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RTRFM – A MUSICAL HISTORY Dive into the archives

Perth’s beloved community radio station RTRFM is proudly celebrating their 40th year on the airwaves with a birthday party featuring performances from legendary WA acts. Wrapping up the party will be RTRFM – A Musical History, a set that combines projections of audio and visuals from the station’s rich archives with a supergroup of vocalists and musicians to play some key WA songs in-between. RUBY WHEELER spoke to A Musical History director Davey Craddock to see how this collaboration will go down.

How did the idea for RTRFM- A Musical History come about?

I was in the office at RTR for something completely different talking to the operations manager Chris Wheeldon, who puts together all the events for the station. He was talking to me about how RTR was planning their 40th anniversary and I just really encouraged him to use the archival footage. I think everyone knows what RTR does in a contemporary setting, but particularly for a younger audience they might not be aware of what an unusual and rocky history RTR has had over the years. I just thought all the archival materials is a goldmine of WA music history and encouraged him to use that and he said do you want to help us.

He gave me access to the archives. Adam Trainer who was (a previous RTRFM) musical director and has a librarian background has been working on an exhibition just launched this week at the Battye Library. A lot of the material was already there and catalogued so I picked out the interesting stuff from there and made it into a show.

The time consuming part has been digesting all this material, there is so much stuff – so many photos, so many bits of audio – so deciding what to put in and what to leave out, there is all this great stuff but at the same time you don’t want to turn it into a power point presentation.

A Musical History will be the last set at RTR’s The Big 40 combining archival material and an ultimate supergroup of WA musicians. How is this talent-packed set going to work?

So what I’ve done is put together a good team with myself, Timothy Nelson, Adam Trainer and Stephen Hughes. Timothy Nelson is the musical director and he has put together a core house band with about 15 guest vocalists who are coming on to sing 10 classic, significant WA songs. In between those songs there are these mini movies and little three minutes segments; we get to show photos and play some really cool audio.

We have got the very first seconds that RTR broadcast in 1977 when the presenter sounded like the Queen and all this fascinating audio. RTR was the first FM station in Perth and also the first FM station to broadcast in stereo anywhere in Australia. It was a very high tech set up that was quite a leader for Australia. Now people will learn all about it and we get to make it entertaining.

Any hints on what songs we will hear from this supergroup and special guests?

We will keep that a surprise. But all I’ll say is there are some really old songs and some new songs.

Abbe May, Kav Temperley, Vanessa Thornton, Stu Macleod… how did you get so many legendary Western Australian acts on board?

The only hard thing is availability. WA acts operate on a real world stage now and touring globally so a lot of the acts we would have loved to be on board are just unavailable due to touring. Everyone who was available is very easy to get on board because they all owe so much to the station and are still so fond of it. No one said no, the station has been everyone’s leg up for so long and now it’s time to say thanks.

Some of the images from the archives we have seen show a young Kav Temperley of Eskimo Joe volunteering at the station, where there any other gems like this you stumbled across?

Yeah definitely, there is heaps of that stuff. There are a lot of real to reel tape recordings, so I started flicking through them and there is very early recordings from The Waifs, I imagined they are recorded from when they were touring around WA in their van. There is a picture of Kevin Parker playing at In The Pines and he looks like a child, he really does look like a kid. There is Freud’s Pillow, the band that Eskimo Joe morphed into and one of their very first recordings, there are just all these gems. Kevin Mitchel from Jebediah… everyone you can imagine, and their first interaction with the media was probably RTRFM and a lot of that stuff like that they still have.

What else will there be to look forward to at RTRFM’s The Big 40 celebrations on Sunday?

The RTRFM – A Musical History is only one hour of an enormous show. There are some really cool one off performances, Abbe May is playing with the Youth Jazz Orchestra, Odette Mercy and Her Soul Atomics performing with a traditional Tongan choir, Adam Said Galore a much loved 90s indie band playing a very rare gig, Rick Steele, Red Jezebel performing their album Revelations in full – it’s an enormous line up.

And of course the Slightly Odway Orchestra, four supergroups of current musicians covering the biggest WA songs of this year, like a live take on what Caitlin Nienaber does on her (Breakfast) show. These 30 musicians are forming four bands that are then covering their friend’s bands playing the songs that have been heard on RTR this year. This is very momentous, it’s a once in 40 year’s thing, a lot of work has gone into it and a lot of unusual performances. It will be very emotional with the people that will be coming along as it is a very significant occasion for them.

Performing as part of RTRFM – A Musical History are:

Abbe May
Adem K (Turnstyle, Community Chest)
Alex Archer (Kill Devil Hills)
Felicity Groom
James Baker (The Victims, Beasts of Bourbon, The Painkillers, Hoodoo Gurus)
Joni Hogan
Kav Temperley & Stu Macleod (Eskimo Joe)
Libby Hammer
Luke and Ryan Dux (The Floors)
Mal Clark (The Sleepy Jackson)
Ofa Fotu (Odette Mercy & Her Sould Atomics)
Rachael Dease (Schvendes)
Timothy Nelson
Todd Pickett (Kill Devil Hills)
Vanessa Thornton (Jebediah)
Vincent Buchanan (Hideous Sun Demon, Terrible Signal)

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