An interview with radio broadcaster Sean ‘Cookie’ Cooke by DR Robby Allen.
Sean ‘Cookie’ Cooke is buzzing. He has every right to be. The listener figures for Target Radio, the station that he set up two years ago and that he gives spare bits of life to is just short of a million listeners. It is a remarkable achievement.
The overriding feature of Cookie is his sheer enthusiasm. He has the right voice for radio; it conveys the essence of him - enquiring and passionate about music and what it has to say to us all. I join him online, he in his radio studio and me in my little home recording setup: ‘mancave to mancave!’ he jokes.
Cookie settles himself down, it’s unusual to be on the other end of an interview for him and he flits about a bit at first getting comfortable. There’s less to worry about in this discussion than usual: “normally I have four computer screens, I’ve got the mixing desk and two CD players. It is quite a lot of things to do really…”
Disco, Hospital Radio and a new Target
How did you get started in radio?
“I’d just left school. I’ve been a mobile DJ from the age of about 14. So music for me has always been there. My Mum’s quite young so I grew up listening to music, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Kinks, Abba…” He stops briefly to roar with laughter and says, “Aaaahhh I said it!” before continuing: “I got into music at an early age and went to Hillingdon Hospital Radio at the age of 17. I was just cleaning records, watching everything, looking at everything, and then I got an opportunity to step into a presenter’s role aged 18. I did it for six months and got the sack!”
“I made a throwaway comment about how lovely it would be for some of my audience to get off their backsides and have some fun with it. Most people thought it was hilarious but not the station manager who thought it was a little too much. They decided my attitude towards radio wasn’t suitable for the hospital. I carried on with the mobile disco. I then started again at Frimley Park Hospital, I’d had an operation and felt I wanted to give something back and I decided to get back into radio. They were looking for presenters and gave all the training. I did a year with them. At the time I went to university as a mature student and studied broadcasting – came out three years later with a first. I’d found out loads about me, like I was dyslexic – try spelling that! Also found out I am mildly autistic. I didn’t know that either. It was a good life journey as well. Not only did I get loads of experience and meet a lot of industry people; I really enjoyed it. I thought I’m going to knock on one of the big stations doors and get in there…well, it didn’t happen. I was at Radio Woking during all my time at university and from there hit upon the idea of Target Radio. Targeting the unsigned and unappreciated.”
So that was the aim from the beginning?
“I had done the mod radio at Woking. Obviously the target represents the mod. I was going to continue the mid-week mod show here at Target Radio and then in the build up to getting it up and running I thought no; I don’t want to be going down that one small narrow path. I want to expand and be in a wider audience. I could do the mod stuff, new wave, and unsigned.”
The discussion turns to influence and the champion of the unsigned and underappreciated features high in Cookie’s heroes
“John Peel…and have a guess…?”
Cookie laughs and performs a remarkable impression of Everett: “hello darlings!”
I had written Kenny Everett on my notepad. There is something about the intonation and joy of speech in Cookie’s voice that put me in mind of the master of zane.
“I love him in anything he ever done really. I loved his TV shows – they were absolutely off the chart. But what really got me into radio was he was just a whirlwind, you know? I’ve watched so many documentaries and read so many things about him. John Peel and Kenny were like two different ends of a spectrum really.”
With bands you can often hear their influences. You can hear where they are coming from. So how does that manifest in a radio broadcaster then?
“Using Kenney Everett as a role model I suppose – he was God as far as it comes to radio. He was very articulate. It sounded like a complete mess but it wasn’t it was down to the last second. I learned that you don’t do things off the cuff, replies can be and you allow that in the broadcast. Yeah you’re going to make a couple of mistakes, you allow for that. You’ve got to make it like you’ve not scripted anything.”
Have you had any ambitions to be in a band or were you?
“No, none whatsoever. I’ve always been on the outside looking in. I’ve got a guitar about three years ago for my birthday, it’s electric; but I’m so lazy or too busy – you can pick which one. [laughter]. Probably the latter.”
You’re not a frustrated musician then?
“No. I tip my hat to any musician that can go out there, do what they do and hold down a full time job as well. It’s very difficult to wear two hats. But then I think to myself I’m a wedding DJ and so I have two or three hats myself. Having an outside hobby that pays for a few beers and you enjoy doing it – that can’t be bad.”
The First time you hear new music
Let me put a scenario to you – you open up an email, maybe you know a little about the band, what is the feeling when you hear a song for the first time. Perhaps you are discovering that song for either a wider audience or yourself.
“Excitement, anticipation. I think I really like that or I think my audience might like that. I have to wear, like, two pairs of glasses – what I like may be not what you like…that’s the funny thing about music. It’s what divides us and brings us together. Music is a good tonic. You’re not going to find that perfect track that every person is going to love – I’d be playing it 24/7.”
