Interview: Adam Whalley DJ/Owner of Feedback Radio
"The main idea is to have a station that centres around this notion of ‘Guitar Music’, but also offers a huge variety. We trust our DJs - they’re after all what makes the station tick and takes it beyond a list of tracks. We want to offer listeners a great variety and-also something a little bit different from what’s out there now."
Imagine this, a guitar based radio station where the DJs have full control over their shows. Yes, full control, not governed by playlists and algorithms, but can actually-pick their own songs. A station that pays as much, if not more attention to new music and current artists regardless if they can sell out arenas and stadiums, or have had hits or not. Plus, throw into the mix good old fashioned specialist shows – Punk, Reggae, Metal, Stoner Rock, Americana, Classic Rock – a station where you will hear a truckload of music you haven’t heard before – both old and new – as well as what you know and love.
Does this sound a bit too good to be true? Well, it now exists in the form of Feedback Radio. A station where you are just as likely to hear Larkin Poe, The Wolfhounds, and Fontaines DC as you will Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden and The Clash. If you don’t like the current song being played, stick around as you will probably enjoy the next one. It will have you compiling playlist after playlist and purchasing physical formats that will have your bank manager calling. Yeah, it’s dangerous, but it’s also fun. So, to find out more, we at Echoes And Dust sent over a long list of questions compiled by myself and a bunch of stuff F.R listeners (Thanks to Mark H, Jonathon Kardasz, Dave Nutteyman, Viva El Swain, and also our own Chris Ball) wanted to know as the morning DJ and owner of feedback Radio Adam Whalley kindly obliged.
(((o))): How did the idea of Feedback Radio first form, and then proceed to get off the ground?
Adam Whalley: Hi, thank you for having me on your website!
So, it may help if I firstly mention a bit about my radio past. I first started my career in music working at Team Rock Radio. I was producing all-of their acoustic sessions as my primary training and lots of my other work comes through sound engineering and Music production. I then picked up a lot of other jobs at the station including producing some of their shows. Team Rock Radio sadly met it’s end and I left the business in 2016, and to be honest until then I didn’t have a lot to do in radio for a while – until I ended up working at a business that also ran a London DAB pop station – which I must admit I hated.
Additionally, I was always quite frustrated by the lack of selection and musical depth on some of the big rock stations. I really feel that guitar-music, as a genre can kind of encapsulate a lot, and I don’t think you’re going to lose a lot of listeners if you follow up some classic rock with some grunge, maybe a bit of blues and something heavier. For me – the thing that ties all-of these genres together is the fact that the guitar is the dominant instrument – so I thought it’d be fantastic to have a radio station that embraces ‘Guitar Music’, and offers a huge variety to bounce around the various possible genres.
Additionally, from working for the business with the London DAB station, I helped re-organise the studios and got a feel for how the engineering can work behind a lot of radio. So, I purely decided to try and see what I could create at home and how I could get it working. I found a great playout system, some fantastic audio processing software (where being a sound engineer comes in handy) and then I worked out the web broadcast side of it. I put the apps together, built the website and then we had the spine and bones of a radio station.
I’ve worked with Big Boy Bloater for many years and he is one of the greatest people I know. Having him come on board at the launch stage and giving us a great afternoons DJ committed to 4 hours a day was massive to us getting off the ground. Starting the station with 8 hours of radio shows in the weekdays in the key hours was great. Bloat has been with me every step of the way – and the station wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is if it wasn’t for him, so he’s been instrumental in getting it all-of the ground!
(((o))): What are the main ideas/principles/ethos behind Feedback radio?
Adam Whalley: The main idea is to have a station that centres around this notion of ‘Guitar Music’, but also offers a huge variety. We trust our DJs – they’re after all what makes the station tick and takes it beyond a list of tracks. We want to offer listeners a great variety and-also something a little bit different from what’s out there now.
(((o))): Were there any major obstacles you faced in the beginning or/and are still currently facing?
Adam Whalley: I think there have always been obstacles along each step of the way, but I feel myself and others who’ve been involved in the station have done enough to side-step them for now.
We have some slightly different challenges currently facing us! I’ve never hidden the fact that we need a revenue stream at some point and that a form of advertising is likely to be that stream. Of course, again – one of our main aims has been to do this in a way that can be as unobtrusive to the stations output as possible. I imagine we may end up with 2 or 3 minutes of ads an hour on the station at some point, but of course that is far less than big commercial stations. Additionally, it will work in a way where the adverts are totally independent of the music we play. We won’t have anyone changing that, but Coronavirus has really harmed this form of advertising right now.
Other than that, the only obstacle remains just getting people to know about us – to know that we exist and then of course to listen in. It’s really growing every day – and I’m immensely pleased and proud of the reaction we’ve been getting so far!
