Australian station Triple J and one listener with a passion show how radio can still inspire
(all images on this post used with the permission of Annette Paradies)
Yesterday was Australia Day. As I passed through Facebook there was perhaps a smattering more than usual of Aussie inspired material amongst the endless pictures of flowers and kittens, the exhortations to be one of the 7% to repost some piece of chain-letter guff, and Youtube clips of 70s disco hits.
But then something caught my eye.
Pure unadulterated passion, by the bucketload, and for two subjects very close to my heart – radio and music.
An Aussie girl Annette Paradies who friended me a couple of years ago after stumbling across Shiprocked and enjoying it (so, in other words, a rock chick of impeccable taste) was giving a blow by blow account of one of the high points of her radio year – station Triple J’s annual Hottest 100 countdown.
It was impossible not to be sucked in by the sheer enthusiasm and enjoyment she was displaying as she posted every entry on the Hot 100 with her own commentary – on the band, on her own selections, on the radio station – the sort of passion that radio needs to inspire if it is to stay ahead of the game in a world full of mp3 players, video streaming, and limitless TV channels.
I had only intended being online for a few minutes, but Annette had me hooked, and I was soon visiting the Triple J website and finding out all about the station for myself.
This is the sort of advocacy that money can’t buy, and I can only hope that other stations sit up and take notice.
Your listeners are your strongest asset. Feed them safe pap and they’ll stay tranquilized.
Excite them, and they’ll be selling you station for you, on every street corner.
By the way, the image at the top of the post, is how I imagine Australia is, always, and the Hottest 100 certainly took place against such a sunny backdrop inside my head.
But below is what this weekend actually looked like on the Gold Coast . .
Thanks Annette for a vivid slice of Australian life and music, and I hope you all stay safe in those storms.
I was in Dublin’s southern docklands on business today, and taking a wander at lunchtime came upon an unexpected stone wall in the middle of all the flashy glass office buildings. An old wall, with tales to tell . .
The short piece of undeveloped land on Hanover Quay is the site of U2‘s famous recording studios, now demolished, but not forgotten by the bands legion of fans.
When you live in Dublin it is easy to be blase about the band’s international appeal, but I was amazed today at just how many of the tagged tributes were from forigen fans. The odd pieces of criticism seemed mostly to be local!
I’ve never been a huge U2 fan myself – I can take them or leave them – and if you ever hear me play them on the radio, it is done out of the sense of duty that I can’t let my own lack of enthusiasm dictate that others should never hear them.
But I have to admit, on stumbling across this unexpected shrine, to feeling a little glow of Irish pride nonetheless.
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.
Days 2 & 3 on board the ship passing far too quickly in a flurry of white horses and great music.
In addition to Radio Seagull at night, I’ve been doing some daytime shows on Radio Waddenzee in the daytime, which is lovely as it adds a real variety to my stay here.
Later I will be getting to explore the light tower.
Seagull tonight (Tue) 2000-2200 BST (2100-2300 en Nederland)
Radio Waddenzee tomorrow (Wed) 1000-1300 (Nederland) (0900-1200 BST).
Both on 1602khz or online:
My first day back at sea after 19 years, and we have a North Easterly blowing. It’s like I’ve never been away!
Leaving Harlingen harbour on the tender started bringing the memories back, pushing out to sea towards a radioship that we could hear but not see.
90 minutes or so later we were coming alongside the Jenni Baynton, the former lightship which transmits the Dutch station Radio Waddenzee by day and the English language rock of Radio Seagull in the evenings and overnights.
Coming on board brought fresh memories, the melée of tendering, the babble of dozens of simultanous conversations in different languages, that “ship” smell of metal, grease and diesel.
Then the tender departed, and we were alone under grey skies on an increasingly lumpy sea. It is only when the tender is sailing away, leaving you behind that you feel the connection to land finally sever. This is no longer a day trip.
“Once you’re out there, you’re out there” as someone advised me many years ago, on the eve of my first ever stint with Radio Caroline.
Old memories there may be, but I’m making loads of new ones too. Radio Seagull, anchored well out from the Dutch coast and transmitting on AM with a nice big ship-based tower does feel familiar in many ways, but is fresh and exciting in others.
I’ve never been on a ship which manages to use space in such a strange TARDIS-like fashion as the Jenni Baynton. From the outside it looks modest, but inside wide sweeping corridors and broad staircases give a much more open feel than on either the Ross Revenge or the Communicator. The ship boasts two messrooms, generously sized studios, and, much to my surprise a large dancefloor with tables, lighting equipment, DJ booth, and fully equipped bar!
My first show on Seagull was a pleasure, playing my choice of classic and modern rock, album tracks more than singles. The audience are musically curious, so straying far off the beaten track is encouraged.
And as I was on air and darkness fell, the wind got up to a 7 and beyond from the north east, the rain and spray was battering on the portholes, and the ship was moving in the seas, though not uncomfortably so.
I know I’m going to like this.
Radio Seagull can be heard online at http://www.radioseagull.com
Come and join us!
This weekend, and the week that follows is going to be one of the high points of my year, as I go back offshore and broadcast from a ship again, surrounded by fellow crewmembers from the offshore stations of years gone by.
