Image courtesy of Matt Barker Radio
(That gag was an entry in the Morris Men-tal Institute Joke Competition of August 1936 and told repeatedly until a cease and desist order from the Greater London Department of Public Transport and Sun Beds in February 1937.)
Where were we? Talking about Matt Barker and his two fabulous radio shows.
The Matt Barker Radio Show is two hours of finely-organised chaos, going out to the world on Fridays at 6pm UK time, available on podcast from Mixcloud.
While the Deuce Radio Show is a tight little package (careful!) of the best new independent music to tumble onto Matt’s desk.
*** Audio file will be removed by the end of March 2020 ***
*** Audio file will be removed by the end of March 2020 ***
Text of the interview with Matt Barker:
Bill Quinn: I’m speaking with Matt Barker from not-so-sunny England. Hello, Matt Barker.
Matt Barker: Hello, Bill. How are you?
BQ: I’m very good. We tried take one of this and we were talking about weather and daylight, and the koala reserve where we go to get better phone reception, but let’s just skip that and get to the guts of what people want to hear about…
MB: I’ve just got one question before you do that. You say you get better reception in the koala reserve across the road.
MB: So the koalas have got mobile phones, yeah?
BQ: Look, they have got wifi. They’re still on the old 3G network at the moment. In fact, there was a big protest there just last week. Imagine koalas walking down the street with placards, demanding 4G wifi.
MB: That’s outrageous.
BQ: I know. It would be if it were true.
Matt, tell me about radio, tell me about your involvement with radio, and your engagement with it.
MB: I started over 20 years ago on a hospital radio station.
The reason for that is I really wanted to be a radio presenter, and it went back to when I was at school. And I went up to the Capital Radio building, one of the big radio stations in London and was talking to the DJs and presenters up there, one of whom was Kenny Everett; I had the pleasure and honour of meeting the legend himself.
I learnt a lot from those guys.
BQ: Sorry, I’m having a bit of a fanboy moment here. Kenny Everett. Met? Spoke to?
MB: Yeah. So I learnt a lot from those guys. I said, How do you get into it? They said hospital radio’s the first bet and then move on from there. 20 years on…
I did hospital radio for about 17 years and moved onto internet radio where I still am, at the moment.
I’ve got two shows which is all lovely and good. I’ve got a podcast coming out at the moment, and I’ve also got a syndicated show, and the love it is purely of music – good music. Not really into the manufactured stuff that’s currently circulating around the music scene, shall we say, the good stuff that you don’t hear on certain radio stations these days.
I got bored with having the ten same songs repeated over again; you could set your watch by it. No offence to Adele, but Adele comes on? It must be lunch-time.
It’s Westlife again? It must be home time.
Also, the new artist side of things. I know there’s a lot of new, unsigned artists out there that want airplay, and I know the major commercial radio stations and other radio stations don’t really pick up on that as much as they should do. And there’s some really great artists out there.
So it’s fun giving them a platform as well to get airplay, get known, and get the music out there.
BQ: You’ve hit three marks that are interesting for me in radio. You’ve got a syndicated show – that’s the Deuce Radio Show, yeah? And where does that go to? How many stations does that go to?
MB: It’s about… I’ve lost count actually, because we’ve got new stations being added on a constant, weekly basis. It’s about 40 it goes to around the world. It’s so not fair, because my voice has been to places that I haven’t been to. So annoying. New Zealand: I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand. My voice has been there before I have.
BQ: When you get there, there’ll be a little hobbit home with your name above the door.
MB: Looking forward to it, as long as there are no Orcs there.
BQ: Now you had the digital radio show, and that went out on something called the The Radio Alternative, isn’t it?
MB: That was my previous station, yes.
BQ: There was a time last year when I was trying to listen to your show and just kept getting times wrong and bandwidths wrong, and I kept missing your show. That’s because there’s something called The Alternative Radio, and I’m not making this up, I’d be trying to tune into three hours of probably my favourite format of radio and radio presenting, and I’d be getting a documentary on the Gulf Wars I and II.
MB: I’ve heard. It probably wasn’t the best choice of names for a radio station, because people also thought we just played alternative music.
No. It comes with a play on words. We have all these stations and we are the alternative radio station. Then we did realise there was The Alternative Radio station out there, and we took that and swapped the names around. Sorry about that.
BQ: I’d be listening at 4am or 5am in Australia, thinking I’ve heard enough about the Gulf Wars and saran gas attacks in Japan, but when does Matt come on? Where’s the funny man? Where’s the music?
MB: Yeah, there’s bad stuff going on in the world, let’s acknowledge that, but let’s not concentrate on that. Let’s just play the music.
BQ: And when I did finally get through to you, I’d be thinking, “Yeah, the radio alternative: I’m ready to get into it and there’d be… 80s synth pop. Music that’s a bit mainstream and not really alternative.
So the format’s some old, some new, a lot of music people may not have heard. What I love is that you always give shout-outs to the artists and where people can go and find them. Is that important to you?
MB: They want to be known. They want their music to be played out there, and it’s a bit of a pointless exercise if just said, This is a track of theirs, and didn’t give a pointer of where to find them and their website. Because they’re trying to get the music listened to by as many people as possible.
There will be someone out there who thinks, This is the best band I’ve ever heard. There’ll be people out there that might say, Not my cup of tea. But at least I’ve played it on the show; people have got the opportunity to listen to it, and if they like it they can go and listen to more of their music and find out more, but the singles, albums.
So it’s a platform for getting new music out there and it’s important. I know how difficult it is from a radio presenter point of view getting your name out there, so it must be equivalent for a band or an artist to try to get their music out there. They work very hard on writing and producing and recording their music. So I think it deserves the respect. They’ve put the effort into it, I should put the effort into it to make sure that what they’ve done is heard by as many people as possible.
