In the most in-depth interview he’s done since that incident last year, Kyle Sandilands speaks to Peter Saxon.
By his own admission Kyle Sandilands is not an educated man. He says, “With the Magda Szubanski little f**k up I made, when apparently I was anti-Semitic, there was me just not knowing I was having a go at the Jewish people. Like I knew about Burke and Wills but I just didn’t know about the holocaust – I really didn’t.”
But ask Paul Jackson, group PD at rival network dmg, and he’ll tell you, “Kyle’s a very smart individual, a very intelligent broadcaster and Jackie’s got some charm. And when you put that together they have a good show.”
Over at ARN, Network Content Director, Duncan Campbell says, “Kyle and Jackie O, I’ve always said that it’s a very strong show, and a very tough one to beat. And that’s really what the station’s built on, the success of the breakfast show. Which is fantastic for them and a challenge for us in terms of trying to edge closer to them.”
Truth be told, love him or hate him as an individual, he is seen as an immense talent and valuable property by his peers. He’s the star player on the other team you’d love to have on yours.
When asked why he thinks he’s held in such high esteem by his competitors he immediately talks about Jack.
Kyle: Jackie and I genuinely get on and have done since day one. I hear of a lot of teams that don’t get on all that well. I really respect what she brings to the show and I know that she has the same respect back. That’s really important so there’s no jealousy or there’s no rivalry or there’s no silly little office politics that ever get in the way because we do everything together, we go in as a team to negotiate and stuff like that. We did that from my first contract.
radioinfo: Did you hit it off from the start or did it take some time to meld?
Kyle: When I first started with her in the Hot30 and she was on there already established with Ugly Phil, (left) I said, how does this work? On the first day and she said “well you usually do all the interviews by yourself and then if we do a game, I might come in and you point at me if you want me to laugh and then I do some gossip.” And I said ‘no no no no way. This has got to be a 50/50 thing – you’re the established person here, I’m the new one. If we do interviews we do them together, we do everything together.
I think she was happy and surprised. That wasn’t how she used to work and we just never changed.
radioinfo: If you were teaching a class at a radio school like AFTRS and a student asked you, what can we learn from Kyle Sandilands? What attributes does he bring to the microphone, what would you say?
Kyle: When I first put the breakfast show together I wanted to be a bit more real because radio had always painted a great picture and every song was wonderful. And no matter what the weather was, it was it was good. Even if it was raining, it was good for the farmers. And I thought to myself, that’s just not how I really think.
I’d listen to the radio and I’d think, aww this song’s shit. Meanwhile, the guy’s back announcing, saying what a wonderful track from whatever year and I think ‘I hate it’ so I just became myself.
There was all those great characters Jamie Dunn, Wendy Harmer, Doug Mulray, Peter Moon, all of those – (I was) listening to all of them – they had their characters, yes, but there was a part of them that was very real that I liked. That’s the bit I liked the most.
So we just try to make our show as real as possible and exaggerate people’s flaws for their positive and negative. We’re still putting on a show, but instead of inventing fake characters, we explore people’s weird personality. So (getting back to the question) all I would say is be as real as you possibly can, it gets you in trouble sometimes. But that’s the risk you take.
radioinfo: When you first got into radio, who did you admire most?
Kyle: For me it was all about Jamie Dunn, because I’m from Brisbane. And I just thought he was the best. I’d never been into radio that much. I think my dad had a friend Wayneypoo Roberts, he used to work up in Brisbane.
He was like the big deal when I was growing up in the early 80’s. He was around at our house every now and then in the 4IP car. And he did the old gotcha calls, I remember him being spoken about a lot in the house since radio was around but I never was that drawn to it until later when I was listening to this morning crew with Jamie Dunn (left) and Ian Skippen and Donna Lynch.
And that’s the first thing I fell in love with – the fantasy of it all. You could give away all these things like cars for free. And you could win tickets to concerts and you could ring up and talk to INXS. I was just amazed by it all.
radioinfo: At 2Day, whose advice do you value most?
Kyle: It would have been your Jeff Allis, Peter Harvie and Dobbo (Guy Dobson). Dobbo is the only one left out of them now. And Dobbo’s great. Dobbo’s like one of the last of the cowboys because he comes from programming, he’s been on air, he’s done it all. Half his ideas to me are unusable and belong on TripleM. At 2Day, we are all pop music, pop culture, celebrities, relationships and fun, taking the piss and not taking yourself too seriously.
radioinfo: Your show, Breakfast with the Stars, is focused on celebrity. And you are a celebrity in your own right. How important, to you, personally and in a professional sense, are the trappings of fame and fortune?
Kyle: A lot of great things come with it. When I first did some TV like on Idol for example, I sort of went from being just a guy on the radio to like you know, people would be able to recognize you visually and I found that quite confronting.
