JV: Before we move on to Capital, tell us a bit more about the consulting that you were doing for the station in Germany. On what level was this, production, or programming?
Arden: I was actually introduced to them through a programming consultant I know called Simon Mumford. He is still their programming consultant to this day. He’s done a lot of work with them, sort of building their brand and honing their brand. But he identified fairly early on after he started working with them that they needed a little bit of help on the production side of things. So the consulting work that I do with them sort of involves developing the sound of their station and working a lot with the people on the ground there. In the whole time that I’ve worked with them, they’ve always had their own local producers. And rather than me just being a production service that delivers something to them once a month or once a week, I’ve spent a lot of time working with their local producers and giving them the skills, so if I do deliver them some bits of production once a month, then in the times in between, they have the skills to make things that will sit alongside that. So as well as doing the production work and working with the programming team there on developing their station sound, there’s been a fair amount of training there as well for the various producers they’ve had come through the ranks.
JV: How do you like teaching?
Arden: I quite enjoy that side of the job. I’ve been very lucky along the way to have learned from some excellent producers, starting with Mark Jennings and Brendan Taylor who I worked with at Today FM and Vicki Marr who I worked with at Nova 100 and Jeff Thomas along the way — I’ve spent some time learning from the master there. Having learned so much from those people and lots of other people that I’ve worked with along the way, it’s great to be able to pass on some of that knowledge and some of those skills to other producers. It’s especially interesting because my German is probably only passable enough to order me dinner in a restaurant and not much beyond that, and I realized that some of the truths about radio are quite universal, and they cross a lot of borders and a lot of boundaries, and there are things you can teach people about radio that aren’t reliant on what sort of language you speak. There are so many things you can teach people and that you can learn from people working in radio as well, because it is such an emotional medium that works on that emotional level and connects with people regardless of what language you’re talking at the time.
JV: Have you pursued teaching any further?
Arden: I’ve been lucky enough, at a couple of points in my career, to speak to radio classes in Australia about production. And at various other points, I’ve done sort of ad hoc work for other radio stations, training particular people. But probably my biggest job on that side of things has been the guys with Big FM in Germany. That’s certainly been my longest running kind of teaching gig, I suppose.
JV: Do you find any differences between UK radio and Australian radio?
Arden: I find quite a huge difference between UK radio and Australian radio actually. A lot of that is driven by music styles. Australian music taste is probably quite a lot closer to American music taste, obviously with Australian artists thrown in. If you look at the top 40 in America and the top 40 in Australia, you can see a lot of crossover between the two, and especially, I think Australians and Americans both sort of share that love of the big rock sound. Australia’s also embraced a lot of urban music that’s topping the charts in America at the moment.
One of the interesting things about moving to the UK is, while you still have some of that crossover, the UK has its own very unique sound as well. They still like the guitar in the UK, but it’s a different style of music. They’re probably a lot bigger on pop music in the UK as well. So that already kind of changes the way you approach imaging to a certain extent.
There’s another thing that I really noticed, coming from Australia and going to the UK. At the core of Australian radio, even before you get into building a promo and creating a great sound and a great image for the radio station, you sort of start off with this kind of dry Australian sense of humor as the backbone for it. It took a little while to sort of switch my thinking across to the UK where it starts off a little bit more in the beginning with those basics of making really great sounding radio imaging and the imaging that jumps out of the speakers, beginning at that point rather than beginning from the more relaxed and humorous side that Australian imaging does.
JV: What are your responsibilities there at Capital?
Arden: Well, there’s James Stodd who’s the head of production and me as the senior imaging producer, and we share a lot of the imaging responsibilities for the radio station. Capital is set up in such a way that neither of us take responsibility for particular shows or particular day parts. We’re in contact pretty much on a daily basis, talking about which particular things each of us has the skills to attack best. We’re also quite lucky that our breakfast show and our drive show and our night show all have a support staff working with them as well, people that have some great basic technical skills as well. We’ve got guys on the ground for each of the shows that can focus on things like cutting up interviews and packaging up small bits of content, and that allows the production team to focus just on imaging and branding the radio station.
So I spend probably the majority of my day sitting in a studio and thinking how can I make Capital sound great today, and that’s been pretty much my job description from day one, and that’s the way I continue approaching it.
JV: That sounds great. It sounds like you’re not overwhelmed, and you have time to create some great radio. Would you agree?
Arden: Yeah, I’ve been quite lucky since I’ve been at Capital. While it gets very busy at times, there’s always been enough support around that you never feel like you’re chasing your tail. You’ve always got enough time to stop and think for a moment about what’s the best way of approaching something, which is nice – it doesn’t always happen in radio. A lot of the time in radio, and at a lot of the stations I’ve been at, you spend so much time working just to sort of clear your “In” tray of everything that’s coming in, and it’s nice to be at a radio station where part of the brief is building enough time into your day to think about what you can do to make the station sound great every day.