Chris Ash: Now Heard Around The World
Updated: May 31
It's not often that we hear a British accent on the radio in Canada. Especially outside of Toronto, or maybe Vancouver, most of our talent is home-grown. Chris Ash is a notable exception to that rule. Chris was born and raised in the UK, attending Staffordshire University and beginning his broadcasting career in Kettering, close to London. After only a few years, he made the journey to Canada, landing in Yorkton, Saskatchewan in 2016 and crushing it in Canadian broadcast ever since.
But if you think Chris is just another disk jockey, you'd be wrong. We've talked a lot on this show about the evolving nature of the Broadcast industry, and how it needs to move forward with the times. Chris has been at the forefront of such evolution for his entire career. One of his main roles at Connect FM in Kettering was to manage their social media, and he did a bang-up job; their largest Facebook posts during his time at the station were reaching over 130,000 shares. Not bad for a city of only 63,000 people.
While his career as a radio personality is about as successful as anyone could ask for, he hasn't been resting on his laurels. In more recent years, Chris has leveraged his penchant for internet notoriety to expand his portfolio. He now offers commissions for professional voiceover work on Fiverr, as well as continuing to advertise his background in social media and video production.
In this episode, I speak to Chris about his journey from the UK to Saskatchewan, and eventually to Winnipeg, where he is now. You'll hear about his humble beginnings in Kettering, how he fell in love with broadcasting, and the way he honed his skills through years of hard work- along with a dash of pure charisma.
If you want to learn more about Chris, you can check out his LinkedIn or visit his Personal Website. You can also contact him there if you're looking to hire a warm, professional English voice for an upcoming project.
If you want to hear Chris Ash live, tune in to 94.3 NOW! Radio in Winnipeg, weekdays from 9am to 2pm.
Check out some of Chris' previous Facebook videos below:
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:00:01
The Sound Off Podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill... starts now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:11
Chris Ash is someone I met back in 2016. We've never actually met. It's been a lot of Skype and Zoom and Google Meet, but I feel like we're friends and that kind of sums up a lot of relationships these days. Chris's journey to Canada actually started with this podcast.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:00:28
It's crazy because when I first came to Canada, this is the podcast I listened to so I could figure out who I needed to bother for a job. So I'd be like, emailing Paul Kay and Christian Hall all the time after hearing them talking on here, and now here I am.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:41
These days in radio, you need to look your best. And I appear to have caught Chris on photo day.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:00:47
No, it's photo day as well, so we would just have a new photo, just how I look now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:53
What's photo day like at the radio station?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:00:56
It's always awkward. I think photo days, it just reminds me of school. I'm never sure where to look. There's too many flashes going on and now we're in a post pandemic world, so we were like masks off, close to each other. It's bizarre.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:11
And being in Winnipeg, we're in the month of April and so everybody is Lily white. This is a terrible month to be taking your picture in Winnipeg.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:01:19
I mean, Photoshop will help, hopefully.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:21
Chris is now doing middays at Pattison-owned 94.3 NOW! Radio in Winnipeg. The station launched last spring and is modelled after the NOW! Radio versions in Edmonton and Calgary. It flies in the face of stations that play ten in a row. It features personalities connecting with those who post, text or call. Let's call it social radio. And it's not new. Canadian radio has been largely reluctant to put it on the air because it requires two things that Canadian radio is allergic to. Personalities and marketing. Both cost money, and inside the boardroom at budgeting time, the struggle is real. How do I really feel? Well, if more of these stations had sprung up twelve years ago and grown alongside listeners media habits, the business of radio would be much healthier today. I know you didn't come here for my hot takes, but deep down, you know I'm right. Chris Ash joins me from his relatively new home in Winnipeg. I want to talk to you about Winnipeg, first of all, arriving here and what your thoughts are and all that. But we'll get to that after we cover the beginning and we wind it all the way back. And the nice thing is we get to wind it all the way back to about 2013. And it was the first time that you'd interned at a radio station. What was that station and what was that experience like 2013?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:02:41
Oh, that would have been probably Amazing Radio up in Newcastle in the UK. And at the time they were a super futuristic kind of station. They were telling people to submit their music and they just played pretty much unsigned music all the time. And it was such a small crew and it was like one of my first times that I realised, oh, in modern radio, you do it all. You don't just do that one little thing where you turn the mic on and go, Blah, blah, blah. No, I was editing swears out of awful songs and all that kind of stuff.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:11
