Q&A with Nige Johnson
Nigel “Nige” Johnson has been working in the Radio Industry for just over 20 years. He did his first ever shift in 1992 as a late night recorder here in Canberra, then in 1998 he really got started live on-air. He was half of the well known “Scotty and Nige” Breakfast show from Canberra’s 104.7 that ran for 8 years and he now works in the Creative Writing Department of the Canberra FM Business that houses both Mix 106.3 and Hit 104.7. He also occasionally covers for an on-air host and continues to work in his favourite industry doing what he loves. In an interview with one of our reporters, Nige answered some questions that might give students an insight into the Radio Announcing world.
What was the start of your career like?
Scary! Scary and exciting! We have a saying in the building, certainly amongst the old crew, Scotty, myself and Knuckles when we did the breakfast show together, and it was a phrase that Kate (aka Knuckles) used to use. She said, “If you want to succeed in this business, the one thing you have to have, is the Fear!” I know that sounds really ominous, but I guess what she’ trying to say and what I would say is; woe betide anyone who wanders into this business with the attitude of ‘Nah it’ll be fine. I got nothing to learn, I know everything there is to know and I’ll just wing this and it’s all dah-don’t even worry about it!’ Never trust anyone who’s that confident! Always, always, you’ve got to have the FEAR! The fear of failure, the fear of saying the wrong thing, the fear of dropping an F-bomb on the radio, which I’ve done four time in my career. Yeah, the fear is the biggest thing, it’s what keeps you sharp and what keeps you doing the job properly.
What did you learn in that first gig that is still relevant?
Never ever lie to anyone! Back when I first started, emails were a thing but the internet wasn’t the beast it is now. So, there was always this temptation someone would send you an email you know with some funny little story that they found on the internet and a lot of announcers would try to pass it off as their own story, rather than admit they got it off the net they would go [deep voiced] “I was ahh down at Belconnen Mall last week and this funny thing happened” and it was like; no it didn’t pal because I got that email as well, and that was something especially when the internet became a big thing that a lot of announcers weren’t across. They didn’t realise that people find out this stuff and people aren’t stupid, their vey switched on. The listeners have more information now than ever and you can’t lie to them, you can’t pull the wool over their eyes because they’ll catch you out, and it makes you look bad!
What have you learned recently that you wish you knew earlier?
As far as the on-air side of things go, if I can answer an anti-question for you, the one thing that I flatly refuse to get on board with, and I don’t think I’ll ever wrap my head around it, is social media. That’s become such a huge part of what a Radio station is these days and the number of times I’ve heard a program director say something like “Aww let’s make sure we get that on social!” To me, in my upbringing in the Radio business, the only thing that matter sis what comes out of those speakers, whether it’s in your car or through the headphones you’re wearing at the time. I don’t care how many likes, or shares, or views anything has had, it just doesn’t bother me in the slightest. My focus has, and always will be, 100 percent, what comes out of those speakers. I have stubbornly refused to get on the social media band-wagon.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received in your career?
There was a quote and, I have no idea if Robert Downey Jr. actually said this, but it was over a picture of RDJ so we just have to accept that it must be. Either way it was brilliant advice and it was; “nod, smile, agree to everything they say, then go and do whatever the f**k you were going to do anyway!” That’s what I’ve been doing for 20 years. Just because someone is wearing a fancy suit or being paid a lot of money, doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing. Sometimes they do, but sometimes you just know better.
What are two examples; a positive and a negative, that would act as advice for younger people wanting to enter the Radio Industry?
Actually, I don’t need to give you two examples because it’s the same thing at the core of the gig that is both positive and negative. But, there have been times in my career in radio when I have literally leapt out of my chair, thrown a fist in the air and yelled “WOO” because we have just given someone a brand-new car, and they’ve burst into tears of pure joy because their old car was rubbish, and they were on their last 20 bucks, and we’ve just changed their life. There’s no feeling in the world like that, that you get from a regular job, I don’t think! I mean, maybe if you’re a surgeon and you save someone’s life, yeah, whatever, that’s kind-a cool but clearly whoever thinks that’s awesome has never given away a free car [laughs]. It’s a business that will make your heart sing, by the same token, that exact same business has had me literally sitting on the floor of my bedroom, crying my eyes out because I was just so dejected and heart broken. Radio! She’s a fickle mistress my friend, she will lift you up, and kick you in the nuts at the same time, but that’s what makes her so beautiful! That’s what makes it so worth doing, that’s the job and that’s what it’s all about. It’ll make you laugh and it’ll make you cry but that’s what makes you do it, I mean, why wouldn’t you?