Tony Paul

 Interview by Roland Beaney June 2009

Where and when were you born? - I was born in London some time in the last century

Where do you live now?-  I now live in Southern California, to the west of Los Angeles and not far from Malibu.

Why did you move to Las Angeles?- People are always asking why I moved out here and that’s because they haven’t moved out here. If they had, they wouldn’t’t ask the question! This is the land of year-round summer – and not an English summer either. That said, the weather is what the local TV news lives for. If there are a few drops of rain in the forecast, the sort of shower that in Luton would go unnoticed on a daily basis, then here in LA, it’s enough to put us on “Storm Watch!” Then after the rain we’re on “Mud Slide Watch!” waiting to see if all the hillsides stripped bare by wildfires are going to slide now they’re a teensy bit soggy. And then the sun comes out, the sky goes blue and we’re on “Fire Watch!” because it’s hot, dry and there’s nothing else to talk about except Paris Hilton’s new pink Bentley or Mel Gibson’s pregnant Russian girlfriend.

Ok – so why did I really move out here? Well, it was actually to work. I spent a lot of time in the 1980’s going back and forth between U.K. radio and U.S. radio, with stints in New York, San Diego, and Hartford, Connecticut, while holding down my main presenting gig at Beacon Radio in the West Midlands and Shropshire. Then came stints at BRMB, Buzz FM in Birmingham, MFM and a bunch of others. After starting up Sunshine 855 in Shropshire as its first program director, I jumped at the chance to “Go West” and join the crew at KBBY, a radio station near Santa Barbara, California.

But inevitably, when you’re in this part of the world, all roads lead to Hollywood and by 1996, I was an intrepid showbiz reporter filing celebrity interviews and stories back to BBC Radio One and BBC Radio Five Live. It just grew form there and soon clients included Mentorn, IRN, Carlton, IPC Media, BBC Online and Yahoo! as well as other print, radio and TV outlets around the world including here in the U.S. who relied on my company Showbiz Networks for entertainment news, celebrity video footage and exclusive interviews with movie, TV and music stars.

How did you get into Radio?- It’s all a long way from London where I began my radio and broadcasting career. One of my earliest jobs was as the warm-up jock for Roger Scott at various London nightclubs. Now there’s a great broadcaster and one who, I have to say, is probably my biggest influence when it comes to radio. He was a nice guy, too, and it was Roger who suggested I should go to the States to learn about radio.

I eventually got into radio because a program director in Wolverhampton, in what was undoubtedly a rash moment on his part, actually offered me a job, and, in an equally rash moment never having been to the West Midlands or even north of Watford, I accepted.

Who influenced you the most?- As well as Roger Scott, American music radio was another gigantic influence on me. It didn’t’t always win me Brownie points over the years with my bosses but I worked hard to bring the kind of radio presentation style and overall sound that I heard in New York, Los Angeles and San Diego to my own career. One of my biggest thrills whilst at Beacon was going to Dallas to oversee the creation of new jingle packages and making sure that they really rocked!

What is the best and worst thing about radio today?-Thanks to the Internet, one of the best things about radio today is that you can listen to stations broadcasting from around the world which means you no longer have to put up with the crappy stuff emanating from your local ILR or BBC station. OK - yes, I will admit there’s crappy radio in the U.S.A. too but there are still great stations out there like KLOS in Los Angeles and in the 1980s, WHTZ in New York would blow you away. The U.K generally still has an awfully long way to go when it comes to truly wondrous music radio. That’s one of the reasons I joined Radio Caroline in 2007, because it still represents great rock and roll radio. (Actually I was first approached to join Caroline in the 1980’s when I was propositioned in a Wimpy Bar but that’s another story…..)

The worst things about radio today are the liner cards and voice tracking which completely destroy any sense of what radio is about and robs the medium of its immediacy and personal interaction. I am also frequently appalled at the complete lack of passion or even competence of many presenters.

