R.A.P. Interview: Eddy Temple-Morris

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Eddy Temple-Morris, Presentation Producer, BBC Radio 1, London, England


by Jerry Vigil

This month's interview checks in with the BBC once again. This time we look in on Radio 1, the BBC's hot new music station. A few years ago, Radio 1 decided it needed to "update" their sound more for today's youth. This involved a major overhaul of personnel and policies. And since the BBC is a non-commercial station, the production basically boils down to nothing but imaging. Eddy Temple-Morris is the man that landed the job of imaging BBC's new Radio 1. For production people, it's the "dream job" in the U.K.. Check out this month's Cassette, and you'll understand why Eddy got the gig. Check out this month's interview with Eddy to get a rare glimpse inside one of the world's biggest radio stations.

RAP: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into radio.
Eddy: I'm one of these many people who fell into the business. If I had a dime for every time I met an ex-bass player in this business, then I would be more than a millionaire. That's where I came from. I was a bass player. I played electric bass guitar and did backing vocals for loads of different bands from about 1985 until about 1992. Then I just figured I'd better get a proper job because I was going gray. I was twenty-seven. I was thinking from my kids' point of view, thinking that I didn't want to be a bass player for the rest of my life. I haven't got any kids yet, but I was thinking I wouldn't want my dad to be a session bass player.

So I went to a local radio station, BBC local radio, which is kind of speech based stuff. I went there on work experience just for a week. They asked me to stay on for another week, and then they gave me a job as a kind of coffee boy, really. They call it PA, production assistant. Within two and a half years I was a producer/presenter at that station. Then in April, two and a half years ago, I answered an ad in the paper which was the dream job at Radio 1, basically what the commercial radio stations would call head of production but what we call presentation. I went for it and they gave me the job. I must have said the right thing.

I joined when Radio 1 was at its lowest ebb. Radio 1 had to completely reposition itself because it started up in the sixties as a new music station, and the young listeners then turned into parents later on. From the station that your kids listened to, it became the station your parents listened to. So, when I joined, they were just in the process of not renewing the contracts of a whole bunch of very popular mainstream presenters and taking on some edgy young people. And the music policy went away from the stability of Phil Collins and all that lot and went towards Oasis, The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy where we are now. So it was a total, complete repositioning for the U.K.s favorite station, which was potentially a nightmare. Millions of listeners were lost, but have now, almost to a person, been recouped. So I really did join at the bottom ebb. I said to them, "Look, your station sucks. Give me a go and I'll see if I can help turn it around for you." I'm one of the many people who have gone out on a limb and tried to push the envelope a bit, and it has worked.

bbc-radio-1-logoRAP: What is one of the primary ways Radio 1 goes out on a limb?
Eddy: By challenging people with music policy. I mean, you talk to a lot of producers at radio stations and they say, "We are very cutting edge." It's a fairly stock line. They say "cutting edge" but they don't play the kind of bands that we play. We're the only station in the country that plays The Prodigy. They were at number one for two weeks. Manson, The Manic Street Preachers, Cooler Shaker, Khalif, The Fugees--well, The Fugees have crossed over now, but we were playing The Fugees years ago when they were The Fugee Translator Crew. Pulp, there's another band that hasn't really made it in the States yet, but we first played a Pulp single thirteen years ago. It wasn't even a single. They came in to do a live session. Oasis--we played their demo before anybody had ever heard of them. Because we're the BBC and don't have adverts, we don't have clients and people breathing down our necks. We can afford to stick our necks out and challenge people.

RAP: Your title is Presentation Producer. Are you the only one?
Eddy: There are two of us here, myself and Jeremy Godfrey whom I stole from Virgin. I was taken on with somebody else who proved to be a bit of a disaster. So they let him go and kind of made me the senior producer in the department and told me I could have anybody I wanted from England, Europe, America or Australia. I got Jeremy and took him off Virgin. Production on Virgin at the time sounded absolutely fantastic. I did a bit of homework, found out who it was, and then good, old-fashioned poached him.

RAP: What are your daily responsibilities?
Eddy: Well, we are the custodians of the corporate identity of the station. So I guess the parallel with a normal production person at an independent radio station would be the promos. We make all the promos. Obviously, they're not advertorial, but we have so many more shows on the network than a normal radio station does. Not only do we have the daytime sequence and the nighttime sequence and the overnights, but we have comedy shows. We have every genre of music represented in terms of a show or shows presented by the top person in that field. For example, there's Tim Westwood, who does the Radio 1 rap show. He's friends with every rap artist that is. He's the most famous white guy in rap, and he does the rap shows here. Danny Rampling does the house shows. He's a household name in terms of house music. And there's Pete Tong who does a sort of handbag show. We have people like Goldie Portishead doing Essential Mixes as we call them. All the most cutting edge dance lot are represented. We've got the Evening Sessions, the show that found Oasis and Radio Head and all these kinds of bands, with Joe Whiley and Steve Lamacq.

