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Iain

6 – Chapter 1 : Something On The Horizon

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OK, so I’m cheating again. While Katherine has been following the remit of actually writing about How To Do Radio, I am for the second time, digging into my unfinished book about how I got into radio. There aren’t really any suggestions on how to make radio better, but I hope it sets the scene slightly for how I ended up where I am now. I can’t stress enough how much I love local radio now and think it really is the breeding ground for new talent (also the graveyard for a few dinosaurs as well…) and also an incredibly powerful force.

Saying that, I wasn’t that keen when I started in it in the late 90’s.

With that in mind, here is half of Chapter 1 of a book I’ll never finish (unless someone is interested…?) Notice it finishes halfway through a sentence.

 

 

CHAPTER 1 :

Something on the Horizon 

Milton Keynes is a new town that came into being in early 1967. London was overflowing, so in an attempt to get people out of the swinging capital, a load of these new towns were created. I think. I’m not actually sure if this is right as I am literally nicking this stuff from Wikipedia, the home of the made up fact. I never trust anything I read on that site, mainly because for several years I was listed as being a gay cowboy on there. I can assure you, I have NEVER ridden a horse in my life.

When I tried to change the lie about being a gay cowboy and the rumour that I was Christopher Lee’s grandson (a pretty good rumour, that I actually started myself) I got blocked from updating the page. My own page. A page about me. Cheeky sods.

The internet is full of lies. This is NOT me.

The internet is full of lies. This is NOT me.

Anyway, Milton Keynes is a strange place. Some people love it, many hate it. They see it as cold and impersonal as it has an image of being all concrete cows and roundabouts. There are a lot of roundabouts, that is true, and there are some concrete cows, I have no idea why. But there are some nice parts of MK as it’s often and annoyingly abbreviated. There is a peace park that is very, er, peaceful. And there’s definitely lots of greenery scattered around.

I’ve spent far too much of my time in Milton Keynes as my nan lived there towards the end of her life, so I have a vague notion of the grid system (based on New York, although nowhere near as glamorous) and how to get around. Sort of.

Importantly for this story, Milton Keynes is where my radio career started.

My then ‘agent’, let’s call him Steve, got me an interview for the job. I should stress that if I were telling this to your face, I would humorously be doing speech marks around the word agent with my fingers. This would be to indicate that he wasn’t actually my agent, although he did occasionally get me work. Every time I asked him to be my agent, he always said he wasn’t interested in representing me. That was until I got offered The 11 O’Clock Show. Then he shoved a five year contract in my face. I promptly told him to get stuffed and signed with one of the biggest management agencies in the UK. Steve promptly sued my ass.

Milton Keynes was miles away from me, but I dutifully got the train from London and wondered exactly what I was being seen for. It was a local radio gig. I was a young and trendy comedian, starting to make my name on the comedy circuit (I wasn’t. I was actually pretty rubbish) and getting ready for my big television break that was surely going to happen at any moment (strangely, it wasn’t far off, and this job would prove crucial in me getting it). The point is, everyone knew that local radio was a joke and I wanted nothing to do with it.

Even the station sounded naff to my young, pretentious ears. Horizon 103.3. Sweet Christ, this was not what I was put on this earth for. I could see my future stretching out in a never ending line of talking complete bollocks to utter idiots. How prophetic.

That was in 1997. It’s now 2011 and I haven’t been back to either the studios or Milton Keynes since then. I got in touch with Trevor Marshall, the breakfast show host when I got my job there, and asked him to meet me at the old building for a chitty chat about radio and stuff. He was happy to oblige and met me there one sunny afternoon.

I always liked Trevor. He’s a short chap with a huge personality. Perfect breakfast host material. Talkative, funny, a little bit corny sometimes but a nice bloke. He had made me feel very welcome when I was forced onto his breakfast show by the programme controller Paul ‘Kenny’ Kenton. I never knew if Trevor wanted me there or not, but he always had time for me.

I owe Trevor A LOT.

I owe Trevor A LOT.

Going back to Horizon felt odd. Not having been to MK for years, I of course got completely lost. Even my trusty sat nav couldn’t quite find its way through the maze of roundabouts and weird little estates. But soon I was on a familiar road and even remembered the roundabout where I’d done a complete circular skid in the ice one year, in my crappy Ford Fiesta that my mum bought for me just for this job. That car was complete and utter shite. I should have known there were problems when, after my mum had paid for it, I went to collect it and it wouldn’t even start. That’s not good for a car, is it? Starting is quite an important factor when it comes to motion of said vehicle. But being stupid and eager to please, I took the salesman’s bullshine with a smile and waited while they put a new battery in. The very next day, on my first drive to Milton Keynes, at 5.30 in the morning, going up in the fast lane of M1, the car died. All power went. I bricked myself and had to do everything I could to get it onto the hard shoulder. Its 14 years since I bought that car, and it still annoys me today. I scrapped it in a fit of rage a couple of years later when I had a mental stalker who slashed the tyres. I’m surprised I kept it that long to be honest.

Anyway, I got to the old studios which are now owned by Heart, even though they don’t broadcast from there. Trevor turned up in a nice family motor. A far cry from the sporty little number he used to drive back in the day, I remember it because a – it was a nice car, but more importantly because b – it was branded with HIS NAME ON IT! I had never seen anything like it before. It said something like ‘Milton Keynes Motors Are Proud To Support Trevor Marshall’. I swear to God this is true. It was amazing! I was so impressed but would have been mortified to have had anything like that myself. I asked him if looking back, he felt embarrassed about driving that car.

‘It was a free car. I was 25 and it was a massive ego boost.’

‘So it didn’t embarrass you in the slightest?’

Pause. ‘A little bit. But it was a free car.’

The breakfast show was presented by Trevor and Helen Legh. They were The Morning Crew, a term that 99% of all local radio stations used to make their breakfast team sound more personable. It didn’t matter that if you drove 20 miles in any direction you would come across another Morning Crew with the similar set up of a nice bloke hosting and his friendly female side kick.

I really have to stress at this point, that this snobbishness and arrogance when it comes to local radio was how I felt THEN. Now, I think local radio is a great resource for the community and it upsets me how everything has become homogenised, as nearly all the real local stations have been bought by Globo-Tech and turned into one huge station, the only ‘local’ bit being the travel or the ads for Carpet Rite. Yes, a lot of local radio is still terrible. Smarmy types you want to smash in the mouth pretending they are your best mate, and irritating girls who can’t speak properly, all playing an overabundance of Robbie Williams and telling you just how great the weather is in your beautiful town, a town which you know is actually a dump, because you live there. But, it was a real breeding ground for new talent and general oddness. You don’t hear of Radio 1 or Capital leaving a 24 year old with only 15 minutes of studio training on their own to present a 4 hour show on Christmas Day, as happened to me at Horizon! No legal prep for me. No compliance or OFCOM exams to sit. Just a ‘this fader is for the news and this one is for the songs. See ya.’

