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SHELL ZENNER: RADIO SWEETHEART  INTERVIEW BY MEL

Radio is a sound salvation; Radio is cleaning up the nation” - Elvis Costello

Shell Zenner, now theres an extraordinary name, once heard not forgotten. First spotted twittering her observations about aspects of the music scene and beyond. Shell is a thirty something, bubbly young woman with an obsessive passion for new music, especially championing the burgeoning Greater Manchester music scene. She’s been working since December 2008 on Salford City Radio where she has weekly slots, delivering alternative new music to the airwaves. She interjects the sessions with lively band interviews, is a club DJ and writes the single reviews for Manchester’s (bestselling what’s on guide) Chimp Magazine - (on top of a full time job). A more determined and lovely person you couldn’t wish to meet, as indeed we did meet up on Sunday Jan 3rd for a photoshoot and brews in her vibrant, retro styled house in the suburbs of Chorlton, Manchester. We decided to do the interview with a Q & A format via the net later (much easier for both of us)! We had a great girly afternoon, alongside her friend Liz Rogerson (a stylist) playing dressing up and cheesy poses to the strains of The Joy Formidable in the background. Now that’s what I call a grand day out!

MEL: We had our introductions yesterday at the photoshoot, it was great to finally catch up with you. Now, its time for those all important questions I wondered what first got you into music.

SHELL: Not my parent's that's for sure, they don’t own a music playing device between them!   When I was about eleven I spent a summer hanging out at my friend Kate's house, her parents were pretty well off and could afford Sky which wasn’t a common thing back then…we spent the summer watching music videos on MTV from bands like The Soup Dragons, The Charlatans and The Stone Roses and that was it, I was In love with music.

MEL: How would you describe your style and your interests outside of music?

SHELL: I guess I’m a vintage girl at heart, I love the 50s/60s/70s so I adore trawling vintage shops, charity shops, flea markets and car boots in my spare time to get one off items to treasure.  In terms of styling, I love retro dresses, brooches, false eyelashes and eye-liner, scarves, bows, old school glamour and generally playing dress up when I go out!

I enjoy the usual things like meals out, movies with friends and seeing some of the world where I like to collect memories and artefacts at the same time.

I’m really into interiors too, I renovated my house a few years ago and all the décor, retro styling and furnishings were chosen by and fitted by my own fair hands.  I really believe your home is where your heart is, in fact I have a postcard that says ‘home is where your record player is’ and I’d definitely agree with that. There’s no place like home!

I’m a big fan of kitsch kitchenware and I have a penchant for fruit shaped/styled kitchenware – strange but true! I also adore baking cupcakes when I have time.

On the other hand though, I can also be a bit of a tomboy.  I love playing on the wii, playing about with my guitars and instruments, buying and messing around with new electronic gadgets and generally being a bit of a geek!

MEL: How did you get into working as a DJ/interviewer for Salford City Radio?

SHELL: I was out for a drink with a girl who was mates with a couple of guys on Salford City Radio and I was talking about getting involved with hospital radio, when she suggested I contact Salford City Radio.  I sent a letter to the station manager who suggested I came in for a chat, and within three months I was on air for an hour a week. The beauty of community radio is that you can make the show your own, no one tells me what to play and I have moulded the show to fit my own personality and tastes.  Interviewing bands is something that evolved from doing a new music show as I just love hearing about the bands records and inspirations from the bands themselves.

MEL: Do you ever get nervous before the show goes on air?

SHELL: Every time! I’m so self critical about what I play and how I sound, whilst you kind of get used to hearing your own voice you think I should have said this or I shouldn’t have said that. Did I just sound like an idiot?! etc. I guess you live and learn..

MEL: Talk us through the general theme of your show and when does the show air?

SHELL: My show is a new music show, I feature the best new and pre-releases in my view by new and old bands, these aren’t always singles, they can be album tracks and even b sides…whatever takes my fancy really.  But its basically wall to wall new music!

