Peter Saxon has ways to make them talk…
Jase and PJ were already big stars when they took over the ailing breakfast show on KIIS101.1. Trouble is, they were big stars in New Zealand. Not so much in Melbourne.
Their appointment by ARN turned conventional wisdom on its head. Which was: you either poached an already successful show from another station in the same market or you find a spare Daddo or a Stefanovic at a loose end, manacle them together with, say, a Merrick and a Monk and hope that they’ll all get along together and make some magic. Trouble is, conventional wisdom rarely works. Big stars at one station are almost never able to carry an audience with them to another. And building an on-air team that has true chemistry, like Kyle & Jackie O, can take years.
So, given conventional wisdom’s poor track record, the ARN brains trust decided to try something different: Let’s go with an act that’s already established great rapport and is successful in another market and we’ll market the hell out of them to introduce them to Melbourne.
So far, one out of two ain’t bad. Anyone listening to Jase & PJ with a critical ear will instantly be impressed with how well they gel. For this interview I’ve edited most of my questions out because they tell their own story so well, without much prompting. They sound as smooth and seamless as any pairing I’ve heard on radio in decades. Yet four years ago they’d never heard of each other.
Jase or Jason Hawkins, better known as Labrat in various roles at SCA stations, including the Kyle and Jackie O show, ended up on B105 (now HIT105) in 2011 in a team known as Labby Camilla & Stav.
Jase: We didn’t necessarily see eye to eye in regards to content and what we wanted the show to do. It was a three person show and I’m an avid believer in that, the minute there’s a third person, there’s always politics – there’s going to be dramas. We were having a good time but we weren’t sold on the objectives so I was looking for a sea change.
Gemma Fordham who runs the Hit network who I was friends with had moved over to New Zealand and she was dealing with PJ and wanted to make some changes there. She said, ‘there’s this girl named Polly (Harding) – you guys are really different and because I know you, Jason, and I got to know PJ, I think you guys could work. So, we did a demo together.
PJ: We met up and I think there was instant chemistry where I didn’t walk away going that was awkward. We actually flowed and had a lot of chat.
Jase: Personally, we got on straight away but it was trying to work out…
PJ: …how can we work this professionally.
Our show has the slickness of Ryan Seacrest and the quirk of Graham Norton
Jase: I’ve got three older sisters. I think that’s why I connected with PJ so well.
PJ: I’ve got two older brothers…
Jase:…and I think that’s why straight off the start we formed this brother/sister relationship. And then over time, I taught a lot of radio to Pj and Pj taught a lot of life stuff to me. I used to be a control freak and caught up in radio and all that and she just taught me to relax, have fun and don’t get caught up in the small stuff. We both got value out of the relationship
PJ: We both learnt a lot from each other and have this mutual respect now.
radioinfo: Have there been any influencers along the way.
Jase: I think I said last week that our show has the slickness of Ryan Seacrest and the quirk of Graham Norton. It’s definitely the quickest in the market. It’s very slick and fast paced but it’s got a real fun underdog quirk like Graham Norton does.
radioinfo: To me it sounds a bit like ‘a show about nothing.’
Jase: I’m a massive Seinfeld fan so I’ll take that as a compliment.
They’re our best shows. Our best shows are the ones where we go, what have we covered today? Well was on hold for ten minutes and got put through and when I rang up to see if the lady in the shop had my size in jeans she called me Baby, that was weird. Then we’ll spend a half an hour on that. And that was one of our funnest bits.
We don’t want to be a “funny” show
PJ: I think our best shows are the ones where we just don’t care. I feel like you get into this zone where the magic happens and its like you don’t over think stuff and you’re in this flow. And that when you can just roll in shit. We’ve never been like, oh this is funny. We don’t want to be a “funny” show.
Jase: No, we never go like what’s todays break? Jase is going to talk about the fight last night with Lou (his wife) – what’s the funny “out”? We don’t have the funny “out” planned. We take away that pressure straight away.
PJ: I think why it works is that a lot of it is mystery. Jase comes to the table with stuff I have no idea about. And I come to the table with stuff he has no idea about and that’s where the magic happens.
