Neil Fox, an English radio DJ and television presenter chats with Kevin Cooper about his lockdown haircut, the contents of English radio shows, his respect for Dion and Santana and his Sunday Heritage Show on United DJs Radio.

Neil Fox is an English radio DJ and television presenter, known for many years as Dr Fox before he became ‘Foxy’ in the 2000s, then simply as Neil Fox before re-emerging as Dr Fox in 2020 to host the UDJ Heritage Chart countdown.

In 1984 he began his professional radio career on what was known then as Radio Wyvern, where he remained until late 1986 before joining Radio Luxembourg in February 1987. He then joined Capital Radio in October of the same year.

Whilst at Capital he presented the station’s evening show and in the early 90’s there was a short period during which Fox hosted a show starting at midnight, specifically aimed at the Club crowd. It was for this show that he adopted the moniker ‘Dr Fox’ after he encouraged his listeners to ring in to the show.

He established himself as one of Capital’s most popular DJs and in 1993 he began presenting the Sunday afternoon Network Chart Show which later became The Pepsi Network Chart, so named after its sponsors.

In 2005 he left Capital to become the presenter of the More Music Breakfast Show on Magic 105.4 where he remained until his contract expired in January 2016. He then joined the new London radio station, Thames Radio where he presented the Saturday Morning Show, later taking on the station’s Breakfast Show. When the station opted for non-stop music in July 2017, Fox left the station.

In July 2020 it was announced that Fox announced that he would be joining the internet radio station, United DJs, presenting the Heritage Chart Run Down Show on Sunday afternoons.

Whilst busy preparing for his show and taking a break to walk his dog at Battersea Park, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin cooper and this is what he had to say.

Neil good morning, how are you today?

I’m fine thanks Kevin, more to the point how are you doing today?

I must be honest and say that all is good thank you and before we move on, let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s not a problem at all, it’s my pleasure.

And just how is life treating you in these strange times in which we currently find ourselves?

(Laughter) It’s funny that you should ask me that because I have to say that in many respects it is absolutely fine, and that there have been some really nice times weirdly during the lockdown. The lockdown has slightly simplified all our lives in many respects, apart from the obvious one of this awful pandemic which is currently hanging over our heads. Once you find yourself in lockdown, it actually makes life very simple. You can’t go anywhere, you can’t do anything, you simply hang out with your family, and eat three meals a day. It really does stop you from having to make any choices (laughter).

Am I to presume that you have already had your lockdown haircut?

(Laughter) me and my son have recently given each other a haircut funnily enough. He is seventeen and told me that he quite fancied having a Mohican. So I got the clippers out and cut his hair, and then he said “well go on then, let me do yours,” which I did. Alas he didn’t give me a Mohican. But he did give me something which was in-between (Laughter). We have actually done that a couple of times now, and we both realised that they were really quite good. Believe me, there are worse problems in life than not getting your haircut (laughter). If you are that bothered it’s quite easy, just get yourself a pair of scissors. I have friends, who had got rather fuzzy during lockdown, but then I would see them out walking the dog and they suddenly had nice hair (laughter).

I would point and shout out to them “oh, you’ve had a haircut” and they would embarrassingly reply, “yes, this lady came over and did all of our hair” (laughter). It was like Moonshine Haircuts, but what they didn’t realise was that they all stood out like a sore thumb. They were the only people out of the street who had a lovely haircut (laughter). You can actually do a reasonable job of giving yourself a haircut, especially in this day and age when the style is to have it short and cropped. You just need to get a bit of wax on it and flick it back (laughter).

The obligatory Tommy Shelby haircut.

That’s right although I have to say that, no doubt, we have all seen some dodgy lockdown haircuts some of which have been quite interesting to be fair (laughter). But let’s be honest, it does actually grow again. Both my son and I said “look, even if it looks shit, it grows” (laughter). After the lockdown we will all go to our hairdresser who will do a really great job, so it really doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. In the scheme of things who really gives a rat’s arse (laughter). There are people dying, together with all of the other problems that you may be facing, things such as job loss, all of the economic problems, and of course medical problems. So, really, if your hair doesn’t look good today, I think that we will all get over it (laughter).

Well now that we have sorted out the lockdown haircut problems here in the UK, we really should talk about United DJ Radio, shouldn’t we?

(Laughter) well now that you mention it, I supposed that we really should (laughter). Have you ever heard of it?

