Another Flares n Seagulls exclusive with new music, broadcasting and twitter extraordinaire Jim Gellatly, taking time from his new band consulting service to talk everything from new talent, Aberdeen and rowies. With experience second to none in the broadcasting world, this new music titan has cemented himself as a musical national treasure and is rapidly making the coloured mohawk the haircut of 2010. JustBoy57 gets the short straw yet again.
So Jim, what led you into music at the very beginning (as opposed to fitba!)?
I was sent to boarding school when I was about 12, and had little interest in music until I was bullied for having a Beatles album. I started listening to punk rock soon afterwards. If anything the exclusion and misery that I felt in my early days at the school forged my tastes both politically and musically. I edited a socialist fanzine, an interesting concept at a well-heeled Scottish public school, and discovered Bowie, Sex Pistols, Adam & The Ants, Bauhaus, The Smiths, Anti Nowhere League & The Jesus And Mary Chain. Interestingly a few of my contemporaries at Strathallan School ended up in the media… Scottish Sun editor David Dinsmore, Rick Fulton from The Daily Record and BBC Scotland Westminster correspondent Tim Reid… while Dominik Diamond (who was in the year below me) still claims that I helped forge his musical tastes years before we ended up working together at Xfm Scotland.
Was broadcast journalism always something you wanted to get into throughout your teenage years?
I think it was either journalism or hotel management, but have never really been a journalist. I did a media studies thing at Perth College as I was too thick to get onto the two journalism courses I applied for.
Am I right in saying you began at Moray Firth Radio in the late 80s as a volunteer?
Yup. Went there for a couple of weeks work experience, and stayed for 3 years. It still amazes me how many people remember the shows I did there. It was a brilliant training ground, and I’ve so many great memories.
Was this something that had to be done at this stage in your career to almost get your feet up the ladder or was it a real labour of love without thinking too far ahead?
I suppose my dad would have funded my further education had I got into Uni or whatever, so a labour of love yes, but it wouldn’t have been possible without parental support. Sadly there are fewer and fewer similar opportunities now for folk trying to break into radio, and networking is destroying the soul of local radio.
You then moved to Northsound One here in Aberdeen. Tell us a bit about your time in the Granite City. I think you maybe even dj’ed a few nights in my current workplace Exodus and even sold some records in One Up?
Yeah, it was just Northsound when I arrived, and I finally got a nightly show when it split into Northsound 1 and Northsound 2. I originally did a Friday night show called Different Wavelengths. It was very much an alternative show, with a smattering of local acts (not that there that many in those days… incredible I know!). The weeknight show I did (The Vibe) was a bit more pop focussed, and I’d have interviews with the likes of Boyzone, Take That, Peter Andre, Michelle Gayle… I also did the first ever regional radio interview with The Spice Girls. Different Wavelengths morphed into a Sunday night show called Transmission, which allowed me to continue my passion for new music and indie/alternative stuff. Lots of DJing as well… Bonkers/The Palace, Exodus, Cafe Drummond, Memphis, The Pelican, Glow 303/The Works. I also did the Express Sounds column in the Evening Express, and not forgetting a wee stint behind the counter at One-Up when Fred and the gang were still in Diamond St.
Aberdeen bands, The Xcerts, Copy Haho, The Little Kicks and Cast of the Capital to name but a few have all appeared on your radio shows/pod casts over the last couple of years. What do you think of the current crop of bands coming out of the Granite City?
I think the bands now have managed to have a larger profile than more of the acts I was touting back in the 90s. I do think it was a bit more parochial then, with Sunfish (Geneva) the only band that really made any major breakthrough. That doesn’t mean there weren’t some great bands kicking around, and I’ve got fond memories of The Lorelei, The Dreaming/Tinderbox, The Dawntreaders, One God Universe, The Mighty Human Generator, Yellow Car, Loveless, Thee Excerpts, Cherry 2000… gosh, I’m going to have a tear in my eye at this rate! I certainly keep an eye on what’s happening now, and the likes of The Xcerts and Copy Haho are certainly better placed to move on to the next level than most of my old favourites.
Any you feel could and should have gone further, but didn’t?
Cherry 2000 were exactly my sort of band, and Roddy the singer was an amazing frontman… a mouthy weegie. They could have been the new Manic Street Preachers.
You are renowned for getting in on the act early, and are credited for being the first to drop the likes of Biffy Clyro, The Enemy and The View into mainstream Scottish radio. What’s your magic formula behind being such a knowledgeable man of new music?
If you play enough shit, something good is bound to get through! No secret really, just knowing when I like something.
Over the years you have met a number of famous faces. What’s been some of your favourite guests on your show? And perhaps some of the worst?!
