Frank Stöver had the pleasure to interview the host of the BFBS HM Show - Tony Jasper. Read on the enjoy this interview while listening to the HM Show on this blog. Thank you Frank for this amazing interview and if you want to find out more about Frank and his website please follow the link to the Voices from the Darkside
DON'T FORGET TO CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES - THE HM SHOW ON BFBS RADIO
All those of you, who are in their early to mid fourties now, will probably remember the incredible HM SHOW on BFBS radio, which was aired every single week between 1981 and September of 1985. The presenter of that show was an English gentleman by the name of Tony Jasper. He introduced underground Hardrock and Heavy Metal music to the listener way before we had specialized magazines, the tapetrading network or the internet. Thanks to him a lot of classic Hardrock, obscure NWOBHM, US Metal and even early Speed Metal found its way onto the shopping lists of every young Metal addict at the time. And countless of old fashioned taperecorders got started every Tuesday night, in order not to miss one single second, as soon as the wellknown voice of Tommy Vance announced the show with the following words: "BFBS presents an hour of the very best in Heavy Metal... this is Tony Jasper's HM Show!". Unfortunately there's close to zero information about the HM SHOW on the internet these days, so we decided to get in touch with Tony directly in order to finally change that. If you check out his website (www.jasperian.org/tony-jasper) you'll most certainly be surprised what he's up to these days, and probably even more, when you find out how busy he's really been over the last 30 years. So, for obvious reasons we had to focus on the HM SHOW exclusively in the following interview. Tony's memory wasn't always the best, but considering how specialized some of our questions were, I think he did pretty well nevertheless. So, hopefully we finally can deliver the answers to some of the questions you'd never got the opportunity to ask yourself... Enjoy!
Tony, before we actually start, it would be nice if you could introduce yourself to our readers a little bit... Please let all those briefly know who you are, who haven't been sitting in front of their radios Tuesdays on 10pm every single week in the early 80s already...
"Tony Jasper is the name. What can I say from there! Born in Cornwall, GB. Various educational qualifications. More so, always been into music from an early age."
How old are you now?
"Ancient, in the 60s world."
What have you been up to prior to becoming the show's DJ? Have you already worked for BFBS or the music business in one way or another?
"I was broadcasting a broad perspective of music from ELTON JOHN to FOREIGNER to PAT BENATAR for a commercial station in the UK, and also having various spots on BBC Radio 1 and 2. I was also a prolific writer of music books and a contributor to many music magazines."
Who came up with the idea for a show on BFBS radio that was exclusively dedicated to Hard Rock and Heavy Metal and have you personally been involved in it from day one already?
"I heard BFBS were looking for a Hardrock presenter, so I thought ‘go for it’. Tommy Vance was already broadcasting in other areas for BFBS."
Considering the fact that Heavy Metal hasn't been taken too serious yet as a musical genre at the time, wasn't it difficult to convince the responsible people at BFBS to agree to such a program?
"BFBS had a Rock enthusiast in their producer Carole Straker, and the squaddies and others had been requesting such a show."
Unlike nowadays there still haven't been any specialized magazines or the internet yet, so how did you manage to promote the broadcast of the first edition of the HM Show back then?
"BFBS, as you may now, is for British Forces, but just like AFN, it can be picked up all over the place. I have no idea about any publicity other than program trailers of it coming on air."
Do you still recall when the first HM Show exactly went on air and what kind of stuff you played?
"No, I do have the demo tape somewhere. It was a mixture of hard, very hard..."
Who actually chose 'Rocket Ride' by KISS as the show's theme music?
"I played and played various albums looking for the right riff and the KISS track seemed great. Tommy V agreed to announce my name."
Why didn't you stick with it and replaced it with 'Anthem' by RUSH?
"Every now and then a producer feels a program has to have a new look and until you just mentioned, I had already forgotten about it."
How old have you been, when you started with the show and which bands / artists were your personal faves at the time?
"30 or so... LED ZEPPELIN."
Has LED ZEPPELIN been your only fave band when you started out or did you have any other favorites as well?
Did you compile the songs / bands completely on your own that you played on each show? You often played more than just one song off a new record, so how did you decide which particular songs you would include in a show? Was it always your personal album favorites?
