DREAM FM was a pirate radio station in Leeds in the early 90s. I’ve written about it a lot, so, inspired by Chris Martin’s Memories of Dream FM Facebook page, I thought it was about time that other people had a chance to talk about the station.
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PHILIP GIRLING was living with his family in Harehills when he first heard Dream FM at the age of13. He’d got into dance music a year before when he bought The Prodigy Experience – “on the back of LOVING Outta Space on the music video chart thing that used to be on ITV back in the day.” There was no turning back.
“I had the attic room and my parents were pretty relaxed about loud music. I’ll never forget finding Dream FM. Searching on the hi-fi for something decent to listen to and it came crackling into my life like a bolt of lightning.
“I twatted about on the dial and adjusted the speaker wire (which seemed to serve as my aerial) until it was a good reception. Pressed record and never looked back.
“The tune that was on was Edge 1 original mix (CLASSIC) but I can’t be sure of the DJ playing. Something says Camaro but can’t be sure. All I remember is him saying what the record was called and that he would be playing the remix next.
“My first impression was that finally I had found music that was made for me. I’d listened to music as far back as I could remember and always loved it – from my mum giving me her old vinyl – including Thriller and some classic Motown etc and enjoyed it all. But nothing like this. Talk about a seminal moment and an eye opening.
“I listened all the time, to people like Tantra and Dave Hill. I remember one night someone saying he wasn’t coming back so Dave would be talking from now on. I never realised he wasn’t in the first place.
“I also listened to Carl Whitehead, Luigi, the Omlette Bros, Camaro, the legend that is Shock, Daisy & Havoc … I could go on.
“I used to tape the shows and then re-record them, cutting out all the talking and adverts – something I regret now, but not as much as losing them all over time. I once read somewhere that ‘the General’ had masters of every show still. I would pay any money for them.
“I remember Tantra playing Rez for the first time. And Shock playing Dread Bass like it was only yesterday. Dream meant everything to me. Too much in fact.
“The last weekend was also flashback weekend and I can still remember everyone plugging the licence application. Everyone at school all signed a petition … Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Nothing. No news. Then … Kiss. Everyone was devastated.
“Dream FM was like my first love and my first hit all rolled into one. I am an addict. I can never forget it. I never want to forget it. Ninety-nine point nine mHz Dream FM through to one oh seven point eight. I remember when I got up one Saturday morning listening to the recorded message about the move and having to readjust the speaker wire I spoke about before to get a decent reception.
“I think the fact I am rambling on like someone in a club at 4 in the morning shows my feelings for Dream and the profound effect it has (not had) on my life. The fact anyone still talks about it now is testament to what it was.
“How can you pick three favourite tunes from the halcyon era of dance? I suppose, what stick in my mind most are:
“Waaaaaay too many to mention. I guess I better press send or I’ll never stop rambling on.
“Thanks for the education and the memories.”
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SHELDON McGEEVER grew up in East End Park before moving to Harehills – he was, and remains, “LS9 born and bred” – and started DJing on Dream FM when he was in his early 20s.
“I first went to the Hacienda in early 1989. Then Tony Hannan started a little club night in Leeds at Rickys. Then there were regular trips to Shelley’s and the Blackburn illegals. So I was into the whole scene.
“I was a regular in Steve Luigi’s record shop the Listening Booth and was helping Tony out with his nights, so I heard about Dream FM pretty early on in the station’s life.
“Dream was the only station that let me listen to the music I wanted to hear and also get info on what was going on in Leeds. I used to listen to it at some point every weekend. My favourite DJs were people like Steve Luigi, Chris Martin, Dean White, and Daisy & Havoc, to name a few.
“Me and Paul Gardner got to play on Dream after the station had been raided and they needed decks for the upcoming weekend. So we lent the station a pair of 1210s and, in return, we got a guest slot on Julia’s G-Spot – and from that we were offered our own show.
“My first memory of doing the Paul Gardner & Sheldon show was when we had been to the Warehouse, went and picked up our boxes of tunes and went to the station, in Little London, at about 4.30 in the morning.
“While we waiting for the lift, there was a lad stood next to us, also waiting for the lift. I looked down and he had a gun in his hand, a pistol, maybe a pellet gun. He wasn’t trying to be gangster or anything. My main thought was, he’s not getting my records if he starts pointing that about.
“It was just a strange surreal situation. We got in the lift and he wanted the same floor as us – WTF. It turned out he lived in the flat and was a top kid.
“Doing the early Saturday shows, from 5 till 8am, we used see the sun come up over Leeds while we were playing, which was wicked.
“I was into the progressive sounds like Sasha, BT and Quivver, and Paul was into the uplifting stuff. We had a good mix of music and most weeks we played what felt good, as well as also any decent promos we had been sent the week before.
Some of our favourite tracks we played on Dream FM include:
We had few guest mixes on our show – because we worked at Kaos/Soak and Up Yer Ronson, we had people like Tony Ross, Steve Williams, and a half-hour guest mix by Sasha. I think we did our show from about four different studios and loved every minute of it.
“Chris Martin was doing the show before and used to stay back and hang out with us while we did our show, then Simon Harrison was on after and we used to stay back with him.
“I was gutted when the station went off air to go for the licence but thought it was a good thing. Then later, I was told it had gone for good – and I really was gutted.
“Dream was a very good thing. It was of its time and it was also needed, as all the other stations were very commercial and didn’t play the music that the clubbers wanted to listen to. It is part of the history of Leeds clubbing.”
“I’d like to thank Chris for letting myself and Paul have a show.”
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JON DA FOX aka dj exl was in his early 20s and a full-time DJ living in Rochdale when he first began presenting on Dream FM: “I was young, overweight and a raving, record-collecting mad head.”
Jon had been entering DJing competitions all over the country from the age of 16. “I never liked school so I turned to DJing and concentrated on music.”
Having first gone clubbing at the Hacienda when he was 17, he went out “every Friday and Saturday”, travelling all over the north and Midlands, visiting clubs like Shelley’s, the Eclipse, the Hippodrome (in Middleton, Manchester), Orbit, Angels, Back to Basics and Hard Times.
Jon is not “100% sure”, how he got involved in Dream FM, or even what year it was. “My first impression was, this looks like fun. I was glad to be allowed on the airwaves after speaking to Chris and explaining about all the venues I was playing at. He said yes, get over here and spin some tunes.”
He played rave, house, breakbeats etc, late on Sunday nights initially, working to a rough plan of “playing my favourites and the latest promo releases I had received that week, running competitions and giving out shouts etc. I loved presenting rather than just playing records – it was good to talk about my passion for the music.”
Jon’s most memorable Dream FM moments involve a guest slot from his friend MC Tunes, one of the big station meetings with a group photo of all the DJs and staff, and “not knowing where the studio was gonna be until we got there.”
“Having Tunes on the show was good fun – especially when he pulled a litre of Jack Daniels and bottle of coke from his bag! I also remember the big meeting and getting to see everyone else and say hello as I really didn’t know anybody there.
“Jane Funk Boutique was real cool and nice, plus she came and played at a few events I organised. The boss, Chris, was always really friendly to speak to, but always mad, mad busy..”
Top three Dream FM tunes:
“I loved it. I was playing all over the country at the time – it was all a big deal. Dream FM was part of a really fast time in my life, almost like a whirlwind passing through my mind. I was a bit too young and it all seemed to be happening too fast. And I partied way too hard at the time. If I was to do it again, I would try my best to remember more.”
The only bad times Jon can remember at Dream FM are “finding out it was all over. Gutted, gutted, gutted.”
Dream FM was “100%” a good thing, says Jon. “I just wish I could do it all over again.”
Why are we still talking about Dream FM today?
“Because it was fresh and up to date, unlike the controlled major stations we are left with. It was for the people and it felt that way. It was an amazing time I shall never forget – well, the bits I remember, anyway.
“Bring it back – or get hold of the car from Back to the Future and send me back!”
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JANE WINTERBOTTOM, aka DJ Funk Boutique, was 26 and living in Manchester when she first started presenting on Dream FM in 1992.
“My first ever acid house experience was at Heaven in London, and then literally within one week, the Hacienda in Manchester had exploded. I half lived at the Hacienda. I went three nights a week.
“Within months, the first ever Blackburn party happened, in an old bike shop. I was one of them, alongside Tommy Smith, my boyfriend at the time, who became of the main players at these huge warehouse parties.
“The Hardcore Uproar parties had started with 50 people and within only eight months, the crowd had grown to 8,000 people! It was an unbelievable experience, and one that makes me go cold when I think about it now.
“My first ever DJ gig was at one of these infamous Blackburn parties, in front of 10,000 people. After the Blackburn parties ended, I moved to Manchester, where I studied sound engineering, then started working first at Out of the Blue Studios, then at my own studio, Off Balance Recordings.
“I was also DJing in Manchester during this period, and was resident DJ at One Tree Island, a well-known world music night. I also started promoting my own club nights in Manchester around this time – one of which was called Humbug.
“My mate Julia Warrington had been studying at Leeds Polytechnic in the late 80s, before she started working for Dream FM. I would go up to Leeds and stay with her and we would go out to the Warehouse and to Chapeltown, to the Phoenix. Leeds had a very different feel to it as a city, compared to Manchester.
“Julia (who had been my best mate since our school days) started working for Chris at Dream FM. She asked me if I would like to have a show. I was ecstatic! It was so exciting to join the team! Dream FM was still in its prime, and going from strength to strength. I loved the rawness of the station and there was a special magic in the early days.
“There was a shared love of the music the DJs and presenters played. We were a strong team of music lovers. I did not get to know many of the other DJs / presenters at the station because I lived and worked in Manchester the whole time, but when I came up to Leeds to do my show every weekend, I would hang out up there with Julia and our good mate, Billy.
“I played an eclectic mix of tunes, but generally with a funky edge to them. I love anything quirky. I had an amazing collection of early acid house records (from 1987 to 1989) that had been a gift from my mate Shack – who was resident DJ at the Blackburn acid house parties – and then I added various other musical styles to my vinyl collection, ranging from soul to Indian-influenced dance music. I played very diverse types of music.
“My musical background started with a passion for hip hop, electro and early jazz funk in the early 80s. In the north of England, there was an amazing black music scene, which had taken over my whole life. The early electro tracks literally blew my mind! It was a musical revolution.
“Hip Hop, Be Bop by Man Parrish was my very first inspiration with this type of music, and Al Naafiysh by Hashim changed me forever. I was about 17-years-old when I heard these tunes. I hung out with Street Machine and Broken Glass, the two most successful breakdancing crews in Manchester. The next few years of my life gave me my roots, musically.
“Acts like Afrika Bambaataa, EPMD, Public Enemy, Stetsasonic, Dennis Edwards and Maze were my favourites. I have always been a complete trainspotter when it comes to music. I’ve also always been fascinated by how the black music came from the US and exploded as a new musical culture in Britain, like northern soul and acid house.
“The first slot I had on Dream was Saturday night/Sunday morning, from midnight to 2am. Then I moved to Sunday mornings, from 10am to noon (I think). The two different time slots really influenced what I would play. When I did the Saturday night show, I would play more diverse styles of music with, at times an eastern flavour to it, whereas on the Sunday morning show, I played more funky downbeat tunes.
