The Big Brother contestant and the Radio Nerd make peace

They got in to Radio from completely different directions – one through the front door, the other, kind of through the back. Yet Paul Murray and Rachel Corbett, who’ve been handed an assignment at Triple M tougher than playing basketball with a dead cat, have become seasoned professionals and close friends. You can sense their rapport through your radio. But will it translate into ratings points?

There was a time when radio announcing was seen as a craft. To tell the time, temp and finish announcing the song over the intro without trampling the vocals– in real time, without the aid of computerised editing – took practice and dedication.

To fully earn the moniker of ‘radio announcer’ (DJs were seen as crude wannabees) one started as a kind of deep voiced roustabout at a small bush station, working on all aspects of Radio. After stints in three or four larger and larger markets, if one was worthy, one would land a gig telling the time, temp and announcing the songs (without trampling the vocals) in a big metro station. That was the natural order of things.

Then along came Big Brother.
It, along with stand up comedy venues became the new gene pool for big city talent. This was anathema to those who were diligently working their way along a more traditional career path and had after 17 years made it to, say, Whyalla and felt that they were just about due for the call up to SAFM – only to be thwarted by some bludger who’d momentarily grabbed the headlines by lounging about on Big Brother.

Rachel Corbett who co-hosts Triple M Sydney’s new drive show with Paul Murray is somewhat embarrassed to admit that she was the first of the Big Brother inductees into Radio. Worse still, prior to that she was studying to become a lawyer.

Paul Murray on the other hand, travelled a more accepted route into Radio Mecca. Although even he by-passed the bush.

radioinfo: I read your bios on the Triple M website, surely your lives must be more exciting than that?

Paul & Rach: LOL

radioinfo: What’s the real story? Rach you go first…

Rach: Part of my past that I’ve tried to distance myself from, and have so far succeeded, is that I was on the first series of Big Brother. And from that I moved very swiftly and started at SAFM. I did a stint there just as a little trial kind of thing. And then they moved me to Triple M Melbourne and I did breakfast there for six months. Went to the central coast and did two years of breakfast at Sea-FM.

Then I took two years off. I went overseas, then came back and freelanced at 2Day-FM and did stuff for the Hot 30. Then I met this clown (looking at Paul) in November of last year. We did a little trial… and then all of a sudden it’s like; we gotta get this show happening.

Luckily Scott Muller championed our cause. He pushed, pushed, pushed to get us six months on the air and the rest is history.

radioinfo: Rach, just go back to the Big Brother thing. What were you doing before that? How old were you?

I was just 19. I was studying Law at University and despised it. I knew from the minute I set foot in there that that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I never for one moment thought about a career in entertainment either, I just knew I wanted to get out of law.

radioinfo: Was there an ad in the paper for Big Brother?

Rach: No, I actually saw a special that Rove did on reality television and I remember thinking at the time; What is this garbage? No one will ever watch this. Yet I thought this was going to be a great way to just do something different. So I thought I’d just put in a tape.

I got through the first round of interviews but then they rang me to say I hadn’t made it into the final cut. Then six weeks later they rang me again and asked me to come in for another meeting.

I hadn’t watched the show and everything that my friends had told me about it was pretty horrible. So I went into the meeting and told them that I’m not interested in being part of your show any more. My life’s changed. I don’t like what the show’s about. My friends tell me it was a good idea I never went on it. Thank you very much for your time but I think I’ll decline the offer.

Then I came back to work and thought; Was that really dumb to do? So I called them back and said; look, I’m not retracting any of my comments but if you still want me just keep my name in the hat. And they pulled me out and…

Paul: Just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in.

radioinfo: What about you Paul, how did you get into Radio?

Paul: The first job in my life was at Triple J. I did a national request show when I was 15. I was a radio nerd as a kid so it was all very exciting to be able to do that. I was also the ground announcer at a Little Athletics Club in Ryde. My Mum ran the club and she let me be a smart-arse on the microphone.

The PD of Triple J’s kid was going there. So after a couple of months of talking and hearing all the war stories, I went in and read one script. After two weeks I learnt the panel. Three weeks later I had a national radio show.