The Sound of Silence and F-Bombs
Tell us about your embarrassing moments – there must be some.
“Going live for an hour and realising I hadn’t actually switched it over. That is probably the worse nightmare. You go ‘hello! Welcome to the show’ and you do fifty odd minutes and then you realise…what’s that button flashing for? Hang on, it’s a telephone call: ‘it’s the station manager here just to let you know you’re not actually on air.’ What! [laughter] Because it was a two hour show I had to come back after the news at the top of the hour – ‘if you missed the first you should have been there it was brilliant! In another example at Glass Radio I had a special guest and the F-bombs he dropped were unbelievable. We actually got took off air.”
Skills and Knowledge
What skills do you think you need to be a good broadcaster?
“The first thing I learned is that you don’t try to be anyone else. You can take things from others but you can’t be those people. You can’t be John Peel but you can take some of what he’s done and use that. You can’t be as zany as Kenny Everett but I love his enthusiasm.” Cookie pauses to put on a stereotype DJ voice (similar to Enfield and Whitehouse’s Smashy and Nicey). “If you meet someone in the street you’re not going to be like that. You’re going to be yourself. Secondly, enjoy it! You’ve got to learn enjoying what you do. Some days we all feel a bit tired but I get in here, switch the microphones on and its…hello this is Target Radio! It’s fun, enjoyable. It comes from the heart, a bit of passion. I love doing what I do. Thirdly, do your research if you are speaking with a band. You want to converse before to ensure you can do what you can do. If there are any dodgy areas, as I said to you, is there anything you want me to avoid, subject matter like that. If doing interviewing you need to be a people person. If you want to promote a band you have to find out what makes them tick. You want people to say I really like that fella or that woman because they were really engaging – I like their music I’m going to buy their album right now. That’s what I’m here to do. I don’t get a brass penny from it and I don’t care.”
Talking to your best friend
Cookie takes a minute to reflect on his relationship with the audience.
“You notice when I talk of the audience I talk about the listener. You make it very intimate – like you are talking to that one person. It’s not a woman or a man, you’re looking at that microphone and you’re focused on talking to your best friend.”
All ahead slow
Our discussion turns to the future.
“We’ve had a few acoustic sessions in and it really worked; just one person and an acoustic guitar. But, getting a whole band in would be even better. I haven’t got the room where I am at the moment. It’s always going to be baby steps, I have no visions of grandeur. I certainly won’t take massive jumps. I tried that at the beginning of Target Radio and I burnt myself out. People are enjoying what I’m doing at the moment, I’ve got ideas but to implement them I have to go forwards slowly.”
Rick Buckler, gentleman and Concorde traveller
Towards the end of our discussion Cookie reminiscences about conversations with former Jam drummer Rick Buckler.
“He’s such a gentleman. He’s so down to earth. He makes you feel like he’s a best friend you’ve never met. That’s how he comes across. He’s so engaging you can sit there and listen to him forever. He told me this story. They were on tour in America and they released Going Underground which should have been The Dreams Of Children on the A side with Going Underground on the other side. As we know it went to Number One. He said they were on a mediocre Mid-South tour at the time. They weren’t very happy because they were playing to handfuls of people. He said they were so pissed off. The band found out that it had gone to Number One at the same time that it was the wrong side of the record which Paul wasn’t very happy about but getting their first Number One overshadowed that. He said to me “what we did then was cancel the rest of the tour and we hopped on Concorde and flew back.”
Goodnight from me and goodnight from him
It’s getting late and I close the interview. Cookie’s energy seems to be boundless – he says goodbye at the same level of enthusiasm and zest that he started the conversation. We need people like him in this world, taking music and bringing it to a new audience, creating the collective experience of finding new sounds and appreciating the old.
You can tune into Target Radio HERE
Interview by DR Robby Allen - The Kite collectors
Mods Of Your Generation
Sean Cooke has his finger firmly on the pulse when it comes to discovering undersigned and underplayed music. He champions music of all genres and has a close eye out for the latest up and coming bands and artists. He provides many talented artists with a platform to showcase themselves conducting live interviews and allowing them the opportunity to get their music heard. Target Radio has many contributors featuring various different presenters, all bringing a different but well received listening pleasure to our ears. Target Radio has become the go to place to discover your new favourite band or musician.
Robby Allen Interview with Sean Cooke on Target Radio HERE
Mods Of Your Generation Interview with Sean Cooke On Target Radio HERE
Copyright © Mods Of Your Generation, Robby Allen 2020, All Rights Reserved. Image Credit Sean Cooke & Target Radio. No part of this review may be reproduced without the permission of the authors.