- Fri, 2007-10-12 09:09
Hosted by Alex Zane on Channel 4, T4 and E4, mobileACT unsigned™ are searching for the hottest unsigned band in Britain with a prestigious album deal with Universal's bespoke label imprint, A&M records.
The panel of experts includes enigmatic Blur bassist and songwriter, Alex James, Radio 1's new music aficionado Jo Whiley and Simon Gavin, Head of A&M Records UK. The panel will be joined by a guest judge for the first auditions including Lily Allen, Mutya Buena, Calvin Harris and Just Jack.
I Like Music caught up with legendary Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley, ahead of the show and the release of a Live Lounge 2 compilation album, to talk about unearthing and introducing musical talent, co-presenting a radio show with Madonna and her most magical moments at Radio 1.
"I Like Music because.... it makes me laugh and it makes my cry and it gets me out of a stress if I’m in a stress, and, if I’m in a good place then it will make me in a better place. It’s all about the emotion, it’s all about the feeling where music takes you to and what affect it has on you.” Jo Whiley
ILM: The mobileACT unsigned™ series looks to unearth the best unsigned musical raw talent – and you’re a judge; how’s it going?
Jo: It’s going really good actually. It’s getting more and more exciting. It’s been a fascinating process.
ILM: No doubt. You booked Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine for 'The Word' and on Radio 1. You’ve discovered and promoted some amazing bands, which discovery are you most proud of thus far?
Jo: I guess I’m really proud of Coldplay, playing them right from the very beginning; going on the radio and banging on to people and saying this band are great. But then all I’m doing is introducing people, so ultimately it’s the band themselves who are winning people over, but I’m introducing them to people, so Coldplay I’m still immensely proud of.
You distinctively know when something is good. And also Nirvana is a proud moment. I remember that really clearly. I would have been mad not to have booked them on The Word; that was a good call.
ILM: It definitely was. Now is there anything you’ve learned about fellow judges: Alex James, Simon Gavin, Head of A&M Records UK, that you didn’t know before?
Jo: He likes a kebab does Alex. I would never have had him down as a kebab man. he talks a lot about cheese, he talks very wisely about cheese but apparently he likes a good kebab as well.
ILM: You’re providing hopefuls with guidance as the show progresses. What kind of thing will you be saying to them? What tips can you share with I Like Music readers?
Jo: What we’re saying to them is to be themselves. When you’re a performer and in a band you have to exaggerate what you’re all about, so we’re encouraging them to bring that out of themselves. So we’re looking for performers. They might come on stage and they might be a little bit nervous, but we really want people to bring themselves out and put on a real good show, because that what grabs people’s attention; that’s what’s going to make people love them, whether its us on the panel, or whether its people watching the programme, or whether it’s them trying to get their records played on the radio or on TV.
So it’s about projecting 110% and being amazing performers and working on their songs because that’s what it’s all about. It’s that performance on stage and its about having killer songs, so we’re very much encouraging them to come up with killer songs.
ILM: Definitely, that’s the starting point: to have great songs which then come alive when you perform.
Jo: Yeah, totally.
ILM: Now, it’s the big Radio 1 40th birthday at the moment. What were your first memories of Radio 1 as a listener?
Jo: Oh my God. I think it was Annie Nightingale. I used to listen to Annie Nightingale religiously. I didn’t really care much for the chart, in fact I didn’t give too hoots about the chart. So I used to tune in at 7 O’Clock just to hear Annie do her request show.
There always used to be this moment when she’d play a track and you’d be waiting for her to go… ‘hi’ and she always strung it out and you never quite knew when she was going to say ‘hi’. If you speak to anyone who ever listened to that show, they’d say the same thing. She just played amazing music, whether it was The Clash or The Police, just complete legends. And she was a real icon for me as a broadcaster and DJ.
ILM: And now you’ve joined the ranks of Annie Nightingale on Radio 1.
Jo: I know; that’s quite funny.