I wasn’t even that pleased to be given the Christmas show. Most young bucks would have been over the moon to have had that opportunity. But I really resented it. Balls. I’d never worked on Christmas Day before. It was Christmas Day. No one worked then. That was unheard of. But I did it because I had no choice, and I had a bloody good crack at it. Instead of just playing whatever the hits of the day were and doing ‘shout out’s’, I tried something a bit more adventurous. It sounds naff now, and was a complete rip-off of something I’d heard Chris Morris do on GLR, but I attempted a prank phone call. Prank calls were a staple diet of radio presenters in the 70’s and 80’s, popularised by Noel Edmonds. He would phone up pretending to be from the local council and needed to commandeer the living room of the person he was ringing to stage a party for the queen. Or something. I can’t really remember. What I do recall though is that his calls were hilarious at the time, they would actually make a small drop of wee come out. When you listen to them now, it’s incredible to think they even produced a titter. They are so slow and meandering and, well, not funny. I guess that perhaps we have all got a bit too media savvy and that particular brand of comedy doesn’t date too well.

Not funny.

Not funny.

The prank had gone out of favour but was seeing something of a resurgence when comedy genius Chris Morris reinvented them with a darker edge. Ringing British Airways to ask if their aeroplanes were ‘sniffing the building’ when they parked up, was utterly absurd and wonderful. A lot of my comedy in TV and radio was based/borrowed/completely nicked from Mr.Morris and I’ve never hidden that at all. I was for a while called the poor man’s Chris Morris and for some reason I have never been able to shake that. Oh well, I could be called worse. In fact, I have been called worse (I refer you again to the quote I mentioned earlier from Time Out. They actually printed the complete word without an asterisk to hide the vowels! I didn’t know that was allowed).

My phone call on this reluctant Christmas special was nowhere near as clever or as dark as Morris’, but for me it was a minor triumph. Partly because I actually got the recording equipment to work (I hadn’t been taught this, I worked it out myself) but mainly because I felt I was subverting the genre. With this small step, I would bring all local radio crashing down around my ears and be lifted from the rubble on to the shoulders of the cool kids who would all hail me a creative genius.

I can’t remember the exact details, but I seem to remember calling a shop somewhere and pretending I thought the person I was talking to was James Bond actor Roger Moore. It took a few calls to get someone who was either stupid enough or bored enough to play along. I asked him what he got for Christmas and he reeled off some things, I then asked him what his favourite Bond film had been and I think he said ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. I then probably ended it by saying something rude and slamming the phone down. Brilliant! In your face convention. No one can deny that I am a total comedy god with that superbly executed stunt.

Actually, typed out like that, it’s hard to see where the funny bit is. I’m a little disappointed that this one gag that I have always imagined as being the cornerstone of my comedy, is pretty poor. As no tapes of this exist (all of my Horizon stuff went missing when I sent it to Trevor and Helen for a compilation they were putting together) I have to assume that there was a brilliant gag in there that I’m forgetting. There must be. It can’t have been as rubbish as that.

Of course, I wouldn’t be allowed to do that now. Nowadays, there are bloody rules. There may have been bloody rules then, but as no-one had told me of them, I was blissfully unaware. Anyways, the bloody rules now state that you have to tell someone if you are recording them. And if you intend to broadcast the recording, you have to tell them that as well! That’s ridiculous. As soon as you’ve made someone look a tit, and then say ‘by the way, I’m recording this to be played out on the radio where everybody is going to think you’re a nob, is it OK if we use this recording?’ all you’re going to get in return is a torrent of abuse and a threat that if any of this ever gets broadcast, you will get your balls sued off. We once had a similar threat from a gentleman after we had revealed to him that he had been secretly filmed for the 11 O’Clock Show. My director at the time, a young James Bobin who recently directed a Muppet movie, took the decision that as we had been filming in Paris and this gentleman was actually from New Zealand, the odds of him ever finding out were nil. So his clip got used. And he saw it. And we got sued and there was a huge payout and all of the other stuff we had filmed on the continent was pulled.

BLOODY RULES.

The Christmas special was a one off. I don’t think I was allowed to do any other shows on my own. I worried it was because of the prank phone call or maybe it was to do with me missing the news every hour. But I’m not even sure that anyone at the radio station even heard it. I was there literally because no one else would fill that 4 hour slot.

No, most of my work at the station was being the sidekick to Trevor and Helen. I was ‘Iain in Black Thunder’. This was a title that I genuinely thought sounded quite cool until I mentioned it to one of my London mates. His response was ‘that is the gayest thing I have EVER heard.’ I didn’t mention it to anyone else after that.

Black Thunder was a black jeep that was covered in Horizon logos and had transmitting equipment in the back. It was an idea nicked from Australia, and had proven very popular over there. I’m not so sure it ever really took off in the UK, although there were dozens of Black Thunders all over the country. Each morning, maybe 3 or 4 times, Trevor would say ‘I wonder what Iain in Black Thunder is up to right now?’ I would then come on live from the middle of some shitty council estate or outside Next in the shopping centre doing something ker-azy!

It’s a struggle to remember what I did. Trevor couldn’t really remember either, that’s how captivating it must have been. The only stunt I can recall with any clarity is one where I had to climb around a table without touching the floor. You would sit on the top and then sort of swing your way underneath it holding on and then crawl under the table top but…oh I don’t know. I know it bloody hurt. I then had to try and encourage the people that had bothered to turn up to take part. That was the really hard bit. As surprising as it may seem, I am genuinely rather shy and hate going up to people in the street. But at least 5 days a week, that’s exactly what I had to do – approach strangers to see if they would like to take part in a ridiculous stunt.

‘What do I get?’ they would ask.

‘The chance to go on the radio and say hi to all your mates’ would be my nervous, unconvincing response. Then, as they inevitably turned away, I would shout out ‘You can have some car stickers.’

Surprisingly, car stickers would usually do the trick and see them scuttling back to have a go.

Sweet Lord.

It was an odd experience, me being someone who didn’t really care about the people I was approaching, and the people I was approaching not really caring about doing what I was asking them to do. It must have sounded a right barrel of laughs on the wireless. To make matters worse, you would always get a group of feral kids turn up just so they could shout ‘Piss off’ on the airwaves. There was nothing I could do. Even though they were only about 12 years old, they could totally have kicked the crap out of me.

The way we came up with these stunts was to look through the papers for the quirky news story of the day and then work something out around that. We probably got people to try and break the world record for eating dry crackers, everyone on the radio must have done that.

For some strange reason, I wasn’t allowed to use my name, Iain Lee. I should add here that at the time, my real name was Iain Rougvie. But no one could spell it or pronounce it. Go on, try and say it. Nope. Totally wrong. It’s pronounced like rugby but with a v. It’s stupid, and at the time I wasn’t really getting on with my dad, so changing it seemed the obvious thing to do. Coming up with a new surname, is well hard. You have to keep in mind that if you become famous, then this is how everyone is going to know you. I was never really keen on Iain, too many vowels and no hard letters, but I didn’t really fancy messing around with that. So I focused on the surname. Steve, the chap who was under no circumstances my manager, sent over a list of about 30 names once. They were all shit. He was putting pressure on me to pick one quickly, so I very nearly became Iain Cargo, the best of the dross he suggested. But I held out and eventually settled on Lee, mainly because it was my middle name anyway and wouldn’t feel like such a huge change to me.

I didn’t officially change the name until 2008. I decided I did not want to carry on the Rougvie name at all (I really wasn’t getting on with my dad at this point) so one, Sunday morning, I looked online to see about changing my name by deed poll. I thought I’d just have a look as such a monumental thing must be incredibly difficult and expensive. 12 minutes later, I was officially Iain Lee. Turns out it was well easy. All you do is type I what your name was, then type what you want it to be and then give them your debit card details so they can take £36 off you. It is the most empowering thing in the world. I got a huge rush of excitement from it, and I thoroughly recommend you all go and do it. If you don’t like it, you can always change it back.