Radio Caroline still represents a radio station that puts music and personality first. Like any kid growing up in the sixties, I listened to the music flooding in from the North Sea ships and was thrilled by the fun and free radio-style that we’d never previously heard in the U.K and I knew immediately what I was going to do with my life. It’s that spirit that it is so important to keep alive in today’s radio world and Radio Caroline allows me to embody what I believe about radio and still be a part of the essence of what it’s all about.

What do you dislike doing?- One of the things I dislike doing the most is playing music that has been chosen for me by a computer or being forced to plays song that I just loathe. There is a BBC station in the north of England that shall remain nameless which hired me and then forced me to play Al Bowley!  Fortunately, they soon fired me because I didn’t’t sound like everyone else at the station and I kept replacing Al Bowley with Bruce Springsteen.

What are your 5 most Iconic Tunes?- Which brings me to another great love of mine – Bruce and The E Street Band, my rock and roll heroes. So you won’t be surprised to learn that Bruce’s Born to Run is one of my 5 most iconic tunes along with Don Henley’s The Boys of Summer, Heavy Load by Free, Be my Baby by the delectable Ronettes and Tom Petty’s Refugee. I could go on if you want….

What was the first record you bought?- The first single I ever bought was, I think, My Minds Eye by the Small Faces and the first album I ever bought was Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Who is the most famous person that you have met/Interviewed?- One of the perks of living and working in L.A. is getting to meet some of the people behind the songs who didn’t pass through my studios when I was in the UK. I had a great chat with Paul Rodgers backstage at a nightclub on the Sunset Strip after he did a gig showcasing his Muddy Waters tribute album, lounged by the pool at the Sunset Marquis with Lou Gramm and Mick Jones of Foreigner, interviewed The Who’s John Entwistle at a showing of his art and have hung out with Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Sting, Ringo Starr, Mick Fleetwood, Aerosmith, and Britney Spears…. Oops! Yes, I have met Britney and yes, I have met Paris Hilton on several occasions and she really does say “it’s hot” a lot but she is cute!

You should never ask me who the most famous person is I’ve ever met because it’s just a free pass for me to name drop. It’s actually easier to ask me who I haven’t met. From Gregory Peck, Liza Minnelli, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Bob Hope, Walter Matthau, and Jack Lemmon, I’ve met nearly everyone who’s been anyone in the past 30 years of Tinseltown magic. I knew Will Smith before he was a worldwide star and alien killer, Arnold Schwarzenegger before he was a Governor, and Brad Pitt when he was with Gwyneth, and then with Jen, and then with Angelina, as well as JLo and all three husbands!

I can honestly say that I am definitely taller than Tom Cruise who, yes, once discussed orthodontics with my wife and whether or not invisible braces were a good thing when it came to curing an overbite (his, not my wife’s). And yes, George Clooney is horribly good-looking and debonair and has a nasty habit of kissing my wife every time he sees her, like I can compete with that! In fact, George once invited her to his mansion in Lake Como if she was passing through there so I have hidden her passport.

I can still recall the evening I chased Tom Petty across a parking lot with a TV cameraman in tow because his publicist had promised me an interview with him but forgot to tell him! So when he saw me he took off like a bat out of hell and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. And I can still recall the time when the always amusing Sharon Stone captivated me with a tale of being trapped in her car in an alley behind her house by the local bin men as she tried to take her child to school.

There was also the occasion when a publicist for John Travolta uttered the immortal words “You’ll never work in this town again!” Apparently I had broken all the rules by actually asking Mr. Travolta a question as he stood directly in front of me with his wife Kelly Preston because it was her movie and it was supposed to be all about her…. Suffice to say, John Travolta and I and the god Xenu are still speaking and I am still working in this town.

One word of warning though. If anyone ever asks you who you’d like to be stuck on a desert island with, do not under any circumstances be tempted to say Sean Connery. He’s the most miserable man I have every met in Hollywood and deserves to be on a desert island by himself (oh he is – he owns a chunk of The Bahamas!).

Right, it’s time I put together another Breakfast Show for Radio Caroline. To those who asked, yes I have a free hand to choose the music I play but that’s because I am 7,000 miles away from the boss. And that’s one of the most important things I have learned about radio – stay as far away from the boss as possible and always open the microphone fader before you open your mouth!

Presenters Menu