Phil Taggart on new music and the art of radio

phil taggart, alice levine, radio 1, music, bbc, new music
Written by Alex Veeneman

The 10pm timeslot on Radio 1 is considered one of the most iconic on all British radio.

The 10pm timeslot on Radio 1 is considered one of the most iconic on all British radio. John Peel established it as a prime slot for new music and the ability to expose listeners to new artists and genres for over three decades.

The broadcaster and DJ Phil Taggart, who with Alice Levine currently presents the programme which encompasses it, knows it well. He was a passionate listener to Peel’s show, and later of his successors, Colin Murray and (now Breakfast Show presenter) Nick Grimshaw.

The Guy that messed it all up

So, when news came towards the end of 2012 that he and Levine would be broadcasting in that slot from January, he thought hard about what show he wanted to help bring to the UK. “There was pressure on the ethos to create something that stuck to the slot and was new,” Taggart says. “It was difficult at the start. I didn’t want to be the guy that messed it all up.”

Taggart is a familiar face to some listeners of Radio 1. He presented the programmes of BBC Introducing based in his native Northern Ireland before the regions were consolidated into one broadcast. There isn’t much of a change in routine for Taggart, who was on the lookout for new music and the artists that had quality sound. He checks music blogs and what is emailed to him from listeners and record company pluggers.

Horizons of new bands

So come 10pm from the halls of the BBC’s prestigious Broadcasting House in central London, what is transmitted on Radio 1 is a programme that reflects the horizons of new bands or acts with those that are experienced. “We can play Vampire Weekend or Peace or Disclosure, and then we can go from a number 1 album and go from a single that we’re excited about,” Taggart said. “We’re into putting the new bands with the established bands. A quality tune is a quality tune.”

Random and beautiful

Indeed, an asset to the programme is his unique partnership with Levine. “We’re very different people though we’re the same age,” Taggart said. “Alice is more grown up. I’m a little more immature. She’s legitimately one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. We pick records and spend two hours taking the mickey out of each other.” The ideas for a programme can come from anywhere, which allows radio to excel compared to TV, Taggart says. “If someone texts something amusing, that could be a feature. We ring them and have a chat. It’s random and beautiful. You don’t know where the radio show is going to go. It’s unscheduled.”

Taggart is excited about the medium of radio and its overall future, in an age where digital radio is on the rise and the tastes of many are changing, and though it is unclear where it is going, he says he is privileged to be part of it. “I do nothing else except listening to the radio. That’s all I did when I was young,” Taggart says, adding that he and his friends would meet and talk about what the Radio 1 DJs of the time might have said in between records. He used to bunk school to go home to listen to Murray and Edith Bowman’s programme. He also admired Chris Moyles’ work.

His favourite DJ on the station at the moment is Scott Mills. “He’s a legend. He does more in a 30 second link than anyone can do in 5 minutes.”

Taggart however came into broadcasting in a different way compared to that of other DJs on the station. “They all had profiles through YouTube or the telly,” Taggart said. “I came through nowhere. I did a media studies degree at university and graduated. I had no idea what I wanted to do.”

I’m still learning

After being on the dole in a band and being a music journalist, Taggart landed in broadcasting and never looked back. However, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, when the last record of the programme is played and the next programme comes forward, Taggart is still learning. “I hope to be doing new music on Radio 1 for a bit,” Taggart says. “I’m still learning, a year’s time I’ll still be learning, and in four years’ time I’ll still be learning.”

Taggart also has tips for those who want to get into broadcasting. “Be available, be keen, talk to as many people as possible and work really hard. It is a hard grasp but you should do it while you’re young. You’ll kick yourself when you get older.”

As the interview came to an end and he went to finish preparations for a later party in his flat, there was something that could be taken from this conversation and that of his radio show. Taggart has a passion for new music and wants to make the best show possible, night in and night out.

He and Levine excel at this, and it will without question be a part of the legacy of Radio 1 for the whole of the United Kingdom.

You can hear Phil Taggart and Alice Levine’s new music programme Monday to Thursday, 10pm-midnight on BBC Radio 1.

The above photo is courtesy of the BBC.

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