I’d been McSleazy as a DJ / producer since the late 90s. (It was pronounced like the Scottish Mc- prefix, and not M.C.) Around the station, I was usually just Grant.
On one occasion, however, I was introduced to the ex-singer in Marillion in what turned out to be the most ridiculous conversation of my adult life. It went “McSleazy, Fish. Fish, McSleazy”.
We occasionally had promos recorded for us by famous artists who were usually passing through, like Calvin Harris or a band we were featuring. My producer was excited to tell me that he’d had one sent up for me from London by the Pet Shop Boys, who’d been using a mix of mine prior to going onstage on their tour of North America. I played it. “Hi, this is Neil from the Pet Shop Boys and you’re listening to Mick Sleazy on XFM Scotland”. Mick Sleazy? That is what it said. I never used it.
There came a point when the weekly recording of the shows became more of a trial than a pleasure.
I was still working full-time at my day job, working on a mix for a movie for New Line Cinema, and had also split from my son’s mother and moved out. On top of this, I was DJing two or three nights a week, and starting to feel old.
More and more, I dreaded prepping the mixes for the show. 20 minute and 40 minute mixes of tunes, required for every week, felt like an albatross around my neck. I had three hours a week to fill, and a declining appetite to fill it.
I know that if I was doing the show nowadays, things would be different for one simple reason : Twitter. Had that existed when I was on, the instant feedback, the discussion, the endless possibilities and the capability to continue the discussion beyond the actual time of the show would have been enough of a motivation to continue with aplomb.
The percs were still nice. The free records and CDs and the tickets to gigs (from DJ Shadow to Guns’n’Roses) were appreciated. I know it sounds ungrateful, but it just wasn’t for me. The talking on air never was.
There was a good degree of camaraderie amongst the presenters and staff, although I always remained on the periphery of it. We attended nights out, clubs, picnics, gigs and just meet ups in the pub. The DJs who wrote music played each other’s tunes and supported them when they could. I do remember, however, a meal out with the DJs & producers where everything felt quite sour. It ended with some DJs climbing onto the sign of the recently closed Odeon cinema in Glasgow, dangling their legs over the building like a scene out of an 80s brat pack movie. There was a sense of resignation about the fate of the station.
Dominik left before the station folded. As a night-time visitor to the station, I wasn’t party to the office gossip & politics, so this was a total shock to me. Shortly after, there were some comments made to me which made it clear that XFM was not going to continue in its current guise for much longer. And so it came to pass.
I had a contract which still had six months on it. Well before that was due to end, we were called in and told that all of the specialist DJs shows were being cut. Also, all but the breakfast and drive-time shows were going to go.
Instead, during the day, they were going to play musical continuously. No DJs. At night time, instead of DJs in Scotland, they were going to feed through the output from XFM London.
I was given a goodwill payment to compensate for the early termination of the contract. We handed in our keys and that was that. I was told that there’d still be opportunities in the future in the form of mixes and guest shows but instinct told me that this was the end.
I felt bad for my fellow DJs. A lot of them lived off their DJ income and this was life-changing for them. I was in no position to complain too loudly, although I was definitely part of the collective WTF?! reaction.
Years later, I’ve a clearer view of my time at XFM. I still don’t think that talking on the radio was for me, but I’m proud of the music that was played out and the mixes that were contributed to the show.
The only regret I have is that the anxiety issues that I had caused me to hold back from socialising as much with the other DJs and getting to know them better. Social anxiety truly sucks. That regret, and also the regret of having to use the filthiest toilet in the world. Jesus, GCap, that was horrendous.
Still, being an ex-XFM contributor is a good point to have on the resume. I met some amazing people and had some incredible times. I had the atmospheric drive across Glasgow at 1am after I left the studio, the only person left in the building. I played some outstanding tunes to the people of Central Scotland on a Friday / Saturday night, which was a great honour. And I never accidently swore on air, which is possibly the biggest shock of the whole experience.