”There are all kinds of aspects in putting together a radio show and the audience is so varied and wide. You strive for a particular mood and choose accordingly. That said, I basically chose what I liked, but I also was aware that there were other tastes that had to be catered for. For fans, and real die-hard fans of an artist or group there would be nothing better than a whole program of just their loved artists. It is always difficult. Success I guess comes from mixing and matching and so forth."
Has each show always been broadcasted completely live or have you also used programs that got recorded in their entirety at some other time before already?
"Each show was recorded ‘live’, but if going on holiday then we might record several."
Tell us a little bit more about that special show in which only live tracks got played and the confusion it caused among some of the listeners...
"I had this idea of assembling our own fantastic star ridden show by taking material from ‘live’ albums, the applause, group chatter and so forth. I stood at the back of the studio and gave the impression I was ‘live’ on stage... we did get a large mail, and mostly from people who were disgruntled at not being ‘there’ or knowing about it! It shows how well we did it! But we did think people might wonder how so many mega-outfits could have been got together!"
"Just one, I think."
Since the show was on air way before CDs and mp3 files became popular, I suppose you went for vinyl first and foremost... Did you ever have any problems with records that didn't work for one reason or another during a show (scratches or manufacturing errors)?
"We were lucky! In those days you spun the record back and went for it and mostly from experience managed to be ok."
Have you also played any tapes? I'm just asking because I remember very well that record labels used to send out a lot of "advance tapes" of new releases at the time as well and demos were also mostly recorded on tapes... Did you ever play any demos by the way?
"Occasionally. We got demos... and also some from Germany. I had to engage my German friend to hear the lyrics for there would be uproar and the show taken off if we would broadcast four letter words! And material from the border with Holland gave a variation that even my German friend did not always find easy. As the show’s popularity grew record companies rushed me material."
A German friend of yours was checking the lyrics of the German demos? Why that? Did they sing in German or was their English pronounciation that bad or something?
"Yes, they sang in German... and near the borders even my German friend sometimes had difficulties."
I remember a show in which you said you can't play any tapes at all on the radio because the quality of tapes just isn't good enough. So, did that change later on?
"Can’t recall, sorry."
"From Shades, a great London shop of the time and by taking out best selling material from the trade listings."
Were did you get all the information from that you mentioned in the news section of the shows? Did record labels and / or bands supply you directly or was it also through magazines like Kerrang, Metal Forces and the likes?
"To a degree, but also from ringing around."
You've had quite an impressive list of guests on the show over the years... Please name a couple of the most interesting ones for us.
"We had so many. COVERDALE, GILLAN, NUGENT, PLANT, JOAN JETT, SAXON, IRON MAIDEN, OZZY... so many... On another occasion I interviewed SABBATH at their hotel and the tape machine just jammed and would not budge, and this when we were just talking about the occult!"
Have you also done interviews on the phone or at other locations as well (maybe due to schedule problems), that got used in the program at some other time?
"A few. You have to have a few ready for use in case a guest doesn’t arrive or doesn’t arrive on time."
Do you have any good or bad memories on certain guests? Some funny stories you could share with our readers?
"Cannot recall any bad moments or funny moments."
I'm actually pretty surprised about that, because I remember that there was always quite a lot of laughing when bands were in the studio...
"Things come and things go. I guess we all got on together but that doesn’t create a particular moment, as when the tape ground to a halt with SABBATH. I had some very good studio times with groups and artists, but cannot recall other than playing through many tapes and I do not have the time for it at present."
The musical variety in the show was always pretty big and the charts sometimes even included stuff like MARILLION, PAT BENATAR and so on... So, did you get any negative response on that? I mean, the show was called the HEAVY METAL SHOW and from narrow minded people Metal was supposed to be just the heavy stuff, wasn't it?
"Some. I think we only ever played one track by MARILLION. I like gutsy leather clad Rock women! We did play some synth Rock e.g. BALANCE. Sometimes you find a Rock outfit with a really heavy take. And ZEPPELN and others also record tender cuts."
"Four letter words and so forth are rarely tolerated anywhere, as also similar words... occasionally they get through."
At which point of time in your life did you discover religion and when did you become a preacher? Has your general opinion on Rock and Metal (and its often Satanic imagery) changed ever since?
