Introducing DJ Ola the unsung hero of underground radio on the internet.
"Basically mainstream radio sucks and that's why I do what I do. I provide a Kool alternative."-Ola
JR-Why and how did you an ordinary person with no broadcasting media background get a show on internet radio? Can anyone do it?
OLA-I was doing press for a band I really dig called The Playing Fields. I contacted all the major stations, I even got D J’s like Lauren Laverne from a major FM station here, XFM saying they like it but the station had a strict play-list only for airplay rule, so they couldn’t play it. Everywhere I approached in mainstream media the door was slammed shut in my face. I got really angry about it. One of the places that was open and gave the band airplay was internet radio stations. I started talking to the manager of one of the stations that gave the band airplay. He asked me to do a show, I did, it was supposed to be a one off but he liked it and asked me to be regular and I said hell yeah. I then channeled my anger and frustration at how myopic and mediocre mainstream media was into my own show. There is great music being made all the time it just doesn’t get heard. I now had the means to do something about it. Every time one of us does this kind of show, we kick or chip away at this lowest common denominator rubbish being force fed down our throats.
Yes I reckon anyone who really wants to can do it! I had no experience whatsoever and the technical expertise of a chimp, yet I still learned how to broadcast my own show. It is easy once you learn how. At my current station Radio23 that is the whole premise, that anyone can broadcast from home. The station provides all the tools in programs, information and training, all you need is a high speed internet connection.
JR-What is the meaning of internet radio and its impact on regular mainstream fm? Is it changing the nature of radio?
Ola-Since radio began its programming has always been in the hands of a small elite. For the first time ever through the net, media including radio has been opened up to allow people a chance to make the shows they want to see and hear. In fact, internet radio is like a bloodless revolution and it’s the future. It is an exciting time and the people involved are like pioneers. I can download the music I need and I can play what I like without having to worry about censorship. There is a real freedom in this medium. FM will become obsolete with its limitations. Internet radio has podcasts so you never miss your favourite shows, also with rapid developments in technology you will be able to hear internet radio anywhere. For example, just recently my show was broadcasting in a car through an iphone with an application.
JR-What are some stations out there to listen to and why?
Radio Nowhere is a good station, that’s where I started. Christopher Laird is the station manager that has a great show. He used to do sound for the BBC and then created his own station with various other shows. My show was inspired by his and he gave me great advice as to how to shape it. He plays an eclectic mix of music giving lots of new music a chance. Dandelion Radio which was inspired by the spirit of former UK DJ Jonathan Peel is also a great station with quite a few DJ’s playing great stuff. At Radio23, my current station, we have 60 plus DJ’s all over the world playing a huge mix dedicated to alternative non-commercial sounds with DIY DJ’s mostly live. Finally Dead TV, a station that is also televisual, hosted by Anton Newcombe playing a mix of many genres with new music and foreign beats. You can check these here
JR- I believe you have been broadcasting for about 4 years now, have things in the Podcast/Internet Radio market been getting easier or more difficult?
OLA-To be honest at the moment it seems to be about the same except that the show through technological advances is getting more reach.
JR- I know I-Tunes is a bit of a challenge to get your Podcast on, do you have it good with I-Tunes now? Do they accept your work without hassle?
OLA-I tried to add it myself and it was rejected for some reason I can’t remember, but through my podcast page it is listed on itunes and I believe you can subscribe to it as well to download automatically to your MP3 player here
JR-What method, like software, for example, are you using to record your shows?
OLA-Most Radio23 shows are live but I do like to prerecord my show. I use a crack of Nuendo 3 to put the tracks and vocals together. I use a Zoom H2 to record my vocals on the show and any interviews. To record live gigs I use a Sony PCM D50, recording live gigs either through a sound board or an awesome external mike in high quality wav and easy for a non sound engineering person like me to get a great sound. One of the best and most expensive things I have purchased, but worth every penny. I have two of them and they look great like the robot from Forbidden Planet. I never used to understand guys and their love of say music pedals until I held one of these in my hands and used it. I became converted and started to dig technical recording stuff.
JR-Besides I-Tunes, how do most of the Stations put up their broadcasts these days? Are they personal blogs, bought web space, free pod-casting sites....etc.?
Ola-I can’t say for other stations but we use feedburner, which is like my own podcast page really. Besides Itunes there is a list of other players you can use to hear the show. It has a list of shows but the downside is there is a limit, as I upload new ones the old ones disappear.
JR- I know you do interviews as well as broadcasting. Is it easier to do written interviews or live audio to tape or video format for you?
OLA-I have to say I prefer face to face interviews over written. My interview with Peter Tork, for example, came out great, but it was written and because we couldn’t see each other I managed to piss him off with questions. He read some things into my line of questioning that wasn’t there and took offence and if he had seen my face and had I been able to explain my thinking in person I reckon it would of come off better.