I think we bring out the best in each other. Like I bring out his Psycho side.
Jase: I was always a bit of a smart arse at school but I wasn’t a very confident person and now I’m doing my best radio because I feel confident on-air with her.
PJ: We have that trust as well and when you’ve got that trust…
Jase: …that’s probably why this relationship works. I’ve been in a lot of on-air relationships and this one works because no one wants to be the star.
radioinfo: As a born and bred Kiwi, tell us, what do you really make of the AFL?
PJ:The AFL? I think it’s amazing! The MCG has 90,000 people there. How cool it that! I think it’s wicked. You can’t deny how passionate people get.
radioinfo: But you haven’t worked in this market before…
Jase: She’s an illegal…
PJ: …Yep, I’m an illegal…
People are like: we get its different but as long as you’re generating good content…
radioinfo: Has anyone picked up on your accent and sent you mail that says, ‘Kiwi go home?’
PJ: I was really worried about that. That was one of the biggest things I was concerned about
Jase: There was more talk of it off the air before we even started then there has been since the show began.
PJ: I sort of let it get to me in the beginning and then… I look at Melbourne… how many different nationalities there are. And, at the end of the day, people work with different nationalities all the time. Why shouldn’t they when it’s radio?
Jase: We went through a similar experience Three years earlier when I went to New Zealand.
PJ: I think it’s the initial shock. People are like: we get its different but as long as you’re generating good content…
Jase:…and it’s like you learn mainstream things – like when I was in New Zealand it was a “chilly bin” instead of “esky” and if you go it’s chilly bin and I go, well that’s stupid, it should be esky – well, of course people aren’t going to like you because you should be acclimatising.
PJ: I really think I would have got a lot more crap for it to be honest…
Jase:…If anything, I reckon it was just for the first week and that was more just a reaction to a new show and I haven’t read any email or anything on social about it since. It’s the elephant in the room and if you try and hide it then you’re asking for it.
PJ: I’ve got a boyfriend back in New Zealand.
Jase: One month before she leaves for another country, she starts a relationship with a sheep farmer…
PJ:…could it be anymore cliché Kiwi?
Jase: Sometimes I think the Kiwi accent can be as good a weapon as it can be a hindrance.
radioinfo: Tell us a bit more about the practical things you did to develop your on-air relationship.
Jase: For the first 8 months PJ and I would go for a coffee at least 3 days a week and sit there and go: ‘Okay, what have I done in the last two days that annoyed you? Almost like marriage counselling…
PJ: …It is! It’s like a marriage.
Jase: And the great thing is, she’s got a shit poker face. And she’ll go, “I’m all good.” And I’ll go, you’re fucking not all good – so what’s up? And she might go: ‘When you suggest a crazy idea like this, I sort of shut down.’ And I’m like: “Okay, cool… then I won’t do that, because if I do keep doing that then I’m breaking the agreement that we made.
PJ: And that’s why the trust is built to the level that we have now. It’s those uncomfortable chats you have to have. You have to be brutally honest about how things make you feel.
Jase: And PJ, God love her, can’t operate in negativity – she just can’t. If I’m going to be negative about something, it won’t work because all it will do is make her shut down and then we won’t have a good show.
PJ: That’s not to say that it’s smooth sailing 24/7 because, as in any normal relationship, being the two different people that we are, there’s going to be things that you don’t actually see in the same light. There’ll naturally be moments when you have that discomfort – and you get through it – and you always come out stronger.
The relationship for us has probably been the biggest thing that we’re really proud of
Jase: Our show’s very prepped. We do a lot of work behind the scenes. There’s still a lot of mystery to it. We plan separately.
What happens is, we’ll all hang around after the show and do a basic plan for the next day and the week ahead. And then each morning we take it in turns to come in early so only one of us comes in at 4.30 with the producers and logs the show and the other one comes in at 5.30. That way, we don’t know what each other is talking about and we really are in the dark.
But I think, the relationship for us has probably been the biggest thing that we’re really proud of…
PJ: …We’re actually having a really fun time.