When Gaydar Radio suddenly closed down at the beginning of 2013, it took with them the much-loved hosts of the breakfast show Neil Sexton and Debbie Ryan.
But now they are back at a brand new internet-based station, JemmOne.
Launching on 3 April, the fab twosome will be presenting the morning show featuring some of the best chat, interviews and dance music of today.
On one of their first shows, Neil and Debbie will be interviewing British pop band The Saturdays and getting gossip on their new E! reality show.
GSN chatted to the breakfast hosts about how they felt about returning to the airwaves…
How do you feel about being back on a new station?
Debbie: Well we’re bursting at the seams with excitement because as you know, when Gaydar Radio all of a sudden stopped, the outpouring of support from everyone who loved having gay news all the time and a station for them was taken away. With Jemm Radio it’s completely starting afresh.
Neil: We were absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, as there was a lot of sadness over what happened. It just really spoke to us about what we were doing, as we had obviously connected with people. The opportunity of being able to come back and hopefully start doing it all over again is really exciting. We’re getting another chance to do it.
Debbie: Neither can the listeners either. We set up a Twitter account and Facebook account since it ended, and everyone has been counting down with us until the station goes on air. It’s brilliant. It’s a real unique opportunity. Things like this barely happen, it happens once in a lifetime really.
To be involved in a new station and know it’s the same people behind Gaydar Radio. Everyone is pushing this forward and we’ll be able to be back on air doing what we did. Since coming off air, I don’t know about you Neil, but in terms of radio and TV there is a drought out there when it comes to gay news. An absolute drought!
Neil: Well, obviously apart from sites like Gay Star News where I’ve been getting my information. But in terms of radio and television, there’s just no outlet for what we were doing. There’s definitely a need for it and we can’t wait to come back and do it.
As Debbie said, we’ve got the cornerstones of what was before. We’ve got myself and Debbie, we’ve got producer Robin [Crowley], who was a very important part in things, Phil Marriot who was head of music before as well. People should feel quite at home with what we are doing.
Do you feel like you’re creating a new station, or is it the second coming of Gaydar Radio?
(Laughter) Debbie: What a brilliant question!
Neil: Second coming, that’s quite a good headline.
I think I’ll use it!
Neil: Naturally it’s going to be different because we’re going to be in a different place and a different team of people that we’re working with, but as I said before there will be a familiarity.
There will be me and Debbie, and Robin will be on air as well. There will be that sort of comfort zone.
Debbie: It’s a brand new team at Jemm, and they are so excited about it as well, as it is a new venture for them going into radio. So it is really exciting as well, as everyone there is totally for the radio station.
Are you gutted to be leaving Queen’s House, the original home of Gaydar?
(Laughter) Debbie: Oh, anywhere we go will be a Queen’s House.
Neil: We take the Queen with us, don’t we Debbie?
Debbie: And that queen is producer Robin.
As you’ve interviewed so amazing people, who is left you would love to chat to?
Neil: Oh, loads!
Debbie: I’m going to jump in and state here, this might sound a bit desperate but I’ve been trying to interview Heather Peace from day one, from Lip Service.
Debbie: But that’s because I have a crush on her, isn’t that right Neil?
But in terms of huge people, we always been trying to get a hold of Ellen DeGeneres because of what she has done is astonishing, what she has done for the LGBT people is jaw-dropping. I mean gosh, there is a list! We’ve still got the wish list Neil.
Neil: We have do, yeah. Ellen would be great. And we’re very excited because she’s just signed up for Finding Nemo 2, hasn’t she?
Neil: Debbie wants to do Madonna!
Debbie: In every sense of the word.
Neil: Interview her as well. Can you believe we haven’t yet done Kylie?
Not at all. Looking back now, what do you think was your most memorable interview?
Debbie: Well there’s two, one was definitely Pink, because to be in a room with her and feel how much she loves the LGBT community. You can’t fake that sort of genuine-ness and she was BRILLIANT. Completely knocked it out of the park.
Neil: Debbie was brilliant because she had walked into the interview and sat right next to Pink. She didn’t realize where she was supposed to be sitting. There was a chair on the opposite side of her. You love Pink, don’t you Debbie?
Debbie: I nearly sat on her lap!! Pink was fine, and we sat there for the entire interview. Another person, I think if I said the words Joan Rivers?
Neil: Yeah definitely. That was a classic interview because I think she had come into promote a comedy festival in the UK and literally had arrived from LA overnight and was scheduled to do the interview with us in the morning.
Debbie: She was in a foul mood. We got ‘yes/no’ answers. We asked her ‘What do you think about this, this Hollywood actress has come out after all these years?’
*Debbie impersonates her* ‘WHO CARES? Are we supposed to be excited or what? I couldn’t care less!’
Neil and I were just looking at each other thinking ‘Well this is the best we’re going to get.’ We sat with our hands in our head, listening back to it. It was really funny but for all the wrong reasons.
A lot of your show was talking about the gay news. Is there anything you wish you could have talked about?
Neil: There is so much that is going on that we would have been talking about like the gay marriage debate.
Debbie: The pope!
Neil: The pope, Lip Service being cancelled, Les Mis the movie, Brit awards, the Vatican buying a sauna! *laughter*
Debbie: See, he can’t wait to get back on air and neither can I!