“I generally winged it. I would just throw my tunes in my bag and go from there. This was typical for me throughout my 16-year DJing career. I would have the first two or three tunes lined up, then I would just go with the flow, and see where the moment took me.
“That’s the creativity of DJing for me. I love making it up as I go along. I love to be passionate about the music I play, and I tap into this much more when I am in the flow. I am more of an artist than a planner, when it comes to DJing.
“I was very nervous at first. I hated the sound of my own voice to begin with – it was quite a shock. We had a lesson one day from a radio presenter, which really helped me to develop my skills as a presenter. I always remember the guy saying to us, always smile when you’re talking on air, as it comes across in your voice. I found this to be very true.
“I remember one time I was presenting live in the flats, and the radio station went down. The station got busted. No one found me in the flat, I just received a phone call from Chris, letting me know that we were off air. It was an exciting feeling to think that you could get shut down at any moment. It added to the experience.
“I also remember one moment when I was DJing on the Saturday night / Sunday morning slot on my own, up there in the high-rise flats, and I remember just being in heaven! Not knowing who was listening – that was the buzz of it for me, the anonymity of it all. It was a magical experience.”
Do you have any particular memories of the other presenters? And the management?
“I had a lot of respect for the General – Chris – who started the radio station. He was so passionate about it. My mate Julia ran the office. She had her own show called Julia’s G-Spot, which showcased DJs from all over the world, including Andrew Weatherall and Carl Cox. Julia’s show was very popular and she was a fantastic presenter.
“Tantra was one of my favourite DJs. The girl had class! She played some amazing techno and I learned a lot from her, music wise. There were a lot of female DJs at Dream, which was good to see.
“There were not so many female DJs in Manchester at this time, and I liked the balance of male and female DJs at Dream FM. It made the station very unique. And female DJs make great musical trainspotters.
Did you ever have any guests on your shows?
“I had vocalist/rapper JC001 guest with me once. He was working with Nitin Sawhney at the time and was in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest rapper in the world. He had come up from London to do the show with me. JC was unbelievable live and the show went down a storm.
“I knew how special Dream FM was at the time. Dream FM became hugely successful. It offered dance music 24/7, with minimal advertising (mainly only club nights), and the station was hosted by top class musical talent. It was the ultimate radio station to work for.
“I was gutted when it ended. I did my show for about four or five years. I did loads of work with various radio stations after Dream FM, so it paved the way for this. I worked on two radio stations, Power 106 and KCRW, both in Los Angeles, and I presented shows at many different radio stations in Manchester.
“I DJed in Ireland with Tony Humphries once and was given the keys to this house in Cork where this pirate radio station was set up, to go and do a show on my own. It was great!
“I absolutely LOVED all the radio work I did. I don’t miss DJing so much, but I do miss presenting on the radio.
“Dream FM was unique. You could play any music that you wished and I loved that about it. Freedom of expression. This was one big reason why it was so successful. Dance music exploded in Britain before any other place on earth, then it spread like wildfire worldwide over the next two decades. Dream FM was at the beginning of this enormous wave of musical culture. We were part of the original dance music scene, which set a precedent globally. We made history.
“I have amazing memories of my time at Dream FM and the people I met through the station. I learned a lot from working there and I gained a lot of confidence in my DJ career because of working at Dream. The radio station was a very creative outlet for me, with no set tracklists needed, you could play what you wanted – the music that moved mountains for you, that you were most passionate about – and you had the audience there to share your passion with.
“As a DJ and a lover of music, this was the ultimate. A trainspotters heaven!
“I DJed professionally until 2005, all around the world. I played a lot in Vancouver, Hong Kong, LA and Europe, with the Czech Republic being one of my favourite places to DJ. I played there numerous times a year, right after they had the Velvet Revolution in the early 90s. It was a very innovative place. Vancouver reminded me of the explosion we had seen in Britain in the late 80s. It was real.
“In Britain, we had paved the way for millions of young people around the world who followed us on our musical pilgrimage. This is one of the things I am most proud of about Britain. One of our biggest strengths as a country is the music industry. The world watches us for direction.
“I feel honoured to have been a part of the Dream FM team. I take my hat off to the General, who did us all proud by bringing Dream FM to life. Without his dream, none of it would have happened. Thanks Chris. The platform that you shared with all the DJs at Dream FM played a huge part in defining our musical history.”
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TOM MULLEN was an 11-year-old schoolboy in Headingley when he first heard Dream FM. Discovering the station led to a fascination with the dance scene in Leeds, “and many a night was spent wandering through woods as a teenager, trying to find secretive raves which were sometimes hinted at on the station.”
“I went to Lawnswood High School, which had a unique room known as the ‘Record Club’, a sort of social area set up for the kids at lunchtimes. Here, you could sit with a packet of crisps and listen to dance music, blasted out by some of the older pupils, who ran a stereo and brought tapes in. Remember tapes?
“I think it was here that I first learned about the station. I’m 33 now, and this was 1992. But Dream was just something everyone knew about. The merchandise was all over the city – on flyers, posters, T-shirts and in record shops.
“Aged 11, the only music I’d really listened to was a bit of Michael Jackson, and things like Queen and Meatloaf which were handed down from an older brother. Tuning into Dream opened up a whole new world.
“It was the early 90s and the dance music scene was exploding. I loved the creativity of the tracks, and the differences between house, hardcore, garage and later, jungle.
“I became a Prodigy nut, and loved a style known as ‘darkcore’, which sadly disappeared. Some of the music was truly amazing. It’s a shame because I think dance music has lost that special, raw quality it had at the time.
“I’d listen whenever I could, but religiously on Saturday afternoons, when the brilliant DJ Shock was playing.
“I can’t speak highly enough of this guy. He was years ahead of his time, and probably the only DJ playing drum n bass and jungle in Leeds at the time. He was also one of the original brains behind the station itself. I still listen to tapes of his sets.
“If you asked kids at the time who their favorite DJ was, they’d probably say DJ Sy, Carl Cox, or perhaps Slipmat. But mine was always Shock. I liked the fact he was a Leeds lad too. I met him years later, probably in about the year 2000, when he was working in a record shop in Headingley. He won’t remember but it was great to chat to him. He’s one of dance music’s unsung heroes.
“I didn’t pay too much attention to the so-called ‘big names’. That wasn’t what Dream was about. It had enough local talent to show off – the likes of Shock, Steve Luigi, Daisy and Havoc, and DJ Carl’s ‘Fantasy Zone’ show. It was underground. Things are different today and proper, quality dance music has sadly become harder and harder to find. If it’s not Calvin Harris, the kids don’t want to know.
“I was too young to go to any Dream FM parties. Although I did listen to many ex-Dream DJs play out later in the 90s.
“Dream FM seemed like a huge deal at the time. It was a special station, and, for a penniless schoolboy on £2 per week pocket money, it was a way to have access to free music. I would tape almost every show. The station was broadcast on various different frequencies and when it changed, or went off air for a while, there was mild panic. Would it be back? It was a sad day when the airwaves went quiet for good.
“It was a true disaster, and a missed opportunity for Leeds. The station may have been illegal, but it was run professionally and responsibly. No swearing was allowed on air, and care was taken not to interfere with other frequencies. They tried to get a legal licence, but it never happened.
“I think Galaxy FM won the contract in the end – a dumbed down, plastic station that ultimately failed. I heard a rumour that the guys from Dream had put a load of money together to try to launch the station legally – only for one of the group to betray everyone and run away with the cash. But I can’t verify that, it could be nonsense.
“One way or another, it’s a shame Dream was never officially recognised – or we could still be listening today.
“Dream FM shaped my taste in music and continues to do so today. I never liked indie music, or pop, or other chart rubbish – and it was thanks to Dream. I suppose it was a musical education. I laugh at myself sometimes, as I’m now 33, fairly sensible and work as a journalist in a respectable job – but still listen to my Dream tunes in the car.
“The station is clearly still missed, intensely. I’m sure many people will echo my comments above. This sounds a bit sentimental, but for me, part of Leeds died when Dream went off air. It remains to be seen if someone can replicate its success. Frequency FM – run by DJ Shock of course – came close.
Top three Dream FM tunes:
“If any of the old Dream DJs read this, I’d just like to say thank you. Maybe you could get together and put on a reunion party?
“Right, I’m off for a small cry.”
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CHRIS MARTIN was a 32-year-old DJ living in Burley when he first appeared on Dream FM. He went out, “almost every night, if possible,” usually to the Warehouse, before ending up at a blues party in Chapeltown. He played at the Warehouse and also did the indie room at Joy.
“I first got involved with Dream FM through a couple of mates. I sent a tape to Sean to try get a show in 1991. I thought it was gonna be in a tower block but it was in a cubby hole in Billy’s cellar.
“I played techno and hardcore to start with. My first show was on a Sunday 6-9pm. As always, I just played it by ear. I was a tad nervous at first but I just played a few tunes, then had a natter.
“I’ve got a few memorable moments, such as playing after Lenny Dee one Wednesday night. He left a right old atmosphere in the studio and I played a blinder for two hours. I also remember tripping my tits off one Tuesday morning and trying to do a three-hour show. And being the first to get Dream on the telly with Sean.
“I have loads of memories of all the presenters as I was the studio manager for a few years and got to meet and sit in on most of their shows. The General was okay 99 per cent of the time but could be an arse about stuff. I loved his cornflakes box.
“And there were some DJs that didn’t really need to be on Dream, who were really not about the house/rave/dance scene and were only out to boost their own egos.
“Dream FM was a big deal, we were the biggest and the best. The only pirate to have live DJs 24 hours a day. I was proud of it.
“My happiest memories of Dream FM are when the General asked me to be studio manager – and getting an ounce of speed a month for my trouble.
Top three Dream FM tunes:
Rhythm Quest: Closer To All Your Dreams (I still love this tune)
Bizarre Inc: BizarreTheme (the first tune I played on Dream)
“My memories of bad times at Dream FM? When [local gangster] burst in on Sean Smith’s show and stole everything. If I recall correctly, a sword was involved and, ironically, a few years later this guy gave a speech at a Unity day on knife crime and why it’s bad. Anyway, I thought that Dream was over but we all rallied round and were back on air the next day
“I was sad it ended like it did. It seemed like no one could be bothered after the six months off. It would have been better to go out with a bang.
“Dream was my life for a few years, I was involved with a lot of the stuff the station did and I’m proud to have been there. I got loads of work through Dream and DJed for a few years after.
“People were fighting to get on Dream. We were the biggest and best, and we got our music out to thousands of listeners daily.”
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SEAN FROM HAREHILLS was a 21-year-old “Scouse trash” resident of, um Harehills (“‘aerials’ as they used to call it”) studying for a BSc in Chemistry at Leeds University (“when it was still possible for working class people to go to uni in the UK!”) in 1992. He’d recently returned to the UK after living in France for a year, and describes himself at the time as a “former psychobilly turned raver.”
These days, Sean programs physics systems for games and virtual reality in Copenhagen.
Back then, he went out as often as he could – “I was a broke student” – to places like the State, Cream, Garlands and various other Liverpool clubs and the Hacienda in Manchester. In Leeds, he went out to the Warehouse, the Corn Exchange, Up Yer Ronson, Back to Basics, Vague. and the Orbit in Morley.
“Loads of places that have long gone.”