Yes, I have, in fact I spoke to Mike (Read) a couple of weeks before it was launched, and he was so excited he was like a dog with two tails (laughter).

Okay fair enough, fire away.

Why do you think that the station has become so popular in such a short space of time?

To be perfectly honest with you, I think that the stations popularity is down to two things; Mike (Read) and Tony (Prince). The thing that is really interesting about it is that, if I am really honest, we are really anal in this country over an awful lot of things, and the same I think can also be said about DJ’s, broadcasting, music, and artists as well. So, there was Tony Prince who had been a really famous DJ back in the day on Radio Luxembourg and then later he made a load of money out of the Disco Mix Club, and it has to be said that Tony really does love radio. If you have ever done radio work and you have done alright at it, then there is something really exciting about it, and there still is to this day. You get into a studio; you switch the microphone on and then 3-2-1 it’s all go. For me after tens of thousands of shows, it still makes the hairs on the back of my next stand up.

It is so exciting simply because you are about to go live; it is like you are going out onto a really big stage, and it is really good fun. I have always found radio to be an exciting medium especially as I always do it live; there are no pre-records done at home, it is as live as you and I speaking now. So, I can see just why Mike was really excited when he spoke to you. In my opinion, Mike Read was a really great broadcaster. If you remember the days of the Radio One Breakfast Show for example, Mike really was a quality guy, and then all of a sudden, he found himself not doing it anymore. I have to say that Mike still sounds brilliant; he really is a great broadcaster. United DJs Radio was the vehicle for Mike to get back on air.

Do you really believe that there is a niche in the current broadcasting climate for a station such as United DJ Radio (UDJ)?

Yes, I do, I really do. I honestly believe that a radio station such as United DJ Radio is needed, and I feel it is really relevant today. It is already beginning to get a wider audience in such a short space of time which is mostly made up of older people who actually grew up listening to these DJ’s and this kind of stuff. You have to remember that it is not only the music that has changed the music delivery system; it was also down to the style of radio. When I first got into radio back in the mid-90s there were a lot of Independent local radio stations around; around a hundred and thirty local radio stations that were all independently owned.

Eventually they were all bought out by one another and you had slightly larger groups forming, but there has always been the BBC sitting there. Now we have three groups who own pretty much ninety-nine percent of the radio stations here in Britain. You have got Bauer Media, you have got Global and you have got the BBC, and that’s it. All that means is that due to all of this consolidation, these three have created big, national brands; the likes of Heart, Kiss, Magic, Smooth, Capital, LBC; we now have all of these big national brands. The problem is that you no longer have any localness; there is no longer any independence, in fact every Heart radio station throughout the UK is playing the identical things.

All of this means that the choice that you have out of radio has gone right down. Even Radio Two, which used to be always regarded as an older station, are to a certain extent trying to make themselves younger all of the time. In my opinion Radio Two has now become Radio One and a half (laughter). You find yourself asking, ‘just where is that radio station that maybe does still play some of that older music and appeals to an audience that is slightly older to start with; who is catering for them?’ Now I personally firmly believe that should be the BBC. With the licence fee which they collect each and every year, that is what they need to do. It’s not just about being popular; they should be doing things that are serving a need.

They should let the commercial stations concentrate on what is popular, because they are out there trying to make money. So, we now find ourselves in a situation where I actually think that there is a big hole in the market out there which UDJ is fully capable of filling. I am just sitting here with you whilst we do this interview, and I have done three shows now on UDJ and I have to say that the reaction on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms is already both amazing and annoying (laughter). It has already got to the stage where, whenever I look at my phone, I have got another thousand friend requests; it has literally got that mad (laughter). The first night I wiped them all off, did what I had to do, came home after walking my dog, sat down to have a conversation and in fifteen minutes I had had another six hundred (laughter).

The whole situation has gone fucking nuts. I simply thought, ‘wow, so this is an internet radio station which is getting no real publicity anywhere; they are doing no marketing anywhere, it is all being done via word of mouth, and all of the social media people are saying just how good we are.’ It really is amazing. It clearly shows that there are an awful lot of people out there. And when I look at them they are not all old people, it’s not people who are in their 50s and 60s it’s really not. Having said that the average age is over forty, but I have been amazed at just how many younger people have been saying, “could I be your friend” and “could you add me to the group”. It really is incredible.

And don’t forget that not only are they getting a really interesting mix of music, they are also getting a radio station where the DJ’s all talk about the music that they want us to play. They get to chose a lot of the music that they want us to play; they get a say as to what goes onto the unofficial playlist, and they are all involved in the heritage chart.