It was a terrestrial radio station, or was it something different?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:03:14
It was something different. They were digital radio for a little bit, online only, and then they had these weird boxes that they sold to some stores. So basically these stores wouldn't have to pay licencing because the music was unsigned. It was a really interesting kind of thing they were doing. I don't know if it ever really took off. I think they're still going.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:36
What part of England are you from?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:03:38
It's a place called Kettering. It's kind of in the middle of nowhere, close to London. My dad has always worked in London, so that's just where we ended up. My dad's originally Canadian, so he just kind of landed there and then met my mum. It's a pretty fun area. You're close enough to London and far enough away.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:56
What did he do for a living?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:03:58
He's worked in sales. He sells software. It's something that I've never really understood, but it's something he's great at. He's now probably in his final kind of promotion that he's got now, and he's doing pretty well. He's done HR software, website software, now payroll, I think. I don't know, it's complicated stuff.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:04:19
And do you know what your SAT score needed to be to get into Staffordshire University?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:04:24
Really low. It didn't take much. I think there's like 150 Uni's in the UK. It was pretty close to the bottom. It's a lot better now. They've done investment and whatever, but I loved it there. I had a great teacher there, David Corsa. He sadly died a year after we graduated, but he is one of the biggest inspirations in my life. I can always hear him in my head, just like, shouting at me abuse, but, like, in a caring way.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:04:48
What are the encouraging words and what is the self talk you're presenting to yourself?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:04:52
I can always hear David saying, "Don't wank the fader." Playing with a bed, you know, going too hot with a bed. He was that kind of guy.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:04
That is awesome. "Don't wank the fader," yeah. We need a T shirt.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:05:11
It was very nononsense. It was very old school. He was an old BBC producer and he would always tell us his story about how he interviewed Nina Simone while she was laying in bed because she didn't want to move, so he had to get in bed with Nina Simone to interview her.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:24
And so what are you studying there at school? Because I know you did some campus radio.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:05:29
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:30
Well, what's your degree in, or what were you studying and what were you working towards?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:05:34
It's actually a full degree in radio production. So you cover it all and you do radio dramas, you learn the history of TV. We even did TV, which I'm thankful now, because in modern radio, there's cameras everywhere. And then in our final year, it was the big kind of module that we were doing was radio station management. So we got to look after the campus radio station, which was One Media Radio. It was incredible to do that because we were just on top of a bar, so we were a student. So every so often we'd be like, okay, well, this person is in the studio. We'll just go down and have a drink and come back, and hopefully nothing's on fire.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:11
If you're a student on campus, how do you get to listen to this radio station? Is it on an app or is it streamed?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:06:19
It was on an app and streamed. And then in maybe the final week that we were there, we managed to get it in all the Uni stores. It took us that long because they were like, we don't know. Because we didn't really follow a format until our year. And then we're like, no, we need to give it like a Radio One style format. So in the day you've got all your pop pits, and then at night, that's where all your specialist programming was. Which everyone loved to do.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:41
Tell me a little bit about the Glastonbury Festival, because I hear about it. I just don't know about it. And you were doing some work there that was pretty interesting, that involved a lot of new and up and coming artists. So tell me about 2014. Who was playing the festival, and what did you do there?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:06:58
2014. The headliners, Arcade Fire, Metallica who I skipped. Who else was headlining that year? I saw Dolly Parton and VIP passes got us further than I wanted. She asked me to hand her "a bottle of water, darlin'". While at Glastonbury, I was working with a community station, Worthy FM, and they're kind of a pop up station for the run of the festival. So you're doing traffic updates. You're going to all the smaller stages. And I was mainly focused on the smaller stages. So it's just little bands who really didn't do too much, but they were just friends who like to play together. And because of how many stages there are at Glastonbury, there's something for everyone there. But yeah, the Dolly Parton moment, that was crazy because we were just backstage, and we saw the photographers moving, and we're like, all right, let's go. Because we knew we had backstage passes, but we didn't know where they were going to get us. So we just jumped into the middle of the pack of the photographers, and we got right side of stage, and it was incredible.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:07:55
