It’s 6am and I’m conducting an email interview with internet radio Producer Jonny Yeah. There’s no reason for anyone to be up this early and I completely forgot to ask Jonny if his name is real. However, I did manage to find out some bits and bobs about Kooba Radio…
Cult Hub: What exactly is Kooba Radio?
Johnny Yeah: Kooba Radio is an idea that myself, my girlfriend of the time (who Will Not Be Named – but is still involved in the station and show) and her pal Alex Malloy had in 2002. We were a funny bunch, very smart and quick to put modesty aside for a moment. I really enjoyed their company and thought that if we made each other (and our circle of friends) laugh, then there might be an audience “out there”. The “unsigned band” idea came a bit later. So Kooba Radios is my hubris made manifest in effect!
CH: How do you find new bands and music?
JY: We get thousands of submissions! Thousands! They all get channelled to what is affectionately known as “The Inbox of Shame”.
CH: Does it mean you have to listen to a lot of stuff that’s not very good?
JY: We do listen to them all, and we do try to reply to everyone where we can. Almost everything is submitted digitally now, which is handy – and to be honest I have a couple of form replies these days. A lot of it is terrible, and it’s quite difficult to trawl through psychologically sometimes. You lose all perspective after a couple of hours and find yourself having conversations with yourself like “But is it really good? Really? Or is it just okay, but okay sounds BRILLIANT right now!”. In the kingdom of the tone-deaf the one eared man is Band of the Month. The CD’s have almost completely dried up now which is a shame really – as everyone likes getting parcels – but the format is a weird one. The thing is the really nicely produced press packs we get are almost universally rubbish. Then we’ll get a self-burned CD with the band name scrawled on it and that’ll be brilliant!
We had a lot of Country and Western at the beginning too. The reason we continue this policy is the outsider music brilliance we come across every now and again. BJ Snowden is a real gem, or Eilert Philarm. I feel a bit like the old fella on the beach with the metal detector – Roman gold is out there somewhere.
CH: Have you ever discovered an act who’s gone on to make it big?
JY: Yeah, happens all the time! I was at Glastonbury a couple of years back and there were loads of ex-Kooba bands playing. I saw a band called The Rakes on ‘the Other Stage’ and felt really paternal and proud because we had the lads on the show right back at the beginning. We played Bloc Party before anyone had heard of them, Emmy the Great, Dave Goo and Hot Chip. Your next question is going to be “Who’s the Next Big Thing?” isn’t it? Actually we had a submission from a band called ‘Next Big Thing’ once. They weren’t – haha! We also had a sub from a band called The Unplayed and that’s turned out to be strangely prescient…
CH: Has there ever been an act that you “filed in the circular filing tray” but then they went on to achieve commercial success?
JY: Haha. Good question! There is come controversy over this one. I maintain that I remember rejecting quite a big act a few years back but Alex and the other Koobas call me out on it regularly. To be fair, I could have completely made it up. I’m not going to name them here though. The tragedy of our format is that when someone makes it, even someone we’ve supported for a considerable time, then we have to stop playing them.
There are a bunch of bands who really should have made it. Did you ever see a band called Chet play live? They broke up a few years back but there in my top 5 rock bands ever, not just Kooba bands. I was privileged enough to be asked to present a documentary about their last gig. I did walking and talking to camera and everything. It’s still available on YouTube I think. I really miss Chet.
CH: Has anyone recognised you just from your voice?
JY: It’s happened a couple of times now. My little cousins listen to the show; well not so little now, 14 and 16; and we’d not seen each other since they were little. It freaked them out to hear that voice coming out of my head – a bit like when Seth McFarlane speaks and it’s like he swallowed Brian the dog.
CH: Do people send you bribes to get played on Kooba and if so, what’s the best thing you’ve ever been sent?
JY: We love a bribe! Sweets, chocolates, stickers. All of that business. Brilliant! We got some toy soldiers once, which were great, then an envelope with a [something naughty and smokeable] in it. Then almost immediately afterwards, one with a little pack of hotel biscuits in them. Just perfect really!
CH: So living it up then. If people want to listen to you where should they go?
JY: Out. Seriously. There’s no registration nonsense on our website – www.koobaradio.co.uk. Go there, download a bunch of shows, put them on your iPod or mp3 player of phone and listen to us in the park. Go on, it’s lovely out there – don’t be sitting in all day in your dark smelly room in front of the PC. Not good for you at all.
CH: Thanks Jonny, my room isn’t dark and smelly and I’m sure our readers’ arnt too (well I hope) but he’s right let’s all go out into the fresh air and take some free entertainment along with us.