Freedom FM, Hardcore FM and Mix FM were pirate radio stations based in South West Leicestershire during the early 1990’s, their histories intertwined by the involvement of several young DJ’s.
It was Desford College radio that inspired a student there to have a crack at transmitter building during 1990, which led to the birth of Freedom FM on a frequency of 100.7 FM.
Matt Lunn was involved almost from the beginning, and remembers how it all started for him and two friends ….
“Spring 1991, I was 16 years old and enjoying the emerging acid house to early rave dance scene. Myself and a couple of good mates at the time were into listening to pirate radio. Fantasy FM (Tamworth) and Rave FM (Nottingham) were our favourites, we would listen in most evenings to catch the latest tunes.
One day around mid-May 1991 which searching the airwaves, I stumbled across a new station I hadn’t heard before, Freedom FM……. The reception was crystal clear and the DJ’s were playing some great music. We were hooked.
One Saturday afternoon, we were listening on my stereo at Bosworth Park, and heard a message, ‘We need some new DJs for some slots on the station, if you’re interested give us a call’. Well we were straight on it, what a great idea. None of us had DJ’d much but I had some decks and we’d all got quite a bit of vinyl as this is what most of our spending money went on back in those days.
We called the number later that evening and spoke to a guy who called himself ‘The Tek’. He was a nice guy and seemed interested when I told him there were 3 of us who were keen on the DJ slots. We arranged to meet him the following Saturday morning in Nuneaton to discuss things further.
The following Saturday morning with nervous excitement we caught the bus into Nuneaton and met up with ‘The Tek’. Although this was just a pirate radio guy, we were quite awe struck to be meeting him. We all got on well and he asked us a few questions, and eventually he told us that he’d like to take us on board and give us a slot on the airwaves. Mine I remember very clearly was the midday slot the following Sunday where I had 2 hours to play with.
The next seven days were filled with several record shop trips, countless hours practicing and endless ideas for DJ names. I eventually came up with the name ‘DJ Gravity’, which I used for several months before changing to a much cooler sounding ‘DJ State’. My mate Dave become ‘The Demon’ and Jez became DJ D-Stress, later to become ‘DJ Stressa’
We’d been given the studio address by The Tek and been told to keep this secret. Weirdly It was somewhere very local to us and strangely rural. The village of Congerstone was the location. We arrived the following Sunday for our respective slots. We met The Tek who took us around the back of his house into a medium sized brick outbuilding that was completely kitted out into a bright white painted studio setup, complete with decks, mixer, speakers, shelves full of records and even a heater. There was a huge areal rigged up outside in the garden, probably at least 30 or 40 ft high. This looked the business. We met a couple of other DJs, Ian – Cutfresh B, later to become DJ Wizz and Sam, DJ Kaos.
The rest of that day is a happy blur. We all played our slots, gave shout outs on the mic and generally got on great with everyone. Before we left that night The Tek gave us our ‘DJ Rota’ for the week. I had the Wednesday evening slot and Saturday evening slot. The Tek also told us that he used the nearby public phone box for the station telephone number. This was the days before mobile phones, so we used to give out the telephone box number, which I still remember to this day – 0827 880218 – and we used to take turns manning the box for calls and shout out requests and then run back to the studio with a list every half hour or so.”
Later in 1991, with the Rave scene exploding into life, the station moved frequency to 101.4 and changed its name to Hardcore FM. The popularity of this new genre of music enabled the DJ’s to become known locally, and they played at events in Coalville and Ashby de la Zouch, along with holding some parties of their own called Flight Nights, which are still talked about to this day. As Matt recalls, ‘seeing your name on a flyer was an amazing feeling!’
The original DJ’s on Freedom FM were DJ Kaos, DJ Wizz, and then DJ State, DJ Stressa and The Demon. After the station changed to Hardcore FM DJ Sweat and MC Eze Bass became involved, along with at weekends DJ Chad George, who went on to present shows on Birmingham commercial station Buzz FM and later the likes of Heart and Galaxy FM, under his real name Dave Clarke.
Matt continues: “Everything was going great until one evening in late October 1991. I arrived at the studio as we had been called to an emergency meeting, and was presented with a sad image. The decks, mixer and all electrical gear had gone. The transmitter and aerial had gone too. Yes, we’d had a visit from the DTI, and they closed us down for illegal broadcasting and seized all equipment. The arses had even taken a box of records.
We were all gutted, The Tek (James) told us that was it for now, he was facing a hefty fine and couldn’t risk it further. The station was off air over the next few months, we’d all meet up regularly and talk about the future when one day in early February 1992 The Tek called us together for a meeting.