I also air an interview with a band on each show, these are from a wide spectrum of musical genres as I’m as at home interviewing a twee folk band as a solo chillwave pioneer!

My shows air twice a week in the UK on Salford City Radio 94.4fm at 9pm on a Thursday and 5pm on a Sunday.  You can also listen online on www.salfordcityradio.org

The shows also air in the USA on Philadelphia station  90.3 WXLV Radio on Wednesdays at 12am ET (5am GMT) and Saturdays at 8pm  (1am GMT) .  You can also listen online on www.wxlvradio.com

MEL: Greatest memories from the radio shows?

SHELL: There are just so many but my greatest memories tend to be chatting or interviewing bands! Some total highlights for me were interviewing The Temper Trap when they were just breaking and Sweet Disposition was everywhere and getting to interview my favourite band in the world The Charlatans, I was truly honoured to get some time with them.

Other notable highlights were interviews with The Black Keys, Kasabian and The Pains of Being Pure At Heart who I have adored for a few years.  I’ll also never forget having Suzuki/Method in the studio for a show chatting and playing every track off their new EP, I was buzzing about their EP as much as they were and it was a total joy to plug a Salford band!

MEL: What do you most like about your radio work - and indeed are there any downsides?

SHELL: I love discovering brand new bands that only a handful of people have heard of and being able to champion them to a wider audience. The buzz of hearing them reach a major commercial station is just the best feeling!

Downsides? Aren’t there always! I’d say it’s when things don’t go to plan or when things don’t pan out.  I’m easily disappointed and when sessions or interviews get cancelled at the last minute it can be a bit of a headache.  The music business is way more complicated than people realise - strict load in times, broken down splitter vans and bad weather are nothing you can control.

MEL: What’s your take on Manchester? (I know you’re an adopted Mancunian),

SHELL: I used to live in London ten years ago and whilst I still believe there is more free spirit in London than Greater Manchester, Manchester and indeed Salford are such amazing cities from the suburbs through to the cities themselves. 

The people are warm and friendly and are so passionate about their music, like no others I’ve ever met in my life.  They are very proud of the heritage that our cities have, but are also keen not to live off the cliché of the past forging forward and behind new bands, music genres and venues.

Manchester and Salford have some of the best gig venues in the UK and It always fills me with pride when I interview international bands and they tell me what an honour it is to play here or that one of our venues is their favourite venue!

MEL: What has been your most favourite interviews to date - any nightmare ones you can talk about?

SHELL: Favourite interviews to date have been with the cheeky David Burn from Detroit Social Club who did these fake kissing noises into the sound recorder at the end of the interview, such a lad! of course I edited them out! To finally get to interview Paul Smith of Maximo Park was an amazing buzz after being a fan since seeing them play Dry Bar in 2004.

Interviewing Beach House early in 2010 was also really special for me, Alex and Victoria were very witty and funny comparing their latest album to a teenager that was a bit emo! We had a lovely time talking about their new album Teen Dream which was incidentally my favourite record of 2010 and for that reason it will always stick in my mind.

Hmm, nightmare ones? Ha! There's been a few, I’m not one to name names but there are two that stick in my mind.  Interviewing the first band was like getting blood out of a stone. I asked a multitude of questions to get given very little in return. Every interviewers nightmare!

The second one is an example of why you should always formally arrange your interviews prior to a gig. I had tried to set an interview up with this particular band through their pr company to no avail. When I approached them after the gig for an interview they seemed amenable. But they didn’t take the interview seriously, swore and lied all the way through it and whilst I maintained a professional composure throughout I vowed never to air it as they didn’t deserve my airtime. I did laugh when I heard their single playing instore in Topshop a few months later though!

MEL: Who would you love to interview given a choice?

SHELL: Edwyn Collins! I was meant to recently but it just didn’t pan out unfortunately, I hope to get to chat to him this year at some point though. He has such a legacy of music and is such a great example of triumph over adversity. But not only that, he adores new music and even has members of The Cribs and Franz Ferdinand on his amazing new album Losing Sleep.  Frankie & the Heartstrings recently recorded their debut album at Edwyn's studio and The Heartbreaks are due to go there soon to record too.

