Constant Companion: Flo Dill, The NTS Breakfast Show

Flo Dill has been an integral part of Dalston’s NTS ever since she first went in Flo Motion six years ago. Now she runs the breakfast show (Mon-Wed) and has curated Perfect Motion, a new DIY pop comp. Here’s a chat from the first issue of Alternative Strategies, which took place in April 2022:

AS: Hello Flo! How are you doing? How was your show this morning?

Flo: My show this morning was good. I had a last minute guest, DJ Python, he’s like a DJ and producer music guy. And then we had lunch yesterday and I was like, oh, you should come on tomorrow. Which was nice, because that means when I have a guest, unless it’s like a big interview, it’s easier because there’s less music to prep. And then he came on today and it was great! Our sort of styles meshed really nicely. He really likes a lot of indie, like 2000s stuff as well.

AS: So, you’ve been doing the breakfast show and you started just before Omicron arrived. How has it been like the last few months, now you’re back in the studio?

Flo: So much better. The whole doing radio during the pandemic generally was quite frustrating and weird. I mean, it was good in some ways, because it opened up different possibilities for NTS, like shows from different places and it improved our capacity to get people set up, to go live from home, which is nice now, because now that that’s up and running, we can do that for anyone. So that was a good thing from it. But the studio energy and like being in the actual space and being in the square, it’s just kind of irreplaceable really. And remembering that your part of a bigger thing and having shows before you, and after you and having that interaction with them, as you change over then hearing what they do. And like, it’s just completely essential to the joy of the radio. So, I’m very, very happy to be back in that. And it’s really nice to be able to have guests and stuff too. And like you say, like the spontaneity and being able to be like, “just come in if you’re in town!” So, I’m much happier now that we’re back in it.

AS: It was amazing seeing how resilient, in a way, radio was in lockdown because you’re able to broadcast digitally from everywhere that’s online. Whether it was Radio 4 broadcasting from a kitchen table or NTS sending down some CDJs and recording over Zoom! I know for our show that was great to have but when we could return to a studio it felt like night and day. Like, actually meeting the DJs whose shows were around yours for the first time, getting to know our station’s community.

Flo: It totally is very much. Its heart is in the square, but because NTS has aspirations to be a global station, I think having better capacity to set people up to potentially go live from where they are is nice. We have better techniques now for helping people put together shows remotely. So, lots of people will still continue to pre-record their shows even though they could come in. For loads of reasons, they’ll prefer to pre-record now, but we have better resources to help people do that, which is good too. And that’s all ready because of the pandemic.

AS: How would you describe your DJ style and your programmes? Someone’s just flicked on NTS for the first time after listening to Heart all their life. How would you introduce yourself?

Flo: This is my nightmare question! I had a mole removed the other day and the doctor was trying to distract me while they were doing the local anaesthetic. And the doctor was like, “so what do you do?” And I was like, “oh, I’m a radio DJ.” And he was like, “oh really, what station?” I was like, “oh, that’s an internet radio station.” He was like, “oh, okay. And what kind of music do you play?” I was like, “oh, I dunno!” [Laughs] I think I said I played a lot of soul or something? Oh my God. But I would say, okay, for someone completely new to NTS, it’s an internet radio station which broadcasts 24 hours a day with shows from all over the world. And the musical style is generally non-commercial music, largely. Anything a bit left of centre, stuff that you wouldn’t expect to hear on commercial radio or necessarily on big streaming platforms often as well, like lots of either brand new unreleased music or very old obscure music, just quite hard to find them on the internet in various places. Lots of specialist shows! And then my show specifically, because it’s the breakfast show, it’s a bit more of like a window into the station. So it’s by nature meant to be a bit more accessible. It’s meant to be a bit more… I don’t want to say engaging because all of the shows are engaging in their way, but it’s meant to get your attention, get you up and going. It’s maybe not so much of a zone out, bliss out type show, which we have lots of.

AS: Yeah, so in the mornings now you’ve got the Early Bird show and then you got the Breakfast Show and they got Soup To Nuts as well. So the morning is like proper appointment radio, that you can lean into, the chat room is going off… And then alternatively you’ve got the Infinite Mixtapes and you’ve got so many different kinds of radio in the schedule now…

Flo: Yeah, totally. Appointment radio is the right way to say it. After the regularity of those three shows, the schedule gets a bit more fluid and different things will happen depending on the day. But yeah, those shows are meant to be sort of an entry point into this massive station. And so musically, I try and play… I always play things that are to my taste, like things that I like, you know, I never play stuff that I’m not into, but I do try and cover more musical ground than maybe I did when I was just doing World in Flo Motion because that was just my show. And that had a more particular kind of new wavy synthy sound, and a lot of eighties music. Now, I try and cover a wider breadth.

