With no John Peel around any more to help us discover new music we’re a bit stuck aren’t we? Or are we? There is still loads of great music out there but today’s dilemma is who to turn to to help us find it, who to help us weed out the small amount of wheat from all that chaff. This handy guide, we hope, can help you achieve that goal.
I suspect I’m not alone in that quite often I find myself being asked where I hear about the music I listen to.
Whenever I meet new people the conversation inevitably wends its way towards the subject of music. Once there & once the person I’m talking too realises that not only am I into the more obscure side of music but also that very few of the bands I’m talking about are bands whose name my interlocutor is familiar with, that is generally when this question is asked.
It’s actually a question I’ve asked people myself on several occasions as I’m always on the lookout for new places to find new bands.
Back in what now seems like the mists of time, whenever I used to be asked this question the answer was always a simple “John Peel”. I might have tried to pad out the answer a bit by blustering along and mentioning a few other very reasonable sounding sources for music discovery (such as the music press, fanzines, word of mouth, support bands etc) but essentially it was all hot air because pretty much exclusively every new band I found was through listening to John Peel’s shows.
Then, as we all know, the great man died. We all deal with grief differently, and my way of dealing with this particular grief was to stop listening to music. Almost completely. It literally was ‘The Day The Music Died’ for me.
That lasted for a couple of years until eventually, just over two years ago, I started getting curious about what was going on in the world of music again. It was quite weird to have missed two years of music and then suddenly to have my passion for it reignited with the same enthusiasm I had when I was a teenager and first lucked upon – and became addicted to – Peel. It’s hard to believe now but I actually remember being quite embarrassed about admitting to my friends that I listned to Peel, mainly because they used to mock me ragged about it.
Anyway, the problem I now had was where to hear about new bands without Peel to turn to. A lot of people these days complain about how hard it is to find the kind of music that Peel used to play, that there are no dj’s introducing us to his brand of wonderfully varied, interesting, exciting, eclectic music. I’m strongly of the opinion that this is wrong and intend proving so when I finally get round to the essence of what you’re now reading reading, which is to outline most of the places I now visit to discover new sounds.
Most of my approach to how I listen to music was fashioned by listening to Peel, and one of the foremost principles I learnt from him was to embrace as wide a variety of music as possible. So to that end I went off scouring the internet. Fruitfully it turned out, for now, whenever I’m asked the question, “So where do you hear about all these bands?” I have to ask whether or not the person wants a long or short answer.
The short answer is basically “internet radio, old fashioned radio, podcasts, blogs, Last FM, Bandcamp, Netlabels, Soundcloud, Blip FM and yes, even Myspace occasionally. Plus whatever I’ve forgotten”Â. Which is obviously still quite a long answer but nowhere near as long an answer as I could give and which I will, in part, unravel in the rest of this blog.
When I say ‘in part’ I’m referring to the fact that I’m concentrating on the first three places in the above list; the two radios and podcasts. So what I’m concentrating on in particular are the things that could be considered a direct replacement for John Peel, music shows with a DJ linking all the tracks together. If you scan down to the end of the page you’ll realise why I actually think we’re far better off these days than we were than when we just had Peel. There are an awful lot of brilliant DJ-led shows out there.
The only trouble is that they’re a little harder to find now. Having said that I feel behooven to admit that given the choice of swapping all the below for one two-hour Peel show a week I would, without a minutes hesitation, plump for Peel. I think. But that’s probably me being nostalgic more so than realistic.
So here we go. I’m not going to list things in order of preference because obviously what’s favourite for me probably isn’t for you. The first group of shows come under the general heading:
1. Internet Radio Stations.
First: Dandelion Radio (1) Despite what I said about these being in no order this is my favourite music show of any kind anywhere. I expect the majority of you will be familiar with Dandelion. I know LTW’s own John Robb is a big fan of Dandelion Radio. All DRs DJs (& backroom boys & girls) dedicate their time on a voluntary basis. They came together soon after John Peel’s death and are committed to not only keeping his memory alive but also to keeping the essence of what his life’s work was all about alive. Dandelion Radio provides a unique listening experience, skipping around every music genre you can imagine & keeping the focus almost exclusively on music ‘of the moment’ made by people around the world (but mainly in the UK) who are totally passionate about their art.
