Kyle : the Raw Interview pt 1

In full, over 5 days - every day this week.

Kyle Sandilands is Australia's most controversial media star. He is also one of the most successful.

Now, for the first time, Kyle tells all about his radio career - and doesn't hold back. All this week on Radio Today he goes into depth with Scott Muller, about:

  • his rise from regional stations to Sydney breakfast and stardom

  • the fictional character his show is based on

  • the controversies, and his thoughts on the press

  • the on-air segment he thinks is a total train-wreck, but is too good to drop
  • how to plan the show a week in advance, yet deliberately not know what's going on in the morning (and why that's a good thing for the listener)

  • the circumstance of his last ever air-check with a Program Director

  • the advice he'd give himself (and anyone else in radio still in their 20s) if he could go back in time

  • and the industry legend he mistook for the paparazzi!


Background: In 1997, long before Kyle’s rise to stardom, Kyle and Scott Muller worked at the hot pop-dance station, 6MMM Perth (now 96fm). Scott was PD, Kyle was in promotions, and here they catch up and talk frankly and openly … and Kyle doesn’t hold back in revealing more about Kyle’s radio career and 2Day’s “Kyle & Jackie O Show” than you’ve ever read before.....

Scott:It’s been 15 years since we worked together at “The All New 96.1 Triple M”, in Perth …

Kyle: Oh my god! That makes me instantly feel a hundred years old! A lot of my best memories of radio have been the stupid stuff, or the fun that you have, not necessarily all on the air, from all these different places that I’ve worked.

Triple M in Perth is one of my favourite radio memories ever* - just because there were great people there, we were young, we were the underdogs, we were the gay Triple M cousin in Perth that played the Today format. We had it good and we could do all that experimental, crazy, guerilla stuff that you don’t do when you hold the number 1 position. I had the best time and learnt so much great stuff there. I still tell everyone that was the best station I ever worked at.

(*Historical note: when Nova 969 changed its strategy in late 2002, 6MMM Perth was the station it was modeled on, leading to Nova's success from 2003-2005. The 6MMM creative approach was also used at Capital Radio London in 2006-2007 to turn it around and boost cume and breakfast).

I really thought when I walked into 2Day the first time in 1999, I thought here it is again, it’s gonna be “that Triple M Perth feeling” again - because I thought everyone would be the best of the best.

And then I was so disappointed. These people were stuck in a rut, half the people didn’t want to be there – total “nine to fivers”, admin sort of people that don’t know radio.

But Jeff Allis (former Austereo Group Program Director - pictured) was the one that sent me there, and he secretly told me “Do whatever you want, just win”. He was the one that said to me that some of the people here are amazing and some people shouldn’t be here. You can figure out who they are for yourself. Your job is to win, and you may have to knock down a lot of walls to do it.

Scott:That must have been pretty liberating to get that direction from him?

Kyle: I certainly took the bull by the horns and used that to my full advantage. Some would probably say way overboard, because I did use that ‘get out of jail free card’ from him all the time. But it was fun - I loved it.

Scott:After Triple M Perth and before landing at 2Day you were up in Darwin…

Kyle: After 6PR took control (of Triple M Perth) it went from the best to the worst. So I went up to Darwin. In my mind it was a capital city and I was doing breakfast. But all of us know, at the end of the day, it’s Darwin. And the heat up there just killed me. That was a fun bunch of people there, too. But it was sort of … the best of the regionals were sitting in Darwin. Some guys had been the best in Townsville and moved to Darwin, and after being there 8 years they get a bit stale.

Then Greg Smith bounced into town one day and I was like “this is it, it’s the ticket out of here!” So I put together the best show – I planned this show for weeks knowing that the consultant was coming. (In the weeks leading up to Greg Smith’s visit) some great thing would happen and I’d be like “nup, that’s not going on today, I’m saving that for the consultant show”.

I had a great show that day, me and the PD were on-air and (Greg Smith) came in and said “this is capital city standard” and I went “YES!!!” I’d done it, I made (the show sounded) exactly how I wanted it.

He said “we’re going to move you over to Brisbane” and I thought “sweet!” - and me and the PD were high-fiving. And (Greg looked at the PD and said ) “not you - just Kyle”. I felt terrible and (the PD’s) little sad face was like a cat, and he said “but we’re a team!” and I said “yes, we’re a team - but I’m not going to not go to Brisbane – because if we can’t go together, then I’d go by myself”.

Some would think that’s not really helping your mate down the track, but you know what it’s like, you have to do that all the time. (note: that PD is now very successful in North America).

Scott:What score did Greg give you?

(Note: Greg Smith is notorious for his “scores out of ten” during air-checks)

Kyle: I think he gave me 8 out of 10. I never got another.