BQ: How much of the music that you use on your shows would you say is you going out looking for it, or them coming to you?
MB: Quite a lot. I’ve got an inbox at the moment that’s just crammed full of new music. And some of that is going on social media and putting tweets out saying, “If anyone wants to have their music played on the show, here’s my email address”.
Which also gets me really weird emails from long lost uncles and aunts in Uganda and other places claiming that I’ve inherited – I tell you what, I’m a multi-billionaire at the moment. I’ve lost count of how many millions of dollars I’ve inherited from lost relatives I didn’t know I had. It’s amazing.
But that aside, I’ve got so much music. I currently do a two-hour show on the podcast and I try to get as much on as possible in between everything else. So it’s normally about ten tracks which is about an hour’s worth, or a little bit more than an hour’s worth. But I’ll try to squeeze in as much as I can.
And it’s a combination of me going out and saying I’m quite happy to play your music if want. I mean, some acts will say they’ve noticed I’ve played their friends’ music or we’re a friend of so and so, here’s my MP3; can you play it on the show? And I’ll have a listen to it and play it.
So it’s kind of half and half of them coming to me and me going to them.
BQ: So in the time you’ve got, it’s just a drop in the bucket of how much music is out there. When you look into your in-tray, how does something jump out at you and makes you say that’s really good, I want to put it on?
MB: I ask artists to send their music preferably in MP3 rather than a link so it’s literally there, sitting in my inbox so I can instantly listen to it rather than find it. It takes about two hours to prepare a two-hour show, so it’s an hour’s prep for an hour’s broadcasting. I’d rather be there instantly.
I’d like to say I have a keen ear for good music, so if it’s something where I say, “Hey, that’s really good,” it goes on the show, it makes it. I very rarely get a track or an artist that emails me and I sit there thinking, “Yeah, d’ya know what? Nah, not my cup of tea”.
I do get the occasional rap artist – not a huge fan of rap, no offence, but it’s not my cup of tea. The trouble is I get emails that say, “I’ve checked out your show and I think my music would be a great fit”. Oh really? So when have listened when I’ve played rap songs? I must have missed that.
It’s very, very rare that I get a track where I’m sitting there thinking, “You know, I’m really keen on that”. I’m going to have to be really nice and say, “No, sorry”.
I’d say 99.9 per cent of the time, it’s really, really good standards of music that I get, so normally it makes it onto the show.
BQ: Just going back to The Radio Alternative, that wound up, did it?
MB: Yeah, that wound up on the basis that we didn’t get the funding to continue it. Unfortunately, it’s a rather expensive business running a radio station. Licences and everything else. It’s about £500-600 for the licences alone to legally broadcast in the UK, and then everything on top for further costs. And it was very unfortunate we didn’t get enough money and resources to continue that, which is a huge shame. It was about 18 months we were running for.
A really good station. We got it up and running off the back of another collapsed station which I won’t mention. But within three months, there were a lot of lessons learnt. It was a case of we launched it too quick. The website wasn’t brilliant, but as we went along we revamped stuff and we reinvented things.
But sadly that wound up in July . June, July this year – it seems longer ago than that, but from that I’ve decided I’m going to continue. I thought I’ll just continue with the Deuce show and not worry about anything else. The Deuce show is an hour of me playing an hour of new music, and it’s great new music and it goes out to 40 stations.
And then I’m thinking I’d like to do my own thing as well. Let’s just continue and put it on Mixcloud and see how it goes for the first couple of weeks. If it’s something that nobody wants to listen to then OK, end it there. But it’s going quite well in the grand scheme of things. We’re at Week 7 or 8 now, and it’s still getting listened to so touch wood, that’s a good thing.
BQ: So what’s the format? Originally you had the three hours and it went out in real time, but now you’ve got a two hour podcast that people can access any time. And I notice that you have it going out at the same time as your old show used to go out, yeah?
MB: That’s correct. It’s the one thing I thought, I can get Mixcloud to schedule it at 6 o’clock on a Friday which is when my show went live on The Radio Alternative. The kind of people who would listen in at 6 o’clock on a Friday can still listen to it, but then it’s a podcast so you can listen to it any time you like.
BQ: When I was on live to air, we had a number of people listening on the bandwidth and yes, you could stream it around the world, but I found it very ephemeral. I had so many artists live in the studio, live to air, and they’d get very excited about that because it was good publicity. But as I say to them now, I do stuff on the web, and you can access it anytime, and to me that gets the artists more traction. If you missed it at 6.25pm on a Friday, you can hear it on Sunday or whenever.
MB: Absolutely. I miss doing live radio and one day, touch wood, it goes back to where I will do it live again. It’s a bit weird not sitting there having things pop up on social media, comments about new stories I read out. But you’re absolutely right; if my show went out live on Friday on The Radio Alternative, I thought hang on a second, I should really be putting this on a podcast so if anyone misses it on the Friday, they can listen to it again.
And I think that kind of spurred the idea that when The Radio Alternative was eventually winding up, I’d just continue doing a podcast at home, but now it’s a two-hour show, not a three-hour show for the time being, see how it goes. And if there are bands who just so happen to be out on a gig on a Friday night and miss the show, they can listen to it Saturday afternoon or when they eventually wake up.
BQ: Have you thought of taking your Matt Barker Radio show and seeing if you can syndicate that? The rationale I’m thinking of is that the show isn’t time-delimited. You’re not doing, “It’s now a quarter past six and it’s 24 degrees outside” or anything like that. I see an opportunity and I’d be interested in your thoughts about whether there are avenues for syndication for that show as well.
TO BE CONTINUED – WORK IN PROGRESS -15:37
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Yours in great independent music
Brisbane, Australia – this week, unless the police catch up with me again…