NTS Radio will be three years’ old in April. Within in a short space of time it has established itself as a forward thinking platform, due in no small part to the range of eclectic DJ’s, shows and the station’s flagship Do!! You!!! Breakfast Show w/ Charlie Bones.
Having recently made the transition from two days a week to the now five days a week breakfast show, Charlie gives the station a more traditional programming format. But don’t be misled: there’s nothing routine about Do!! You!!!
The Do!! You!!! show mixes comedy skits with conversation, music and Charlie’s new gambit of ad libbing via the NTS chat room stream to create a show that is thought provoking, opinionated and entertaining.
Humble and self-deprecating, yet somewhat larger-than-life, Charlie Bones’ honest appraisal of life and its banality creates a breakfast show, the likes of which you’ll not likely to hear on commercial airwaves.
We caught up with the DJ to find out a bit more about his past, his thoughts on cultural relevancy and the no no’s of being earnest.
Q) The Do!! You!!! show holds a unique proposition for breakfast radio. How would you describe your show and what inspired your approach?
Organized chaos: I was always drawn to the mistakes, background noise and throwaway comments of radio, interviews, recordings and TV.
I’m trying to get the show to the sound like Michael and the rest of the Jacksons doing the demo for Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough together. It’s the warmth: everyone is loose, laughing, stuff goes out of time, it gets started again but the joy is there. It’s alive, you can catch things half said. It’s not over produced, I think everyone is playing at their best.
This atmosphere is what I’m striving for: people passing by and dropping in, contributing, spontaneous things happening. With a bit of Studs Terkel, a man able to draw fascinating stories out of anybody. And Bob Fass, a guy who was able to just let people talk and open up. This is the ideal I suffer with every day.
Q) So how did a nice fella like you end up on radio? [What was your journey?]
Relatively recently I realised I’d been on and off radio since college. It was quite a shock, I’m not at all career minded, my brain actively resists consistency it seems, so it felt good to realise that, like I had a calling. I got started really with this dream I could bring all these different characters, who I thought should be on radio, together and it would be hilarious and fascinating, unity and chaos. However it’s not that easy, I thought I could just be a facilitator and be like; “I wangled this space, come on and do your thing, you should have more exposure”, I’m not actually that comfortable with being centre stage but I realise I have to get that bit straight to get everything else to click, in terms of contrasting guests and hosting well.
I felt there were gaps in what I wanted to hear, that I thought no one else was doing, a mix of music, chat, different scenes joining, that magic thing that happens (very rarely) when disparate people all click or at least are open and respectful of each other’s views and there’s a good discussion.
I was quite naive and way too shy in the early days but lately I’ve got bored of being scared to a certain extent. To this day I still spend large periods of time thinking; what am I doing, what the hell is going on and freaking out, over analysing etc so to see a constant in the radio thing, appear out of the mist is very lovely.
I probably wouldn’t be on radio if it wasn’t for Femi setting up NTS. I believe in sticking to the golden path, a feeling I get that the universe opens up if you keep on your journey and try not to compromise, not that I do it successfully, but that a life can be made sustainable even though it looks unworkable through more popular modes of thought, and getting to know him has ended up giving me everything.
NTS is total freedom and in my experience this does not exist anywhere else, I would have continued getting bored with bureaucracy, getting fired or whatever else happens when I’m told to toe the line. I just feel I have to fully make the most of this freedom, the platform I’ve been given is a real privilege.
Q)You are not afraid to touch on politics and social issues on your show, whilst most breakfast shows pretend a world outside of music and entertainment isn’t happening. Why is it important to you to present such discourse?
I wish it wasn’t, I’m still learning but the two rules I have for myself is no preachiness and no earnestness, both deeply unsexy traits. Ideally I would have it in throw away funny comments like Bill Burr. He knows what’s going on and just slips it in every now and then.
I’ve tried to stop talking about stuff so much and just focus on creative and productive things in the show but because of the struggle and being sensitive to the insanity in the world, I can’t keep it from getting to me, kind of like the quote about the artist being the canary bird. I agree with that but I think beyond that I shouldn’t let negativity get to me whatsoever and to move on regardless of whatever bad stuffs goes on around me, to not let fear creep in and slow me down.
Anyway, when I’m really angry I tend to do a good show, for example after the riots I was just so shocked and disappointed at the reaction and general opinion afterward I went on a rant and Theo Parrish ended up listening and we bonded and now he’s a semi regular (ha!) guest on the show.
Q) You also use a lot of comedy skits in your shows – apart from entertaining us – why do you like appropriating comedy in your format?
Comedy is everything to me, from Dave Chappelle saying he listens to Thelonius Monk because everything is timing to Sun Ra saying humour is essential to dealing with how ridiculous the situation in the world is.
When its good it’s like a hyper intelligence that understands everything perfectly, completely disarming the mad trance of everyday life. I’m in heaven on a major Dr Katz obsession at the moment. I am in awe of the ability to alchemically turn a bad situation into something hilarious. Mitch Hedberg makes you realise that the neighbour banging on your wall to get you to turn your music down is in fact knocking on a door that you don’t have on your side of the wall, that he must go around if he wants to come in. Beautiful. It’s also the idea that if you open up all your receptors there is material everywhere. When you watch a good comic you can see them riffing off anything, something very useful for hosting.
