RAP: You are talking about Z100 in New York.
Eddy: That's right. Well, I say "we worship." I'm going to change that to past tense; we used to worship. They suck now. They obviously have some new PD in there because they've completely changed, and they're apologizing for the fact that they were so cool. They've put these promos on the air.... I'm sorry. I'm going off on a bit of a tangent here, but it's something that is very close to my heart because they've been such an inspiration to us. They've got promos running at the moment which are saying, "We're sorry we sounded like this for a while," you know, then there's a clip of really cool music. "Everybody has their flaws," direct quote, "but now we're back to good old safe music," and then they have a clip of Alanis Morissette and a clip of Madonna and a clip of some other turgid chart bullet. And they're not playing any cool music. There's no more new music. The line, "New York's New Music First" which inspired us for the line which is now legendary here, "Radio 1, the U.K.'s New Music First," they're not doing that anymore.
That's a sort of salient point, really, because we challenge people. We're not listener led. If we got less listeners it wouldn't matter, because we're the BBC. We're supposed to be supplying something you can't get anywhere else. Z100 was doing that, but because, obviously, they haven't got enough listeners, they're having to change to play all the chart stuff and not challenge people. So thank God for the BBC, really, when I look at cases like that.
RAP: How many promos would you say you and Jeremy produce in a week?
Eddy: In a given week, we'll produce between thirty and forty promos. It is a sausage factory, but we get creative carte blanche to do whatever we want. Now some of the promos are kind of the same from week to week. Because we've got to make so many of them, we have promos which have a given top and a tail and a given bed, and they might rotate with the trailer that we have to make every day turning around clips of the breakfast show saying, "This is what you missed this morning and it's back tomorrow at seven." It's always got the same bed underneath, and it's always the same kind of format with the clips. So we're not talking about forty brand new scripts every week, but we're talking about forty promos, of which many will be brand new scripts and completely new ideas.
RAP: You mentioned the morning show having an audience of eight million people. What size audience does all of Radio 1 have and what area is covered?
Eddy: Our audience is almost fourteen million. We cover the whole of the U.K. plus Europe on satellite. We don't mention that on air, but you can get us on satellite in Europe. And you can get us in Ireland, but obviously we don't shout about it on air.
RAP: Tell us about the production studios.
Eddy: As I said, there are two of us, Jeremy and myself, and we have a studio each. The BBC has a different word for everything, and the BBC calls them woffices, office with a "w" because it is a workstation/office. They are studios, but they're not soundproofed, beautifully sculpted, no parallel lines mixing booths that you'd get in a proper studio. They're basically offices with nominal acoustic treatment on the walls, and then some pretty nice kit. We've got the brand new Soundcraft Spirit desk which is a 24-channel desk, and we've got the new ProTools IV. And we've got some outboard gear, the usual kind of stuff. We've got a Rane compressor and a couple of SPX1000s, the Eventide H3000 Harmonizer, and your usual CDs and MiniDiscs and DAT. It's a fairly simple setup, but for what we're doing, it's perfect.
RAP: Once something is produced, does it go to analog tape or does it stay in the digital domain?
Eddy: It stays in the digital domain, thank God, but only in the last few months. We were the last big station to de-cart, and we've gone to MiniDisc now.
RAP: It seems that most stations in the U.S. that are converting to digital playback in the on-air studios are going with a hard disk based system. Why did Radio 1 choose the MD format?
Eddy: We will do the hard disk format, Master Control and Linker, in the future, but it wouldn't have been worth us forking out all that money for Master Control last year. The all new Master Control system and Linker is going to come out, and I think we'll be going with that in the next two years. But at the moment, we're going step by step, and in the BBC, everything takes a long time. MiniDisc is the latest step.
Just to show you how difficult it is sometimes to get these things done, Chris Evans, who is our most notorious breakfast show personality--he's probably the highest paid entertainer in British media--when we told him we wanted to get him on MiniDisc, he just threw his arms in the air and went, "No, no, I want carts. I've always had carts. I don't want to go to MiniDiscs." And we said, "Look, you've got to." We took the cart players away from the studio and put in all MiniDiscs, and, well, he can afford to do this. He put every single jingle on a separate MiniDisc so that they behave like carts. So he's got about seventy-three minutes and fifty seconds of spare recording time on each MiniDisc. And he's got racks and racks and racks of colored MiniDiscs in his studio, thousands of pounds worth of MiniDiscs, and he could get away with two of them.
RAP: MiniDisc uses data compression to get that much time on such a small disc. Can you hear the difference the compression makes?
Eddy: Just, but that's with a trained ear. A normal person couldn't.
RAP: What difference do you hear?
Eddy: It's just a tiny bit more clipped.
RAP: How many people are employed at Radio 1?
Eddy: About fifty people all in all, but then a lot of our production is out of house.
RAP: Really? What production do you farm out?
Eddy: About forty percent of our output is out of house, which is how my job comes in. I have to tie them all up and make them all sound like they're coming out of the same building. That's what Jeremy and I have to do. That's another slant of our job. We have people like Ginger Productions to do the breakfast show, Tip Top Productions who supplies us with a lot of great stuff, Wise Buddha.... They're all really good external production companies who make us programs, and we have to help them and do whatever we can to make them sound part of the same network.
RAP: So the external companies are producing a lot of the material for the individual shows on Radio 1.
Eddy: They are producing the entire shows. That's what is happening. I mean, our breakfast show--this is unprecedented--our breakfast show is an independent production. Their only link really with the station is me and Jeremy.
RAP: That's quite a responsibility, to make sure they are producing the material with the same style that fits Radio 1.
Eddy: Yeah. Sometimes the individual show's style is so different from the network, but that's what makes them so good. We just have to make sure that they say "Radio 97 to 99 FM Radio 1" at the end of their trailers and at the end of their promos and ident the station in their own way.
Tip Top is probably going to be heading for you in the States in the next year or so. You'll be in on the joke, but they are completely different from the new Radio 1. All their programs sound like old, really old Radio 1 programs, like the sixties and seventies programs. But that is the joke. And, obviously, we don't want them to sound like we do now, but we want them to sound like it's coming out of this building. Tip Top is part of our comedy strand in the evenings from nine to ten. In the weekdays we have comedy shows an hour long, and Radio Tip Top is one of the most successful of these comedy strands.
RAP: Are you writing the promos for the shows?
Eddy: Yes. Absolutely. Write, produce, commission the voices, then edit, put together, mix and deliver.