Although the change wasn’t official until 2008, I had been using it for about 11 years before that for my stand up and was definitely Lee when I went to Horizon. However, there was a problem. Helen’s name was Legh. Which is pronounced Lee. People would get confused. What was going on? Were we married? Brothers and sisters? No, no, no, this would never do. Although Helen and I saw no problem with it, station controller Paul Kenton did. And my Lee had to go.

The four of us, Paul, Helen, Trevor and myself, spent a strange afternoon in Paul’s office trying to come up with a new name for me, not long after I’d spent quite a lot of time prior to this coming up with and choosing a new name for me. I knew from experience that this was going to be hard work and the end result would be a slightly disappointing compromise that would leave me feeling rather empty. We chucked around so many suggestions and none of them seemed to fit. Eventually, Paul got restless and asked ‘what’s your favourite group?’

‘The Beatles’, I quickly replied, trying to look cool. I did like them, but my favourite group has always been and will always be The Monkees. I even beat a Nolan and the bloke that wrote Cracker on Celebrity Mastermind with my specialist subject of the The Monkees. Seriously, I know more about them than anybody else. But The Beatles was my default answer when I wanted to look aloof, worldly and hip.

‘Ok’, said Paul, a plan forming in his evil mind (he wasn’t really evil, he was lovely, I’m just trying to make this more dramatic). ‘Pick your favourite Beatle, and have his surname as yours. That will work.’

It was obvious, but it was also genius. I grinned. My future was going to be set I was going to be Iain Starr.

‘Anyone except Ringo’, Paul said, almost as if he were reading my thoughts.

‘Er, OK. How about Harrison. I like George a lot. Iain Harrison could work?’

Kenton thought about it for a second then said ‘no, it doesn’t sound quite right. Pick another.’

Shit. They were genuinely my two fave mop-tops. ‘Lennon’ I squeaked, getting nervous now. Iain Lennon sounded rubbish to me, but certainly better than the remaining alternative.

Then, and I swear to God Paul said this, ‘No. That’s not right either. How about McCartney?’

Balls. I had totally been railroaded into being named after my least favourite Beatle. Don’t get me wrong, Macca is a genius, but he was certainly not who I wanted to be named after. But I was trapped. I’d been in that office for ages and I wanted to get out and go to bed (I used to sleep a lot). I feigned excitement and nodded. In the eyes of Milton Keynes, I was now Iain McCartney

However, I did see this as my get out clause. If this job was rubbish and I, as I suspected, was terrible at it, then no one would ever know it was me. It would be this new surnamed

5 – You’re Having A Laugh

By | How To Do Radio, News | 5 Comments

Don’t underestimate the power of laughter. Real laughter.

Get it right and you can talk about anything, the listener will forgive your trespasses and they’ll talk about you with their friends. You’ll become their friends.

One of the reasons Iain gets the calls he does is that he spends weeks, months, years, tickling them…not literally…it’s a strictly non-contact sport these days.

Let me put it another way…

…when you meet someone new, best not to initiate the relationship with “Have you ever been raped?” or “What do you think about Islamic State?” You’ve got to build up to questions like that.

Making the listeners laugh is not only a huge buzz for the presenter, it keeps them coming back for more. You’ll get them to stick around long enough to work out that there’s more to the host than being ruddy hilarious. They’ll learn to trust him/ her. They might even call.

A slightly older Katherine Boyle has a posh laugh.

Katherine Boyle has a posh laugh.

I can’t tell you how to brew funny, but I think it lies somewhere around being unguarded and honest. The presenter needs to relax, let go and allow themselves to open up. That doesn’t mean being a stand-up. Just be friendly, open and not too hung up about sounding ‘official’. The element of fun is something you can’t force, train or plan – in fact excessive planning can squeeze it out of a show – but give the right presenter the right team and space to breathe and you can guarantee a decent giggle rate.

So if you have a funny presenter, please give them a chance to show it.

I know, this is supposed to be work and it could be that you have a show crammed full of serious topics, but believe me, make time for a laugh and you’ll notice a real difference in the quality and quantity of listener interaction.

These kids are Loving BBC 3 Counties Radio.

These kids are digging BBC 3 Counties Radio.

One example of this is Iain’s relationship with one of our callers, Matt. When Matt started ringing up, it was always for a moan. Nothing we said made sense, the music was crap, he was going to go back to Chris Evans. Then Iain made him laugh…I think by offering him a fight in the car park.

Over the weeks that followed Matt rang up for a playful row every few days. He started out grumpy and left us laughing. Hearing that relationship develop was great and the messages we got suggested the audience enjoyed his calls as much as we did. Anyway, one day there was a story about dementia that made Matt forget his Chris Evans threats and tell us more about his life. Turns out he’d been caring for his wife Margaret for years and, recently she’d taken a turn for the worse. She was now in a nursing home and he was desperately worried and feeling really lonely without her.

The calls and offers of punches in the face continued, but so did the insights into Matt’s life. Iain would ask after Margaret, make sure Matt was looking after himself and then the ribbing would resume. One day Matt told us he’d been entertaining his wife and the other care home residents by singing Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers songs; “Jeez Matt, haven’t the poor souls suffered enough?”

Sadly Margaret’s condition got worse. When she died this time last year we were genuinely sad, and so were a great many listeners. Matt called to tell us the morning after, because in his words, ‘we’d become friends.’ Five minutes later, his daughter called to say that her dad’s calls to the station had been the only way she’d been able to hear how he’d been feeling. He’s an old-fashioned bloke, you see, doesn’t talk about emotions.

My God! That family had been genuinely touched by four divvies on a local radio station!

So what can you take from this?

If anything, it’s remembering that your listeners are only with you for a short time, then they go back to their lives. And while we’d all like to believe we’re keeping happy people company while they walk their waggy-tailed dog, or dish up delicious meals for two point four apple-cheeked cherubs who’ll no doubt grow up to be rocket scientists who make time in between launches to call their dear old mum, chances are they’re dealing with the same crap, if not worse crap, that we are.

Iain, Katherine and political reporter Paul Scoins record another breakfast show.

Iain, Katherine and political reporter Paul Scoins record another breakfast show.

They don’t tune in to be reminded of it. They want to be taken out of themselves, just for a few minutes, and you have the power to do that. Not with pun-based phone-ins or knock-knock jokes (although I’d never rule those out), but with real warmth and humour from a team that surprises itself as well as the listener.

That’s the power that comes with this job. You’re reaching out to people every single day and you may never know who you’re helping, but you are helping.

So have a go. Make yourself laugh, make the listener laugh, make a real connection.

It works.

Seriously.

4 – So What Do YOU Want To Sound Like?

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So what do you want to sound like?

It’s a good idea to know what you don’t like just as much as what you do. Who do you NOT want to sound like? When I first sat in front of a microphone, my heroes were Chris Morris, Danny Baker and even Chris Evans (trust me, the man was/is/was a genius and gave the airwaves a right royal kick up the bum bum just when it was dying on its, well, bum bum). Yet it took bloody ages to STOP SOUNDING LIKE A DJ. There is something about having that foam covered amplification stick that brings out the Blackburn, the Brookes or the DLT in us. OK, maybe not the DLT, but you get my point.