I stopped doing air-checks years ago. I had an argument with (an Austereo Programmer) once. He stopped the tape at the end of something and said “you really should have hooked first and then said the song” and I said “I decided to do it the other way just for a different way to do it. When was the last time you were on-air? He said “I did breakfast at (regional station)”. Exactly! He and I had a weird relationship. We’d either get on really well or want each other dead. So it eventually got to the stage where I said I think I know more than you and I don’t want you to tell me what you think because I don’t agree.

Scott:How did that go down?

Kyle: Not very well. It was rude to do it but it was one of those situations where he was just saying stuff for the sake of saying it. He was doing his job and it was terrible of me to do that but I felt it was true at the time.

Scott:Here’s my weird perception of your rise to fame. After I was PD at Triple M and 92.9 Perth, I moved to the UK for a few years. When I left Australia in 1998 you were the promotions guy. Then, when I came back in 2001, you’re on the Hot 30 Countdown! I thought “they’ve got the promotions guy on the Hot 30 Countdown?!? Dear God!” So I listened to the Hot 30 to figure out why - and for the whole show you’re doing that character ‘Gameshow Boy’, from the Triple M Perth night’s show – you did that character for the whole Hot 30 Countdown! Remember ‘Gameshow Boy’?

Kyle: (laughs) Yeah, I totally remember it. And the only reason ‘Gameshow Boy’ existed in the first place was because Ben (Wasley) and Claire (Marshall) could not do a credit to save their lives. They had a great show but would never do a credit ever so I’d never have anything for an air-check (to send to) a client. So we had to invent that character to get credits on-air so clients would give us stuff to give away!

Scott:It was essentially 2 minutes of you abusing the listener, then spinning a wheel, and saying ‘by the way you’ve won a prize – you should be grateful’

Kyle: I really did love that. I’ve even tried to do Gameshow Boy since then. And I thought “wow - I am actually Gameshow Boy!”. I can’t do this character – because this character is now real!

Coming up on “Kyle – the Raw Interview”, every day this week…

  • the controversies, and his thoughts on the press

  • the on-air segment he thinks is a total train-wreck but it just won't die

  • how to use your support team on-air – the right way
  • how to plan the show a week in advance yet deliberately not know what's going on on the morning (and why that's a good thing for the listener)

  • the advice he'd give himself (and anyone else in radio still in their 20s) if he could go back in time
and the industry legend he mistook for the paparazzi!

Read part 2 here


Scott Muller is Director of MBOS Consulting Group, a media management and consulting firm.

Click here to contact him.

mickeyfinn(1:25 20 Aug 2012)
You reckon Scott and Kyle could stop patting each other on the front? Not that interested in how good you are or were. Please give us something quotable, afterall you've been building this up. If that's day one I won't bother reading the rest.....yawn!
Campo(1:43 20 Aug 2012)
Scott for years it has been bugging me...GAMESHOW BOY lol...The new 96fm , for the privileged few that were part of it , what a station...Here's to Dan Bradley who got the ball rolling.
Anonymous(2:26 20 Aug 2012)
I'm enjoying this but would love to hear the actual interview. We do work in radio... after all! There's certain emphasis/sarcasm/hesitation etc that simply can't be conveyed in text.
Scott Muller(3:59 20 Aug 2012)
Thanks for the feedback. All fair comments.

Mickeyfinn: (funny line about patting on the front!). I probably should have made this more obvious - the reason for dedicating much of part 1 to Kyle's earlier career was as a reminder to people now working their way up that he, too, once slugged it out in smaller markets than Sydney - Darwin, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane. And his story about how he orchestrated his way out of Darwin is insightful for people trying to move to larger markets. Some of that needed context because the circumstances aren't well known. My mistake for not making that clear - otherwise, you're right, who cares who worked where in ancient times? Over the next few days Kyle goes into more detail about the show, how he approaches it, which radio rules he breaks, and why that works for their show, etc. Hope you find that more useful for your own role.

Anonymous: fair point about audio - we considered putting some of it up, though given how easy it is to edit out of context and remix into something for youtube, decided against it for this one.

Campo, yes, agree - don't know of anyone who worked there who doesn't rank it amongst their most influential or favourite radio stations. And I long suspected the thing about the Gameshow Boy character, and had always wanted to ask. Turns out, wasn't far off the mark. Congratulations, you've won a CD copy of Unique 2's "Break My Stride".
dan(4:43 20 Aug 2012)
Campo you give me more credit than is warranted for Triple M Perth. My involvement, compared to others, was very small and involved working on the clocks, universe and playlist for launch.

At the time I was Fox Music Director and my brief from Jeff Allis and Brad March was to ensure it was (musically) in the slot for 18-24 females. The station obviously evolved from that point under others.

Strangely for some unfathomable reason I do recall the first song ever played on the new format, Alex Party - Wrap me up. I reckon Alex Party were the new Beatles. And look at them now. Core artist across formats.
Simon(5:30 20 Aug 2012)
Just a small question - how come Triple M Perth was made to sound different from the M's of the east?

