On this cold November morning of Saturday the 24th, I proceed to meet Stephen Grainger at his office at the Pavilion. He is a well-known Hip-hop and Soul Music D J on the national circuit; better known as Stevie G, we greet in warm surroundings at the downstairs bar and he swiftly welcomes me to join him upstairs in their office.
Stevie G began his career as a Disc-Jockey in the early 90’s in legendary Cork Nightclubs such as the Back- Bar at Sir Henrys; where he began programming sets for club nights such as ‘Sweat’, ‘More-Disco, ‘Free-La-Funk’, ‘Yo-Latino’ and up until recently Jam at the Savoy. During this time he also spent four years as a Pirate DJ with Radio Friendly up until 2000. In 2002 he joined Red fm producing and presenting ‘Black on Red’ a hip hop style music show, that won a PPI the same year for best weekly music radio show at the national radio awards. Since 2007 he has also been working as Events Manager at the Pavilion nightclub; negotiating bookings and organizing live music and club nights.
As well as being recognized as a vibrant radio personality, Stevie G also volunteers to provide assistance in helping underprivileged adolescence develop their self esteem. His activities involve training youngsters in how to D J, while giving them work experience and the opportunity to develop their confidence in a safe positive environment.
When asked about how he feels about volunteering he says: ‘we only do a casual thing, if these guys approach me on Face-Book or Twitter, I like to facilitate them.
I continue to host rap battles here from time to time as part of this youth-work; The project really started when I was in Sir Henrys doing Teenage discos, it was around early 2000 when I sparked the idea of hosting Jam Junior at the Savoy and occasionally at the Pavilion Nightclubs, it’s great to see those aspiring DJ’s have a passion for music promotion.
He says that he got a ‘sniff of radio’ around 1994 when he was only just started doing the clubs; ‘I started out doing pirate radio in cork’s Thomson street briefly on Dross fm on , that didn’t last long, ‘I remember doing a mothers day special with Andrew a friend of mine also known as DJ Fork, we adopted persona’s, Andrew being ‘ Jiles-Sunny-day’ and me as ‘G-dawg’ and ‘kept in character’ throughout the whole show as two funky soulful dudes! Playing all underground Soul and early Hip hop. We were just having a laugh, it was great fun. It was an ill fated pirate station for obvious reasons, a different time with a different vibe.’
I really enjoyed doing Radio friendly in the Blarney street studio; I remember doing one of my first shows there around 1996 and did a tribute special the same week about the death of Tupac Shakur, showcasing his respective music, he was an icon of our generation. we didn’t really get much hassle there from the authorities. There was loads of talk with licenses, I helped put together a few proposals for them, but as we quickly discovered, it’s big business financing and such a huge responsibility man, every penny counts, like any business! Just like the running of Red FM.’we had a great few years, I was there for four of them I felt a bit disillusioned, people weren’t expressing themselves enough. I wanted to bring it to a bigger platform, which is why I joined Red Fm. It wasn’t shut down and I feel it served it’s purpose.
The reason he became a Hip hop and Soul DJ was not only due to the fact that he says: ‘it defines who I am.’ He is passionate about this music saying; ‘when hip-hop came out in the 80’s it was regarded as a novelty, to me it has a serious culture to it, I’m lucky to be able to do my specialist music show: ‘Black on Red’, which I feel I treat like an indulgence it gives me free reign; I just turn up with my tunes for the day, or whatever I’ve time to plan such as an interview with musicians, vocal artists or producers or wherever the mood takes me to prepare to do a documentary.’ Sometimes it’s when I’m in the mood for Jazz, Soul or Reggae, I also throw that in. The loose vibe works for me for Black on Red. I appreciate the strategic structure of commercial radio. I don’t really have any major ambitions with it. It’s really up to me to make the decisions. I have done plenty documentaries live. I can come with my angle to it.’
His ability to improvise comes from his love of cultural music and has allowed him to hold down long-term residencies at clubs around Ireland such as Brown Sugar at the Kitchen in Dublin and U-Turn at Ri Ra also in Dublin. He has had regular sets at Jazz Juice at the GPO in Galway.
He spent time D J-ing at Thomson’s Garage in Belfast and The soul clinic also in Belfast and regularly performed in Limerick at club nights such as Dee Bop, Meltdown and Mo Bounce. He also played abroad in the UK, and US. He has a love of writing features and also writes a regular music column, ‘usually in the style of a review’ for the Cork evening echo.
He is currently involved in producing a radio documentary about one of his favorite and most legendary Hip- hop groups called ‘A Tribe called Quest’ who are best known for the tune; ‘Can I kick it’. Stephen says: ‘I have had the idea in my head awhile now; I have made the playlist and could broadcast today if I put my mind to it.’ I don’t want to make a Wikipedia entry; I want the angle I have in mind to appeal to fans and a wider audience, so that I can stand over it in future years. He said that after watching a TV documentary about them, he ‘was annoyed that the love of their music didn’t come through strong enough;
the angle of the TV documentary was focused mainly on the dynamics of front men within the group; Q-Tip , Phife Dawg , and Ali Shaheed Muhammad .’ He wants to do something just about their music.’
He also plans to do a short film which he ‘wants to be proud of and be able to stand over it in years to come’ the theme is strictly about the love of Vinyl and would aim to interweave segments on the history of labels, its production showing the importance of analogue sound recording, pre the digital era. He said that he ‘had a meeting of minds with a friend who’s an aspiring film maker and hopes that with time permitting for them both, they can see it come to fruition.’ I’m coming at it from a visual rather than a technical angle; I don’t know much about that, I’ve been collecting Vinyl since I was a Kid! I can pick it up and just see the history and its association. He makes a joke and says: I would love someone like Quentin Tarantino to recognise this film and ring me up.
Stephen said that he got into Roy Ayers and Miles Davis through researching and listening to Hip- hop, with a smirk he says: ‘the structure of doing my Red fm shows are usually unscripted, and as you probably notice it’s all over the place. On Red it’s generally wherever the mood takes me.’
He said that he was encouraged to do more commercial radio shows for Red Fm such as Red-Drive and Hit-list as the producers felt; ‘I had a profile for radio, I only treat this as a day job, like stacking shelves and kind of regrets taking on the extra work. During the week I kind of bang out the commercial tunes on Red-drive and Hitlist to a general audience, I prefer doing my Black on red show, which I’ve been doing for nearly 11 years! Although the figures are good for the listenership, the music is more important to me.’ I try to go with whatever the flow is with the club and tie that into my Black on Red radio show.
Before finishing up the interview to start his days work; he says that he noticed that when he was growing up all Irish radio personalities sounded the same to him, with a particular Americanized persona and weren’t really expressing themselves. I got the impression he felt it to be fake; there was too much emphasis on the voice rather than the content. Theres a spoken word tradition in music in Ireland, he says I hope to get Markus Connington a well known media figure into the Red Fm studio to record an interview shortly, he wrote a book on Rory Gallagher. My intention is to try to bridge the gap by talking about the influence to young cork bands by showcasing Rory Gallehers music while reviewing Markus book.