The nicest man in the world. Every office should have one.

The nicest man in the world. Every office should have one.

Hey, if you want to sound like those guys, that is fine. Blackburn has been working on radio for over 300 years, is the nicest man in the world and totally created and owned his own style. But why would you want to sound like him? He’s already there doing that better than anyone. (I would definitely suggest staying away from a bit of ‘quack, quack oops’. That’s probably never going to make a comeback). But I’m hoping that because you’re reading this blog you want to do something a little different, be as unique as possible while still getting an audience. And maybe paying the bills. That isn’t everyone’s prime concern, and if it isn’t yours, brilliant. You can do what the hell you like then. But if you’ve got kids and a mortgage and no other discernible talents, then I’m afraid compromise is almost inevitable.

Go and listen to loads of radio. You’d be surprised how many people who want to work in radio don’t really pay it much attention. That’s nuts! Imagine wanting to be a mechanic, it’s your life’s ambition, and yet you’ve only ever heard one radio broadcaster. No, hang on. That doesn’t work. Right, er, OK, yeah, So you want to be a baker but you’ve only ever eaten beef. How do you know what’s a good loaf and what’s a bad croissant? You simply don’t.

Same with radio. Sort of. Listen and listen and listen. To EVERYTHING! You want to be a DJ*? Listen to as much speech radio as you can. Fancy being the new James O’Brien? Well make sure you listen to Radio 1 and Kiss and Heart. Don’t listen to too much Heart, I would hate for you to be put off the industry completely by its soulless robotic output, but go and hear what other people do. There will be loads of little tricks you might pick up and definitely bad habits you will want to steer clear of.

The point is, too many people think that radio is one thing or another. They believe it belongs in very strict boxes. That’s balls as far as I’m concerned. When I used to present on the speech station LBC, I wouldn’t think twice about sneaking the odd song in every now and then. Mix it up. It’s so hard to be surprising these days, we are all so media savvy, we’ve seen and heard it all before. But, but, but, there are still things you can do to keep people on their toes.

I have to stress, when I say listen to people and pick up what you can, do be careful. Don’t just lift material directly. Being completely honest, I’ve done it once or twice in the past. I still do it occasionally, even now, but I always give credit. ‘Hey, I was listening to Eddie Maier on Radio 4 last night and he came out with a great line…what do you think about this?’ In my humble, that is fine. Not everyone will agree. Some bosses hate you mentioning other stations because they don’t want listeners to go ‘there are other outlets that I could be listening to?? WTF! Why did no one tell me?????’ But come on, let’s be real. There are shed loads of stations and I don’t always listen to just the one I work for.

Anyway, back to idea thievery. There are some very big names out there working in the industry that nick other people’s material without a second thought. I am of course referring to ***** *****. This shifty dodgepot famously takes ideas from American radio as well as from people in the UK and pretends it’s his own. Very naughty, but he’s a big star, so what are you going to do? Absolutely nowt. Except maybe make little digs on air and have a vague pop at him in this blog, but staying well within the boundaries of what is legal.

There is a chance you may actually get away with it. That no one will recognise your pilfered lines. But come on guys and gals (probably can’t say that anymore), it really isn’t fair. I know the entertainment industry is pretty shitty and backstabby, but let’s not shaft other presenters. Let’s save our shaftiness for when we’re screwing over our bosses.**

I’ve never denied my influences and early on, when I didn’t really know who or what I was and had no idea what my ‘voice’ was, I certainly leant perhaps a little too heavily on the styles of others. Boyd, Baker and Bull were masters in my eyes and I supped freely on their hosepipes of output. But even in those early days, I like to think I was twisting it enough to not be accused of plagiarism, that I was throwing just enough of my identity in there to make it kind of my own.

Genius

Genius

How do you talk to your mates over lunch? It’s unlikely you’ll be able to employ exactly the same technique on the wireless, swearing doesn’t go down too well over the airwaves, but do consider it how you speak in that environment. How would you tell them a story? What do you say to drag them in, keep them on the edge of their seats and make sure they don’t get up and go for a wee before you’ve finished.

You'd kill your mate if he turned up at the pub with a list of 'topics'. Although point 9 actually looks good.

You’d kill your mate if he turned up at the pub with a list of ‘topics’. Although point 9 actually looks good.

I like to approach my shows like a night out with friends. No one turns up with a bit of paper and says ‘hey guys, I thought for the first hour we could talk about Iraq and then at 10 we are going to stop talking about that and move on to Ed Milliband and we can finish up comparing rare records and see if we have anything in our collections worth a few quid’.

Life isn’t like that. Conversations have to be organic. Sure, you probably need to start with a point, an idea, something to talk about (I am desperately trying to avoid the word topic. I hate it when presenters announce their ‘topics’ for the show. Fuck off) But I try not to stick rigidly to those things. Why ask just one question? Fire out a few. And embrace tangents. If someone goes off on one, try and go with it. It may take you absolutely nowhere but it might just give you that gold, that edge that makes your show unique. A good presenter (and indeed producer) will know when to go off into the clouds with a listener or when to reign them in. And you won’t always get it right, but it will make you seem that little bit dangerous to the listener.

 

*Disc Jockey

**I have never screwed over any of my bosses. Ever.

3 – Katherine Talks ‘Content’

By | How To Do Radio, News | One Comment

I hate the word ‘content’.

It’s crept in over the last couple of years to replace more meaningful terms, like ‘stories’, ‘interviews’ or ‘features’. As far as I can tell, we might as well replace that word with ‘oh, just, you know, stuff’. To me, when someone says “We’ve got loads of content” what they’re probably saying is “ We’ve been working really hard off-air so nothing unexpected can happen once the red light goes on.”

Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t plan. I just think you can plan the life out of a show. Let me explain…

You’ll hear shows up and down the country where the production teams have gone all out in the office and are now sitting in the studio, listening to the fruits of their labour go out pretty much as scripted. Smooth as silk, maybe, but unless the presenter drops his pen or presses the wrong jingle, no surprises. Every moment that isn’t News, Sport or Weather’s responsibility is crammed full of ‘content’ with the aim of ensuring the presenter doesn’t have to ‘fill’.

We’ve all…er…heard…a…presenter…ahm…gosh, isn’t it mild out?…er…filling…

(Timecheck)

Oh good, here’s my script…

Right…

Where were we?

It’s uncomfortable, awkward, you don’t know whether they’re going to claw it back, your heart beats a little faster – blimey, you might even put your crossword down.

In other words, it’s real. We’ve all been caught off guard. A connection is made. Crikey, this person’s just a divvy trying his/ her best, like the rest of us!

Of course you don’t want to hear someone desperately floundering more than once in a blue moon, but if you can capture the essence of what made you almost drop your Hobnob in your brew, you’ll hold the key to radio magic.

So, here’s suggestion – by the way, none of this is prescriptive, it’s just worked for us and bits might work for you – rather than giving a presenter what is effectively a monologue, how about letting the show breathe?

If you get handed something like this by a station boss - RUN!

If you get handed something like this by a station boss – RUN!

