Originally a buccaneering DJ with the offshore Radio Caroline and the Voice of Peace, which broadcast off the coast of Israel. Stuart Clarke arrived in Ireland during the height of the pirate wars. He went legit with Radio Limerick 95FM, and his attentions increasingly turned towards journalism with a well-respected column for the Limerick Tribune. He moved to Dublin in 1990, and has since risen through the ranks at Hot Press to become Deputy Editor. Apart from his sterling work for Hot Press, he charms the nation as a regular contributor to Matt Cooper’s The Last Word on Today FM, and as a talking head on various TV3, RTÉ and Setanta Sports TV programmes. His words of wisdom have also graced the pages of various non-muso publications including Food And Wine, TV Now, The Sunday Business Post, as well as the lecture rooms at Pulse College. At Pulse News we are delighted to find out more about his intriguing career.
Q1. You’re originally from London, a city with such a diverse and creative music history. What was it like growing up in such a dynamic city?
I was lucky enough to be 13 when punk hit, so got to see some great bands like The Clash, The Damned, Generation X, Slaughter & The Dogs and the godlike Johnny Moped before the whole thing went horribly wrong.
Q2. Did you passion for music start at an early age?
Seeing David Bowie perform ‘Starman’ in 1972 on Top Of The Pops. I was totally blown away and thought, “Wow, anything’s possible!” I also got the pirate radio bug listening to Radio Caroline, which I was lucky enough to work for during the ’80s.
Q3. Like most teenagers, did you pledge your allegiance to a specific musical genre
I was the world’s least convincing punk rocker! I made my own PVC trousers out of dustbin-liners – Vivienne Westwood had nothing on me! – which made going to the toilet impossible as they didn’t have a fly.
Q4. You started you career as in Dj in the world of Pirate Radio with Radio Caroline. How did this come about?
I got a demo to a friend of a friend, and was smuggled out to the ship, which was 13 miles off the Essex coast, on Christmas Eve in 1986. We’d spend six weeks at a time on board, doing shows and newscasts and maintaining the boat. It was quite an adventure!
Q5. You worked on the Voice of Peace on coast of Israel, sounds very much like “Good Morning Vietnam”, it must have been an amazing experience tell us a bit about it.
The station was set up in the early ’70s by a Jewish Iranian man called Abie Nathan who got some of the funding from John Lennon. We were anchored three miles off Tel Aviv broadcasting to “the young people of the Middle East.” We used to get fan letters from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Cyprus. The boat wasn’t meant to stay at anchor and bobbed up and down like a mad thing. I frequently had to do shows with a sick bucket next to me!
Q6. I’m the only man who left a job in Monaco to work in radio in Limerick. Do I regret it? Never? Being serious, I adore Limerick – a great place that doesn’t deserve its ‘Stab City’ reputation.
Q7. While you were in Limerick you decided to try your hand at journalism. What made you decide to switch from playing music to writing about it?
They banned the pirate stations that had been allowed to broadcast freely here for almost 20 years, so it was born out of financial necessity at first. Then I realised I could get paid for meeting my idols and, that was it, I was hooked!
Q8. You moved to Dublin in the 90s and you landed a job with an established music magazine “Hot Press”. It must have been a very different publication than today, what was it like?
Hot Press was founded in 1977 so it was fairly well established by the time I arrived. It’s always been about more than just music, with politics, film, sport, games and books all an important and complimentary part of the mix. As much as I love music, it’s great as a writer having that diversity.
Q9. You are now not only deputy editor but are regular contributor to some of the Nation’s most loved radio and TV Programmes. What has been your career highlight today?
Getting to personally thank four of my heroes – Joe Strummer, John Lydon/Rotten, David Bowie and Lemmy – for changing my life.
Q10. You guest lecture on Pulse College diploma course, how did this collaboration come about?
Naomi Moore asked if I’d be interested in lecturing, and indeed I was. Having spent 30 years broadcasting and writing, I’ve gained a fair bit of insight into the media. Lots of it by screwing up and learning painful lessons!
Q11. Can you give us a bit of an insight into what students learn from your class?
How different forms of media, new and old, bolt together. I try to explain the realities of running a full-time publication in Ireland using Hot Press as an example, what’s expected of journalists in the modern age and the various ethical and legal issues that come with the territory. One of the things I love is having my ideas questioned and challenged by the students – I learn as much from you guys as you learn from me.
Q12. You have managed to carve out a hugely successful career in the music industry do you have any final words of wisdom for Pulse Students.
Keep knocking on doors, picking up experience wherever you can and generally making your own luck. If you want it bad enough, you’ll get your break..[openday]