“One Saturday afternoon, a bunch of mates from Liverpool had come over and we’d all been to Up Yer Ronson the night before to see Dave Lee ( aka Joey Negro). We were all sitting around, recovering from the night before, so we could go and see Sasha at the Corn Exchange the following night.
“I remember we were listening to People’s FM but the DJ was playing some really nosebleed drum and bass – and we needed something a bit mellower. I remember searching the airwaves for something else and we stumbled across Dream
“We were all blown away by Dream’s awesomeness. It wasn’t a commercial station. The DJs played all the music I was listening to at the time. I listened to it almost 24/7.”
“My favourite DJs were Daisy and Havoc (obviously). They played the tunes I liked the most – more soulful stuff than a lot of the other DJs. They injected a lot of humour into their show. and me and my housemates at the time always had a laugh ringing in for silly shout outs. The first one was to ‘Pat, the disco dancing stick insect’.
“We’re still friends and Pat now films a lot of TV shows like Horizon. He just remembered that the first time I rang Daisy and Havoc was because he dared me to, saying I didn’t have the guts to do it. He said he didn’t think I would either.”
“Daisy and Havoc inspired me to go and buy lots of tunes on vinyl, which eventually led to me buying a set of Technics SL1210s and becoming a DJ myself. I also loved listening to Sean Smith, Dave Hill, Leafy and loads of others. I used to record a lot of shows and take them back to Liverpool to play to mates. They were always popular.
“Eventually, I got to meet Daisy, Havoc and Sean. It was just like meeting people I’d known for a while. They were really chilled people and it was really cool to meet them and hang out. I also went to see Daisy and Havoc play at Vague a few times.”
Did you go to any Dream FM events? Did you have fun? If not, why not?
“Oh, yes. I went to one at High Flyers with a mate from Liverpool and another from London. It was awesome! Everyone was super friendly and a great time was had by all :)
“Dream FM wasn’t commercial – commercial radio stations suck, always have, always will – and I missed it loads when it ended. Although by then I was a wannabe DJ myself.
“Dream FM made me buy a set of Technics and become a DJ. I never made a career out of it but I played a lot of amazing parties in some awesome places – a stately home, a 13th century castle, a barn, and a few insignificant club nights. I even had a show on LSR called Discos and Dollybirds. I DJed and my mate Lora (who now produces and directs for TV) did all the talking. I still DJ it for fun – I played in Copenhagen twice last year.
“In 2004, I DJed at a mate’s house in Wavertree. I noticed he had a Dream FM slipmat, which he let me have – it’s stashed in a loft in Liverpool somewhere now. I asked him where he got it, and he said it was from a couple of mates from Leeds who were coming over for the party. It was George Evelyn from Nightmares on Wax and Paul Murray from Up Yer Ronson.”
Top 3 Dream FM tunes:
“Tough one! I guess, in the beginning, these three…”
“But really, there are too many to mention.”
Why are we still talking about Dream FM today?
“I guess because there hasn’t really been another radio station like it. I still listen to People’s FM online and wish Dream was doing something similar. I mean, people talk about bringing Dream FM back – why not do it online? I wouldn’t be able to tune in otherwise…”
Is there anything else you want to say?
“Thanks to everyone involved with Dream, it was awesome!”
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ROBIN DALLISON was a 19-year-old student when he was first involved with Dream FM. Although he was originally from Walsall, Robin says he “grew up in Leeds. I was an indie kid and quite wet behind the ears. I started to get into dance music in around 1990, when it really kicked off.”
“There was a lad from Blackburn on my course at Leeds Poly and we started going to Quadrant Park, then Kaos, Joy, Ricky’s, Basics, Cream, Up Yer Ronson and Vague.
“A friend of mine worked in the Faversham and knew Julia. I had just got a pair of belt drives and started to play at student parties. She came and listened to a set and offered me a guest slot on Julia’s G-Spot. I played a blinding set after just having my decks robbed the night before.
“I got offered a really late show first. I DJed under my nickname ‘Dobbs’ and did the 5-8am slot for quite a while on Saturday mornings. I was very nervous because everyone took it so seriously. I hated presenting at first, but a mate used to come with me and answer the phone and we ended up having a laugh
“I would often just stay up / go out and then go straight to Dream. I used to play classic rave stuff at first, mixed with ambient and intro-type stuff, then I started to do a hip hop half hour in between the dance stuff.
“Later on I got a co-presenter who was a motormouth mate of mine and he did all the talking while I mixed. That was the Rob & Rob Show’, which I think was 10pm-midnight on Saturdays. We used to do that and then go down to Basics or Vague. It was a scream. We used to get off our chops and have a real laugh with the people who called in.
“I remember playing a Dream FM party at this huge mansion house in Weetwood. There were about 300 people there and I somehow blagged the main set.
“It’s all a bit hazy to be honest. I got on really well with Julia, Michaela, Funk Boutique and Tony Walker. The boss, Chris, was a bit strange sometimes, but funny.
“He asked me to do the Dream FM house mixtape which they used to sell all over the country. I asked him how much I would get for doing it, and he took me out for a ‘meal’ which was basically pie and chips and a pint of water. I asked why he’d bought me water and he said he wanted me to do the mix after the meal – so no drinking. I’m not sure I ever saw a penny after that.
“Dream was very, very popular amongst students, locals, criminals, all sorts. It definitely seemed like more than just a pirate. It was so sad when they didn’t get the legal license but, looking back, it was probably obvious that they wouldn’t.
“There were some dodgy elements in and around the station. I remember buying my first pair of Technics decks from some people connected to people at the station, then promptly having them stolen – which I heard later had happened before.
“It was all about the music for me at the time. But it also taught me a few life lessons.”
Top three Dream FM tunes:
“Dream gave me belief that I could work in music. It led on to me playing other parties and then eventually becoming resident in Bar Basics for Basics and Ronson. I went on to promote parties in London with Danny Howells, Ashley Casselle, Bedrock etc and played in a few different countries.
“I actually came back to Leeds about six years ago and did the second room in Basics with Jonathan Lisle from Bedrock all night, which was fantastic. I now run a music PR and booking company, which I started about 18 years ago. Without Dream that chain of events maybe would not have happened.
“Dream FM was a big part of that first wave of rave culture. Dream was there right at the start. It was the cutting edge and it was free.
“It was the first time a lot of people had experienced the music and the scene. It’s hard to explain now to younger people without sounding sad but back then there was nothing like the rave scene, and definitely no rave / dance music on the radio.
“It really felt like it was you and your mates against traditional society.”
* * *
SIMON BULGACS aka DJ SPB was a full-time DJ playing around Leeds and Bradford when he did he first show on Dream FM at the age of 22.
“I originally started clubbing in the late 80s in clubs such as the Warehouse in Leeds, Follies Hall in Huddersfield, Konspiracy in Manchester and the Capricorn in Bradford. I was a regular at the Orbit from 1991 to 1995/96 but visited many other clubs such as Basics, the Gallery, the Hacienda, Sankey’s Soap etc.
“The club/rave sound was very different back then to what you hear today. You were as likely to hear Prince being played alongside Detroit techno into New York hip hop into Manchester acid house.
“I started DJing on pirate radio in West Yorkshire circa 1992/93. I spent most of my time on PCR in Bradford but also did spots on Jive FM in Huddersfield and Dream FM, as well as other pirates as they came and went. My DJ style varied as to whatever was hot or was requested. I played everything from Italian piano house to hardcore breakbeats (always staying ‘in style’ for that particular mix).
“I used to send out mix tapes – par for the course – to clubs and radio stations (legal and pirate). Eventually in, I think, 1994 Chris at Dream FM got in touch, said Dream were wanting to showcase DJ talent from the local area and asked if I would do a guest spot on Jane Funk Boutique’s show.
“Being a bit of a diehard technohead, I was kinda annoyed when I was asked to play trance and house. But at the time, I guess, this is what I was most known for as it is what I had the best responses from on other shows and stations. I did slip a few techno tunes, such as Hardfloor and Minimal Man, into the mix though.
“After the guest spot I was asked if I would like to be a regular and for the following months did shows at various times with a much more techno-based sound.
“At the time, Dream was only broadcasting at weekends, so my show would be moved around depending on the availability of the more established DJs. I did Thursday and Friday teatimes. Early Saturday morning (midnight onwards) and also late Sunday night. My style was basically funky techno.
“After working on other pirates, I was surprised how organised Dream was and what a welcoming team they were. I mean this was pirate radio, right? It was supposed to be a bit shady…not so at Dream. It felt more like a legit station and organisation. It was professionally run with the right mission.
“In terms of presenting, rather than just playing records, my mixing skills were pretty good and I knew my record collection so I could generally just wing it. By the time I reached Dream, I already had a presenting style. As I was able to cue up records quite quickly it would usually leave me with several minutes to waffle on about whatever track/style I was playing.
“But quite often I would just spout random thoughts, which I have since been told left people in hysterics as they often made no sense.”
Simon’s three most memorable Dream FM moments include seeing his name on the same timetable as Graham Park, Paul Taylor and Steve Luigi (“I think – I’ve lost the timetables I was on”), going into the Orbit and casually mentioning the fact that he was DJing on the station (“all my mates were well impressed”), and “dropping the white label promo of Robert Armani’s Circus Bells (Hardfloor mix) on a Thursday teatime and knowing I was doing my bit for techno.”
“My communication was mainly via phone, so contact with the other DJs and staff was limited. I would just follow the directions given over the phone in relation to getting to the station. I didn’t really know who many of the other DJs were. I wasn’t on Dream FM long enough to become too familiar with anyone really. My time there lasted about a year, on and off. The people I did meet were a really decent bunch of people.
“Dream was so commercially pervasive and professionally run. They had the entire DJ merchandise ranges on display in shops. Generally, when I went record shopping, all I was interested in was the tunes I was going to buy.
Top three Dream FM tunes:
“Dream should have been granted the broadcasting licence that went to Kiss FM. If Dream went 100% legit, the sound of dance music in and around Yorkshire today would be different to the watered-down drivel we have been forced to listen to over the years (sorry, Kiss). Dance music seems to be getting slightly more back on track recently.
“Dream has given me the most important thing in life – cherished memories. The station rode the crest of the wave of northern rave culture – but they didn’t just ride that wave, they directed it for the years they were on air. They were aware that they/we were part of an evolving musical culture or phenomenon.
Personally, I think that it was the last really big youth movement that actually had a ‘dream’ (bad pun), but that’s just an opinion and I know some goths who would disagree..”
Is there anything else you want to say?
“Thanks for the memories.”
* * *
JONATHAN MARSHALL was a 26-year-old decorator working in Leeds when he first heard Dream FM.
Jonathan’s first experience clubbing was at the Warehouse on a Saturday night, with Nightmares on Wax DJing, while his first taste of raving was at the legendary Finger in a Matchbox party under the M1 near Wakefield.
“Huggy played but only managed to play one tune, which was Hardcore Uproar by Together. All the same, it was a fantastic experience which I will never forget.
“With me and my friends all living over in Wakefield, we always came in to Leeds every weekend, mainly on a Saturday night. The main clubs we visited were Back to Basics at the Music Factory and later Hard Times at NATO. We also went to Vague at the Warehouse.
