With the INDIE50 launch event coming up fast, we finish our series of Judges Q&As with BBC 6 Music’s Tom Ravenscroft. We discuss what it is to be independent, and he tells us about his first live music memories – THAT Nirvana performance at Reading ’92, FYI – and eclectic tastes that include Bristol D&B and Zimbabwean Chimurenga music.
WeGotTickets: You’ve been at BBC 6 Music for six years now, what is it about the station that’s meant you’ve called it home for so long?
Tom Ravenscroft: They’ve always allowed me to play whatever music I like and I mean absolutely anything, which is pretty rare in radio. That and the fact that the listeners are a very charming and amusing bunch, it’s a real joy hanging out with them and listening to records each week.
WeGotTickets: What are you listening to at the moment?
TR: Loads, the days just aren’t long enough. Frankie Reyes, dgoHn. Leather Towel, Gonjasufi, Jenny Hval and Neil Young,
WeGotTickets: What does independent mean to you?
TR: I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced the non-independent side of the industry; I was born into an indie bubble. I guess it’s the freedom to like and make which ever noises you desire, no matter weather they are popular or destined for financial ruin.
— Tom Ravenscroft (@tom_ravenscroft) March 30, 2016
WeGotTickets: You’ve taken your love of music into various broadcasting endeavours – highlighting under the radar music, emerging talent, and topics of cultural importance. If you weren’t broadcasting, how do you think you’d be channelling your love of music?
TR: I suspect I’d be a little frustrated; playing records to people is pretty addictive. I think I’d maybe endlessly travel the world, Alan Lomax style, gathering and searching for things new to my ear. I panic sometimes at the thought of all the music I’m missing.
WeGotTickets: What’s your earliest live music memory?
TR: Not sure which came first; the Bhundu Boys at the Reading festival with my mum or a terrifying Nirvana gig somewhere in London with my dad, in which I held tightly to his hand throughout.
WeGotTickets: As someone noted for their eclectic taste, could you pin point your musical entry point, either a genre or a particular period?
TR: I was introduced to Zimbabwean music when I was 10ish; Thomas Mapfumo, The Four Brothers and The Bhundu Boys. I’d never heard anything like it, it was the best thing ever, I just couldn’t stop dancing.
WeGotTickets: What’s the best live music moment you’ve ever been witness to?
TR: I have an appalling memory but Nirvana at Reading ’92, I was lucky enough to be on stage and the excitement was like nothing I’ve experienced since. The anticipation and rumours surrounding the gig, I’ve never been so star struck. I have no idea if they were actually any good.
WeGotTickets: Is seeing live music still an essential part of your musical experience or do you find you can get your fix online?
TR: Live music is the culmination of everything; you spend your days listening to music, reading about bands and chatting to friends, colleges and listeners about what you’re into. It’s when you all meet at venues to experience it live together that you’re reminded what a fabulous family it all makes up.
WeGotTickets: Is there a particular regional scene that’s caught your imagination or resonated with you as a music fan, now or in the past?
TR: The Drum & Bass scene in Bristol in the early 2000s. There was so much going on, it was impossible to keep up. I was living in Sheffield at the time and would regularly get the train down for the weekend. D&B is to blame for my student loan debt.
WeGotTickets: With live music more important than ever, do you think we’re doing enough to provide a platform for it to grass roots talent in this country?
TR: Venues are closing all the time but everywhere you go you still meet hugely passionate people who will make it work one way or another. I think the major festivals could be giving more slots to emerging artists rather than always playing safe with golden oldies but then there are local festivals popping up everywhere and, much like the independent labels, are a braver and more interesting place.
Follow Tom on Twitter here: @tom_ravenscroft