I treat Dandelion in the same way I used to treat John Peel’s show. I always record the whole of the looping schedule (or the 10-15 individual DJ’s shows anyway) at the start of the month then work my way back through it during the rest of the month, usually at least twice. You tend to get around about twenty-odd hours of new shows each month which loop till the start of the next month. Their DJs all have their own styles and all play different kinds of music. Some are more ‘difficult’ (where ‘difficult’ is a matter of individual taste obviously; personally I find the kind of mainly white, mainly guitar driven, mainly male bands that used to dominate the festive 50 difficult) to listen to than others so if you don’t like the first DJ you hear chances are you’ll like the second. Or the third. I definitely implore anyone who used to listen to and enjoy John Peel to spend a few hours listening to Dandelion if you aren’t already. Oh, and having just mentioned the festive 50, Dandelion radio is now its official home.
Second: Radio 23 (2): ÃÂ A “freeform radio station dedicated to providing an international artistic platform for innovative and creative home broadcasters”. Most of the DJ’s are pretty good so just take a chance and tune in. Having said that I’d particularly like to draw your attention to Zaph Mann’s show on Friday evening, 8-10. Unfortunately it clashes for one hour with Tom Ravenscroft’s 6Music show but fortunately you can stream or download his show at a later date (3). Once you know the the name of his show is ‘In Memory Of John Peel’ you know you’re in safe hands.
Third: Rinse Fm (4). I’m guessing most of you who like your music electronic will be well aware of the wonder that is Rinse FM. It’s been going since 1994 and was operating as a pirate radio station until at long last it was awarded a community radio license last year. It’s got a quite flabbergasting list of quality DJs from the world of electronic music and there is definitely no way I’m going to single out one for special attention. I just turn it on whenever I’m in the mood for some bassy beats. Or whenever I want to bug the guy downstairs with vibrating ceilings/walls (not really) To steal a line from Pinch’s Tectonic label’s MO ‘Music to make your chest rattle’.
Fourth: Resonance Radio (5). They aren’t exclusively a music radio station but have a lot of really cool music shows on their station. They have “regular weekly contributions from nearly two hundred musicians, artists, thinkers, critics, activists and instigators”.
Fifth: Seeks Music (6). Just as Dandelion Radio was born from the loss of John Peel from our airwaves so Seeks Music was dreamed up into existence when it seemed likely that 6Music was going to be axed. As we all now know 6Music was saved, but despite that the founding folks of Seeks Music decided they still had something to contribute to the world of music. Personally I actually think their output is superior to that of 6Music. But don’t take my word for it, go see for yourselves. I find the best way to keep abreast of what they’re offering is to follow them on Mixcloud and get email or RSS updates of when new shows are posted. (7)
Sixth: Samurai FM (8): is worth a listen too. My attention was drawn to it by one of Dandelion Radio’s newer DJs (Paul Ackroyd) who has a show on it called Kamikazi. (9) Their brief is to “feature the freshest sounds from the international scene, not limited to a narrow range of music, we promote everything that is good; new and exciting, or old and timeless.” Which sounds like a pretty good brief to me.
Seventh: Passion Radio (10): Local internet radio stations are brilliant. I live in Bristol and can heartily recommend Passion Radio. It’s also good if you don’t live in Bristol as it’s an internet radio station so you have access to it anywhere you can get online. There’s a particularly great show that I never miss on Monday evenings called Sufferah’s Choice (11), DJ’d by DJ Stryda. It focusses on reggae as you’d expect from one half of Dubkasm.
Eight: Reel Rebels Radio (12): Your 24/7 Local/Global Community Radio Station. If you can’t find the show you want they encourage you to put one together and they’ll air it. It’s a London based community radio station.
Ninth: Amazing Radio (13): “The only national radio station dedicated exclusively to playing emerging and independent music”Â is what they claim. They’ve recently signed Bethan Elfyn and Gill Mills to their roster of DJs, both of whose shows are worth tuning into. Between them they cover the weekday early evening slot.
Tenth: NTSLive (14): A London Community based radio station that recently took to the airwaves and features some excellent DJs. NTSLive aims to “fill a void in the community of musically minded progressive thinking people in London. NTSlive is a unique platform for inspired people to present their findings, passions & obsessions.”Â Probably not fair to single out any one DJ but I’m going to anyway: Alex Chase’s show to be precise. His show’s archived on Soundcloud after airing, so if you visit NTSLive’s website and search for ”ËThe New Jerusalem’ (or just Alex Chase) you’ll find the sound cloud player embedded waiting for you to click play.
