Rock Star to DJ
Taken from Q Magazine, December 2012
The Pulp singer officially started at 6 Music in January 2010, replacing comedian Stephen Merchant, who he'd previously stood-in for. Later that year, Cocker won the Sony DAB Rising Star Award for his show, Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service (4pm-6pm). Splitting his time between Paris and London, he uses Eurostar journeys to select the music he'll play, mixing it with spoken-word, guests and archive clips on the show. "[The station] are OK with the stories and stuff" he says. "It's very rare to be able to come up with your own format in radio nowadays."
"As a child, I remember very vividly getting ready for school, having my hair brushed and listening to Terry Wogan. I had a picture of him as a blond-haired man wearing a cream Aran jumper. Obviously when I saw a picture of him he looked nothing like that. That's what I like about radio - you make up the pictures yourself.
"When I started listening to radio myself, rather than it being something on in the background, that would have probably been the discovery of John Peel. A lot of what I think is good about radio came from him. That feeling that the DJ is speaking to you personally. That's a nice feeling when you're laid in bed, listening.
"My slot is kind of the perfect time for me as it's a very 'limbo' time. One week has almost finished and the next week has almost started - but not quite. It's like the dullest time. I like to think of it as two hours of contemplation, to let things flow through your mind without having to think too much.
"I was very lucky. The people at 6 Music basically let me come up with the format myself. That was unheard of really. I had the idea of looking at the date and what had happened that day in years gone by as a framework. Yesterday we had a clip of Floella Benjamin because it was her birthday and a clip about the discovery of Neptune in 1846. I always wanted the show to feature some spoken-word stuff as that was what I was really interested in, poetry or short stories, so it wasn't just music. I wanted it to have this laid-back and soporific feeling.
"The first show I did was when everybody was snowed in. The whole country was at a standstill. I didn't do a pilot but I remember being very nervous. I put the first record on, which was Snowed In by Tim Rose, and when I put the fader up and I had a very dry mouth. For the first couple of shows, because of this dry mouth, I was doing a lot of clacking and somebody said, Are your false teeth loose? [laughs] As I got a bit more confident, the clacking went away.
"It used to be hard because Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone was on immediately after me and it was pre-recorded so I had to stop on the dot of seven. But I'm not so good at maths so I would usually end up having to fade out something that I really liked.
"[Like being onstage, DJing] is a performance. Onstage, I never plan what I'm going to say between songs and I realised that when I said the funniest or most interesting things, it was spontaneous. That's why it's important to do the show live as much as possible. I could probably make it a lot more professional sounding but it might not be quite as interesting.
"My father gave me some advice. He said, Turn the headphones up as loud as possible so you won't shout. Some DJs do shout. I've always thought that about breakfast shows. Why do all that shouting in the morning when people are just waking up? Can't you just be a bit gentler? I try to keep it more low-key. I hope that draws the listener in."