Ally McCrae is best-known for presenting the BBC Introducing With Jen And Ally show at midnight on a Sunday with Jen Long. Last week he presented coverage on TV and radio from Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Glasgow. Before becoming a BBC presenter, Ally co-founded Detour Scotland, a podcast for featuring unsigned Scottish bands which also put on gigs at a host of different locations with audiences taken to see different bands perform in situ. He’s a guest at goNORTH this week and a judge on the Demo Jury (details below).
1 You’ve just been presenting from Radio 1’s Big Weekend. What has been your highest high of live TV presenting and what is the one thing about it you would change if you could?
Ally: Haha, well over that weekend it was definitely when Chris Martin just popped into the TV tower for a wee look. WHILE I WAS PRESENTING. That was weird. Nice guy, as you’d expect.
One thing I’d change? The length of my legs. On radio, no big deal. But on those telly couches, a taller guy like me has real issues with where to put your legs!
2 Detour is where a lot of people into their music would first have come across you. What were some of the most memorable places you got bands to play – what place and what band from the Detour era would you rewind time to witness again?
Ally: Putting Chvrches on one of their very first gigs was great during the Edinburgh Festival, Twilight Sad and Admiral Fallow with the RSNO in Paisley Abbey was bonkers. But I loved the time we took LightGuides to the Scottish Borders and it snowed. That was a real team effort to make that one happen – vans, dodgy generators, amps blowing. Video looked so cool, though!
3 What was the first song you were ever aware of as a kid, either loving or loathing – or give us both if you want!?
Ally: I remember LOVING Apache by The Shadows. My dad had the vinyl and me and my brother would run from one end of the living-room to the other, jumping on as many couches as we could on the way...
4 New music is your passion – give us some of your tips of bands/musicians to see on the goNORTH line-up next week?
Ally: For Wednesday – Scary People write some dark, edgy rock. Neon Waltz – newcomers who I’ve been loving, but haven’t caught live. For things a little louder, both Vasa and United Fruit are must sees. And if it’s all a bit much, some acoustic goodness from Michael Cassidy won’t go a-miss.
On Thursday – Baby Strange near caused a riot at Big Weekend, Deathcats have an equal amount of fuzzy guitar aggression, Model Aeroplanes are Dundee’s future indie pop stars – the 1D of new music! Schnarff Schnarff are wild live and, like the night before, if you need a bit of soothing after all the guitars, check out Siobhan Wilson.
5 I see from your profile that you say you are as tall as Joey Ramone – research reveals that is 6 ft 6’’ – you must ALWAYS get to see the band, even at crowded gigs. Are you the tallest man on Radio One?
Ally: Greg James is close, but I think I am a wee bit taller (and lankier). Tim Westwood was definitely taller, but he’s away now, so YEAH I AM.
People think it’s easy at gigs for tall people. Aye, you can see. But all you have to listen to is MOANING from shorter folks. Not my fault!
6 You used to drum in a band – best of times/ worst of times from those days. Do you still get a chance to play?
Ally: I was in a few rock bands and also a ceilidh band with my family, that was ... less cool, but fun at the time.
Not getting into our own shows in Edinburgh once because our attempts to act over 18 failed miserably, only to be driven home early by the bassist’s dad – that sucked!
Sadly no, I’ve no got the time to drum, (or the talent). I’ll stick to talking about it.
But you know if any goNORTH bands are stuck this week...
7 Recently in an interview you mention in the run up to Radio 1’s Big Weekend Academy event in Glasgow that you were the first to play Nina Nesbitt and she did her first session on your show too. What are some other notable music firsts you look back on with pride as a music fan/tastemaker?
Ally: You’ve hit the nail on the head – it’s as a fan. I get sent soo much music and yes, I do take into account what’s happening industrywise with an act (are labels interested? is there potential for a band to blow up?). But at the heart of it, if I don’t like a band, I won’t play it. Hearing about new bands first, or when people are thinking of working together (find me one successful band which hasn’t been in lots of different acts before) is really exciting. That’s what happened with Chvrches. Playing them first was cool, because I bloody love them. To see the album do so well worldwide is, like, yeah, of course, great because it’s good pop songs!
8 Guess your life must be pretty hectic these days. Couldn’t help noticing on your Twitter that "you woke up at East Croydon station at 6am" – that sounds like a travel adventure?!
Ally: Haaa, no, that was a failed attempt to get back to my girlfriend’s house (nowhere near East Croydon) by taking an all-night train home from DJing a summer ball in, erm, Hertfordshire Uni the other week. I thought I was being so smart finding this train instead of a pricey taxi, but yeah, I fell asleep. The GF then took me rowing that morning.That was a weird time.
9 You must have so much music coming across your consciousness and hitting your ears all the time - what would be this week’s obsession?
Ally: Aw this week I cannot stop listening to a producer from Glasgow called The Wild Curve, only got one track online. I’m going to play his second on Sunday’s Radio 1 show. It’s big, swaggering synth pop with super delicate vocals.
He used to be in a band which played goNORTH a few times. Keep yer ears peeled.
Ally McCrae will be one of the judges for the goNORTH Demo Jury event today (Thursday) at 4pm in the Mercure Hotel, Inverness.