Industry Interviews

NMC Guest: Stephen (Tech Manager, Oxjam & NOVA Radio)

How long have you been active in the North East music scene and what do you do?
If we want to go back to my early DJing days, that takes us back about 18 years. Over that time what I’ve done has changed a lot. For the past 6/7 years I’ve been mainly associated with Oxjam Newcastle, I started to bring most elements of what I do under that brand including my radio show, which I’ve recently renamed as I’m trying to separate the elements of what I do into distinct things in themselves again.
So what do I do right now I guess is easier to answer. I present the Grassroots Music show on Nova Radio North East, which is my main outlet for promoting new music I really love. I’m currently Tech Manager at The Globe which has been really important to my need to see live music this year as working tech for the livestreams has allowed me to continue to see gigs over the past year. Pandemic conditions have put Oxjam events on hold for the past year but I’m still Oxjam Newcastle Manager, I’ve been running the festival in Newcastle since 2014 and it has been a big part of my life for most of that time.
Versatility is important, the more you learn to do, the more opportunities you will have to get involve.

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
I think music plays a big part in most people lives at some point, there’s something naturally human about that and it crosses borders, eras and cultures. Its always been pretty important to me though my tastes have, not so much changed as expanded a lot over time. I started out as a DJ and still love a lot of electronic music, but over the years as I discovered new scenes my tastes expanded a lot. After DJ-ing for a while I really wanted to learn production, making dance music had always sort of been the thing I wanted to do but I wasn’t much into tech growing up and DJ-ing had seemed easier to understand, I also found a free DJ-ing course where I learned the basics of that. I went to college to try to learn some production basics and stayed in education much longer than anticipated, eventually leaving Uni with a Master’s Degree in music. More important than the academic side of college/university was the exposure to lots of other music’s and music scenes. As a student I got involved with radio for the first time, put on my first events and learned to sound engineer events (A class at college I really hated initially). Post-uni I just looked for any opportunities to get involved with stuff, running a few events, doing some dj-ing volunteering at venues like the Star and Shadow and getting involved as a volunteer with Oxjam, anything to stay active I guess.
The local music scene is a meritocracy, the more you do the more you get to do.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
There are lots of opportunities to get involved with the music scene, so get involved. There’s not a lack of people that want help with projects and you will always get further with collaboration than you will just working on your own. The most important thing is to do something, if you want to get into radio but don’t have a station, start a podcast. Want to write? Start a blog. The other side of this of course is to remember reputation matters, people need to know they can rely on you if they are going to keep working with you, so do get involved with projects, but only as many as you can realistically put the required time into.
Be active, get involved, be reliable.

What are your favourite things about the North East music scene are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
I loved the variety, it doesn’t matter how long you have been involved locally or how much about the scene you think you know, there’s always something new happening (sometimes something old happening) your going to come across you didn’t know existed.
There’s not one North East music scene, there are multiple and many of the scenes know very little about some other scene’s existence. For someone like me that likes variety, it’s a good thing. You can usually learn much more from a scene you know nothing about than you can about a scene you are embedded in.
Keep an open ear and an open mind, and never get into a place where you think you know everything that’s going on.

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
For the radio show check out the Grassroots Music Show on Facebook or Instagram, the pages are pretty small at the minute as I was until recently running everything through Oxjam Newcastle. If you have music you want me to play, send it over – never hold back from sending me music to listen to: I love listening to new music. General advice when sending out your music; pick one or two of your best tracks, that’s generally good advice but I listen to everything so with me you can send as much as you want.
Grassroots Music Show: Facebook | Instagram
Oxjam Newcastle: Facebook | Instagram