Choose content. Turn stuff down if it’s not useful to your programme. Will it elicit a reaction? Talk about each story before you go to air – if it doesn’t get you and your team going, knock it on the head. After all, if you don’t have an opinion on it, why would the listener? Obviously, there’ll be times when you’ll need to put out an information piece to stop people coming a cropper in various grisly ways, but other than that your items should be the start of a conversation.

The space you’ll free up will allow your presenter to think aloud. We used to have four interviews an hour, one in each quarter, now we have three, sometimes two. Our boss hired Iain Lee, so that’s what the listener wants to hear. He’s a great interviewer (as the Nick Clarke Award panel will testify) but he’s really at his best when he’s given time to reflect. The listener doesn’t know what he’s going to say next –sometimes he doesn’t know what he’s going to say next – but they know what he’s like and they trust him. He feels able to do that because he trusts me to dig him out if calamity strikes (which it rarely does) and that’s what connects with the audience. That’s why some of them call, more of them listen and loads of them talk about it at home, work or down the pub…I know, it’s more likely to be Costa these days, but you know what I mean.

What a load of balls.

What a load of balls.

I’m not saying you should bin all your interviews and features, but I suggest you shouldn’t feel obliged to cram, just because that’s how it’s always been done. Any presenter worth his/ her chops will welcome the chance to stretch their wings a bit. It might feel a bit unnatural at first, but it’s their show, after all. Let them step out from behind their scripts.

By easing off on the items that don’t feed the show, you’ll give the Presenter and the audience time to collect their thoughts. They’ll relax, reflect and maybe even have a laugh together.
And if you can make them laugh with you, you’ll make them stay with you.

It also takes some of the sting out of getting up at 3.30am.

Some.

Not all.

Katherine x

2 – An introduction from Iain

By | How To Do Radio, News | 19 Comments

OK, my turn.

This is a bit random. What I’m about to post is the introduction to a book started in 2011. Tentatively titled ‘Lying For A Living’, it was my account of how and indeed why I started working in radio. I wrote an intro and a couple of chapters and that was it. I managed to speak to some people I worked with in the past – Trevor from Horizon 103.3 and also my first real producer, Byron at XFM. It was great to connect with them but I just didn’t have the dedication or the confidence to sit down and write a whole book.

So, as incomplete and unrevised pieces go, I’d be keen to get your thoughts. Hopefully it will go some way to explain my attitude to radio. So, here goes…

 

 

I never wanted to be on the radio.

When I was young, I hardly ever listened to it. Sure, I dipped in every now and then, finding a little gem hidden away in the airwaves (including a wonderfully over the top Christian radio station near Niagara Falls that I kept writing to hoping to get a ‘shout out’ despite being fiercly agnostic) But it was never meant to be my career.

I always wanted to be on the telly. TV was where magic happened and where my destiny lay. And for a while, it worked out. I went from signing on and being hideously in debt to presenting a fairly high profile and incredibly well paid television show at the age of 25. Sorted. I was in.

But the magic box didn’t really work out as I planned. I did quite a few shows that didn’t get broadcast, a whole series of my own chat show that never saw the light of day, and about 629 pilots of things I was promised would be ‘the next big thing’.  They weren’t. Each time I allowed my hopes to rise thinking that this was it, this was the show that would make me as big as Jonathan Ross or even Bobby Davro. But these pilots never took off.

I felt like Orson Welles. Not fat, bearded and wearing a cloak, but I was reminded of what one critic said about his life. I’m paraphrasing here, so I shan’t bother with quotation marks, but it was something about how Orson had lived his career in reverse. He’d started with his biggest and best thing, his masterpiece, and everything after that got smaller and less significant.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing the 11 O’Clock Show to Citizen Kane. We never had a sled(ge) in that programme. But it’s probably the best and most exciting thing I’ve ever been involved in. And look at the careers it launched – Ricky Gervais, Sacha Baron Cohen, Hal Cruttenden – all towering giants in the world of British comedy. But after that, my career sort of started to slow down. The projects got smaller, the audiences dwindled and I soon stopped getting offered TV work.

There are reasons for this. I may have been tricky to work with back then. I was 25 and hosting what I perceived to be my own show. Maybe I didn’t handle it too well. It’s hard to keep your feet on the ground when you suffer from low self-esteem and suddenly people are telling you how great you are. I remember being out one night, shortly after the 11 O’ Clock Show had started, and a really hot girl came up to me and said ‘are you the guy from the telly?’

‘Yeah’ I replied.

‘Cool. Is Ali G with you? I really fancy him,’ she said, looking expectantly over my shoulder.

‘No, sorry,’ I mumbled apologetically, although I hadn’t done anything wrong. ‘We don’t hang out’.

‘Oh well, you’ll do. Buy me a drink?’ she suggested as coolly as if she were working in McDonalds and was offering me a large coke to go with my meal.

I was going out with someone at the time, and anyway, this girls forwardness was kind of a turn off so I spluttered something like ‘I’m OK thanks.’

“You TV types are all the same,’ she shouted, getting unexpectedly angry. ‘Selfish wankers.’

Sadly I did not take Ali G out with me everywhere I went.

Sadly I did not take Ali G out with me everywhere I went.

I also made some terrible decisions that wouldn’t have helped my TV career. The worst one was turning down the chance to host Have I Got News For You. Just sit with that thought a second. Have I Got News For You asked me to host it. I SAID NO.

Twat.

My excuse was I was presenting a breakfast show on Channel 4 and would be too tired. The reality was I was terrified of doing it and worried I’d get found out for being a fraud.

For almost a year after Rise, the ill-fated Big Breakfast replacement that I hosted, I couldn’t get a job. Had I been blackballed for straying from a pre scripted interview with Daniel Beddingfield where I asked him if he was a ‘gaylord’? Was it because I’d had an argument live on air with the someone from Liberty X because I’d said her boyfriend, Jason Scott Lee, was a cheat for going on a high profile talent show when the public had already voted by not buying the records from his woefully poor pop group 3SL? Did it have something to do with me allowing Snoop Dogg to say ‘bag of wank’ 16 times at 7.35 in the morning?

Possibly. Or maybe I’d over estimated my talents and I was, as my favourite magazine Time Out once described me, a ‘talentless cunt’.

Whatever the reason, 2004 was a desperate year and desperate measures were taken. By September, I was very seriously skint. I’d sold my car, had taken a lodger and was looking at exactly what declaring oneself bankrupt actually meant. Things got so bad that when I was asked if I’d like to be a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother, I jumped at the chance to have a meeting with the producers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I quite enjoy watching has beens and also rans humiliate themselves on TV in a desperate attempt to resuscitate their long dead careers. But I did NOT want to go and stay in that house. I’d rather have eaten my own fingers. But when you’re broke and there is talk of £25,000 simply for putting your hand up and admitting your career is over, it had to be considered.

I was depressed. I was beaten. I was fucked. But the day after that meeting where I was sure my fate as a failure had been sealed, 9 months since I’d last worked, something amazing happened.

I was offered a job.

LBC saved my arse.

LBC saved my arse.

On the radio.

But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. I’ll get to that job offer that stopped me entering the Big Brother house later. That one job totally turned my career around and has so far given me 9 years of virtually unbroken work. But it wasn’t my first radio gig. My first job on the wireless came almost a year to the day before I got my big break on television.