“I first heard Dream FM in 93/94 when I was working nights. There wasn’t a lot of dance music being played on the radio so here was a station playing just great club music of all styles. I also worked a lot in Leeds on a Saturday and we always had Dream FM on throughout the day.
“The things I most liked about Dream was the fact that nobody else was playing this type of music – music that we were hearing in the clubs in and around Leeds – on the radio.
“The DJs I liked listening to most was Mr C on a Sunday night, playing the kind of mellow, funky, soulful house which was played in Basics. I also enjoyed the Get Up and Come Down on Sunday mornings and Simon Scott on Saturdays.
“I enjoyed most of the shows on Dream. I think it was just the fact that it was a pirate station and it was normal people off the street that were putting these shows together. That was a big deal for me.”
Three top tunes from Dream FM for me:
“I was sad that the station closed in the end. Apart from Pete Tong, we didn’t really have music dance music being played on the radio.
“Looking back, I think I will always remember the time that Dream FM was on with nothing but great memories. There were some great club nights in Leeds, the city was buzzing, and every shop you went into had Dream on – clothes shops, sandwich shops, it was coming out of cars and vans, everyone had it on.
“It played a massive part in people’s lives at a great time in Leeds. I don’t think you guys working on the station realised how big Dream was. I don’t think there will ever be a station like it again.
“Great times, great memories.”
* * *
TANTRA was a 21-year-old graduate working on the night shift cleaning Safeways in Headingley when she first appeared on Dream FM.
“I was going out. A lot. I remember a mad trip to Pure in Edinburgh in my final year at uni in 1991 and an infamous Microdot night in Chapeltown during the summer of 1992.
“The summer of ’92 was all about R&S Records and progressive house. Do you remember that? Progressive house? Guerrilla Records, and Gat Decor’s Passion was the big tune – the extended Darren Emerson remix still kills me. Anyone for Future Sound of London? And then you came down to 808’s Pacific State or the Beloved’s Sun Rising, or Little Fluffy Clouds by the Orb.
“Think my favourite was Orbital’s Belfast, though. And the Orbit – oh my god, what a club, what an atmosphere – it will always be my favourite club forever and ever more. Pure techno soul.
“Other stand out moments before I joined Dream FM included hearing Voodoo Ray for the first time in ’89 at the Leeds Warehouse (that changed my life forever), Chime by Orbital (and anything by Orbital), Progen by the Shamen, Good Life by Inner City, Energy Flash by Joey Beltram, What Time is Love by the KLF, LFO by LFO and Rave Signal by CJ Bolland.
“Dream FM was my very first gig. I joined in the summer of ’92. I didn’t have any decks then. I couldn’t beat mix. But I was married to the music, and I just had to become a DJ. Didn’t we all? And anyway what was I supposed to do after I’d graduated?
“1991/92 was one of the worst recessions – there were no jobs, the boards in the job centres were empty, nada, nothing. Anyway, playing records was always going to be the better option than working the nine to five. And it was.
“I’d literally just graduated (July,1992) and was back home with no job and little idea of what to do next (except go clubbing). I had Dream FM on in my bedroom and there was a competition on to win tickets to the next Dream FM night. Guess who won!? I guess it was providence as at the Dream night I got talking to DJ Nigel Dawson (who was playing) and he invited me to come along to his show the following Saturday.
“I went along a few times and got talking over the microphone with a few nervous shout-outs. Not long after this, I was offered a breakfast slot on the station. Nigel Dawson was a star – he also offered to teach me how to mix around at his flat (in the end it took me ages to get the hang of beat mixing – I remember it taking me ages to ride a bike too). Nick Camaro was another DJ I remember being really supportive in the early days.
“I thought Dream was great. Vibey, naughty, doing something special for Leeds. Dream FM was on it (and on one)…. and I just had to get involved.
“My first slot was a breakfast slot starting at 8.00am. I’d finish my night-crew cleaning job at Safeways in Headingley and then drive down to the studio, which was in someone’s basement at that point. I remember it being somewhere in Hyde Park, though.
“My mate Adrian came along too and took control of the microphone. He was good – funny. I remember him calling himself MCA. He could also roll a mean spliff. Adrian helped out on the show for about six months or so, on and off, and then my best mate, Helena, accompanied me. She could also roll a man spliff too. Do you see a theme running here?
“I took over the microphone. I was self-conscious at first so I would pretend I was playing to no one – it certainly felt like I was in that small room and that helped to ease the cogs a little. I think, over time, my presenting got better – it often depended on the mood I was in on the day.
“But it was really about the music for me – I let that do the talking. I did end up doing some of the voiceovers for the adverts further down the road though so my dulcet tones couldn’t have been that bad!
“I played my breakfast show for a couple of months and then got a Tuesday late afternoon slot. I had that for a while. I ended up with a Friday evening slot which was prime time, and which I loved.
“Playing on Dream was the highlight of my week. When I first started playing I spun progressive house. This soon changed to techno – deep Detroit techno and quality European trance. R&S, Harthouse, UR, Red Planet. This was the niche I carved out for myself, and the music I truly adored (and still do).
“I always winged it, playing what I fancied when I turned up. But most of all I loved sharing the promos I’d either bought that week or had sent through in the post. God, I’d get so enthusiastic about a record I particularly loved…. and loved playing all the shout-outs and dedications and requests. It felt good to know I was giving someone out there a good time.
“There are so many things I remember about Dream FM. The trestle table, the egg boxes on the wall, the grey view of Leeds – the cars and clouds always moving – the pissy smelling lift. The fan mail – ah, the fan mail – I used to love that, all the crazy names and shouts outs.
“Popeye. Captain Horizontal. Fellatio Nation – I’ve kept each and every single letter; I sometimes dig them out for memory’s sake. I still find it hard to believe that people tuned in and enjoyed my show.
“One of my favourite memories was when the Dream Girls took over the airwaves one Saturday in summer. That was a real blast and buzz, and it created a lot of media attention. It was a really great day and felt special.
“I remember having the 8-10pm slot. I think my show was called Tantra’s 2012 Space Odyssey, which makes me laugh now it’s 2015. 2012 seemed a long way away in 1994. I seem to remember the Dream Girls taking over the air waves a couple of times…
“I remember a lot of the other presenters well – Camaro, Alice, Daisy and Havoc, Funk Boutique, Simon Mu, Shock, Nigel Dawson, Sean Smith, Microdot – there were a lot of great DJs on there.
“It was amazing that Dream was only a pirate as it was so well managed and organised. Dream was popular and respected companies were advertising on it, and then there was all the merchandise too. Yes, it was very professionally run. I think a couple of the unsung heroes on the station were the marketing girls, Julia and Michelle, who really helped to raise the station’s profile.
“My top three favourite tunes from my early days on Dream FM:
“I don’t really remember any bad times at Dream FM, except the inconvenience of having to switch venues now and again, which wasn’t really an inconvenience at all really. It was a sad day when the station had to end. I really thought Dream would get the license. It went to Galaxy, didn’t it? Why?
“No one had really heard of this other station whereas Dream was the popular choice, had been around for years by that point in its history. Why Dream didn’t get the license I will never know. It deserved it. It had worked very hard for it too.
“I was gutted when it stopped broadcasting – Dream was the foundation of my DJing career, and it had been an important part of Leeds’ clubbing scene as well. What would have happened if Dream had got the license? Many good things I’m sure…”
“It isn’t an understatement to say that Dream had a huge impact on my DJing life. Dream was a springboard to further things. I secured agents in England, France and Germany and ended up DJing all over the place, playing alongside the likes of Jeff Mills, Colin Dale, Carl Cox, Dave Angel etc, the big techno names in the 90s.
“I suppose I became quite a big name in my own right for a while. I played in France, Germany, Sweden, all over Europe and London. It was a fantastic time – so many adventures. I was gigging most weekends for a number of years. I became a fulltime DJ.
“One of my coolest memories was being invited to Dave Angel’s birthday party in a small flat somewhere in south London and partying the night away with him and his big-name DJ friends – that was very cool, and being told by Dave himself that he thought I was the mutt’s nuts when it came to spinning records – that I’ll never forget! Dave Angel thought I was a great DJ! That still makes me smile.
“I tried my hand at producing, bought my own kit etc, but I was never that good at it, and never really had the patience for it either. I ended up working with other producers instead. At the end of the day, I was simply a DJ and a good one at that – I even became a part-time lecturer on a DJing course at the Leeds College of Music for a little bit, writing course material on how to become a DJ – it’s all changed since then though.
“I also worked for a record label finding and networking artists. But because I didn’t produce, I didn’t further my career and so the DJing was always going to be a finite experience. Not the end of the world though – I’ve done some great things since then…
“Dream was a very good thing – it was this melting pot for creativity and opportunity, and came along at exactly the right point in my life.
“Dream was a big marker in Leeds’ clubbing life. It created a buzz during the 1990s. It was a focal point for good music and decent DJs. Everyone I knew tuned into Dream. I’d often overhear people say, ‘did you here that tune on so-and-so’s show?’ It provided a great backdrop before you went out clubbing. And it was a wonderful opportunity for anyone involved in the station.
“The station meant a lot to a lot of people, whether you were a student, on the dole, in a suit, or banged up for something petty in Armley. It was a big deal, and I guess if people are still talking about it, it’s a legendary thing now, part of Leeds folklore and history. ”
“I want to say a massive thank you to Dream FM – the people, the DJs, the listeners – for giving me a brilliant opportunity. Without Dream, I wonder if I would have ever ended up DJing around Europe? The whole thing was a really special and happy time in my life. A big fat cheers!”
* * *
ADRIAN G was a 21-year-old unemployed graduate (and guitarist) living in Burley when he first appeared on Dream FM, alongside Tantra, in 1992.
“I came back from uni in Newcastle and signed on. I joined what became Bushpilot as guitarist around then – with Ross and the boys from Purple Eternal. I think Sarah (Tantra) and I would go to the Orbit on occasion, and we’d both done a fair bit of raving during uni days.
“I remember something illegal on on Brighton beach, a warehouse in London somewhere with Sarah and a few 2000+ raves in the Town Hall in Newcastle where we saw Carl Cox, Slipmatt & Lime and others. I recall Laurent Garnier at the End (or somewhere like that, defo went to the End too).
“We were in to house/trance and techno, though I was always a bit of a punk rocker at heart, so was slow to really embrace dance. We’d go to the Chocolate Factory at Rockshots too, for more of an eclectic mix of alternative music.
“We went downstairs to the dance club every now and then but I wasn’t in to piano house shit so found it all a bit poppy and pilly (Sarah and I took a break from them after several bad batches in ‘91).
“I remember meeting DJ Camaro the first or second time we went to the studio – he was a lovely lad and really helped Sarah and I get going. It seemed like an honest and ambitious place, even though it was pretty rough at the edges.
“We started with a 7am breakfast show!! I winged it, though Sarah planned her sets, certainly once we got established. I enjoyed presenting and Sarah pipped in from time to time! It was great fun. I was, of course, often stoned. We’d just mess about around the music, all sort of ‘jolly jape’ type stuff, and the obligatory shout outs to the big house, ram ravers in E wing etc.
“I remember a competition to give away a record to the first person to ring in and shout ‘bacon’ down the phone. Or haddock. I think it was bacon. We played trance and techno, with the occasional sneak of alt stuff. I loved Orbital. Sarah had a thing about TheThe. I liked Beltram/R&S/Plus8 (loved Hawtin) stuff. We may have dropped some punk/prog stuff in there too on occasion. Plus ambient – Aphex Twin and the Orb.