Like if you’re in a shopping centre and 60 people are wanting pictures, everyone’s lovely, but I get a little bit shy and I don’t know what to say. And then they say, “You’re much nicer than you are on the radio.” And I think that it’s because I’m way out of my comfort zone. I don’t really take the flattery very well. I don’t know why.
radioinfo: Tell me about the Rolls, is it really a nice car to drive?
Kyle: Yes it’s lovely. I’ve had the Aston Martin, the Ferrari and the Lamborghini. But this Rolls Royce I’ve had for five or six years. I just always wanted one as a kid.
I used to get driven around, I’d ride my bike to a mate’s house in Brisbane, and his dad was some weird old painter and he’d drive us to school in this old Rolls Royce. And that kid is Spencer Howson up at ABC in Brisbane.
So he went on to the radio, and I did as well. But I always wanted one of those Rolls Royces so when the time came I thought ‘f**k it, I’m getting it’. Once I’d driven it, I just loved it. I thought ‘wow this is excellent’.
radioinfo: As a celebrity who’s in the media, how would you describe your relationship with other media? Is it symbiotic? Do they give you a fair shake?
Kyle: I’ve burned my own bridges with other media, right from the start.
Here in Australia if you’re a celebrity, whether you’re a singer or on a TV show, when the Telegraph or any newspaper would write some bogus story in the gossip column, they’d ring me and they’d say “mate, this is all bullshit I cant believe it.” And they’d go “Can I come on and set the record straight?” And I’d go ‘yeah’.
But we’re pissing a lot of magazine editors and newspaper gossip columnists off along the way, ‘cause no one likes to feel that their rag is full of shit and lies. Like
So I’ve made a lot of enemies out there, but not so bad with the TV news. Today/tonight – I’ve sued them before.
Channel 9, Current Affair, they roll bullshit attack stories, every time there’s a TV show that I’m on. So when I was on X Factor, they ran an anti story and I used to get wildly offended and try and be all righteous and try and set the record straight but I just realised, as time goes on, that’s just part of that little world. I just don’t buy into it, it never does anything, never changes anything so the world goes on.
radioinfo: You’ve grown a thicker skin now?
Kyle: I just don’t pay attention. I used to want to go and convince everyone that hated me ‘I’m a good bloke, you know, what’s your problem?’ but just realised there’s going to be detractors, haters, whatever you want to call them. But they deserve their opinion as much as I deserve mine, so that’s fair enough.
radioinfo: Years ago when John Laws was the king of radio, a PD at 2UE, I think it was John Brennan, told me how Lawsie researched. He polarised his audience. 30% of respondents loved him and 70% absolutely loathed him. The station was thrilled with that. What does your research look like?
Kyle: I remember those old Lawsie stories. What I’m told, from my internal and external researchers, people that listen to our show, they just like us. They don’t agree with everything I say, and I think some weird statement came back on one of the external research companies: Women said he’s the sort of guy, whether you’re at a BBQ with him or whatever, and you think he’s funny, but you don’t actually want to be married to him.
But we don’t have any figures that say the majority of the people listening hate us, I think the majority of people like us.
I know there’s a few that … Christ knows what’s wrong with them, or why they would waste their entire day. There’s a group of like five or six people and they’re from all around the world, none of them in Sydney, they’ve got some little weird “try to fire me” campaign. I don’t know that much about it – but they devote a large chunk of their day with attacking and trying to destroy me. I find that like, a bit stalkerish.
radioinfo: Well, there is that “Sack Vile Kyle” website dedicated to getting you off air – you must have read it. How does that affect you – with your thick skin and all?
Kyle: I actually haven’t read it, but everyone around me has, lawyers, my personal managers, my assistants, even my housekeeper – she’s like Phillipino [does great accent] “Why they want you fired? I don’t know, I don’t know.” And I go ‘don’t worry Grace, they’re awful people.’
These people are still responding to that situation that happened with a journalist last year. That’s just ridiculous. People aren’t that stupid, people know there’s only six of them, there aren’t 30 thousand of them.
radioinfo: Are you surprised by that sort of backlash?
Kyle: Not Really. I’ve been getting those weirdo headlines where I look at it and think, ‘why? Is this even a story?’
But then again I’ve had other analysts say to me “Any normal story on the Telegraph website has about 16 comments on it, and if you’re on there they get about 150 comments.” A few more fans will go on there and people that want you dead will also go on there, and there’s more impressions.
We’ve been doing the same thing for years and years and years you know. If you don’t like it, no problem, go listen to something else. Go listen to MIX. They’re very nice and tame and happy.
radioinfo: In retrospect do you have any regret about what you said about that News Ltd journalist, Ali Stephenson in that November rant last year?
Kyle: I went way too much overboard on her. But it was really the pot calling the kettle black. That company’s shit canned me and everything I’ve ever done for years – unfairly – and then nothing happens (to them). Different regulator you see.
In part two, tomorrow, Kyle tells us what he thinks about that “regulator” – which he won’t mention by name. He also talks about his forthcoming book, Scandalands, the long running feud between him and Merrick Watts and what he has in common with Alan Jones.
Read Part Two now.