JR- Who was your most challenging person and or persons to interview to this date?
OLA-Rather than one person, I find the hardest people to interview are the ones who give rather monosyllabic answers. That’s tough, you are trying to bring forth an interesting discussion and the person will not open up and give you anything; nothing worse than a dull interview. One of my easiest and interesting was Dave Bermen from The Silver Jews. I didn’t have to do anything. He just started talking and I just interrupted occasionally with a thought or two. It was intelligent and thought provoking naturally. That’s when it is great and that’s what I’m looking for: sparks, inspiration and ideas.
JR-How many Internet Radio station people are doing this as a sole source of income? Is this possible?
OLA- I don’t know Jay, but most people I know doing it are not paid. I have never been paid myself and I do it for the love. I’m addicted to broadcasting and if I don’t do it for a while I get twitchy. The only thing I get for it are free passes to gigs and festivals and the best perk of all is getting to meet and hang out with my favourite musicians. Radio23 is totally non-profit and we are lucky to break even and keep afloat. I think it will change in the future though.
JR- (From Wikipedia) In October 1998, the US Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). One result of the DMCA is that performance royalties are to be paid for satellite radio and Internet radio broadcasts in addition to publishing royalties. In contrast, traditional radio broadcasters pay only publishing royalties and no performance royalties.
JR-How do most of the radio stations that are underground or semi above ground cover the royalties
OLA-This is a good question of which I know very little. I know that there is a difference for stations based in the UK and the US as Radio Nowhere was affected differently to Radio23. Both stations required me to keep a log of every track I played because they do pay royalties. At Radio23 we were considering making podcasts available only to people who donated to the station to cover our costs. Fund-raising is an issue and we are looking at merchandising like t’shirts etc .
JR – I never had really thought about it, but when you mentioned that there is an Anglo-American prejudice out there in the indie/underground scene, I would have to agree.
Maybe it is a culture thing or maybe there is no spotlight on these other areas around the globe. But I have to admit most of the bands that are popular in that vein are Caucasian and are British or American. Would you care to elaborate more on this subject?
OLA- I think my own take on this has to do with the fact English is not my first language and I am a first generation US citizen born to immigrant parents. I was used to hearing non-English music at home. So I think this made me open as a DJ to musical sounds from any language and anywhere. I always say any genre and any time period, good music has no boundaries and that also applies to location. Good music is global and the indie/underground/alternative sound should be holding hands and helping each other everywhere. I always enjoy throwing a non-English tune or two into my show if I can find it. It is exciting when I can find that French/German/Spanish/Polish/Thai track that rocks.
I also traveled a lot, especially in Thailand, Malaysia, Lao and Indonesia. For ages I was greatly disappointed in the music in clubs and bars in Thailand which just seemed to be filled with commercial trash, Thai musicians doing bad covers and thumping bad house/techno music everywhere. Only recently have I discovered the underground scene there and Malaysia. The best scene in this area, I’ve been told, is Singapore, where bands have government funding. Taiwan and I heard Indonesia has a great scene as well.
So I’ve recorded bands in Malaysia and I interviewed Joe Kidd, the godfather of punk in Malaysia. I’ve played bands from Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia as well as non-English European stuff as well to try and highlight these areas and broaden people’s perspective. There also needs to be more bands from Europe going to these regions and vice versa. I met a guy in Malaysia who has several record companies and he brings in all the foreign independent bands for gigs and he said he wanted to create an Asian ATP. I want to make that dream come true for him, I mean what a brilliant idea and why shouldn’t it be that way? But these areas face difficulties that you get in Western countries, multiply it by three. For example, most people in Thailand and Malaysia won’t know who New Order is let alone Joy Division. There are almost no indie record shops in Thailand and I’d say very few in Malaysia. The idea of groovy hipsters with out of sight record collections, common in the UK and say USA, virtually don’t exist in these countries. If bands do come over from Europe/US to this region there is very little money in it, they will just about break even. It is also not as accepted in these regions to make a living from music; it really is seen as a hobby. There is loads of pressure to conform in these societies, get a job, get married and take care of the family as social welfare does not really exist in say a country like Thailand.
JR- What’s it like living in London these days?
OLA-Well, it’s a very expensive city. It is obviously old and a lot of its charm for me is the history. When I came over originally in 1991 it had a real underground squat culture. That changed; during the economic boom it became quite gentrified with Starbucks and yuppie chains everywhere and it lost that edginess that you can still find in some places like Berlin.
JR- What can listeners expect from Ola's Kool Kitchen in 2012?
OLA- Hmmm….I don’t know. But I tell you what I’d like to do, I’d like to do a stint on FM or BBC6 or maybe a show somewhere on FM in Thailand or Malaysia and I’d love to kick start a South-East Asian ATP for sure. One can always dream, and maybe, just maybe it can be real!