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July 14, 2008 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Clark Gayford

“I have a picture of Jim Hickey and Jason Gunn on my bedroom wall.“

He is a man whose sarcastic wit and dashing good looks have invaded the airwaves and our girlfriends’ imaginations for over half a decade now, and he freaked us out at the Freaky Re- Orientation Disco last Friday at Sandwiches (in a good way). Chris Gilbert asks Clark Gayfordabout DJing, C4, and why Channel Z’s switch to Kiwi FM wasn’t just for the purpose of hugging and cuddling Kiwi music.

What have been some of your best and worst experiences working at places like C4 and Channel Z,? I hear there was one particularly horrific Chingy interview

That Chingy interview was so bad it became awesome – I’m still trying to get that up on You Tube for everyone to have a laugh at my expense. Everything that could go wrong did – which was perfect as he was such a twat. He wouldn’t look me in the eye or talk at all, not a single word until the camera’s started rolling, so I ran with that and started to take the piss out of his ‘Dem Jeans’ track and started pulling my pants down – and freaked him out. From there it just got worse and worse.

I never felt bad about that for a second, however I felt really awkward the time that Matisyahu the Jewish rapper stormed off on me – cause I asked whether he thought that Israel was bullying the Palestinians in the Gaza strip. Instead of answering the question he just started going nuts on me and stood up and left the room – which was quite funny cause his mic was still attached and it got all caught up in the chair and he got stuck. For a peace preaching rapper he was one angry dude.

Since leaving broadcasting school most of your career seems to have been centred around music, your time at C4 perhaps being the apex. What’s it like to have moved away from that with your work on House of Travel Getaway?

Yeah, it was a big call to change direction, and move away from music and those opportunities. However I had been at C4 for just under 4 years and I’d done a lot of things I was hoping to do so it was time for a change.

The travel show was a dream gig. They let me choose most of my destinations and activities – so when I said can I go surfing on the north shore of Hawaii they said ‘sure’. And when I asked if I could go through China and then heliboarding in Queenstown, they not only said yes but got me into a private resort on the Great Wall and into the most expensive exclusive lodge in Queenstown. Sweet gig.

There seem to have been a flurry of short lived alternative media programs that have come and gone over the past fifteen years. Why do you think media featuring alternative content (such as Channel Z) seem to struggle in New Zealand, given your experience of it?

Ha – how long have you got?

The reason Channel Z ultimately failed is because they powers that be didn’t respect the audience, and believe it or not because we have too many radio stations in this country.

Wellington’s Z model worked really well, and then they changed that to force Auckland’s version on everyone – which was unforgivable. And just when it started coming right, they switched to the Radioworks block booked adverts, so suddenly we had commercials for funeral homes, incontinence pads and fucking Magness Benrow.

Ultimately it was a common sense business decision. Why take a risk with a flighty audience and low survey results when a middle of the road easy listening station would bring in more revenue for less effort?

Having such a saturated radio market means that everyone is fighting for that middle ground, which equates to all valuable survey points and therefore advertising revenue, and so they are not prepared to take any risks with playlists. Can you believe that The Rock has never touched The Strokes, The White Stripes or The Arctic Monkeys? And while the student stations represent, there is a massive hole of alternate rock simply not getting the on-air justice it deserves.

But much like all the major record labels panicking in the same ‘follow the obvious cheesy hit path’ the kids are turning to alternative new music sources (online etc) to get their fix, to the detriment of radio audience numbers.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter much how you rely on people’s passion to get a product out to the people, sooner or later money – or a glaring lack of – trips even the most committed up.

Alternative media struggles because NZ is a niche in itself, having a base of just 4 million – so as soon as you start ‘nicheing’ that ‘niche’, well unless you are tailoring a product to Fonterra Diary farmers, its’ always going to be a tough struggle to gather revenue from it.

I’ve been lucky to have never had something end as a result of this while I’ve worked there, but I appreciate the struggle to keep things afloat, especially when easier alternatives constantly present themselves.

When did you decide to start DJing, and what motivated you?

Got sick of pushing play on my cd player for individual songs at parties and was to lazy to load them onto ipods so I bought a cheap CDJ set-up. Then got sick of friends turning up at my parties with records, so switched to vinyl. Then got sick of being drunk and unable to find the record I was looking for at that particular moment, so switched to Serato.

Somewhere in the middle of that I was asked to play out, and from there its spread like a slightly infectious rash that probably needs a good dose of antibiotics.

Do you miss working around/with music? Is DJing helping to express your musical side now your broadcasting career has moved away from it?

Since leaving C4 I’ve become several hundred times more proactive at sourcing new music. Something about water/dry/ missing it etc. I’m also currently doing a radio show four times a week on George Fm, expressing more of an electronic/soul/hip hop side and really enjoying finding those gems to play out.

What plans do you have for the future? Do you have any ambition to work with music on New Zealand television or radio again?

Hey never say never, especially not in this country. I have a picture of Jim Hickey and Jason Gunn on my bedroom wall.

But I’m keen to get stuck into what ever interests me. In October I was sent to Antarctica for 12 days at Scott Base to follow a scientist for an upcoming doco on Prime, and that was an incredible opportunity and experience that presented itself – so I’m open minded to pretty much anything and everything.

I’ve got no current aspirations to return to commercial radio, save for its health benefits through its laxative effect, but who knows maybe a few more years will warm my stools to it?

Do you have any motivation to follow personal ambitions and projects again (such as you did with Pulp Sport)? If ‘yes’ then any hints on what these might be?

Shit I wish I could tell you, I’ve just recently learnt a big lesson about the two types of ‘yes definitely’ that exists – the type that people in the real world use and the one they use in television. So after being on hold for 5 months with no result (or pay) I’m starting to go after some of my own gigs.

Finally, what are your “Desert Island Top Five” records and what would be one record you recommend people should own if they don’t already?

Argh, I hate choosing songs for fear of upsetting others. I have nightmares about meeting a missed fave in a back alley and having it go Manurewa liquor store on me.

Although I will recommend everyone going out and buying that Kiwi music CD that you’ve been listening to a burnt copy of for ages, to give a little something back to those doing it truly tough in this music industry.

That said, in no order, and different in an hour; Shapeshifter – One Presets – Steamworks Syclops – Where’s Jason K Colossus – The Tribute Yes King – Rock this World Boards of Canada – Geodaddi

Shit that’s six, argh, too hard damn it.

“I have nightmares about meeting a missed fave in a back alley and having it go Manurewa liquor store on me.”


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