In our latest interview we sit down with BBC York Introducing presenter, Jericho Keys to talk about his experience with Radio 1, what he looks for in a band and his plans for the future.
S] Tell us about your journey from BBC York Introducing, where you’re now the champion of North Yorkshire music, to Radio 1. How did that come about?
J] “I just do the Introducing show to the best of my ability and champion a lot of my abilities. I think they just thought, ‘he’s plugging these good bands so let’s have a listen to him’ and the next thing I know an e-mail popped in my inbox about this time last year from someone at Radio 1 who said ‘we’ve been listening to your stuff, would you like to come down and give us a pilot?’ so I thought, ‘I’ve got nothing else on’ so I went down and did a few of them and they said, let’s keep doing this… The next thing, Phil Taggart had a bereavement and they needed someone on short notice. They gave us an email on the Friday and we went and did it on the Sunday and it went from that.”
S] Being a Yorkshire lad, how receptive have Radio 1 been to you being up here and being the centre for Yorkshire music? Has there been any pressure for you to move down south?
J] “There’s been no conversations or anything about me going down south as long as I go down and do a good show, which I have done apparently on the three that I’ve done so far, I’m quoting what they’ve said. As long as I go down and do that I think that’s their main priority. Me being up north was a big selling point for them in the first place.
They really liked the Northern accent and the irony and sarcasm that goes with that. I think people like the northern accent. We’re trustworthy, we’re funny and we know what we’re talking about. I don’t think you have to move to London, I think you can stay there a couple nights a week if you’re going to do well. I’m a home bird really. I’m from Whitby originally and I miss Whitby a lot and I’m in York. I don’t think you need to move down there, especially when London’s two hundred miles away and you’re missing all these bands and gigs up here. People say ‘you can’t go to the O2 in London’, yeah but I can go to Leeds Brudenell Social Club.”
S] You’re comfortable at BBC Radio York, you’ve made it your home and you’re filming these videos now as well. What’s it like being in the Radio 1 studio? How has the transition been?
J] “The studio equipment is completely different. At Radio York a local radio studio desk is not big and you go down to Radio 1 and it’s huge, it’s like the size of a bar in a restaurant. You can drive one desk and you know what you’re doing when you get the basic. You wouldn’t have your own car and have someone else drive it for you, you need to be completely in control. I was nervous about new equipment, but you just have to go down and get your head around it because that’ll be your show and you need to be in control of what’s going on.”
S] Tell us about your plans for BBC York Introducing. You’ve been taking it to a new level and adding a visual element with the videos. Is that something you’ve got planned for the show?
J] “Those videos just started out as a bit of a laugh between me and my producer, Andrew [Barton]. They’ve been going really well, we get more hits on the show sometimes. We’re trying to record the session because social media is a big thing now, so I’m told, and you’ve got to stick with the times. You’ll get left behind if you don’t embrace it. I think now we’re going to do a bit of filming with Plastic Fortune again who did a good video, People of York, and did a bit about when we got all those bands played on BBC Radio 1 last week with Huw [Stephens]. We’re trying to keep up with the times, it’s difficult with the resources that we have. With the radio the most important thing is getting quality on air, but if we can make people laugh on Facebook as well who can tune in and see how ridiculous we are and that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, they may tune in on Saturday.”
S] What’s your relationship like with Huw Stephens? Is he receptive to the bands that you choose to play?
J] “Huw is the champion for BBC introducing on a network scale. Everyone from the local stations send their music to him to get his nod of approval. I’ve been sending him stuff for the past two years and he seems to keep playing it so in a professional element he seems to be digging it and playing a lot of it. If we keep it there we can keep getting York and North Yorkshire further afield, which is my intention all along.”
S] That’s something you seem to be doing for the foreseeable future, pushing that York and North Yorkshire banner.
J] “Yeah, but I’m not going to just play something from York if there’s a band from Somerset who are better. You can go down to Radio 1 and think ‘I’m going to put my stamp on it and become a hero in York and North Yorkshire’, but I don’t agree with that. I’m going to take stuff down because I think this is good enough and up there with a lot of other stuff. I did a deck before and I played about four York artists because they deserved to be played, I didn’t just fill them in because I’m from here and I work here. There are a lot of great bands in York and North Yorkshire. I hear some bands on other slots and I think, they aren’t as good as what York and North Yorkshire have got, so you’ve got to get that balance.”
