In our latest Industry Spotlight, we chat to Presley of DRAG and Sanctuary Radio about his career as a musician and broadcaster specialising in the darker side of alternative music.
S] How did the inspiration for DRAG come about, originally?
P] “I must first explain for people that don’t know about DRAG Radio. It’s not a show presented by two guys dressed as women, that would be pointless, especially with it only being on radio. My co-presenter D’lear came up with that name because he says it has many meanings, drag racing, drag on a cigarette, life’s a drag and more. But most people initially presume we must be a drag act! We wanted firstly, to do a radio show that featured music that we love, the more alternative stuff that you don’t much hear on mainstream stations.
Secondly, we wanted it to also be a show filled with comedy characters and sketches and for it to be entertaining and we wanted it to be live, to give us that buzz of knowing that people are listening as we do it; keeps us on our toes. The idea was to do a show that no-one else is doing and I think we’ve achieved that. At least half of the show is comedy in one form or another. Myself and D’lear do have a really good chemistry going on between us and our banter, although totally natural, is funny to our listeners I think. We’re big fans of people like Vic and Bob, Steve Coogan, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and I think that is noticeable to a certain extent. We’ve invented lots of characters for the show, we have things like Iggy Pope, Camp David and his illegitimate half brother Camp Bastion, Political Vocoder Creep plus a few others, and we write sketches around those characters. Well I say write, when we pre-record sketches, it’s all done as improvisation. We find it funnier to do it that way and then we make each other laugh and that comes across better we feel, we’re very good at improv and faking it. We also do sketches that have a twist on famous people, so we do Def Leppard at Home, Where’s Sean Bean, Yoko Oh No! David Bowie’s Nursery Rhymes, Elvis in Conversation; it’s basically an excuse for us to do slightly (or very) bad impressions and accents. We’re just trying to figure out how to do Aussie Osbourne at the moment.”
S] Talk to us about the Sanctuary show as well – how do you enjoy that?
P] “We got asked by Sanctuary Music in Dudley, UK to do a show for them. I think they liked what we were doing on the DRAG Show and so approached us about it. But we all agreed that it needed to be something quite different to DRAG. Sanctuary Music are partly a recording and rehearsal studio’s and partly a live promoter and they are massively passionate about helping unsigned and up and coming artists. So the idea we had was to try to give promotion and help to all of those bands that can’t get themselves heard anywhere. It’s so difficult at the moment for many of these guys to get any kind of airplay and it’ll be of no surprise to Soundsphere magazine how hard it is for artists to get signed nowadays. The big labels have bought out the small labels and now are even buying out each other. So in our own small way, we’re trying to help the whole music scene and trying to get bands to new ears and to help music lovers to discover new artists.
We do two main things at Sanctuary, we get bands in to do live lounge style sessions at Sanctuary Studios. We record them, mix them and then we play them on the show. We do all of this for free, Sanctuary cover all the costs of the recording sessions. I don’t know of any other company or studio that is doing that to help new bands. The second thing we do is, we get bands that can’t get to the studio’s to send in their mp3s, and we play those on the show. The show is pre-recorded and goes out for free on iTunes and is also available as a free podcast on various media platforms. It still has some DRAG Radio elements to it because of our presenting style and we do want it to be entertaining and funny. So we do throw in the odd sketch here and there as well as tell funny rock n’ roll stories etc. It’s just that we discuss the music more on this show, it’s a little bit more in depth and not quite as manic as DRAG. I have to say, I’m personally very proud of what we’re doing at Sanctuary and how we’re helping people to get exposure. Last month’s show had over 4000 downloads, so it’s building really well.”
What advice would you give to others who want to start their own show?
P] “It’s exactly like being in a band, only do it if you’re passionate about it. If you want to do your own show, it is difficult to get onto a radio station, very difficult. We got offered a slot on Red Road, which was then a community station, it’s now gone commercial, which is great for everyone involved. But it is easier to approach a community station, so people should try that route first. The other way is to record a podcast from home. More and more people are doing this now and uploading the shows onto sites such as Soundcloud. The only problem is, you need good equipment and a lot of the shows I hear are really bad quality, and that’s a turn off straight away. We are lucky, we have our own little studio. That’s because of us being in bands in the past and not having the luxury of record deals and the free studio time that comes with those deals.”
