KC News catches up with Martin Wilson on the ‘Morning Marty’ at Beach FM 106.3
It’s 4.30am in the middle of winter. A biting southerly grips the Coast. Remarkably, inside the Beach FM studios at Lindale in Paraparaumu it’s always about 20 degrees and not a heater in sight. How come? The studios were once the chiller for Kāpiti Cheeses during their local manufacturing days at the tourist complex. Low metal ceilings and numerous layers of insulation. The Beach FM studios and office are a welcoming environment; especially on a day as cold as this.
I find Martin Wilson already on his second coffee for the day sorting and doing a quick rehearsal edit of local news prior to pre-recording for all the local bulletins through to 1.00pm. He’s live on-air from 6am to 9am.
You’re relatively new to the breakfast show, but not to Beach FM?
Correct. I’ve been part of the Beach FM family since the beginning of 2005. I’ve taken the odd year or two off to do other things during that time, but I’m blessed that they’ve always taken me back. Over the years I’ve covered every on-air shift plus Production, and vacuuming the floor. The only thing I haven’t done is Sales. I doubt if I could sell my own Grandmother.
What’s your background in Broadcasting?
Well, I started in radio fairly late. I’d not long turned 32. Ever since I was a kid I’d had a hankering to give it a go. I used to be quite in awe of those that I heard on the radio. Wonderful communicators with the latest music at their fingertips. I used to imagine what they looked like. As a young teen I’d often wander into the old Broadcasting House in Wellington and watch them at work, and putting faces to names.
I was initially trained by Lindsay Yeo during an absolutely manic 4-day training school that he ran in 1989. It was at the height of deregulation for most government services and anything was possible.
My first on-air gig was for Stewart Macpherson’s Greater Wellington FM in January 1990 on the mid-dawn also known as the graveyard shift (where all newbies pay their dues). I was bloody terrified on that first shift. Helping me through was veteran and lovable renegade, Keith Richardson. He didn’t have to be there, but he was. Another rookie who started with me was Iain Stables. Gotta say Iain and I learned a lot of what-not-to-do from Keith, but Stables went on to elevate radio pranks to a fine art. I remained good friends with Keith until his passing a few years ago, and I don’t see as much of Iain now as I’d like. He owns Ski FM in Taupo, and I don’t ski.
Lindsay Yeo offered me an on-air spot on his 2ZB breakfast show in mid-1990 and I remained there for about 18 months until another restructure and rebranding to the Newstalk format saw a number of us out.
You had another string to your bow?
Yes, thank God! I’d always seen Broadcasting as a paying hobby; not a career in itself. My background is in training design and delivery. I became a Telecom ‘suit’ for a couple years working as a trainer in what was the sexiest branch of Telecom at the time Telecom Cellular. Crazy times. From there to teaching Microsoft computer programmes for office users at the height of the new-fangled PC and Apple Macintosh onslaught. I did a bit of voiceover work on the side. I could never quite let it go.
Have you always lived here?
No. I was born and raised in Boulcott, Lower Hutt and I don’t play golf either! I spent about 9 years in Havelock North and Hastings during the 80’s. Both my boys were born and raised in Hawke’s Bay. It’s still a great place to visit.
Do you have another favourite place?
Yes. Melbourne. It’s like Wellington on steroids.
What brought you to the Kāpiti Coast?
Well, it was a major life-changing event that sees me here. I was diagnosed with an aggressive bowel cancer in 2002, and the outlook wasn’t good. We lived in Whitby at the time. My wife said, “Marty, if the worst comes to worst; where would you like to be?” I said, “Kāpiti. I love looking at that island”. So we sold up and built here in Paraparaumu while I was undergoing chemotherapy following surgery. Fortunately I’m blessed with a good immune system and the chemo cocktail worked. However, my wife started getting aches and pains about that time with what amounted to terminal bone cancer. She passed away in 2004. One day I’ll write a book.
Woah, that’s heavy stuff!
Yeah, but it made me take stock of what really mattered to me and make some life changes. I’m very grateful for the extra time to kick around. I don’t mind sharing my cancer journey and beyond.
But you started work at Beach FM not long after that major trauma?
Yes. I only intended to voice a few ads, but one thing led to another and I was meeting some incredibly supportive people. Just being able to work again meant a lot.
With the rapid pace of changing communications technology, how is Radio bearing up?
Very well indeed. It’s broadcast television that should pack its bags and go home! Radio is a passive medium in the sense that you don’t need to actively engage with radio in the way that you need to with TV. Community radio is still very much alive and well, and even growing in provincial areas. Communities still value local content and connection that the major network stations don’t even pretend they can deliver. Sure there is greater choice of delivery for your music and information, but Beach FM has survived the rampage by staying close to our local communities.
What’s critical about your job?
Pleasing the boss! No, seriously it’s all about preparation and timing, and if there’s a fender bender on the highway mayhem can easily ensue. The upside of the online communications revolution is that there are so many web-based portals willing to share real-time information. Having said that, it can also be problematic. Case in point: The November 14th earthquake, 2016. Sorting through the sometimes conflicting information from emergency management organisations, particularly concerning the tsunami risk. Local radio still has a vital role to play in civil emergencies.
Any advice for newcomers or anyone considering broadcasting?
It’s never too late, and life experience will be your greatest asset in this business. Paradoxically, listening will be the greatest skill you’ll master. You don’t need to take work home, but you’ll want to. This job fosters an ongoing curiosity for just about everything. Above all be yourself. Nobody else is better qualified.
What do you get up to when you’re not here?
A midday nap is pretty much mandatory to successfully cope with these nutty hours. I’m a bit of a current affairs junkie, so I’m forever scanning a number of blogs and news sites during the day. I play drums for my sins and to amuse the neighbours, plus I like to get in the garden; mostly to keep the mile-a-minute weed at bay. I spend way too much time on Facebook. I’m now married to the lovely Chrissie, and between us we have 6 lively grandchildren both here and in Australia. Life is bloody marvellous!
So despite the hours, you love the biz don’t you?
Yeah, and it’s really all about the people. I’ve been blessed to work with some I’ve admired since I was a kid, and the Beach FM family have been and continue to be wonderful. We all bring our own flavour to the mix. My focus tends to be on music, while for Nigel Hopkins it’s sport and community engagement. For Crispie it’s his skill with voices coupled with his sheer energy and flair for sales and management. Gentleman John Hayes with a broadcasting and technical CV that runs into volumes; Tanya Ellis with her engaging voice and personality; Ron Snowden with his so laid back, but in-the-pocket insight and delivery. Not forgetting our fantastic production tech, Tee Cameron plus our sales and admin team. Beach FM is 19 years young. In this competitive game we’re doing something that’s valued in our community and it’s time to give the biggest thanks where they’re due to you, our listeners and advertisers. Thank you.