In an interview given at the time, one of Dread Broadcasting Corporation’s DJs, Miss P, explained how their shows created movement in the music industry for all genres of black music, which up until then had been glaringly neglected by mainstream stations like BBC Radio or Capital Radio. She also put forward the role of DBC to represent ‘all forms of black music, and have black music presented by black people, have a station run by black people that is for everyone... giving ourselves a chance to really be a part of society.’
Mac launched Kiss 94.5 FM in 1985 and never saw it as a community station, deliberately steering clear from politics. Rather, he described it as a community of interest station for those into House, Reggae or Rare-Groove or your dance music of choice, and his policy of hiring DJs was based purely on their love of their specialist interest. The only occasion they found themselves caught up in politics was during the government’s raids on the illegal raves in the late 1980s. They supported the right to party movement, as it allied to their love of music. This was a rare instance.
There was an unspoken rule among the numerous London-based pirates to leave each other alone, owing to their mutual fight against the authorities to keep on air. Whilst Kiss 94.5 FM did have their fair share of transmitters taken during the three years they were broadcasting, the studio was never raided. Competition between the pirates grew more aggressive towards the end of the decade but Kiss 94.5 FM would soon become legal.
Their internal journey towards legalisation started within a year or so of being on air. Mac bought out his original partners (Tosca, George Power and Pyres Easton) as their interests diverged. He resold their shares back to some of the DJs and this bought Mac enough transmitters to be on air for 9-12 weeks in which time he could start to make money. The likes of Tim Westwood, Norman Jay, Jonathan Moore (Coldcut) and Trevor Nelson were now incentivised to promote the station and the Kiss FM nights at Dingwalls and Bar Rumba reinforced the station’s ethos of great music. Audiences flourished and on their second attempt at applying for a license, Kiss FM was successful.
Mac has since been described as the Godfather of Dance Music. His tireless commitment to new music and that of other 1980s pirate radio stations set the scene for the musical shifts that would follow over the next decades.
Essay originally commissioned by the ICA for their archival exhibition Shout Out! UK Pirate Radio in the 1980s, 26 May – 19 July 2015. Researcher-in-Residence Scheme supported by Creativeworks London, AHRC and European Development Fund.