What is the ethos behind United DJs Radio?

There is a lot of music that we are currently playing on UDJ both new and old, which is not really being played anywhere else. The older songs will always get signed to Gold. They are, and always will be classed as Gold Songs (laughter). In my opinion Gold Songs almost sounds like a slightly derogatory term. In this country we hear the words Gold Songs and we will automatically sigh and say, “oh god” (laughter). Everything has got to be cool and new and the latest. However, here on UDJ Radio we are saying “no, The Rolling Stones really are still amazing”. If you take a look at the back catalogues of all of the superstars, and if you look at the heritage of their music, artists such as The Beatles, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, the bands from the British Invasion back in the sixties, there really is a treasure trove of music sitting there waiting to be played.

However, having said that, what you have to remember is that all of those bands and artists were all weaned on all of that incredible R&B and Rock and Roll that was coming out of the fifties over there in the States. That is what they were all trying to copy and do their own versions of. So, in a way when you go back to the real fifties, it really was a time of explosion after the Second World War. Coming out of America was some amazing stuff. Not only did you have R&B, but suddenly you had Little Richard, Buddy Holly, let’s not forget Elvis Presley and on top of all of that along came Motown. My god, it was this explosion of amazing music. It was new, it was exciting, and it was brilliant. We were recording our own versions of this amazing music; The Beatles were doing this, and The Rolling Stones were doing that. There really was an amazing wave of music being developed.

What exactly is a Heritage Chart?

Right let’s see if I can get this right (laughter). Firstly, let me just say that all of the DJ’s at UDJ are involved with the chart. We collate all of the feedback that the songs that we play receive especially the songs that the listeners would like us to play again. Then Mike and I sit down together, go through the feedback and the chart gets published. So, in essence, the Heritage Chart is a countdown of thirty brand-new songs by artists who you would consider to be heritage artists. UDJ would probably describe them as people who we have grown up with and loved, who have an amazing track record and who are still making great music today, but no one is playing them.

I looked at the top ten from the first chart that we did a couple of weeks ago now and it was Paul Weller, Michael Stipe, Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, John Coghlan the drummer from Status Quo who is currently playing a new Status Quo song. There was also Right Said Fred and Limahl, and I looked at it and went ‘wow’. Then incredibly there was an artist who totally epitomised exactly just what a heritage chart is, and that was Dion. We got to play two tracks of Dion’s in the top thirty, and I have to tell you that four weeks ago now Dion was eighty-one years of age. What you have to remember is that Dion and The Belmonts were on tour with Buddy Holly back in the fifties, and that he was almost on that fateful plane, on that fateful night when Buddy Holly, and the music, died.

Then, in 1961, which just so happens to be the year that I was born, he released The Wanderer and Runaround Sue. Dion was twenty-one back then. Now fast forward some sixty years and Dion has released this amazing blues album, with some of the truly great artists who have been around for a long time, people like Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, with Van Morrison, with Paul Simon, plus a load of other great names he has got to collaborate with and they have come up with a truly great blues album. His voice sounds like a twenty-year-old; it really is amazing. Dion looks around sixty and he is eighty (laughter). I am already thinking that the album will be a Grammy winner next year simply because it’s brilliant.

Having said that, there will be people out there who will be already saying that because Dion has reached a certain age he shouldn’t be allowed to record records anymore or perform. My answer to that is “why” (laughter). Thank god that they didn’t say that to The Rolling Stones, Sir Elton John or Carlos Santana. Is there a cut-off age out there that I don’t know about after which you are no longer allowed to make any songs or perform; why? So, we suddenly realised that there are a hell of a lot of radio stations out there who perhaps should be looking at artists who UDJ consider to be heritage artists and be saying “okay why not, let’s play it” (laughter).

I personally feel that there are a hell of a lot of people running these centralised playlists who are literally going to say “no, they are old” and “no, they were stars back in the seventies”. My feeling is that they could once again be stars in 2022. Surely, it should all be about the songs. (laughter).

Didn’t the BBC start this controversy when they said to Sir Cliff Richard and Status Quo, to name but two, “we won’t be playing you anymore as we consider you to be too old for our playlists?”

