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MNZ Interview: Capital BS 003: Harri Robinson from Radioactive FM

02 Jun 2021 // An interview by bethany_rachell

Over a sweet soy flat white in downtown Wellington, Beth had a chat with Harri Robinson about art projects gone right, bankruptcy and vibrant creative scenes...

Tell us a bit about Radioactive and your role within the radio station...

So, we’ve been around since the 70's, we started as the student station for Massey. We actually started as an art project by a bunch of students who wanted to follow on from the kind of Pirate Radio and we just happened to keep going.

I started in 2015/2016 around about. I actually got involved because I was working on a project with a friend, called For the Maui. We did an interview on one of the breakfast shows and they mentioned that they were looking for more female hosts so I went in! Firstly covering shows as a cover host and then a started on the Monday drive which I did for about two years and top 11 which I did for a couple of years and then I started shadowing the old programmer Miles, pretty iconic dude. He really championed my cause at active. It ended up being serendipitous timing because they were restructuring after the bankruptcy...

That’s just one of the things that just happened back in the day. It’s a pretty well documented thing, the Reactivate campaign. We got a bunch of crowdfunding and it was really cool that lots of people were keen to keep us alive.

So long story short I got into my current role late 2018 so since then I’ve been program directing which is basically just like, on-air content. I do the on-air stuff, the social media, putting songs on playlists and DJs on stations.

What role do you think local radio plays in supporting New Zealand music?

Oh my God such a big role! It’s one of those things that I think both are needed to sustain each other and both are needed to sustain New Zealand culture in general. Something I really love about New Zealand’s creative culture in general is how collaborative the whole thing is. It’s very much like if you’re a musician you probably also know a bunch of filmmakers. The creative scenes are all so small and so bursting with talent at the same time. I think having a media outlet whose sole job is to promote and give spaces to those sorts of people is so important. Especially because it can be really hard to break through in the bigger national market or even the international market without the back up of other people. In the internet age you know you need five friends who also have a million friends who say you’re any good before anyone will trust it.

So I think it’s really important having an organisation like the SRN (Student Radio Network) that is there to foster a community and create space and just do what it can to give people who might not get the spaces because they aren’t there in front of the three people who are the tastemakers of the major label industry. To give those people a shot because there’s just so much talent.

You see this trend lately of New Zealanders out on a global stage, people like The Beths, BENEE, Soaked Oats and Vanessa Worm, all these people who are from New Zealand and bring their ethos and their creative process overseas. And people love it and it’s because we have something special. There's something unique about this place where there’s so many different cultural crossovers and communities and we’re so small and weirdly isolated. It’s this weird little melting pot of ingredients that comes together to make such a special and unique creative process.

And you’d say that creative network spans across the country?

I think it depends on where you are in the scene. I do think Auckland is quite a dominant force in the scene because that’s where a lot of our major labels are and just a bigger population and more venues. Our whole kaupapa with the student radio network is to make it more of a collaboration.

The collaborative thing, though it hasn’t been happening for long it’s been really awesome and it’s really helped us showcase the whole country. Like, I've seen way more bands, especially from Christchurch and Dunedin who are like amazingly talented. There's a lot more of these groups that are getting a lot more traction because they’ve had the ability to showcase themselves a lot more.

In terms of NZ music, would you say that Radioactive plays more music from Wellington than anywhere else in the country?

100% That’s the point right? Generally we’re on about 70% New Zealand music so it’s a pretty NZ heavy rotation and within that a large amount of those tracks are local artists, and definitely live wise. It’s a fine line between catering for your city and programming the best that’s in New Zealand right now and we are so fortunate that we have so many of the most amazing especially like Dr.Reknaw and Halfcast, I don’t want to genre them but that sort of sound. We’re killing it.

What are the benefits to being part of the student radio network?

When I got this role I was straight out of uni. I’d worked for the station and done radio stuff in the past but this was the first big official role I had and there was a lot of pressure. Soon a personal level the network was so incredibly helpful and helped me to acclimate.

It gets our voice out there a lot more as a group more than it might otherwise and we’ve very lucky now things like the NZ on air funding includes if you’ve been playlisted on the SRN top ten things like that that help to legitimise us


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