“Eventually we got the 7pm slot on Saturday nights – must have been towards the end – I remember that felt good. I remember looking out from the 13th floor, or whatever it was, and imagining the alleged 100k listeners. especially at night, that was cool. I remember something about the transmitter too, and some gangster types in the studio.
“But mainly it was cool, nice people hanging out, getting stoned, playing tunes.
Did Dream FM seem like a big deal to you at the time?
“Kinda. It was a big deal for Sarah to be DJing live and it set her up for gigs etc. I liked being on the radio. I have a face for radio and I like talking without anyone talking back. I recall all the shit at the end about securing bandwidth and going legal. That was a big deal. Fuck Galaxy, I seem to remember thinking! Wankers. I felt bad for the Dream guys.
What are your happiest memories of Dream FM?
“Feeling the music and staring out, feeling part of something. Taking calls from a few peeps who became regular listeners.
“I think we liked to play Belfast by Orbital. We had a couple of big tunes that Sarah played at the end of our sets but I can’t remember what they were. Lionrock by Justin Robertson? That rings a bell.
How did you feel about the station ending?
“It was sad, but it also felt inevitable. A loss for grassroots but then dance was getting to be big time and I’m not sure Dream ever really managed to carve a niche outside mainstream dance or other local radio.
“Dream FM was definitely a good thing. it didn’t do much for my career or have any longterm effect but it was definitely an ‘I was there’ thing. It had some authenticity.
Why are we still talking about Dream FM today? Why was it important?
“Cos everything’s post-modern now, innit. Very little is so spontaneous and honest and unaware of the future. Originality is harder now, and access to everything is so immediate that it’s hard for the underground to exist any more.
“I’m proud Dream was a Leeds thing. One of its better creations – alongside Basics and Vague and the Orbit and the Duchess and the Phono.”
* * *
LINZ was about 13-years-old when she first heard Dream FM. A “hormonal, bored, rebellious teenager”, she lived in lived Meanwood and went to school in Alwoodley. She spent a lot of time, “just hanging around with friends, bored of the music scene. Too old to play and too young for everything else.”
“At middle school, the whole smiley face illegal raves were going on. I didn’t understand what was so bad about it. The new mainstream sounds of Snap, KLF were about but I loved Black Box’s Ride on Time! I wanted to tap into that more.
“So when I got to high school in late 1991, it was a whole new world. New surroundings, freedom, cultures, friends etc. Me and Rob my friend / boyfriend of the time listened to music together. I loved stuff like Are you Ready to Fly? by Rozalla, Injected with a Poison by Praga Khan, Ebeneezer Goode by the Shamen and Rave Generator by Toxic Two. Robert was pretty much ‘you wanna listen to this, it’s much better’.
“I think it was called NRG first then it became Dream? It was fab! He knew a DJ and went in the studio sometimes. Pretty cool!
“Each weekend we’d go down to Leeds, to the Corn Exchange, collecting flyers, buying vinyl, going back home and playing them. Watching the lads learn to mix on their decks. Other times, I’d have a Sony Walkman in my pocket, radio tuned to Dream. I remember the frustrating feeling when the signal went. I also remember being excited and wanting to pay homage as we passed the various studio locations on the bus. Little London flats! And I remember the devastation when it was off air or raided!
“I remember going to bed when I was told to, only because the earphones would go in, and I’d tape record the shows! I used to mainly listen on evenings and weekends until 2am or so, to people like Luigi, TC, Paul Taylor, Sean, Dave Hill … There was always something new. I loved songs like JJ Tribute, Last Rhythm, Pink Champagne, Nasty Rhythm, LFO, Kinetic, Take Me Away, Temperature Rising … I could go on forever!
“Dream FM was fresh, different and diverse. It seemed a bit rebellious, I always put it on when I wasn’t allowed out. You can keep me in but I’m still going to have fun!
“My favourite DJs were Luigi, TC and Sean. They played diverse kinds of music with big, screaming vocals, build ups. I liked their interaction with the audience. I’d always be ringing up for a shout out .. . They were always doing shout outs to so-and-so in the Big House. The Big House was Armley Jail. Lol!
“I don’t remember any of the ‘big names’ that went on Dream. Luigi was a big enough name for me .. Did Carl Cox go on? It’s all a bit vague now. I never went to any Dream FM events. I wasn’t old enough – or I didn’t look old enough. By the time I was, it had packed up .. Gutted!
“Underground dance music brought people together. Crazy dancing, anything goes. Whether you were off your face or not, it was awesome, it was experimental.
“I was gutted when Dream went off air. Bring it back! I recently sold a very nice car so I could move to a nicer property / area. I’ve had to get a banger that’s 18-year-old or so. It had no CD or Bluetooth, only a tape player – so I went in the loft and found Luigi’s Gallery tribute and Fantasia tapes. It was awesome … I’ve got the Bluetooth and CD player now but it’s not the same.
“Dream FM have any longterm effect on my life? Hell, yeah! My music tastes are diverse, and I celebrate good times with music.
“Dream FM was the future, it was rebellious, it was naughty. We’re still talking about it because Kiss / Galaxy are rubbish! It wasn’t about how good you looked, it was about good times, good tunes … There’s a lot of retro sounds in music now. Take Duke Dumont. You could put that back in the 90s and it wouldn’t be too much out of place. Is that mainstream?
Top three Dream FM tunes:
“Three is not enough!”
“Take away the technology, bring back Dream and show today’s kids what it was like to be a part of something rising!”
* * *
DJ CARL was living with his family in Whitkirk in east Leeds and attending college when he first heard Dream FM at the age of 19.
“I had always listened to the more underground sounds, so commercial and conventional radio never quite hit the spot for me. Even as a child I never really took to pop music. While my dad listened to Sinatra and the Rat Pack, my mum would listen to the Carpenters and my sister Abba, the Nolans and even that wretched Osmonds bunch!
“I chose to listen to the more obscure and less popular music, the compilation albums of easy-to-digest disco in my sister’s record box always had a few b-side fillers that I preferred. I wasn’t yet taken seriously enough to have my own record player so I had to make do with listening to my sister play her vinyl.
“It was the 70s and I was armed with a pair of flared dungarees, so I guess disco was to be my weapon of choice.
“As I grew older and accompanied my mum into Leeds on shopping trips, I started to notice that people were different, especially around the markets and places like the Merrion Centre. Punks, rastas, mods and headbangers all had their own style and their own music, none of which I had really heard before.
“I listened to a bit of punk that a lad (Duncan) down the road from me introduced me to. It wasn’t my cup of tea. All that gobbing on each other and pogo nonsense put me right off it. His older brother was into ska – Madness, the Specials etc – and this was more my brew. I liked the beat and the bass and the comedy of some of the lyrics. It was more laid back and cool – and much more my style!
“Another lad, who looking back would have been in his late teens, was into metal – AC-DC, Saxon, Motorhead etc. It all looked a bit scary to be honest, all that hair and leather and skulls and studs was a bit overwhelming for such a young chap, but i loved the energy of the music.
“I remember asking for Ace of Spades for Christmas and received a song by Showaddywaddy instead. I was gutted and, at the first opportunity, dragged my mum down to Boots in the Crossgates Arndale centre to have it exchanged. The sight of Lemmy dressed as Santa flipping the middle finger on the cover was enough to convince my mum that it wasn’t the right kind of music for an eight-year-old to be listening to, so I swapped Showaddywaddy for a copy of Flash by Queen instead.
“In the early 80s, a new interest for my friends and I arrived from a little place called America – BMX bikes and Breakdancing. Rap music, early electro and hip hop flooded my middle school like a tidal wave. Run DMC, Beastie Boys, the Streetsounds electro albums, Grandmaster Flash, the Sugarhill Gang, Kraftwerk – it was all amazing, rebellious and most of all, it was made just for me and my mates.
“Everyone had a mix tape, copied a hundred times or more. No one knew what the stiuff on there was and, being quite a pain in the arse when it comes to having an answer for everything, I made it my mission to seek out these tracks and if possible, to get them on vinyl.
“I was not blessed with the ability to breakdance good enough to be in a crew, so I decided to be the kid who brought the tapes everyone spun on their heads to – and DJ Carl was born!
“My tapes quickly changed hands in school. Kids were going home at lunchtime and copying them and by the end of school, 50 or so where in the hands of the masses! Windmills where winded, caterpillars where catted and buttocks polished the lino offcuts all around my neighbourhood to those DJC mix-tapes.
“I had two home entertainment systems so I could play back-to-back vinyl sets, all of which where recorded on a mic set up between two pairs of speakers. And the best part was that nobody knew it was me doing them.
“Skip forward a few years and my vinyl collection had grown. Electro turned into house and techno, rap into the heavyweight industry it is today, with the likes of Public Enemy, KRS One, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B & Rakim and NWA taking over my vinyl collection.
“I left school and was at a small college in Leeds specialising in music and art. I made new friends at college who liked the same music I did and they introduced me to even more stuff I didn’t know existed.
“Four lads I was at college with all went on to be in the music business: Chris Tosney (RIP) became a member of Nightmares on Wax and toured all over Europe with them. Leigh Kenny became a writer and vocalist with Faithless, and Mark Bell (RIP) and Gez Varley made a little track in their bedroom called LFO. You may have heard of it.
“As we chilled out pretending to work, we always had music on, and never anything else but the pirate stations. This became a bit of a habit. Wherever I worked when I was on release from college, I always tuned in to pirate radio when I could.
“So it’s about 11am on a Tuesday morning. The boss was out for the morning, visiting customers (as I was soon to learn, he was actually at the bookies), I’m at work alone and the Radio Leeds team are discussing the re-housing of a tortoise at Roundhay Tropical World. I was bored, bored, bored, bored, BORRREDDD.
“Time for me to hunt the right side of the FM dial for some tuneage. There were crackles, static, the faint sounds of some chilled reggae, but it was barely audible. I keep searching, find some kind of commercial chunder station, more static and crackles, and I’m just about to give up hope and then without warning … BOOM!
“You’re locked in with Nick Camaro and Adrian Sharpe. Call us up for a requests, dedications or just a shout out, 0831 650 939. The sounds of the underground, this is Dream FM!”
“Woaaa, Get in there! What the hell is this? This is more like it!
“My work days had just taken a turn for the better. At last I’d found a real radio station that played proper dance music, none of that 2 Untalented Europop garbage that you’d get on Radio Aire. And about bloody time too!
“I tuned in at every opportunity that I could. I bought a Walkman with an FM radio on it and some in-ear Sony Turbo 2 headphones and stayed locked in on my bike, or the bus on the way to and from work, and all day at work, with just one cheeky ear listening so I could still hear the boss if he shouted me, on the stereo when I got home. It didn’t matter who was on air, the tunes were fresh and exciting and I was hooked.
“I got all my mates listening to it too, in cars, at home, on building sites, everybody was on the Dream wagon and loving it.
“I had played a few house parties and was always knocking up mixtapes at home. The Dream FM DJs I spoke with over the studio phone gave me a heads up on new stuff, tune IDs etc and what shops to buy them from. I started buying more and more records, even more than before, and I already had a pretty big collection.