Yes, they did and that was quite a few years ago now. Now Sir Cliff Richard, there is a great example, who I personally feel gets very little respect in this country. We look at The Beatles and we look at The Rolling Stones, and behind them we probably have Sir Cliff. He is the third bestselling artist of all time, and the most successful artist to have come out of Britain. But, despite all of that we still treat him as some sort of old man joke and I have to say that I find that really sad simply because, there’s a guy who has been through a very hard time over the last few years, but he really does have a loyal fan base. He is a lovely chap; a really nice man who has a great voice and who has performed some incredible songs.

How can you say to Sir Cliff, “you are too old”. Is he really on the knackers’ heap? At what age do you cut-off; is that time getting younger and younger? I find that really sad, and the same with Quo; who is going to tell them that they are too old? How can anyone be too old? Maybe if they come out with a song that blows people away and makes them say “oh my god” then that will be okay. There is a song on the new Dion album which is called Song For Sam Cooke (Here in America) which he has recorded with Paul Simon and it is a song written about when Dion toured the South of America with his great friend Sam Cooke in the early sixties, at the time when Sam Cooke really was a superstar, he really was huge and Dion was the up and coming rising star.

Dion really was amazed at the racism in America, so on the one hand Sam Cooke was this superstar whilst on the other hand he wasn’t allowed to stay in the same hotels as the white artists, or to eat in the same restaurants. Dion said, “this is insane; is this really happening in my country, is this really happening in America, I can’t believe it”. Talk about a song that is relevant for right now, 2020, with everything that we have seen going on this year, civil rights, black rights; that song is tragically just as relevant in 2020 as the period that it was written about, the early sixties. So, you find yourself asking, “surely that would be a great song to play wouldn’t it?”

Here is a man who is eighty-one years old, who lived through those times, and who is now making another song about things that are still happening; it’s crazy. It really is a great piece of music. I can remember coming home from the studio and my wife saying to me “what an amazing record Song For Sam Cooke is” and I just said “yeah”. My kids couldn’t believe that Dion was eighty years old and I just said “yes, he’s five years older than grandpa” (laughter). The power of music clearly should not have any racial barriers; it should have no sexual barriers, it should have no sexual orientation barriers, and looking back, music has managed to cross over all of that over the years.

But now we find that broadcasters are going to impose some sort of age restriction on this. Well let me tell you, that really sucks, it’s crazy and it is just wrong. That is something that we at UDJ as a station will never do. For example, Dave Gilmore from Pink Floyd has got a new record out. He has made a few big records over the years, and we all immediately said, “let’s give it a listen and see what it is like” (laughter). It’s interesting but is it going to take over from the official top forty; of course it’s not. It’s on a different station; it is appealing to a different audience, and it’s like ‘here we have another thirty great songs that are out there, in a chart format, and one of them is going to end up at number one.’

We are going to have some fun along the way and give you some good information, that’s what I do, and what I have always been good at, and we are going to crank them out. We are going to have some fun with it on a Sunday afternoon and you know what, whenever you listen to other stations in this current time and space, their playlists are so small, it is pitiful to listen to, but we are giving the listeners thirty other great songs that they may not have heard too often and they are pretty good.

Why did you choose to be associated with a Heritage Radio Station?

(Laughter) good question. Let’s be totally honest, most of today’s music is all a derivative in some form of the music that happened back in the fifties. You never hear anything nowadays that will stop you in your tracks and have you saying “my god, that is so fresh and new”. That simply doesn’t happen. If you were to ask some big, modern, young star who they were influenced by, they will most probably go back one generation. Then if you ask that one generation back they will say The Rolling Stones and the further that you go back it is really like a family tree of music. The great thing about that music is that it is still classic and it is still brilliant.

Whenever you hear (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Stones it really is amazing. Whenever you hear Hound Dog by Elvis Presley you instantly go “wow”. Whenever you hear Good Golly, Miss Molly by Little Richard or Great Balls Of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis these really are fucking mind blowing bits of music, they really are. They are not old songs; they are just great songs. Period; end of story. What annoys me is that songs such as these always have to be consigned to the past. If you hear those songs within a modern environment, they are still brilliant songs.

It really must have been a tough decision for you to agree to join United DJs Radio as I have been reliably informed that you really do not like, as Jethro Tull once sang, Living In The Past do you?

(Laughter) Just who the fuck has been talking to? (laughter). I like what you have done there, let me tell you that it hasn’t gone unnoticed (laughter). Yes, that’s right; I have never really been a nostalgia freak. However, having said that, I do like a lot of stuff that was in the past, but I like living for now. I really am very much a now person together with the future. The past has gone; it’s history but there are things that we can learn from it. We can take great bits of music, play them now for an audience on this day in 2020 and they will still sound as fresh as a daisy.

