Capital FM’s dance music specialist offers an insight into his hectic lifestyle, which sees him jet between London, Ibiza and Yorkshire on a weekly basis.
Place of work
Capital FM Network
Specialist radio presenter, music producer and DJ
How long have you had the job?
I’ve been at Capital for around 18 months and previous to that I was on the Galaxy Network for 13 years. Basically since I was 16!
Describe a typical day
There isn’t really such a thing as a typical day. At the moment with the summer in full swing and my residency at Ibiza and Mallorca Live, every day is different, but the weeks are pretty structured. I play at BCM every Sunday night in Mallorca, then spend all day Monday sat in the hotel room going through all the week’s new music and narrowing it down to the absolute best stuff to play on the radio.
On Tuesday I get up early to set up a mini studio and work on any music projects and remixes we’ve got running, then I spend the afternoon sorting music for my two gigs that night. We do a huge outdoor party in BCM square with massive artists like Jessie J, Dizzee Rascal, DJ Fresh and Example to crowds of around 5,000. After that we take a very showbiz private jet to Ibiza to do the same thing that night at Eden Ibiza.
Wednesday morning we’re straight up and back home to Leeds where I nip into the office for a few hours on the way from the airport to catch up on emails before eating dinner with the family.
Thursday and Friday morning are spent with my two little boys and (very understanding) wife, then on Friday afternoon I’m on the train to London to do my Capital FM show, usually followed by a UK Riley & Durrant or solo gig.
Saturdays are pretty similar, doing the radio show and then playing somewhere in the UK or in Europe (Finland and Tenerife in the last few weeks).
Then it’s Sunday again and we’re off to Mallorca. Repeat for nearly 4 months…
Highs of the job?
Being able to play, support and discover music that you genuinely love on a huge network of radio stations is one of the most privileged things a music geek could ever wish for. When that little red “On Air” light comes on and you realise people in far away places you’ve never even heard of are listening in, it still makes the hairs on my neck stand up. I’ve also been lucky to get close to a lot of my heroes and even made friends with some of my musical idols. I’m a very lucky boy.
Lows of the job?
At the moment it’s missing my little family. I’ve got a two- and three-year old, a beautiful wife and three dogs in the Yorkshire countryside. The massive overriding sense of guilt at not being around as much as you should puts a bit of a tarnish on all the rock’n’roll stuff, and I do get homesick quite often.
I also get sent on average around 800 tracks a week – all via email and digital download – so listening to them does, in all honesty, become a massive chore. I have a brilliant intern called Luciano who helps download stuff from my inbox, but I often think I should just employ a “filterer” like a lot of DJs and radio people do – someone who listens to all the music you get sent and decides what you might like and gives you a handful to listen to.
My opinion is, though, that you’re in a hugely privileged position to get sent so much music for free, and a lot of it will be from people starting their careers who might need help and support – so I listen to every single one every single week. That way you never miss anything, but after eight or nine hours straight of listening to tracks your mind does turn to mush.
How did you get your job?
In 1997, Kiss 105 started test transmissions out of Leeds – they were playing the most mental selection of uninterrupted music from Grace Jones and Malcolm McLaren to DJ Quicksilver, Robert Miles, the first sounds of jungle. For a suburban kid from Yorkshire it was like music from outer space and I became absolutely obsessed. I sent begging letters and hounded the receptionist while I was finishing my GCSEs and finally got my foot in the door. They needed someone to help out working for free on Sunday afternoons editing the London-specific specialist shows from people like DJ Hype that were broadcast on a different day in the North.
I did that for a few months until finally getting a paid job working 6pm-6am every Friday and Saturday being a “tech op” and pressing the buttons on pre-recorded shows and live programs like Judge Jules, which again came from London. I used every contact I could and got in with all the DJs and producers, getting my first club gigs and honing my skills behind the mic when there was a free studio to practise in. I got my first on-air gig in 1998 when the Galaxy network launched and I haven’t looked back since.
Who are the people who’ve had the biggest influence on your career and why?
The Utah Saints. When I started working at Kiss I used to see Tim and Jez around the office all the time. I’d be working overnight at the weekends and they’d come in at 2-3am to record their show. I started spending as much time as I could around them, listening to their stories of life on the road in the early 90s, Top of The Pops and warming up for U2. I was hooked. The boys really helped me, letting me play around in their studio and teaching me the ways of sampling and crate digging. I owe a huge amount to those guys.
Musically, Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto Fluoro album had a huge impact on me as well – it came out as I was discovering clubbing and I was fascinated by the way he mixed classical music, soundtracks, and electronic stuff from loads of different genres. It’s something that’s stuck with me in my radio shows and club sets even now. Like my jingles say, “All styles, all scenes, all sounds.”
How can we get your job?
There’s no set route into radio – like most things that are fun or worth doing you have to be prepared to start at the bottom, work hard and show you’re ambitious, keen and willing to graft. Get experience any way you can and use every avenue and in-road to your advantage. I see so many work experience kids and interns and within five minutes I can tell if they’ll make it. Some people just have that hunger and blind ambition, and some just want the glory.
No job in the world is as glamorous as it looks to the outside world, and inevitably it will have taken years of taking shit and making tea before you hit the big time. When I was 18 I saw an interview with Carl Cox where he said something along the lines of, “It takes 10 years minimum before you’ll make any good money or see big success in this scene.” I remember thinking 28 seems like a long time before I’d be paying the bills properly, but he was about right. And it was worth it. If you want it, just go for it and don’t look back.
To specifically get my job is quite simple – just be better than me! Almost as importantly, be much younger. There’s a lot of emphasis on age in the media, and although I intend to play music I love on the radio until I’m too old to leave the house, there will come a point in the future where I can’t credibly be playing music aimed at young people whilst being an awful old fart myself. At that point I couldn’t be on networks like Capital, Kiss or Radio 1 anymore, but I’d hope to find someone else who’d have me. That being said, I’m only 31 so by my reckoning the person who’ll take my job is probably just starting secondary school and illicitly listening to mixtapes and pirate radio in their earphones during maths lessons right about now…