HEADLINER: Dance music evangelist sets sights on alternative medium - Gordon McNamee, creator of Kiss FM, is heading for a TV role

Gordon McNamee doesn’t disappoint on the cliche front. He turns up for the interview in his sports Jeep, music blasting, clad in a designer suit and brown crocodile Guccis. He squints into the daylight: ’Never change jobs, sell your house and break up with your girlfriend at the same time.’ He then crumples into the nearest chair, shaking his head and tossing his dreadlocks as he contemplates the day so far. It’s 9.45am, and obviously too early for McNamee.

Gordon McNamee doesn’t disappoint on the cliche front. He turns up

for the interview in his sports Jeep, music blasting, clad in a designer

suit and brown crocodile Guccis. He squints into the daylight: ’Never

change jobs, sell your house and break up with your girlfriend at the

same time.’ He then crumples into the nearest chair, shaking his head

and tossing his dreadlocks as he contemplates the day so far. It’s

9.45am, and obviously too early for McNamee.



The founder of the dance radio station, Kiss 100 FM, who turned an 80s

pirate radio station into a legitimate and successful business empire,

announced last week that he was resigning as managing director of Kiss

Enterprises to set up his own company. His mission is to continue

working in the youth market, producing TV programmes, radio stations and

anything else that takes his fancy.



Has he reached a crossroads in his life? ’I still feel that I’m young

enough - I’m only 37. I don’t believe age means a certain way of life

and I live a young lifestyle. I want to get back to creating and

developing things, rather than shifting stuff around my desk.’ He

insists his decision to leave has nothing to do with the changing

direction of Kiss, which earlier this month announced a new policy of

playing tracks not more than two years old, and focusing on 19- to

21-year-olds. He explains: ’It’s taken me until now because I couldn’t

do it before. I wasn’t financially well off. If I leave it too late,

I’ll be about 45 and I won’t be in the right frame of mind.’



He will set up the company with a partner, who he has worked with in the

past, and a financial adviser. There are two projects in hand already: a

TV company outside England has asked him to develop a programme series

looking at youth culture in London and major English cities. Another

company is in talks with him about masthead TV programming. He is

adamant: ’I don’t want to be associated with Kiss for the rest of my

life.’



But his withdrawal from Kiss won’t be sudden. He plans to continue with

his Saturday radio show until March, and will continue doing his weekly

slot on Kiss TV. The main advantage of his new company is that he won’t

have to answer to a board. ’I want to get back to something which is

mine - a small team creating something and working together in a

close-knit family, making a difference on a day-to-day basis. It’s the

first time in 12 years that I don’t have any worries or

responsibilities.’



McNamee is a bit of a lad, and likes to flirt. He suggests we conduct

the interview in bed, adding quickly that he meant in a platonic sense

(just as well, since I feel more like Lily Savage than Paula Yates).

He’s looking to rent a des res in central London, where he can install

his two companions, Astra and Cosmo. These are not two sex sirens, but a

white-haired fox terrier who’s ’like Snowy out of Tintin’ and a

Staffordshire bull terrier which accompanies McNamee wherever he goes in

London.



McNamee’s success with Kiss and his determination to bring it to as many

people as possible has had far-reaching effects on the dance music

scene, according to Trevor Nelson, a senior A&R manager at EMI and a

founding director of Kiss FM. ’We all owe him for keeping that station

going. If he hadn’t, dance music would be five years behind.’ He

describes McNamee as ’looking a bit like a good-time Charlie, but he’ll

suss you out in five minutes and you won’t suss him out in five

years’.



McNamee has been spinning discs and indulging his love of Motown, reggae

and rare groove since he was 13. He worked the West End clubs after

leaving college and in 1983 set up Sound City Radio, broadcasting dance

music from North London tower blocks once a week, before hosting a

drive-time show on the London dance music station, JFM, in 1984. After

it closed in 1985, McNamee set up Kiss with 30 DJs.



Today, the Kiss empire consists of the London radio station, Kiss

Holidays, Kiss TV and licensed Kiss records.



McNamee’s sights are now set on TV. ’Kiss has moved dance music into an

industry in itself, and it needs a dance music TV station. TV still

breaks records and I would like to be part of that.’



McNamee can be a cruel joker. Nelson describes how he secretly got

married, but somehow McNamee found out. The bride and groom woke the

next morning to the sound of Nelson’s deranged ex-girlfriends phoning to

ask if it was true that they had just got hitched. To Nelson’s horror,

McNamee had run a competition that morning on Kiss inviting callers to

phone in with reasons why he wasn’t able to do his show. Nelson

reflects: ’He killed me that day, but I don’t hate him for it.’ Somehow,

it is hard to imagine McNamee ever growing old in spirit.



The McNamee file

1985 Set up Kiss FM as pirate station

1990 Kiss FM, managing director

1996 Launches Kiss TV on Live TV

1997 Kiss Enterprises, managing director

1997 Starts up own youth marketing TV company



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