When I arrived it was a strange time: a couple of months later, 6 Music was threatened with closure.
But it wasn’t terminal. Instead it really helped define the station, not only in the public’s mind – a lot more people were aware of it – but by bringing people who worked there together. There was a Dunkirk spirit.
It made us realise that our listenership was passionate. The listeners, the presenters and the people who run the station now all feel they’re in it together.
The listeners have invested something in it, because they saved it with their Facebook campaigns and demonstrations. In terms of independent and alternative music, there isn’t really another outlet. It would have made a big difference if 6 Music had gone, especially to small labels and records that will never sell millions of copies, but it’s good that they’re there.
It also gives a platform for new music to come through. If you don’t have a station that plays it, where’s new music going to come from? That said, I play loads of old records! I decide what I want to play, and I have spoken-word stuff. They let me devise the format without any interference.I don’t think any other station would have allowed that.
There are other people in bands who do shows: Guy Garvey, Huey Morgan, Cerys Matthews. Something I’ve always liked about 6 is that you feel music enthusiasts are just sharing music they like with you. It’s not so dependent on a playlist.
There is a little bit of a playlist on the weekday programmes, but mainly it’s somebody just playing you records they think you’ll enjoy. That was reflected when it was threatened with closure. People took it personally because the station operates on a more personal level.
Am I driving the desk? Most of the time, yeah. I have an able production team who will slap me if they see I’m about to press the wrong thing. But most of the time I’m doing it – you can probably tell from the big, pregnant pauses while I’m looking for the right button.
I’d love an allotment
Ah, I’ve blown my cover now. You thought that was just my languid style. It’s actually ineptitude. I don’t think of it just as a fun sideline. It’s not like being on an allotment. Although I’d love to have an allotment, actually, I keep meaning to apply for one.
I hope I’ll continue making my own music, not just play other people’s. But it is a performance in some way, attempting to communicate with the listeners, and it’s based on music so it’s not that far away. In a band you play the same songs night after night, but on a radio show if you did that people would soon stop listening, so to put the show together each week is a bit more work.
Speaking to Leonard Cohen was a major moment, as I’ve been listening to his music for 30 years. I was nervous about that. It was nice to attempt to conduct an interview, although he very politely eluded most of my questions.
I’ve had a few highlights: Laurie Anderson was on the show, and Michael Palin. I knew one of his shows was called Hemingway Adventure, so I asked him to bring in a bit of Hemingway, and he read one of his favourite passages from A Moveable Feast. I like that – seeing a different side of someone you think you know because you’ve seen them a lot on the telly.
The fact that my show is on Sunday afternoon has a lot to do with how it is. It’s a weird time: the weekend’s almost over, the new week hasn’t started. It’s a time to ponder a little bit – go over what’s happened during the week and think about what’s coming. Just let your mind drift around a bit. That’s the kind of mood I try to create.
I try to bring back the boredom to Sunday. I remember Sundays when all the shops were shut, there was nothing to do and time seemed to stand still. It’s not a religious thing, but I like that slight pause, to have time to think. That’s the idea – it’s like a two-hour pause.
This is an edited version of an article from the issue of Radio Times magazine that went on sale 6 March 2012.