 
MEL: What’s been the highlight of 2010 and best shows of the year?

SHELL: The highlight of the year for me was probably the first SSR Salford session that we did with Fenech-Soler. Having seen the band support Groove Armada earlier in the year when I first got to meet and interview the band, and then see them go from strength to strength throughout 2010 I knew they were an ideal band to kick of the sessions in style.

But it was such a new project and I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, so when we stood in the mixing room listening back to the fantastic tracks at the end of the session I was well and truly blown away! The session was that good that the band actually gave a track away to fans for free which was an unbelievable feeling!

Well other than getting to see Stevie Wonder for the first time at Glastonbury, for me the best show of the year would be a festival and that festival was In The City that took place in Manchester in October. The range and number of bands playing was immense and I got to see such an array of great bands over just a few days. 

Stand out bands at In The City were Kisses, D/R/U/G/S, Brown Brogues, Spectrals, Mazes, Factory Floor, Health, Young British Artists, No Age, Slow Motion Shoes, Youthless, Porcelain Raft, Dutch Uncles and Chad Valley

MEL: Bands which come highly recommended by yourself - go on its your chance to give those unsung bands a big plug?

SHELL: Other than any of the bands I’ve mentioned already in this interview, I’m a huge fan of The Boxer Rebellion, they produced my favourite album of 2009 in Union and I can’t wait to hear their new album The Cold Still which is due out very soon and which I hope will finally give them the commercial success they deserve. I’m also excitedly looking forward to follow up albums from The Horrors, Exit Calm and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart this year. 

In terms of debut albums, I can’t wait to hear the albums from Chapel Club, The Joy Formidable, Black Dove Experiment, The Cheek, The Lysergic Suite, Veronica Falls, May 68, Run Toto Run, Frankie & The Heartstrings, Blind Atlas and Suzuki/Method.

MEL: In between your radio shows and DJ sets you also work for Chimp Magazine on single reviews, how did this transpire?

SHELL: Basically through social networking on twitter. I started to write a blog just over a year ago as a friend suggested people would be interested to read about the gigs I have been to and what I’m listening to. Alex at Chimp Magazine follows me on twitter, he read my blog after I tweeted about it and liked what he read so much that he asked me to write the single reviews column every month. It’s great seeing your words in actual print and being able to tell bands that you are championing that their latest single has a review in a magazine in Greater Manchester.

MEL: Not only do you speak through the airwaves you also do a mean DJ set. Tell us about your DJing and how people can contact you for a booking?

SHELL: I love djing, it gives me a chance to play tracks from my archives and I love mixing it up from indie to electro and both brand new and old stuff by following the vibe of the night and also throwing in a few requests for good measure. There's no better buzz than someone coming up to shake your hand and tell you they’ve really enjoyed your set or someone asking who a track is by. I ask anyone wanting to book me for a dj set to drop me a line on shellzenner@gmailcom

MEL: What tips would you give to someone wanting to get into your profession - and what hopes do you have for yourself professionally this year?

SHELL: My tip is to go for it! If you are passionate about music get involved with your local radio station just like Salford City Radio.  Community radio stations are generally voluntary organisations that need help on a range of matters from news and weather, outside broadcasts, sales, marketing, technical aspects and more as well as needing presenters.  If you’re into writing about music there are now an array of websites that review singles, EPs, albums and gigs that you could get involved with.

This year I would like to take myself to the next level. 2010 was a massively successful year for me in terms of music and it has given me the hope and taste to make a full time career from it and be able to quit my day job. I said to someone recently that getting a job in radio is 70% hard work and 30% luck, but I also believe you can make your own luck and I’m hoping I’m lucky in 2011!

MEL: Finally if you ruled the world what would you change?

SHELL: Is this where I should write World Peace?!

For DJ booking enquiries email: shellzenner@gmail.com

Interview by Mel 03/01/11

Photoshoot by Mel 02/01/11