SWU.FM is an exclusive radio station dedicated to the city’s Urban, Electronic & Dance music, funded by the arts council and running for the month of May, 2016. Live and direct from their Bristol studio, broadcasting on 87.7FM and digitally, we joined them on day 2 of broadcast for a snapshot of what goes down inside the studio and to have a chat with the founders, Koast and Ollie 303.
Photography and interview by Beth Shedrick
"From start to finish what you see for our May broadcast has taken 16 months to put together and alot of doors were shut in our face before it became a reality."
So, how did SWU.FM come about?
Ollie: The original question was why did a city like Bristol thats so heavily populated with world renowned DJs, producers and creatives not have a radio station with a strong focus on that export? The second question was how do you do it? Then some how enough people listened/agreed/responded to emotional blackmail in order for us to get the wheels in turning.
Koast: Ollie had the vision, and is the logistics mastermind… I did the emotional blackmail & general hassling of artists!!
Why did you decide to apply for Arts Council funding? Did you have a plan B?
Ollie: Plan B was very much the same as Plan A - to just make it happen anyway we could. From start to finish what you see for our May broadcast has taken 16 months to put together and alot of doors were shut in our face before it became a reality. During our licence research we saw alot of UK stations had received funding from the Arts Council to help get them started, which lead to us talking to the Arts Council and Ofcom and starting our application research. The Arts Council support lots of great activities, but deep down we thought they may not understand what we were doing so prepared for a no. A relative low % of applications get the green light, so we didn’t hold our breath. Thankfully they did say yes! and while we'd love to say it was as easy as getting given a load of money, sadly it wasn’t the case. The application took alot of time with the help of lots of clever people. We also had to match funding with our own company money. Theres no doubt The Arts Council support did mean we didn’t have to cut so many corners and it got us started on the right foot. The unsupported reality would have seen all our money go on licence fees leaving us a with pirate style production level, belt drives, gemini mixers, cdj100s etc.
Do you feel like SWU.FM is something that will continue into the future if this month proves successful?
Ollie: With out giving to much away, this is very much the beginning not the end, we’ll be taking a short break after May but we’ve already started work on whats next.
"Theres no doubt The Arts Council support did mean we didn’t have to cut so many corners and it got us started on the right foot. The unsupported reality would have seen all our money go on licence fees leaving us a with pirate style production level, belt drives, gemini mixers, cdj100s etc."
Anyone that lives in Bristol will have noticed how extensive your poster campaign was, do you feel that that volume of on-street advertising is integral to success in Bristol at the moment given the amount of people either running a station, label or event?
Ollie: Hard to say, but in regard to printed adverts even Facebook run street posters (as annoying as they are) so, with that in mind, print is definately not dead and works. Theres something great about design that’s put together for the street and with the consistently great artwork Give Up Art do for us, would be criminal to not have it printed.
Koast: I’d agree with all the above - but beyond the fact it looks good and spreads the message, I think it’s also a signal of intent. End of the day we’ve gone through a lot of work to make this happen, and we need it to reach as wide an audience as possible - which means physical promo as well as online. I guess it’s the difference between releasing physical product, like 12’s or CDs, as a label, and just banging stuff out digitally.
Do you feel as if the music and events scene in Bristol is over-saturated or do you think it can only be a good thing?
Koast: I think it kinda goes through peaks & troughs… personally, and this may just be because I’m slightly older than the rave target market, I do think there can be a tendency for a whole heap of new promoters to jump on whatever’s hot at any one time, and that can lead to overkill. Definitely saw it with dubstep, and definitely seeing it with grime a bit now. Having said that, the people who come into music for the right reasons & with the right intentions generally shine through and have that bit more longevity. Also the more nights you have going on, the more space there is for new people to cut their teeth and learn their craft - whether that be DJs, MCs, or promoters themselves! One thing I do wish there was more of, which there used to be, is good small - medium sized venues, as they’re so essential to the grassroots of any scene. To be honest, this sounds like I’m moaning, so I think it’s probably important to stress at this point that Bristol has got an incredibly vibrant scene… nobody should ever lose sight of that whatever the perceived shortcomings might be.
"I just think it’s really exciting to be able to put legends such as Smith & Mighty, Full Cycle, DJ Die & Pinch alongside people who have got a lot of hype right now, like My Nu Leng or Kahn & Neek, and then also people who are getting a lot of critical love but are maybe not as widely known, such as Lamont or Caski."
What can we expect to hear at SWU.FM this month, are there any shows you're particularly looking forward to?
Koast: Well… if we’ve done our job right, hopefully you’ll be hearing a snapshot of Bristol’s past, present and future! I guess if we had to define it, I’d say the focus is on the dance and ‘urban’ scenes, so a mix of DnB/jungle, dubstep, grime, garage, house, techno, hip hop, dancehall & reggae - as well as some new & fresh stuff that I couldn’t come close to putting a label on! I just think it’s really exciting to be able to put legends such as Smith & Mighty, Full Cycle, DJ Die & Pinch alongside people who have got a lot of hype right now, like My Nu Leng or Kahn & Neek, and then also people who are getting a lot of critical love but are maybe not as widely known, such as Lamont or Caski. Not to mention the next generation we’ll hopefully be hearing a lot more from! I think the show we’re probably most happy about lining up (and this is is NO way a disrespect to anyone else on the station) is Headhunter though… very much a foundation of Bristol dubstep, which is probably Ollie & myself’s big musical common ground, but hasn’t played under the alias in a long long time.
"We just want to use [swu] to celebrate Bristol’s past, present & (if we’ve picked the right acts) hopefully future too"
Do you plan to put yourselves on the airwaves much over the month?
Koast: I’ll be hosting some of the Durkle Disco shows on a Friday night seeing as it’s my crew, and also doing a couple of shows along with Caski & probably Sepia & The Blast too… Ollie will probably be hiding in the office hoping everybody shows up so he doesn’t have to step in haha!
What do you hope to acheive within your month long broadcast, what's your main aim for SWU.FM?
Koast: To bring a lot of sick music to Bristol’s airwaves and beyond really! We just want to use it to celebrate Bristol’s past, present & (if we’ve picked the right acts) hopefully future too - and provide a hub for the different scenes & generations to cross paths a bit more, as that’s been slightly lacking in nightlife compared to a few years back.
You can listen back to past shows by visiting the SWU.FM Mixcloud page or visit their website at swu.fm
Click here for more of our SWU.FM coverage
Photography and interview by Beth Sheldrick
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