Hwyl fawr Red Dragon FM

Red Dragon FM holds a place dear in my heart. I worked there from 1998 (just after Capital Radio group originally took it over) and left there in 2002 (to head up the production department of the original Capital FM network). Those 4 years were really special – due mostly to the friends I made, the stuff we did and the City I still love. It was even the last station I did an on air shift on – covering a week of drivetime. From what I remember, the advice of the Group PD at the time (Clive Dickens) was to “shut up and just play the hits, mate”. Good advice!

Since hearing that Red Dragon FM was to become part of Global Radio’s Capital FM network, I’ve been trying to work out what to write as it breathes its last breath.  And now that day has arrived.

I spent a couple of hours last night searching through a box of CDs listening to audio – and was pretty proud of what I heard.

This was the first huge station I’d worked at and it had a large  pool of creative people. When I joined, Andy Johnson was the PD and the station was operating from the original premises in West Canal Wharf. On my first night, I was given a whistlestop tour of the patch by the drivetime guy, Warren Moore and the station producer Richard Firth. We ended up drinking beer looking over the Bristol Channel and having chips from a Chippie on Barry Island seafront. Class!

Capital Radio had bought the station from Emap and set about updating facilities and output. Capital’s influence on the station was pretty big to start with, but we always retained a distinctly Welsh feel to the sound and output. Within weeks, we were running the Birthday Bonanza promotion along with Capital’s BONG game. We even took some of the Groove Addicts jingle package of the time.

On air at that time (on Red Dragon and Touch AM); Jason Harrold and Emma Hignett on breakfast, Bobby McVay and Chris Moore, Tony Wright, Warren Moore, Charlie Power and Chris Bloomer. Then later, Ben Weston, David Francis, and Justin (Dai/Welshy) Waite. Beverly Cleall-Harding was MD, Nick Davidson ran the (huge) sales team and Andrew Jones ran an equally large news desk. Over time, people like Eirwen Parker, David Couch, David Rees and Simon Price joined the team with people like Alun Jones, Steve Martin and many many more. It was testament to the skills and creativity of that team that so many people moved on to other bigger roles with Capital or GCap. And so many more continue to make a massive contribution to radio in South Wales.

I guess much will be written about how another heritage station is being wiped off the map. But things change. Capital FM is sounding great as a hit music station in London. And Red Dragon has sounded almost identical to  Capital for the past year or so anyway. Of course, there are some things that it’s harder to reflect in a station mainly produced from London, as I noted back in September.

To be honest, Red Dragon has changed loads since when Capital first took it over in 1998. The name may now be gone, but Red Dragon was always about an attitude, a pride in a city, a culture and a lifestyle. That has evolved as Wales has changed over the last decade or so. This is probably just a natural progression. And there’s no point aiming criticism at the team in Cardiff. I’m sure they  are just as passionate about their station as they were when they joined.

So, let’s not dwell on yet another change to the radio landscape. If you worked there, be proud that you did. If you listened, thanks. And if you work for the new Capital FM South Wales – good luck.

And maybe play a little Tom Jones/Manic Street Preachers/ Catatonia  on March 1st. Would it really hurt?

PS: Does anyone really know how many people (and animals) Cerys Matthews had in her entourage back at THAT Party in the Park??


——–(And now a little nostalgia)———–

For those who like a little nostalgia, here are a few gems from the my archive for you.



Get Into The Groove

Steve Martin posted this video on his blog recently – from a recording session for a station at Groove Addicts in Los Angeles (from Jingle News)

I was really glad to see this – since I had the pleasure of working with these guys back in December 2002 and  February 2003 on a massive jingle package for the old Capital FM Network. They are a fantastic team of people who have been doing what they do for decades. From memory, I think they tend to do far more work for commercials now than radio stuff, but this is a really interesting example of how they work.

The Groove Addicts Plane

Making radio  jingles is done in so many different ways. You don’t necessarily need massive studios and huge bands in a studio to create a big sound. But they are in L.A.- and in L.A. – you do things BIG. And it’s all about the client as well – a huge sun terrace with catered lunch – food and drink on tap and a fantastic vibe to fire off too.

The studios at Groove Addicts are massive. In fact, when they were built, the building had a small plane hanging from the inside of the roof. So they built the studios, breakout area and all the facilities around it. It’s pretty cool to be playing a game of pool in between sessions with this plane overhead. And the staff are pretty freindly too (though not quite sure why I’m smiling so much..).

Seeing the video got me a little nostalgic for that package we worked on back in 2002 – it was a huge effort really. The demos came about pretty quickly in the November of 2002 and we had it all on air in the spring of 2003. At the time, I was working with our production consultant Jean-Michel Meschin of Soniic Design in France. He now mainly cuts radio ads for French movies – but still works on radio imaging too. In fact – there are still some elements of his influence on air in the production of Fun Radio in France where he was one time production director.

(L-R Phil-X, Gerhard Joost and Jean-Michel Meschin

And the highlight was probably working with these guys – the composer/musician etc Phil-X who composed the rockier stuff (including the Top of Hour)- and the engineer Gerhard Joost. In fact – Phil had a band who we saw live at the House of Blues when we were over there – and this was one of their songs. OTT or what?