I have to tell you that I tuned into your first show and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

You did, thank you that’s always good to hear.

It was refreshing to hear that you were broadcasting live without any pre-records. Is that how you prefer to do it?

Yes, it is, it has always been the way that I like to do things. What you have to remember is that radio is all about connection, and for me, you can’t really connect with people if you have pre-recorded the show in the studio three weeks ago. The whole point is that I am here now and if I cock up now then you know that and I know that. It is all part of the fun (laughter). If I’m here and you’re there then yes, there is that connection. That is what radio can do really well. If I just want playlists, then I will listen to Spotify (laughter).

When Tony and Mike approached you and asked you to join UDJ just how long did it take you to say yes?

I have to be totally honest with you and tell you that I have been talking to these guys for over two years now, long before UDJ went on air. I have known a lot of the guys for a very long time now and they really are good friends. There were other things that I was doing at the time which took priority, and I wanted to see how it was going to sound but I really do like charts. So, it was nice when I got a phone call from Mike a month ago saying, “look Foxy we have got this idea, can we have a chat”. So we met up and everything just seemed to make sense. I listened to what Mike had to say and at the end of the meeting I said to him “I like that, it sounds like fun. Let’s do it once a week, let’s make it big, bold and brash and interesting” and the rest as they say is history (laughter).

Your very first show back on a brand-new station, were there any nerves?

Yes, I did, I had some nerves but there is a difference between scared nerves and excited nerves. This is something that I have done a million times before, well thousands of times before, millions would be a slight exaggeration; okay tens of thousands of times before but yes, there is always an excitement (laughter). What you have to remember is that broadcasting from the UDJ studio which is where we were coming from, a lot of the shows are not live at the moment. In fact, people are currently broadcasting from their homes and all over the shop. Last Sunday, the guy before me was broadcasting from Thailand and then after me it was (Emperor) Rosko from Los Angeles (laughter).

So, what’s interesting is, is that it is all about that point of switching to the studio live, three, two, and one, and then go. Then the studio is live, you are live and then its go, and yes, there really is an excitement about the place. You know that you are about to go live and it is always reassuring when you hit that first jingle button and it actually fires; there is noise coming out, and you think ‘okay that’s a good start’ (laughter). Then it’s a case of getting back into the groove and off you go and try not to over think it really. It is something that I have done an awful lot of, radio shows. I like doing radio shows thank god; I like to think that I am quite good at doing live radio shows, and it was really nice to be back on-air.

And of course, there is that instant feedback when you have people sending in emails. They are tweeting about the show plus they are trying to get in contact via Facebook, letting us know what they think about the show. There is no reason for anyone to blow smoke up your arse; if they don’t like it then they are only too happy to tell you that they don’t like it (laughter). Actually, at the moment the feedback that we have received has been amazing; people are so pleased that UDJ are actually doing a chart as it’s the first proper chart that has been started for an awfully long time that is not a sales countdown and they seem to appreciate that it is involving heritage artists. Limahl was absolutely gobsmacked that he was number one (laughter).

I just smiled and said to him “that just goes to show that amongst our listener’s people obviously love your songs”. A lot of these artists are currently receiving some amazing feedback. What’s amazing about these older artists is that they are all still alive as they are making great songs whereas a lot of the artists currently being played on the Gold stations have sadly passed away now. What I can say to you is that the artists currently being played on UDJ are all alive, fighting fit, still relevant and making great songs right now. Not only that but they are still out there gigging and performing. We all know that some of the bands that we will always love for the rest of our lives, the ones which influenced our lives probably throughout our teen years.

We were all finding our music, finding out who we were, what type of person we wanted to be, what gang we wanted to be in, what sort of tribe we were part of; all of that plus the music that we were listening to is our identity. So, we will always have a strong affinity for those bands that we first heard, or the ones that you went out and bought first thing. Those were the times when you had to save up your pocket money and physically go out to buy the latest record. You had to go down to the local Boots, W.H. Smith, Woolworths or wherever it was that you bought your records. It was an investment. You could have spent your money on sweets, fashion or something else but it was a case of ‘no, I am going to buy that new Bowie album’ (laughter) or whatever it was that people bought.