Dolly Parton is getting the Betty White status. Iconic and across the board. And it doesn't matter what format. And a lot of people are now beginning to ask their devices for a song like Jolene. And even though 20 years ago, a lot of people maybe didn't know it, and also a lot of people didn't know that I Will Always Love You was originally her song, yet they flamed out listening to Whitney Houston sing about it in the 90s.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:08:19
And she wrote those in a day or something.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:08:22
Yeah. And then she declined her nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:08:25
So Dolly, Dolly is an icon.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:08:28
And so what's your next event where you were? And I think it's 2015 around this time, when you find your way into a radio station doing terrestrial radio. I don't want to say that it's a little more for real, because that just does a disservice to all the great stuff you've done beforehand. But some big boy radio coming up here.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:08:46
Yeah, this was real kind of stuff. So I'd been on the street team of a radio station in Kettering. It was Connect FM no longer around because that's radio. And I was on the street team with them. And it was maybe a day before I graduated. I just said to them, I was like, hey, I got this degree now, if you need any help around the station, let me know. So they just started bringing me in and it was like full time radio. So it was- because I had a degree in radio production. They were like, well, we need some new imaging. Can you do that? Sure, I'll do that. I started doing that, and then we kind of did that for a couple of years. And I would go out to events. I would do cupcake drops, just take cakes out to people, do that. And then eventually they were like, okay, we need some help with the morning show. Could you help produce it? Just sit there, take calls and do all of that kind of stuff. And also it meant I got to do the early morning show, which was 4:00 till 6:00a.m. And I got to record that before I went home.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:42
Voice tracking the dead hours. I mean, who doesn't get to start there, right?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:09:46
I know, it was perfect. And there was actually one time I was at the pub with my sister, and this was maybe a month into doing the show. So I was big time. And this person comes up to me and they're like, you're from Connect FM. And so I'm there with my sister like, yeah, I am. And she goes, yeah, you dropped some cupcakes off at our workplace. So you don't know me from the radio. You know me from dropping cakes off.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:10
So why did you come to Canada?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:10:12
So towards the end of my time at Connect FM, I was trying to get on air more. And the person who was hosting maybe the midday show or the drive show. I can't remember which one. They were going on vacation. So I said, Look, I'll do it, I'm here, I'll do it free of charge. I come in on Monday and they've got someone out of market voice tracking it. And I was like, ugh, that's not working. So I went home, had a couple of drinks and saw that there was a job in Yorkton, Saskatchewan at Fox FM, and applied. The next day, I had a reply from the programme director, Brad Baison, and he was like, Are you a citizen? And I said, yes. He goes, okay, we can talk. So it was nice and easy. I had been applying for other jobs in Canada, but mainly in Toronto and big cities.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:57
Okay. So I didn't know that part about you being a citizen because your dad is Canadian. But when was the first time you came to Canada?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:11:05
There's pictures of us coming over as babies, but we would mainly go stay with my grandparents, who- they live just north of Toronto, and that's mainly where we'd stay and have a good time there.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:16
So were you versed enough in the winters in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, to know enough? Or did you just say, I'm going, I'm Canadian and can?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:11:24
Yeah, I was just like, let's see what happens. Let's see what happens when I get there. And I did my first winter without a vehicle. I was walking everywhere and that was not a wise decision. I remember one day I went to the Superstore in town and it isn't really a town where you walk around, so the sidewalks weren't taken care of. And I can remember stepping up onto a snowbank, which was probably about three foot tall with all my grocery bags and falling right to the bottom of it. It just collapsed all the way in. And I was like, this is Yorkton.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:55
So how far was the walk to work? Because I think anything over 500 metres. And I'm like, this is too far in the winter.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:12:02