S] You’re also a DJ at Corporation in Sheffield – so what are the main do’s and don’ts that you can tell us as advice for an emerging alternative music DJ?
P] “That’s a hard one. Again, do be passionate, pointless otherwise. You’ll eventually get bored of it or give up. For dance music, as an example, being a producer really helps those DJs to get bookings and I think that can also help in the alternative scene. It’s all about getting your name out there and that’s really hard. I’ve been DJing for about 18 years now. I had residencies at other clubs, but for the past 10 years or so, I’ve wanted to have a residency at the Corporation because it’s a fantastic club and probably most importantly it’s run by honest decent people. The people that run it are friends of mine and it still took me years to get a job there, so that proves how hard it can be. But if you’re passionate, you’ll stick at it and eventually, hopefully, things will fall into place.”
S] What are the best and worst things about running a radio show?
P] “There are no worst things that I can think of, maybe thinking that no-one is listening. We had that fear when we started. It’s like playing in a band to one man and his dog; horrible feeling. Best thing for me is that it comes naturally to me, luckily. So it’s always really enjoyable. I just wish that I’d gone into radio sooner.”
S] Who are some bands that we should be looking out for?
P] “Celldweller excite me a lot at the moment. The latest album I really love, plus the guy does some amazing remixes. I’d urge everyone to check out his ‘Disposable War Pigs’ Klash up, it is huge!”
S] What have been some of the major challenges in getting noticed?
P] “It’s a long struggle I’ll tell you. I think the major problem is getting to the big corporations, you know, the record labels, the big radio stations and TV. It’s hard to find contacts for a start. Then if you’re lucky enough to get a door slightly open to someone, they then don’t get you, and the reason for this is that a lot of the people running these companies aren’t presenters or musicians or comedians, they are businessmen and they are looking for the next quick buck. That is what is stifling the whole of the entertainment industry and why a huge amount of amazing talent doesn’t get to the public. It’s a real shame.”
S] Both you and D’Lear are members of KIK – do you miss band stuff?
P] “Because we’re on a bit of a hiatus at the moment, a very long one actually, then we do miss playing live. But we’re both three quarters of the way through our own side project album. So we’ve been writing and recording for the past 12 months and we’ll play that live at some point. Plus I’m sure all four of us KIK members will work together in the future. We did all really gel well as a live band, that is what we were best at, playing live.”
S] How do you enjoy working on keys for Gary Numan – what are the plans for that this year?
P] “I absolutely love it! The main thing about it is, Gary and the rest of the band are all my best mates and have been for years and years. So it’s just like one big party. There’s no better feeling than being on tour together, travelling around on a big tour bus and then I get to play to crowds that I could never have imagined playing to. I am very much the spare keyboard player though, if you get my drift. Gary has two keyboard players David and Ade, and it’s only if one of those guys can’t do it because of other commitments. Gary’s doing a World Tour for his new album starting late in 2013 so it’s too early to know any details as yet. Plus weird things can happen. I think it was a couple of years ago, Gary was about to tour Australia and David had to pull out because of personal issues and so I was going to step in. But we couldn’t fast track my Visa quick enough, I think we had five or six days and the Australian Embassy wouldn’t sort it for us that quickly. Shame that one, missed out on a good sun tan!”
S] What are your favourite tunes, when you’re happy, sad and motivated, and why?
P] “I have such a wide varied taste in music. If I feel like partying, Nine Inch Nails goes straight on, Prodigy too. I’m very rarely sad, but I do adore music that can get straight to your soul and move you, can take you to places. Believe it or not, Elvis can do that to me (Presley, not Costello) Jeff Buckley, Johnny Cash. I recently heard a song called ‘Joshua’ by The Japanese Popstars featuring Tom Smith from the Editors and that gets the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up; plus it makes me want to lay on a beach somewhere hot.”