Dineen keen to continue the conversation
Over a very bad phone line to the wilds of Kerry, former Today FM DJ Donal Dineen tells Brian Hayes Curtin about the importance of communication, his plans for the future and how he dealt with the end of his radio show
Wherever Donal Dineen lives in Kerry, it’s not ideal for phone interviews. At times it’s hard to make out more than one word in every two. Ever the gentlemen, and although he has an engagement with his kids in the afternoon, he offers to drive somewhere to get better mobile phone reception.
It’s clear; communication is important to the Kerry DJ, musical explorer and film maker. Thankfully he doesn’t need to get in the car to finish the interview.
Dineen used to have a long-running conversation with the Irish public on his radio shows ‘Here Comes The Night’ and ‘Small Hours’. That conversation was cut short however and the genial Kerryman has been finding other ways to reopen the flow since.
He was one of the most acclaimed Irish radio DJs, but his long running stint on Today FM with his show, ‘Small Hours’ ended last December on Today FM.
This show and its precursor ‘Here Comes The Night’, particularly, helped the musical education of generations of people since 1997.
As a show, ‘Small Hours’ had a minimum of talking from the softly spoken Kerry native; just enough to elucidate what he had been playing. Often, 15 minutes might pass before he spoke.
The music he played would never have been on daytime radio. No genre was off limits and during the course of a show, he could veer anywhere. Needless to say, Donal Dineen’s show was an anachronism in modern commercial radio.
The ending of the show was a shock, but also an inevitability. Playing non-commercial music simply doesn’t seem to be worthwhile for commercial radio stations.
Described by some as a kind of Irish John Peel, Donal is happy to have had the opportunity for so long. “It was great to be able to facilitate, in some small way, some great artists in the last 10, 15 years,” he says.
The sadness that greeted the end of his show was something he greatly appreciated. “It got me across a very difficult period. I was aware that I had a great innings. It was still a very difficult life change.”
“Broadcasting at its best should be a conversation. I want to continue that conversation.
It’s a dream job but traumatic thing to leave.”
When asked if his show was something unusual or out of the ordinary at Today FM, he replies that it’s “definitely the case” that it was. “I was hiding away in the corner for as long as possible. That kind of freedom doesn’t come around anymore, or to get paid anyway."
This Friday he is putting on a show called Something Something Something. “I’m trying to reshape my own idea about how I spend my time if there is an audience,” he says. In a sense the show in the Half Moon Theatre in Cork is a kind of extension of his radio show, doing things that he could not in a radio show.
“The radio show was a kind of communication but there wasn’t really a chance to tell stories or to meet and connect with people. Now I’m hoping to branch out and include new elements in an evening.”
But at heart, this is about the experience of sharing music in public with other people, something that is being lost in the digital age. “This is before old-school, this is pre-school!” he laughs.
Those elements include starting the night with the former DJ talking music to the audience, conversing. Patrick Kelleher will then play live and Donal Dineen will round off the night with a DJ set.
“I think Patrick Kelleher’s got so many possibilities. He’s got remarkable talents and shine out in that regard.” He also cites Kelleher’s natural modesty.
It’s definitely a “golden age of music”, he reckons, but there is a lack of places for people to go and play and establish themselves. This is something he hopes to remedy. “I’d like to make up new spaces for music out of new necessity.”
His favourite album of 2012 so far is Irish. He says Katie Kim’s ‘Cover and Flood’ released in March is incredible. “Since I finished radio, I stopped using digital and just play vinyl. I must have played her album 100 times,” he says.
“The elevator is always going up,” with people like Katie Kim and Patrick Kelleher, he adds.
In the last six months his approach to DJing has changed, he reveals. “Before, I was half afraid before, that I’d send people home crying or that I’d ruin Christmas!’ he jokes. Not likely at all!
Donal Dineen brings Something Something Something featuring Patrick Kelleher to the Half Moon Theatre on Friday 20 July at 8.30pm. Tickets are €12/ €10. He also plays ‘The Cave’ in Mitchelstown Caves on Saturday 28 July at 8pm. Tickets are €35 and there are also gigs on Thursday and Friday featuring the likes of The Staves, Sam Amidon, Puzzle Muteson, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Iarla Ó Lionáird.