I’m guessing that no one who’s familiar with Dandelion Radio will disagree with me when I say that it’s the only radio station that comes close to embodying what John Peel was about. It’s also the only place on the airwaves that comes close to replicating how he approached music and, indeed, how he approached passing new music on to listeners. It therefore seems appropriate for us to turn our attention towards the station today as it’s the anniversary of Peel’s death. We have two DR features for you today & this is the first, a general introduction to the show via a team google docs q ‘n’ a session between us & their DJ’s. Read on to find out more…
Before we begin though why not start listening to the station while you’re reading this? It’s dead simple, just open a separate browser window & point it towards this url & click on either the “All media players” (the better option as you then get track info) or “Windows Media Player” button. And Bob should be your Uncle.
If you don’t already know about Dandelion Radio it’s probably to a certain extent our fault in that we could have done more to point you in their direction in the past. The station’s been mentioned in passing a few times on Louder Than War but the only time we’ve specifically alluded to how awesome it is was in the feature we published over a year ago now titled something along the lines of “The ultimate guide on where to hear new music in a post Peel world” & in which we concluded that Dandelion was probably the ultimate of all the ultimate places to discover new music, music you can be pretty sure Peel would be playing now were he still with us & music he’d approve of.
So how did the station start & what is it’s general ethos? The answer to these & many more questions can be found below …
Louder Than War: Whose was the original idea for Dandelion Radio & what was the process of itâs going from just being an idea to being an actuality – (I appreciate the answer to this question could be quite a long one & may well make some for the following questions obsolete).
Dandelion Radio: Getting things started was a case of âhive mindâ in action. In the few days after the death of John Peel there were many people asking what would happen to his slot on BBC Radio 1 and, even more importantly, where would new music be found. There was probably discussion about this in many places, but one place in particular was the âPeelâ group on Yahoo. Someone called Nathan started a sort of spin-off group called PeelFM and suggested that people who were interested in starting up a new internet radio station should join it. This chimed with a few people who were already thinking along the same lines. So by November 2004 there was already activity. However, getting a large group of people, who knew each other only through intermittent email exchange to define a common aim and then work towards it proved difficult. In the end there was another spin off with a smaller group (maybe 9 or 10 people) who seemed to agree on the fundamentals and managed to work through the lengthy email exchanges while remaining co-operative. Time had flown – a year had gone by and we still had never met each other face-to-face.
Then the opportunity came up for us to meet at BBC Maida Vale in January 2006. Mogwai and Jakokoyak were to record a session for Radio 1âs One Music. We met up at a local pub and found that we got on pretty well so the omens were good. There was another meeting in February and after that we decided that we had learned enough about internet streaming, the associated rights and all of the costs and that we had enough people to make shows and a few technical people to work on the website and to handle streaming and, importantly, we also had a good enough idea of the costs to mean that we thought that we could manage it all ourselves.
By the end of May we were ready. A basic web site was in place and five DJs had recorded a first set of shows – and we had a streaming service provider ready to go.
In June 2006 we turned it on – and we havenât missed a beat since then.
Louder Than War: Awesome. What were the original goals for the station & how closely have you managed to achieve those goals?
Dandelion Radio: In broad terms our goal was to provide shows that enduring fans of John Peelâs R1 programme would enjoy – a mix of musical styles and ages with a large proportion dedicated to new and unsigned artists, played by DJs who chose what to play and wanted to talk about it (a bit). There are always things that we would like to change and differences in views over what makes a good show but, overall, we think we have achieved our goals.
Louder Than War: Yep, I’d go along with that – mission accomplished. Did you get any help from the BBC, Radio 1 DJâs, Peelâs family or anyone else in setting up (or maintaining) the station?
Dandelion Radio: We did mention the idea of the station to a couple of the BBC R1 DJs and members of Peelâs old production team and they were supportive of the idea – and we did get some guest tickets to a couple of events at Maida Vale where we met up and chatted. We didnât contact Peelâs family early on but we did bump into Tom Ravenscroft at a gig after we had been running for a few months and he knew of us and gave us a thumbs-up.
In November 2006 we had an unexpected question from within the old Peel camp … asking us if we would be interested in running the 2006 Festive Fifty. Radio 1 had done it in 2004 and 2005 but it looked like it was not going to do anything for 2006. So we leapt at the chance. We put a web page in place to collect the votes and had a couple of plugs by Huw Stephens and Rob Da Bank on their shows.
Louder Than War: Roughly how many DJâs are there currently on board & how many backroom staffers? And of those how many of the original team are still on board?
Dandelion Radio: We run a set of shows each month – in a big loop. We usually have around 10 shows for a total of 20 – 25 hours. There are around 14-15 DJs who make shows but not everyone has the time to make a show every month. A special mention should be made of Andrew Morrison and Rocker, who have provided a show every month since we launched.
The backroom has 4 or 5 people but is very part time for some. The process for uploading the shows and changing the web site content each month has become quite smooth over the years with much of the updating happening semi-automatically as the DJs provide their new shows.
Of the original team of DJs and backroomers … all but two are still actively involved …. and even those two still occasionally pop-up when the Festive 50 comes around.
Louder Than War: How would you describe the station?
Dandelion Radio: A delight – but not for the faint-hearted.
Like our strapline – Independent, original, uncompromising.
