So strictly speaking this is not exactly an interview, infact it is not exactly anything. Prior to the ‘Young Love’ success the Mystery Jets played at Bar42, my old Uni bar in a very rough part of Birmingham- think the SU bar in Hollyoaks if the cast had all had terrible facial accidents that week.
After the performance I asked Kai what he’s favourite Britney Spears’ song was. He struggled with the answer and finally came out with this: “Baby one more time?”.
Wrong Answer Kai. I was leaning towards at least Toxic, granted Britney Spears might not be your cup of tea but if you are in the world of music you should at least muster “A Slave for You”. Can we also bear in mind that this conversation took place about a year ago- a year ago Britney had launced Blackout and was in and out of the papers with her dramatic rise and fall.
I simply cannot respect a man who’s favourite Britney Spears’ song is Baby One More Time. Men of the UK please remember this.
Written: March 08
THE MODERN SQUATTER
As the price of rent continues to increase by the annual 5% reporter Rosalind Brabner speaks to ex-‘professional’ squatter Andy Macdonald on how to cheat the rent.
It doesn’t have to be all crack dens and 70’s punk music. I mean it can be if you’re going for the authentic look but now for the 21st century squatter sky television is in and heroin needles are out. What you might not know about squatting is that it is still legal. By law squatters have the same rights as anyone else and you can’t even be evicted until the owner carries out the correct legal proceedings.
EX- squatter and writer Andy Macdonald* cheated rent payments for over 2 years, now a fully fledged rent paying citizen, (well a student) he recalls how he managed the scam the system for so long.
“I started squatting in the port city of Liverpool after a spell working for the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Collections Centre based in my home town of Birmingham. This experience, which coincided with the slow meltdown of a long term relationship, had nothing short of a devastating impact on my state of mind. I was left with a personality fragmented- I could not tell what was wrong or right, what was Stravinsky, Igor or Spears, Britney.”
Like most modern squatters Andy wasn’t breaking into an abandoned house, instead he found out about a vacated room and catered it. “The room proved comfortable for a number of months, if a tad perilous- it was dominated by an inconvenient fitted wardrobe. Thankfully this fitted wardrobe was chocca with an array of porn past on to me from the previous incumbent”.
Having moved back to the midlands and feeling dissatisfied with his parents new home in the suburbs of Birmingham, Andy’s second squatting experience was a room with a view. “I found myself a city centre pad located opposite the Birmingham City Council building I had recently gained employment within- as a data entry maestro for the ideologically sound Decent Homes team- dedicated to improving the living conditions of the City’s socially housed folk. So, essentially, it was all just a case of wonderful convenience.”
But after saving “shit loads” of money Andy marks being found out as his low point in his squatting career, “One morning I was lying in bed in my first Birmingham squatting residence, wondering what time I should crawl into the office I could probably spit at, when a knock went at the door. I ignored it but soon became worried and frantically began packing the little amount of belongings I had. Soon after a meat headed meat head opened the door with his skeleton key and I was rumbled”.
The advisory service for squatters suggests that to increase longevity of your stay send a letter addressed to yourself in your new home. The police will accept this as sufficient proof that you live there. The advisory service also recommend leaving a radio on and to keep a copy of the squatter’s legal warning by the door, because the owners may come round and try to repossess the place by pretending that they thought there was no-one living there.
Currently sporting a disheveled Bob Geldolf do’ I ask Andy whether the beard is his last link to his squatting days? “I was actually planning on crafting it into a George Michael tribute but as it happens I am a strong believer in beards, traditional squatters grow them to keep the remainders of their breakfast safe for afternoon tea”. Any other traditional squatter habits? “Squatting gave me ample time to consider the history of pop music and, indeed, the point of sound. After much brain wrestling, one thing remained true- the mercurial magic of May and Mercury, RIP Freddie.”
After saving himself an estimated £6000 worth of rent Andy now lives in rented accommodation in Mosely without a crack habit. “Do I miss squatting? Not really, do I miss the porn wardrobe? Absolutely!”
Back in November 2007 I was comissioned by channel 4’s 4talent to investigate the celebrity obsessed radio industry. I interviewed Kerrang! (West Midlands) radio’s breakfast presenters Kate Lawler and Tim Shaw to find out whether they thought radio presenting’s future is in the hands of reality tv stars and d-list celebrities.
