Fashionable young women form the vanguard of Q Radio
"If you were looking at Q you might expect the show to be presented by a 40-year-old white man with a beard and a passion for guitars," says Ric Blaxill, when talking about the flagship programme of Q Radio, which launches today with a full schedule of presenters.
The image evokes Tommy Saxondale, Steve Coogan's hirsute caricature of a middle-aged former rock roadie, though it should be said that Tommy is a confirmed reader of Q's Bauer stablemate, Mojo magazine.
Rather than a beardy bloke, Blaxill and Q editor Paul Rees, have chosen Samanthi as their star turn, a former Xfm presenter who also works for DesiDNA, a BBC2 show on British Asian arts and entertainment. "She's in her mid-20s and is absolutely consumed by music and film. It would have been easier for us to secure that 40-year-old white guy, but it's required more depth and thought to bring Samanthi on board," says Blaxill.
Samanthi will be presenting the Qpm show at 6pm-9pm from Monday to Friday but Q Radio will move further into leftfield on Sunday evenings when, Amber and Nisha, The Broken Hearts, move into the studio. The Broken Hearts are one of London's most fashionable DJ acts – described by this newspaper as "A Hollywood musical on hallucinogenics".
Dressed in identical costumes, said to be inspired by "the iconography of Weimar Berlin, circus sideshows and the golden age of Hollywood", the pair, who also run a retro clothing shop in Brick Lane, east London, have performed at such venues as Tate Britain, the V&A, cat walk fashion shows and the trendy Bethnal Green Working Men's Club. "They go everywhere and dress immaculately, when they're in this building everybody asks who they are," says Blaxill.
Visually striking though these girls undoubtedly are, he has no doubt that their charm will translate to radio. "They play everything from the Thirties to now and are very well connected. They know a lot of people from the world of fashion, a lot of young authors, British film directors and actors. The content of their show will have a very lifestyle, culture-driven agenda. That's the kind of people we want on air," he says. "We don't want Q Radio to be a noodly, anorak-zipped-up-to-the-top station that preaches to people."
Saxondale might curl his upper lip and retreat behind his Mojo but Rees is happy if there's differentiation between the two titles. "If you are talking about Mojo, it's predominantly music," he observes. "Q is seen as broader than that." Audience research for the Q Radio project, which will see the station transformed into an interactive network after four years as little more than a computer-driven stream of music, hankered for a wider diet of entertainment content, a "much broader palette and interest range", as Rees puts it.
The station will be different from the blokey BBC 6 Music, from which Blaxill resigned as head of programmes last year, after the revelation that the station had twice awarded prizes to fictional competition winners. "I can't comment on that," he says. "No, no, I can't comment."
Blaxill identifies Radio 2, Xfm and parts of the Virgin Radio output as the closest equivalents to the Q Radio offering but points out that he expects the station's roster of presenters to set it apart from its rivals. As well as Samanthi and The Broken Hearts, Blaxill and Rees have hired the comedian Russell Kane, the music journalist David Quantick and the founder of the Acid Jazz record label Eddie Pillar. Blaxill also scoured the Bauer stable of radio stations for fresh talent, hiring Mark Somers from Viking FM and Adam Catterall from Rock FM.
Unlike Xfm, Blaxill believes, Q Radio would happily play Nick Drake. It will also be unafraid to play eclectic combinations of artists, such as "Futureheads, Gang of Four, Hot Chip and Human League in the same swoop of music". The station will take the opportunity to broadcast live content recorded at its Q Music Club shows at London's Hospital Club, with upcoming performances due from Martha Wainwright and The Feeling.
Q's heritage as a magazine means that it enjoys the trust of many music artists, and Rees hopes that the multi-platform offering of print, website and radio network will allow it to embark on some exciting projects.
The Glastonbury Festival, which Q has sponsored for several years, presents such an opportunity with next month's magazine, for which the festival's founder Michael Eavis and his daughter Emily have compiled a CD from the event's archive, providing content that will work across both the print and radio offerings. The Q website, which is being edited by the newly-recruited Anthony Barnes, a former arts and media correspondent for the Independent on Sunday, will have its own Glastonbury microsite.
Rees says the last thing he wants is for the 22-year-old Q to start gathering moth balls, though he says that the average age of its readership is less than that of NME. "Q has become more and more a music magazine, which is not a market that is growing and is arguably one that is getting older.
Q Radio is part of the evolution of the wider brand and Blaxill, who is looking at other Bauer audio options and the potential of driving audience to the new network from the website of the sister magazine FHM, is clearly excited. "This isn't just a seamless segue of music," he says. "It's a living, breathing radio station."
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