This is a story about the resurgence of radio in my life, at a time when everyone else has probably moved on.
Yes I’m talking about good ol’ fashioned radio. Generally FM broadcast, sometimes DAB+, sometimes a bit of streaming, but regardless: it’s back in my life.
For 7 years I presented a fusion jazz radio show on community radio, which was heaps of fun. Maybe I’m late to the party, but it also made me realise how cool the radio format is even today: there is quite a lot of choice when it comes to music and there’s plenty of eclectic radio shows to listen to, especially when you’re struggling to find inspiration yourself. I finished presenting a year ago to focus on other things in my life, such as Koi CMS, blogging and a new secret project which I will reveal one of these days.
Oh, and yes of course I’m listening to radio right now as I write this article.
I could name a radio show I used to listen to many years ago and my mind would instantly be cast back to when and where I spent the most time listening to it. The fact that radio shows are scheduled on a regular basis means you are often in the same place, doing the same activity, at the same time each week. The familiar repetition is good. Life can be repetitive.
Most of my earlier radio listening hours were spent in the car: I lived out west of Sydney, which meant you needed to drive a fair way to get anywhere. So the radio was a great companion for the hours spent in the car. I think was doing about 30,000km a year back then.
Here’s a few examples from the memory banks.
triple j’s Hack
It would have to be presented by Steve Cannane in the mid 2000’s. Now it’s Tom Tilley (the one with the wild shirts) and it’s still great, and somehow I feel like their voices have some similar sound. Maybe a little. It’s not just me because my wife also agrees!
I spent a lot of time driving home from my (then) part-time job repairing computers and helping out small businesses in the Blue Mountains with their tech needs. I’d usually be in the car by 5:30pm and on my way driving down from Springwood, down Hawkesbury Rd towards Richmond.
The latest articles and episodes can be found here: https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/ (I may have had a hand in building the recommendations engine there, too!).
Super Request with Rosie Beaton
Oh boy, now we’re going back in time.
Rosie was cool, she was always upbeat. I’d be doing my uni assignments at home, with the radio on, in that time period between getting home and having dinner. If i was still travelling home from work, then I’d catch the first few songs before I pulled into the driveway.
It’s changed names a few times over the years but here’s a page that talks about the era that I knew best: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Request
F B aye!
I’m so glad that FBI was the successful punter in getting a much sought-after FM radio broadcast license in Sydney. I remember in the late 90’s when other competing efforts (like Wild FM) were sharing that same frequency and when FBI scored it… well I kinda wished that it was Wild. I was into super cheesy trance and Wild FM was a great source (and they had stacks of compilation CDs to boot).
In the end though, FBI was just plain awesome. 50% from Australia and half that from Sydney? Not sure if they still say it, but that’s a message drilled into my brain.
Jack Off with Jack Shit?
I was almost considering hiring Jack’s services for our wedding MC, but that would’ve been just too crazy. He does a lot of stuff, but probably the most iconic thing I remember is the:
Hello, my name is Jack Poo
(said in a posh Year 7 private school boy voice)
When I first heard this, I thought it was my (then) girlfriend pretending to be a boy. Turns out it was just Jack’s genius.
More here: https://www.jackshithouse.com/
The Naked City with Jay Katz, Miss Death and Coffin Ed.
This one is Saturday mornings, driving around the Eastern Suburbs, probably taking my girlfriend to her job at the shoe shop. So much yackity ridiculous talk, yet it was super entertaining. I can’t even remember what music they used to play, if any, but the show was a hoot.
Read about it here: http://www.altmedia.net.au/naked-city-300-radio-daze/110656
Utility Fog with Peter Hollo
Peter’s been on the air for so long in this late Sunday timeslot that I feel like I’d usually be at home at this time, chilling out, wondering where the weekend had gone. I ended up working with his partner, which was crazy when it comes to that day you all meet up and your brain connects the dots and suddenly that voice you’ve heard on the radio is now in the room.
Wikipedia tells me:
Utility fog is a hypothetical collection of tiny robots that can replicate a physical structure. As such, it is a form of self-reconfiguring modular robotics.
So now I know. You can visit Peter’s site: http://www.frogworth.com/utilityfog/
99.9 Swarrr FM
Many years ago, surfing through the airwaves in western Sydney, I came across Blacktown Community FM. When the CPX Radio crew hit the airwaves, oh now there was a unique proposition. I liked how practically every time they’d start a long mix, they’d say:
Of course, we don’t encourage you to tape these mixes, but then again, there is no-one is stopping you!
Hear it for yourself, as I have 100% followed their advice. Apologies for the quality - the FM reception wasn’t very good from my room!
But what an idea… Back then I had a TV tuner in my computer, which served as a 2nd TV, VCR and Radio all in one. Quite handy. It also had a feature which would let you record the radio, for personal use of course. Poor reception, but a neat feature none-the-less. It recorded into WMA format (oh gee, that’s going back a bit) but at least this can be converted to something more normal. What ever happened to WMA? Who cares.
As for CPX Radio, the music was pretty hit-and-miss: happy hard, hard style and the odd bit of trance thrown in, but the banter was top notch. But who were these guys? Carlo, Suae, Weaver, Tom-e, Mr-e, PRC and Statik (I’ve probably missed a few along the way)…
2ser 2SER 2Ser 2sER
2SER gets a quick shoutout because I remember jumping on some IRC channel back in the day, which the presenters were using to chat with the audience live. I can’t even remember the name of the program or which IRC server it happened to be, but it was very cool having your name read out on air. At the time, I was using the pseudonym Lord Djna which the presenters made all kinds of hashes trying to pronounce it, with most variations sounding like “dejinah”. Hmm.
Later on, I’d go on to attend UTS but I never did check out 2ser. Cool station, though.
Strangely, I never listened to the radio whilst commuting on the train. I did many hours of commuting from the far north-west of Sydney into the city, with the average daily commute taking up to 4 hours. My humble MZ-N1 was the choice of entertainment here, despite not having an FM tuner. Great little unit.
How about now?
Let’s fast forward to today, as I write this. I like radio because it’s just so easy. One button to switch on, a bit of volume and you’re away. I do tend to channel surf at times to get music that matches my mood, and often will turn it off completely if nothing satisfies me at that point in time. I’ve got all the key stations programmed into the tuner, so it’s easy to jump aronud. I’m really not fussed that I can’t listen specifically to Song X by Artist Y at that point in time, I’d rather be pleasantly surprised by the set put together OR just switch it off. Easy. I know you could probably ask Google Home to just play “music” but for some reason it’s not the same as pushing a power button and hearing a presenter chirp about the latest album from The Specials.
Other choices are of course podcasts, but there’s only a select few which I’ve been keen enough to listen through from start to finish and then they aren’t released all that often. My choices here are basically Bunga Bunga, Serial season 1 and 3 or Rabbits. Special mention to Dragon Friends, as I found out this week that they do a great blend of live improv comedy, music and dice rolling into one drunken sort-of-D&D podcast series. Check that out.
I have discovered KEXP (probably only because of the 110% rad warm-up set from Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio and they play some great stuff I’ve never heard anywhere else. And strangely it’s not geo-blocked. Win.
I’ve tried Spotify, the free version. The ads don’t bother me so much (they’ve done a good job of not making them too intrusive) and the catalogue is impressive (albeit not as complete as I’d like). It’s just … not that good. There’s something about listening to a curated set of music, produced and presented by a talented (and often volunteer) radio presenter. Spotify just doesn’t seem to have that magic. I also tend to obsess over particular albums, which are played over and over, and then I move on. Or sometimes I’ll pick up the vinyl on Discogs, and then move on.