"From a young age... 13/14... part of a group initially. Satanic stuff is a very small part of Hardrock and Metal. I did not play it. I did play an occasional track from a Christian Metal outfit. Those bands often go that way in an effort to bring people into another perspective."
But you did play stuff like VENOM, SLAYER, MERCYFUL FATE etc. on your show. Did you ever regret that?
"I don’t recall, but if I played material then it’s also because as a DJ you sometimes do play a genre of music what you may not like but the listeners do."
Have you enjoyed any bands from the Speed and Thrash Metal scene yourself?
"Not as such, but I like the energy and like I said, you sometimes know you have to play some groups that the listeners like and may be charting and so forth."
Did you lose interest in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal when all those type of bands appeared on the scene?
”No, not really. There is so much out there."
Are you aware of the fact that the HM Show helped quite a lot of people of my age to discover all the great new bands and albums back then? In Germany, for example, we only got tiny little bits of information about Heavy Metal from teeny magazines at the time, because there simply was no other source of information around (fanzines and tapetrading started a little later)...
”Sounds great. I wish I could still compile and broadcast. I listened to so many albums and tapes."
The HM Show certainly has stood the test of time and you can still listen to it with the same amount of joy as in the early 80s. People still seem to appreciate it after all those years as there's even mp3 files of some of the shows available on the internet today (you can check out a couple of shows here). Are you aware of that? Have you kept recordings of all the shows yourself?
"I wasn't aware of it, but that's great! I have many program tapes, then recorded on cassette and do sometimes play them."
Do you still listen to any heavier music these days?
"Occasionally and I did sell a lot of Rock the other day but still have lots of Hardrock vinyl of my favourite stuff."
"Just a studio as any other, with decks, etc. Can be miced for guests etc."
How many people were working with you on the show? Are you still in contact with them or do you know what they're up to these days?
"The producer and sound engineer, but I have no idea."
How many shows were broadcasted in total and what was the reason that the show wasn't continued? When was the last show broadcasted exactly and what did BFBS replace it with?
"I have no idea, but at guess a few hundred. I don’t think BFBS replaced it. Unfortunately there were financial cutbacks and BFBS was moving into television. Also some saw it as a minority. Now... you have to remember BFBS, such as my show, had thousands of listeners across much of the world but BFBS, as AFN, is really for service people and Britain has been running down its bases, especially in Germany."
Do you know if there's any statistics available from the HM Show, like when each show was broadcasted, which songs / artists got played, how many shows went on air in total over the years, which guests were on the show and so on?
"No. I probably have some running orders somewhere but I never filed anything and it's doubtful after so many years if BFBS kept them when they moved away from where I recorded."
Have you ever met any of your die hard listeners in person? I, for example, got to meet "Freaky" from Hamburg quite a few times back in the 80s, because you once mentioned our Fan Club (the official Roadrunner Records Fan Club "Metal Warriors") and we wrote to each other because of that...
"Lots of letters, but only a few in person other than Freaky, whom I well remember."
Where did your closing slogan "And don't forget to change your clothes..." come from? Any funny story connected to that maybe?
"It just came into my head... usually I ended with some Thrash and I thought I bet there’s some sweat ‘out there!’, so I said what I said and it stuck and to many I became ‘change your clothes Jasper!’"
Do people still contact you about the HM Show these days?
Being a preacher, did you have any kind of mixed feelings when you noticed that this interview was supposed to be for a website entitled VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE?
Ok Tony, that's all for now. Thanks for taking the time and all the best for you and all your activities. The closing words are yours!
"Flattered to be remembered! Thanks. Sorry not to be more precise occasionally - it is some time ago, and without some research or playing through tapes it is not always easy to remember. You can have a good time with groups or artists without anything taking place that is memorable in some ways. If I were to sit around with say my old producer and sound guy I am sure we would suddenly be full of stories. Honestly when weekly you are hearing many many records, spending hours balancing the output... getting variety... and then again and again, it is rather different from saying I love this and that band and know everything about that band. I doubt to if there are many consistent people in the world! A lot has happened in (believe it or not) around 20 years since the last HM SHOW... I have no idea what I chose then... I have cupboards full of mags, program outlines, several thousand records and so on... no secretary!"
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