One of England's most influential radio DJs speaks out.
He may be 68 years old but the DJ and broadcaster Steve Barker can talk authoritatively about the latest Blackest Ever Black or PAN releases. His mixture of boundless curiosity and self-effacing modesty has sustained On The Wire, the radio show which Barker has presented on BBC Radio Lancashire, in the north of England, every week for a remarkable 32 years.
In that time, On The Wire has pushed an uncompromising and at times influential mix of dub reggae, electronic and avant-garde music. In the '80s, when fans swapped cassettes of the show across the UK, it played a key role in popularising hip-hop. It was the first British radio show to play music from Detroit techno artists such as Derrick May and, in the acid house era, it offered crucial exposure to the homegrown stars of Manchester’s rave scene, most notably 808 State and A Guy Called Gerald.
The importance of On The Wire to generations of electronic music artists and fans was illustrated by its 30th anniversary broadcast, which saw Demdike Stare, The Orb and Shackleton provide specially commissioned pieces for the show. It is a unique cultural entity and one that, while Barker is often described as a legendary figure, retains its intimate cult-feel and a sense of contemporary energy. Will On The Wire make it to its 40th anniversary? Judging by Barker’s wide-ranging conversation with Tony Naylor, you would not bet against it.