“Radio Seagull” is a rock music station which broadcasts the overnight service on the Dutch station Radio Waddenzee, which is based on a former lightship, the Jenni Baynton, normally moored safely alongside the pier in the town of Harlingen.
But for the month of May the Jenni Baynton is putting out to sea again, and will be anchored some 8 miles off the Dutch coast, bringing radio back to the North Sea and providing a great opportunity for former pirates to relive the old days while bringing quality rock music, old and new, to an audience on AM and online.
I’m thrilled to have been invited to spend some time out at sea onboard the Jenni Baynton, and I will be on air each night on Radio Seagull from 10pm-1am CET (9pm-midnight BST) from Sunday 2nd to Thursday 6th May.
Over the month of May a whole host of people from the former Dutch and British offshore stations will be joining Seagull, and indeed I will be on board with my brother, Chris Kennedy, just as we were on Caroline back in the eighties.
Depending on mobile reception, I may be able to share pictures and update this blog while on board, if not, I will certainly do so on my return.
So watch this space, and tune in to Radio Seagull each night for some great classic and progressive rock from the last several decades.
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.
I’m going to enjoy this weekend.
Here in Ireland it is a holiday weekend (the October Bank Holiday) as as usual this means extra slots for me on Phantom 105.2
In addition to my normal Sunday evening 7-9pm Random Access all-request show, I will also be on Saturday 5-7pm, and Monday morning 8-11am.
We are celebrating our 2nd official birthday on air with a number of events, including the Top 105.2 countdown on the Monday from 1030 onwards. Not to be missed if you are an indie music fan.
Also, across the weekend we will be giving away Snow Patrol gift packs and running interviews with Gary Lightbody.
You can tune in on 105.2 FM or via DAB in Dublin and surrounding counties, we are also available in a number of cities via UPC Cable Ch.935, and around the world on www.phantom.ie
Writing yesterday about the differences between how election ads and songs are regulated (or not) in the USA compared to Ireland, I mentioned the musician Gerry Stanek, who has brought out a great and very funny track “I’m In Love With A Girl Named Sarah Palin” done in country balled style.
At the time of writing, I only really listened to the track itself, but have since gone back to Gerry’s myspace page to sample his other material, which is well worth a listen.
It’s hard to classify him exactly, as he lies somewhere between country and indie rock, and each song is quite different in style from the last.
“Gravity” is nice, “It Ain’t For Me” is quite catchy, but my personal favourite is “They Know My Name” which mixes resigned and downbeat lyrics with 70s sounding backing to produce a song which is suitably plaintive without being over emotive.
A lucky musical discovery for me when I was surfing for a news fix!
NOTE: This is now in the past.
I have some extra airshifts this week, filling in for John Caddell on Bedrock, 2100-0100 on Phantom 105.2fm Dublin on Monday, Wednesday and Thursdy (21st, 23rd, 24th July)
Bedrock is great fun to present, the best in new and classic rock with a late night feel, I’m looking forward to this. I’ve always enjoyed late night radio, the atmosphere is much more personal.
Have a listen if you fancy some bedrock, you can catch phantom on 105.2FM in the Greater Dublin area, or UPC Cable Ch 935 nationwide, on DAB in the north eastern region and also DTT trial system.
Outside Ireland, tune in via the web at www.phantom.ie
“REO Styx Foreigner”. Sounds better said out loud than written down. And just a little rude, which was the point . .
Way, way back in the mid 1980s, before my Caroline years, I was involved in a little rock music pirate with lofty ambitions in South London, and “R-E-O Styx Foreigner” used to be jokingly referred to as our music policy, though to be fair, there was a goodly amount of the more eclectic stuff too, such as Tangerine Dream, a particular favourite of our transmitter engineer.
The REO was REO Speedwagon of course, a great mid 80s staple, not much heard on the radio these days, though neither is Sryx. Foreigner have fared a little better, though not much.
We were called South East Sound, and we broadcast on medium wave (1188khz) from the woods between Coulsdon and Banstead, every Sunday afternoon from midday to 5 or 6pm.
Looking back it’s amazing the amount of effort we had to go to in order to get the station on the air each week, lugging heavy equipment and car batteries into the woods, spending several hours setting up the aerial all for a few hours of rock.
But there was virtually no choice on the radio those days, London had just two licenced commercial radio stations – Capital and LBC – and that was one more than most places had.
Radio was very mainstream, and there was little room for niches, even fairly mainstream ones like rock.
How very different it is now, with countless stations in the UK on AM, FM and DAB, and pretty much every musical taste cared for.
These days I’m in Dublin, happily (and legally) working on Phantom 105.2 which plays alternative rock, with a smattering of the older classics.
“Ham Sandwich Cure Immediate Arcade Fire” if you like.
Our broadcasting regulator, the BCI, have advertised a classic rock licence, and the company behind Phantom is one of the bidders.
Of course, I’d love Phantom to get it, but whoever wins, let’s hope we get a little REO Styx Foreigner vibe going, if only to let me unlock my inner 80s child.