Rob Ashard

 Interview by Roland Beaney in March 2011

Where and when were you born? - . Like Johnny Lewis, I'm a Suffolk boy, living in Hadleigh and going to school and college in Ipswich, leaving school in 76. Ipswich was of course full of Caroline listeners, and they had the Caroline Roadshows in the Corn Exchange.

Where do you live now? - Dartford, Kent.

What is your favourite part of the World? - . I love the USA. Las Vegas is the ultimate in tackiess, but in the most fabulous way. Everything is there, but nothing real! My wife Sue and I have had great driving holidays in the USA on the West Coast, New England in Autumn, and North Carolina, again in the Autumn. Whilst there, I often ring up local radio stations and go and have alook around. USA radio isn't what it was though. In the mid 80's I heard some of the free-form rock stations that pretty much don't exist anymore. One brilliant example of this was KMET Los Angeles. I actually visited that one too.

How did you get into radio? - I started at Hospital Radio Ipswich, probably around 75. Then ran an occasional (when ever my parents were away!) FM pirate in Hadleigh called Brett Valley Radio. I had been an RNI listener on a lovely big old valve radio that I had in my bedroom in the early 70's and actually heard the mayday fire broadcast as it happened. Even though I shouldn't have been listening and been asleep, I went downstairs and told my parents. I think I remember the next night, they called me down to watch the tv news report on it. In the mid 70's Caroline advertised the Jumbo Records' 10 Years Of Offshore Radio record, and it included that RNI broadcast and I really wanted to hear it again, so I got it for my birthday. The record made me realise how many pirates there had been and I think around that time assumed full Anorak status!

How and when did you get involved with Caroline? - I knew people connected with Caroline in 83 and had hoped to go out to the Ross in September. I had been trained at the GPO Martlesham Research centre, and whilst I'm not an electronics expert, I could wire jackfields and had reasonable audio knowledge, and am also not too bad at woodwork, and I think the second studio was being built and I'd hoped to help with that. My master plan was to weedle my way on-air, but weather was bad during my two weeks' leave, and by the time I could go out, I was worried that I'd get stranded. By then I'd been working at LWT for over three years and loved my job, which was still in its good old days when the pay and expenses was extremely good. Anyway, I went out on the tender for the day basically. We had dinner aboard the ship, -curry served by Andy Archer. I remember him saying, "I feel like a waiter, -but where would I find one!". The weather turned very nasty on the way home. Wind against the tide. Saw the curry again. Probably never felt more ill, ever. The engine nearly died on the way back to Queenborough and as we throttled down to tie up, it died, never to start again. Could have been horrendous. Whizz forward to around the Southend RSL and I'd got in touch with Peter Moore earlier in the year as I'd got a load of cart machines from LWT and put them in both studios on the Ross. I'd also got know Dave Foster from DART Radio (hospital radio in Dartford) and with the Maidstone Studio and the ship to run, they were running out of people. I mentioned that I'd done some radio to Peter and was on the air that Saturday, and going out on AM from the Ross in Southend! Done bits and bobs ever since as my schedule allows, along with some techy stuff.

