On Djs, Beats 1, and Talking Over Songs

I hadn’t heard Zane Lowe, as I mentioned before. So when Apple Music launched, with its Beats 1 streaming radio service, for which Zane is the flagship DJ, I was interested to check him out.

A number of sources had led me to the belief that Zane, at Radio One, had effectively been the new John Peel. Nobody can live up to that claim, I suspect, but to me it meant that he must have a particular set of talents and abilities:

  • plays music of their own choice, free from playlists mandated by the station management;
  • actively seeks out new music;
  • communicates their enthusiasm to the listener;
  • plays the tracks in full, without talking over the beginning or end.

I’ve now heard Zane on Beats 1 a couple of times, and he certainly fulfils the first three of those criteria. But he fails dramatically on the fourth.

The thing with Peelie was, he played the track. He respected it, gave it space to succeed or fail on its own merit. Certainly he’d say, “This is the new one from so-and-so, and I think it’s great,” or whatever; but then he’d let you hear the record. The actual record. All of it. The whole thing.1

Zane does not do that.

No, I’m afraid he talks over the records. And not just over instrumental intros or “chasing the fade,” either. I’ve heard him popping up right in the middle of a song with a word or two.

One of the people who spoke highly of Zane was Myke Hurley of Relay FM, the podcast network. In particular I had heard him talking on the Upgrade podcast about what a good guy Zane was.

So when I heard Mr Lowe talking over the tracks, I tweeted with the #AskUpgrade tag, which is one of their feedback mechanisms:

They read out my question on the next episode, 45, I think. Make said I sounded “very angry”, which I wasn’t — just disappointed. And then we exchanged a few tweets:

And that’s about where we left it. I don’t think I got across my main point very well (140 characters is hard sometimes). But I’ve expressed it clearly enough up top there, I think.

Beats One is still interesting, and Apple Music has many interesting features. But I’m still looking for a DJ that knows how to treat records right.


  1. Sometimes that was true even when “record” equalled “album”. []
On Djs, Beats 1, and Talking Over Songs

On things never seen

There’s a programme on Radio 4 from time to time (and it has made the transition to TV) called I’ve Never Seen Star Wars. In it Marcus Brigstocke gets a guest to try things that they have never tired before. Conversation ensues, and it can be amusing.

Anyway, the title clearly derives from how unlikely it is that anyone (of a certain generation or three, at least) will not have seen it.

In case you’re worrying, I saw the original — back when it was just called Star Wars, without the Episode IV: A New Hope subtitle — in the cinema (probably second run, not first, but still). And the second and third, of course.

But then there was the prequel trilogy. To be honest, when The Phantom Menace came out, I don’t think I was all that interested. I had known from early on that Lucas had planned the original as part of the middle trilogy of three. But by the time the prequels started, it had been so long that it just didn’t seem very important, you know?

And more importantly, in 1999 when it came out, I had a small child. We weren’t going to many films that weren’t aimed at like two-year olds. And after that, there was always something more interesting, more pressing to see…

I mislead you slightly, here. I did, in fact, see The Phantom Menace, after a fashion: on a shonky old VHS, with a three-year old sweetly chattering on the sofa next to me throughout. It hardly counts. And I definitely haven’t seen the others.

And I know everyone says, “Don’t bother, don’t waste your time, they’re terrible;” but they can only say that because they’ve seen them. And now — now there’s a new one coming down the line. Episode VII, The Force Awakens is due out in December, and I’ll certainly want to see it. Of course, it will follow on from Return of the Jedi, and it probably won’t matter if you haven’t seen episodes I-III; but it just wouldn’t feel right to not see them.

So I intend to watch the prequel trilogy. I was going to start today — the fourth of May be with you, and all that — but events got in the way. Still, over the next few weeks I’ll watch all three, and report back here.

Wish me luck.

On things never seen