Unsurprisingly, I was shit at it, because you just don’t know how to perform as a human being, let alone as a performer. Then I went off to finish school.

I did some community radio in Hornsby. Did heaps of stuff for free in newsrooms – particularly spent a lot of time around Jason Morrison at 2GB where I became a cadet reporter, then a full reporter.

I then went to 2SM for 18 months as their all-round reporter when they relaunched in the Howard Sattler era. Went to Nova in 2001 and won the Brian White Memorial Award for Radio Journalism in 2002.
I was the first person from FM to be nominated, let alone win it which was kinda cool.

What I enjoyed about working at Nova was that news reading was simply about telling your mate what was going on. It became quite easy and quite cool. It was great to finally work on something that my friends could listen to.

For me though, the whole purpose of doing news was to realise the ultimate ambition to do a show.

I remember growing up and listening to Andrew Denton every morning and thinking; I know I want to do it, I know I want to do it. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to go from the guy listening to it to the guy able to do it. But in the same way that someone knows that they want to play footy, I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do.

So I figured out that clearly I wasn’t old enough to do talk back radio, but being in news gives this great false life experience. By 21 I’d seen someone dead on the street after a murder and I’d been to a Federal Budget lock-up.

I’d always had a healthy sense of the absurd. So at Nova I remember meeting with Mandi Wicks and saying; I want to do a show one day. So, I did this test show which was madness. It was me crossing to me crossing, crossing to me doing character voices in a truly absurdist sketch show that appealed the “Sounds Different” ethos. So they went; Fuck it, let’s do this once a week. Once a week became five times a week.

I hosted the ACRAS in 2005, the blessing slash curse of the career. That really changed things because I went out that night and I was deliberately ferocious. But what’s often lost in the memory of that night is that I was particularly ferocious of myself – referring to myself as a nobody and that automation could do a better job.

But that got the attention of Guy Dobson and I ended up here at Triple M. I did nights here and I did the Shebang last year and when that folded, I should, for all intents and purposes, have finished up last year.

radioinfo: When was it and who decided that you guys should be manacled together?

Paul: Scott Muller told me; I think you should talk to this chick downstairs. Went downstairs, we had a chat and both thought that it was okay. The test show was good and we were both like; It can’t be that easy. And it turns out that it was.

radioinfo: After the Shebang was axed, you thought you were gone?

Paul: Scotty knew that after you’ve been on a breakfast show that doesn’t work and you’ve been around the joint for a couple of years, the argument can be made that; Well we’ve fired every shot we can… and you’re fired too. But Scotty couldn’t have believed in me more. Between him, Guy (Dobson) and Jamie Angel – these three guys have backed us in.

They heard the tape and said; You know what, we can achieve with these two people what we’ve sat in meetings for, for seven months, with the breakfast show to achieve. Which is people who know each other, who like each other and are instinctive on the air.

And the result is, honestly it’s the best working experience of my life. And I’m not just saying that because it’s the show we’re flogging – Rach is a fair dinkum, proper, real life friend now that we can go on holidays together. We really are into each other.

radioinfo: But you come from different ends of the track. You’re (Paul) a traditional radio person…

Paul: Radio nerd…

radioinfo: Was kind of born to it, dreamt of the day you would be on air… started almost as the copy boy etc. And you (Rach) come from Big Brother which makes people like him shake their head in despair.

Paul: But you know the hilarious thing is that if Rach walked off Big Brother last year, I would have felt that. But now she’s a Radio Chick.

Rach: I’ve always said, if it wasn’t for people finding me, I wouldn’t be in this career. Other people identified my talent before I did. And I realised that this feels so second nature to me when I didn’t even know that this was an option.
But as soon as I sat in the studio on the very first day as a 19 year old I recognised that it was something that I wanted to do.

Coming out of Big Brother I was really scared that as subsequent series went on and a lot of contestants went into the series with the complete outlook of getting something out of it on the other side, that people would make that assumption of me – which is what they did a lot of the time.

