Why Don’t I Work in Radio Now? Student Radio!

This account of my days in Student Radio is not helped by the fact there are FOUR different ‘Ians’ in this…
I remember previously ignoring, the guys who looked like archetypal students of the day in 1998 who were recruiting for volunteers for their Student Radio station at some kind of university fair.

Little did I know, that I’d take a rapid, rising journey with them before crashing back to Earth with a bump and an answer to my question of ‘why don’t I work in radio now?’

Monsta! Radio, the brainchild of a Northamptonshire entrepreneur had secured a Restricted Service License (RSL) to broadcast for around 4 weeks on an FM radio signal and ended up being based next to my university halls of residence on campus in Northampton.

One of the girls who lived downstairs in my block had secured herself a daily early afternoon show and had asked if I would write her some links to intercut her soulful, RnB, musical selection. She gave herself the moniker ‘QTL.’

I was writing most of her material in between songs during the show and getting her to rehearse the flow of it before it was time to open her mic.

Eventually, I asked to live audition for my own show in an empty hour slot and I grabbed my crate of CDs from my nearby residence.

I did my first show, ad-libbing links after every two songs whilst randomly selecting what I thought ‘made good radio’ tracks for my mid-late afternoon slot.

I found myself introducing tracks as ‘The sounds of…’ which I had picked up from listening to pirate radio station DJs in London.
Ian, the aforementioned entrepreneur, opened the ‘studio’ door and from beneath his heavy, business like brow stated, ‘This is really good.’

I was now broadcasting from Monday – Friday for an hour a day.

Where I could, I was still writing for ‘QTL’ and writing additional material for another friend of mine, also called Ian, who’s Saturday show was facing ‘the chop’ by the unimpressed Monsta! team.

I even gained a ‘side kick’ in the form of a third Ian, this one from Leeds, a tall, Caucasian guy who spoke like an Anglo-Caribbean guy with a slow, Yorkshire, drawl which perfectly complimented my quicker pattern of ‘Norf London’ speech.

The Bazz Facey Show was named in the Top 6 radio shows by the Monsta! team. I think that means we were 6th.

I’d even had a jingle recorded for me, a faux French lesson along the lines of a ‘learn French’ tape.

I will stress, I knew nothing about the production of this or it’s intended content:

‘The Bazz Facey Show on Monsta! Radio 107.8FM… Bozz Faeces sur la Radio Monsturrr, bingy-bongy-bingy-bong, c’est moi… Now you try. (BONG)’

I was invited by Entrepreneur Ian to DJ at the end of run party which was held, no less, at Northampton’s trendy, live events venue, The Roadmender.

Having been vocally recognised around campus, as the ‘guy with the cool voice on in the afternoons,’ I thought I’d have an army of followers, keen to live-experience ‘DJ Bazz Facey.’

When I played at the event, I played almost solely, to the uninterested bar staff.

I left the venue feeling despondent.

Around October time of 1998, Monsta! returned for another 4 weeks, this time located in the Town Centre literally opposite The Derngate Theatre. Bigger office space and bigger studio, bigger Monsta!

Monsta! was not technically a Student Radio station, it was an independent set up which used a mixture of student volunteers (like me at the time) and various Northampton pub/club DJs who’s target audience was the town filling, students, especially during term time.

I secured my place on the roster, a mixture of 1 hour or 2 hour weekday afternoon shows depending on class commitments and this time I had no sidekick. I really battled through the 2 hour shows as they really stretched my CD crate collection.

I still had no real script and I just about stuck to the scheduled roster of adverts that needed to be played.

I attempted some features to give my shows some backbone.

I introduced and ended my show with a musical bed of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Chameleon.’

I’d play a track from my nominated ‘album of the week,’ but the album was any random album from the past, so long as it lived in my crate from me purchasing it.

I’d have ‘Jamiroquai song of the day…’

was ‘Page 3 Girl of the Day’ which involved me holding a newspaper up to Entrepreneur Ian in the next office and inviting him to shout, ‘Sweet Jesus, Bazz!’ in a high-pitched, faux Southern American accent, loud enough for the studio mic to pick up.

I had a good rapport with Entrepreneur Ian and would frequently refer to him as ‘The Pimp Mack Daddy,’ due to his brown leather jacket and commanding presence. I guess that made him a legit character on my show.

Then there was ‘Hung Biggly.’

‘Hung,’ scripted and voiced by me, was a ‘South African Newsreader’ on fictional South African station ‘Jo’burg One’ a station I would ‘cross over to live’ for the ‘news’ which was based around this DNA:

· After introducing himself, ‘Hung’ would stop abruptly and demand, ‘OK… Enough Horse Play’ before his first item

· The reporting of a different man every day ‘who had been buried but the hole in the ground that was dug was too small so… ‘(insert mildly humorous, apparently improvised way to stuff the corpse into the hole without digging more hole…’) ‘they cut him into triangles like a ham sandwich’ was my personal favourite.