Would love to hear some audio of 'Gameshow Boy'....
Scott Muller(6:24 20 Aug 2012)
Hi Simon, Brad March may be able to answer that question best. In the meantime: a "rock' Triple M stood little chance of rising to double-digits in the ratings back then, the "Triple M" name didn't mean anything to the Perth audience so there were no restrictions on having to sound like an east coast Triple M, and there was a market gap for a CHR targeting young adult women.
And probably everyone just got over-excited at the thrill of launching a format with Alex Party.
Anonymous(6:29 20 Aug 2012)
funny, all this back slapping about 96fm perth. I seem to remember it was a dismal failure at the time, as Duncan Campbell was PD at it's competitor 92.9. Then when Austereo abandoned 96, and DC took over at 96 it went to number 1. Just sayin.......but keep up the group hugs. It's fun to watch.
Scott Muller(8:03 20 Aug 2012)
Haha, fair call! When Duncan took over at 92.9 he did an awesome job of stopping the Ms growth more or less in its tracks. Wouldn't say either were a dismal failure, though. But you're right: funny, nonetheless.
Jason McLean(3:19 21 Aug 2012)
Great interview Scott, however I don't agree nobody cares where people worked in ancient times. I do. I knew he worked at those markets mentioned but I'd like to know where it all started...did he work at any country stations, how did he 1st get in. I have worked with a number of well known radio people and I found their background fascinating.
Scott Muller(18:39 21 Aug 2012)
Hi Jason,
I agree and am fascinated by people's career history, particularly the earlier part. It's also interesting to discover the sliding doors, the moments that made the difference between someone ending up a star or an I-could've-been-a-contender. On Friday Kyle talks about that a lot more.
Though I understand the point-of-view of mickeyfinn, too - if you're not interested in the background you're just not interested in the background.
Nick(23:15 21 Aug 2012)
Great interview, love hearing about the old Triple M Perth. There was a fantastic vibe in the station at the time. Good people too.
Jason McLean(2:29 22 Aug 2012)
Yes Scott, I can relate to the sliding doors comment, star or could've been, nobodys fault but mine though. Actually about Kyle, I remember him saying on an interview a PD once told him he didn't have the voice for radio and that he'd only get as far as the Gold Coast...."if he was lucky". Wonder what that PD thinks today.
Scott Muller(8:40 22 Aug 2012)
Thanks, Nick. I think the 6MMM discussion may have got out of control (!), was just supposed to be a starting point and brief background to put it in context. But, yes, really great vibe there.

Jason, good point, and Kyle goes into that a bit more (the squeaky voice advice, Gold Coast etc) in the last parts of the interview, Thurs/Fri.
benrw13(0:53 24 Aug 2012)
OK I gotta step in here cos as Bad Boy Ben (Wasley) my memories of Game Show Boy are totally different from what Kyle says hehe. Claire and I called Kyle Game Show Boy around the office before he went on air cos at that stage Claire decided he had the sort of hair that most Game Show hosts was stiff and lame hehe. I had no idea we were bad at doing client credits....although we probably were, but I distincly remember wanting a way to take the piss out of all the little prize pigs that would constantly win stuff so we encouraged Kyle to pre-record our prize bits and call them little flogs and take the piss out of them so Claire and I could then throw to Game Show and react in 'mock' horror when he tore strips off was sooooo much fun and he was fabulous at it. As for the previous comments about the station not being a success, I don't remember our ratings exactly but I do remeber our night show being number one and in the 20%'s while every other shift on the station was rating 4's and 5' some of the format clearly worked, although I'll always claim it wss Claire, Kyle and myself that created that cos there was nothing like our show when we first started...they did a news report on our potty mouths and success once (full credit, it was always a slow news day in perth hehe) was a wild ride and I love that all of us are still working in radio and still going strong.
Scott Muller(4:02 24 Aug 2012)
Hi Ben! Think yours and Kyle's recollection of GS-boy, combined, might be correct. Yes, nights and drive were the fastest growing and highest rating shifts. Rest of station lagged behind though still did okay to grow from 4-shares to 14s in a short time - before Duncan at 92.9 put us back in our place in the 11s and 12s. More importantly: can't remember Kyle's hair but do recall the slow news days - wouldn't happen anywhere else!
Anonymous(7:30 24 Aug 2012)
Ben I was in the team that took Jason Walkerden and Mel Preston to number 1 at 92.9, defeating the MMM night show. It was a big day, and a big party. I think in the same book our drive guy beat Martin Molloy in a first for Australian radio.....but no one remembers that stuff.....anyway, let's play a song. Hanson, and Triple M Bop.
CAMPO(7:37 24 Aug 2012)
Yes the Station was a success, we started out on 3 percent and Within 6 months Drive was rating in the 15's, Nights like Ben Said went to Number . I left the station in the 18's, remember we were an Austereo Station up against PMfm that had the rights to all the Austereo Product like Martin Molloy, so we had a good shot.

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