We have so many shows that we have to promote and cross promote. And we also have co-promotions where we sort of get into bed with a band or with an event. We write promos for bands, and they put our logo on their ticket, put Radio 1 flyers at their gigs, and we help to promote the gig. It's kind of shaky territory there because that's in the gray area in between the BBC and commerciality. We're not one hundred percent comfortable with that, but it's something that we have to do from week to week. But apart from all the promos that we have to make for all these things, we are also in charge of the way the station sounds. So all the bits inside a particular show, the way that the station is idented in a show, obviously, we have to do. And, of course, the diversity of the shows comes into it because a jingle or a sweeper or whatever you want to call it that we are going to make for Chris Evans--who has like eight million listeners in the morning--is going to be completely different from one we make for Tim Westwood, who is playing really hard-core rap music. Obviously, they're going to be two completely different kinds of shows, and we've got to respect that in our production and everything in between.

It's an incredibly creative job, and it keeps you on your toes because you've got just so much to think about. But that's what we do, everything from the jingles that go in and out of the news to the jingles, the beds, and the sweepers that the jocks use for their shows. I produced our jingle ID package with Dane Blair and Jeff Koz from Who Did That Music in L.A.. They were Who Did That Music, but they've now divorced, as it were, and they are two different companies. We got the 1996 Pro Max Gold Award for Jingle Music Package/Large Market for that package. It went down pretty well. I know that the guys at Z100, whom we worship, heard it and said, and I quote: "What drugs are those guys on and can we have some?" which made me very happy.

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.

RAP: What kinds of creative styles do you and Jeremy like to use?
Eddy: Because we have creative carte blanche, we can sail closer to the wind. Jeremy will spend ages producing the most fantastic stuff with so much audio and so many bits and pieces. When you look at a page on his ProTools and look at about five seconds worth of a page, it looks like somebody's been sick on it. There are just so many bits on it. My style is more like a clever script and really cool music editing. We licensed the Redline production library from Brown Bag for two years, and we couldn't have sounded as good without it. I might also play for laughs, or I might just be more clever with the copy than my colleagues in commercial radio who have a lot more creative restrictions. They have clients and people like that breathing down their necks whereas I don't. I just have to bear in mind taste and decency and all the other kinds of BBC guidelines, producer's guidelines that I fall under, but it's creatively not shackling like the way independent radio can be. The world is our oyster, and, really, we can do whatever we want.

RAP: Very few producers get that kind of freedom. That must be a lot of fun.
Eddy: It is. It is great and I wouldn't want it any other way. I think I'd go crazy if I worked for an independent radio station because I do sail close to the wind with a lot of these promos, and I wouldn't be allowed to do that in a commercial arena.

RAP: You mentioned using outside voices. Are they all from the U.K.?
Eddy: Yeah, they're all from the U.K. because, again, we're supposed to be different. We're the U.K.'s new music station, the U.K.'s live music station. We're the U.K.'s biggest music radio station just by such a long chalk, so we don't use American voices. Now, American voices sound better than English voices, loads better. An American can make a cup of margarine sound sexy, which English voices can't do, really. But because Atlantic and Virgin and Capitol and all of these stations use Americans--they use the guy from Z100, Keith Eubanks, or a big, boomy voice that sounds something like Mike Lee--we can't use those kinds of voices. We steer towards young British voices, perhaps with regional accents. I tend to go with the more generic accented ones, the ones you can't really pinpoint where they're from, and young. For example, I used to be the voice that came in and out of the news when it called for a voice, but I wanted the corporate voice of the station to be female, and I wanted it to be Black. I wanted an identifiably female and identifiably Black voice to be the corporate voice of BBC Radio 1 only because I can do it and the others can't. So I did. And at the bottom of every hour--our news is at the bottom of the hour--is this lovely, sexy Black woman's voice going in and out of the news.

We use outside voices, but we can't use American voices unless the script cries out for one. For example, I've got this promo that runs for our new music show, The Evening Session, with this American guy going, "The U.K. sucks. Your fries suck. Your burgers suck. Your idea of football sucks, and your weather sucks. But I'm still coming over there for the only thing that you've got that we ain't got...The Evening Session!" So we'll use American voices in a way to take the mickey out of America, but we can't use them in a normal way.