So when I left my first radio show in Adelaide that was the very last time when I allowed any mention of Big Brother. From that point on I was absolutely adamant that I was Rachel Corbett, and that’s it. We never made reference to it again.

radioinfo: How do you go about working as a team? What discussions do you have about who does what and the overall theme.

Rach: We have similar ideas about wanting to find that niche phone idea or that interesting absurd twist on stories. Which means that from the very beginning our planning is quite separate that we’ll both go out there and canvas stories and have a look around. And then we’ll come together a couple of hours before the show and say: What have you got, what have you got? And we’ll throw things on the table and cherry pick out the best ideas that we have and put the show together.

Paul: In terms of how much we brief each other it will literally be; I want to ask people if they’ve ever kissed a cousin. We’ll say; Okay, good. That’s it. We both know that after years of experience, that the reason the other is suggesting it is because they have a story, they have set-up because they’ve got a gag, so let’s not pitch it, rehearse it and waste it. Lets have the same reaction on the air as you have in a meeting when somebody says something really stupid.

To be quite blunt, we’ve been around them long enough or been in them, that we’ve seen shitty teams. We’ve seen the way not to do it in so many different ways that when you have a co-host whose been just as scarred on the way to getting here, that you look at each other and go; Oh thank God that this person’s not some sort of maniac that wants to be famous or is going to argue with me about whether I said more or less than them, in a break. So creatively we’re in a space where both of us know what we want from a show. We know how we want to get it from the show and where the show wants to go. We want to be known for the work – not famous for who we’re rooting.

Rach: I’ve worked with a lot of difficult people. My goal in the studio is always to be the most supportive person for my co-host because my belief is that if I’m completely there supporting you and I don’t have my own agenda and you are there completely supporting me, there’s no way we can fall. There’s no way that we cannot have a brilliant show.

As soon as you bring your own personal agenda into the studio, that’s when things go wrong.

Paul: The whole point is we just come to work just thinking about how do we have an awesome show today, rather than how do we fight about car parks, how do we yell at a producer to make us feel better about not getting paid a ratings bonus. How do we start some sort of megalomaniac fight with the GM to make us feel loved again.

Rach: Or how do we let everyone know who we are when we go down to the shops.

Paul: We’ve seen that in breakfast or drive talent that’s come in and out of the building many, many times.

radioinfo: Care to name any by name?

Paul: All of them! The misconception about what I’m saying will be specifically about the Shebang. I’m not saying that. What I am saying is that I’ve been lucky enough to be here long enough to see saviours come and go. And we work underneath another radio station (2Day-FM) to know how they work.

If it means we have a shorter career, I don’t care if it means we have a better one and nobody will be cheering as we get pushed out the door.

radioinfo: Is there any structure to the show or do you just go with the flow?

Paul: Brass tacks is that we have a planner. Every break has an intention which will just be topics and phoners. There’ll be literally four words written there and that’s about as much structure as we have. So if one of us has a gag about something that we just heard in the traffic, that’s what the break will be about, not; Quick we’re gonna talk about what was in Confidential today.

radioinfo: Its no secret that the once mighty Triple M is struggling at present. What sort of vibe does that produce around the station and how does it impact on you guys?

Rach: The craziest thing about that is that I’ve never in my entire career worked at a station with a better sense of morale. It’s fabulous working here at the moment. I don’t know whether it is the case that we all kinda know that we’re struggling but it’s not like we’re trying to bring the station down, we’re all trying our best.

Everybody’s so supportive of everybody else. Everybody gets along. And I’ve worked in some toxic environments before, even at this station in another market.

Paul: I think if Triple M started two weeks ago, by the end of the year we’d be rating sixes. But the problem for us is that we’ve been around as long as the FM band has. And all of the things that have made up the Triple M success, people have either copied a sliver of, or taken a quarter of, or borrowed a third of, which means that one single audience gets fractured over years and years. So when you hear Nova, you can here the rock that used to be what tradies listened to every single day.

