Sunken Foal with Donal Dineed. Picture: Nialler9

Tonight will see the final Small Hours programme take to the air. It’s been a mainstay of Today FM for years. But at about 2am tomorrow morning, Donal Dineen will take off his headphones in the studio for the final time, and Irish music will be worse off for it. This morning, Thursday, Dineen’s penultimate show saw Irish bands Moths, Solar Bears and RSAG come in and pay their final respects to Donal’s immense contribution to music in this country. They all also brought along new songs. The final guest, who came on past the end of the show’s two-hour running time was Sunken Foal, AKA Dunk Murphy. Each guest thanked Dineen for his contributions over the last 15 years and longer. But he didn’t really take the compliments. Until Dunk thanked him. It led to what Dineen admits was a rant, about how radio in Ireland is firmly in the middle, no longer contributing to society. It’s a conversation that Jim Carroll has brought up numerous times on his blog, On The Record, over the years. And a lot of other people, including myself, would also be of a similar opinion. But Dineen has been a mainstay of radio for probably as long as I’ve been alive. Today FM is apparently not going to replace Dineen. The show beforehand, presented by KC, is going to be extended for an hour, followed by music with no DJ. The argument is transcribed after the jump. You can listen back to the entire show here, courtesy of @frasioct.

Dunk: “Can I just say thanks to you for this amazing show for the past 14 or 15 years? It’s been really brilliant having you there. It’s such a sad shame that you have to die and what are we gonna do? It’s gonna be a great funeral though.”

Donal: “Well, somebody said today it could be an opportunity for a resurrection. So that’s what I’m concentrating on at the moment… Like I said to John, I don’t want to be repeating myself, but it’s just been an amazing pleasure to be part of listeners’ lives, number one, and also to be close to people I find incredibly inspiring, and it’s been an incredibly creative time over the last number of years and I’ve seen it evolve. For me, it’s been a great pleasure to have Jack (Colleran AKA Moths) involved because I’ve known how good [Moths] is, I’ve discovered how good Solar Bears are, and I’ve seen RSAG several times. But when you’re slightly removed from the picture, as in when you’re not a creator yourself, so to speak, then you get to see the development a little bit more. For me, what I’ve seen developing over the last number of years kind of come to fruition in Moths, so that’s one way of putting it. For me, it comes full circle. And that’s going to continue. This (his leaving the Small Hours) is just a tiny thing.”

Dunk: “But it’s been hugely important in helping these things happen and I only hope things aren’t going to slow down when the show isn’t there.”

Donal: “Well there’s no danger of that, because, like I keep saying, there’s the likes of our guests tonight, Nialler, Nay and Tim, there’s a force that cannot be broken at this point. So this is just a tiny thing and doesn’t have anything to do with the output as such. It’s just the conduit for the output that we’re talking about. And radio is one of the best place, obviously, for music to be translated and for people to get things.”

Dunk: “But a decent captain at the helm, it must be said.”

Donal: “OK, maybe, debateable. But the thing is is that we’re just not well served anymore in this country. And we were at one point, and that’s really disappointing. Among the many music stations with licenses, it’s not completely the case – there’s still brilliant people in there – but the thing is that you’ll be hardpressed to find people who love music at the top of most of them. What’s the story with that? What’s the story with a head of music whose not into music? Why is he the head of music? I’m not saying that’s here (Today FM) or anything, but in general, what’s the story with that? I mean, that’s ridiculous; that’s wrong.”

Dunk: “It is wrong. I mean, is there a head of computer games? It’s very bizarre.”

Donal: “Yeah, the head of no direction; the head of recession. I dunno. It’s debateable, right, and it’s something that needs to be debated because…”

Dunk: “I was talking to Si Schroeder about you and we were talking that [the show is] actually a public service. This shouldn’t be measured by advertising rates or anything like that. It’s important for the culture of our country and a wider span than that.”

Donal: “I wouldn’t go that far. But… it is a public service, I do see it as that. The thing is that public service broadcasting still exists in this country but we’re not being served well in that respect. The target of, definitely, new music on the radio and just in terms of t you can hear the same thing all day every day, right, that’s fine, OK, the same thing is fine in its own little place… I wouldn’t criticise any other type of music. I’d be a fool to do that and it would go against all my principles because it would be like saying, ‘I don’t like the way you dance, stop dancing.'”

Dunk: “And you’ve never said that to anybody?”

Donal: “Well I’ve said it to you now. I really mean it Dunk, please stop dancing… I said it earlier when it came to the development in print, in terms of writing about music. The idea of taking something and taking it apart for fun is over, right. You can do that and it might be funny but it’s not that funny and it’s not that useful. It’s not anything that’s going to advance anything. But that’s gone because people have bypassed that. People who know about [music] and believe in it have been able to bypass that and gone, ‘OK it’ sgone, I don’t need to go to the page anymore because it’s there.’ And the response in terms of radio programming to that pressure from the internet and other sources you receive music and receive information and so on has been pathetic. It’s been to go to the middle and stay in the middle and keep it there. So we were talking last night about the clear channel: it dictates, in effect, I don’t know how many of the radio stations in the world. And there isn’t even a person in between that in this country saying, ‘OK, let’s stick in this, let’s stick in 10 per cent of that of 15 per cent of that. They don’t exist anymore. That’s wrong, y’know?”

Dunk: “It’s not even representational of what’s happening, which is the other very strange thing. There’ll still be 5, 10 per cent of the population loving this very genuine sought-after music. That should be represented.”

Donal: “I totally agree, right, but not only that, I believe there’s another 20 per cent, 25 per cent, even 40 per cent who would get it if they were exposed to it.”

Dunk: “Can I just tell you something? I got my first job in, whatever, 2000, working in a graphic design office and this kind of ageing hippy, 55-year-old dude was my boss. And he had the whole place set up in his house and he used to live, to just keeping working really late into the night just to listen to you. And every morning I’d come in and he’d tell me the whole tracklist of what you were playing. The last music he had bought was Hendrix back in the day, so there’s young people and people of all ages loving what you do.”

Donal: “That’s great and it’s been the great pleasure of my life, being able to walk down the street in any place and there’s one in every town – and I mean that in a good way – and you’re fixing a puncture or doing something like that and someone will say, ‘Can I give you a hand? Oh, hey, thank your,’ or whatever. They’re thanking me – for what?! I thank you for thanking me for that thing. I’ll tell you another thing. Here’s a story, right, and it’s about my opinion of what it is I do because I don’t want to make a big deal out of that. I don’t think it’s a big deal. It’s not rocket science by any means, and I’ve been the luckiest guy around here for so many years to have that position. To get into that position you have to battle and keep your back to all this stuff. That battle has now been lost. But the war is only starting. But the thing is, nine years ago, my mom was ill, I was in hospital in Cork for a week or thereabouts, eight, nine days, and it was a terrible time. But every night I went out to the carpark and got some air or whatever. Usually it was after things closed down, so it’s 1am. Every night I saw the guy who was the hospital radio DJ, so played for double as long as me… five, six hours. I saw him come out with his records, put his records on the back of his tiny motorbike and drive into the city. That’s the guy I think about when I think about what do you do. And if you think about any opinion of yourself that you might have, about how great that is or how big that is, or how important it is, it’s no more important than what he does. He’s more important, in my opinion. I think about him all the time. I think about the guy who comes and plays in the hospital radio station in Cork five, six, maybe seven nights a week, and he does that for maybe five people. And as long as there’s one person there, that matters. That’s the end of my rant. No, no, that’s the end of the programme. That’s probably the end of the license.”