Eleventh: Domino Radio (15): I don’t think any subject has filled up my twitter stream quite so much as the launch of Domino radio did. Which probably tells you more about my twitter stream than it does about Domino Radio but it certainly seemed to be bigged up by an awful lot of people in the music world. I’m guessing this is because it’s DJs seemed to exclusively come from within the music industry as opposed to, say, Dandelion Radio where the DJ’s are listeners to and fans of music. If only Dandelion could get half the publicity that Domino received I’m sure, their audience would double. Having said all that there were some excellent shows on Domino, as you would hope from a station that aims to “draw on the spirit of the John Peel Show, Radio Caroline & Rinse FM”Â. Again it’s based in London and ran for a week. All the shows have been archived (16) for you to listen when it pleases and include, as most of you will be (should be) aware, a show from Louder Than War’s very own John Robb about the ‘Death To Trad Rock’ artists he wrote about in excellent book of the same that was published in 2009. (17)
I don’t know where to start with podcasts. A lot of the above internet stations release podcasts as do a lot of the radio shows in the next section. There are hundreds of Podcasts around and all I can do is run down a list some of my favourites. Again, these are in no particular order:
First: Density of Sound (18). @densityofsound (Matthew Jones) has left comments on various blogs around @louderthanwar’s site so you may already be familiar with his podcast. If you like “Awesome slices of sonic variety” (and who doesn’t?) this is the place to go. He also is one of the Dandelion Radio DJs.
Second: Independent Music Podcast (19). This podcast used to start with a recording of John Peel which, again, immediately suggests you’re in safe hands. It’s compiled/DJ’d by Gareth Main and Anthony Chalmers. It focuses on some of the weeks/fortnights/months best, mostly (almost exclusively indeed) independent releases. There’s also a chance they’ll throw in a few wonderful oddities or curiosities from olden times. There hasn’t been an IMP for a few weeks on account of a wedding and honeymoon but hopefully it will now swing back into production. I think I heard a rumour they were taking the podcast to the above mentioned NTSLive radio station which would be great as it would pin them down to definitely having to do a show weekly.
Third: New Noise Podcast (20) Put together by Jon Hillcock this podcast also focusses on the best new releases of the previous week (or 10 days or whatever). It’s pretty much up to the minute and (sometimes) has an accompanying mailout featuring the weeks releases and London gigs. Which you need to sign up for on Jon’s website). It’s kind of what I wish 6Music would be like and isn’t, although Jon has been known to dep for various 6Music DJ’s like the Tom’s Robinson and Ravenscroft. And he invariably does an excellent job whenever he does.
Fourth: Electronic Explorations (21). This is one of the longer running podcasts out there. It recently celebrated its 150th edition, comes out weekly and features 90 minutes of some of the best electronic sounds out there. It’s orchestrated by Rob Booth who claims it consists of “, a deviously crafted patchwork of carefully sewn rhythms, sonic contortions and delicate melodies”. His claim is accurate. It features Dubstep, UK Bass, techno and anything else that’s pushing the boundaries of electronic music.
Fifth: Low End Theory Podcast (22). More electronic sounds from LA’s foremost hub of “forward thinking & future sounding”Â electronic artists. Each month they feature one guest DJ and one of the low end theory’s resident DJs.
Sixth: The Line Of Best Fit (23). Another monthly podcast focussing mainly on the more indie side of music released each month.
Seventh: The Quietus (24) ÃÂ Our sister site also do an occasional but always great podcast which they upload to Mixcloud & which they claim “puts your ears through their paces”. I don’t know about you but my ears like being put through their paces.
Eighth: Boiler Room (23): Another long running electronic music podcast, again out of London.
Ninth: Loud and Quiet (24): Not only is it the best old fashioned “ink on your fingers after reading it” music rag out there but they also do an occasional & brilliant short sharp podcast of all that’s excellent in the world of music. I’m probably mainly mentioning them in order to give the mag itself a plug as it is brilliant. It’s surprising how many artists I first read about here and who soon everyone’s talking about. You can either pick it up for free from your local Independent record store or you can support them by subscribing from the website (25) and paying a little. (I actually find it works out cheaper to subscribe. If I pop into a record shop to pick up a copy I’ll inevitably wind up buying lots of music too).
3. Good Old Fashioned Radio:
When I began hunting for Peel replacements the first place I turned too was 6Music. I’d heard it was the place old Peel fans went to after he died. I know 6Music has an awful lot of fans & generally speaking I think it’s a better world with 6Music in it than without, but I must confess I became seriously disenchanted with what I was hearing there. I must have given it a couple of months listening pretty heavily and soon concluded that, frankly, if I hear one more person suggest 6Music is the station Peel would’ve fashioned had he been given free reign to create a radio station, then I would proper scream. This is from 6Music’s ‘service remit’ (26)
“…6 Music must ensure that no more than 30% of all music played each year is new.”