(((o))): Are there more new shows or other ideas like Feedback Radio station merchandise, listen again devices etc. in the pipeline?
Adam Whalley: Of course. Merchandise is something that we will definitely – be doing sooner rather than later and so is listen again. In fact, as I’m writing this we’ve just launched a listen again system that will host all-of our ‘specialist’ shows. This will be done utilising Mixcloud – which is a great platform for both the content provider and for the artists as well. It’s something people have been asking about all the time and I hope they’ll be happy to see it in existence!
(((o))): Where do you hope to see the station going in the short term, and in the long-term future?
Adam Whalley: In the short term – I just want to keep our current output going strong and to get more people to find out about us and to tune in. I actually-think that in its current state there isn’t a whole lot more that bigger commercial stations offer that we don’t. We have daily programming stretching from 8 am until 10pm – some of those shows are replays of weekend content, but that isn’t actually-too different to the biggest rock station in the UK anyway.
In the long term – I’d love to have more people involved, with maybe some additional content across the week. The glory of launching on demand is that we won’t need to replay the shows really-anymore, so we’ll have some decent time slots open-up for us to add a few more shows in. We’d also love to work with some festivals, some events and just in the long term keep the station strong and enjoyable. In the end of the day, the main part of all of this is ‘radio’ and that involves offering lots of hours of enjoyable music and personality. If we can keep doing that and make it even better, then I think it’s a success!
(((o))): Do your own personal musical tastes stretch across the many genres that Feedback Radio Plays? Who are your main influences that got you hooked on music?
Adam Whalley: They definitely-do! Bare-in mind, the initial music database on the station is much of my own music library, I think it’s definitely-suited to my own taste – but it’s grown greatly with additional DJs coming on board and putting their own stamp and choosing their tunes. I must admit, Ska, Reggae and some of the newer alt-rock isn’t totally my cup of tea, but its guitar music that a lot of people love and it has a home on Feedback Radio – again going back to our ethos.
For me, I’ve always loved music. It’s been a part of my life since I was tiny, to the point that my school teacher recognised it when I was 4, and gave me a spare Bryan Adams CD she thought I might like. From then I pretty much wanted to be him and really wanted to learn guitar. I was also brought up on music like Queen and wanted to learn guitar which I began when I was 8. I then went to university doing music production and it’s just been something that’s stuck with me throughout my entire life so far.
My own personal influences are more in the rock domain – my tastes change all the time, but as a strong rule for the last 10 years or so – if Josh Homme has had anything to do with it, I love it. Kyuss and Queens of The Stone Age are top of my influences so that probably says a lot stylistically, but I do find it very difficult to narrow down. I love a lot of music and I think that helps having a radio station and a show!
(((o))): Aside from your morning show, of course, The Ed Mitchell Boss Reggae show (Reggae, Ska, 2 Tone), Al Gare’s Personality Crisis (Proto Punk and Punk), Corey’s Rock into the Weekend (Rock and metal bangers), Elles Baily Putting Down Roots (Roots, Americana, Country), Naumann’s 90s/00s show, and the Desert Rock (Stoner, Sludge, Doom) shows are my personal favourites. Was all this part of some masterplan from the beginning or is the whole station’s concept a gradually developing one?
Adam Whalley: I would say it was part of the ‘masterplan’. I always wanted lots of different shows with lots of styles of music. The way that shows are recorded and done, it’s possible to do it from anywhere in the world with quite a minimal setup, so my original aim was we could get a lot of people involved to represent the music that they loved and were fanatical and passionate about. 90’s 00’s Naumann is a great example of this for me. I used to tour with Andrew Naumann’s last band, Willie and the Bandits, and some of my best times and best journeys and moments of musical exploration were sat next to Andy in the van with him telling me what tracks to put on the stereo. It really was fantastic, and I think having people able to do that on radio can give everyone this experience.
Again – as a station that’s guitar based, I wanted all-of the genres represented and I feel we have got a long way towards that so far through the shows you’ve mentioned. Of course, the more we’ve grown the more shows we’ve got involved and I’m hopeful that can develop more.
(((o))): Having legendary DJ Nicky Horne hosting a show is a both a catch and a statement of intent. How did you get Nicky on board?
Adam Whalley: My Dad has listened to Nicky Horne since his beginnings in radio. It was actually-Nicky moving from Planet Rock to Team Rock that made me pay attention to the station and eventually try and get some work there! From then, I worked with Nicky regularly, producing acoustic sessions for his shows and then afterwards working on some other projects with him. He’s been interested in the idea since I first floated it past him, and I think he’s relished being able to play the music he loves without having anyone tell him what he can play. It comes back to my last answer and speaking about passion. Nicky is so passionate about this music and has so many stories and experiences with it that just need to be heard! We’ve given him a platform for that, and we’re incredibly lucky and happy that he’s with us on the station.