Yeah, it was a ten minute walk. There were many times I'd be FaceTiming my parents on my walk and my phone would freeze and it would quit. And at this point I was doing the evening show there. So, yeah, I was working six till midnight there. Well, I'd get out around 11:30 and run across the street to Joe Beaver's, have a drink there, and then walk home. That helped.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:21
Okay, so we have to map that out as well. So the trip to Joe Beaver's, is it on the way home or do you have to do a little side turn? Because these are the things that add up. When your final weather forecast to the audience, it's -29 with a wind chill of -43.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:12:41
It was kind of out of the way. It had maybe two minutes onto my walk, but it was just the other way. So I just take the main street, which I think was Broadway, down to Myrtle where I lived, rather than taking- Oh, I can't remember the streets now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:52
How can you not remember the streets in Yorkton? There's like two of them.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:12:55
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:57
The station is located at the corner of Main and Main.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:13:04
In Broadcast House, I believe it's called.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:05
Yeah, but fun radio station. I have to think back to that time, and it's owned by Harvard. I want to say that there was somebody on the air 24 hours a day. Was there?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:13:17
There was pretty much on GX94. Yeah. And I think they still do, maybe. Pretty much they have people on all the time, or did at that point anyway.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:26
I think the person who is working the online at GX had a live Facebook stream or something. And I used to watch and just chat.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:13:34
Oh, James Meyer, he got in trouble for that because he was talking about some advertiser, a competition they were running. It was one of those narrow boat competitions. And he said on the stream that you have to pay to get there so you don't really win much. And he got in trouble for that because the advertiser was watching the stream.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:52
Yeah - You know, I think what's really important when you start your career is that you work for people who are going to help you, and good programmers, a good company that was able to really think about talent and what they needed to do to get to the next level, even if they weren't going to move within the company. And I remember this is about when you and I connected and we started sending some tapes back and forth, and I was doing some air checks and whatnot with you. And then where did you go next?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:14:18
I saw a post on Milkman, a very rare post from Rolco. And they were hiring for a position. It was very vague. They were hiring for a position. There wasn't much info about it, but they were just hiring for a position in Regina. And of course, Z99, what a station that is. It's a powerhouse station. And at the time I was dating someone who was from Swan River, Manitoba. So I was like, well, this is all right because I was looking at a job in Ontario and this one. And I was like, okay, at least she's close to her family then. And I love Saskatchewan, so whatever. So, yeah, I ended up taking a job with Z99 in Regina because of how vague it was. I really don't think they knew what they wanted to do with me, but I was there for a year and a half doing evenings and weekends and having some fun there.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:04
Remind me, what's the format there?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:15:06
It's hot AC, CHR kind of. It's in between that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:10
Is this the station you got fired from?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:15:12
That is the station I got fired from in February of 2020, which is not a good month to get fired, historically.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:18
I'm trying to think back on your career. I think this is the point where he gets let go. And so I'm glad I inserted it right in the right spot. And we're just before the Pandemic, it's February, for all intents and purposes, in the middle of the cold Prairies, were days away from shutting down. What happened and how did you handle it?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:15:39
So then my girlfriend at the time, after I lost my job, decided she was going to move back home, which is fair. We were having troubles. It wasn't going well. And this was kind of just like the final nail in the coffin.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:51
Okay, so you got fired again?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:15:53
Yes, fired from a relationship. I'll tell you what, the exit interview I got from that was much longer than the one from the job. So then I reached out to Christian Hall because of Harvard. He was still with Harvard at the time. And I said, hey, I'm out of a job right now. Is there anything in Harvard? And he replies, well, there's your old job in Yorkton or I think in Fort McMurray. They're still hiring for midday. And I knew a couple of people up in Fort McMurray. I knew Travis Stewart from my Yorkton days. So I was like, this seems like a good spot, because I was like, I'm going to be restarting my life. And I was like, let's go to Fort McMurray. Why not? So I pack up the U-Haul. And at this point, I'm also interviewing for another job in Barrie, which I almost held on for. That was at the Corus station at the time. And I was interviewing for a job there, and I almost held on for it because I was like, I would prefer to go to Barrie than Fort McMurray. Funny how that works out. And if I had held on to that, the Pandemic would have kicked in and they stopped their hiring process. I pretty much got to Fort McMurray. And then it was like, okay, now we can't do anything. And I'm just so lucky I got that job within two weeks of being fired. I signed that paperwork, and I was like, I'll just go wherever I want to still do this.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:17:06
