It’s a multimedia kind of world we live in, but the good ol’ wireless soldiers on as a solid, popular form of entertainment. That too is true in terms of Oxfordshire music: for all of the facny-shmancy websites out there, for all of the lovingly assembled print magazines, there’s a radio show that’s built itself up over the years to become a bedrock of the local music scene. BBC Introducing in Oxford is a weekly show presented by Dave Gilyeat, available for real over the airwaves, and as a ‘listen again’ podcast on the BBC’s website. It never falls short on quality, eclecticism or on-the-nail choices for interviewees and session recordees. MusicInOxford.co.uk asked Dave Gilyeat about his show, its history and current status, and how it comes together every week.
MIO: How long has BBC Introducing in Oxford been going now, and for how long have you been involved?
DG: Well, I guess I was involved from the start. The first show was in March 2005 and I was co-presenting with a certain Mr Tim Bearder. He’d been trying to get a local music show off the ground for years. Tim did most of the work whilst I was in charge of the playlist. It was a quick learning curve. There were boxes of demos gathering dust at BBC Radio Oxford, and I just started listening. It took a while for us to make the show relevant, I think. We tried different things and in the end stuck with what worked.
MIO: Who else besides you is on the team, and how have you found the hot seat since Tim’s departure?
DG: Sam King and Marc West gather reports for the show and film stuff for the site, and Andrew Grillo (of Gullivers fame) helps with the sessions. It’s not a show that has many resources, relatively speaking. We rely on a lot of goodwill and people giving up their spare time. As for taking up the hot seat, Tim had a certain style that I knew I wouldn’t be able to match. I was never going to be able to do the comedy sketches and zany interviews, so I just decided to be myself and trust in the music. Getting more involved with bands on a one to one basis has forced me out of my shell a little.
MIO: Do you have complete control over what goes into the show each week? Are there external pressures on the playlists?
DG: We play more or less what we like. It’s just got to be good… and we’ve never had trouble filling an hour a week with decent local tracks. No naughty words are allowed though, alas.
MIO: How much time does it take you to research, work on and put together each show?
DG: If my boss is reading this: one day a week. But, the show does have a habit of taking over…
MIO: What’s your background within the BBC, in Oxford music, and in general?
DG: I joined the BBC after about nine months of helping out on the show. I studied Media Systems at university, so was able to work as a broadcast journalist for the local online team. That’s my day job, if you like – writing news stories for the website.
MIO: How much pressure do you feel under to be an arbiter of taste for Oxford music? Do you feel that you could ‘make or break’ a band?
DG: The only pressure I feel is to make the end product a good and positive representation of one of the greatest music scenes in the country. It’s just tough when a show goes out and you have to start all over again! There is a good system in place where theoretically we can break a band: 6Music and Radio 1 have played tracks we’ve sent their way and we’ve had fun showcasing bands at major festivals like Glastonbury and so forth. And there was the one memorable occasion involving a band on Jools Holland. But how do you measure whether a band has actually ‘made’ it? If it’s when making music pays their bills, well, so few bands are lucky enough to truly achieve that.
MIO: What are your opinions of the other Oxford music information providers out there?
DG: I know I couldn’t do without most of them. Nightshift is an invaluable resource, we’re lucky to have it. We knew if we didn’t get Ronan involved in the show from the start it would be kind of pointless. The man knows his onions. Thankfully he lets me pay him in second hand Doctor Who DVDs. MusicInOxford.co.uk, Oxford Music Blog, Oxfordshire Music Scene and most of the others have also contributed to the show, but more importantly made a difference in their own ways to the local scene. Everyone does their bit, which is lovely.
MIO: How healthy do you think the local music scene is right now? Who are your current local favourite bands and musical artists?
DG: I think it’s at the healthiest it’s been in the six years we’ve been broadcasting BBC Introducing in Oxford. I’m not sure it can last forever but it’s got a momentum now. Great bands in turn inspire more great bands. It punches well above its weight, that’s for sure. I have loads of favourites. I like Ute, Fixers and Spring Offensive. I like what Wild Swim and Sealings and Phantom Theory do. There’s good Blessing Force acts like Chad Valley and Rhosyn. I’ve probably forgotten someone brilliant haven’t I?
MIO: Do you receive a lot of unsolicited contributions, demos, e-mails and so on?
DG: I have the messiest desk out of everyone at work, what with the CDs and letters and stuff. But that’s sort of dying down – since we started using the Uploader, our show has been sent well over 1,500 tracks through the website. And apparently we’ve listened to 70% of them. That’s just the tracks… the percentage of bands we’ve listened to is much higher. Just reading and answering e-mails can take up a large part of the day.
MIO: The show is moving from a Saturday to a Sunday slot – why is this, and how do you feel about it?
DG: I wasn’t sure about it at first. I always thought the show was the ideal way for someone to start their Saturday night before going out to gigs. But it turns out most people are listening to the show on demand anyway, whether listening back on the website or downloading the podcast. So I’m okay with it. But the move is for purely practical reasons. The Sunday 9.00 pm slot was for a rotating series of specialist shows which have now been brought to an end and there’s now a space in the schedule. Hopefully we’re up to the task, and we’ll see you there.
BBC Introducing in Oxford is broadcast every Sunday evening at 9.00 pm. Details about the next show can be found on MusicInOxford.co.uk each week, and podcasts and online streams of previous shows are available online from the BBC’s website.