What other Radio stations have you been involved with? - In order, Euronet with the Laserock programme, which was all pre-recorded on VHS. In around 97 I got involved with the last Kingston FM RSL when a TV director collegue turned out to be an anorak. He had been school friends with Phillip Birch's son and actually visited Radio London on the Galaxy, but sadly can't remember as much as he'd like s he was very young at the time. Kingston FM won it's licence and became Thames FM, and I did the Thames FM Rocks programme on Saturday nights. I got a nice call of encouragement from Richard Skinner on the first night. Prince Edward opened the station so I met him too, along with David Jacobs who was a director. Another fascinating thing to be involved with was Bob Leroi's Radio 390 project. One year, Dave Foster and I supplied most of the studio gear. I'd seen those eerrie towers on that 10 Years Of Offshore Radio record and never dreamed that I'd stay a few nights out there. I also got to meet Peter Chicago and Robin Adcroft and had a lengthy and rather anoraky conversation with them over technical stuff. They're both engineering legends but both have been very good presenters in the past, albeit fairly rarely for Peter, but Robin's shows on RNI (I've heard bits on the web) were excellent. As some of you may know, my other passion is my 75 Chevrolet Corvette, along with the motor sport, drag racing, so more recently I've zipped up my anoraks and do a bit on Santa Pod Raceway's own radio station, Nitro FM. This carries the race commentary, but we chip in when they have to clean up oil from the track, or if it rains (these cars develep 8000 horsepower. Yes, that's three noughts! Eight thousand. 0-100mph in less than a second, so no oil or water on the track), so the radio station takes over at that point. We're on the PA system to the 10,000 or so crowd, and the internet too. The station is also on before the racing and after, so you can listen on your way in and out, and of course in your tent if you're camping. I always try to give Caroline a plug, particularly on the Easter event. Lastly, and an extension of that really, has been to do one to three day RSL's for custom car shows. This biggest is in Ipswich over the Bank holiday weekend. The great thing is that we used Caroline as a sustaining service overnight, and with a 15 Watt FM licence it covered most of Ipswich. It was great to drive along the A14 on the Sunday morning listening to Johnny Lewis on the Ross. Sounded great.   What are your earliest memories of Caroline? - Early to mid 70's. Not quite sure when to be honest. I always remember a guy called Michael Benjamin who sounded a little spaced out, but he fell into that so-bad-he-was-good category. I also remember Nigel in his Stuart Russell days, Buzby, Tom Hardy, Mark Lawrence, Brian Martin, Roger Mathews, and Mike Stevens. Great times and great radio. Good to hear many of those voices again. And of course, there was Tony Allen. A brilliant broadcaster, complex character but utterly fascinating. Foster and I happened to visit him the day before he died.

What's your favourite station other than Caroline? - Do you know, I pretty much only tolerate other radio stations. I increasingly listen to Radio 4. I had listened on-line to KLOS, a great rock station in Los Angeles, but the CBS owned station now limits the listeners to the states due to copyright reasons. Someone always spoils the party don't they! Now listen to Caroline in the car via the iPhone app.

Who is the most famous person that you have met? - Due to my job in TV sound, I've met a few, but having said that, not as many as most would think. I'm tucked away in a control room while the stars are in the studio. More recently, Phillip Schofield, and when I'm in the jungle in Oz, Ant and Dec. All lovely people, by the way.

Who influenced you the most? - Radio-wise, Tony Allen and Johnny Walker, who I also think is superb. Such a shame he doesn't have that afternoon Radio 2 slot any more. I like a laid back presentation style. I hate the over-happy idiots that can be heard on some stations. 

What is the best and worst thing about radio today? - Caroline's the best obviously. The worst is the networking resulting in the loss of local radio stations and the blandness that permeates them.

How much music freedom do you have on Caroline? - Loads!   What's the most embarrassing or funny thing that's happened to you? - A funny thing relevant to this is that whilst working in on I'm A Celebrity in Australia, I e-mailed the presenter on the Ross whilst listening at 2am just before we started work. He said something about me sipping cocktails on the my balcony, and Alan Beech, also in the studio said, "Oh no, he'll be in a portacabin with a big mixer in the jungle now". Alan was right.   What do you do for your day job? - I'm a TV Sound Supervisor, so I'm responsible for mixing the sound as it's transmitted live or recorded. I organise the crew and the equipment we need. I've been a supervisor since about 1997, but started in TV sound in 1980. We're now just nearing the end of Dancing On Ice. I also do the Graham Norton show, and as I just mentioned, I'm a Celeb in Australia. I've done a lot of stand up comdy dvd's too.

What's your favourite food? - Thai.

What do you dislike doing the most? - Housework and DIY

What's the most important thing that you learnt about radio?- Talk to the audience, not at them.   What was the first record you bought?- This is embarrassing. Never Ending Song Of Love by the New Seekers. I liked the harmonies! The second, which must have been a couple of years later, was God Gave Rock And Roll To You by Argent. Have I got my credibilty back?

What are your favourite bands and who is your hero? - Pink Floyd Supertramp Don't really have a hero.

What are your 5 most iconic tunes? - Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here Supertramp - The Meaning Marianne Faithful - Blue Millionaire Alan Parsons - Eye In The Sky Gino Vanelli - Santa Rosa. Honary mentions to:- The Carpenters - Goodbye to Love Men At Work - Down By The Sea Peter Frampton - Do You Feel Like we Do Ian Dury - Clever Trevor Suzanne Vega - Marlene On The Wall

What are your plans for the future? - Work enough to allow me to do the things I want to do, with my wife, step daughters and grandchildren, -along with Caroline and the Corvette!