Interview with Roger Hill and Joe Shooman from PMS, Radio Merseyside

1.) Since you began your radio programme Pure Musical Sensations (PMS) 24 years ago on Radio Merseyside, how would you say Liverpool’s music scene has evolved since then?

R:In 1982 the Liverpool music scene was the province of a small community of dedicated individualists surrounded by a larger number of working musicians turning out either a pale romanticized post-punk or the time-honoured sensitive male angst ballads in the Merseybeat tradition. The individualists, almost without exception, went on to greater, or more notorious, things, garnering the fame they had all aspired to, from the charts to Big Brother, but maybe never achieving that epic currency enjoyed by contemporaries like U2 and The Clash.
The ballads have continued unabated and the style underpinned the more commercial successes of the 90’s bands who had learned the effectiveness of well-financed production and publicity images. As time went on a few more adventurous and bloody-minded local bands achieved success in the alternative sector and such mavericks have always emerged out of the generally conservative local scene. The active local music area had by then extended beyond Liverpool to the whole of Merseyside and beyond.
Venues have played a major part in encouraging experiment and radical variations in style. The Back to Basics style of the new millennium grew out of such a development.
Overall Merseyside bands now stand a better chance of getting a deal, getting in the charts and connecting on equal terms with the nation’s music. The infrastructure for developing music, bands and DJ’s, has grown stronger and more useful over the years. Local labels are doing a good job now in giving local bands an outlet. What has gone is the individualism. What we had in 1982 was a quirky collection of sounds, shot through with humour and showy egotism, somewhere to the edge of public taste but hitting some interesting chord in the national consciousness. Now we have a halfway decent music factory which emulates rather than innovates.
And most of that could stand for pop music generally……..

2.) Would you say there is a distinctive Liverpool sound? How would you describe it?

R. The basic ”Liverpool sound” is ballady with epic pretensions, but the most successful Merseyside bands have achieved a more individual sound which has connected with people through force of personality not generic style.
J: I think what people mean by “the Liverpool sound” is Merseybeat, which is really just classic songwriting with the classic band set-up, and tracks about universally recognisable emotions / subjects. The Aeroplanes are doing their version of it very, very well at the moment. But actually Liverpool’s always had a massive diversity in its culture and musicians so personally I really dislike labels of that nature.

3.) In what way is Liverpool’s music scene set apart from other cities, for example, Manchester, London and Glasgow?

R. Liverpool (and, hey, let’s hear it for Merseyside from now on – the “Liverpool sound” is a handy but inaccurate myth – and DJ Culture, and so on) has its local flavour, just like the other places. Its unique quality is romantic isolation, it generates big stories about itself and believes in them against the odds.
J: With Manchester there’s an interesting push and pull – it’s cyclical really, you’ll get Liverpool being relatively strong, then Manchester bouncing back with some interesting stuff and vice versa. Any city by the sea that had docks is really open to outside influences so in a sense Manchester and Liverpool are the same. Manchester’s live scene is really healthy at the moment and there’s a lot of venues and bands – which is also true about here. And Glasgow’s producing some great talent too. All three places have a vibe about them that’s less about bullshit and more about creativity, a definite edginess – and, crucially, an often confrontational independent spirit. There’s probably more in common than there is different.

4.) Could more be done to help promote local talent? If so, what?

R. I hope not. There’s a lot of superfluous talent which should be directed to more pertinent things than the music business. Musical talent, if it is real talent, will always get its just desserts. Business sense is what happens after that. All we’ve been doing on Merseyside in the last few years is to build up the hopes of lots of locals for an ever-decreasing slice of the ever-repeating music market, and then dooming them to disappointment. We should have been thinking multi- and cross-media years ago – that’s where the future lies.
J: I’m not sure. I tend to maybe naively believe that true talent will find its own path but I’ve felt for some time that whilst Liverpool’s got some great websites and radio shows, there’s never been a universally successful music or cultural printed magazine of any note a la Time Out in my time here, and I’ve thought for a while that there’s also not been any quality North West music television programmes that have hit the right buttons either. There’s been a few good ones, but nothing definitive, and there tends to be a fragmentation there as a consequence. How much that would help, though, is debatable.