Q) NTS is quietly and steadily amassing a core taste maker audience, with a global reach. What impact do you think stations like NTS will / could have on mass media in the future?
I hope that NTS keeps steam rolling ahead, staying independent (billionaire philanthropists who got rich in a nice way, hello) whilst gaining more and more traction and listeners and as the outside world of music implodes into meaningless dross and over saturated nonsense all the industry/numbers/playlist/money people would see that nothing comes from profit driven anything.
Real contributors to the world are essentially loss makers. I always think of John Peel. There is no way you can put a monetary value on what he did for music, the time he spent going through all the tapes and cd’s sent in by people, the insane, sometimes unlistenable things he would play and the effect it had. I heard he was under pressure the whole of his career from numbers orientated management but now he’s gone Radio 1 has nothing like the weight it had with him. He was like a semi invisible energy maintaining and underpinning everything else.
I really want that to be taken on by the people who have the power to put things out to a mass audience that the loss making factor is vital for everything to work. I liken it to the fashion world. The ateliers all run at a loss and are run by madmen like Karl Lagerfeld (check Signe Chanel) and yet it filters down to big chains and they make billions. What if the ateliers were chopped off the top and the bottom started feeding itself, that’s not pretty.
Q) Who would be your ideal top three guests for Do You and why?
Dave Chappelle because he brings everyone together, his comedy is essentially unity.
Henry Miller for his stories and theories and joie de vivre.
Nikola Tesla because he is proof the human brain is capable of imagining and realising supposed impossibilities, also I would like to argue with his less appealing opinions.
Q) What would you say have been the pivotal influential experiences in your life that have contributed to your current creative path?
It’s hard to say, spiritual things, seeing Pharaoh Sanders live, listening to Sun Ra interviews, meeting and getting to know Ade who ran and DJ’d Plastic People every Saturday way back when, he was our David Mancuso. I pretty much met everyone I’m involved with musically through him and that club. He put me on and made me understand standards and depth and subtlety in DJing, leading from the front, playing deep and meaningful. Watching him make anything happen was inspirational, from putting on NYE with Pharaoh Sanders to bringing over Arthur Verocai, Mulato, Jay Dee and to bring in Dego, Theo Parrish, the list is endless. A whole lineage of masters, he took no short cuts. He put on seminal nights such as Co-Op, Forward, his night Balance. He was a corner stone in my musical world. And simply being in dances and feeling absolute joy and togetherness.
Q) What DJ’s did you listen to growing up?
The ones that had a real effect on me were John Peel, Charlie Gillett, Kiss Cosmic Sunday’s which was Patrick Forge, Bob Jones, Gilles Peterson and Norman Jay, Dego & Marc Mac’s R Solution show, Coldcut’s Solid Steel, all the characters on pirate stations, Grooverider, Jumpin Jack Frost, DJ Hype, all the Rinse business around 2000.
Q) When packing your DJing bag for a club set, what essentials do you like to have in your collection and why?
Hard joy is what I’m about. Absolute elation, no darkness, all warmth but with teeth. I’m still searching for my ideal sound. Tabu Ley’s track Haffi Deo is the closest I’ve come so far.
I love records that kind of pop out of their own scene/genre for example Arthur Russell’s whole back catalogue, Arto Lindsay’s Lets be Adult, Stevie Wonder’s All I Do, Jean Luc Ponty’s Fast Lane. Progressive ideas I guess, timeless ideas.
It’s top secret but I’ve got to start making stuff although I probably just jinxed myself.
Q) You previously studied Menswear, do you still have an interest in fashion? Can we expect a Charlie Bones range in the near future?
Ha, little things may seep out here and there. I go through stops and starts, I’m not in a hurry to create an empire and anyway being a Capricorn, everything is meant to start happening later in life which I definitely feel, my 20’s were a worse mess than the quite huge mess I’m in now, I definitely feel a solidity growing in my beliefs. My idea of happiness is a space where I have all my different interests set up and ready to go in an open plan space and I whizz about on a chair moving each thing along a bit, hitting a problem with one and moving on, change is as good as a rest, they say.
If London wasn’t such a housing bubble nightmare and I wasn’t squeezed into a tiny room with my industrial machines and records everywhere then you would probably see more stuff. But it’s just another challenge. Once I figure out how to merge my innate hoarder genetics with the necessity for absolute rigour and order to make a small space work then pow, a torrent shall flow forth.
After all there is no happiness like the odd mix of absolute stress and buzz that I get while making something.
Q) LBB predicts an impending Charlie Bones takeover, during the meantime, what’s next on the agenda?
Ha, I’m aiming for the Bill Withers approach, get in late and keep your job. I’ll be doing more stuff with the show, a night, some t-shirts, travelling around doing the show in other cities, people houses etc.
A friend also suggested I do a mug, so I just have to do more deciding and doing, less procrastinating and don’t-ing and everything should be fine. Generate money and put it back in. I also have some stuff lined up with a German web based TV channel that should be fun. I want to shout out all the good people behind NTS Fergus, Shamos, Sean and of course Femi. The NTS team always have a big idea up its sleeve. To keep on keeping on connecting, creating, collaborating and producing whilst keeping the heart open. DO!! YOU!!!