S] What is it about local bands that you’ve chosen to play like …And the Hangnails and A Joker’s Rage that lit the fuse so to speak?
J] “If you sound like …And the Hangnails, we’ve already got an …And the Hangnails, we don’t need another one. If another band turned up in York with face-paint on, trying to be like A Joker’s Rage, we would be like ‘what are you doing, we’ve already got that?’. First and foremost, they’ve got to be good. It’s alright having a thousand pictures on Facebook, but if you’ve got no good songs what’s the point. I’m not into the whole posing thing. I think music speaks for itself. You’ve got to look good and that’s all part of being in a band, but I’d rather have three fantastic songs than thirty three fantastically shot photos. The songs have got to be good and different. They don’t have to be different for the sake of it, they just have to be standout tunes that you hear. I’m not into the whole copycat thing. I’m not into people trying to be Liam Gallagher, like I said we’ve already got a Liam Gallagher, we don’t need that again. For me I want to hear something I’ve never heard before, or something that’s a nod to something from years ago.”
S] You’re very passionate about the music you play. What’s the reception been to your persona?
J] “When I first started at York because I was really passionate and excited, they said dial it down. You want someone to promote new music and you want someone to be excited about it, but you don’t want them to be excited on air. I choose everything that I play so obviously I like it, so when I do a two-hour show on Radio York and pack thirty tunes in, I chose them all and love them. I talk about music on the radio like I talk to you in a pub, if I wasn’t doing radio, I’d only be in a pub talking about music. That’s got a lot of praise and applause. I got a tweet once that said ‘I love listening to Jericho Keys, it’s like speaking to one of your mates about music’ and for me that’s a compliment that you want. It’s nice to have compliments from your boss, but hearing a listener say that to you, it’s worth its weight in gold to me.”
S] How do you feel about breaking bands in the music industry? Do you feel it’s challenging for bands, or never been easier?
J] “I’m still learning about it myself, I don’t think you’ll ever stop learning about it. If you could work out a perfect formula you’d be managing another Beatles. It’s difficult because, only going from what I’ve read and been told, it’s easier to get your songs heard because everyone has the internet, everyone can upload something to Soundcloud and YouTube and Facebook, and the BBC Introducing uploader, but like I say everyone can upload their music. You’ve got to sometimes filter between sometimes two hundred not so great bands to find a fantastic one. Where back in the day when there wasn’t the internet it was all word of mouth and people had to go to the gigs. People make a lot of preconceptions by watching bands on the internet because they don’t go out and watch them live. They see them on the internet and say ‘oh there’s no atmosphere’. Well how do you know? You’re not going to have atmosphere sat in your flat in Bishopthorpe, you need to go out and watch this band. I think it’s good for some stuff and not so good for others. Arctic Monkeys did well out of it and they’re doing alright. This week is the tenth anniversary of ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor’ so that speaks for itself.”
S] You do these live shows every so often, Jericho Keys Presents. Do you see yourself doing anymore in the future?
J] “I do intend to do some more. I did two and they were really good, but they had to go on the back-burner, it was time and I was trying to juggle so many things. I did enjoy it, but I didn’t really promote it enough for my liking because I didn’t have enough time. I do intend to do one and I plan to play some tunes there and make it more of an event. I intend to put one on with all the bands that were played on Radio 1 by Huw Stephens last week as part of the Introducing feature. I plan to get them all on one night, as an acoustic thing just so it’s quick turnaround as a little celebration like a ‘well done you’ve got on Radio 1’ and everyone will get together and embrace that. I’m hoping to get that sorted out in the next couple weeks so watch all various social networking sites.”
S] When you get these thousands of demos what is it that takes bands like A Joker’s Rage above some of the other music? Do you look for originality or production?
J] “It’s going back to what I said before; it’s got to be good. You can pick a good song from a demo, but there’s no point in a four-piece indie band recording a demo on their iPhone. You can’t make it out. I think if you have something good and you want to get it out there make sure that is what you want out there. Sit on it a couple weeks because you might want to change it. Get a good recording, figure out what you’re doing in the tune. Don’t forget that you’re putting yourself out there. This is your reputation on the line; I wouldn’t go out there and put a half-hearted radio show together, so don’t put together a half-hearted radio tune. Say you have a new band called Kids Menu and you put a new tune out and it’s half-hearted, not very good. People have an opinion thinking ‘that’s sh*t’. You put another tune out, why would people listen because the first one was sh*t. I’d rather create a buzz. I’ll tell you who’s doing that now in York, Bloom. They’ve released two songs and I said to them ‘are there more songs?’ and they said ‘we’re releasing dribs and drabs slow so people want more’ and I said ‘you’re doing it right then because you brought the two songs out and I’m wanting more’.”