AS: Speaking of new wave eighties stuff: Perfect Motion. So it feels very much in the spirit of your tastes and your shows, so what was the catalyst for making a record instead of say, a playlist or a themed show?

Flo: I did it with this guy Bruno, who’s a really good friend of mine. We both like a lot of music that gets like reissued and put out. Sometimes I think people that are into music like to say that they’re always ahead of stuff, that’s getting reissued or like they already know everything or whatever, but for me, reissues have been a huge part of learning about music and like an entryway into more stuff. And we always admired that, but then never wanted to get into the actual, proper logistics of running a label long-term and reissuing lots of things. But because we were inspired by that sort of like reissue culture, basically, you know, bringing to the more contemporary audience, either stuff that had been forgotten or never released properly at the time. And just kind of like putting it out there. It’s what I do anyway, within radio, like sharing music to a wider audience, I think we wanted to do that. But we didn’t want it to be an official thing where we’re like, “we’re starting a label and this is the first release!” We wanted to do one thing, just one. And we also love compilations generally. Lots of my favourite songs, I’ve found on compilations. There’s this amazing one called Six Squid, which has one of my favourite songs ever on it.

AS: That comp popped up on my YouTube autoplay when I was looking for tracks from your compilation! And that’s like a regional completion, I think that one’s from Wiltshire or something. And one thing I liked about Perfect Motion was that it reminds me of those eighties, DIY, local UK ones. I grew up in Scunthorpe and there’s a whole wealth of reissues from Scunthorpe and Grimsby bands who I had no idea existed. And I was like, ah, punk happened here! It’s amazing.

Flo: It’s so cool, those local compilations are amazing. We always liked them and if I was ever record shopping, I would always be drawn to those. And there’s something also, there’s that spirit I think in the eighties because of loads of political things, you know, money and the dole being better and, I don’t know, different approaches to making music generally and developments in technology, blah, blah, blah. All of those things. There’s like so much cool stuff from that time, just like random people were just having a go and putting stuff out. I guess, in the same spirit of SoundCloud now, like when people just put something together, it’s not necessarily their magnum opus that they’ve worked their whole life towards or whatever. It’s just like they’re 25 and they’re in a band and they put it out. And then it ends up on a record which ends up in a shop, which I find, and there’s something really like magic about that. And it being some random person who then gets a call from Bruno, who’s the most amazing sleuth at tracking people down to license the things. So he would call them and be like, “hey, we found this thing, we’d love to put it out,” and they’re so hyped! Loads of people were just like, what the fuck! How did you find me! It’s really good.

AS: I wondered if there was anyone who refused to give permission? I think the Desperate Bicycles refused to have their singles reissued (hence the bootlegs…)

Flo: I think that happens. I remember Bruno once found a record by two guys called 4AM and it got reissued on Emotional Rescue. When he tracked them down, firstly they’d lost touch, which was nice that this put them back together and they were very happy to be in each other’s lives again. But they were quite like baffled as to the ones that Bruno thought was good? Like there were some songs that were very obviously of the now sort of drum machine pop stuff that you can hear all over radio stations, like NTS and in Brilliant Corners and things like that. And he was like, “these are the hits!” So it’s funny, people they’ll be like, “oh, but we made that one as a joke or that one as a test, I can’t believe that’s what you actually like, the music I make now is much better, it’s much more serious.” There was someone on the comp, Richard Sanderson from The Euphoria Case, he makes quite serious music now. That’s good! It’s like weird, sort of experimental music, but that will often happen when you approach those kind of people and they’ll be like, “oh, but what about my contemporary music?” And you have to kind of side step it.

AS: Do you reckon that in decades time, people are going to be doing the same thing, digging stuff obscure stuff from say, 2016? Even with places like MySpace deleting all their files?

