March 15, 2005

Q96FM - Ten Years On

It was once Counties Radio, the gear was "borrowed" from Airport Radio, the frequency (95.8) leased from Mai FM, and as quick as it began to make money, traction, the papers - it was shut down. Only two people really know why, and they know who they are.

Q96 was my first 'proper' job in radio. There is a thread that begins to weave one into a sweater, which we wear throughout our chosen careers. Q96 for me, was a particuarly strong thread of string. It had a solid knot at the beginning, and despite its short length, got the ball rolling for me as a broadcaster.

Fond memories. Good people and lots of carts. Sfx on vinyl, a multitrack recorder, a mono desk, a temperamental cart player, no aircon, bare bones sales team, manual playlists, no budget, stolen clients, loose crosses, a preschoolers logo, minimal soundproofing... compromise evident everywhere. It looked like a student station (much like when The Generator 89FM in Hamilton first started) internally, but the output product was anything but. It preceded 'Soul FM 96.8' in South Auckland, and had a playlist that sat "between More, Classic Hits & i98". It was written on A4 paper, hung on the studio wall. Big songs of the day were "I Love The Nightlife '94" from Alicia Bridges, "All I Wanna Do" by Sheryl Crow, 4PM's "Sukiyaki" and others.

The people at Q96 really made for me, starting with Danny Wright, who took my phonecall and asked me to come in. I began the next day.
Danny showed me a prehistoric 8-channel multitrack mixer, how to record and playback, how the mixer worked and showed me the infamous sfx library. Danny became the memo 'king' at Q96, closely followed by Thane and Darrell. I worked with Danny a few years later at Coromandel FM, where I held nights and he did the breakfast show for 6 or so months, and he'd eased completely of memo-making by then (Warren Male still reigns as the 'Memo King'). Danny has kids now, which totally freaks me out.

Thane Kirby, was a rock for Q96. He sorted any problems, and still kept the environment fun, relaxed and offbeat. Thane later became the mastermind behind the very successful George FM, and subsequently launched Low Power broadcasting in New Zealand.

The original "Afternoon Breakfast with Thane & Danny" was where we all pissed ourselves daily at the "Crazy Question", today it was to Cairo. They rang a hotel, and tried to ask the clerk "how many pyramids in Egypt". Unfortunately, the satellite phone-delay had them playing "hello-tag", ending up in hysterics. Genius.

They both eventually moved to host Breakfast. On one weekend evening, they sporadically decided to have a talkback session (although they never had any callers) about the "lady who got stuck in an elevator for an entire weekend". The question "what did she eat" sparked hysterics and broke the code of broadcasting tenfold. They apologised later after complaints arrived at the station.

Darrell Turner was once a Tears For Fears spinning afternoon host (12-3p). The ongoing joke, however, was Art Garfunkel's "Two Sleepy People". He LOVED that track. Darrell was also one of the first men behind starting George FM.

Shayron Marinovich was the "hostess with the mostess" (3-7p, originally held 10-2p I think). She was a firely one, but just lovely. She had all the dirty jokes, best "requests" and the most popular among stalkers. Often talking with Community Constable Cooper Teau about crime in the area, even interviewing a man I now work with - Ray Bishop (who was then with Counties Manukau Sport). What a star! We were in recording once, and Danny was distracted from reading his script, as he noticed Shayron taking off her top in the OnAir studio (the production room was next to the studio, and we had windows to see in). Next thing I hear: "Shayron's Tits!".. "What?" says Thane.. "Shayrons Tits.. look!". Production halts. If she reads this blog, then I hope she feels flattered, rather than the 'queezy angry' feeling she had after she realised what was going on. "Chauvinistic pigs". She can now be seen on the huggies TV ad.

Glenn Turner (not the cricketer) was our boss. He was pretty goofy, but tried his best to be a "good guy". He's like a wannabe-great sales rep at a car yard just trying to get some cred, some ground, but got tarnished by the yards bad rep - so can only do so much. A trouper who wrote my first work-related reference, and had we continued to stay on air, the promise of proper studios, with air con and proper offices was his pledge to us. He wasn't around much, but we hardly noticed.

Some of the other superstars at Q96 were Andrew White, Selwyn Brell, Hone Kingi (The Too-Early, Good Morning Show), Bill Deed (Tradio), Wendy Peatree, Claire (she always smelled great), Paul Callaghan (one of the first to i/v Cameron Brown) and Donna. Forgive me if I forget your surname.

We had some interesting promotions too. We had an awesome Valentines Promo at Valentines in Manukau City and Glenfield (or it might have been Henderson), with the "Q Crew" wandering around both restaurants, talking to diners on their dates, asking for requests back through to the studio where I ran the show. We had a twilight night at the Auckland Zoo like many stations have, but one promo in particular really stood out. We abseiled off the "highest commercial cliff in the southern hemisphere" in the Waitakeres. Thats one awesome drop. I went over the top edge and made my way down at a brisk pace. Halfway down there was a flat rock that poked out of the side of the cliff, which you could stand on, ease your rope tension and admire the view (and the birds nest up there). Its now become a waterfall (there was a dam behind the peak).

At one point, we had a station vehicle too! The Coke Cruiser (fully paid for by Coca Cola) looked after us, as well as Krispa Chips and others. We headed around to unsuspecting homes throughout South Auckland, giving out prizepacks. Some of the most enjoyable times at Q96 were when we went out and about with our station vehicle.

Production for me was a big highlight. I got to dip my fingers into making radio ads (a dream back then - ha!), and Radio Imaging (I still love it today - so all's not lost). We had some classic moments in production, and luckily I learnt the art of having a blanket recorder capturing everything - mistakes, bloopers, outtakes, swearing, phonecalls, background noise and all. Great stuff to listen to on a day like today.

So here we are, ten years to the day after Q96 was shut down by the frequency owners. We broke format on that last afternoon, playing Metallica, Ween, and god knows what else, creating mock traffic reports and news bulletins - general mayhem really. Later that night, we headed into town for a few farewell drinks, and the following day went in and moved our stuff out - not knowing where we would all end up.


Anonymous said...

We all cut our teeth on a very special little station. It was great to work with an know you all. Except that Lawther guy who to this day won't return my lounge suite. Thane

Anonymous said...

as you can see my comment was left at 1.37am - I'm drunk and sentimental - mind the spelling.
I nailed Donna. anonymous

Anonymous said...

Thought I would comment and say neat theme, did you make it for yourself? It’s really awesome!.