S] How do bands get to you? Introducing uploader is an option, but how easy is it for bands to get your attention?
J] “It’s quite easy because if we talk about BBC Introducing uploader for a minute, I listen to every single song that comes in and I have enough confidence in my own music knowledge, I know a good tune. I might not like a certain genre, but I can listen to it and appreciate it and think, is that done well? Is that good? First off the records have got to be good. You’ve got to have a band picture, but I don’t want forty-five thousand band pictures and no songs. It’s easy to get my attention, but do it in the right way. Get your songs sent in, send in your CDs if you want, but it is easier to do it by the BBC introducing uploader because it’s on a screen because I can just click it. But if you release anything on vinyl that does get my attention a lot more, so send me them in.”
S] What are the biggest records that inspire you? Do you have different songs for when you feel different emotions?
J] “My tune is Buzzcocks, ‘Ever Fallen In Love’, that’s the songs I always go for. Because that has so many good memories of me and my pal when we were underage drinking. The band I always jump at is Arctic Monkeys. I’m not that different really. For buzzing, for going out is stuff like Primal Scream for me. I can’t listen to Primal Scream on an ordinary Thursday evening at home having a cup of tea with my girlfriend because I want to go out and I won’t be coming home for four days.”
S] Tell us about the process of putting together a show for radio.
J] “When I go through the tunes I get all the information I need to know about the records like who they are, where they’re from what it’s about, what label it’s out on if it’s on a label. But all the off the cuff stuff, is off the cuff. I think if you script that kind of stuff it’s not funny. All the stuff with Andrew, I like to put him in awkward situations because it makes me laugh. He’s my producer and he keeps me on the straight and narrow, but I like to just push him on the edge a little and see how much I can get away with. Sometimes I’ll know a funny anecdote about a band and I’ll bring it up, but I don’t play a tune thinking ‘I need to get my lines right’. What I was told with radio was know where you’re starting and know where you’re ending, everything in between is kind of alright. You can get muddled and have a bit of a banter in the middle, as long as you know how you’re getting out of that link, it’s alright.”
S] What would you say to a kid from York college who thinks you’re great and wants a career like yours?
J] “It’s different for everybody. I didn’t know anybody, sometimes it’s great to know people, but I made my own contacts. As my girlfriend describes me, I’m ballsy. I suffer terribly with nerves. I have my bleak times. It’s different for everybody because I’m still trying myself to get where I want to be. If it’s radio, if you can’t get a gig, make a podcast. I do a podcast still; I don’t get a regular enough gig that I want. It doesn’t get any amount of listeners that Radio York or Radio 1 get, but I do it for myself. It’s practice. You get air miles in, practice and know what works for you. If you’re putting out new music, put it on Mixcloud and get your mates listening to it. If three people listen to It, it’s three people. It’s worth doing it. I just think it’s hard work, and be good to people. Don’t be a dick and don’t kick people on your way up. I’ve met people who have been dicks to me and I think, ‘I’ll prove you wrong’. Don’t be a dick, there’s too many of them around and there’s too many people who will put you down and kick you, you don’t need anymore. There’s enough negativity in the world.”
S] What’s next for Jericho Keys?
J] “I’d like to run a paper merchant company in Slough like David Brent. Really, I would like to work at Radio 1. But with my intention to live in York still I would still do BBC Introducing because it keeps you grounded. I’m from York and North Yorkshire and it’s a part of me, I’m a northerner and I love everything about up north, but I do want to work at Radio 1, I’m not going to make any strides about that, I’ve had a taste for it now and I want to do it. It’s a buzz. I would like to work at 6 Music, I want all that, I got into it for all that. I want to present at Glastonbury, I want to open my own label. I got into it because I want to do it all and now these opportunities are coming and becoming more realistic, I’m going to take them. Anything that comes along that I want to do, I’m bang up for it.”
Interview: Dom Smith
Transcription: Francesca Fortunato