Try guessing what John Peel's son does for a living

It was bound to happen. And, like his father, Tom Ravenscroft is equally driven to bring new music to listeners. Ed Caesar meets him
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The Independent Online

When the White Stripes have played your sitting-room - when you've seen Nirvana rock the Reading Festival at the age of 11; when your house is filled with more records than can feasibly be counted; when your Dad was the late, great John Peel - you might consider yourself well placed to front a new music radio show. And so it has come to pass that, from Thursday, Tom Ravenscroft, the 26-year-old scion of the Peel dynasty, will lend his refined ear and laconic tongue to SlashMusic, a new show on the fledgling internet radio outlet Channel 4 Radio.

The half-hour format of SlashMusic may be different to his father's more elongated Radio 1 sessions, but the spirit of Ravenscroft's show is similar. Instead of unsigned artists sending in records, new artists are encouraged to post their tracks on the Channel 4 music site, from where Ravenscroft and his producer, Hermeet Chadha, pluck the best entries. The show is dedicated to finding the best in new music, in an eclectic range of genres, and would, Ravenscroft reveals, play anything, as long as it was interesting.

Anything? Pan pipes?

"Sure," says Ravenscroft. "I'm sure I have listened to and enjoyed pan pipes before. I like noises. I'm sure there's something I could enjoy in every genre.

"When people think of unsigned music, they generally focus on indie bands, but they're often not the most interesting ones. I'd play classical music on the show if I really loved it, but someone who had worked so hard on a piece of classical music would probably be part of an establishment that would play it - they wouldn't need us."

Ravenscroft, who displays much of the humility that made his father such a favourite, is also keen to keep the sound of his own voice to an absolute minimum.

"Because of it being a half-hour show, we're limited to about six or seven tracks anyway," he says. "I'm not a presenter and I never have been. It would be silly for me to try to do two-minute links all the time, because I've never done it before. We're focusing on the music."

Concision, it is worth noting, was the hallmark of Ravenscroft's only other significant foray into the media world, a 400-word weekly column about new music he stopped writing three months ago for The Times' Sounds supplement. And the radio show, admits Ravenscroft, feels a little like an extension of that column.

"In fact, I'd love to do a bit more writing," he says. "I don't think I'm a natural writer. I just really enjoyed doing that column. It was nice having an excuse to go to gigs, when you're meant to be working the next day. When I was doing the column I felt entirely justified going to a gig and getting drunk. I could say it was work."

It's clear from the crafty smile Ravenscroft wears throughout the interview that he doesn't consider his new line of employment as work either. And he is enjoying the freedom that working on a new radio station brings.

"When you look at what Channel 4 has done for More4 on television, I'd love to see what it can do with radio," he says. "Because we're in it from the beginning, we can really help the radio station evolve. We wouldn't be allowed to experiment like we are if we were at somewhere already established. They just say to us, 'Go away, and do what you like.' That's pretty refreshing. You wouldn't get that at ... other places."

Are those "other places" the BBC? "Well, the BBC wouldn't bring in anyone who hadn't presented before," he says. "They tend to bring in big names, many who don't have music backgrounds, like Vernon Kay. They're presenters first and music enthusiasts second. It's like TV-radio. With Channel 4, they're doing it the other way round. They're bringing in someone who hasn't done any presenting before, but who knows a bit about music. I don't have a problem with Radio 1 - there's a place for everyone - but they're just filling part of the market."

Another good reason for not appearing on the BBC, though, is to avoid difficult comparisons with his father, a totemic figure at Broadcasting House. Although, given the love of new music that both men share, such comparisons may well come anyway.

"I wouldn't be doing this if I felt uncomfortable about [those comparisons]," he says. "I wouldn't have done this a year ago. The writing at The Times, and doing a couple of TV programmes last year, have really helped. The fact that it's not at the BBC, and the fact that it is, effectively, a podcast, makes it different enough for me that I can justify doing it. Essentially, this is half an hour where I try some things out, and I'm not looking to make myself, or anyone else, famous. I just like the idea of playing people records that they might, otherwise, not get round to listening to."

To listen to SlashMusic visit www.channel4radio.com from 24 August. For further information on the tracks and bands featured in the show, go to www.channel4.com/music

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