That means more than 70% must be old music. Peel may have played the occasional Pigs big 78 but essentially what he was all about was new music. Then of course Peel would’ve also hated 6 Music’s playlists, the celebrity DJs, the gimmicky features, the chit chat. I could go on but this isn’t really isn’t the blog within which to do so. But anyway, 6Music isn’t totally bereft of worth because it has several excellent shows the best of which are:
First: 6 Music (27) : Tom Ravenscroft. (28) I don’t know how he got to do a show on his terms rather than having to stick to playlists and “at least 70% old music” but I’m glad he did. Anyway he definitely has the highest new music to old music ratio of any 6Music DJ and probably the lowest chitchat to music ratio. (And what chit chat he does get drawn into he often apologises for afterwards so that’s ok). There’s also the entertaining ‘bird of the week’ feature which I quite enjoy as it gives me something to talk to my Dad about whenever I ring him. Rather than being tied to playlists Tom has free reign to play what he wants, almost always new music. Plus he has an invariably wonderful guest mix by someone from the world of music each week. It’s almost as though he felt guilty being allowed to play all his own choices of music so decided to give away part of his show to other people. It’s a great idea and often the highlight of his show, or so you’d believe if you took Tom’s word for it. The quality of music he plays is truly astonishing & is definitely one of the highlights of my week.
(An aside: I’d definitely encourage anyone who thinks Tom’s show is the best thing on 6Music to check out Dandelion Radio, there’s often quite a bit of overlap between the shows and one of Dandelion’s DJs, Marcelle, also did one of Tom’s guest mixes).
Also on 6Music of course is Tom Robinson (29) who does a good ‘Introducing’ show Sat/Sun & Sun/Mon nights/mornings. The other 6Music DJ I usually listen too is Don Letts Culture Clash (30) show. He does play a smattering of old tunes but what old tunes he does play are invariably excellent. If I had my way the BBC would put Jools out to pasture and give Don his job on Later. Contrary to popular belief Mr Letts is about much more than just reggae/dub and I would suggest his is in contention for the title “most eclectic radio show on BBC radio at the moment”. Unfortunately like all the best BBC radio shows he’s shoved off into the nethermost regions of the schedule, in his case midnight till 1am Sat & Sun (or is it Sun & Mon?).
Second: On The Wire (30) Proving that these aren’t in order of my preference I bring you On The Wire, my second or third favourite music show anywhere. Those of you who used to listen to Peel for years will, I’m sure, remember Peel talking about Steve Barker and his Radio Lancashire show. I remember being very jealous of people who lived in Manchester and could listen too it back before the internet entered our (or my anyway) lives. You can listen to it now live online from anywhere (Indeed Steve Barker records his half of the show from Beijing). It began in 1984 & has a brilliant signature tune specially written/recorded by Adrian Sherwood, the shows first guest. Now the show consists of one hour DJ’d by Steve who focusses on reggae, electronic music and other oddities followed by an hour from Manchester presented by a ‘Jim’ and a ‘Fenny’ who play lots of the best current music around, occasionally highlighting Manchester bands but usually just playing the best music the world’s got to offer that week. It’s often the first place I hear tracks/albums that other DJs pick up on later. It’s also available on the iPlayer but I find the way I prefer to listen to it is to subscribe by RSS then download the podcast (31). I should point out it has one week out of every four dedicated to a specialist ‘Funkology’ show. It isn’t representative of the usual On The Wire shows but is also good. I’d definitely encourage you to listen to both the usual show & the funk show. From the podcast link below (32) you can get all the old shows so try a few out.
Third: Radio 1 (33). A lot of people think as soon as they reach 25 Radio 1 isn’t for them. Indeed, Radio 1’s controller (Andy Parfitt) seems to be dedicating his time there to trying to make his station the preserve of the under 25s by axing DJs as soon as they get to what he deems ‘too old’. There are, however, some amazing shows on Radio 1. Most of the best shows are between the hours of midnight-4am admittedly but that obviously doesn’t matter thanks to the wonderful iplayer. Mike Davies (34) punk show on Monday night is excellent, as are the shows by (deep breath), Nihal (35), Giles Peterson (36), Huw Stephens’ Introducing Show(37), Benji B’s brilliant electronica show (38), Pete Tong (39), Kutski (40), Mr Rob Da Bank (41) and Annie Nightingale (42). To name but a few. And there’s also the Introducing ‘In the Nations’ show on Sunday morning’s which, for those of us in England, rotates around the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland shows, one each week. Vic Galloway (43), Rory McConnell (44) and Jen Long (45) present these and they are all available to listen again to via the iplayer.
Fourth: Radio 1 Xtra (46). I should listen to more Radio 1Xtra so if anyone would like to point me in the direction of some of the best shows on 1Xtra in the comments below I’d be grateful. I will, however point out the dancehall shows (47) that play Weds night through to Thurs. And Mistajam (48) has a great dubstep/bassheavy show on Saturday evening.
