The move towards ‘more speech’ on the radio show I present (BBC Radio Scotland, 14.35-16.00 weekdays, except Fridays, when it starts at 14.00) has not meant I simply talk more. It means, basically, that I talk more to other people.
We’re booking what are various called ‘guests’ or ‘contributors’, mostly musicians, who come on because they have product (gigs, CDs, downloads, their own bountiful personalities, charitable endeavours, chains of boutiques, ranges of wine) to promote. Yeah, I know the Beeb's good and decent and doesn't do product placement. But the truth is, you don't get guests with nothing to sell. Unless you pay them. And we're MOST reluctant to do that, except as a last resort.
So anyway,we’re widening things out to include comedians, authors, journalists and indeed anyone who might give good guesthood, on a show which is still basically about music. Speech. We like it.
We review albums, preview gigs, examine people’s record collections, talk about golf, cycling, food (always a favourite on the ever-hungry TMS) plumbing, roofing and about Scotland; we sift nostalgically through our pasts. Memory works well on the wireless.
Only very rarely am I face to face with any guest. I work for the most part out of a tiny self-operated studio (basically a microphone and a PC) in Lerwick, Shetland, some 200 miles from my producers in Aberdeen and the Big Huge Box that plays out all the music. The music, by the way, is mostly gleaned from what’s called ‘The Radio Scotland Daytime Playlist’ - it takes a few cues from Radio Two, but there’s a distinct Scottish dimension and me, the producers and our various contributors have a hand in what gets played too. In particular, anything I’m passionate about, and that fits into our general, uh, vibe, man, can usually be shoehorned in. No Crass so far, though.
This week, among others, we’ve had Ryan Adams on, promoting his new album Ashes and Fire, and Joan Wasser, who is/is in Joan As Policewoman. Check them out on iPlayer if you want. I found myself asking Ryan how it felt to perform sober (“It’s nice not to feel…sick’) after which he became virtually monosyllabic; and horrifying Joan with the tale of the Dave Matthews Band’s tour bus driver, who accidentally emptied the tour bus’s toilet tank while on the top deck of a road bridge. Pity the guy immediately underneath was driving an open-topped sports car...
American artists, even ‘difficult’ creatures like Ryan, know how to play the promo game, and are mostly used to the long-distance remote interview, where all the cues have to be auditory. No body language to help. It’s ears and brains only.
But then, that’s what the wireless is all about. Ears. And voices. Brains. People talking to each other. Telling stories. And playing records.