“My fave show was Camaro and Sharpey. To get top quality underground music, comedy banter, scratching and mixing during the daytime was an absolute joy. I rang up for tunes and shout outs every day and chatted with Nick and Adrian quite a lot about the station and DJing during the next couple of months.
“I was delighted when Nick asked me to send in a mixtape for him to listen to. His feedback was brilliant. He told me where I was doing well and what I needed to work on. This is something I have never forgotten, and something I am truly grateful for, because without Nick I may never have ventured into the pro DJ world, and my life would be a completely different one to what I have now.
“I would have never met my missus, never met half the friends I have today and certainly wouldn’t have a head full of sweet memories of the club scene and rave explosion that happened in our city.
“One week, Nick offered to meet up with me in the Corn Exchange and introduce me to the guys at the Listening Booth record shop, the best shop for hardcore, rave and underground stuff. As always (and not much has changed), I was late and Nick had left to catch his train back to York, but the guys in the shop pointed me to the right rack and I spent about three or four hours in there – and the best part of a months wages too.
“Chatting to Nick the next day, I told him about all the stuff I had bought and how good it was and he was keen to hear some of it – and, to my complete surprise, he invited me over to York where he and Adrian Sharpe did a radio station called Power FM on a Saturday. The next five Saturdays were spent travelling to Leeds and buying vinyl in the morning and then over to York to hang out with the Power FM crew.
“Eventually I got a chance to do a show on the station and with nerves a plenty I started my first adventure in pirate radio. Twelve til two every Saturday I banged out the hardcore rave sound and bloody loved it. My mum and auntie even drove to York one day and sat in the car with the radio on so they could hear my show.
“It wasn’t to their musical tastes but my mum was as proud as a button to hear me on the radio.
“After about six weeks of my show, Nick told me that he wanted to put someone else on in that slot. I was gutted. I thought I had failed and was destined for the scrap heap, until he explained why: I’ve spoke to the boss at Dream FM. He wants to meet you. A show has come available and I’ve put your name forward for it.
“Me? Dream FM are interested in ME? Fuck off! You’re kidding me, right?
“But he wasn’t joking. Later that weekend, I was introduced to the General. It was a quick meeting in a car park outside a tower block in Little London between two parked cars with windows down.
“I hear you’re pretty good, said the General. I’m not bad, I replied. Well, don’t let me down, kid, you start Sunday, 6 til 8am. And I’ll be listening!
“The following week I prepared and planned what I was gonna do. It all went to shit though. As each day passed, the nerves grew and I lost all confidence in myself and my ability. My mixes were all over, I couldn’t focus, tunes ran out while I tried to get them beat matched. I was about to crash and burn and all I could think of was how many people I was about to let down.
“My dad taught me a very important lesson that week, he asked me these three simple questions: Do you want to do this? Of course I did! Do they think you can do this? Obviously they do or they wouldn’t have asked me! And have you got the tools to do the job? Yeah, all I need is my vinyl and some decent headphones. Then have a night off from it, go out with your mates, he said.
“I did exactly that and my mates in the pub were all excited by the fact that I was going to be a Dream FM DJ. The free drinks flowed!
“The next day, I went in town and visited the Listening Booth and hung around for a few hours, just listening to music and watching people in the Corn Exchange go by. These were the people who listened to Dream, just like I did. They wanted good music and good mixing and a few shout outs now and then. I can give them that and if I keep cool and calm, and stay focussed, I’ll be fine.
“I got home and my dad handed a bag from Superfi. It was a brand new pair of JVC headphones! About £60’s worth and back then they were the cat’s pyjamas. My whole early DJ life ran through these – gigs at the Gallery, the Music Factory, the Corn Exchange, Hi-Flyers, the range of mixtapes I had on sale in the shops and, of course, Dream.
“It wasn’t until about five years ago that I threw them out during a house move. I wish I hadn’t now, there were so many memories attached to them, but hey ho, shit happens! At least I’m still sane enough to remember them, and I have a few clips of my old shows kicking around too, as well as fan letters, magazine articles and old flyers etc.
“My time on Dream is something I will always remember with great happiness. Yeah, it had its shit moments – dickheads ringing up shouting abuse down the phone, people trying to break into the studio, the DTI confiscating records, the General smashing my Sennheiser mic up against the wall in a fit of rage (poor Luigi had to witness this).
“My first show went okay and so did the following few weeks, but 6-8am wasn’t really the best place for hardcore so I was moved to Sunday afternoons, 4-6pm, where the DJ Carl Fantasy Xone Show lived for the next two and a bit years.
“A shared Saturday afternoon show with Tony Walker, a stint on Wednesday night from 10-midnight, a few Christmas specials and two NYE shows under my belt took me to just shy of three-and-a-half years on Dream, right up to the very end of the station.
“Kiss FM approached several people from Dream to join them when it got the official licence but I refused, both through loyalty and stubbornness. Dream had done so much for my confidence, taking a shy lad from Whitkirk and plunging him into the world of underground clubs and pirate radio. The very essence of what started it all off was pirate radio and my loathing of commercial chod stations, so why the fuck would I want to join them?
“I have no regrets. I still love radio and did a few years with DJ Shock on Radio Frequency. I still listen to my Club Classics with Carlos shows in the car. It’s a bit sad but I bloody love ‘em.
“I hope my radio journey isn’t over yet. As soon as I finish building this house of ours, and the studio is set up and running, I’ll be getting myself back on air, live and direct from Cave Carlos.
“To all the people involved in Dream FM, all the DJs I met and worked with and, of course, all the listeners who tuned in, from the deepest regions of my heart, I thank you for a wonderful experience.
“Special thanks to Nick Camaro, Steve Luigi and Chris Martin for your direction and guidance.
“Peas and lunch!”
* * *
MARC LEAF was a full-time DJ in Leeds when he started working on Dream FM in 1992.
“I have never really been a clubber and if I wasn’t playing then I’d usually be round some mates house on the decks or something. Back then though it was massively different, a load more fun. I got asked to go play on the station by a few of the heads there. It always seemed to be a great set up, despite the dodgy locations.
“I played a lot of the stuff that was popular at that time but it varied on the slot I did at that time. I started on a Friday night slot I think, then a Saturday night slot but always jumped in with a few people on late night slots if I was around. I enjoyed them ones as it was all a bit hazy. I loved presenting, still do.”
What were your three most memorable Dream FM moments?
“The police busting the station while I was live on air stands out. It was when the studio was at Billy’s basement in Hyde Park. I was doing a daytime slot. I could see all the police cars through the air vent bricks and absolutely shit my knickers. They brayed at the door and explained they were after the guy who’d been on before me. They weren’t after me or the station. I let them in, they asked a few questions and left.
“Getting dragged off air because I was too out of it to play was hilarious. And the Dream FM do at High Flyers was a bit special.”
Do you have any particular memories of the other presenters? And the management?
“There were some idiots on there who thought they were the dogs doodas that weren’t that great at all and, because I was a young spotty kid, looked down on me. I didn’t like that. That goes for the management too.”
A top three from that time would be…
“I never really had any bad times at Dream FM. I had a few cross words with Jenko but that was usually sorted and we moved forward.
“Dream FM was massive. The biggest mistake ever was going for that legit licence and not staying a pirate station. I have far too many happy memories of Dream FM to mention. Like I said, I loved the station, but, as far as I was concerned, it was all about greed in the end, that why it closed. It wouldn’t have lasted a month with that legit broadcasting licence as the structure wasn’t there.”
“I had a fairly successful career in music and, yeah, Dream played its part. It was a great station. It mattered to people so its always gonna come back around. There are lots of great stories from, in general, a good bunch of people.
“I’d like to say thank you to all the people who listened to me on Dream FM and all the amazing calls we got while on air. The messages I still get today about some of the things that went on while we were on air and them late night/early morning slots… You were special.”
* * *
EMMA TURNER was a 19-year-old shop assistant when she first heard Dream FM. She was “young and carefree” and she loved dance music and “went out as much as my wage would allow.”
“I used to go to the Fforde Greene and the Cosmo Club in Chapeltown on a regular basis and then a blues afterwards. Sometimes the Strega – they had a stripper on a Sunday, haha! Cliff’s blues was also a favourite haunt.
“I started going to the Warehouse, although a lot of my other friends were going over to Blackburn. I never quite made it there. I went to the Gallery a few times. The atmosphere in that place has never been matched, anywhere, ever!
“Sonny’s was the place to be after hours at that time. A few little after-hours places opened as well, I remember Number 4s and Twilight. I also went to the Trades Club, and Microdot at the West Indian Centre. I was living in Chapeltown at the time and everywhere was just on my doorstep.
“I also became quite good at blagging my way in to places if I didn’t have the money to get in. I still do it now if I can.
“I went to Dream at the Trades Club as much as I could. It was amazing. Just a huge hall with everyone dancing, blowing whistles. If you were lucky, someone would rub Vicks into your neck, which felt quite nice. Everyone was happy, lovey and there to have a good time. It was when hugging, loves and cuddles were as much a part of going out as dancing to the amazing music that was being played.
“I remember Rob Tissera coming on the scene and the people who I lived with got to know him quite well. He used to practice in our living room now and again, sometimes at ridiculous o’clock when I was trying to sleep and had to go to work!
“Dream FM was just a constant, I cannot remember what year I started listening to it, maybe around 1991. There were other pirate stations around at the time as well but I cannot, off hand, remember their names. I remember Dream though, with very fond memories.
“Tony Walker was always a favourite and one DJ I do remember well is Sean Smith.
“Dream FM became a major part of my life when it was set up at my best mate’s flat in Little London. My best mate also became quite good friends with ‘the General’, who lived downstairs. We used to go down to his flat now and again. He was a bit hyper!
“I don’t recall the station being at Sadie’s having too much of an impact on her life to be honest. I know she loved it though. Sadly, she is no longer with us. It would have been good to have her input here. I loved just popping round and there being all sorts going on in her spare bedroom, DJs coming and going.
“It all felt quite special at the time, being very young and impressionable, as I was.”
Top three Dream FM tunes:
(This was tricky, there are so many….)
“It was a sad day when the station ended, but I still had all my tapes to listen to. I remember they were petitioning to get the station legalised for ages but it never happened.
“Nothing has ever come close to those years of my life. It was an amazing time and I met some amazing people. I was carefree, young and happy and Dream FM was a major player in keeping the mood going, even when you weren’t out dancing and off your face. You could just dance in your living room instead.
“I think a lot of people my age feel the same and that is why we are still talking about Dream FM today.”
* * *
GARY MARSHALL, originally from Woodhouse, was 21-years-old and on remand for burglary in Armley jail when he first heard Dream FM in 1993.
“First time I`d heard `proper` dance music on the radio. WOW! The range of music was sooo wide. I listened pretty much 24/7 (when we could find it – lol). We had ghetto blasters and Roberts Rambler radios. We all had a radio of some sort. Others just used to use their padmates` radio.
“Favourite DJs have gotta be Paul Taylor followed closely by Luigi. I’m a little biased towards Paul Taylor as he did the 11 o`clock shout. His show was listened to by about 70-80% of the jail.
“People were not just kicking their doors – they were trying to boot them off. We would kick as hard as we could when Paul Taylor got down to number one. Lol. The noise was immense, geezer. Prison is a really noisy place anyway but come Sunday night, mate, it rocked! The screws hated it. They would put you on report if they caught you. It was worth it.