Fifth: Kiss. (49) I only listen to the one show off Kiss FM. No one who loves music should go a week without hearing arguably the best DJ there is in the world now. David ‘Ramjam’ Rodigan. Go to the link below (50), subscribe by RSS and never miss another show by the great man. He played Sonar this year and if you search the internet you can find video’s of him amazing the Spanish audience. Also he’s coming to Radio 2 in a week or so for a series of reggae shows.
Sixth: XFM (51). XFM have some shows worth a listen. Probably more than I’m aware of in fact. As I’m sure most of you know Mary Anne Hobbs is soon to return to the national airwaves of XFM on a Saturday afternoon. Which is obviously brilliant. I seem to remember writing on a previous LTW blog that I was hoping she’d return to our ears in some form this year and by golly here she is doing just that. Also well worth listening too on XFM is John Kennedy’s (52) highly regarded weekday evenings (Mon-Thurs) X-posure show.
Seventh: Local BBC Radio. Your local radio station has an BBC introducing show each week. In Bristol it’s on Saturday mornings at 1am (53).
Eighth: Radio 3 (54). My main source of world music. Ever since Peel first started playing The Bhundhu Boys I’ve been totally hooked on world music. World on 3 (55) is one of my favourite radio listens. Unfortunately it clashes with an hour of Tom Ravenscroft (at the other end to the hour of In Memory Of John Peel that clashed with Tom’s show). It’s been granted an extra 15 mins for Summer so is now a 2 hour program running from 11 till 1. It is invariably brilliant and, in its own way, totally eclectic. Lucy Duran also has a show called World Routes which is on Saturday afternoon and clashes with nothing. (56).
Also brilliant on Radio 3 is one of the most eclectic show on radio anywhere, Late Junction (57). It’s on Tues-Thurs, also 11 till 1. “Surprising, revealing, accessible. Brilliantly programmed – a show where the real star is the music”. Its four presenters play folk, electronica, classical, world music, jazz and all sorts. If one of the DJs schedule doesn’t float your boat try another night as they all have their own favourite kinds of music and styles of playing. I go to bed and usually drift off to sleep listening to it (under the covers with headphones on for old times sake).
Ninth: BBC Asian Network (58): As with R1 Xtra I’m absolutely convinced there are some great shows on here but don’t know what they are. Please advise in the comments below if you are in a position to do so.
Tenth: Terry Christian’s Northener’s With Attitude (59): I only know about this as it was mentioned in Louder Than War a few days ago. I haven’t listened to it yet but if it gets a thumbs up from John it must be good I reckon.
Eleventh: Can’t confirm this as I’ve never listened to it but if we’re to believe the judges of the Sony Awards Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 show is the best music programme on the whole of radio in the whole of the UK. (Sarcasm. Natch).
I think that’s it. Probably I’ve forgotten lots of other things that I listen to and undoubtedly there are lots of other radio shows/podcasts that I totally am unaware of. My hope is that everyone will find at least one new source of music here.
If there’s anything I’ve missed let us know in the comments please.
1. Dandelion Radio:
2. Radio 23
3. Zaph Mann’s In Memory Of John Peel
4. Rinse Fm
5. Resonance Radio
6. Seeks Music:
7. Seeks Music Mixcloud:
8. Samurai fm
10: Passion Radio
11. Sufferah’s Choice
12. Reel Rebels Radio
13. Amazing Radio
15. Domino: http://dominorad.io/
16. Domino Archive
18. Density Of Sound
19. Independent Music Podcast
20. New Noise
21. Electronic Explorations
22. Low End Theory Podcast
23. The Line Of Best Fit
24. The Quietus Podcast
23. Boiler Room
24. Loud and Quiet Podcast: http://www.loudandquiet.com/category/podcast/
25. Loud and Quiet subscription
26. 6 Music’s Service Remit
27. 6 Music
28. Tom Ravenscroft
29. Tom Robinson
30. Culture Clash
31. On The Wire
32. On The Wire Podcast
33. Radio 1
34. Mike Davies
36. Giles Peterson
37. Huw Stephens
38. Benji B
39. Pete Tong
41. Rob Da Bank
42. Annie Nightingale
43. Intoducing In Scotland
44. Intoducing In Northern Ireland
45. Intoducing In Wales
46. Radio 1Xtra
49. Kiss FM
50. David Rodigan
52. Jon Kennedy
53. Bristol Introducing
54. Radio 3
55. World on 3
56. World Routes
57. Late Junction
58. Asian Network
59. Northerner’s With Attitude