February 11, 2012 – 2:29 pm
Ever since I can remember I’ve always listened to the radio at night and I have to admit to being slightly addicted to it.
It’s a love affair that began in the 1980s and was born out of fear, basically I was massively afraid of the dark as a kid and hated going to bed. It was only after my nana gave me a radio to listen to that I realised what bedtime was really for, not sleeping or being scared witless, but surfing both FM and AM stations looking for interesting programmes to listen to. It was during these nocturnal journeys up and down the dial that I was introduced to the likes of Martin Kelner, John Taynton, James Whale and Mike Dicken.
Let’s face it, the best radio shows are on at night. It’s when things get a little weird, the output gets your total attention and you get the feeling anything could happen. It’s when discussion can be at its most lucid but also at its most muddy and enigmatic. Radio was therefore my saviour as a child protecting me from the monsters under the bed and it continues to be a constant companion in my bedroom today. It’s there where you’ll find me listening to people like Stephan Nolan, Tony Livesey, Matt Forde and Nick Abbot.
One of my favourite presenters however, is someone that recently disappeared from the list above. That person is Ian Collins. He left Talksport last year after being with the station for over 15 years leaving me and millions of others with a gap in our radio listening lives.
I first bumped into Mr Collins on the wireless when I would either stay up far too late listening to the radio or would wake up in the night and find my radio still on. His world was one that really interested me. On one side of the coin he could be extremely serious tackling the big subjects but at the same time would often step into the bizarre, frolicking on the radio with his callers/creatures.
Following his departure from Talksport Ian has now launched a new podcast called ‘Ian Collins Wants A Word’ and is starting to crop up all over the place on both TV and other radio stations including the BBC.
Therefore, I thought it was an ideal time to ask him a few questions about the radio industry, his career and what he’s up to at the moment.
1) First things first Ian (before we get to the radio stuff), is 2012 going to be a winning year for the UK or one we’d rather forget?
I think 2012 will be a beauty. I know that goes against common held beliefs but I just have a feeling that hell won’t be freezing over any time soon. And there’s the Olympics too; great.
2) How did you get into radio and what are your main memories of your first job in the industry?
I started doing work experience on Invicta FM in Kent. This led to some fill in work and eventually full time. My main memory of that time is one of being totally out of my depth; like a visitor who had no right to be there. What I know now, but didn’t know then, was that everyone else feels the same about their place in this game. It’s probably only been the last 5 years that i have fully come to terms with the fact that this is what I do for a living.
3) You are obviously known for your work in the talk genre , why did you choose to follow that career path in radio?
It would have driven me nuts just playing music all the time. It’s a different skill and one that I can’t imagine is anywhere near as fulfilling.
4) What do you think makes a good talk presenter , what do you need in your armoury?
Keeping your eyes and ears open all the time. I guess it’s instinct but I think most of us have pretty similar experiences in life (ups and downs, light and shade etc) a good talk presenter simply keeps hold of those moments and processes them in a way that brings them alive to an audience. The other crucial thing is to read everything you can from newspapers to books.
5) You worked with the presenter back in the Invicta days known to many as Caeser The Geezer. A lot has been said about him as a person but was he really any good on the wireless?
He was great in his time.
6) There doesn’t seem too many local talk shows on the smaller stations these days, what’s your take on why and what do you think of that?
Radio is now dominated by just a few companies. Half a dozen broadcasting operators pretty much own ALL radio. The quickest way to streamline costs is to simulcast their outputs to all of the station’s within their group. Annoying maybe but if you owned the company you’d no doubt do the same. The problem with a phone-based format is that it can divide an audience; something that isn’t in the commercial interests of any station. Like it or not, the quickest way to a consistent and identifiable sound, and one that reflects the identity of the remaining output is via a music format. There have been some great 10pm Late Shows around the country over the years but many would sound scarily out of place in the 21st century.
7) How did you make the move to talk radio the station?
I let the managements at the original Talk radio know that i was available and mooched along for a chat. For some reason, they employed me.
8 ) Tell us how The Creatures Of The Night format came about and what were your favourite moments from that programme?
There were so many great moments. Kev the Wondersheep (one of the original Creatures) claims he came up with the name although that’s doubtful given his intellectual limitations. We fell into the format in many ways; 3 or 4 blokes just chewing the fat in a studio at 1 in the morning was something that hadn’t really been done before. Thankfully we had no concept of what the hell we were doing. It’s for that very reason that it worked so well. My best memories of that era is the sheer unpredictability of the show – we started at 1 and finished at 6 and managed the entire gig without the first clue of what was happening next. Being sent two dead pheasants in the post is a stand out moment.
9) Why do you think late night radio like that is so memorable?
I guess it really is down to the fact that listeners really are listening at that time. It’s not background or incidental; people have made an appointment to switch on.
10) You’ve worked with some uk talk radio giants , if you were to employ just one presenter out of these three greats, who would it be and why, Whale, Boyd or Dickin?
It would have to be then Late Mike Dicken every time. Tough call though as 2 of those names are stunning broadcasters.
11) You took over from James Whale when he departed Talksport, was that a daunting task after he’d been in that slot for so long and was it a shift you really wanted to do?
It was a little daunting although radio shows do change and morph in a terrifyingly easy way. No single presenter is ever bigger than the totality of the output but taking over from Whale – who I’d watched on TV as a kid etc – did feel a bit surreal.
12) You were at talksport/talkradio for many successful years , why did you decide to leave and how did it feel walking out of those offices for the final time?
I was there for 16 years. All of them happy. Sometimes you have to lob a stick of dynamite into your career and see what comes out. It was simply time for change. Walking out of the offices for the last time was an unexpectedly natural feeling.
13) Do you miss it or anybody there?
Yes. I worked with some great people there but I’m touch with many of them regularly.
14) What’s next for you in 2012 (your fans want you back in a regular gig could that happen) ?
One of the most unexpected reactions of leaving talksport has been the fact that I don’t miss the daily routine of presenting a show (in a million years I couldn’t have imagined that). I’ve now found myself doing half a dozen different things and I like it this way. Being on Five Live with Stephen Nolan on Saturday evenings has just been a revelation for me; I LOVE it. I’m also doing some shows with LBC as well as the TV stuff so I’m not entirely leaving the presenting thing behind.
15) And finally, who are the presenters/broadcasters that inspire you and what radio are you currently listening too in your own time?
At this precise moment I’m listening to Danny Baker on 5 Live. I tend to flick between 5 and LBC. LBC has brilliantly upped it’s game of late and is a superb listen. That said, Adrian Durham on talkSPORT still provides me with some quality drivetime listening. I don’t really have 1 single inspiration but I am still in awe of the orignal Talk radio sound of Tommy Boyd.
You can keep a close eye on the movements of Ian Collins on his website iancollins.com , follow him on twitter @iancollinsuk and download his new podcast ‘Ian Collins Wants A Word’ on itunes.