Louder Than War: Obviously itâs difficult I guess for the station to celebrate Peel Day due to its monthly looping schedule format but are there any Peel Day related shows on?
Dandelion Radio: For us, every day is Peel Day. Not a month goes past without some mentions of old Peelie stories or sessions or favourite bands. However, in the October 2012 schedules we have Andy Morrisonâs âPeel Session Archivesâ special, featuring tracks recorded for sessions on Johnâs shows, Jeff Grainger has tracks from 3 of the groups playing at his local Manchester Un-Peeled event (where we hope to have a bit of space where people can come and talk to us. Mark Whitby has some new tracks by old Peel session artists.
Louder Than War: What makes Dandelion Radio different to all the other radio around?
Dandelion Radio: This one might be best answered by our listeners.*
One thing is that we really are entirely independent – we are self-funded (our DJs and backroom staff contribute monthly to keep the station running). This means that we are able to play exactly the music our DJs choose to, with no commercial pressure from âthe industryâ.
*Ed – As a listener I’d say many things make it different but especially the fact that you’re unlikely to go 15 minutes without hearing something new or something great. Even if you don’t like what you’re hearing it’ll open your mind up to something new. Also different is the sense that the music’s the important thing to the DJ, way above anything else. You won’t have anyone forgetting to tell you the name of a track coz they’re dying to read out an email from someone who’s cooking something
very white & very middle class for their tea for instance. The focus on new music is also sets them apart, & new music discovery. Not for them the stricture that almost all the 6music DJ’s have to abide by of “at least 70% old or archive music”. You also get the sense that the DJ’s are all real music fans like you or me & not people who got the gig coz they used to be in a band. There are tons of other things that set DR apart but those are the most important to me. I’ll shut up now & we can get back to the questions.
Louder Than War: You regularly have sessions on the show, where do they tend to be recorded – presumably you don’t have access to Maida Vale?
Dandelion Radio: We were always keen to have sessions – but we never thought that we would get as many as we have had over the years. We have no permanent studio or access to Maida Vale, so a session is a set of songs that have been recorded specially for us. Sometimes we do the recording ourselves – Rocker has enough space and equipment in his house to have bands come in and record there (although that might mean that the kitchen is off limits for a few hours!), we have also had bands who have let us make a recording at the mixing desk from a live gig.
Louder Than War: If people want to start with you as a dj how would they go about that?
Dandelion Radio: In principle it is easy – simply compile an MP3 show of just under an hour that showcases the sort of thing that you want to do. Should be a mix of music and some chat – but not at the same time (like Peel, we try hard not to talk over the tracks). A single genre show playing golden oldies or chart favourites is unlikely to get selected though. Take a look at our tracklistings (every show that we have ever played is up there) and see if you can spot something that we should be playing but are not. Then get in touch via our contact email address and weâll do our best to listen and give some feedback. But donât expect a rapid turnaround because we try to get everyone in DR to listen and then vote …
Louder Than War: What, in your opinion, is the single most important thing about DR?
Dandelion Radio: Plenty of different opinions here. (Sorry, crap question – Ed)
I and many other people I know grew up with John Peel as our âfilterâ to sort some of the wheat from the bulk of the chaff. Iâd like to think that we are in a small way continuing that great work for our listeners. (Rocker)
Louder Than War: What would you say the stations greatest achievement has been?
Dandelion Radio: Another one where different people have their own thoughts.
Discovering that if you scratch and look below the surface there are hundreds of great new artists and DJs out there who do not seem to be getting coverage from any other broadcasters.
Louder Than War:Any future plans for the station?
Dandelion Radio: Nothing radical. We have been looking into making shows available on demand and there might well be a way to do that without compromising our PRS/PPL licence. No promises though.
We would love to welcome some new DJs – but that isnât a change from what we have always done.
Louder Than War: I know some of your DJâs also run labels but I reckon a generic Dandelion Radio record label would be pretty ace, have you ever thought of setting one up?
Dandelion Radio: We continue today through the efforts of a small team of people who put in their precious time and some of their money – who are doing it for fun not for business. Our DJs did compile a CD – âBroadcast Oneâ – released by Odd Box Records a couple of years ago, which featured many tracks from artists who had recorded sessions for us. A âBroadcast Twoâ might happen one day. Trying to run a real label is probably a step too far for everyone to be involved in.
Louder Than War:Anything at all anyone else would like to say about Dandelion Radio.
Dandelion Radio: If you hear a track you donât like – donât worry, an entirely different one will be along in a minute!
Louder Than War: Is there anything any of you are involved in youâd like to plug – shows you have coming up or records youâd like to draw your attention too.
Dandelion Radio: Voting for the 2012 Festive Fifty runs throughout November – with the results due on Christmas day and repeating over the following days. This is a highlight for many of our listeners, bringing back fond memories of Christmases past from the days when Peel ran his own. Like Peel we hope that the votes reflect many of the highlights from the releases made over the year. To vote just go to http://www.dandelionradio.com/festive50 and enter your favourite three tracks from 2012.
Thanks to all the DJ’s who contributed to answering the above questions & especial thanks to Rocker for his help in setting this up.
A few copies of the Broadcast One CD are still available from this url for just Â£6.
You can also grab a free iPhone / iPad app to make listening to the show easier. To do so go here.