He loves music, football and loud shouty music. He’s less keen on showbiz events and arena gigs. He loves, and hates, performing in front of a live audience. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you: Dominik Diamond.
“Ok, I’ve got an hour” says Xfm Scotland’s breakfast presenter Dominik Diamond, before slouching into his chair. The 60 minutes are the countdown to his heading into town for some charity sportsmen’s dinner – or “media schmoozing whorefest” – where he expects to mix with the likes of the editor of The Sun and Gavin Hastings. All for charidee, of course. Is this something that Xfm’s very own shock jock is looking forward to?
“God no, I’d rather be at a gig!” he spits.
An evening making small talk with people he doesn’t know is not, it transpires, the Diamond idea of a good time.
“The best night out is going to King Tut’s and seeing a band you’ve never heard of before and coming out saying ‘they’re fucking brilliant’. There’s nothing to beat turning up early for a gig and catching the support act and them being blinding.”
And small is beautiful, in music at least.
“I hate the whole ‘arena’ show experience. It’s mostly to do with the lengths of queues for the bar!”
Dominik has grabbed a pet subject, it seems!
“The thing about the likes of the SECC is when it does work it’s astonishing, Coldplay was the perfect fusion of sound and vision at a big gig. I missed Muse but the missus went along and said it was astonishing. But it’s the way with gigs in Britain, the bigger it is the more you get treated like cattle or and a commodity.”
And despite having worked and gig-goed in London, Scotland is best – the correct answer! “London venues are horrible. Apart from the old Brixton Academy which had perfect acoustics – I saw some great bands there, like Sugar…”
Ah, Sugar, whose leader Bob Mould famously gave himself tinnitus from years of aural abuse… is dicing with deaf our Mr Diamond’s equivalent of the mid-life crisis motorbike?
“My tastes have got heavier over the years without a doubt,” says the soon-to-be-aurally-challenged presenter. “Things like Trivium are spectacular, I’d have never listened to that when I was younger. It’s maybe being a parent, I get more shouty as I get older so I like bands that are more shouty. I was never into hard rock and metal when I was young, my cousin Alan was, and I was always into more melodic stuff, so maybe that’s why I like the metal.”
It transpires that Dominik’s love of music may be one that’s passed through the genes.
“One of the first things I remember as a child was the soundtrack from That’ll Be The Day (a Buddy Holly biopic starring David Essex!) and classic doowop and rock’n’roll – my dad was a pub singer in Arbroath, and when I’m with him in the car and Dirty Pretty Things or the Libertines come on, he’ll go ‘that’s a country and western song, that is!’.”
It seems that Dominik is going through what he classes as a “bizarre second childhood”. They [Breakfast team Scott and Marisa] take the piss out of me – I get really passionate about things like Buffy, and I go on about bands like I’m a gushy 14 yr old groupie. I get an almost quasi-sexual thrill when I meet people like Paul from Maximo Park, people who are intense passionate lyricists, I do get quite fanboy about them.”
There is, he is forced to admit, one disadvantage of gigs in the smaller more intimate venues.
“Sweaty feet.” Ah, that smoking ban has a lot to answer for. “Maybe it’s my own feet?” he muses. “It’s not something you’ll hear me say often about gigs, being basically anally cavity searched every time I go into the Academy, but I do feel very sorry for the bouncers – the government don’t think about these things, some poor girl doing this for a few extra quid and faced with a mob of pissed up gig goers all piling outside for a fag.”
Dominik’s a reformed smoker – formerly “a 2 packs a day man” – but not one of those holier-than-thou types. ”I was against the ban, I always stuck up for people’s right to smoke.”
It does seem that while Dominik loves music, the live experience comes before a night in a club. “I’ve only enjoyed clubbing if I’ve been on E, and don’t understand why people go clubbing if they’re not taking drugs – and I’m too old for that shit now, unfortunately. Or fortunately, kids, because they don’t work, remember, as Richard Ashcroft said!”
However, we can’t expect any lurid tabloid revelations about his lifestyle – he, as the saying goes, got his retaliation in early. “I made a deliberate point that I was not going to run the risk of anyone fucking me over for doing drugs – so if someone says ‘we’ve got photos of you doing a line of coke in a bar,’ well, big fucking deal.”
Dominik gave up smoking in the run-in to the birth of his eldest, and as a responsible father, the club scene is perhaps best avoided anyway. Unfortunately, gig-going is getting harder to fit in.
“I go to 2 or 3 shows a week, but we seem to have more and more children tumbling out and with every child it’s one gig less!” he laughs. However, there’s always a way to take in some music.
“The great thing thing about this job is that it’s ‘work’ – ‘you don’t understand, love, it’s my job, I’m working!’“
Mrs Diamond, however, won’t fall for that one too often, so babysitters permitting, there’s only one answer. “I’ll take her along as much as possible, she loves her music, we’ve seen BRMC, Weezer, Kaiser Chiefs… our second date was the Phoenix festival.”
