A voice I’ve listened to for many years on the radio. A DJ who’s passionate about music and shares this passion with us all. I’ve had the pleasure of asking Leona Graham, one of my favourite DJs, some questions and here we go. Sit back and read on people.
Let’s do this:
How did you enter the profession of being a radio DJ?
I went to Warwick University and there was a student radio station that I kind of stumbled across on my first day and it was like a light bulb moment. I knew then I wanted to be a DJ. It made perfect sense to me.
What had you done before and what made you want to do this?
Before that moment I was always making people listen to music I liked by making them mix tapes. Or I’d bring in a great song to play in the school common room and play it loud!
What have you been listening to today?
Kasabian. I’m blasting out their albums. I like to get really into a band before I see them live, so at the gig it feels even better seeing and hearing them in real life.
What were the first and last gigs you went to?
The last gig was Feeder at the Hard Rock Cafe and just before that was the Foo Fighters at the 02.
My first gig was Whitesnake at Wembley arena in 1987 on new year’s eve
What do you believe is the greatest guitar riff ever heard?
Don’t make me choose!
I think it’s “Beating around the Bush” by AC/DC. It’s got it all.
You’ve interviewed some of the biggest rock stars in our generation. Who was the most fun to speak with and why?
Billy idol. He was genuine. Real. Passionate as hell about music. Really respected him.
Stevie Nicks was fascinating and warm and friendly. Just so lovely. Could have talked to her for hours.
What is your favourite venue for a gig?
It’s not the O2 even though I always end up in there.
I really do like the Roundhouse on Chalk Farm Road.
What is the best rock album ever made and why?
AC/DC’s Back in Black. Every song kicks ass and is pure quality.
If you could ask any person of your choice one question, who and what would it be?
I’d ask Jimi Hendrix to play live in my house.
What is it about rock music that gives you pleasure, pain and the ongoing passion to be within it?
Well I still feel the need to force people to listen to songs I like.
I only feel pain when trying to get out of a gig at the end of the night. That dreaded shuffling along with the crowd trying to get the hell outta there. Other than that, it’s all good.
I like watching my sons enjoy good music. My son Harley is having drumming lessons and my younger son Dexter who is 4 will be soon, too. He is really into music in the same way I am. He totally gets into it.
Have you a routine for attending and staying at music festivals?
I’ve done a spreadsheet for 2018 so I don’t miss anything this time. I totally messed up this year by booking my family holidays before the bands were announced and ended up missing Muse at Reading and Metallica at the o2.
I’ve got four kids so haven’t done a full festival weekend for a while. I used to bring a tent and camp, even though I was given hotel accommodation with my job. I wanted the full festival experience.
I want to bring my sons to the Isle of Wight Festival next year and I’m hoping the line-up is going to be good.
Would you rather have gummy bears for teeth or hair that grows straight up and never stops? (You can’t cut your hair)
Hair. I could always plait it or make some funky style.
You’re a major part of Absolute Radio and their 80s and Classic Rock section. How much of a say do you have to play what you feel the listeners need to hear or how do you arrange your playlist?
OK, on Absolute Radio it’s a huge mainstream station. The music is done by a team of people. They do extensive research and provide me with a fantastic playlist each day. I do ask for requests and these are chosen by me and the music department. Obviously if it was solely down to me I’d be completely biased and play far too much ACDC and rock! So, they’re there to ensure the balance.
I’m also given a playlist for Absolute Classic Rock and that’s so we don’t repeat songs and have a balance, but I can be much more biased and play songs I pick from the requests, or my own choices. But it’s still quite a mainstream station so there’d be no point me coming on playing Anthrax or album tracks from Black Sabbath’s Technical Ecstasy because people would switch off. You’ve got to know who your target audience is. There are other rock stations digging deeper, we are not them. We do well at what we do, so I have to bear that in mind when choosing songs.
Absolute 80s is also a playlist and I tend to stick to it as there’s no point me playing nothing but 80s rock, for example, as that’s also not the right audience. They want 80s music of all kinds. It’s about memories and less about if it’s a guitar band or not. Even a cheesy keyboard pop song from the 80s is still a genuine song. It still gets people coming together, being creative and trying to get a record deal, etc. Rather than manufactured pop, which I cannot bear, where a bunch of singers off a TV talent show are put in a band, yet no one can play an instrument.
So for Absolute 80s I use the playlist but still have a sprinkling of requests from all genres.
I DJ at the 80s weekenders which is so much fun. People are passionate about the music and I love that.
If you had the choice to host your own stage at a festival, and could choose five bands (alive/passed on) to perform, what would the running order be?
Deep Purple (mark 3)
- Jimi Hendrix (headliner)
What advice would you give someone who wishes to enter your profession as a DJ and also a voice over artist?
Everyone wants to be a voice over artist these days. I’ve no clue what to advise you other than try something else! Totally oversaturated market.
A DJ. Have you a passion in music and talking about it? Then start applying to radio stations for work experience and take it from there! Remember though that playlist is the norm so if you want total freedom then become a club DJ instead.
If you want to be funny and really chatty then aim for a breakfast show. If you want to play more music then aim for a lunchtime or evening show. If you want to talk about reality TV celebrities and gossip then aim for a big chart hits station. If you want to talk about real music aim for Absolute radio!
When can we hear you on the air?
10am – 1pm Absolute Radio
1-4pm Absolute Classic Rock
4-8pm Absolute 80s
Saturday 12-4pm Absolute Classic Rock
4-6pm Absolute 80s