ILM: What have been your highlights and fondest moments since you joined in 1993? I mean you’ve interviewed someone who is absolutely at the top of my wish list, my idol, Madonna…
Jo: Madonna was pretty special interviewing her. She came and co-presented the show so she spent two hours with us in the studio and she was completely without any pretention at all; she was incredibly down to earth, she was a real laugh to be with, so just to spend time with someone like that, a real icon, is pretty cool.
ILM: Any other highlights – live stuff?
Jo: I’ve just met so many amazing people and have been witness to such great music as well.
Doing sessions with the Foo Fighters really early on was really good. U2…A lot of it has been the live music that we’ve had.
Arctic Monkeys I’m immensely proud of as well. I think that was probably my favourite live moment when they did a session for us and I was with them at Maida Vale and they did their cover of Girls Aloud Love Machine. Just being in a room with them, nobody else is there and you just think, ‘wow this is music history and I love my job!’ It was an incredible moment.
ILM: Yeah, because even though it’s going out on the radio and people are listening to it, it’s like a private special moment for you, your own personal show, because you’re actually there.
Jo: Yeah, because there’s this bit where Alex breaks off and laughs which everyone remembers in that cover and I could see the look on his face when he did that laugh, so to have that in my brain as a little photograph to go back to all the time is great.
ILM: Your first broadcasting job was as a presenter for WPFM, Radio 4's youth culture and music show and now you’re a legend on Radio 1 – what’s your advice to young people on pursuing their dream career whether it’s getting into radio or just doing what they want with their lives?
Jo: It’s about having faith in yourself, it’s about being persistent and exploring all avenues, and just making as many contacts as you possibly can, in whatever field, whether it’s photography, whether you want to be on TV, or a radio presenter or whether you want to be in a band. It’s about plugging away and don’t get deterred.
And, if you do get any opportunities, just behave well and don’t piss people off. It’s amazing, work experience people come in and if you’re irritating…. You have to make yourself completely indispensable but really subtlely. So people don’t realise that they need you but when you’re not there, they’re like, ‘oh no where are they?’ and they want you to come back again. It’s a fine line, but the people who manage that are the ones who are successes.
ILM: Describe your perfect Lunchtime Social when you have a day off? Who would you share your lunchtime with and what would you have to eat?
Jo: My perfect lunch would be eggs, chips and beans in a greasy spoon café with my kids to be honest. It’s rare when I get time off, so it’d be a big bundle round to a big greasy spoon to have as many big mugs of tea as I possibly can and lots of chips and tomato ketchup.
ILM: Sounds like heaven to me.
Jo: My stomach’s rumbling now!
ILM: It’s quite a stressful business, being on a panel of judges. What’s your favourite song to chill out to?
Jo: I like listening to Damien Rice. Although you listen to his music and think it’s really beautiful and blissful, and then you listen to the lyrics and they’re the angriest lyrics in the world.
ILM: A bit dark.
Jo: Yes, very dark, but yeah, Damien Rice or Massive Attack.
ILM: Our website, ilikemusic.com was up for a BT Digital Music award for Best Music Magazine up against the likes of NME.com (the only online mag in our category with no financial backers, truly independent)…
Jo: I presented that once.
ILM: Yes, Sarah Cox is presenting this year and last year it was Edith Bowman…They must be going through the female Radio 1 DJs…
Jo: Yeah… I did it the year before, so it’ll be Annie Mac next year.
[ILM and Jo laugh]
ILM: You and Jools are heavily involved in the Mercury Awards while you’ve won Sony awards yourself…you know the score when it comes to awards, any tips for us and bands who are nominated for various awards on being the perfect nominee?
Jo: If you saw the Mercurys this year and you saw The Klaxons, my advice would probably be, wait until the awards are over before you start drinking. All I’m saying is just remember The Klaxons from the Mercurys and don’t take a leaf out of their book. Stay sober until it’s all over and then celebrate. It was hilarious; very funny.
T4's mobileAct unsigned, in association with Sony Ericsson and Orange is aired every Sunday at 12.35pm on Channel 4.