RAP: As we're doing this interview, it's nearing Christmas, a pretty busy time for radio everywhere. What do the next couple of weeks look like for you and Radio 1?
Eddy: Oh, it's going to be a nightmare because our whole schedule changes over Christmas. Our normal daytime strands go out the window, and we have a whole lot of Christmas specials. For example, a lot of the shows that we have are "Best of" kinds of things. The evening show will do things like "Best of the Guests" and the "Best of the Live Music," as will the daytime people. And then we'll have a whole bunch of famous pop stars coming in and doing shows. I could go on and on and on. There are just so many different Christmasy "Best Of" kinds of shows, and we've got to promote them all in addition to all the normal trailers and promos that we've got to make. So I'm going to be not seeing the light of day for a while.

RAP: What are your work hours normally?
Eddy: Thank heavens, it's pretty much flexi-time. They don't mind when you come in as long as you don't miss a meeting and as long as the job gets done. We're only paid for an eight-hour day, but we're never out of here before we've done about ten hours, usually. I roll in about ten, and I'm out of here at around seven or eight. You know, on a really good day I'll be out of here at half six, but most days it's seven, seven-thirty, eight, nine, ten--something like that.

RAP: This must be a remarkably fun job for you.
Eddy: Yeah, it is. I'll never take it for granted, and I'll always think I'm really lucky to be able to do this. So many people sort of ring up and say, "Oh, can I come for work experience? It must be great to do that job. How do you get into this kind of thing? How do I get into it?" I'm aware of the fact that it is a dream job for a lot of people, and I'll never take it for granted.

RAP: Do you use interns in production?
Eddy: Yeah, we do occasionally take on work experience--as we call it--people, but it is kind of difficult, and they are very few and far between in our department because we're so busy. When you've got an intern following you around, it just makes our day that much longer. So we tend to steer clear of them, but we try to get them to work for another department that is less busy.

RAP: Commercial radio is still relatively new to the U.K.. Are there still lots of new commercial stations popping up?
Eddy: Oh, absolutely. Every year we've got a whole bunch more opening. It's not like America yet, but it's getting there. It's the most rapidly expanding kind of media at the moment. In terms of advertising, people are really getting into radio, and the whole radio arena is fragmenting. There aren't more listeners, but there are more and more and more stations, and the whole thing is kind of fragmenting the way that America has.

RAP: What's your "production philosophy?"
Eddy: Well, it's pictures on the radio. I like a promo that acts like a film, like a one and a half hour film but sort of squeezed into forty seconds. We have a forty-second rule for all our promos, so that's one creative corridor that we have to go down. I think it's good to be ruthless and to cut scripts down to what really matters and transmit the information in a clear way and in a creative way. I guess my ethos is "go crazy." That's what I said to Who Did That Music when we did the first bunch of demos. The closest one to what I wanted was from this guy, Michael Sheehey, who'd unfortunately suffered from a detached retina at the time and was on very, very powerful painkillers that were making him hallucinate. I said to him, "Look, just increase your dosage and you'll be on the right wave length." I said it joking, and I'm sure he didn't; but what he came back to me with was just the maddest cuts I've ever heard, and they formed the sort of backbone of the music jingle ID package that Who Did That Music did with me. I guess my ethos, if it were down to two words, would be "go crazy."

RAP: Where do you think your greatest talents lie?
Eddy: Well, I'm a music man. I've made records. So from that point of view I can give a promo a direction musically and make it make sense musically. And I can write. I can write scripts that make people laugh, as well, and I can sort of focus on the lighter side of life.

RAP: How about a production tip for those who are going to hear your demo on The Cassette and want to know how you do it?
Eddy: Take a step back and look at your script, your product, your show, even your life from a skewed perspective, and always push the envelope. See how far you can go with everything--production, script, language, whatever. That's what I mean by "go crazy."

RAP: What's down the road for you?
Eddy: Well, there are a few people who are sniffing at my ass, as it were. To present on TV is one and to present on radio is another. If I could do anything, I would really like to go work for a station like KROQ in L.A. because L.A. is like a home away from home for me, and I love what KROQ does. I listen to them on air checks, and up until about a month ago I used to get Z100 religiously and a station called Z95 in Vancouver. But they've taken a turn for the worse now, so I'm getting KFOX in Vancouver and KROC in New York. KROQ in L.A. is good old modern rock, and that's kind of where a lot of my musical taste lies. So if KROQ rang me up and said they wanted me to come work for them, I think I would probably drop everything and go.

RAP: You might be waiting for a while. I believe John Frost is still the man behind the scenes there, and at last check, everybody was happy.
Eddy: Well, whoever is behind it, it sounds like they're having a lot of fun, and that's the vibe that we transmit. You know, we're very much inspired by people like that, by stations like that, and it's great. I'm sure they listen to us and they think, "Hmmmm, they definitely ripped us off there"--maybe not "ripped us off" but that we definitely got inspiration from them. Then every now and again I listen to them and I think they got inspiration from us, too. Every now and again, I hear one of my promos, something that's really similar to one of my promos, on KROQ. So yeah, we're a lot closer than a lot of people think.

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