· Updates from the ‘Pygmy Football World Cup’ which took place on a table tops where players were subject to drowning from ‘regular sized’ spectators spilling their coffee onto the ‘pitch’ or sneezing.

This was before I had any real access to pre-record and edit audio. I preformed ‘Hung’ live, accent and all, trying desperately to stick to a script I’d written in barely legible hand-writing.

In hindsight, it was essentially an un-politically correct, borderline racist, offensive and insensitive regular feature, every afternoon. Had I have done that professionally I probably would have been sacked on-air for the material, mostly unfunny, I was churning out.

‘Today a young couple headed into the Forest of Treacle for some bouncy-bouncy and accidentally started a bush fire. A local doctor told the young lady the bush will grow back…’

‘There’s been a fire at 24 Daft Punk Avenue, a local reporter….Hold on! That’s MY HOUSE!’

I was then offered the chance to interview up and coming, girl band, The Honeyz after begging Entrepreneur Ian to find me an act to interview on my show.
They weren’t called ‘The Heffas’ or ‘The Really Ugly Bitchez’ they were called… you get the idea, right?

I ungratefully turned down the chance to interview The Honeyz as I didn’t think they ‘fit the musical integrity of my show…’

That’s truly where my head was at. If I’m using a Jazz/Funk classic to open and close my show, where would a girl band fit in?

Without irony, I enthusiastically played Will Smith’s ‘Gettin’ Jiggy With It’ a lot at that time, either side of a Stereolab, Mono or Tricky track.

By not wanting to play a single by The Honeyz, I didn’t get to hang out with them honeyz…

Had I have seen a photo of them, prior, it may have at least, nudged my brain away from what was essentially a very ill-educated, school boy error.

It was like the time I met Justin from The Darkness at a party and patronisingly with subtle sarcasm wished him ‘good luck, embarking on a career of Stadium Rock music months before ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ was released and shot to the top of the charts.

I freely admit, I can be a p****at times.

One late afternoon, I was asked to stay in character for a whole Drive Time show as a special guest as ‘Hung Biggly,’ improvising answers to questions about ‘his’ personal life fired from the Drive Time DJ, another chap called… Ian.

Lanky, musty, older, good guy, experienced bar DJ, Drive Time Ian showed me how to trick a well known pizza chain into believing that we were in a ‘fast food delivery race’ where the quickest delivery would get a free plug on air… We smugly ate free pizza that evening and the awkward pizza delivery cyclist got to mumble something on air.

Drive Time Ian also invited me to share a DJ residency in a bar in town for on Tuesday nights and to boost its profile, I struck upon an idea.

There was a group of DJs I knew through people on my Drama course and I invited them down to showcase their talents, for free of course, they were just happy to play, I definitely couldn’t pay their whole crew with my cut of what the bar paid Drive Time Ian.
UK Garage was still, relatively, in its infancy and they seemed to own every song on vinyl.

They filled the bar with supporters and rocked the crowd, earning me a kiss on my cheek from the male, bar manager who took record takings for a Tuesday night.

Because I was Monsta! Radio’s Bazz Facey, I made myself headline DJ, despite the fact that I was still yet to learn to ‘beat match’ and mix properly and the fact that no-one really knew who I was.

Truth be told, I should have opened for these guys and let them smash their way through to closing time.

Afterwards, Drive Time Ian paid me my cut. £10…

Those nights fizzled out and I wouldn’t ‘Monsta!’ again for nearly a year.

In the Autumn of 1999, freshly after leaving university, Entrepreneur Ian not only gave me the pick of my time slot, 11am-1pm on weekdays but he also leveraged me to be Programme Controller.

We also sat a seminar aimed at anyone who wanted in on the next Monsta!

It was set up by Entrepreneur Ian and hosted by a chap called Mark, who at the time was Breakfast Show host on Northants 96.

I was awe struck by Mark’s vision of good radio, which seemed to revolve around, no musical beds as ‘listeners would be more interested in trying to work out the song being played underneath your voice’ and having no real DJs in between Breakfast, Drive Time or any other landmark show.
‘OK for him,’ I thought, ‘He’s on Breakfast.’ He seemed awfully against ‘personality’ jocks which scared a lot of the so-called ‘wise-guys’ sitting around the table.

He did however; promote the idea of ‘benchmarking ‘your features to go with the routine of listener’s everyday lives. This is something I used further into my career as a bar DJ.

He also said ‘don’t do comedy, you’re not funny’ to a group of wannabe, potentially great writers although if you experience something funny, relay it as is. ‘Hung Biggly’ died quietly in the back of my mind during that sentence, thankfully.

Afterwards, I realised that Mark’s audience of ‘mums at home during the day’, was not our audience of ‘young, dumb and full of… potential’ students with their disposable incomes and penchant for a life of good old fashioned Sex, Drink and Rock ‘n’ Roll/Dance Music/Hip-Hop and R ‘n’ B.

He appeared to be an ‘old dude’ telling us we weren’t going to make it in radio unless we became 40 year olds in our approach to broadcasting.

