Steve Barker is a DJ with the BBC and has been playing underground music and sound since 1977 and took interviews with Adrian Sherwood, Lee Scratch Perry, Bono, and Morrissey, in Lancashire.
Barker, who turns 72 this year, is the host of On the Wire. The show has been on air for 37 years now and has reached more than 1,800 episodes.
It was a pleasure chatting with Mr. Barker about his longevity, what it takes to make a proper selection for a show, starting his show with reggae music, and the pleasure of doing a live radio transmission.
We started On the Wire in 1984. There was so much great music bursting out from all over the world, hip hop, electro, house, techno, experimental electronica, and sounds coming in from Africa, the Middle East, and Jamaica. The digital revolution was just kicking in. Little of this music was featured on the BBC or commercial radio, so we had “the field to ourselves.”
This is difficult. I just happen to believe there’s too much radio run by people who don’t actually love music but just want to be star DJs. Actual great curators are few and far between. On the other hand, the best thing is that we can share without borders and everyone has an opportunity to start a show.
Perhaps not for me to say, but three come to mind: the first show with Lee Perry - live for three hours in 1984, our On the Wire tribute to Arthur Russell and the “last” On the Wire in 1991, when we thought it was the last show we would broadcast due to cuts, but then came back the following week!
The Abyssinians, in 1978.
I’ve had lots of great guests, not so much anymore. I’d like to talk to John Coltrane, that would be really special.
Increasingly specialized and niche. It’s hard to imagine the possible changes. But hopefully easier access to the music you want to hear, the ability to discover new things with ease, more technical and audio improvements.
Stay in love with the music.
Talk too much.
I had my hair cut by the Minister of Noise.
Live, every time!