Obsessive behaviour aside, the main problem for our host is the hours, though there’s a natural remedy for lack of sleep.
“I’ve had terrible insomnia for years, so I’ve ‘trained’ myself to 4 or 5 hours a night.” Which allows time for another of Dominik’s obsessions. “I’m obsessed with American genre dramas, cop shows, anything on Sky One or E4 – 24, Smallville, Buffy, any cult sci-fi, I just store them up. The single greatest thing in my life apart from my children, is Sky Plus, that was invented just for me.”
His time as host of cult computer show Gamesmaster is a memory for many of Xfm Scotland’s listeners, but sadly, his ‘other job’ as TV pundit for the Daily Star takes him to the wrong side of the TV screen, and forcing him to watch Big Brother and X-factor. Other passions are cooking – he taught himself when ‘utterly bored’ living in the Lake District – and his massive comic collection – his eldest Molly is into the X-Men so the comic legacy is being passed onto her. Travel is another passion – Las Vegas his favourite destination – “It’s all the bright lights, that and because I’m an inveterate gambler.” Though these days New York is easier to get to with 3 kids.
And of course, a different passion – religion … he most recently appeared in the news following his trip to the Far East, where he took part in an ancient traditional crucifixion ceremony.
“It’s an interesting time to ask about belief,” he confesses. “6 months ago I’d have listed the passion of the average football fan, passion of a gig-goer, and my children. Now, my faith in God has been completely re-ignited in a result of this trip to the Philippines, so that’s the absolutely most important thing in my life.” And the children slip down that chart, I joke. “I’d not have the children without God,” he grins. “So it’s pretty much ‘God’.”
It’s a logical step to politics, which he admits is a “difficult one”. As a columnist of 8 years for the Daily Star – ”a long time for one paper” – he is, it seems, their red under the bed. Is he there as part of a plot to infiltrate their readership? “It’d be good to be able to say that, but it was basically they offered me a job, I used to write for Smash Hits and then FHM, and it was through that,” he admits. “I was filling in for someone who was having a holiday, and that’s why I try to never take holidays!” It’s a love-hate relationship between Dominik and his readers and even his bosses. “It’ll be no surprise to anyone that the Star is not a left wing newspaper, it’s very much ‘let’s hang asylum seekers on the white cliffs of Dover’.”
While hardly agreeing with the paper’s stance, he does confess to becoming more conservative – with a small ‘c’. “I had a guy come up to me in a pub and called me a disgrace for saying that Labour should be ejected from power, but having proudly voted New Labour in 1997 and watched them, as far as I’m concerned, systematically betray and rape the ideology of that party every day since…” Which puts the Star closer to being a government supporter? “There’s good and bad about every tabloid,” he says. “The thing I like about the Star is it never pretends to be something it’s not.”
His job, well, as safe as any, he does have a plan B up his sleeve – budding rock star with his Breakfast Show band, The AMs. His musical ‘career’ started off rather differently, however. “I did classical guitar at school,” he reveals. Yes, gigs – sorry, ‘recitals’ – at St John’s Kirk and St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh followed.
Surprisingly, The AMs are his first ‘proper’ band, and 30-odd years of pent-up emotion are now pouring out. Well, kind of. “It’s great rehearsing, and having loved music, but I couldn’t write songs – then I realised what the trick was, try not to write songs,” he admits, rather cryptically. “I remember reading that Morrissey when he was stuck would travel rounds the bus in Manchester and listen to people’s conversations and use that as a basis for a song.” Which is how his first song for The AMs came into being. “One of the girls here went out with a Jamaican guy, who loved ‘Bob’, and I said that she loved the boaby”. Hence, a song about a guy who loved the girl but not as much as he loved marajuana. “There are shades of Half Man Half Biscuit in the verses, but I like to call our sound nu-skiffle, with influences by the Fratellis and Glasvegas, and doowop.”
Initially planned as a one-off show to open the Xfm-sponsored Tigerfest in Dunfermline’s Carnegie Hall, Dominik has got the live music bug – after getting over those first night nerves. “I’m genuinely a terrified nervous live performer – even when doing the best man speech at my brother’s wedding.” But all those hours on TV, and live radio? “You can’t see the audience – or can’t hear them booing!” he laughs. All of which has has taught him one thing about gigging. “I’ll never go and see a band, even 3rd on the bill at the Barfly, and go ‘you’re shit!’ again!”
Dominik Diamond presents the Xfm Scotland Breakfast Show, weekdays from 6 – 9am. His band The AMs with colleagues Scott and Marisa, will be performing soon at a venue near you.
This piece was commissioned for the Xfm website during the Scottish station’s heyday in the late-2000s. Dominick is now resident in Toronto where he presents on Q107. More at www.dominikdiamond.com