- Mon, 2012-12-10 14:07
Since 2007 Shaun Keaveny has woken up a wealth of groggy eyed, music loving listeners with his premier weekday breakfast show from 7-10 am on BBC 6 Music.
A station famed for its survival, dodging closure in 2010 thanks to waves of protest from presenters, listeners and musicians alike, 6 Music sits at the heart of alternative, quality music programming on BBC Radio.
We sat down for coffee with Shaun to chat about building a successful radio show, his incredibly slick morning routine, the future of 6 Music and the lasting musical impact of his ground-breaking rock outfit Mosque.
ILM: How are you?
Shaun: I think it would be over-egging the pudding to say I was well. But I'm alright. You just gotta keep going with your head down Kim, haven't you? Through the dark times.
ILM: You've been with BBC 6 Music since 2007. That's a long time.
Shaun: It's the longest I've ever had a job. I used to work at XFM. I started writing radio adverts, then they desperately needed cannon fodder for the overnights. I did that for years, until I went almost insane. Then I got into daytime and then got headhunted by 6 Music, which was extremely exciting.
ILM: How are things at 6 Music?
Shaun: Since we almost got closed down and were saved by the listeners and the music industry, everything has gone up a notch. It's... I'm going to have to use a youth term that would have been used in the mid-80's...it's a MEGA place to work. It's also boss.
ILM: A mega boss place to work. With mega bosses?
Shaun: Woah. Don't lead me down that path. (Leans into dictaphone and says very clearly) We've got lovely bosses. I get on with them all.
ILM: What does it take to become a successful radio presenter with a MEGA show?
Shaun: Thank you, thank you. Well...like with anything, all it really takes is time. After a while, if you just carry on doing the same thing well, all the people that think you're crap disappear slowly and then you're left with the people who think you're alright. Then you'll get a little club feel. And before you know it that emboldens you, you get more confidence, you get better and things start looking up.
ILM: Staying that focused must take a lot of self-belief?
Shaun: I remember about four years ago going through a period where the show was terrible, everything was off and not really working and I would pace up and down Great Portland Street with this black cloud over my head thinking "oh God! I can't do this anymore!" Those periods come and go. Eventually you do realise that if you stick at it you can build something a bit bigger than everybody.
ILM: Who do you look up to in radio?
Shaun: My hero was always Terry Wogan. After a while, he could turn up to the studio, people would send in letters and pieces of cake and he could just sit there with Alan Dedicoat his news reader and talk absolute bollocks for two or three hours at a time, reading out emails, making each other giggle and then just go home. That's the kind of show I want to do.
ILM: That type of show sounds very easy but actually, I imagine it's very hard. To be that relaxed and natural...
Shaun: Oh completely. Not long ago, I would actually write my links out with a punchline and everything. Like a precision tool. After a while I would listen back and the bits of the show that would make me LOL or ROFL were the bits that weren't written out, the spontaneous bits. And that's when the penny dropped. The funny thing with radio is it's a complete lie detector. People can see right through everything you do, so you better be FOR REALZ because if you're not, people immediately know.
ILM: What do you think makes a successful breakfast show?
Shaun: Well, I've worked out that I've done every shift on radio apart from 1-3am, which I'm still hankering to do, but breakfast is my favourite. Even though it's killing me every single day that I do it and slowly eroding my health and mental well-being. But it's still addictive, you get the first pop at everything, you get to do all the news stories and more than that, it's a privelidge to get people when they're weak.
ILM: Do you have a super slick morning routine?
Shaun: Ah. I do. I would sometimes like to escape the crushing inevitability of having to go to bed at ten o'clock, having to get up between five am and half past, especially in winter. I bike in as well.
ILM: Do you eat breakfast first?
Shaun: When I get in. I normally go for something slow release.
ILM: Ah yes. I think I've heard you cough on an oat before.
Shaun: You're right. You would have heard that.
ILM: You must have a strong sense of self to be so disciplined that early in the morning.
Shaun: Well Kim, I'm a self-flagulator.
ILM: There's the headline. How much preparation goes into your show?
Shaun: I do about an hour in the morning looking through the papers and the day before it's all about collecting little ideas to riff on. I don't need to write anything but I still put in a good few hours for every show.
ILM: What's your advice for anyone aspiring to get into radio?
Shaun: Don't try to hard. In a weird way. Essentially, you've got to be liked and you've got to get to a point where you like yourself, not too much of course. Then it's about creating something good and waiting for someone to find it. Good news is, unlike most industries radio is going from strength to strength. Nothing creates that relationship like radio does.
ILM: What's the future of 6 Music looking like?
Shaun: Well, I hate to be the person to break this to you, but we're being closed in January. Luckily I've been offered the drive time show on Radio 2, so I don't care. No. That couldn't be further from the truth. 6 is the phoenix from the flames. We've never been happier. Still, we're so tiny really. We have so few people working for us, we have so little budget, but I think there's a fragile beauty to that. We pull together pretty well, we punch above our weight really.
ILM: What are your future plans? You've already written a book, of course...
Shaun: Oh God. Don't go there. I mean I ticked that box didn't I. It was a good little side project but I think it will be a while before I have the focus to do anything that meaningful again. Also, I've got this burning ambition to do some character comedic acting. That's the thing burning within.
ILM: Yes! Do that. Go to The Comedy Store...
Shaun: Work up a few characters. Piss people off. I'm doing live shows now. On Monday I'm doing my first one in London. Like a live stand-up, chat show thing.
ILM: Oh, you do stand-up?
Shaun: I do, I do. It's pretty toe in the water stand-up. I'm no Bill Hicks. I'm alright. I can fill the gaps quite well in a show that is otherwise filled with people that are very good at it. So yeah, we'll see.
ILM: Well, the only other thing I wanted to speak to you about was music.
Shaun: Oh yeah? I've heard it.
ILM: Yeah? You know about it?
Shaun: Yeah, yeah. I know how it goes.
ILM: When did you first start getting in to it?
Shaun: Because I'm Northern I've got an Uncle that's two years older than me, Uncle Martin, but we're more like brothers. He got me into so much music. Then my slightly older Uncle Paul was into Thin Lizzy, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin. We used to sit and listen to the albums, then go out and buy the singles of the time, just this incredible wave of great music. Sgt. Rock by XTC would reach number 21 in the charts. Shit like that. I mean, when you hear all this robot fucking sex music now, RiRi, GaGa, Tiny and his Temper...
ILM: And you formed a band...
Shaun: Oh yes. When I was 15 I formed the legendary Mosque, the reverberations of which are still being felt today through all guitar music. They've all been influenced by my guitar.
ILM: Even Noel Gallagher no doubt. Who very recently was a guest on your show...
Shaun: Oh well. Noel, he's a legend. And I know him a bit, I'm privileged to say. I've talked to him a lot over the years. He's a bit older than me, but he has the same kind of vintage. We're from the same place. He's got the same kind of attitude.
Listen to Shaun Keaveny every weekday from 7-10am on BBC Radio 6 Music
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