We met up in a pub in Atherstone. The Tek told us he’d been chatting with a local graffiti artist Solo One (Boyd), who had a place we could use and several DJ friends who wanted to DJ on a pirate station. We met with Boyd in his unit off Southfield Road in Hinckley, the unit was great, loads more space, secure and perfect for what we needed. The Tek had brought a load of new equipment and a brand-new transmitter. The next week we moved everything into Boyd’s unit, the studio looked great, we even had the transmitter located off site so we couldn’t be traced as easily. There was one thing missing, the station needed a new name. We all agreed on the favoured name and Mix FM 101.4 was born.”
Boyd Hill was one of the main figures behind the station after it’s name change, and he takes up the story:
“I had been a listener to pirate for years, stations like PCRL, Metro, Fresh Fm and had always wanted to be involved. Around ‘91 I was listening to Hardcore FM and the DJ’s there kind of knew me through my graffiti work in Leicester. At the time I had a small business in Hinckley so would work weekends there at Hinckley Workspace and listen in. Then they went off, it was obvious they had been raided. I spoke to one of the guys there, Mr.Tek, and said I could offer up a studio space but just wanted a show and to possibly re-name the station. After a couple of meetings we came up with Mix FM and broadcast from my office space in Hinckley Workspace in 1992.
The main transmitter was located at a friends business up on the top of Castle Street in Hinckley which meant we had clear line of sight of Coventry, Birmingham and bits of Leicester. Having that height was a major factor in us reaching those places.
The vision for the station was really to play the best underground music we could find and also have the quality there. We were mainly a weekend station too and ran most weekends from ‘92 until about ‘97 when there was a opportunity to run from Birmingham.
The studio at the workspace had to close as I had finished my business there so it moved to a friends garage, then an upstairs bedroom at a friends, then I got a flat above Warehouse One* on Lower Bond Street and we broadcast from there. After Warehouse One we moved across the road to the Old Arden Cafe which became a Bar called Sub Zero. The Studio was in my kitchen and I had to make a sound proof board for the window so that you couldn’t hear it from outside.
Our main transmitter site stayed the same but myself and The Tek would always check security to make sure DTI was not doing any surveillance on us or they were not at the main transmitter site.
To look at either of our sites you would not really know it was a radio station, we were quite discreet in how we operated and I was overly obsessed with security because I knew we were getting away with it.
Organising Mix FM was like a proper job and we had to manage DJ times, contributions for equipment, dj meetings, issues etc.
The success of the station was really down to the Tek who had expert technical knowledge on transmitters but also everyone who turned up and did good shows. The one thing the station did was give a voice for a few people from a conservative town to play music they were passionate about and get it out to like minded people. We met the Birmingham crew from them tuning in and DJ Scooby from Birmingham had access to flats which were used to broadcast from. I had run the station from my flat for approximately 5 ish years and because of the time it was taking up plus a chance to move to London, the best option was for it to move to Birmingham.
We never had DTI raids but we did catch some surveillance being done on our mains transmitter site. in cases like that we used to come off for a couple of weeks as we knew it would exhaust their resources and they would leave us alone.”
Mix moved frequencies on a couple of occasions during its time in Hinckley, to 106.3 and then 107.7. Boyd explains why:
“The reason we had frequency changes were because either new legal stations came into existence or utilities were close to those frequencies. The Tek had all the reasons for switching. Sometimes it would be the transmitters needed updating so Tek would make the decision and it would be updated. We used a sub scrambled link system so our studio would send a remote signal to the main transmitter at another site and switch it on remotely. So anyone trying to track us using a frequency counter would only get the mains transmitter and never the studio.”
Some of the DJ’s continued to play out at raves around the county, and were supported by local rave store Warehouse One* in Hinckley, who sold their mixtapes and also produced a Mix FM clothing line.
DJ’s Wizz, State, Stressa and Sweat remained, along with Solo One, and were joined in 1994 by the Hinckley locals C.T, Nipper and Pappa Doc, collectively known as the JVF Clique. They are still producing beats today. ( http://www.jvfradio.com/ )
Boyd continues: “Nipper organised some drum and bass events at local pubs in Hinckley but we never went full on with playing out preferring a low key existence. Some DJ’s especially the Brummies had their own contacts and did various nightclubs. The DJ tapes – I let those guys deal with Pete at Warehouse One as I was too busy planning radio for weekend but wanted the DJ’s to push themselves as much as possible. Pete supported us a lot as i think he loved the idea we were broadcasting illegally and he helped out with sites.
“I would say the move to Birmingham was late 96 as around March 97 I moved to London and everything was winding down at my flat. We had this great studio in Birmingham opposite the old Dunlop factory, I think it was Holbrook Tower, so was the perfect location even though it meant a 45 minute drive to go and do a show which meant we were like commuting DJ’s as opposed to having everything central in Hinckley.
I think we made the best out of what we had at the time at Mix, a lot of knob twiddling to get the sound right like when we switched from cassette tape to vinyl and trying to get the best out of the limited equipment that we had.”