The Fort McMurray experience was a year or two.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:17:10
It was one year exactly. But while we were there, there was a flood there. You're dealing with the Pandemic, knowing what we can do. Of course, there was some restructuring in the company as well, so it was terrifying for everyone. And it was a good year. I had some great friends there. Everyone's gone everywhere else now, as you do in radio. One person leaves, and all of a sudden, everyone else is going. But yeah, no March 2020 to March 2021.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:17:35
So what was the work from home strategy for the Harvard station up in Fort McMurray? Was there one?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:17:42
No. All non essential staff. So sales. Well, I mean, I'm not saying sales are non essential. I'm not going to bite the hand that feeds me there. But nonessential in the office were told to work from home. So sales were working from home. Promo were working from home. Our PD, Andrew Wilcox, was meant to be working from home, but not very often was he working from home. And it was mainly just the on air staff in the building. I think we needed the PD there just to keep us in shape. Otherwise it would have been hell.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:18:07
Yeah, and you were talking about Barrie just a second ago and thinking, oh, if I can just hold on, I'll go there. But you did hold on a year and look at that. You went there.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:18:16
Yeah, we went there. Oh, well, I went there. Yeah. I had applied for a job. I think it was another drunken job application. I'm not suggesting that's a good idea, but it worked out. No, it wasn't. I wasn't drinking at the time. So anyway, I applied for that job and it was Kool FM with Central Ontario Broadcasting and I've been applying for jobs there for at least a decade. It must have been about a decade. I'd been bothering them that long. And I guess I just sent the right tape and did well in the interviews and moved there at the start of March in 2021.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:18:45
Well, you did mention that you stopped drinking at one point. Is this because you were drinking and then getting into new jobs?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:18:54
You look at my track record, maybe in 2020, I decided, all right, with the pandemic going on, I'm going to be healthy. So I lost about 100lbs just by running and doing keto. And for most of 2020, I wasn't drinking because- not all the time would I say that I have a great relationship with alcohol. It's something that I'm dealing with now. I do therapy and whatever. I used to use it as my coping mechanism, but now therapy and medication is the way to go for me.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:19:21
Yeah - There was like three things that happened all at once. And of course, it gets lost in the pandemic. I don't see as much. It's not like in my travels I'm gonna come across you necessarily. And all I can really see is what's happening on social media. It's like, oh, Chris made one life decision. Oh, it looks like a second life decision was made for him by his ex. And then here's a third life decision that comes with, I'm going to cut out alcohol or lose weight. And I don't know which order was, but I'm like, man, Chris is rocking it.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:19:49
Yeah I was just in a good place in Fort McMurray. There were trails that were just at the end of my road. I had no excuse and I had a whole bunch of time and I was like, well, I may as well try and get something positive out of this totally negative experience. And I say in some stand up shows- well, I say I do stand up. I do some open mics now. But I say the pandemic has been great for me. And people are like, what? But the pandemic has got me back on track. It put me in a better place. It's like when I got hit by a car when I lived in Yorkton, which we skipped over. I forgot about that. Because I was off work for a few months after being hit by a car. But that re-centered me. I'm not going to say that I need those moments, but I've had moments of being re-centered, and that's nice.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:31
Yeah - There's a collection of us who just do better by not having to go out. Listen, if you go out, nothing good happens when you go outside the house.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:20:40
No, everyone must be able to see this after two years of doing it, how great it is inside.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:46
In just a second, we'll talk to Chris about the stress of a launch. How do you keep a format change a secret? Turns out it's harder than you think. What's the reception been like for someone with a funny accent? And what are the differences between radio in the UK and radio in North America? And there's more. There's always more, including a transcription of this episode, at soundoffpodcast.com.