Monsta! was now based within the college next to the University, I was able to challenge and encourage wannabe 16-18 year olds into submitting demo tapes to me as well as scheduling everyone else.

I took my role as Programme Controller very seriously, giving constructive feed back to all demos submitted to me whilst being as encouraging as I could. I loved phoning people and telling them their demo was good enough to earn them a slot on Monsta!

I loved the challenge of trying to fit everyone in around all of their conflicting study schedules.

I did try to make Drive Time Ian submit a demo to me in keeping with the ‘every slot will be filled fairly’ stance I took. I was told to ‘go f*** myself’ in front of Entrepreneur Ian.

I had deserved that.

Monsta! 3 didn’t go without a hitch. If we weren’t battling the grumpy college caretaker for weekend access to the college site to broadcast our shows, some of our shows took place at the same time as a class going on in the next room, which meant we had to talk very low and be less animated into the microphone with our links.
Two college girls I’d scheduled from their successful demo, Carly & Kim, were a hit with their broad Northamptonshire accents, complete with harsh ‘a’ sounds and ‘f-s’ in place of ‘th-s.’

Meanwhile, my show, which followed their show everyday… was now called…
The Phat Boy Picnic with Bazz Facey…

The only thing good about my show, was the bit where Carly & Kim handed over to me. Their bubbly, infectious, enthusiasm left the room with them before my first show link, every time.

I was still refusing to script anything and all but refused to play anything from the station’s agreed playlist, mainly because Carly & Kim, quite rightly, played anything that was put in front of them and I didn’t want to be the one that played the same ‘sound of the station’ tracks as they did.

I also seemed to obsess over the detrimental things that Northants 96, Mark had advised. My voice, naturally mono-tone, has always blended with its surrounding. Without a musical bed for my links, something I’d always done, I sounded as dull and boring as the sound of oxygen around me.

I dreaded the end of songs as during them, I struggled to find inspiration for the next track to play from my now uninspiring CD crate.

I’d literally be clumsily ad-libbing with long ‘errs’ and ‘umms’ whilst fumbling for any old CD to play.

My once natural, ability to improvise, was shot.

I was tired from constantly sitting around the station set up, overseeing the younger DJs show and in some cases, producing them and I was also ‘couch surfing’ until the end of the Monsta! run as I was no longer a student and had no real, fixed Northampton abode in between trips back home to London at the weekends.

I once did a show so hung-over after a student Monday night at a nightclub that I hadn’t realised that the mic wasn’t plugged in for the first ten minutes.

That was in the first two weeks.

Before I got a chance to redeem myself, Entrepreneur Ian, comfortingly intercepted me on the way in to start a fresh week to tell me Monsta! had been taken off air due to an administrative oversight which meant, you know, Monsta! had to be taken off air.
I met some great characters in my time in Student Radio, some now are still on the airwaves and some are ‘somebody’ in the industry still.

 

Marsha Shandur, is the only name I will drop, as she has the greatest radio voice ever, eventually having a good stint at XFM and advised on TV show, The Inbetweeners music policy. We all shared my Rover Metro (which fast became the company car) with her from London to Cardiff whilst Entrepreneur Ian prepped her for her eventual inauguration as Chairperson of the Student Radio Association. Her predecessor (we’ll call him Entrepreneur Martin) was in the car prepping her also.

Entrepreneur Ian had by then recruited me to work for the company he had set up that Monsta! Radio was an asset of. I got to travel the UK pitching sales consultancies to Student Radio stations and was surprised how very little, students back then, knew about the benefits of being a commercial or independent radio station.

I once drove for a very long time to get to the university in Norwich. Not only did the Station Manager not bother to get out of bed to attend the meeting I had set up I was faced with this, frustrating, circular conversation:

Me – We can sell air time for you to the point where you will be able to fund your station without having to worry about being funded by your unwilling Student Union.

Them – We don’t like adverts, we like to be free of commercialism.

Me – When is your next run?

Them – Well… The Student Union can’t justify funding us so we have to stay off air…

Me – We can sell air time for you to the point where you will be able to fund your station without having to worry about being funded by your unwilling Student Union.

Them – We don’t like adverts, we like to be free of commercialism.

I admired their stance, deep down, misguided as it was.

I’ve long since given up my dream of being on radio; I’ve sat in on occasions with my best friend, a successful regional radio presenter for the last ten years. I’ve never really ‘live’ participated on his shows but I’ve popped up as a caller every now and again, either being ‘random caller talks about his weekend ahead’ or ‘random caller picks four tracks to play and talks about them.’

On occasions, my mate has said that station managers have liked what I had to say on air.

The trouble is, when you pitch my voice against my best mates’, it firmly answers the question as to why I really don’t work in radio now.

Despite clocking up over 40 hours of air time and writing and producing for other shows.

I am and always have been, really terrible at it.

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Author: Bazz Facey

Digital creative, DJ, writer, image editor, web dude, audio and video creator, producer, fanatic and most importantly, Zack's Dad.

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