By Lee Drage
He grew up in a council house in Gospel Oak and harboured dreams of becoming the next Trevor McDonald. But DJ Edward Adoo has in fact dedicated most of his life to broadcasting in pursuit of a diverse sound.
Edward Adoo is a man with a lot to say. His genial demeanour and warmth belie the passion that burns within when on the subject of the state of radio today. As a DJ and broadcaster since his teens, Edward is certainly well-versed on the topic. “Commercial radio has turned itself into a corporate machine,” espouses Edward, “it seems so controlled, which annoys me because growing up it wasn’t about that.”
We meet at Brent Cross shopping centre, that brutalist bastion dumped in a confusion of concrete in North London and an unusual place for Edward to launch his crusade against commercialism. It is here where shoppers worship at the Church of Consumerism, lurching from one store to another, laden with shopping bags, any semblance of humanity left at the automatic doors that welcome them into their faux-marble floored destruction.
A wistful Edward meditates, “I remember driving to college, putting KISS or RINSE or the pirates on and they were playing stuff no one else would play.” Our teas are plonked in front of us, unsmilingly, snapping Edward out of his reverie. “Everything’s kinda gone commercial,” he laments, soberly. He tells me about the thrill of switching on the KISS breakfast show and hearing a brand new garage tune- “I remember the first time I heard MJ Cole-‘Sincere’ or when 187 Lockdown blew-up. I was listening, thinking, ‘where the fuck did this come from?’ KISS FM was the only station that broke this music.”
Agitated, Edward fidgets in his chair as yesterday’s dream is replaced with today’s reality. “When Gordon Mac (KISS founder) left KISS and sold his majority share, the guys that were running it didn’t really know about London culture and bastardised KISS and tried to turn it in to a CAPITAL. With the shift it’s gone too mainstream,” asserts Edward.
His knowledge on the history of pirate radio is as encyclopaedic as his music taste is eclectic. This expertise is perhaps why he was approached to contribute to the new book, ‘Masters of the Airwaves: The Rise and Rise of Underground Radio’ by broadcasting legends Dave VJ and Lindsay Wesker. “The book related to who I was, where I came from and that whole musical legacy. It’s a testimony to black music radio- the artists, the culture. It’s kind of a showcase.”
At this moment the public address system calls for all shoppers to stop what they’re doing and bow down to the mighty pound. The latest deal they don’t need is being announced at some shop with an oppressive colour scheme and headache inducing neon strip lighting. A child cries. A mother sighs. Edward sips his tea. With the sound of crying ringing in our ears, we discuss how the commercial radio onslaught is impacting today’s youth. “For the new generation, the scary thing is, unless they’re die-hards, their connection with dance music is Guetta, will.i.am or EDM or whatever’s going on now.” Edward puts his tea down, concern growing in his voice. “We’re told we live in a demographic-age based society. When I’ve pitched ideas for content it’s very much ‘it’s 15-24, it’s 18-24’ or whatever it is. It’s ridiculous that you can pigeon-hole someone. For example, when you get to your thirties suddenly you’re not gonna like house music anymore, you’re gonna switch on to MAGIC or Radio 2. Music is music and it shouldn’t be stapled to a demographic.”
Ah. Demographics- the bête noire of radio broadcasting. The source of much banality and mediocrity on our airwaves as executive suits chase the dragon of market share and RAJAR figures. “I feel certain individuals like Steve Jackson and the likes of Rodigan, Fabio and Grooverider- the paradigm shifters- don’t get the credit they deserve. We live in a fast moving society where people say ‘Oh no, that was back then, they did their thing, let’s move on’ and it’s like, no! We need to pay homage to these guys because without them there would be nothing.” Edward pauses as he considers what should come next on his manifesto. “I think we’re having a retro-resurgence. A lot of what’s happened back then, we’re relating to it now. You can tell that people are being bored of being told ‘this is cool, this is trendy.’”
“My old man is a jazz musician- a Hammond organist,” Edward says, explaining the roots of his music mania. “I remember having arguments with my Dad in the 90s when I was like ‘Oasis are cool’ and he would be saying politely, ‘I don’t dig that shit.’” As a result the musical digest at home was jazz-oriented (“People like George Duke, Jimmy Smith, that kind of vibe.”). His Uncle, a DJ, gave him bundles of records growing up- rare groove, hip hop, funk, and was clearly an inspiration. “It’s essential to listen to everything,” affirms Edward, draining the dregs of his tea.
Feeling bolstered by Edward’s passion, we say our goodbyes, secure in the knowledge that people like him won’t allow the art of broadcasting die a miserable death at the hands of clueless execs. We blinkingly step into the world outside, leaving the shop-floor zombies in a perpetual state of emption. Edward is the ship’s captain who can steer us through the bromide seas of commercial broadcasting. Stay tuned.