"Basement Music On CRMK", or "A Short Article About Something Really Great"
Words by: Phil W.
Back in January 2010, I attended a small launch party for a new show on Milton Keynes's internet based local radio station CRMK. The show was Basement Music, the brain-child of budding radio DJ Michael Andrews. The Concept: to promote original local music from all over Milton Keynes, covering all genres. Every week he'd get a different act in the studio, interview them and get them to play a few songs... and in-between he'd play nothing but music recorded by Milton Keynes bands and artists, and talk about and plug everything from open mic's to gigs at the Sno!Bar. It’s a home-grown Milton Keynes story of a passion for local music, rather like CRMK itself.
CRMK (Cable Radio Milton Keynes) has its roots at the very start of Milton Keynes along with the Milton Keynes TV station. The TV station is long gone but CRMK still struggles along with unpaid DJ’s and local volunteers, and a criminally small listenership. At some point, around the time that local radio began its slow extinction, CRMK was taken over by Horizon. Under Horizon things weren't too bad really but once Heart took over CRMK lost its analogue signal and was only accessible via the internet. The upshot of course is that they can basically broadcast what they like (though if you go on the show you have to try not to swear!). It’s still broadcast from the same studios as it was back in the 80's and stepping inside the small, wood-panelled studio with the huge mixing desk and the red "On Air" lamp is an exciting experience for any aspiring DJ or artist - and the first stop for numerous DJ hopefuls over the years including, from January this year, Michael Andrews.
"The Milton Keynes music scene is so separated into lots of different groups and each one is very insular," commented Michael. "If only we could bring them all together in one place." And that’s pretty much exactly what Basement Music does. Since January over thirty acts have walked through his studio doors including Footswitch, Project Wolverine, Roses & Pirates, Phil Sky, Dusque, Seeking Salvation Through Love, The Further Adventures Of Vodka Boy, Scribe, Bine The Peg and Tombstone Bullets to name a few. When Dusque performed live they arrived an hour before their set and carted their entire arsenal of stage equipment into the tiny studio for a fully plugged in set. This really is a great thing going on. And there's more to come, Michael tells me he's fully booked with acts until January now.
I was in the CRMK studio again in October and have been a regular listener throughout the year. In the 21st century, a show like Basement Music is a more relevant thing than ever before. Macbooks have given every aspiring artist studio-quality recordings and across the board the standard of the tracks Michael plays is universally good. And there really is something to be said for the diversity of the Milton Keynes music scene, even if it can be a little insular. There’s something about this being a new city - that so many different groups of people have come together relatively recently into one place that gives Milton Keynes such a thriving arts scene, music included. In a world where bands big and small are more and more frequently going it alone, free of the record labels, an independent radio station like this just makes sense. Never before have so many high quality recordings been available to capture a thriving local music scene.
But despite this, The Man is always lurking round the corner. Rumour has it that Heart FM, CRMK's current owners, would like to close the studio down, ending the last bastion of local, independent radio in Milton Keynes. And to lose it really would be a sad thing. If you're in a band, it’s unlikely you'd be able to get your song played on Heart, let along drop in the studio and play a live set.
So if you can find the time, tune in to Basement Music, 7:30 till 9 every Thursday evening and support local music and local radio.