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Pirate Radio Pioneers Prepare For A Rewind

James Drury
By James Drury Last edited 23 months ago
Pirate Radio Pioneers Prepare For A Rewind

Could this be a little case of history repeating? The founders of pioneering London pirate radio station, Kiss FM, have just launched their soul station on DAB with the aim of conquering the airwaves once again.

Mi Soul broadcast RnB, soul, house and reggae online out of the Stephen Lawrence Centre in Deptford Bridge for the past three years but has now fledged into a fully-licensed broadcaster, much like the pirate station did back in 1990.

Gordon Mac from Mi Soul Radio

"It's good to be back," grins Gordon Mac, the man who created Kiss and Mi Soul, along with his business partner Martin Strivens. "There's a lot of love out there."

The amount of affection out there is no surprise — in its time, Kiss was the home of DJs who are some of the biggest names in the business: Tim Westwood, Jonathan More, Norman Jay, Trevor Nelson, and it attracted almost 500,000, despite not having a license.

Once it finally became 'official' 25 years ago, it was not long after that one of its shareholders, EMAP, bought the station, and in 1998 ran a major overhaul, transforming it from a dance, urban and soul music station into something more closely resembling what those who listen to it today would recognise.

Which is a key reason behind the launch of Mi Soul.

"I believe there needs to be a radio station catering for that original Kiss generation that grew up listening to Kiss and Choice FM [which later became Capital Xtra]," says Mac. "There's a lot of these people in London, according to RAJAR — but no-one's really catering to those 30-55-year-olds.

"It's a problem lots of people will recognise — you get to being 30 or 35 and in this situation where the younger stations are too young for you, but you're not ready to sit down and just listen to Celine Dion and put your slippers on."

The station has recruited a strong line-up of DJs including names familiar from the old Kiss and Choice days such as George Kay, Paul 'Trouble' Anderson and Soul2Soul's Jazzie B, plus the likes of Greg Edwards and Ronnie Herel, a former regular on BBC 1Xtra, but who was dropped by the station, presumably for not fitting the age profile of its target audience.

But life's not easy for a fledgling DAB station — even for someone who was the co-founder of what became a global brand. "I definitely learned more than I learned at Kiss," laughs Mac. "Everyone thinks we came out of the sale to EMAP as multi-millionaires, but I definitely didn't. I learned a lot of skills about radio, management, marketing, but not much else."

The station he founded has changed beyond all recognition from its original concept, and the early days of being a pirate radio station in London, but Mac is still proud of its longevity — despite the fact he clearly wishes it had stuck to its original programming rather than become very pop-oriented. Mi-Soul is the answer to that. He's still playing the music he loves.

Find Mi Soul on a DAB radio, or via online apps such as TuneIn Radio, or through the station's website.

  • There's a great history of the pirate radio station days of Kiss at amfm.org.uk

Last Updated 16 July 2015

Harry Kobeans

Pioneers of pirate radio? I don't think so. You have to go back to 1964 for that. Your 'pioneers' would have been in short trousers then.