Soundscapes : Musical Journeys

Please join our group creating musical journeys of discovery. Can include playlists, stories, inspirations, resources. What music sends shivers down your spine?

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by Pete Lawrence
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Created on 10 Sep 2017

Please come and join our group which aims to create musical journeys of discovery. Can include playlists, stories, inspirations, resources. What music sends shivers down your spine?

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Sun, 09/10/2017
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SOUNDSCAPES | Radio Radio

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I've always been an avid fan of radio, ever since I was a small boy. These days, I find it far more preferable to sit and listen to content, rather than watching television.

I've always been an avid fan of radio, ever since I was a small boy. These days, I find it far more preferable to sit and listen to content, rather than watching television. There's always something interesting to discover on BBC Radio 4, or, if I want to tune out a bit, Radio 2. 

When my parents gifted me my first Boots Audio radio cassette recorder in 1977, I was over the moon. OK, the behemoth that was the music industry led us to believe that home taping was killing music, but fuck it; I was able to record all of the tracks that were being played prior to saving up and going out and buying the majority on 7" single. 

Unless you were a famous disc jockey on one of the major BBC stations, spent any spare time you had hosting a show on hospital radio, or were breaking the law by indulging your passion broadcasting on a pirate station, you weren't being heard. However, fast forward a couple of decades, and with the arrival of the internet, the possibilities of being able to broadcast your tastes to a much wider audience were, at last, a realistic prospect.

My first taste of broadcasting came in late 2000, when I signed to the Big Chill record label. I soon realised that by being affiliated with the Chill meant that, as a general rule of thumb, you were regarded as a harbinger of good musical taste, and subsequently I was invited to play on a number of well known internet radio stations, as well as being a stalwart on the Big Chill's own festival-only radio station, Big Chill FM, on 87.7, FM. I even got into recording a handful of jingles for radio stations. I was like a pig in shit!

Paul Noble, an engineer at BBC Radio, formed his rather innovative Space FM radio station in late 2000, and I was invited along to produce a few shows which were broadcast live out of his Brick Lane studios, which was a great buzz.

In 2004, as one of the resident DJs at the Big Chill, I was given a monthly night at the newly opened Big Chill Bar on Brick Lane, which, initially, I enjoyed immensely. However, once I'd moved a little further from London Town, I found that my initial enthusiasm for the whole DJing thing was wearing a little thin; it's fine when you have a captive audience, and believe me, some of the bar crowd in the earlier days were into the sounds I was playing. But as time wore on, the Big Chill lost its way and as the months wore on, the Big Chill Bar became populated by faceless suits and occasionally, aggressive drunks demanding I put on some Madonna. 

So, after 6 years, I bowed out. 6 years for any London residency is pretty admirable if you ask me, but I was fed up with it. I still felt the need to play people music, and, without sounding like a twat, to 'educate' them in what I considered to be quality audio. A radio show would be the ideal.

I'd heard about Chill DAB [no relation to the Big Chill] through Paul Noble and Pete Lawrence, whom some of you might be familiar with! Paul was broadcasting a 'specialist show' on Chill, called 'The Deep End', and another vague acquaintance of mine called Ben Echmade was also involved with Chill - he had a really good weekly show on Classic FM called 'The Chiller Cabinet', which was essential ambient listening, broadcasting late on Saturday nights.

Chill were [are are] big fans of my alucidnation music project, playing some of my catalogue on regular rotation, so in early 2008 I thought 'what the hell' and got in touch with the station boss, Bern Leckie, offering the put together a one-off show for the station. After bouncing around a few emails, and having a chat on the blower, he asked me to compile a two hour show, with no talky bits on it and send it over.

Two weeks later, and Bern was ringing me to offer a regular show, broadcasting to the UK at 10pm Saturday night, repeated on 10pm Sundays! What a coup.

Finally, I'd found a way to DJ to a [much larger] audience without even having to leave the house! I pre-recorded each show in my studio, trying, at first, to record a new installment every week. But hey - you know what it's like... at the end of the day, I wasn't actually getting remunerated to do this, and day job pressures were getting the better of me... so I just recorded the shows when I had the time, and they were then uploaded to the Global Radio servers and broadcast on rotation.

As time went on, my confidence behind the mic improved. I'd started talking a bit on air now, occasionally announcing the names and a few details on some tracks, not all of them, as too much waffle breaks the spell, especially if you're blending mixes seamlessly, as I try to do.

What really inspired confidence were the first set of RAJAR figures I received for the show. In late 2009, Bern got in touch and excitedly informed me that Eclectronica was getting around 20,000 listeners per week, which ain't to be sneezed at, is it? These days, it's one of the most popular specialist shows on Chill, and the show now has a large online following on MixCloud, with around 30,000 listeners able to enjoy all 73 archived shows.

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Pete Lawrence

Thanks for taking the time to tell the story of your journey through radio. I also really enjoyed doing the Chill and other shows I put together for the likes of Virgin in-flight.

You're right about The Big Chill losing its way and I guess that's why I left.

The Big Chill Bar, as an example was losing its customer base and attracting more faceless suits.

I've learned that it's often hard to hang on to the original spirit. Things morph and sometimes grow in uncomfortable directions.

Reflecting on it now, it was quite a journey though and one I wouldn't have missed for the world.