Music stills gets the best of Steve

STEVE Lamacq has been at the cutting edge of British music for 15 years. He spoke to reporter JONATHAN BARNES about his new direction.HE introduced the likes of Oasis, Blur and Coldplay to millions of UK music fans, but Steve Lamacq admits it is time he "grew up and did some grown-up radio".

STEVE Lamacq has been at the cutting edge of British music for 15 years. He spoke to reporter JONATHAN BARNES about his new direction.

HE introduced the likes of Oasis, Blur and Coldplay to millions of UK music fans, but Steve Lamacq admits it is time he "grew up and did some grown-up radio".

The Essex DJ left his role as presenter of Radio One's Evening Session at the end of last year, ending a nine-year association with the top alternative music show.

But Lamacq, 38, said he was "busier than ever" with exciting new projects, including a digital BBC radio show and a "nerve-wracking" speech-radio debut on Radio Five Live.

"To be honest, I think I would have gone mad or made myself ill if I had done the Evening Session for much longer," he added.

"They wanted to move it on to a different sort of audience and it was getting to the point where I was getting very frustrated at not being able to get out and see bands."

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Lamacq, who grew up in Colne Engaine, near Colchester, is making up for lost time. He recently went to seven gigs in just five days – and believes British music is at its best for half a decade.

"We are at a point where the music is as exciting, if not more exciting, as it was five years ago. It is a good time to be out there and going to gigs," he said.

The DJ, who won an NME Brat Award for best radio show after he left the Evening Session, can still be heard on Radio One with his Monday night show Lamacq Live.

His new sidelines include a show on BBC digital station 6 Music and a slot presenting Rock N' Roll FA Cup on Radio Five Live.

Lamacq has also been nominated for a Sony Award for his documentary Bass Player Wanted and is working on a four-part series on Radiohead for the World Service.

The 6 Music show is not too much of a departure from Lamacq's previous work. "There's lots of new stuff and also the music that inspired it, so I get to play the Flaming Lips, the Ramones, The Cure and the Stone Roses as well as new bands like Hot Hot Heat. It's a nice mix," he said.

But it was his Radio Five debut that proved the biggest challenge. "It was the scariest thing I have ever done," admitted Lamacq.

"I'd never done live speech radio before and it was very nerve-wracking. There are no records to fall back on – on Radio One, if something goes wrong, you just press play and you've got three minutes to sort yourself out."

The show features musicians and DJs talking about football. His guests have included Led Zeppelin star Robert Plant, who told how he made a single to celebrate Wolves reaching the Sherpa Vans Trophy Final.

Football is Lamacq's other passion – he is a lifetime supporter of Colchester United and has a season ticket at Layer Road, but as his 6 Music show goes out on Saturday afternoons, he has missed much of his side's recent good form.

But the DJ is determined to be at the U's home game with Luton Town on April 21 – especially as he is sponsoring the match ball.

It will be a rare visit to his East Anglian homeland. Lamacq, whose parents still live in Colne Engaine, went to the Ramsey School in Halstead and studied journalism at Harlow College.

His first employment was on the Harlow Gazette, where he became sports editor, before he landed a job at the NME.

He worked there for five years before a year-long stint at Select magazine – during which time he ran a fledgling record label – and joined Radio One as Evening Session host in 1993.

His original co-host, Jo Whiley, left the show in 2000 for a mainstream daytime slot – a career move that does not appeal to Lamacq.

"I would be continually frustrated by the amount of great music out there, while having to play stuff off the playlist. It must be infuriating," he said.

"I've always felt much more like the guy who likes records and plays records for people who listen to records and buy records. I'm like a conduit."

The DJ said he was still "ludicrously excited" about music. "There's a couple of days a month when I almost overdose on it," he said.

"But the best thing to do is to get out your Sex Pistols and Johnny Cash records and you come back fighting fit."

He added: "I dread the day when I wake up and find I'm a weary old jazz fan or my favourite artist is David Gray – that will be the day when I admit defeat and pack up."

jonathan.barnes@eadt.co.uk

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