Heartbreak Island host Mark Dye says five years of hosting NewstalkZB hardened him to criticism. He set up a medicinal cannabis company after talkback callers told him they needed relief for family members.
1 Season 2 of Heartbreak Island is on now. In what ways is it different to the first season?
The first season's contestants only knew they were going to an island, the goal was to find love and there was money up for grabs, but they had no clue how that process worked. In the second season there's been some strategy, although there are too many moving pieces to become a Heartbreak champion.
2 What was your favourite moment in the first season?
When Ruby eliminated Kristian in episode 4; just because we didn't see it coming. Eliminations are fun to watch. It's probably sick but I enjoy it. People think the producers manipulate people and ply them with alcohol. That doesn't happen in this show. The contestants do it to themselves. Being stuck in a confined space for five weeks with no internet or phone, no work or family, their whole world becomes eleven other people. Things they'd normally cast off as silly become everything.
3 Were you on the receiving end of much negative feedback about the first season?
Matilda (Rice) got the most abuse which is ridiculous, given that she found her husband and soon-to-be-father-of-her-child on a reality TV show. She hadn't dealt with horrible feedback before whereas it didn't faze me. I'd come from five years on talkback where I've had everything under the sun thrown at me. Things like, "I wish your mother had aborted you". Mostly it was just that I was a left-wing idiot that drove a s*** car. In my last six months at ZB there was a guy who'd spend all day every day sending me text messages telling me to die. The problem is that it creates a monster because eventually it just doesn't hurt anymore.
4 How do you justify telling Heartbreak contestants they're the least popular on the island?
The people this show was made for, aged 18 to 30, operate in the Tinder world so they're used to being judged on how they look. The whole premise of Heartbreak is to put that online dating world on television and show people how ridiculous it is. It's commentary in a sense. In season one we saw 'cat-fishing' where people discover the person doesn't look anything like their highly edited photo but then realise they're okay with that.
5 Have you done Tinder?
Yes, I've played all the games. That's why it doesn't bother me. But even in the 80s when you wanted to meet someone in a bar you didn't go around the room and have a conversation with everyone to find out what their personality was like. You sat there and went, "he's ugly" or "she's hot". It's a dog eat dog world. There's got to be that initial attraction but at the end of the day if you've got a rubbish personality having six pack abs or an hourglass figure only gets you so far. For a lasting relationship there has to be some sort of substance.
6 One of the stars of Britain's Love Island Mike Thalassitis committed suicide this month. Do you ever feel concerned for the participant's mental health?
It is a concern. They all go through psychiatric testing before they come on and they've got some pretty good support afterwards as well.
7 Why did you want to be a talkback radio host?
I've listened to talkback since I was 11 when I got to appear on a TV show called Ready Steady Cook hosted by Kerre Woodham, now McIvor. I decided that being on TV was what I wanted to do and radio was the way to get there. I started listening to Kerre every night and it became the way I got to sleep. It's funny that we ended up hosting a show together 20 odd years later. Radio is the most incredible medium; it's so interactive and instantaneous. Even the internet hasn't quite captured the immediacy. If something big happens, flick on ZB and there'll be someone telling you exactly what's happening.
8 Are you as 'left wing' as your critics call you?
Talkback land has a conservative bent. I'm somewhat progressive but my colours aren't pinned to the left by any means. I'm a pragmatist: I think there are good ideas from both sides. Mostly I'm accused of being too young. I don't know what age your opinions become viable but I can tell you a large sect of this country don't believe it's 30. But I loved my time on radio. There are callers round the country that I think of as genuine friends because I've spent so much time talking to them. They still message me on social media. It's a beautiful thing.
9 Why did you decide to start a medical cannabis company?
NUBU Pharmaceuticals came from talkback as well. Most issues we discuss will have those for and against but the first time we spoke about medical cannabis everyone was for it. I couldn't believe it. It was the personal connection; stories of all these upstanding, mainly senior citizens being forced onto the black market to source cannabis to help their loved ones. I figured there had to be a better way. I'd just come back from four years overseas where I'd spoken to a number of people working in legal grow operations. I said to my friend Will Douglas let's get into it now so we'll be ready to roll once it gets here.
10 What business experience did you have?
I've always been entrepreneurial. I started my own company importing and distributing marketing collateral during the GFC when everyone had their marketing budgets cut. I was working at ZM at the time so I went to my boss and offered to source the products more cheaply from China. That experience has fed into NUBU; we've signed a distribution agreement with MGC Pharmaceuticals in Europe while we wait for regulatory change. Longer-term we're working to develop a premium export product combining cannabis with local botanicals like manuka honey. Just growing cannabis alone won't be viable once Latin America and Africa come online.
11 Growing up in Howick, were you from an entrepreneurial family?
Yes, my parents were constantly looking at new businesses. They had their own business for 20 years that they recently sold out of. They brought my brother and I up to believe that we could do anything and they've always supported our choices. I've got an incredible family. I have dad's mouth and mum's brain.
12 Final question; have you ever inhaled?
Yes. I spent four years travelling and I went through a number of jurisdictions where it's legal so yes, definitely. Close to 50 percent of the country have. But the recreation debate is a totally different kettle of fish. People who are sick have to be the priority.
• Heartbreak Island: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 6am on TVNZ OnDemand or 9.30pm on TVNZ 2