So, when you were a kid and you grew up with those acts, if they are still relevant and still making songs, then maybe if you are a real fan you are still following them. Limahl is still out there gigging, and he still has a massive fan base of people who have grown up with him and still like him. Similarly, with Right Said Fred; they are massive in other parts of the world but over here they can’t get touched. You can go through and look at all of those artists that are in the charts that may not be getting much of a look-in, for example Steve Harley who is a really successful British artist; he still has an enormously loyal fan base.

You only have to look at all of the retro festivals, Rewind and all of the other ones, where a lot of these artists are still playing to really big audiences, crowds of ten, fifteen and twenty thousand. It makes you go “yes, they are totally relevant”. All of the artists, who are currently playing all of those festivals, are playing all of their hits, all of the old stuff which made them famous which people want to hear. But what you have to remember is that they may just have written a great new song. Look at Dion, “I’m eighty and I have just written a great new album. Let’s try and get it out there and get on the road to promote it” (laughter).

An artist who has always been consistent in my life has been Santana. I can remember stealing my older brothers’ cassettes so that I could listen to early Santana albums and what have you. There is a band that really made their name at Woodstock back in 1969. And literally, to this day, they are still relevant. Can there really be a better guitar player in the world than Carlos Santana; I don’t think so (laughter). He truly is one of the greatest of all times. What he has always managed to do is recruit, work with and collaborate with young, relevant, new artists, which keeps him relevant. Artists have always done that down the years; ‘who is hot and new, well let’s do a single together’. And it is that which keeps them relevant, so that is what he does.

There are so many other ways to gauge success rather than just winning a Brit Award or being number one on the single chart. That shouldn’t be how music is always gauged. It is a simple way of being gauged and that is why charts are always popular; you start at thirty and you end up at number one. The longer you listen then hopefully the higher and better the hits are going to get to a certain extent. There is always the case where a listener has listened from thirty to number three so they may as well listen from three to number one. They have already invested an hour and a half so they may as well listen and see who is number one (laughter). So, from a programming point of view charts have always worked as well; they tend to drag people along.

Are there any groups or artists that the station will not play?

No (laughter) and there you have the shortest answer that I have given you all day (laughter). The only reason that would stop UDJ playing a song is if we didn’t think that it was very good or that our listeners might not want to hear it. The major problem that we are faced with at UDJ is that we can play anything from seven decades of music and let me tell you, that’s a bloody hell of a lot of music which gives us an enormous library to choose from (laughter). It really does make it quite hard sometimes simply because you are spoilt for choice.

What are your views on music streaming platforms such as Spotify?

Are you trying to get me thrown off the air already; I have only been back for a couple of weeks (laughter). What I find really interesting is where we are now with technology, with the likes of Spotify and the music streaming platforms, Spotify and Apple Music being two of the biggest, have totally transformed the music business. It has given both the labels and the record companies vast fortunes for their back catalogues which, it has to be said that no one was listening to them and to a certain extent no one was playing them on the radio. The interesting thing is that during the 80s, 90s and early 00s we really were an MTV generation. The music really did have to have a great video to accompany it; in fact a hell of a lot of the music then relied heavily upon the looks more than the sound.

Now of course, we are weirdly no longer in that mode. Spotify and the other streaming platforms are all about the audio and what’s great about it is, if you play an old song, and you see an old video, for example of The Supremes dancing around in the studio, it all looks old. The way that it is filmed, together with the way that they are dressed, it all reminds you that it is an old song. However, if you just hear Baby Love or Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Diana Ross, they are just great records. So, what has been brilliant about here and now is that it is once again all about what the song sounds like, which is great which helps kids like mine. I have three teenagers who listen to older music without thinking that it is old. They just say, “wow, that is a great song” and I find that so exciting.

When you are not working who do you listen to?

(Laughter) I have to tell you that I listen to a real mix of music and artists. For example, I was sitting in my car this morning driving back from Battersea Park with my dog, and it was such a beautiful morning that I had this overwhelming urge to wind my windows down and play Ventura Highway by the band America. They had such amazing harmonies, and despite me being stuck in a traffic jam on the Kings Road, for a moment I felt like I was driving down the California Highway and that the ocean was to my right. I wasn’t sadly but the music took me there. It had that feel to it (laughter). After that, I turned to my old Apple Playlist which I refuse to update because if I do, I will lose all of my downloads (laughter).

