How did you first connect with Triple R?
It was actually my dad who introduced me to RRR, back in the early 1980s. Every time we drove up to Melbourne from the Latrobe Valley, where we lived, I remember him tuning the radio to RRR as soon as we were in range. But it wasn't until 1993, when I was an unemployed writer living in Northcote, that I started to develop a serious loyalty to the station. That year the Department of Social Security (as Centrelink was then known) ‘encouraged' me to undertake a skills development course in order to increase my chances of finding a job; if I didn't, they were going to cut me off the dole. I took a desultory look at the typed list they offered me: typing and telephonist training were among the courses on offer, but not only were they skills I already possessed, they had so far failed to make me more employable. Then I saw what was handwritten at the bottom of the list: ‘Radio Production - RRR'. That was the course I applied for. The rest is history.
What/when was your first show?
Having started out with the prerequisite graveyards and fillers, my first regular spot at the station was as the host of a spoken word and poetry program, which I foolishly chucked in in 1999, when I briefly and abortively moved to Mullumbimby in northern NSW. On my return, I was invited to present a fortnightly film review spot on Monday mornings, a year or two later took over as the host of the visual arts program, High and Low. Then, in 2004, our then Program Manager Tracee Hutchison offered me the Thursday morning timeslot I occupy today. She also came up with the show's name, too. Thanks Trace!
What's your favourite Triple R story?
Outside broadcasts are always tricky affairs, but the show I did a couple of years ago, live from ACMI at Federation Square for the Stanley Kubrick exhibition, was probably the single most nerve-wracking show I've ever done. My final guest on the day was actor Malcolm McDowell, who has a reputation for being... shall we say ‘difficult'? Surprisingly, he turned out to be quite charming, even jovial; and quite unashamed of any of the bad movies he's appeared in over the years (and trust me, there've been a few). Throughout the interview, though, I was wary of putting my foot in my mouth. So what happens? I end up with six feet in my mouth: I swallowed, and choked on, a fly - on live radio in front of a cheerfully disgusted McDowell!
Your favourite other Triple R program and why?
I can't name just one - that's like asking me to name my favourite film! I'm a huge fan of Delivery, and Owen McKern's inimitable take on instrumental music; as well as Kim Jirik's seemingly boundless ability to discover the world's most sublime obscure bands on The Drift. I have to give a shout-out to the Ghost for introducing me to Einstuerzende Neubauten, and to Karen Leng for turning me on to Sigur Rós. There are countless other RRR announcers I admire, for a range of reasons - Jonathan Alley's technical proficiency, Paul Harris' puns, Dr Andi's boundless enthusiasm for the mysteries and wonders of the world...
What does Triple R mean to you?
It's a family; a community; a shared openness of mind and a commitment to making the world a better place. It's something to come home to, and a conspiratorial glance between strangers whose cars sport the station's bumper sticker. Triple R is an aural expression of Melbourne's soul.
The studio door has accidentally jammed shut with you stuck inside. If there was only one CD in there with you, what would you want it to be, and why?
I think as long as it wasn't a Nickelback CD or Kylie Minogue, I'd kind of be ok.
So what is it with you and ‘the arts', Wattsy - are you a frustrated thespian or a failed painter, or what?
Good question. I've dabbled with performance, photography, and music; and I've done a hell of a lot of writing over the years. But I don't think the reason I love ‘the arts' is because I'm vicariously living out some failed creative dream. For me, the best art - be it theatre, sculpture, cinema or some hybrid artform we haven't even invented yet - flies under the defences of our casual 21 century cynicism and tells us something new about being human. Art is an expression of, and the reason for, being alive.