I should point out that his book isn’t about the history of radio. It isn’t about the movers and shakers in this fine industry. In fact, any dates and facts are probably totally inaccurate. Do NOT use this as a reference book. It’s simply the story of my accidental career on the airwaves. What started out begrudgingly has turned into a real love and indeed passion for a medium that for a while many perceived as being dead. It isn’t dead, although at the very moment I type this, it is going through another weird period of blandness.

Anyway, I’ll stop waffling and start the story. I’m afraid that to do that though, I have to take you to Milton Keynes. Sorry.

1 – A Quick Word From Katherine….

By | How To Do Radio, News | 14 Comments

I never wanted to be a producer. And it would seem I’m not alone. There’s a real reticence from journalists working in BBC local radio to take the plunge into what can be a thankless job, with lots of hassle and very little glory…to be honest, it can be that, but it doesn’t have to be.

For years, producers have been expendable. Long-established presenters got used to a steady stream of smartarse kids coming in, trying to change an act that had served them well for umpteen years (or so they and their loyal band of listeners thought), getting fed up, and moving on. Sometimes that move would be the producer’s choice, often it would be the result of a quiet word in the boss’s ear, occasionally the words would be loud, Anglo-Saxon and hurled across the Newsroom.

So who wants this job, then?

Turns out, I do.

Because things are changing. The time is coming where the presenter is no longer the boss’s mate from the golf club – I’m going to shock you now, our boss is…a woman! I’m not sure she even likes golf. I know! Radical stuff!

So where does this leave the producer? Well, in my case, on a level pegging with the presenter. We’re a partnership. It’s us against the world, and it’s bloody brilliant.

It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been a presenter myself…although it used to.

In the past I’ve had to sit on this side of the glass listening to someone pretty much muffing the whole thing up. You feel like marching in, and saying “Right, budge up. This is how you do it.” But that would make me an arse, and that’s something I try very hard not to be (with varying levels of success).

Anyway, the experience of being the one in front of the microphone, learning to think out loud and trying to engage an audience which had got very passive, has given me a different approach to producing. I was also lucky to work alongside the brilliant Talk Sport and BBC Local Radio talent, Ronnie Barbour. He was the first to show me that doing things differently didn’t mean doing it wrong. When a story came up, we’d ask ourselves how everyone else would approach it and then do the opposite. It’s terrifying at first, but ultimately hugely liberating.

When Ronnie left, I wondered how I’d go back to making ‘ordinary’ radio. For a while I sunk into a deep fug. Post-Sachsgate, it seemed there was no appetite for something new. ‘Edgy’ and ‘risky’ became dirty words overnight. At one point I was offered the chance to present an afternoon show. Trouble was they wanted something conventional and I knew I couldn’t go back there, so I said no. The look on the station manager’s face was a picture. He thought I was joking when I said I’d rather read the news. I wasn’t.

Which is where Iain comes in.

The idea was to blur the traditional boundaries between the news bulletin and the programme. Rather than being the disembodied voice of authority breaking up each half hour of the show, my bulletins would feed and be fed by the interviews and calls in the programme. So, no more national news at the top of my headlines. The local leads were to be strong enough to kick off the news bulletins too. Nine times out of ten it worked. I was actually quite surprised.

There’d be no banter, Iain told me, and I was fine with that. News/ presenter banter deserves its own section in this blog – it’s usually forced and, well, crap – but within a few weeks, we’d both had a change of heart and found that we seemed to spark off each quite successfully. There was no ‘OK, I’m going to say this, so you play dumb so I can get to this punch line’ we just got on…and that’s how it is now.

We Get Paid For This

We Get Paid For This

Long (and slightly dull) story short, the fact Iain and were on the same wavelength and he didn’t hate my guts caught management’s ears and they suggested I might become his producer. I didn’t want the hassle or the responsibility at first, but as time went by I came around to the idea that those two rather beige aspects of the job would be outweighed by the fun of making the sort of radio I’d always wanted to with someone who totally gets ‘it’.

My aim is to use this blog is to explain, as best I can, what ‘it’ is.

I’ll try not to bang on…although I can’t promise.

Katherine x

Iain Lee & Katherine Boyle present – How To Do Radio

By | How To Do Radio, News | 18 Comments
2 Idiots Telling Important People How To Do Their Jobs

2 Idiots Telling Important People How To Do Their Jobs

I know, I know. It sounds a little arrogant. It’s the title that my producer Katherine and I came up with when we were chosen to give a talk at the Radio Academy in Salford. Seemed like a funny idea at the time. Yeah, let’s call it ‘How To Do Radio’, ha ha, aren’t  we clever?

And then we arrived in Salford. And saw the calibre of people who were there. Heads of local radio, national radio, commercial and BBC, advertisers, students, boffins, geeks, men and women. Suddenly our little ‘joke’ didn’t seem quite so funny.

We battled on and give our little talk, played a few clips and luckily, most people there seemed to get that our tongues were slightly in our cheek.

Slighty.

I’ve been working in and out of radio since about 1998. I think. Maybe 1997. Whenever Robbie Williams and ‘Angels’ was a big hit. I remember, because we played it all the bloody time at Horizon FM103.3. I was pushing for us to play alternative music like (huge number 1 smash) ‘Brimful Of Asha’ by Cornershop, and I was told basically to sod off. Who would want to hear that crap?

Anyway, I finally got into radio proper when my TV work dried up, in I guess 2004. It wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to do telly. For starters it paid WAY more money. And it was telly. Radio was, well, you know, crap. It meant your career was flagging.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

I am so grateful that I was given a job at LBC when it was going through a wonderful bonkers transition phase. With radio legend David Lloyd at the helm, and Scott Solder working with him, LBC 97.3 was, at the time, a fertile playground with no-one quite sure what direction it was supposed to go. I was given pretty much free play in the studio and on the airwaves. And I am so glad. TV now is secondary to me. I can take it or leave it. Radio is my passion and it’s bought me a house and fed my kids. So thanks.

This blog comes from an idea Kath and I had to write a book about our experiences in radio, what we love, what we despise and how we think an industry that is pretty moribund right now needs to grow a pair and start daring again. Well, the book may happen one day, but it is a little niche, to say the least. So, we thought we’d start with a blog. Just to test the water. And also because we do want to share this stuff with you. If even the tiniest nugget of our nonsense changes the way someone presents his show, or inspires a programme controller to take a bit of a risk the next time she hires a turn, or maybe even inspires someone to have a go at doing radio, then that’s great. Hey, even if this doesn’t but you enjoy reading it, then we’ll be happy.

Do please share and post comments. We will read all of them and try and reply where we can.

We are dead excited about this project. I hope you will be too.

 

What I Mean When I Say I Have A Migraine.

By | News | 26 Comments

I had to take a day off work recently because I had a migraine. I got a bit of flack for it, many people thinking I was skiving off for what they perceive to be little more than a headache. More criticism was flung my way when I revealed that I had also had a hair cut on the same day I was so ill I couldn’t do the job I’m paid for.

 

One thing I need to make clear. A migraine is not a headache. It’s nothing like a headache. It would be like me saying to someone having a heart attack ‘oh come on, it’s just indigestion. Take a couple of Zantac and deal with it.’ For me, the migraine quite often starts with a headache and the pain seems to centre in the head, but the two are incomparable. A headache is an inconvenience, a discomfort that is thoroughly unpleasant but I have never had a headache and wished I was dead because the agony was just too much. I’ve never gone blind during a headache. I’ve never had a headache and found myself conversing with my dead dad and a school teacher and a fictional character from a TV show. I’ve had all of that with migraines.