I think that there are a lot of people out there who are all saying, “I am not going to plug my phone in because I will lose all of the songs that I have actually downloaded” (laughter). I had it on shuffle and it went into two more really old songs which I personally feel are beautiful; so I ended up going from Ventura Highway to Do It Again by Steely Dan, and every time that I play that tune I want to mix it in with Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean because they work so very well together (laughter). Then after that it shuffled into Year Of The Cat by Al Stewart, so three really old but beautiful songs. Having said that, yesterday I found myself playing Katie Perry, together with an awful lot of cheese (laughter).

It is a real mix. I have always liked a bit of American Rock; Guns N’ Roses are a fantastic band, Bon Jovi obviously. I love The Eagles, I think that Ed Sheeran’s first couple of albums were brilliant and there is some Coldplay in there too. There really are some amazing acts out there now who are making brilliant and relevant music right now. Weirdly, I remember that I was about to interview Carlos Santana quite a few years ago now, and I remember thinking ‘what will be my opening gambit with Carlos Santana’ and I had worked out that my opening gambit would be, ’I have been broadcasting for thirty years, I have listened to millions of songs in my life, but if I look back to which artist I have probably listened to the most in terms of albums then that is probably you’ (laughter).

Thinking about it, one of the first albums that I went out and spent good money on and really treasured was Moonflower by Santana which is a double album, and which simply blew me away. I think that it still sounds so incredible. I just listen to that album consistently. I can always go back to a bit of Santana; he is simply amazing. That really does surprise me because they are a band that is rarely played on the radio. Every now and again it is quite nice for me to whack on Capital and see what they are playing today and hear what the latest pop is, especially with me having three teenage kids. What’s interesting is that my kids don’t listen to the radio; my kids rarely listen to the radio.

The radio has lost them. Radio is not entertaining enough for my kids. I think that radio has got to take a look at itself and really work out just what it is that it is trying to do because a lot of radio that should be appealing, for example when we were doing Capital Radio, we worked out that ninety percent of all teenage kids living in London were all listening to Capital Radio. It really was insane. Now, I would bet that if that figure is twenty percent, they would be lucky. My kids are looking at YouTube, Snapchat, Tik Tok, together with streaming platforms such as Spotify, and if you do listen to Capital Radio, they are playing the same songs all the time.

Their playlists have got so tight. They don’t allow their DJ’s to say anything entertaining, funny or good. I think Capital got terrified by the streaming platforms. I think that what they have got to do is to try and work out that actually radio is not just about music, it is a connection, it has got its own personality, the radio station is alive, and people are tuning in to be entertained. Whether that is with news, competitions, information, or whatever or just witty banter, they are there to be entertained and kept company. If you don’t do that, if you don’t allow people to talk about good stuff, real stuff or entertaining stuff, and maybe play something new every now and again.

If they are just playing out the same songs then the audience will simply say, “I have heard this already, so I really don’t need to listen to you every day. I’m bored”. Radio One weirdly do have much more speech and interestingly over the last few years they have ended up doing much better; they now have a really good breakfast show. It’s what I would personally call an old school breakfast show. He chats, he’s funny, and it’s not a million miles away from what Mike Read did when he was on the breakfast show, or what he is doing now but to a slightly different audience. So, I think that weirdly Radio One have actually got themselves into a much better place now.

I personally feel that Radio One nowadays probably sounds a lot more relevant to younger people, than maybe the commercial radio stations are doing now which seem to me to have become a background noise. Its background noise that plays the same twenty songs and you can win stuff, is what they have become. Win thirty grand now listen to ten songs (laughter). If you want to sign up for the next few months, I will only tell you about the Summer Ball or if you would rather sign up for the next month I will only tell you about the Jingle Bell Ball, and then for the next two months I will only tell you how to win thirty grand (laughter).

So, as you can see it is really clear messaging, really clear messaging, but it leaves you asking, “where is all the other stuff, where is the entertaining stuff, where is the interesting stuff, where is the funny stuff” (laughter). Don’t get me wrong, financially they are huge and they are doing well and I had an amazing run at those stations but it really is a different kind of radio to the one that I personally want to listen to or that I want to be doing that’s for sure.

What lies ahead for UDJ?

(Laughter) just how long is a piece of string. I’m so glad that you have asked me that because I personally feel that UDJ will be going through some interesting changes in the next year or so. Now that we are up and running, I feel that we need to commercialise properly in order to make it a viable business. I’m sure that the station will evolve organically, because what you have to remember is that up to now it has been a new experiment. It has been a DJ Collective in most respects where fortunately there is no one programme director saying, “do this, do that” and being brutal and tough (laughter). At UDJ everyone is good at what they do; we all know what makes a great radio show, so it is our aim to get out there and do one. I have to say that working under those conditions without restrictions really is a breath of fresh air.

