and then eventually fade away, the transistor radio just becoming the plain old radio again.

Another good example of that is the “Microcomputer“, which, if you took it’s name as a literal meaning, would have been a computer so tiny that you would need a magnifying glass to find it on your desk. In fact, “Micro” computers were great big hulking beasts, taking up most of your desktop, and took their name from the then relatively new to mass market micro-processor at their heart. For a while in the early 80s, computer stores were always “Bill’s Micros” or “Sutton Micros” or “First Micro” etc, until the name gradually faded away to be replaced by the more prosaic “computer” of the desktop or laptop variety. Though of course, the biggest tech giant, which was born in those early PC days, does still carry the name – Microsoft.

Another example of such nomaculture, which has now almost faded away is the cellphone, which is what most mobile phones were initially called by users in the 80s and early 90s (and still are, to an extent, in the USA). This was again a case where the technical aspect of a product’s operation was included in the name – possibly by the designing engineers – and eventually being lost as generations of users, to whom the product is no longer a novelty, use them without any knowledge of the “transmission cell” technology which enables them to function.

Cellphones became mobiles, and just phones in many cases, and have now gained the title “smartphone” as they have started adding functionality not traditionally found on phones, such as mail, web-browsing, application support, and radio. How long will it be, I wonder, before the “smarts” of the smartphone are so taken for granted by users that they cease to have to be defined as smart, and become again, simply “the phone” ?

The arrival of radio onto mobile phones predated the smartphone era, and saved my bacon on one memorable occasion in 2009 when I was doing an outside broadcast for Phantom, and we suddenly lost the off-air monitor function on the desk. As I was not playing the music locally, but remote-controlling the playout system back at base through a laptop hookup, it was vital that I could hear what was going out on air, and i suddenly found myself adrift. Cue a few moments of panic before I realised that my trusty Nokia mobile could be pressed into service as an off-air monitor, though I’m sure it did our image no good at a very public location for me to be seen wearing, not the usual “big DJ headphones” but a tiny mobile with Walkman type personal earphones.

Fstream

That was an FM radio facility, but mobile phones have moved on smartly since then, to the point where a variety of apps allow you to listen to online stations, or online feeds of terrestrial stations, from pretty much anywhere in the world, restricted only by occasional copyright issues. Most radio stations have their own app for ease of listening, and those that don’t are usually possible to get via specialised apps such as Tunein or Fstream (pictured above).

So a couple of days ago, I was lying in bed, enjoying what was, for me, a very rare lie-in. And I was listening to an online station through my smartphone.  Nothing unusual in that . I use the phone for a lot of online listening: to get Radio 4 in good quality for example, or to listen to stations not available locally. But usually when listening, I am using headphones. In fact, I would virtually never listen to radio, podcast, or music on the phone any other way.

But lying in bed earphones are a drag, and I was feeling too lazy to get out of bed and go fire up the laptop to listen through the speakers. So I did something i rarely do, which was listen to the phone without headphones, through it’s own little speaker. And that’s when it hit me.

There I was, holding in my hand a device that was roughly the same size and shape as my first ever radio, though possibly a bit lighter. And I was listening to the radio on it, with that same slightly tinny sound that you get from small speakers, except that this was probably slightly better in that there was no whistles and de-tuning.

What I held in my hand at that moment was, to all intents and purposes, a “tranny”.

I know many radio purists of the old school who will disagree, and talk about receiving terrestrial signals. But to me that is not the point.

When I was a kid, I had a little box, and I could use it to listen to RTE, or BBC, or some other station I wanted to hear. Now, today, I can hold in my hand a box that allows me to do exactly the same. And more – If I want to, I can just as easily listen to Caroline or Radio Jackie or a station in Australia, all in the same quality, and without having to be in their specific area.

Just like the tranny of old, the battery will run down after a number of hours of listening. But instead of having to buy new ones, I simply plug in and recharge. And the phone allows me to do lots of other stuff too (though that is not the point of this piece).

The problem with internet radio always used to be it’s lack of mobility, as well as the fact that in pre-broadband days it could be clunky and intermittent to listen to. Better connection speeds solved the reliability issue, while the smartphone has essentially liberated online radio from the home, and allowed it to go with you. Wifi is nice, but not essential – as long as there is 3G coverage, most radio station apps will work just fine.

