Smoke Signal

Posted by JSYL on Sunday, May 18, 2008
One of the best decisions I've made on my exchange to London has definitely been picking Music Radio as one of my electives. The details surrounding it are a little hazy now, but I know that I went to a lot of trouble to juggle all my other subjects so I could take it. Whoever wrote the little blurb for it in the subject handbook did a pretty good job of convincing me that it was a good idea:

"...produce a series of stimulated live broadcasts in which your all round programme-making skills and wider music knowledge will be reinforced, nurtured and assessed. The broadcasts incorporate the key ingredients of the music programme genres."

As shallow as it sounds, the little radio experience I'd had before coming here included just one semester and a quarter of radio journalism, a lot of late nights editing in a creepy-yet-cool-underground-esque studio, a number of too-long interviews, and a past student techie named Brendan who had beautifully tattooed arms, always wore skinny jeans and some sort of man-cuff, and one of those oversized African style ear piercings. So imagine my surprise when I found a group of about 15 really media-savvy students who ran, presented and produced a uni radio station all by themselves. They're like a mini corporation of midget adults.

I definitely felt that I was in over my head. These guys know what year George Michael released Freedom, the names of every one of Lauryn Hill's 5 (or so, Steven, correct me if I'm wrong?:P) children, and just how much the top radio presenters get paid every year. Words like "branding", "tagline", radio-speak like "OB", "bed" and "sweeper" get bantered around like yester-generation's "whatever" and "i'm audi". They pretty much all know their way around a mixing desk, have at some stage presented their own show and can recite the history of radio like Americans can the pledge of allegiance. Never have I seen a group of people who not only live, but eat, breathe and lust for music, and radio, this much.

I can't say I've come to share that same passion in my time here, but I've definitely developed a growing interest in something that I'd never taken that seriously before. It had nothing to do with journalism, but the medium itself has evolved a lot more in the UK than in Australia and for that reason alone, it fascinates me. Having said that, I also met most of my friends here through my radio class or through Smoke radio, and that kind of lends itself to my having a greater affection for radio now than ever before.

Little known fact, friends: when I was about 10 years old, I used to pretend I was a radio DJ quite a bit. My friend has this cool study with two long black desks in an L-shape each with their own computer. In a room truly befitting of the 90s, there were also tape decks in between them, We used to have a desk each where we'd spend ages pretending we had our own radio show, and play pop songs when we got tired of talking. We probably moved on to the traditional "hospital", "restaurant" and "school" games we were probably more expected to play, later on, but it was fun while it lasted.

But this semester I got to 'live the dream', as it were. In the last broadcast week of the year, Smoke Radio put on "smoke's out for the summer- SO4S", with back-to-back hosted radio programmes each day and specialist music shows at night. I was really lucky to co-host Smoke Signal each day with my friend James, a third year radio student and radio extroadinaire!:P In the vein of Wendy Harmer's old 2Day FM breakfast show, we had a debate each day on things like Sex and the City, bad boys, reality television and horoscopes. I even got to interview Natty, an up-and-coming London reggae-esque singer who I'm now kind of a fan of.

I was pretty nervous on the first day, particularly when James said "You're here on Smoke Signal with James, the housewives' favourite", and glanced over at me to finish off the intro, to which I said lamely, "and...Jane." But after all our non-verbal cues were down pat, I started to pick up the general vibe/pace of the show, and even managed to dub myself "The Token Australian", and it ran a lot smoother.

However, the Smoke Radio Awards were on Thursday night, which felt like the Academy awards of radio for me. Yes I drank. Yes, a lot. How much? Let's just say I learned the hard way never to mix red and white wine. They don't call it unlimited for nothing, folks. The Friday morning show was a tough one.

Good thing is, if you missed it they've podcasted some of the best bits from each day's shows on the smoke radio website. (It makes me sound much more articulate than I probably was for the majority of it). You can have a listen to bits from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday's shows here.



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