As a Chelmsfordian, man and boy, it’s not been easy to embrace a musical scene without going elsewhere to progress what’s in your head. Chelmsford has always suffered from being too close to London for most musicians. Many either pursue their dream in The Smoke or north through East Anglia or just settle for a modest response from their hometown.
Knowing that I probably couldn’t easily do anything to change that scenario, I looked for a way where I could at least highlight local talent where I could. If anybody heard what I had to say then that at least would be a step in the right direction.
In 2015, I got the opportunity to present a weekly show called Transmission for Chelmsford Community Radio (CCR 104.4 FM). I’ve been playing what some would call an eclectic selection of music, but to me is just new or interesting. I never think about what other people might want to hear. It’s always been my choice, but people seem to like the diversity.
Roughly a third of the playlist is from local acts, whittled down from the sizeable number of submissions of varying quality I receive each week. Global new releases and tracks from my collection make up the rest.
Each week, I ask local musicians to come in on the show and talk about themselves and play their music live in the studio. We recently reached a milestone of one thousand guests.
Over the last few years, as a result of COVID and its aftermath, the conversation in the guest sessions has adopted a more personal aspect. Many creatives have suffered with their mental health. Guests have made connections after being on the show with people experiencing the same problems; as a result discussion groups have formed.
One fact that I’m only too happy to state is that not one guest has not shown up. Some have arrived late or went to the wrong radio station. In one case someone went to Southend. (He still arrived at the studio even if it was for only ten minutes).
I am extremely pleased how the show has lasted and been a constant source of inspiration for me. It won Chelmsford’s Panic Awards Best Essex Radio Show in 2018 and 2019.
Hey Mr. DJ
I was your archetypal mobile DJ for many years supplementing my regular job in IT before it started paying better. Yes, I did weddings…499 of them to be exact, in the nineties. From 1994, I was the first resident DJ at The Bassment club here in Chelmsford. That lasted for five years until a vehement argument with the management over music policy. I was physically thrown out of the club along with my records. Bearing in mind that in those days people were still allowed to smoke inside and the club was so busy that sweat poured off the walls, I was actually relieved, as was my stinking wardrobe, to be out of there…
I spent the next 14 years DJing in The Anchor pub in Moulsham Street, which may not sound remarkable to you, but I believe I was the only one this side of London playing the promotional videos for songs as well as the music. Something I’ve just started doing again occasionally at The UB, as part of the Music For Pleasure collective (with Chris Piper and Crispin Coulson).
I’ve recently found my singing voice again after so many years. I was a head choirboy in my teens and attended the Royal School of Church Music. However, after my voice broke I rather ignored singing. After a chance conversation with Crispin Coulson (MetroGlow), I recorded some vocals that ended up on one of his releases. I’m keen to do some more before I get too old for it. I will be spending a week or so during the summer trying stuff out. If it works then fine, but if it doesn’t then I know I’ve given it a try.
Gonna Make You a Star
I’ve been working with Hot Box for a few years now to complement Transmission with live showcases of acts that have been guests on the show. Hot Box is Chelmsford’s only made-for-purpose music venue. It’s a milestone for an act to appear there for the first time due to its high technical standards and knowledgeable staff.
In the last few years, grassroot venues in general have suffered from revenue issues. Getting people to come through the doors has become more difficult for several reasons, which I won’t go into here. Choosing acts for my monthly showcase nights has had to become a balancing exercise. Music and popularity don’t always go in hand in hand. But I want to make sure that something new is always an aspect of each line-up.
I have artists scheduled to play my monthly nights up until December. Alt-rock and electronica will be covered, plus a couple of DJ-only nights.
When did you decide you wanted to be involved in music?
I knew from a young age. I would have been three or four, hearing ‘Granada’ by Frank Sinatra. The horn section that scared me rigid and gave me bad nightmares. Also, my brother played ELP and Van Der Graaf records. I realised there was something there, some puzzle to be worked out, something that created emotions within me. I knew that if I could do something with it I could make other people feel the same as I did.
What continues to inspire you?
Musicians who take risks. The ones who don’t rest on their laurels. Go off at tangents and do something different. The lockdown made that happen for a lot of musicians. They had to find themselves something to do at home, creatively and technically.
How can the music scene in Chelmsford be improved?
There’s no quick answer to that question. It’s a chain of council decisions, people, and money, and then when they’re in place we can discuss it.
In the short term, all of those people who call themselves ‘promoters’ should come together, put all their differences and petty issues with each other aside and come up with a roadmap to cover all Chelmsford’s diverse talent. That way, a showcase opportunity will be available to more people.
Please try and name your top three albums
You know this is impossible! Listed below are the first three that come to mind. However, they’re three of only about a dozen albums I can sit through every time without getting bored. (I have always been a mixtape man, one track off each album).
1. Van Der Graaf Generator – Pawn Hearts
2. Frank Zappa – One Size Fits All
3. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
What is your favourite book about music?
At the moment, it’s Adventures in Modern Recording by Trevor Horn, the ultimate producer. It inspired me to use AI tools to deconstruct music and reassemble it according to my own tastes.
Imagine you are retired, sitting feet up, cocktail in hand. Which of your projects has given you the most satisfaction?
That first radio show in 2015. I didn’t know what I was doing, but it felt immense.
- “Erasers remind us there is no faultless human”
- “It’s not about ego – it’s about eco”
- “When I die, dub will be in my heart” – James Joyce
- ‘Daffodils’ help Kacey Johansing through heartbreak
- Ags Connolly – England’s Willie Nelson?
Paul kindly invited your humble scribe and Joe Harvey (The Hardy Perennials) onto his Wednesday, 12 July show. Expect lots of folk-related chat. Also appearing is Jake Murrells, an Essex-based musician, who will play songs from his excellent new album Cut the Strings. Jake will also appear at the Hot Box on Sunday, July 16 as part of the regular Folk Sunday events. As you hopefully know by now, this blog is promoting the awesome Sairie that top the bill that day.