Caroline

I remember doing online broadcasts 10 years ago, and at times it could be a pretty lonely show. The emails came in, but they could not be described as thick and fast. These days, working with Caroline, my response from online listeners vastly outnumbers satellite ones, and it seems to be almost as easy for people to tune in as it used to be.

It’s funny that I never made the connection between the smartphone and those old, little portable radios before. It took the removal of my headphones, and a sudden reversion to that lower sound quality of yesteryear, for me to make the emotional connection.

Broadcasting is not necessarily about aerials and signals, any more than good radio is about vinyl rather than CD.

Radio is about the content, the connection, the passion.

The old transistor radio was just a tool to deliver that content to me, just as the new age tranny in my shirt pocket does in 2013.

Steve


After 11 years, I bow out from Phantom [2011]

Feeling relaxed in the Phantom studio on a Sunday afternoon

(March 17th 2011)

After 11 very happy and eventful years with the Dublin Indie-rock station Phantom, I presented my last show on St. Patricks Day.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Phantom, but increasing time pressures from my other activities mean that I have had to make some choices about what to focus my energies on.

(edit: see the “On-Air” tab on this site for details of where to find me on the radio these days)

I have very many happy memories from my 11 years with Phantom, and I will post some of them here over the next little while.

For now I’d like to thank everyone from all of the eras of Phantom, pirate to temporary to commercial, for making me so welcome, and to wish the great team charged with taking the station into the future all the success in the world.

I’ll leave you with a little memory from my early days with the station, when we broadcast from a secret base above Whelans of Wexford Street, and an “unexpected splash of colour” on the breakfast show:

Phantom Breakfast – Aug 2001 (click to play – format: mp3)

In Phantom’s old studio, in the pirate days.

Those were the days my friend . . .

Steve


Space, Light & Music

Phantom 2011 style

Over the weekend I had my first chance tobroadcast from Phantom 105.2′s new studios in Digges Lane, and I have to say I was very impressed.

The equipment is top-notch – but that is the least part of it. Space and light is all around you, and its remarkable how such an uncluttered environment frees your creativity to a greater degree.

The facilities outside studio are a step up too, but the best thing about the location is something that cannot be photographed – the buzz and friendliness of the other occupants of the building, the national stations Today FM and Newstalk.  Even though I was only there at odd hours of the weekend, I lost count of all of the people from the other stations who made a point of coming up to introduce themselves to me, and the regular weekday staff on Phantom say it’s just the same in primetime.

It’s great also to be back in the vibrant comercial and musical heart of the city we serve. Roll on the rest of 2011.

Steve


Shows on Phantom this weekend (15/16 Jan 2011)

I’ll be getting to try out Phantom’s snazzy new studios this weekend as I am on covering two shows on 15/16 Jan 2011.

Saturday I’ll be in from midday to 2.30pm, and back in my old stomping ground Sunday 7-9pm hosting Random Access, the all-request show.

It’s also worth mentioning that our Arts show, The Kiosk, hosted by Nadine O’Regan will be giving away P J Harvey’s entire back catalogue on Saturday morning, 11 to midday (i.e. just before me).

Phantom is on 105.2fm in Dublin and surrounding counties.

On UPC cable ch.935 in Irish cities.

Worldwide via the Phantom iPhone app, and at www.phantom.ie

Steve


Phantom moves away from the water – but still makes waves

 

Studio with a view

Dublin’s Phantom 105.2 completed its move to new studio facilities in the city centre today, leaving behind the old dockside building that was its home since its launch as a legal station in October 2006.

While I will be sad to leave the view of passing shipping behind, I’m not sorry to be leaving what must be one of the ugliest buildings in Docklands.

Meanwhile the internet is buzzing with various stories about what lies ahead for Phantom in the future, now it has an investment from, and shares facilities with the Communicorp radio group. The fact that Phantom’s future matters to so many, and is discussed with such interest, shows the interest that Dublin’s alternative music station commands.

Will there be changes? Of course there will bewhat doesn’t change, dies.

If Phantom had not being willing to make the change from pirate to temporary legal, and again to full-time legal, it would never have survived to today.

The move to Marconi House, situated between Georges and Grafton Streets puts Phantom right in the vibrant heart of the city, and back in the same part of town where its most creative pirate years were spent.