I’m so glad that you have said that because I wanted to ask you, in an ideal world, what would your ideal position be with regard to timeslot, duration and genre?

(Laughter) god, just where the hell did that come from, what a brilliant question. For me, that is really hard to answer as it changes almost every day. Let me think about it. I really did always want to be a breakfast show presenter because, for me, breakfast was always the biggest thing. I did a hell of a lot of filling in for Chris Tarrant on Capital Radio which worked really well and was extremely successful, but it was never my show. So, I moved over to Magic and did it for almost ten years. That was my breakfast show; it ended up being number one, and the show did really well, the station was number one, the breakfast show was number one so I could tick that box.

The only downside to that was that I had to get up at 4.30am every day. I don’t mind getting up early but that’s not early, it’s the middle of the fucking night (laughter). I have always loved Drivetime radio. I feel that it is a great show to do; I did a great Drivetime show that really worked for a long time on Capital, and I really enjoyed that. So, thinking about it I would most probably say that Drivetime would me the one for me; 4pm to 7pm is pretty good. It is quite a good social time to be on as well because you can get a lot of stuff done during the day, and you can finish at 7pm and still go out in the evening.

So, taking all of that on board I would have to say that Drivetime is a good one, and I think that it would probably be playing a mix of music; we would have a few fun guests whilst keeping it moving along. I like a pace to my shows. I have learnt over the years that there are times when I possibly waffle too much, and then there are other times when I have managed to get the balance better. The Drivetime show that I did at Capital Radio was one of the consistently best shows that I did with the exception of The Pepsi Network Chart Show which was a blast. I have to say that The Pepsi Network Chart Show was a phenomenon really; it did brilliantly well.

Radio One had five times as many listeners when we started doing it, and after two years we were just beating them. We really caught up with them and we created a sound for chart shows at that time which hadn’t been heard before. I guess that it was personality, charts, have a bit of fun, talk to the artists, throw in a few competitions, oh and there were forty songs starting at forty and ending at one (laughter). It really did have a lot going on. It had a big energy and it really sounded big. It was big and it became really successful. We had an amazing sponsor in Pepsi, who were probably one of the best sponsors that you could ever have. At that time Pepsi were going through a transitional period. They were launching Pepsi, Pepsi Max and it was all, ‘live life to the Max’ and their ambassadors were the likes of Cindy Crawford and Andre Agassi.

They were employing superstars to go and do crazy stuff with them and so we tapped onto the back of all that. They used to sponsor a few big stars like Tina Turner and Michael Jackson whenever they were out on tour. Now, of course, they could sponsor every star by sponsoring the chart. It was a relationship that worked really well for over ten years. It really was a fantastic time. I have always enjoyed doing a really good chart show so that would most definitely be on my list. I think, for me, that I would like, at some point, to move the chart show time wise so that the West Coast of America can hear it live together with New York.

We are already speaking to a lot of artists and their management together with a hell of a lot of record labels and I have to say that, at this moment in time, they all seem to love the idea of it. They seem to love the idea of getting new music by heritage artists out there, and we are working hard to have that kind of relationship with them. The great thing about being on the internet and being an app-based radio station means that people can listen to what it is that we are doing all around the world. So, there are no barriers, there is no FM frequency that is fading out. I think that lots of things are moving, and although we are a bunch of older guys on UDJ, we do not think old and we are not sad old. Hopefully, we have cut our teeth at some of the most exciting times of radio in this country and we still want to do that kind of radio.

Did you originally set out to be a DJ?

No, not really (laughter). When I first went to university, I had passed the Commissions Board to go to Sandhurst to be an officer in the Army. It was my intention to go there for five years and fly helicopters in the Army Air Corps. My brother was in the Army and I thought that it would be ace. However, when I was on a work placement over in the USA as part of my degree, I heard American Radio and it was just like a light bulb moment. I just said, “I want to do this” (laughter). And so, it started. Although I did go back and learn how to fly helicopters. There is something about them that has always fascinated me, and I have had a licence now for thirty years. They really are pretty amazing.

Are they not the most dangerous form of transport?

(Laughter) well, I’m still here (laughter). Some people might say that riding a motorcycle to work every day, which is what I do, is the most dangerous but I love that. It really is exciting.

On that note Neil, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great.

No problem Kevin, it’s been very nice speaking to you. You stay safe and have a lovely day today.