Please note this interview took place before Tim Shaw decided to hammer the final nail in his already vunerable radio DJ career by fixing the shows comeptitions for mates.
More and more reality TV stars and d-list celebrities are turning to radio to resuscitate their media careers. Rosalind Brabner talks to the top dogs at Birmingham’s Kerrang! radio to find out whether this industry trend is damaging the chances of young radio hopefuls.
Like most aspects of the media industry the radio world is a highly desirable career path. Thousands of students graduate from radio specialist degrees each year in the UK, but thanks to our current celebrity-obsessed media is it possible that this talent is wasted in favour of a recognisable ‘name’?
Kelly Osborne, Goldie Lookin’ Chain and even z-listers like Richard and Leah from Big Brother are just a handful of examples that have used their fame to rule the airwaves. That’s not to say that there aren’t examples of new talent coming through in the industry: Radio One recently plucked UEA graduate, Greg James straight from the clutches of student radio, but is this just a unique case or is there room in the industry for more home grown talent?
“We looked at a lot of different options but the chemistry was so strong”
Midlands radio station Kerrang! made column inches recently when former Big Brother winner Kate Lawler was announced as the new co-presenter of the prime time breakfast slot along with controversial radio DJ Tim Shaw back in October.
Gordon Davidson, Programme Director of the rock music station admits “having a name is of interest” but stresses that it is the content that is paramount. “We looked at a lot of different options but the chemistry was so strong, they get on with each other and enjoy working together.”
“Big Brother did open a lot of doors, and I don’t think all the things would have happened otherwise”
Having dabbled in a number of media projects after her success on Big Brother, such as TV presenting and modelling, 27 year old Kate is certainly thankful: “Big Brother did open a lot of doors, and I don’t think all the things would have happened otherwise – I wouldn’t have tried to get into this industry”. But Kate explains her background as a reality television star hasn’t always helped her career. “There were a lot of times where people said ‘I can’t really employ her because of Big Brother’- but on the whole I’ve had really nice response.”
Kate’s co-host, 32 year old Tim Shaw believes that there is definitely room in the industry for new talent: “English radio is on its fookin’ arse big time, nobody is doing anything new”. Ranked third most controversial radio DJ of all time by an American broadcaster’s website, the father of two has been sacked or suspended from every station he has ever worked at, and says, “We need brighter people in commercial radio: it’s full of idiots”. With a first class degree himself from Ravensvourne in Kent, Tim believes there is a need for graduates in radio: “it just moves you forward- I think that it will weed out all the twaddle, and it shows you’re serious about it.”
“You need to really demonstrate your skills and professionalism to get noticed”
Like all careers in the media, success within the radio industry is at least partly determined by the amount of experience that you gain. Birmingham City University student Jay Dormer juggles his radio degree with working part time for Chrysilis radio at Heart 100.7 and Galaxy 102.2, believing “you need to really demonstrate your skills and professionalism to get noticed because there really is a lot of competition always on your back.”
Despite lacking notoriety as yet, Jay has a positive outlook for the future of his radio career: “There are loads of opportunities out there; I wouldn’t say I’ve so far found it really difficult to get into the industry.” And is he worried about the increase of known names in radio? “Going to university has given me skills that I can use to make a difference, a Z-list celebrity is more likely to turn up, squeeze their big head through the door and do a simple mindless job.”
“Some of the world’s best DJs are up their own arses”
Never short on opinions, Tim Shaw thinks “some of the world’s best DJs are up their own arses,” while Gordon Davidson on the other hand believes it’s important to “learn from those who’ve been around before” but stresses it can simply boil down to “a lot of luck.”
“Radio is full of dreadfully insecure people”, Tim says, and his best advice for people considering a career in the industry is therefore to “go away and ask yourself every day for a year if you really want to be in radio.” And if after that year they still want the same career? “Then hands on experience is better than anything.”
“Radio is full of dreadfully insecure people”
Having a ‘name’ is a clear headstart in any media career but it’s pretty obvious you need more than that to sustain yourself in the business.
Kate’s clearly one of the lucky ones – which is not to say she doesn’t have talent – but she admits doors have certainly opened for her due to her celebrity. But for every Kate Lawler there’s a Tim Shaw, and thanks to the likes of DAB radio and internet stations it’s getting easier for the next radio savior to have an impact on the airwaves.