Tell me about your background, why and when did you come to Brighton?
I was born and remained a Londoner until leaving University. Got into pirate radio as a teenager in the early 80s. Then in 1989, changes in the law made pirate radio a criminal offence. There was a strong family connection with Brighton and I had just finished a broadcast journalism course, was doing a bit of freelance work and also teaching at Goldsmiths’, my old college. A friend and fellow pirate, Eugene Perera had continued doing radio in Brighton while studying at Sussex. Was it time to get a proper job? We sat in a pub for several hours and hatched a plan to apply for a home office wireless public address or “special event” licence instead of sensibly giving up. Oddly, the Home Office agreed to this. That event was the 1990 Brighton Festival. Legendary Community Arts organisation Same Sky let us build a tiny studio in their basement and by the end of May with “Festival Radio 97.7” broadcasting all manner of craziness all over town, I was a fully signed up Brightonian.
And then what happened??
After three years of amazing trial monthly broadcasts in Brighton and one attempt in London, I set up spin-off Festival Productions making music radio, ad campaigns, drama and documentaries for the BBC and UK commercial radio. I was a launch consultant for Kiss 100 in London, and then co-founder of Kiss stations in Manchester and Yorkshire. I co-founded Surf 107 (now Juice 107.2) where I remain Chairman… and janitor. In 2000, I created totallyradio.com, the UK’s original internet station playing music beyond the mainstream.
What is your job(s), and what does it entail?
Over the years I’ve probably done the lot – launching radio stations, managing, editing and producing, sales, music scheduling, engineering, making the tea and then clearing up at the end of the day. These days, the focus is on what’s next for radio. Exploring the possibilities delivered by ubiquitous internet connected devices, phones and software. Five years ago, I was a key contributor in the creation and launch of UK’s ‘Radioplayer’. I went on to lead three R&D projects funded by the Government’s Technology Strategy Board bringing together producers, aggregators, hardware manufacturers, broadcast and internet radio. I’ve also been involved in looking at how to preserve radio’s rich legacy co-authoring a National Radio Archive feasibility study for the British Library. Last year I launched the UK’s first open source ‘DIY’ broadcast digital radio multiplex in Brighton with currently eight great Brighton-centric radio services on air across the city including Juice 107.2, totallyradio, Radio Reverb, Smile, Resonance Extra, University Radio Falmer and more.
Setting up Surf (now called Juice) must have been a very big moment.?
It’s not polite to admit it, but having run trial broadcasts through the early 90s with the expectation that a full time licence in Brighton would follow – only to then go on a journey launching stations everywhere but home, it felt like March 1997 was about time! ?
You were also at the forefront of internet radio, setting up totallyradio.com which is still going strong.
More than 40,000 hours of curated music beyond the mainstream over more than 15 years. We were also the first in the UK to do comedy webcasts live from Komedia in Gardner Street in 2001. In the last year, totallyradio has been experimenting with pop-up studios and live streaming from multiple venues around the city. The live service is also available on DAB in Brighton… and Norwich!
?What is it about radio you find so appealing?
Radio is the original social medium and a trusted guide to ideas, stories told and music discovery. It has a unique and enduring ability to entertain and inform while you get on and do other stuff.
How do you explain the durability of radio?
Radio retains the power to engage on a personal level and the medium can hitch a lift on the back of digital innovation forged in the connected 21st century. You can ‘do’ radio on a connected phone, laptop, games console, TV or car dashboard.
What do you expect to see in the future of radio?
Over the next five years, technology will continue to disrupt radio in many ways that are predictable but others that aren’t. ‘Hybrid’ radio, is all about seamlessly mixing up what is ‘broadcast’ over the air and narrowcast online. For better or worse, it means allowing you to skip songs, news items or stories you don’t like or adding more of what you want. It means advertising that is more specifically targeted on the basis of your location or listening choices. It could mean commentary about your sport and team. or no sport at all. The future of ‘radio’ is on any device with a speaker – so long as you can switch it on and it works and the listeners of the near future will be increasingly unlikely to realise which underlying tech is used to reach them at any particular time – and care even less.
?Tell me about your love of music
I’m a frustratingly terrible musician. The viola was my instrument but I never really practiced enough and dreams of being John Cale remain just that. John Peel was the obvious radio inspiration for many thousands of my generation but also the London-based pirate stations of the late 70s and early 80s playing soul, reggae, jazz, metal and post punk.
Been to any gigs recently?
Blanck Mass at The Haunt at Mutations Festival. A gigantic widescreen sonic bombardment. Looking forward to the next show in April!
Barry Adamson – Komedia this week. Bound to be good…
Tell us about your best ever gig(s)
Birthday Party – Clarendon Ballroom 1982 or Grinderman – King Alfred Centre 2008.
Many great Nick Cave / Birthday Party / Bad Seeds gigs down the years. Needs no explanation!
Fela Kuti – Glastonbury 1984 unlike anything I’d seen or heard before. 20 piece band, A sinuous hypnotic sound from the unmatched master of AfroBeat.
The Make Up at Hanover Centre 1999.
Band and audience seemed to be bouncing off the walls of this tiny shoebox. One of those bands that only really made sense live and in the flesh.
Broadcast – Duke of Yorks 2000.
A beautiful collision of haunting and weird experimental soundscape meeting nursery rhyme melodies and Trish Keenan’s perfect voice.
Honorable mentions for Jon Spencer, Bjork, Orbital, Etta James, Miles Davis, Flaming Lips, Richard Thompson, Pulp, Brakes, Bat For Lashes & The Wytches.
How do you view the music scene here in Brighton?
There’s so much more of it now than in the late 80s early 90s. Back then it was more about attitude and the right haircut. There’s much more appreciation and diversity in the music scene today when compared to then. However, that ‘scene’ sometimes seems too slick and pre-meditated and passionless. Also, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!?
What is it about Brighton you like and dislike?
A great place to be to dream and scheme. Vibrant, open, tolerant and creative and increasingly multicultural but a victim of its own hype / success. A lack of affordable places to live or work coupled with creaking 19th/20th century infrastructure that is unable to cope with the numbers of people living and working here. There is sadly no coherent vision as to how to fix this.
Have you got any new projects on the go?
Platform B is a new not-for-profit radio station launching in April and to be based out of the Green Door Store, an independent music venue located under Brighton Station. It will have an unapologetically ‘pirate’ feel to it but created by a new young generation of DJs, musicians and producers. Platform B will be broadcast to Brighton and around the world online. Virtual studios controlled from laptops all over the city expertly marshalled and curated by programme makers who, just like all successful local radio broadcasters, are living the same lives and are at a similar life stage as their listeners. Expect to hear coverage of local music, sport, politics, gaming, fashion and tech, reflecting Platform B’s audience’s tastes and interests. For more information, go to: platformb.org.uk?
If you could see any artist(s), dead or alive, who would that be?
I’ve probably seen most of my music heroes at some point but I’ll admit many were past their best. To time travel, how about The Velvet Underground at The Exploding Plastic Inevitable in NYC 66/67 or Bob Dylan at Newport 1965.