Mary Anne Ivison (VO) 00:21:14
Transcription for the Sound Off Podcast is powered by Poddin. Your podcast is an SEO gold mine. We help you to dig out. Start your free trial now at Poddin.io.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:21:25
The Sound Off Podcast with Matt Cundill.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:29
Fundamentally, though, what is the difference you find between the radio that you experienced, whether you were a listener or you worked in it, in England versus what you've been working on so far in Canada? Give me one good and one bad.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:21:42
I feel like in the UK, radio is so much more. Well, for the most part, it used to be, anyway. It's changed a lot in the last few years. It's super interactive. Super interactive. And while I was still in the UK, it wasn't as voice tracked. Like, voice tracking is great. If you can do a great voice track show, go for it. It's a great way of getting great talent in markets that they don't live. But there is something to be said about live radio, isn't there? There's just something magical about it. There's something magical about being able to call the number and talk to that person on the other end.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:22:15
Which I guess brings me to Winnipeg. And I'm glad that you had a nice, sober moment to make the decision to come to Winnipeg. A lot of people don't make sober decisions to come to Winnipeg. This is me with my hand up. Programme What? Yeah. Okay.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:22:30
In Barrie, I was set. I loved it. In Barrie, I was at Kool FM there, and I was close to my grandparents and whatever. I ordered some Chinese food. And I opened up a fortune cracker and I read it and it said, you will never have to worry about money again. I thought, oh, cool. The next day I get an email from Mark Hunter and I can remember looking at it and going, I don't need this right now. I'm in a good place, whatever. But I knew if it was him reaching out to me, it was something good. And at this point I'm thinking maybe it's NOW! in Edmonton. I've loved NOW! since I got here. In fact, Travis Stewart, who I mentioned earlier, he was the person who said, you need to cheque out this radio station. It's so much like UK radio. So that's when I fell in love with NOW!. And, yeah, so I get this kind of vague email going, we have an opportunity. I can't really tell you much you want to know more. So I have a phone call, again, it's really vague. And I put the details together and I start working it out and I'm like, okay, I know where I'm going before I've signed this NDA. Sure. And I just kept going with the interview process and it ended up being the evenings/weekends position for NOW! Radio in Edmonton, which we launched back in October.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:23:43
You said Edmonton. I think you meant to say Winnipeg
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:23:46
Winnipeg. Yes. To launch NOW! Radio in Winnipeg.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:23:49
I just want to be sure that you know that you are in Winnipeg and not Edmonton.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:23:54
I think so. It's the Oilers here, right?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:23:57
Well, I think you probably did the math to figure out that it was going to be Winnipeg, but I think that's something that you would have to reveal to the person you're interviewing at some point. Hey, listen, this is Winnipeg. You didn't have a chance to go and visit Winnipeg for the four weeks a year that it's really nice here. Somewhere between July and August, I guess you just did the math, figured out it would be Winnipeg and just continued on with it, right?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:24:20
Yeah, they said enough, and I got enough info, that I could positively say it was Winnipeg. There are some things that you can do. You can check websites and stuff, which I do whenever there are rumours of a station flip anywhere, because I'm a bit of a radio geek like that. So you just type in. For example, when Virgin Radio Windsor set up, you do a quick Twitter search, you do a quick Instagram search, you cheque if that website has been bought.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:24:45
Did you check to see when the website was bought?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:24:47
Yes, I did.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:24:49
Yes It was May 2021 that that purchase went through.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:24:53
Yes. So they've been planning it for a little while. It's easy to be sneaky like that. And in fact, in the launch, someone else had done that and somehow it was online somewhere. And that was a sad situation.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:06
I do like the fact that this station came to Winnipeg because the city really needed a station like that. But you said something very profound, and that's that the radio is a lot like the radio back home. And listen, I can sit here and I can provide the answers, but I'll probably do it over a drink or two whenever I meet radio people and say, well, why don't we have more stations like this? But I find it really super strange that it took ten years for NOW! to be replicated in another market like Winnipeg.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:25:33
I can already see the signs that it's really working in Winnipeg. People are really latching onto it, and it doesn't take long for people to know our names, to know features, to know Now Wells or teaching them about CanCon. When I'm doing the takeover, people will now request Canadian content without me asking. And they'll say, this is CanCon. That's where I do- a takeover is a whole hour of request, which we do between twelve and one. And it's just highly interactive and it's what radio used to be, and it's maybe what radio should be more like.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:05
So when you have to explain the format to somebody, what do you tell them?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:26:10