 

As I’ve said, they often start, for me at least, with a headache. I have to stress, everyone’s migraines are different. There is no set pattern for every sufferer. What I describe may seem minor to some victims, and extreme to others. Sometimes, before the headache I get…a feeling. I can’t describe it any better than that. Just a sense that something isn’t right with my body and that it’s about to spring a nasty attack and betray me in a terrible way.

 

The real giveaway that what’s happening is going to be pretty shit, is the yawning. I never noticed it before, but my wife spotted it several years ago and now I use it as an indicator that I’m in trouble. I will not be able to stop yawning. Not just one or two of them, but dozens of them and they are never satisfying. I always need one more, and one more and one more. And I don’t necessarily feel tired. Normal headache + yawning = take emergency measures immediately.

 

When I get these symptoms, I’ve learnt to hit the nuclear button pretty sharpish. Sometimes, not very often, but sometimes I manage to nip it in the bud. The imminent danger passes and I’m left with ‘just’ a headache and a slightly spacey feeling. But I can function. What I do is pretty drastic and I’m not in anyway endorsing this. I wouldn’t for one second suggest you do what I do, but it works for me. I have 6 or sometimes 8 migraine Nurofen, I eat (chocolate is the best) and sometimes have a strong coffee. The last one I play by ear. I’ve learnt to read my body to know if caffeine will help ease the journey or make it worse. Misjudge that and I’m going to puke (vomiting is not a normal part of migraine ritual)

 

If I don’t manage to stop it early I am screwed. The incident that kept me off work recently is a great example of that. Woke up in the middle of the night with a headache. Managed to doze again. Woke up at 4am (my usual getting up time these days) still with the headache. Hmm. Had some coffee and toast (this was one of those times where I should have avoided them). Got in the car, noticed the yawning. Oh dear. Got to a garage, where they only had normal Nurofen. While I was waiting for the chap to get them, I noticed the shaking hand. This was starting to look bad.

 

Pretty much as soon as I pulled away from the garage, I could tell there was no way I was going to make it to work. I was hoping the normal Nurofen would tone it down to just a bad head, but it was way too little too late. I got to the motorway before the yawning started going mental and the sweats started. Game over. I thought though I’d be able to get to the next junction and turn around and make the 8 minute journey back home. No such luck. Approaching the next junction, I knew that I was in very serious trouble. I started getting the blindness and could tell I had about 2 minutes before I was completely fucked. Off onto an A road. Where can I park? Round that corner. Lights need to change. Come on. COME ON. Nope, gonna have to jump them. Window open, threw up, then managed to pull over into a layby.

I have never pulled this face whilst having a migraine.

 

Interesting (to me at least) side note about the blindness. I’d call it blindness, although I can sort of see. Or rather, I know things are there and I could navigate them if I had to, but I can’t actually visualize them. Now, that makes no sense at all, but migraines don’t. It is a breakdown of some of the basic functions of the brain which engenders an almost state of temporary insanity.

 

I also can’t speak very well. Some of you may celebrating at the thought of that! The words come out slurred and slow, and I struggle to put my thoughts into words.

 

Oh, and did I mention the pain? Jesus Christ, shoot me. It is unbearable. Ripping my head off would be a more pleasant option than enduring that excruciating pain. I have never experienced anything like it apart from during an attack.

 

When I am in the middle of an attack, I need to get cold. Really cold. So in many ways, a parked car is one of the best places I could have one. I set the AC to FREEZING and sat there, riding it out, promising to God that if he could just get me through this I would NEVER do anything bad ever again. I have to contort my body into all kinds of bizarre and painful shapes, the more painful the better , as I need to stretch every muscle, joint and sinew to stretching point. Fingers, neck, back, toes are all clicked to bring some relief.

 

After 2 hours, I was well enough to drive home. A short one in terms of the intense pain. That has been known to go on for 2 days. I got home, with a very fuggy mind, a shitty headache, wonky vision and a feeling of relief that the worst was over. I did go into London that afternoon to honour some appointments but I should have cancelled. I nearly fainted on the tube, couldn’t shake that headache and was unable to follow a train of thought for more than 30 seconds.

 

What can I do about them? They are debilitating and I have turned down jobs in the past because I was scared I would get one mid run. One blessing is they seem to be visiting me less than they used to. In the past I could get one or two a week. I think I’ve had 3 this year. I tried various drugs – Zomig seemed to be the best until I built an intolerance to it. My neurologist put me on a trial of a machine that fires electro magnetic pulses into the skull. They have reported great success with it, sadly, I didn’t experience that and sent the machine back to a confused nurse who couldn’t quite understand why I was still suffering with them.

 

Hey, in the great scheme of things, if this is all I have in my life, then I’m blessed. I’m not writing this for sympathy or an award, it’s just to let you know that migraines are pretty serious and if someone has them, please don’t think they’ve just got a bad head!

 

UPDATED 12/01/14

 

Well, I had a first yesterday. On Saturday mornings I present a show between 9 and 12 in the morning on BBC WM. This Saturday started off fine. I got to the studio, set up, had some tea and was all ready to go. I started to get a bit of a headache around 8.30 but thought nothing of it. By 9.05 I knew I was in trouble. This was no ordinary headache. Unfortunately, I had neglected to bring any pain relief with me. Never mind. I could do this. I just had to get to midday and then I could pop into town. 3 hours. Easy.

Not easy.

By 9.15 I was sweating. And this was a mad sweat. i was in what turned out to be a very cool room, I was sat under the air con. But I was literally (and I mean literally) soaked. My shirt was wringing wet. Unusual for one of my migraines. I was jabbing my thumb into my eyeballs and just above the eye. This is a real emergency measure that means I am in big trouble. It was having no effect. Midday was looking more and more difficult to reach BUT I still thought I could make it.

When 9.40 slowly rolled around I knew it was game over. I managed to tell my producer I was going to throw up. She thought I was joking and then realised I was deadly serious. I took a call. I have no idea what the chap was talking about as by now I was in agony. A terrible pain. While he was talking (and here comes the gross bit) I turned my microphone off and threw up in the bin, stopping just enough to turn my mic back on and ask ‘And do you think Benefit Street makes things worse?’ Boom. Chucking up time again.

Jo, my excellent producer on WM, knew I was out. We agreed I would intro a pre-recorded interview after the travel while she decided what to do. I THINK I managed to introduce it. I know I cut the amount I had to say to a few sentences as BOOM there I go again. Thank God there was a bin the studio!

Luckily for me and the people of Birmingham and The Black Country, the excellent Adrian Goldberg was in the building. He stepped into the breach and picked up smoothly after my pre record. I think Birmingham may actually have raised a cheer I would have, but by then I had collapsed on the floor wishing I was dead. I was in such bad pain, I was praying to die. Sounds dramatic but this was a bad one.

I panicked my wife and my agent by sending them badly spelt one word emails trying to detail my situation. Fortunately they got the message.