(((o))): I believe there is so much good being music being made but so much it over the years gets ignored by the major commercial radio stations. People just need to know where to look and there should be something for everybody. Is that how you see it?
Adam Whalley: That is definitely-how I see it. The times are getting tougher and tougher for bands as well – regardless of COVID – that I think it’s making it even more difficult for them to a get to a stage that commercial stations pick them up. For most commercial stations to be picked up for regular daily plays (not just the ‘new rock’ shows, which often to me feel like a bit of a courtesy) you need to have good pluggers or a label to get you there. The reality is now though, that young bands have a very tough entry into the industry. Any music they make they essentially have-to give it away via streaming services, they can’t sell too many CDs because of it with venues closing there aren’t a lot of top opportunities to get playing and sell your wares, so to speak. So how can they get to a stage where they can afford a plugger and get them into commercial radio? Plus, to satisfy advertisers, there’s an obligation for these stations to keep their playlists ‘safe’ and not take a risk on a new band. For these reasons, so much music just doesn’t get anywhere, and that’s a huge shame for me.
(((o))): What are your thoughts on Commercial Radio stations? Have you had experiences working for any?
Adam Whalley: ”I have. Team Rock Radio was fantastic, because we began with a huge commercial radio sized platform but ran it with personality, courage and great music – so I don’t count them in my general feelings on ‘commercial radio’.
More recently – my work in the commercial world disheartening and damn right depressing. The bosses seem to get-off on this bizarre power that they remove the DJs ability to pick the music they want to play. They seem to think that they know better when it comes to this magic formula that they’ve created in their heads and they generally love the opportunity to berate a DJ from having the simple idea to play a song they like.
I was once stood in a studio where a listener had requested ‘Kiss from a Rose’ by Seal. I mean – what a track!! I was there as the boss stormed in and turned the song off mid track as it was too slow and not right for the listeners. Do I need to say any more than that?!
(((o))): As there are many online radio stations emerging, it must be hard to build a profile in the marketplace. How do intend to do this and is social media an effective tool?
Adam Whalley: It certainly is hard. Social Media is the tool for this, but as years have gone by cracking social media is more and more difficult. We have a couple of thousand fans on facebook now (so far) but posts get directed to so few. Without a big budget to push into an ad spend, it’s a fairly-tough time without just plugging away. It can feel frustrating at times but looking at the bigger picture and seeing the growth over what is a relatively small time is really gratifying.
Word of mouth is great as well – we have a good listener base and people who seem generally excited about what they hear and want to tell their friends who seem to do the same.
I’ve always wanted the station to have a bit of a commercial feel to it with DJs in regular spots, so the schedule gives you that day to day familiarity and I hope that is something that can separate us from some of the rest as well!
(((o))): Here is your chance to say why music lovers should listen to Feedback Radio, and as I’ve talked a lot about other shows on the station, can you say why your morning show is an essential listen for everyone to start the day?
Adam Whalley: Well, if you love guitar music (which I think we can say here encapsulates Rock, Alternative, Grunge, Indie, Metal, Blues, Roots, Country, Emo, Ska, Punk and probably a lot of denominations and other genre’s that I missed) you’re likely to at least find a show you’ll love on the station if not every hour of radio we put out! You’re not just going to hear singles, a-sides and hits either, we play it all! We support young artists coming through and new music with our weekly A List, and we are trying to do things the correct way so you get musical fanatics playing you songs with unhinged playlists and no-one telling them what they can and can’t play. We are also free to listen, we don’t spam you or even request a sign up and you can find us online, on our own iOS and Android apps as well as on Alexa and the majority-of radio aggregators. Hopefully that’s a good enough pitch as bare-in-mind, I’m mainly a sound engineer and not a salesman!
Regarding my show, if you love rock, modern rock and a bit of blues to get your day going, along with some fun features, musical requests and hosted by someone who’s enthusiastic and loves what they’re doing – then I hope you’ll check it out!”
(((o))): Feedback Radio can be found online at Feedbackradio.co.uk and by their very easy to access app.
Adam Whalley’s morning show weekdays 8am to 12pm
Big Boy Bloater’s show weekdays 2pm – 6pm.
The Nicky Horne show is on every Monday 8pm.
Jonny Pirie’s The Desert Rock show Sundays 2pm.
The 90s/00s rock show hosted by Michael Nuaman Sundays 8pm.
The Heavy Show every Sunday at 6pm.
Al Gare’s Personality Crisis show Friday 6pm.
Ed Mitchell’s Boss Reggae show Friday 7pm.
The Rock into the Weekend show hosted by Cory Blose Fridays at 8pm.
For Feedback Radio’s full schedule check out their website. Plus, as Adam said, there is now a listen again for all the specialist shows. So, what are you waiting for, dive in, support a passionate guitar music radio station catering for all genres and eras, and enjoy.