I don’t know what high-level plans are in place for the station – nor would I expect to know – but I can tell you that everyone from the CEO Ger Roe, down to occasional part-timers like myself, is enthused about the future, raring to go to meet the challenges ahead, and happy to work for the coolest station in the city.

Left behind - the ugliest building in Docklands!

Steve


10 years ago on Phantom breakfast

It’s now 10 years since, arriving back in Dublin after years living abroad, I discovered a darn good pirate radio station broadcasting rock and indie music on 91.6fm – Phantom FM (as it was known in those days).

Within a few weeks I had approached the station and become involved myself, my two years on the weekday breakfast show kicking off a very happy 10 years involvement with the station through it’s various phases as a full-time pirate (till May 03), temporary licenced station (twice in 2003/4), web only (while waiting for licence and legal results 2004-2006) and the current incarnation as the fully legit commercial station Phantom 105.2 from October 2006 to the current day.

I’ve had the best of times during these 10 years, and even though I finally had to cease doing regular weekly shows earlier this year due to other commitments, I still can’t tear myself away entirely, and crop up from time to time filling in for other presenters who are away.

I’m going to be doing a series of posts over the next few weeks looking back at my fondest memories from the last 10 years.

To start off, here is a look at the music and ads being played on Phantom back in my earliest days on the breakfast show.

I’ve transcribed this from a recording I hold of a complete shoe from 18th December 2000 –  10 years ago today.

News & Weather was written and produced by myself as was travel, in addition to presenting the show itself.

In my first months back in Ireland I did not have a car, and there was no bus which would get me in to Phantom in time for the start of the breakfast show, so I would arrive in as live programmes were ending at 11pm the night before, and spend the night in the studio, sleeping on the floor with a cushion for a pillow, a coat over me for warmth, huddled up against a little heater.When the show ended at 9am, I took a bus across town to a fulltime job in the IT industry, worked till 7pm, got home by 9, and had an hour to relax before getting the bus back in to Phantom for another night on the floor.

Ah, those were the days . .

In the dead of night, nothing is stirring in the old Phantom 91.6 studio except the needles on the mixer, as a night-time mix went out on auto. Qite a cosy pleace to sleep for the night, if a little cramped, and it was impossible to be late for the breakfast show.

The show below would be absolutely typical of the music played by me at the time. The tracks with an asterix * are A-List tracks, everything else being my own free choice. For the A-lists there were about 30-35 in the studio, refreshed regularly, split between new Irish and new International.

18 December 2000

(7am – news & weather)

*Marvin – No Good At Maths

(link)

Damien Dempsey – Chillin

Turn – Antisocial

Whistler – Faith In The Morning

(link + travel)

(ad – Phantasm)

*The Yo Yos – Home From Home

Offspring – Self Esteem

(link)

(7.30 news headlines)

*P J Harvey – Good Fortune

(link)

Therapy – Screamager

At The Drive In – Cosmonaut

Limp Biscuit –No Sex

(link + travel)

(ad – Wild Eagle tattoo studio)

(ad – Temple Bar Music Centre)

*The Crocketts – 1939 Returning

The Pixies – Here Comes Your Man

(link)

Pedestrienne – Soundwaves

The The – Infected

(link)

(ad – Whelans)

(ad – MCD Finlay Quayle & Primal Scream)

(8.02am – news & weather)

*The Walls – Some Kind Of A Girl

(link)

Smashing Pumpkins – Rocket

*Green Day – Minority

(link)

Bell X1 – Offshore

(link + travel)

(ad – Wild Eagle tattoo studio)

(ad – Temple Bar Music Centre)

(ad – Phantasm)

(link – competition for NPB tickets)

*Amen – The Price Of Reality

(link – winner of tickets to NPB)

Rush – Spirit of Radio

(link + 8.30 news headlines)

The Frames – Rent Day Blues

Liz Phair – Ride

(link + travel)

(ad – Wild Eagle tattoo studio)

(ad – Temple Bar Music Centre)

*Juliet Turner – Dr Fell

Eels – Novocaine For The Soul

(final link)

Candice – Maybe I

*JJ72 – Snow

Ash – Shining Light

(ad – Whelans)

(ad – MCD Finlay Quayle & Primal Scream)