Western Australia is famous around the world for its strong output of quality alternative music, but it’s not just the artists themselves that have built this reputation. Since 1977, non-profit community radio station RTRFM has been instrumental in finding, fostering and spruiking local talent, providing a platform for local artists to make a name for themselves, independent of commercial and government interests. This year RTRFM are giving you a chance to get a look behind the scenes at their studio in Mt Lawley as part of the Open House Perth 2018 program. We got some insight into how the station is run, why it is such an important feature in the WA soundscape and what you can check out yourself on Saturday, November 10 and Sunday, November 11.
RTRFM describes itself as “The Sound Alternative”. For people who might not be familiar with the station what does that sound like?
RTRFM is a independent, not for profit radio station that prides itself on being different and unique. We don’t prescribe playlists at RTRFM which means that no one is telling the presenters what to play. They play whatever they want, from their own collections and their own music. We have over 48 shows and some of these have very niche musical types, from metal to rockabilly, to 20th century jazz to post rock music. When you turn on RTRFM we can pretty much guarantee you will hear something that no other radio station in Perth, (or) maybe Australia, is playing.
We have some presenters who are real tastemakers; when they do their show the world listens. We also play a lot of local music that doesn’t get coverage or plays on other radio stations. We have such an amazing local music scene in Perth and it’s our job to celebrate all aspects of it, not just the bands that have had successful careers.
What does a normal day a RTRFM look like, how many people take part and what is involved in broadcasting basically 24/7?
A normal day at the station really starts at 5am when our Breakfast presenter, Taylah Strano arrives at the station to finish prepping her show. That then kicks off at 6am and can involve a whole range of guests and local artists rolling on in, guitars and drum kits in tow, ready to play live. From there volunteers, including our news readers come on in and start their day. By 9am the office is full; staff, volunteers, high school volunteers, guests. Sometimes the office has 15 plus people hanging around in and out of the studio.
As the day rolls on the shows change and the music changes depending on that show. Each day is something different, each show has a different sense of itself and vibe. By 6pm the office is shut but our presenters keep coming in right until 6am, when it all starts again with Taylah. Broadcasting 24/7 means a lot of volunteers. Each show normally has a collective of 5 –10 presenters who all volunteer their time to present their show.
I know there are some volunteers that have been part of the RTR family for a long time, who are some of these characters and what do they bring to the station?
We do. We have some presenters that have been involved from day dot. People like Lorraine Clifford, Glenn Thomas, Jerry Packington, Dave Cooper have all been involved from the onset of the station back in 1977. They now all present Sunday Morning Coming Down which is a show that has evolved and changed with them as they have moved on in life. Some of them are now retired and spend their days looking after grandkids and finding new tunes. Those people I mentioned were also instrumental in getting the station back on its feet in the early 80s after UWA decided to kick us out and cancel our license, they created what we now know as RTRFM.
Ross Chisholm is one such character who has been involved for about 35 plus years. He is a local music maestro and knows more about local music than most people would have forgotten. He has a wealth of knowledge that is hard to match, not only on local music but all types. He presents a number of shows and hosts a segment called Land That Time Forgot, in which he looks back at the career of a local band no one else has heard of (at least for some time) and quite often he knows more about them then the band themselves.
I’m sure one of the best parts of being in radio is the number of interesting and amazing people that come to the studio for interviews. Who have been some of the great characters that have visited over the years?
One of our favourite and strangest days was when Mick Foley, the US wrestler came by. He was massive and super lovely. It was very strange to see such a character at the station.
Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth came in for a interview … he hung out afterwards in the office, played guitar in the boardroom and just hung out with some volunteers.
We had then Foreign Minister Steve Smith in the studio, who was being followed by Italian metal band Goblin. It was quite odd to have the Foreign Minister leave via the back door while Italian metal legends came in the front door.
And what can people check out if they come to RTRFM for Open House Perth?
We will show you our studios, our CD Library and production studio. We will also allow people to record their own station ID, so they will be able to hear themselves on the radio after the fact. One thing we do have is stories, the people showing you around are all presenters and volunteers and will let you know some of the best stories the station has.
RTRFM 92.1 is opening its doors for Open House Perth 2018
Where: Level 1, 642 Beaufort St, Mt Lawley
When: Saturday, November 10, 10am – 2pm & Sunday, November 11, 10am – 2pm
Learn more here.