By 1.15 the pain had subsided enough for me to start clearing up the sick (sorry, last time I will mention it) and decide what I was going to do. I had Big Brother’s Bit On The Psych in the evening By this point I’d cancelled it but decided to try and make it. I did the show, but I was totally out of it. I managed to pull it together when the camera was on me, but every time I saw it was off, I slumped into a heap. Still, I managed to annoy enough people as Twitter this morning shows. And just for the record, of COURSE I don’t think it’s acceptable to punch a horse. Man, some people are so thick!

Today I feel better. A bit. I had a headache this morning and I am irritable and tired this afternoon. I have to thank Jo and Andy and Adrian Goldberg from BBC WM for working round me. They did a great job.

 

 

The Iain Lee Pocket TELEVISION Show

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The Iain Lee Pocket Radio Show was a much bigger success than I could ever have hoped for. It had well over 1.3 million downloads and even made a few quid. Not a lot, but certainly more than I expected. All of this from something I recorded in my spare room (hate to pull the curtain away, but I did actually record it in my spare room. There was no luxury Soho studio. Apologies.)

It was an experiment and it worked and I am immensely proud of it. This is why I am remixing and rereleasing the first series with each episode approximately 30 minutes longer than the original release.

It got me thinking – how do I follow that up? A second series is the obvious next step, and that may possibly still happen, but obvious next steps are not really my thing. I like to take the not so obvious step and mix things up a little.

So, my friend Paul and I have come up with the next project – The Iain Lee Pocket Television Show.

Iain Lee Pocket Television Show

Iain Lee Pocket Television Show

The intention is to do what no TV producer has ever been able to do, and make a TV show of my old radio show, or more accurately, of the podcast.

The premise is simple – me as host, a guest and your Skype calls, ideally with video. It would still be as low budget as possible. At the moment I am thinking of filming it in my garage (I haven’t actually mentioned this to my wife yet. I will do before we start. Promise.) A guest will join me and we take Skype calls. It will be pay per view, like the boxing, but with a cheaper subscription plan – maybe a quid or 2 quid per show. A 3 minute ‘best of’ would get posted up on YouTube as a teaser and to try and attract more people. We would be putting a lot of trust in the viewer not to tape the whole episode themselves, easily done online, and distribute it. But I think I can trust most of you. You are generally forward thinkers, supportive of not only my projects but also of new ideas and technology. We might even have ads or sponsors.

Now, this is where it gets tricky. We do want this to be as home grown and as low budget as possible BUT we also want it to look good. Better than good. It has to be professional. I don’t want this to be some crappy looking thing that an 8 year old does with his webcam.

We at the moment have no budget. And while I will of course spend a few quid of my own, I do need help. And this is where you come in. I have a shopping list, a whole load of technical bits and pieces that Paul and I have decided we need to make this look halfway decent. I am asking you if you can help. If you can supply any or all of this, I would love to hear from you. It’s a long shot, I know, but I do have to ask. There is a chance this project may not happen simply because of the initial outlay of gadgets required. If you think you can help with either equipment or even a studio with live streaming facilities, please do email iain@iainlee.com

 

Camera – Needs to output HD signal via HDMI or HD-SDI

2 x cameras

1. Canon Legria HF G10 (http://www.canon.co.uk/For_Home/Product_Finder/Camcorders/High_Definition_HD/LEGRIA_HF_G10/#p-specification)

OR

2. Canon XA10 (http://www.canon.co.uk/For%5FHome/Product%5FFinder/Camcorders/professional/XA10/)

 

Video Capture card

Matrox VS4 Quad capture card (http://www.matrox.com/video/en/products/vs4/)

 

Video output card (for Skype output)

Gigabyte Radeon HD 5450 1GB

 

PCs (One for Skype output and one for video capture) Note, we could probable get away without one for Skype but we will need a decent PC for capture

 

Dell XPS 8500 (http://www.dell.com/uk/p/xps-8500/pd?oc=d00x8529&model_id=xps-8500)

HDMI to HD-SDI convertor

Assorted cables (HDMI and HD-SDI)

3 x Monitors

Software

Telestream Wirecast Pro

We would also need some good quality microphones.

 

I know. In the cold light of day, it looks pretty incredible. But…but…I do believe this is possible.

If you can help in any way, with equipment, facilities or know how, please, please do contact me. Also, if you’re a production company that wants to get involved and talk about taking this to an online company, my email is iain@iainlee.com

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

 

Iain Lee

Box – Mighty Rose

By | News | No Comments

I’ve mentioned before how I stumbled across the superb Box, a Japanese group of Beatles fanboys. They were a wonderful group that shone brightly over their 2 albums (Box Pops and Journey To Your Heart) then vanished. Temptation Girl from the first album is one of the all time great Beatles songs the Fab Four never got round to writing. Don’t believe me? Check this out.

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Box – Temptation Girl|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYP0jxKWyIQ

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Anyway, their last album was something like 22 years ago. They all went off to form excellent spin off projects (including the wonderful Piccadilly Circus which strangely sounds like Wings and 80’s era McCartney!). I loved a lot of these groups, but I was hankering for the impossible – a NEW Box album.

A while ago, a Box insider and friend of mine Saeko Ichimi told me there were rumours of a reunion but I couldn’t tell a soul. Secretive emails or FB messages would appear every so often with little updates. And then, suddenly I find a lovely little package at home waiting for me. The third Box album – Mighty Rose. To make the event even more special, they gave me a thank you in the credits! Me? That fella from UK radio getting a mention on the album sleeve of one of my all time favourite bands? Incredible. At least, I hope it’s a thank you. It’s surrounded by Japanese writing so to be honest, they could be saying anything….

There is always a sense of apprehension when a favourite band reform to record a new record. History has shown us that more often than not, that record is a stinker. I was a tad worried but any fears I had vanished as soon as the opening riff to Tokyo Woman kicked in. A dirty, simple piano starts, overlayed with an even dirtier leading in to Temptation Girl for 2012. Within minutes I was singing along as best as I could to the 5 English words I could decipher in the chorus. The rest I sort of made up.

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Tokyo Woman|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0phJ3qU05f4

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Songwriters and frontmen Masamichi Sugi and Kiyonori Matsuo proudly display their influences on their sleeves and the album veers between Beatles, Beach Boys, The Move, Dukes of Stratosphear and even a bit of Queen. The thing is, these guys, including bassist Kazuyuki Komuro and guitarist Masakazu Tagami, are so good at it, that you don’t begrudge the nod to other bands. They obviously get so much joy from playing these songs that it becomes infectious. It sounds like an English album (I hope they take that as the twisted compliment it’s meant to be) but sung primarily in Japanese.

Stand out tracks include Tagami’s ‘Dance With Alligator’ (a really messed up Wings style song), ‘Sunny Side Of The Moon’ (If I Fell, crossed with a bit of early Elvis guitar), the title track Mighty Rose and the ‘should be a top ten hit but the world doesn’t work like that I’m afraid’ song that is Tokyo Woman.

I’m so happy this record exists. You should be too. As always, you ain’t gonna find it in Our Price, so order it from here.

I salute you Box, I really do. Thank you for getting back together. Now come and do some gigs in the UK? OK?

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What Time/Temptation Girl Live|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhFVQORM-Rc&feature=related

Bad Girl|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTS7KOqm3FA&feature=BFa&list=PL500A07464255E487

Train To Heaven|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RMRx5b8D3U&feature=BFa&list=PL500A07464255E487

Crazy Afternoon|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLyDNnMj-kQ&feature=relmfu

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