5.) What are your top 3 Liverpool venues for bands and why do you like them?
R. Philharmonic Hall – the acoustic and the range of music booked.
Zanzibar – lots of wood, feels like a Mid-Western roadhouse
Pacific Road – it’s not in Liverpool – acoustic is not great but they book good things.
J: I used to really like HeebieJeebies cause despite the bad sound it was beautifully laid out, had a brilliant atmosphere and all sorts of nooks and crannies to play in. But as it’s closed again I’ll go for the Barfly Masque Theatre, for which I’ve a soft spot cause I’ve played there and also been at countless wonderful gigs – it’s not too big so as people get lost and rattle around in there, and it’s small and sorta scruffy enough for it to feel like ‘a real gig’ and create a great atmosphere. It works equally well for Chibuku as it does for Inner City Sumo or Sugababes, which was a really memorable gig for a lot of reasons! The sound guys are consistently on the ball there too. When there’s a good crowd downstairs in Carling Academy you also can’t go far wrong, though I have to say I preferred it when it was the Lomax – the ale was cheaper for a start. The Philharmonic’s a beautiful building – a great place to sit down and watch a certain kind of show – though I’m still a little wary of sitting down in gigs, it feels wrong. And I always feel scruffy and uncultured in there.

5.)What do you do on your show to help promote the local scene?

R: Publicize gigs, feature sessions, play music (including exclusive tracks). And we play lots of cutting edge music which local musicians report to us as their way of getting stimulus to make better music.
J: We play the most interesting bands. And we have the gig guide, sessions etc accordingly. Bands that get played on PMS are the ones that stand up well to the rest of the world’s artists rather than playing local music just for the sake of its postcode.

6.) Which genres of music do you think are lacking adequate representation in Liverpool?

R: Radical guitar bands, Reggae, world music,
J: It’s about time we had some really great, spiky hip hop I think. But it’s probably out there too waiting to burst through again.

7.) Top tips for 2006? Which bands/artists should we be looking out for, both nationally and locally in your opinion?

R. Over to you, Joe.
J: Locally-based: The Aeroplanes, Hot Club De Paris, 28 Costumes, Snap Ant: all set to do excellent things and become well known on a(n inter)national level. Personal favourites: aPatT flirt with genius, Super Numeri and their various offshoots are always worth the time, and I like the EYH style crowd like Immigrants, Brute Forsyth and all the noisy little Class A Audio buggers, they tend to get under your skin one way or another. Nationally – to keep it to the mainstream UK scene if you like – people who you’ll be reading and hearing about a lot in the next few months should be people like Dykeenies, The Fratellis, The Wrens, Larrikin Love, Captain, Tilly And The Wall (complete with tap dancing drummer), Kill The Young, Young Knives, Bell X1, Little Man Tate, and Eberg – who’s set to be the radio smash of 2006 if it kicks off. For the rest of the world, listen to the show!

8.) What is your policy on demos being sent in to your show?
We invite them, listen to them, play them if the music is of good quality and fits with the other music we play.

9.) And finally, do you have any advice for up and coming bands trying to get signed?

R. I’ve said it before……Make good (honest, unabashed, original, brave, challenging) music. (and don’t take it too seriously – nothing in the music business is worth taking seriously…….)
J: This comes up a lot actually and the truth is that ‘getting signed’ means absolutely sod all. It’s far too vague a concept to have any sort of validity. I honestly think if you’re focussing your energies on chasing something that’s so consistently misrepresented and essentially meaningless as ‘A Record Deal’, you’re wasting your time cause you’re doing it for the wrong reasons entirely. Remember record companies come in all shapes and sizes.
Too many bands seem to think that ‘getting signed’ is some sort of holy grail that’s going to make you insanely rich, and lead to Big Brother appearances, shagging empty-headed Essex blondes on a bed strewn with Cuban cigars. In reality, signing a record deal in the traditional sense – especially these days – is only the start of a lot of hard work. And a lot of pressure if you work with certain companies too.
What is important, and it might seem a bit trite to say it, is making good music and hooking up with people who are doing it for the same reasons you are. That means: write your songs well, play them well in gigs, work hard for yourselves and don’t worry about The Music Industry cause it’ll come sniffing around soon enough. By which time you’ll be in a position to do everything yourself anyway so you’re calling more of the shots. Just get on with being a great band, work with people you trust, and make your own decisions.

The show is on every Sunday night from midnight til 2am on 95.8FM/1485 AM, BBC Radio Merseyside.

For more information on PMS, please visit link

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