What do you think of Cardinal Keith O’Brien?
Neil: It’s the hypocrisy of it all. Standing up and being so outspoken as he was towards gay marriage, the hateful words.
Debbie: Vitriolic, wasn’t it?
Neil: What’s beautiful about it is that when this stuff goes public, it just shows up all these institutions as they are.
Will you be incorporating a lot of audience participation, like you did at Gaydar Radio?
Debbie: Yes, definitely. The audience is the heart of the radio station.
Neil: The audience makes the show really. The best mornings are when we’ll talk about something and very often the best ones happen out of something we were talking about on the air, and we get a flood of emails, texts, tweets, and they add to the conversation. That all comes from the audience.
Debbie: There was one show about ‘Who do you live with?’ There was something on the news about how the British family had changed, and we just asked people. One guy called up and said he lived with a man and a woman, and he was having a ménage a trois.
We got phone call after phone call from all these people saying ‘Well I can beat that!’ It was brilliant. That show is like a microscope on the gay community. Someone opens their mouth and it opens the floodgates.
We get to talk really honestly about lots of things that you wouldn’t dare be able to talk about on “normal radio” – in other words a lot of the dull stations which just play ‘Here’s your favorite hits that you’ve heard in the last 20 minutes played once again.’ So we can’t wait to get back on air and speak about these subjects because it’s real life.
Neil: That’s true, we used to get people just asking advice and we would read that out and get responses from other people saying ‘Oh you need to do this’ or ‘No you should do this.’ That was the magic of our show.
How different do you think your job would be if you were on a standard ‘normal’ radio station?
Debbie: We both came from them and they are, Neil, how can you put this politely? It’s like doing a show gagged.
The people that run these stations, you’re not allowed to be yourself on air. You almost have a script. I remember on one of my old stations, each time someone would ring up and say they were gay I’d play ‘Hallelujah’. I soon got told by the bosses you can’t do that.
It’s really sad, you have to be almost closeted in these stations because some of the people that own the groups, some of whom are gay themselves, do not want this talked about on air. What message are we giving out to people? It’s terrible.
Neil: That’s the great thing that we’re going to be on JemmOne that we can be ourselves. Right from the start on an LGBT radio station I remember playing Justin Timberlake and going ‘Oh I quite fancy him’. I would never dare do that on a previous radio station.
It’s so liberating to just completely be yourself. I think that’s one of the best things about JemmOne. It’s targeting the LGBT community and it’s an absolute dream.
Debbie: There’s another aspect to it as well. We’ve been off for a couple of months and we’ve been able to hear to a few radio stations from around the world and the music, oh, I have literally been ringing up Neil and saying ‘Can you play something decent down the phone?’ There’s a drought of stations that play fabulous dance music. I really can’t wait to get back and hear it again.
Neil: That’s the thing with doing a live show as we do, all the buzz of being on the air and hearing all the new tunes. I’ll put something on and Debbie will often hear something first when we’re on air. And Debbie will go ‘Oh what’s this?’ really loud in the studio and have a bit of a boogie.
Debbie: It’s really good because on JemmOne we can dare to be different.
Having listened to what else is out there at the moment, there’s so many sheep it’s embarrassing. There’s very few people breaking really good music.
I know there’s conversations in the record company saying unless you’re under 30 and got this lined up, this lined up, this lined up, we won’t play your song.
At JemmOne, it is: Here’s a record, what do you reckon of it? And if it’s fantastic, it will get played. There aren’t all these hoops you’ve got to jump through and boxes to tick on other radio stations. We’re completely our own person.
Neil: JemmOne will lead the way because when we were on Gaydar, it would happen that once we had played on our station, others would go ‘Well they’re playing it on Gaydar’. We’re very much leaders in breaking new tracks and doing new stuff first. That’s the thing we’re going to doing.
How long have you two known each other?
Debbie: Five years? And it’s really, really strange. I came up to Gaydar Towers just on the off chance to have a chat with Robin because I loved the station and harassed him into giving me a job.
The breakfast guy then, Jason, he left and all of a sudden Neil was on his own. Robin said, ‘would you step in while we find someone else?’ And I went ‘Yeah, yeah sure.’ We did a breakfast show and loved each other’s company so much that in a very short period of time we said ‘Should we carry on doing this?’ Robin was all for it, and that’s how it started really.
Neil: You can’t fake it, there’s just like a chemistry between us. It just works.
Debbie: Honey, you can fake it! You just have to listen to nearly every other breakfast show around the country. They’re forced together and you know when that show is finished, they don’t talk to each other. It’s so forced! But Neil and I chat before we’re on air, and after we’re on air, and it’s the same as when we talk on air.
One final question, what would you like to say to the people that have missed you and are looking forward to you guys being back?
Debbie: I couldn’t say something. I would just go up to them virtually or in real life and give them a massive hug. We’ve missed them as much as they’ve missed hearing the radio station. You realize how important things are when you don’t have them, like that Joni Mitchell song. You think, gosh you really miss their company. But thank god for Twitter because we’ve kept in touch with everyone.
Neil: That’s the beautiful thing with social networking, because of Twitter @ThisIsNDebz and our Facebook page. That has been fantastic because we really do feel as though as they’re our friends.
Debbie: And family, love!
Neil: Exactly. We can’t wait to get them back on the show.