“Dream FM was sooo important to us in Armley. It kept us in touch with our loved ones and friends. Not many mobiles in those days so we used Dream like texting now…lolol. We would leave up to 10 messages a day. The big house boys would get little coded messages out for `visits` drops and such.
“I can`t say much about the code as it`s still in use and I don`t really want to give the game away. Remand and convicted are treated very differently. Remands get plenty of visits and can spend their own money in canteen, and they can wear own clothes, trainers etc. Convicted get nowt, pretty much. One visit per month (at that time) depending on length of sentence. They could only spend their wages in the canteen. Not much to be fair…lol. But hey, the prisons need to make money too.
“Dream FM was a double edged sword really. I did miss the outside but Dream didn`t half help make it easier.
“I was gutted when it finished. I still have umpteen Dream FM tapes somewhere. I even have one of my letters being read by PT on his shouts.
“Dream FM will deffo stay with me.”
* * *
ROSS HOLLOWAY was a 21-year-old kitchen porter and musician from Hyde Park who got swept up in rave culture at the end of the 1980s.
“I went to Joy at Leeds Poly in ’89 and it blew my mind, but at this point I wasn’t going clubbing very much as I was looking after a family member who was ill. It meant that I wasn’t able to really embrace the whole hedonist abandonment at that time.
“I was always on the guest list for Back to Basics – as Andy Payne from the Chocolate Factory, who’d done light shows for my old band Purple Eternal, was now doing the lights at Basics – and even though I was working right next door in an Italian restaurant on Saturday nights I rarely felt like going.
“I did over the years do the whole gamut of clubs: Basics, the Orbit, Vague, The Cooker, Soundclash. A couple of the lads in the band I was in, Bush Pilot, really did embrace the whole Leeds clubbing thing, and its influence really seeped into our music, we got into this whole repetitive groove thing, and to an extent the whole euphoric thing. People took it as being krautrock, but really it was house and techno.
“The first time Dream FM really made an impression on me was hearing it at a mate’s house – Stephen Chester – and he was really infused by it. It felt really quite ‘dangerous’, which may seem like a strange thing to say about house music, but house music coming over the airwaves from Little London was really something.
“Myself and Alex Currie were doing a night at Riffs, a rough old nightclub down on Sheepscar junction not actually far from Dream FM’s studio at the time. The night was called Stereo Shoestring. That’s how we got to do midnight slot on (I think) a Tuesday. We weren’t competent DJs by any stretch of the imagination, and came up really short in conceptualising how a good DJ set should be put together – personally, I blame the marijuana.
“What we did have a fair bunch of very decent records across a range of genres, and essentially what we did was play the records we’d have played at home while getting stoned. Sometimes it worked very well, by accident. This was where we’d go from Primal Scream to the 13th Floor Elevators to Barry Adamson’s version of the James Bond theme to the Aphex Twin, then some weird ambient stuff, then to Captain Beefheart, and so on.
“When it didn’t work was when I would drop in some really dark and heavy psychedelic noise music like the Pain Teens. One night I took about 600 magic mushrooms and was really over the edge, and I put on that Pain Teens record, realised how ‘bad vibe’ it was and threw it out of the window. Never listened to them since.
“Getting sacked by the station manager for playing the first Rage Against the Machine single when it had just come out was pretty funny. It was the song where the singer ranted “Fuck you! I don’t do what you tell me”. He rang up and basically said, “I don’t want any fucking swearing on my fucking radio station, you bastards”.
“People would ring up Dream FM to ask for shout outs, most notably from girls wanting to send a message to their boyfriends in the ‘Big House’. Well, I’m not sure we got any genuine requests, but my friend Katy did ring virtually every show with different put-on voices, pretending to be Tracy from Holbeck or whoever, and me, being gullible, fell for it nearly every time.
“One time, Ali Cooke and Dave Beer were doing a show immediately before we had ours and, due a mutual appreciation of the Clash, we got chatting and they ended hanging out while we did our show.
“Of course, I remembered Ali Cooke from when I bought Cramps records and the like from him as a teenage goth at Amazing Records (which was on the corner by where Back to Basics was when it was in the old Tower Cinema building that became Mr Craigs). Really nice lads. Sadly, this was not long before Ali Cooke died in that car crash.
“The station manager – I can’t remember his name – couldn’t get his head around the fact that myself and Alex weren’t students. I guess it was because we were grungers from Hyde Park. Us actually being Leeds natives just didn’t compute with him.
“One time, he came in with this wild story that some student in Headingley had kicked his car, I believe because he’d run over this lad’s foot. Anyway he’d turned the car around and tried to run this ‘student’ over or something. I think he was a bit contrite, so he wanted us to send his apologies to him, because, obviously, as me and Alex were also ‘students’, then surely we’d know him. I was a bit freaked out, to be honest.
“Dream FM didn’t seem like that big a deal to me at the time. I was involved in the Leeds music scene with Bush Pilot, so it seemed like something I’d naturally do. Also I was aware we were doing a graveyard shift, that it wasn’t likely that many, or any, people were listening to us. But mainly, I was fully aware that our show was very marginal to what Dream FM was about.
“My happiest memories of Dream FM are looking out from the 18th floor of that tower block in Little London, looking over towards, I guess Meanwood and Chapeltown, at night, with all the lights over the hills and the city, and thinking, this all belongs to us, this is my town, I’m a night person, and everything just seems connected, just being in the moment, having a moment.
Top three Dream FM tunes:
“I fancied myself as the new John Peel at times. I did go onto DJ, not a a big way, but in small places in Old Street in the 1990s and at a place called the Hat On Wall in Clerkenwell in the noughts.
“I spent much more time preparing my set and blending songs into something like a coherent whole, though I have persisted in believing that DJ Sneak and the Damned belong in the same half hour. This year I finally got a pair of decks, only 25 years too late.
“I think we’re still talking about Dream FM today because underground culture and people doing things for themselves and for others in their immediate community is always important, it’s always relevant.
“Things don’t happen by themselves, you gotta make them happen.”
* * *
CHRIS MADDEN was in his late 20s, and producing/directing music videos, when he first got involved with Dream FM in 1992.
“My first experience of Dream was a drizzly autumn morning in a really dingy former ‘coal hole’ in the Hyde Park area of Leeds. Damp mouldy walls, a pair of decks and a knackered mixer, but it was exhilarating and liberating to be playing fairly off-the-wall leftfield music.
“I began going out in my mid-teens when Mike Wiand opened the Warehouse. My Dad had supplied the lighting so I first met Mike when he was discussing the idea of bringing a New York-style club to Leeds.
“In terms of dance music, my first taste of that magic connection came when I went to New York in the summer of 1987 with my mate Jonny Cragg. We were stunned by what was happening and it left an indelible impression on us.
“I started playing records at squat parties in East London in the late 80s, when I was studying a Fine Art degree. There was a brilliant party scene around Hackney and it was very easy to rock up with an arm full of records and play some music.
“I met this amazing guy, Canadian George (he’s now master brewer at one of Canada’s most revered independent breweries), who looked through my record collection one day and said ‘you should play some of these at our party tomorrow’. He gave me a quick lesson on his decks and I was away.
“I’d returned to Leeds to shoot a pop promo for some mates in the summer of 1990 and just ended up staying; the city that I’d left a few years before had been revitalised by young people wanting something different. It was a really exciting time.
“I loved those first few months of Basics, I’d known Dave since our mid-teens and there was an attitude that I really liked. I played there a couple of times, had a semi-regular stint at the Kit-Kat Club with Moose (who became my on/off DJ partner) and in 1993 started a residency at Soundclash- which was my perfect night.”
Tell us another three things about yourself at the time.
“(1) I was a complete music snob – sorry! I think a lot of that was insecurity and that got in the way for me, sometimes. But I really knew what I liked – bass-heavy, psychedelically-infused stuff under 124BPM- other stuff just wasn’t really my thing. (2) I was making it all up as I went along but (3) felt very privileged to be in a position to play the music I loved to others.”
What were your first impressions of Dream FM?
“Moose invited me down one Thursday morning about 11am- it was a total blast to be playing music that just didn’t seem to feature on the station at that time.
“Moose and I were foils for one another, we’d bring a bag of records each and play off each other. When Dream went seven days a week, we had a Wednesday 9pm-midnight slot (I think) where we did a section called ‘music for prisons’ playing really wigged out, soporific ambient psychedelia. I’m not sure it won us any friends!
“The General stormed into the studio a couple of times and tore a strip off us, telling us to ‘Stop playing that fucking whale music!’ We considered what we did to be a long-running experiment to play increasingly obscure stuff that we genuinely loved, so we’d drop Funkadelic next to Can, Negativland or Culturcide next to Tranquility Bass next to Rush, a King Tubby track mixed into Dr John. It made total sense to us.
“I think the music was an extension of our personalities – we were deadly serious about the music but really into the idea of having fun with it – which I think was fairly apparent in our presenting style. We became more confident in front of the mic and always had a laugh, so our show became really what we were as people.”
What were your three most memorable Dream FM moments?
“Being with Moose and Sean Smith when two gentlemen entered the studio, flashed a sword (a fucking sword!!!) and told us they owned the station and were taking the equipment away with them!
“Sean was brilliantly trying to argue ‘if it’s your station surely you want to keep it on air?’ but their conviction to do otherwise had me backing against the wall hoping my wellbeing/records would be safe! That was definitely a moment.
“I think about how long I actually did it for and it pretty much amazes me that I was doing it for a few years- that’s something really special.
“I’ll always remember our last show too, on the weekend the station closed to pursue the licence. We had Matty Skylab as special guest – he started our show off with Human Fly by the Cramps which kinda summed up our cavalier attitude. I have to say that I did genuinely did think, at that moment, ‘This is our last ever show’, that Dream was over.
“I especially loved Dream’s commitment to female presenters- I think, for the time, it was so ahead of the curve. I still remember a lot of the presenters – and remain mates/connected with a few.
“I loved the humanness of how shows were presented, most of them sounded and felt real, not some super-polished, media-trained identikit presenter. There were a couple of people like that, a bit Smashy and Nicey, but for me that was never the soul of Dream – it was something more tangibly street sounding that made it very special.
“I was initially a bit wary of the General (Sorry Chris!) – I think it’s a case of having heard a load of stories about him and created an image that was probably quite far away from the truth. The thing is, he successfully ran a broadcast radio station for several years, keeping it on air despite a tonne of setbacks.
“That’s a really amazing pre-internet achievement by anyone’s standards. I’ve nothing but respect for the opportunity he gave me despite our constantly challenging his mettle with our oddball sounds!”
Did Dream FM seem like a big deal to you at the time?
“At first yes, but I became a bit blasé about it after a while. Saying that – and this is something I’ve never spoken about – when the licensing situation came up, I was approached by a friend of a friend who asked me if I would move my support over to Kiss’ application in ‘return for a show once they win the license’.
“I felt quite torn because I genuinely loved ‘playing on the radio’, wanted to continue doing it and realised that the probable way to an ‘actual career in radio’ would be to support Kiss. I knew in my heart that Kiss would most likely win it but I loathed how their Manchester station sounded so I just couldn’t do it, PLUS I felt a deep loyalty to Dream and to Chris.