I usually say we play anything because we do and we're just a party. That's all it is. It's just- you're inviting someone into your house and going, hey, we're chatting about this, actually. Do you know anything about this? And then you just have these conversations. And then, of course, with our website, we've got the texts coming in there and people can chat in there as well. So not only are we talking with the listeners, the listeners are talking to each other as well.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:36
So I can text, I can interact on the Facebook page. I could probably tweet at you.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:26:42
Instagram. We got Instagram. Yeah.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:43
I mean, I'm trying to imagine the control console just for the social media aspect here. And it's like flying a 747.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:26:49
It pretty much is. And there's a lot going on. It's very fast paced. We don't ever really give it to the music for too long at any time. I mean, we're live 6:00a.m. till midnight, pretty much. It's like two songs max, and then we're there chatting.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:04
I like it. I enjoy it.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:27:07
It's so fun. I can't believe how much fun I'm having doing it. I like to think I've worked at some great radio stations and done some fun stuff, but I've never worked with a crew like I work with now who are just so engaged in the products that we're putting out there. We're so motivated to do it. And maybe that comes from flipping a station and then people not being our number one- not being our biggest fans when we first rocked in. And that's fine, that's fine. We had to deal with that. We knew that we were going to have to deal with that. And it's something that the people in radio have to deal with, it's not nice. The whole situation of it, of course, is not nice. I've been on both sides of that table.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:44
There is a social media shit show going on.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:27:47
Yeah. And everyone said that everyone was from Alberta. I'm from the UK.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:51
Well, this is the other thing. It makes me nuts about Winnipeg. I didn't want to get into it. Winnipeg is very, very odd. Here was this blowback about letting four, five, six people go from a radio station, which I understand. Nobody likes to see anybody. And I had friends who were let go, and some great broadcasters, and I'm glad a few of them found jobs since then. However, here are- wait for it. Here are four or five or six new people who are moving from somewhere else, and they're going to come and live in your city. They've made a choice to come and live here and to be amongst the community. And here's this social media shit show going on. And I thought, man, I'm glad Twitter wasn't around when I moved here.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:28:34
Yeah. No, it's hard to deal with. Eventually we just had to look away because our Billboard campaign people guessed what that was. They put the dots together. And I do remember seeing one post after everyone was let go. They said, oh, that's not a good sign for young broadcasters in the industry. That's not nice for them. And then I'm like, there's a whole bunch of young broadcasters being brought in. Those were tough days. Those were testing days. But I completely understood all of it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:29:03
Yeah. And gone after about three weeks. By three weeks, nobody is talking about this anymore. And people are enjoying the radio station. And I love the fact that there's a feel that there's really no rules to it because I've heard Marilyn Manson, I think, on there, and it goes into Bruno Mars, and then there's a conversation about that sort of thing. And I can get my request played. Not that I've made any requests, but I could get my request played if I wanted to. And I'm hearing cab drivers and the Uber drivers are listening to this. I mean, do you have any rules? Because I've heard you say, hey, why don't you make a request and make it a CanCon? This sort of verbiage just wasn't done. And somebody obviously said, hey, why not? Well, we can just mention that stuff and mention what our requirements are, and we can read out our licence if we want.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:29:46
I think that's the beauty of it. It's because we're just going, we'll do whatever. I think on day one, my first show, I played Duran Duran, and then someone called in complaining that we'd flipped, obviously. And they were like, Would you play Iron Maiden? Sure. So I went Duran Duran to Iron Maiden. And I think I was just kind of, just going, whatever, we'll do this. This is what we'll do. Of course, there are some rules. We don't want complaints, we don't want all of that. But as I said, it's a party. Stuff happens at parties and it's so fun.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:30:17
People must call you up and ask you about your accent.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:30:20
Yeah, I get Australian a lot now, but I've been here for six years. But I found that I get a lot of Brits calling me now. There's a lot of British Winnipeggers that call me up. A couple of weeks ago, we had a conversation that was completely fueled by British people. It was just Brit after Brit after Brit. And I was like, this is fine.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:30:40
So the ratings are going to be coming out in a couple of weeks. I cannot possibly ask you to make any predictions, so I won't, because I could never make a prediction. Anytime anybody made a prediction, it worked out badly. And if you said, oh, we're going to do crap, you really did do crap. I guess the question is, what's the reception been like?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:30:59
It's been absolutely incredible. We've got our regulars, we've got people calling up and referencing our regulars. We celebrate every listener that we have. We celebrate them getting involved. And I can remember on day one, we walked down to Earl's, the old Earl's, not the new one. And someone stopped us. We were wearing our NOW! shirts, but someone was like, oh, my God, you just launched today. And seeing that on day one. And then I was at the Burton Cummings Theatre a couple of weeks ago watching Bianca Del Rio. And some guy came up to me and he goes, You're Chris, are you? And I was like, yeah, I am, because I'm Jason. I listen all the time. I text, blah, blah, blah. And I think what we're doing is we lift up the curtain, we break that fourth wall. We make ourselves so normal, we make ourselves so approachable that people can't help but get hooked. Even people that hated us on day one, we can scroll back and see the text and you see that they've completely changed their tune. Maybe you don't like the music, but you're going to like the conversation. That's what's going to go on.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:32:01