Fish, Billy Bragg and Ricky Ross have proved awkward customers on occasion, but my later experiences with them are more than positive. I interviewed Trent Reznor at King Tuts around the time of Pretty Hate Machine, and he as lovely. I bumped into him in the street in London a couple of weeks later and he invited me to that night’s Nine Inch Nails gig. I once interviewed Jack Bruce from Cream without knowing who he was, and on another occasion Alan Rankine from The Associates… or at least I thought it was Alan Rankine… it was actually Allan Dumbreck, like Rankine though, a music college lecturer. It was a live interview!
Any amusing stories that you can reveal to the readers of Flares n Seagulls?
Paz at the Pelican Club was always a hoot. I did a night there with live bands and he made up this poster with a list of bands “coming soon”. I’m pretty sure most of them were never booked… Suede with the hot new hope at the time, so they were on the poster. They never did play. I heard that the KLF were once billed at the Pelican, but a couple of guys just got up on stage in KLF Klu Klux Klan style costumes.
You are currently undertaking a new project as a music/band consultant, event and gig host and a DJ under the moniker Jim Gellatly’s New Music Service. Could you tell the FnS readers a little bit about this new venture?
Spend most of my time online answering questions via email and social networking, so figured I might as well hire myself out as a consultant. Wish I could do it for free, but have to keep the wolf from the door… and to be honest his howl is getting louder by the day.
Is this the future for Jim Gellatly, or is your heart set on hitting the airwaves once again on National radio?
To be honest I think everything else I do sort of relies on me having some sort of presence on the radio. Radio has lost a lot of good people who’ve moved on to become lecturers or whatever. I think I’ve still got something to offer, and hopefully it won’t be too long before the phone rings again!
I am currently writing a dissertation for my final year on free music and how it affects the music industry. I assume that everyday you are bombarded with free music from bands attempting to make it. Can free music have a positive impact on the success of a band?
Give it 10 years and all music will be free(ish). Spotify has set the precident, and further down the line, perhaps through our phone tariff or broadband, we’ll all have access to a huge catalogue of music. It’s not that difficult to get your music onto digital platforms (take a bow the Glasgow based operation EmuBands), so its easier than ever for folk to get their music out there. Limited runs wouldn’t have made much money anyway, but free is a delicate issue. The money’s going to be made elsewhere in future… like merch, synching or live shows, so I think there are some interesting times ahead.
When DJ’ing do you keep it real and still use vinyl when you can or does MP3’s now rule the modern day music world?
Not quite laptop yet, but I ditched the vinyl over 10 years ago. To be honest most of the stuff I play isn’t on vinyl anyway, but I do burn CDs from MP3 rather than play them out digitally. I’d be fucked if my hard-drive crashes despite having 2 external back-ups.
You are an avid user of social networking sites such as Twitter and you also write your own blog. How important are these sort of sites for up and coming bands, as well as up and coming journalists to almost get their name out there as such?
Billy from the AberdeenEvents Guide (and formally with The Mighty Human Generator) was spot on when he recently advised me that I need to consolidate my social networking. I was (and still am) all over the place, but at least I can now point everyone to http://www.jimgellatly.com/. It’s a glorified blog, but it’s all I need. I think MySpace is still an important tool, but it’s losing its usefulness for networking with fans. I have a Bebo account but hardly ever check it, but I love Twitter. Facebook is probably the most useful though… but things change so quickly. I’ve just got on Google Buzz, but haven’t got the point of it yet, and I’ve already given up on Google Wave. Much like MySpace was hijacked as the vital music network, something else will be along, and some bright spark will discover its true potential.
In April 2008 you received a Radio Academy PRS John Peel Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music Radio. How much influence did the man himself play in shaping your career?
I enjoyed listening to the show, and would sit with the pause button on recording particular sessions, but the evening slot on Radio 1, that later become The Evening Session had more impact on me… presenters like Kid Jenson and Janice Long. I was also a big fan of Rock On Scotland/Beat Patrol on Radio Scotland. These shows had more of a direct influence on me.
2010 is already shaping up to be a brilliant year for live music in Scotland, with Hinterland and Rockness already looking exciting. Who are Jim Gellatly’s ones to look out for in 2010?
Kid Adrift, The Boy Who Trapped The Sun & GoGoBot are particular turn-ons at the moment.
Home straight now Jim, what are your five desert island tracks?
Time Zone – World Destruction
We Free Kings – Death Of The Wild Colonial Boy
The Associates – Club Country
Erland & The Carnival – Trouble In Mind
Age Of Chance – Kiss
(but that list would be different if you asked again tomorrow!)
Do you miss rowies?
Damn right… a healthy slice of buttery roll. Bet they do a low-fat version now? Tut tut.
And finally, your favourite flavour of crisps?
Cheese & Onion or Seabrook Prawn Cocktail.
Thanks for your time Jim and hopefully this won’t be your last contribution to Flares n Seagulls.