The comedy is in every breakfast show now. So the problem for Triple M is, we’re doing what we’ve always done, which is put something entertaining on in the morning, belt out as much music as you can in the middle of the day, something funny on the way home and let people swear at night.

The difficulty for us is that people observing Triple M are so aware of its history and so aware of Doug (Mulray) and when we rated 24’s and there were only two radio stations in Sydney (on FM). Well, now we’re in a race of so many more, let alone the internet which means we literally go back to zero and start again.

radioinfo: You’re on air just three days a week, Tue, Wed and Thur. Do the other jocks think you’ve got a cushy job or are you busy doing other things the rest of the time?

Paul: We can’t pretend that three days a week isn’t a killer gig. However, we should point out that we only do one hour less a week than Ryan, Monty and Wippa. And one hour less a week than Hamish and Andy. They’re two hour shows, we’re three.

radioinfo: But seriously, your drive shift is a little bit odd, sandwiched between two Aussie icons in Roy and HG who do Mondays and Fridays – and have yet to make any advance in the ratings. And then your own organisation puts up Hamish and Andy against you on the Today Network. Does the scale of the challenge thrown at you daunt you guys just a little?

Rach: No, Not a bit.

Paul: Here’s how it goes. Hamish and Andy will be number one. Daylight will be second while the rest of us are fighting for fourth because third will probably be one of the AM guys.

We can’t decide the hours we do, just the quality of what we put in, even if it’s just an hour on Sunday. The advantage of our show that I genuinely think will work is we are the only FM Drive show that is only in Sydney. We are not networking from ARN. We’re not networking from Melbourne or a version of a network show from Melbourne, also from Melbourne. We can talk for three hours about a dust storm. We can talk about the Wests Tigers or about going to Castle Towers. That’s a competitive advantage which means we’ve got a hook that they don’t have.

We don’t have billboards. We don’t have TV ads but we don’t decide that. All we decide is what we talk about next. That’s why it’s not daunting.

If I was running the whole radio station and coming up with the silver bullet, yeah, I think it would be difficult because there isn’t one.

But as performers we know that the best thing we could do for Jamie the best thing we could do for Craig and for Guy is to go as hard as we can – cause they’re smart enough to work out what’s next.

radioinfo: Are there any specific ratings targets that have been set for you this year or next?

Rach: No there aren’t. Like with Hamish and Andy, like we know they exist, they are an absolute force, they are brilliant at what they do and I think if we started to compare ourselves or contrast and work out how we could attack them, then it wouldn’t be our show.

Paul: When we throw out deliberately absurdist topics like, Have you kissed your cousin? Have you had a run-in with a monkey? Did you die on the operating table? We get a full board of calls.

I remember being on the breakfast show last year with all the pressure and emotion and attention of a breakfast show and we wouldn’t get a phoner that got more than four calls.

That doesn’t mean we’re going to get twelve’s next survey – the people who listen to Hamish and Andy aren’t suddenly going to turn around and listen to us.

But if you’re flicking around and come across us you’re going to go; What’s going on here? An actual radio show! With people who are from Sydney and like each other and seem to know what they’re doing.

Also we’re a more adult show. We swear and we ask rude questions because Hamish and Andy are the ‘nice guys’.

radioinfo: Have I missed the segment when you asked the audience; Have you been tied up to a lie detector?

Paul: No. It was planned, but for some reason it got withdrawn. I don’t know why.

radioinfo: Do you have any advice for young radio Students who any be reading this?

Paul: When you figure out that you want to do Radio – and I guess if they’re reading this website, they’re smart enough to know that there’s more to it than just talking – figure out who you like on the radio. Figure out why you like them on the radio and deconstruct it to figure out so you know what they do.

Don’t just like Merrick and Rosso, don’t just like Kyle. You must know that you like them because…
So that when you get in front of a PD and that PD asks you; Who do you like on the radio? And you say; I like Kyle. They ask; Why? If you actually have an answer, it could get you a job.

You’re more likely to get a job when the PD knows that they are going to do something good for the business by hiring someone who wants to work in it – not someone who wants to work somewhere else because those people come and go. They are corrosive and don’t help.