Flo: I think there’ll be that kind of thing, like files from MySpace or stuff that like people uploaded. Even today, someone in the chatroom asked DJ Python that if he had this track that this guy Blastah had put out on SoundCloud and then taken down within like a minute or something and he had it, so he played it! There’s shit like that already, but I think that there will be more stuff to do with CD era releases already, to take a really obvious example, like Music from Memory, a huge reissue label, just did a big Japanese CD thing. So I think there’ll be that. And then I think there’ll be, you know, SoundCloud hunters, but I dunno if that will have the same kind of energy, because I feel like that’s already its own thing now. Like people who are online all the time who nab things from the internet, you know, these moments in time. For example, we did this broadcast on NTS with Boards of Canada and someone ripped it because it wasn’t being archived. There’s already that kind of internet hunter culture. I don’t know if that will merge, but yeah, that appetite for unreleased or weird music will always be there.

AS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean as well, with internet radio, because every show is on Mixcloud, you’ve got these amazing little records of scenes and different genres’ evolutions. Like for example I first listened to NTS to listen to my mates who ran Power Lunches in like 2013. And I was listening back to those shows now and they really capture what bands were playing then and obviously none of those don’t exist anymore. And hopefully everyone will just be sharing tapes of these when Mixcloud goes bust!

The NTS booth in Gillett Square, Dalston

AS: So since you joined the station, how do you think internet radio has changed and what do you think is in store?

Flo: How has it changed since I first started? I think there’s more stations. I was talking to my friend Rory about this recently, how every individual person, is their own sort of like DJ curator all the time. Like you can make your own Spotify playlist or whatever it is, or your favourite shows that you listen to all the time and you kind of curate your own thing. So I think in that sense, that has forced us to think more about what it means to be an internet radio station in that sense, like if everyone can have their own shit all the time, what is the role of like a radio station now, when music is so accessible to everybody? I think that has also pushed us slightly towards more personality driven radio, with people selecting music and talking to other people about it, and also to be more experimental in format. So things like the Spatial Audio show is a good example, but also stuff like Infinite Mixtapes where it’s still radio put together by people rather than an algorithm. So it’s not necessarily stuff that you’d be able to find really easily from just clicking next on YouTube or next on Spotify, but there’s no talking in them and they’re mood based feeds. But they’re designed for more background listening whereas the radio is meant to be a bit more engaging and with music that you pay attention to and you get something from rather than just kind of passively consuming, which seems to be a weird thing that has happened in music recently.

AS: And there’s more scope for getting guests from a scene on, or recommend what’s going on in a particular place…

Flo: And I think that’s why people would, I mean, it’s certainly why I would listen to radio rather than just putting my own music on, not just in terms of like music discovery, because I know obviously people can listen to what they want, but maybe they want to find some new stuff. I would listen to radio rather than a mix or an algorithmically based thing because of that human element to hear like what someone has to say about it, how they’ve come into it, where they found that music, what they’re going to do next. The community element of it for me is what’s always been like an attractive thing about radio as a medium. And as a breakfast host, I’m also interested in the temporal aspect of radio. It’s a tricky thing with NTS and with any internet radio, because it’s online and people are listening from all over the world, it’s not like an FM thing where, you know, everybody’s listing within a certain time zone or within the M25 or whatever. But I am interested about people putting together things that are like aimed at the time. I love when hosts on the station consider that their show is like in the middle of the night.

AS: Like Luke Younger’s show After Dark airing at midnight.

Flo: Totally. And that’s just magic when it’s 11pm and you put on the radio, maybe you’ve had a drink or something, and the host is playing the right thing for that time. Like it’s a considered art. I love that.

AS: I’ve got some quick final questions now: what’s your favourite radio show right now?

Flo: I would say Scary Things. It’s on every Thursday, 6 to 8:00 PM. It’s a UK rap and drill show on NTS. The two hosts, JK and DJ Bempah are amazing.

AS: And what kind of music scene happening right now is most exciting to you?

Flo: That is impossible. I really like experimental weird rap music and the weird stuff that people do with their voices. I love like weird internet rap. I think there’s a really exciting pop weirdo scene going on here. Like I’m going to go see Bar Italia tomorrow at Avalon Cafe. I don’t know how I would describe Bar Italia, like weird sort of like fucked up, aggy but also really melodic and beautiful ethereal pop rock experimental music. And there’s lots of people tied to that scene that I really like. But I think the thing that I like about it is that everyone in and around it seems to have like the most wide-ranging influences. They sample music from all over, from lots of different things. It feels very contemporary in that it has loads of things like smashed into one, but it all makes sense.

This interview was originally published in Alternative Strategies‘ spring 2022 issue. Flo can be heard every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 9am on NTS (archive here); we’re also a big fan of Zakia’s breakfast show on Thursdays and Fridays.

For more from the spring 2022 issue, download the PDF or find a stockist; the autumn 2022 issue is on sale now.

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