Paul Casserly 's Opinion

Paul Casserly watched too much TV as a child.

Paul Casserly: Rock radio's battle for drive time

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TV on the radio or the runaway express? Paul Casserly wades into rock radio's drive time battle
Jono Pryor, Ben Boyce and Mikey Havoc.
Jono Pryor, Ben Boyce and Mikey Havoc.

Breakfast shows get all wacky names. They are "madhouses" or "rumbles" or "circuses", but drive time shows are usually just drive time shows.

Trust Mikey Havoc to be different with his new show The Mikey Havoc Afternoon Express which is competing for the black t-shirt demographic with another new show, Jono and Ben on The Rock Drive.

I like to picture these listeners driving home in Holden Utes with Cody bottles rolling around the tray.

Maybe there are people driving Priuses, carting sacks of Kale, while listening to Hauraki or The Rock, but I'm guessing that they are not the target audience. The 'target audience' is hopefully buying the things that clog the ad-breaks. If you're an old bugger listening to talk-back, that means products that clean the driveway along with ones that give you erections. It's important to keep the activities separate, as I found out one day, but more on that in my autobiography. You'll largely be spared the snake oil (aka 'supplements') if you're listening to The Rock or Hauraki, although I did hear ads for Tiger Paw, a shower-cleaning product from the makers of Wet and Forget, in amongst the spots for car yards, burgers and broadband.

Mikey Havoc guides his share of the black t-shirts through the traffic on Hauraki, back on drive time after a stint at night. I say "back" on drive time because that's where I first heard him on bFM all those years ago, and it's a natural place for his high-energy, high wire act, or "genuine volcanic enthusiasm" as the station's PR aptly describes it.

Driving at speed to rock music, when traffic flows allow, is one of the great pleasures of life. Indeed drum and bass only makes sense to me when I'm powering up an on-ramp or overtaking an octogenarian in a Daihatsu. Not that I have anything against slow driving, I practice it often, it's just I have a problem while behind the wheel listening to certain types of music. Let's assume the old bugger clutching the sheepskin steering wheel in the Daihatsu is nodding in agreement as Newstalk ZB's Larry Williams makes cracks about Cunliffe or Maori activists. But what's the tradie in the Toyota Hi-ace - 19inch rims, 32inch sub listening to? Mikey on Hauraki? Or Jono and Ben on The Rock?

If he's on Hauraki he'll be blasting Soundgarden's Burden In My Hand or perhaps Arcade Fire or The White Stripes. When I tuned into the The Rock, they were playing new metal band Chevelle, with a song called Take out The Gunman. I heard both stations play tracks from Nirvana.

If Mikey is a volcano, Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce might well be the sort of earthquakes we feel in Auckland; not threatening but unsettling enough, and impossible to ignore. Their TV forced-marriage has been such a raging success that the move to a civil union on radio makes all kinds of sense and, like the freshness that Havoc, Heath and Wells have brought to Hauraki, their pairing brings a certain freshness to The Rock, a station that's been around long enough to fray at the edges.

Hauraki, on the other hand, is so old that its only choice was to become brand new, although as one wag on their iHeart radio page pointed out, "This sounds like 89X" - a reference to the early 90s FM rock station that ushered in the FM age.

After a brief flirtation with having a co-host, in the form of affable afternoon jock Alex Behan, Havoc is now alone on air. Sometimes the forced marriages don't work so well, and alone, there seems to be more fluidity to his high-octane flights of fancy, a sense that the master is happiest back in charge of his domain.

There was a memorable encounter the other day between the host and a listener who had called in to complain about a song that "sucked." What followed was a gentle version of the vicious flailing dealt to hecklers at comedy shows. Mikey threw the caller into a tizz by asking him what he'd rather hear. The caller was all "umm" but eventually settled on "Led Zeppelin", in a tone that was all bloke and trousers. "Never heard of them," replied Mikey. Upon ascertaining that the guy was driving home down the southern motorway with a 'mate', Havoc subtly cast aspersions on his masculinity, before closing the act with some of his typical mastery of the local idiom. "Remember, what happens in Drury, stays in Drury."

While Mikey is best as a one-man band, Jono and Ben are a natural double act. There's also a fair amount of radio Jackass over on The Rock as the boys indulge in the familiar hijinks. There are 'challenges', 'pranks' and tattooing of each other's arses.

In one feature a caller and Ben Boyce compared 'interesting facts'. A woman called in claiming that she could make her stomach rumble at will. (She suffered stage fright and the stomach stayed silent.) Jono then piped up with " well did you know that Ben was responsible for this?" He then played the classic, "Show us your crack" advert for glass company Novus, which Boyce wrote and voiced at least a decade ago. It's one of the most annoying/brilliant radio ads of all time and a testament to Boyce's ability to make an audience groan and laugh at the same time.

The black t-shirted owners of Holdens, and, more often these days, Hyundais, now have a solid choice as they slog their way home on the motorways and backstreets. The Rock's drive show provides the more commercial beast; there is more production, more features and, not surprisingly, it sounds more like a TV show on the radio. Hauraki's housing of the famous bFM refugee suggests and delivers a more alternative experience. There's also a hint of danger, a sense that the Express just might going flying off the rails. It's a rare commodity in these days of pre-packaged and pre-recorded radio.

While the hosts and the music set the programmes apart, the ad breaks are essentially the same, urging you to buy stuff from Harvey or Noel, and our most famous, possibly insane, butcher. But, at least in the word of rock radio there's no need to worry about your erection, just yet. Like the mucky driveway, that'll keep until the inevitable day when you end up driving a Daihatsu.

* The Mikey Havoc Afternoon Express on Hauraki, (99FM) Weekdays 4-7pm
* Jono and Ben on The Rock Drive, (90.2FM) Weekdays 3-7pm

Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly watched too much TV as a child.

It began with Dr Who, in black and white, when it was actually scary. The addiction took hold with Chips, in colour. He made his mum knit a Starsky and Hutch cardigan. Later, Twin Peaks would blow what was left of his mind. He’s been working in radio and TV since the 1990s and has an award in his pool room for Eating Media Lunch.

Read more by Paul Casserly

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