“It was a case of thinking that whatever little credibility I thought I had remained intact – even if a ‘career in radio’ ended with that decision!
“Having the freedom to explore and promote music that had absolutely no outlet anywhere other than clubs (and sometimes not even in clubs) always felt like a tremendous privilege. Being given access to playing music to potentially hundreds of thousands of people was so beautiful. What an experience! One that I’m so lucky and pleased to have had.”
Top 3 Dream FM tunes?
“Three? No way! Do you mean the three tunes that we used to play that remind me of Dream? Here’s a mini-playlist:
They Came in Peace by Tranquillity Bass
Ob-Selon Mi-Nos (Re-Painted by Global Communication) by Mystic Institute
Based by DJ Emma
Wizards of Ooze by Doodah Dip
And a lot of the stuff on Hull’s Pork Recordings, I’m unable to choose from that incredible catalogue they had – the Fila Brasilia stuff stands up so well now.
“The ending was really sad but I felt it was pretty inevitable. Personally, I believe that Dream never stood a chance of getting the licence; that stuff is super political and Kiss were a much bigger corporate animal with more qualified experience, infrastructure and undoubtedly a much safer, game-playing bet.
“Dream was the real deal, very street, very underground and way too removed from the commercial realities of its competitors. It was very, very unique.
“It gave me something very lovely to add to my CV and I had a genuinely wonderful time. One of its gifts to me was the experience of being allowed to be myself when speaking live on air. I think it’s the case that, to be on a ‘proper’ station, you had to be media trained, which comes with a whole set of rules about speaking voice.
“I’d argue that stations like 6Music are a natural progression from what stations like Dream did very organically- it allowed untrained, colloquial accents to be dominant voices. I love that.
“Dream provided something very tangible and real to an immense body of underground music that had no other access at that time. Remember, this was the times of internet infancy. That its music policy allowed for a range of dance and electronic music came out of shifting socio-cultural moments in the last 80s and early 90s.
“It was important but it couldn’t not have happened, if it hadn’t been Dream it would’ve been another station. BUT, it was Dream and it was on air for a long time despite a series of significant set-backs.”
Anything else you want to say?
“When is Dream coming back?”
* * *
HAVOC, as half of DJ duo Daisy & Havoc, first got involved with Dream FM in her mid-20s, while living in Hyde Park. She mainly worked as a DJ, but also did stints as a journalist and record shop worker. At the time, she says, she was skinny, she talked a lot, and she wore some odd clothes.
She went out “a lot” at the time – “didn’t do much else” – to places like the Warehouse, Ricky’s, “late night places and blues”, the Trades Club and house parties in Leeds, and also to London, Manchester and Sheffield. She’d first gone out clubbing in Middlesbrough in the 1980s, raving in London in 1989 and then she started going out in Leeds later that year.
“We DJed mainly at Vague in Leeds, but also played guest spots in other places. We played in London quite regularly and did one offs in Newcastle, Aberdeen, Rimini, and Manchester.
“My boyfriend was a DJ on the station and they didn’t have any female DJs so we decided to help them improve the male/female balance. This was in 1992, I think. At the time, Dream was very no frills but it had great listener interaction.
“We played house, soul, hip hop, funk, all sorts. At the beginning we did 9pm – midnight twice a week. Talking has never been a problem. I probably talked more than I would if I did something like that now.
“Also the day we organised where we had female DJs on the station all day. Radio 1 is just catching up with that, I think. All the women on the station played quite different music and came from very different directions but we worked together for one day.
“I mostly listened to pirate stations before Dream (Chapeltown stations and WYBC was it?). Some of the Dream output got a bit ravey/samey after a while… but there some great characters like MAR (“the finest ingredients are in the mix…”), good music from guys like Moose and Chris, and Simon Scott… I can’t remember a lot of the names now.
“Dream FM was fun. Commercial radio is so naff – this was free and easy and a million miles away from cheesy radio full of Boyzone and double glazing ads.
“My happiest memories of Dream FM involve late nights and playing lovely tunes. No pressure, just knowing people were relaxing and enjoying the music, trying to mix things up and play stuff you couldn’t play in clubs, where getting feet on the dancefloor was a big priority.
“Top 3 Dream FM tunes? I can’t remember… there were so many tunes. Daisy used to like Revival by Martine Girault for late nights. We played a lot of latin house fusion things at the beginning. And lots on a label called Time that wasn’t around for long… one of their tracks had William Burroughs rambling on a lot.
“At the beginning, Dream FM was quite a small group of DJs but when it got very popular (and it did), everyone wanted a slot and the shows got smaller and you were squeezed in a bit. I don’t think that helped the… vibe of the station. It got a bit competitive I think, all about who was going to be next big name DJ.
“I have happy memories of Dream, mainly. We got club work after being on Dream, although I haven’t worked in clubs for a good long while now though. Was Dream FM a good thing? Totally.
“We’re still talking about Dream FM because of nostalgia, partly. They were happy days… and nights. Maybe because commercial local radio is so bad probably. Only BBC has any decent stations (6Music etc). Dream FM was important because it was about music, not selling stuff (though there were ads… some of them quite bizarre if I remember).
“DJs played what they wanted. In fact it was a bit like a dance music 6Music with no pop stars.”
Is there anything else you want to say?
“Can I go now?”
[Daisy & Havoc photo by Alexis Hutson]
* * *
CHRIS JENKINSON was a 40-something entrepreneur when he founded Dream FM in 1991 on the back of the Dream all-nighters he co-promoted at the Trades Club in Chapletown, Leeds.
“I was interested in short wave radio at school. It was classified as amateur radio at the time. This interest waned when I left school and started going out to youth clubs etc. My first musical interest was northern soul, and I went to the Central club regularly in Leeds from about 1973 onwards.
“Later I went to Wigan Casino, Cleethorpes Pier all-nighters and more. It was a big underground movement. This had no influence on Dream.
“Our friend XXX [a well-known Chapeltown ‘entrepreneur’] introduced me to the prospect of a pirate station when we lost the Trades Club for the Dream nights and couldn’t find another suitable venue. He had a spare transmitter and saw the potential. He helped get the transmitter and aerials erected and connected.
“Once we got a signal, we were on our own. He knew Sharpy and Camaro from York, who helped with aerials in the early stages. He also introduced me to the DTI guy in Leeds and we told him what we were going to do.
“We were up and running fairly quickly but the first few weeks were running on tapes being played on a loop. Spyder did the initial tapes.
“We just winged it from the beginning and learnt as we went on. It was one big learning cycle. This whole process helped me discover principles and life skills that I didn’t know that I had. I discovered myself, as I am sure a lot of the DJs did as well.
“I remember asking Michaela to meet a buyer at Richer Sounds. It was that last minute that the paint on the slipmats was not yet dry so had to be dried on the train on the way down. They liked what we were doing but I have this memory of the buyer asking Michaela, “look, what is it you want us to do?” as we had no presentation rehearsed. It must have been really comical and tremendously frightening for poor old Michaela.
“We got the job done though, and they sold hundreds of our slipmats. The whole Dream experience must have increased Michaela’s confidence one-thousand-fold.
“The rules and guidelines came naturally to me. I had to be a tough cookie at times but the DJs overrode all that in their quest to play music on the airwaves.
“Dream kept me extremely busy. Dealing with security, DJs, staff in the office and trying to bounce back quickly after losing flats and studios, and many transmitters.
“I heard the guy who made the transmitters, Steve, died recently. I spent a lot of time with him as we lost loads of transmitters over that period, some weekends we lost two transmitters at, I believe, about £200 to £250 a time. So tot that lot up. All par for the course though.
“There were many unseen problems but, on the whole, we were pretty productive. Everyone could hear the results.
“We got hundreds of different requests every day and letters and records started to arrive in the post. I didn’t realise how big it was until now when I read the mail, especially from young kids.
“We knew how to make any show interesting, but I was never a DJ and in some respects was mic shy, having never done it before for an audience. If I was doing it now I wouldn’t have a problem. I’d do a regular northern soul show and maybe a Tamla show.”
Did you like all the music that was played on the station, or was it always about northern soul for you?
“Northern has been strong since the late 60s and continues to be popular. But there are a limited number of records, many of which are floor fillers, so they are easily remembered. Don’t get me wrong. There was, for me, a lot of average music played on Dream and some styles that I didn’t particularly like, but at the beginning I used to play a lot of tapes that Spyder and others did, so I have many lasting memories of those.
“Some of the classic floor-filling dance music was really good, some of it was groundbreaking, whereas northern sounded old hat for a while. And don’t forget I listened to nearly every show on Dream FM, so I was wholly dance orientated.
“I now play northern in the car and dance music is in the loft, so longterm and legacy-wise, I suppose northern has won out and is more sustainable.
“Like everyone else, I was gutted when the station ended. It was a shame but, looking at it philosophically, it was a great experience for everyone concerned. We brought lot of pleasure to listeners.
“Dream would have been a big asset to Leeds and would have had more impact than Galaxy, Capital etc. We were simply not ready and the market was more or less controlled by big companies with multiple stations. I read the applications (which cost 50k plus to produce) and Galaxy got it due to the success of Kiss in London and their ability to make it work.
“I started from scratch, left everything and everyone behind in order to get my life back on track. It felt like it was, because of my age, a last opportunity for me. I needed that period to build again.
“I am a bit of a talker. I’ve usually worked in sales. I started in my early 20s and then went back to it after Dream.
“I’m also on a local lottery committee. The area has a million to spend over 10 years. I started by setting up a tenants and resident association with a few neighbours, and that led to going on a few courses on leadership, project management etc. I’m all for making the area a better place to live. So this has brought me into the realms of councillors, police and heads of local organisations.
“Like everyone else, my life has moved on a bit and I am quite happy where I am now. Having said that, the four or five years at Dream were probably the best and most productive of my life. It’s not everyday you get to do something like that.
“Memories are difficult to fight. I’ve tried to contact some people but I think some of them might hold grudges because of the way I disappeared and went out of contact. They might want to let sleeping dogs lie.
“I believe that everyone involved loved Dream and, in some cases, had the best time of their lives during that period. When you get older, nostalgia plays a big part in your thoughts.
“I’ve been on the Memories of Dream FM Facebook page. It’s really interesting reading some of the rumours about myself. I shouldn’t have disappeared, but I needed to get my head straight and move forward.
“Luigi told me someone had said I had been given a million and run off with the money. I wish, haha! But it just shows the impact station had on people.
“A couple of years ago I was in Huddersfield working and I went into one of those Cash Generators and right before my very eyes was a couple of SL1200s with Dream Promotion slipmats. I suspected that one of the DJs had sold them on 20 years later. Needless to say, I snapped a couple of pics.
“I went to get my hair cut about six months ago and this guy was raving about dance music and – you know the rest. He was raving about Dream, used to listen to it all the time, he was in awe of it, in fact. I don’t think he believed me when I told him I was involved.
“I’ve been enjoying my trips to the Central in Leeds again. It’s called the Hi-Fi Club now. Most people attending are about my age, in the 55 to 65 bracket, all dancing to northern soul and having a jolly good time on a Sunday afternoon every couple of months. Some of these followers are going to different venues on a weekly basis, like we used to back in the day.
“I find people don’t change too much. We get wiser and more aware of the world.”