So I know you're a foodie. What are your favourite restaurants so far in Winnipeg? You got a friend coming from out of town. You want to go out for goodbye to eat? Give me a couple of restaurants you like.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:32:12
I am a big fan of Susso. I love it. I had bone marrow there for the first time. I felt very much like Anthony Bourdain just going for it. I saw an episode where he was eating it and I was very cool. If I was eating it, it was awesome.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:32:30
So I love the bone marrow there too. And by the way, this thing is sort of tucked away like a speakeasy down in the Osbourne village. But did they offer you to do a shot down the bone marrow?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:32:42
I've done it every time I've had it. It's incredible.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:32:46
Well, for someone who doesn't drink, that's fantastic.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:32:48
Yeah, I do know a little bit, but you just have to and you get all the this is going to sound gross, but you get all the fatty remnants still coming down.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:32:58
It's a great shot.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:33:00
It's the best shot I've ever had. And then there's Carlos and Murphy's I love as well, which is kind of like a Mexican place where you get your nachos and some good beer. So many good breweries in town as well. Now that I said I drink again.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:12
I can mention that you slowly introduced it back. It started with a shot, probably on the bone marrow.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:33:18
Exactly. Yeah. Once I had a good life balance, I was like, let's start having this again.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:24
Well, all you have left to do in Winnipeg is to find a place to go watch the World Cup in November.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:33:29
Yeah, I'll find somewhere.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:30
How about The Grove?
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:33:32
Love The Grove. I was there just last Tuesday. Actually, that would be a good place to go.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:36
I watched England, Croatia from The Grove a couple of years ago.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:33:40
Alright, well, I'll look out for you. I'll poke my head in and see if Matt Cundill is in there.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:45
I should have mentioned, by the way, that you know how secrets get out where we're doing all that research and stuff. But you had the most Winnipeg of introductions and that you arrive on a Friday in Winnipeg and I'm having drinks with Avery, my partner, and Eden, her best friend. So I'm having drinks with Avery and Eden and we're up in Gimley and she says, hey, I think you might know this radio guy, Chris. Do you know Chris Ash? He decided to lease today. And I said, oh, really? I called you up and I said, Jeez, I wonder which station you're going to. I don't know just yet, but I'm going to find out.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:34:19
Yeah, you said that you had a couple more calls to make that night as well, and I never heard back from you. So I guess you figured it out.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:34:25
I did figure it out eventually, and I think there's probably a place on the lease where you have to write your employer. We didn't bother to go pull out the lease because I thought it would be easier for me to go find out myself. But that is like the most Winnipeg of stories where you get to town and your cover is busted in the first five minutes.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:34:41
I can remember waking up on the Thursday four days before we were launching, and I woke up and saw that there was an email from Broadcast Dialogue. I cheque that every Thursday I'm scrolling down and it's got the stuff about the people who have just been laid off. Sadly laid off. And then right under is a picture of me saying, Chris Ash is now in Winnipeg for an undisclosed position. And I'm like that looks so bad. I'm like I'm getting fired. I need to go back to Yorkshire or somewhere like that back to Fort McMurray with me.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:35:12
We're just changing the radio station formats and bringing in a new staff. It's not some sort of undercover operation. There's no chance you could ever do FBI, CIA or ceases or anything like that. You cannot work at Scotland yard. Your cover will just be busted but it's just a radio station we can all relax.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:35:30
Yeah, it was a couple of days of just everything leaked out and I think that might have been to do with the way we were launching it. By the time we put the W up on the billboards everyone kind of figured it out.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:35:41
Yeah, well, you had one job and that was to just get a lease and sit in your apartment but the fact you signed the lease and I wound up knowing the person who rented it to you.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:35:50
Yeah, what a time. Luckily I can look back and laugh at it now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:35:55
Yeah, August and radio and it's classic. All right, Chris, let's get together and we'll go for lunch to grow sometime.
Chris Ash (Guest) 00:36:02
Yeah, sounds good to me.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:36:03
The sound of podcast is written and hosted by Matt Cundill produced by Evan Surminski. Social media by Courtney Krebsbach. Another great creation from the soundoff media company. There's always more at sound off podcast dot com.