Everyone thinks they know Jim Gellatly. He’s still young in the broadcasting game, but experience-wise he could be Xfm’s John Peel, having broadcast from many of Scotland’s commercial radio stations. He can also talk the legs off a donkey (or in this case, fingers off a typist). And his fanaticism for Dundee FC is only rivalled by his passion for new music.
But what about his telly career? Or a keen interest in Geri Halliwell and Simply Red? Or ‘discovering’ the Italian house hits way before anyone else?
Or most stunning of all, he even confesses to cheering on Dundee United. Shockeroonie!
Aha! Jim Gellatly is far-removed from the world of sensible jerseys and Radio Norwich, but shares – or shared – one thing with Alan Partridge, possession of a “Best of the Beatles”. “I got it for Xmas,” protests the blue-mohawked champion of indie music – “it was when I was at school, there was a guy called ‘Baines’ supervising us. He was asking what sort of music we were into; I said the Beatles and got whacked over the head with a snooker cue… he was a bit of a punk, and that persuaded me to investigate some of these bands and I got into the Pistols and Crass and the Damned.”
It’s unsurprising that – given that he fronts X-posure on Xfm Scotland – Jim’s tastes have widened over the years thanks to a constant bombardment of music. “There was a period where i was in folky rock stuff. More the punky side of things though,” he adds, ” The Pogues, Levellers… not folk rock like Lindisfarne and bollocks like that.“
With X-posure’s late night schedule he doesn’t quite get to gigs every night, though he‘d been broken in for this thanks to his offspring (with a small ‘o’).
So the proverbial ‘quiet night in’ is one with 3 kids and a Saturday night carryout. “We always order exactly the same thing. I know the kids now like a korma, or chicken balls. “I do like Mexican… I like food, as you can see!” (he extends himself to his full 7’3” and 48″ wide chest.)
Eating out – going out – is, as as you’d expect, a rare treat. “Candy’s been out with me once this year! I took her to see Panic at the Disco – there was the bribe of going out for a meal.”
However, his wife isn’t the ubiquitous long-suffering ‘rock widow’.
“I met her at a gig I was hosting in Aberdeen,” Jim remembers, “with local bands playing – the city had a good scene then – Sunfish, who became Geneva, were biggest at the time. ”
And indie shows are where you’re liable to find him (and her, sometimes) – well, when he’s not on-air.
“I’m not a nightclub man, more a live band guy, so I’d much rather see a band in a place like Tuts or the Venue than going to the Corn Exchange or the SECC – though if that’s the only place I’ll ever get to see a band then I’ll go – there’s some you have to see once in your life, though Dylan was pretty dreadful.”
He senses the interviewer’s alarm at this revelation.
“Say what you like, you’ll just make it up anyway!” he laughs.
Jim has a healthy disrespect for the press, gained as a columnist for itm? and The Lick and Scotcampus, and, it transpires, many other places.
“I used to write sports reports in my early days in Inverness, I’d file reports of the Sunday Post on the Highland League. Maybe I could have been a shinty correspondent!”
Jim’s earliest writing, like many things in his life, harks back to his punk rock roots.
“I edited the left-wing school magazine called Turn Left,” he reveals. “I did interviews with The Redskins and reviewed Billy Bragg records.” Which would have been just around the time of Red Wedge, Paul Weller’s movement which married music and Socialism. Jim laughs. “Paul Weller once said he’d vote Tory, but he retracted that – but maybe it’s rebellious to be a Tory these days!” Who says music and politics don’t mix? “They never had any cool bands, they had Phil Collins!” he roars.
For Jim, the music press is perhaps his main reading material.
“I’ve not read a book for a while,” he confesses, “I don’t really have time. I went through a period of reading a lot of rock biogs – everything from Luke Goss to Mick Hucknall to… whichever Kemp brother was in Eastenders, to Geri Halliwell.”
Chris Brookmyere’s ‘All Fun and Games’ was Jim’s most recent holiday book, though he didn’t have much time spare for reading.
“We went to New York the other year, and the first thing I did was dump the bags in the hotel and run off to Irvine Plaza to see Idlewild.”
Well, what’s a holiday if you can’t go and take in some local music?
“Candy gets really annoyed at me because when we’ve been into Rome and Amsterdam, I had to buy something local. One time I was in Italy I came away with a cheezy house music compilation, but the funny thing was about 5 tracks eventually appeared on Perfecto or something, some of them were huge hits, like Gala’s ‘Free From Desire.’
You’d imagine that Jim’d not really need to go buying music with all that comes his way – on the radio, in the post, and now via the web.
“The biggest struggle is keeping up with myspace,” he confesses. “I get up and I’m straight in front of the PC – a show like this with a lot of new music means I need to know what I’m talking about, so it involves a lot of reading and research, and it’s just me, helped out by Stuart the producer – it’s a helluva workload.” But fortunately it beats any other jobs he’s had, even the one when he monitored a conveyor belt for bad raspberries in 12 hour shifts. “Time just flies – because…” (pulls OTT thumbs-up pose and adopts Americanised voiceover tone) “… it really is the best job in the world!
No, it totally is, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Not even those areas that many a media personality has gone into – music, or politics? Conveniently, Jim has already, albeit briefly, dabbled in both.
“I appeared on a Grampian TV programme with Anne Mackenzie,” he recalls. “I was the Green party spokesman, and all the others people on the panel were young professional politicians – the SNP person was some lassie called Nicola Sturgeon, not too sure what became of her!”
Although “green-minded” Jim was less committed to the cause than his fellow panelists.
“I joined the Greens the night before,” he admits. “I’d only previously been to a couple of BBQs, I was friendly with some of the Green party people because I was hanging around with these hippies and anarchopunks.
What he lost in the cut and thrust of debate he made up for in style points. “Everyone was in suits apart from me,” he laughs. “I was wearing a paisley pattern shirt and had dyed black hair shaved at the sides goth-style… I did look very very cool but I was so out of my depth!”
We’ll keep searching for those clips, as Jim continues with music, which is (as John Miles once warbled) his first love – apart from the wife and kids of course. Oh, and football…
“Dundee FC is my other passion,” he admits. And he’s looking forward to the times ahead for his turbulent club. “If I won the lottery I’d certainly put a good wedge into Dundee FC, and not hope to get it back – just like Brooks Mileson at Gretna, just to see the club doing well.”
The next bit will come as a bit of a shock to many, and Rangers and Celtic supporters (and perhaps Scotland fans) should take note.
“When I was growing up, Dundee were in in the doldrums and Dundee United were the main team,” Jim recounts. “Not the MAIN team, certainly not,” he corrects himself, “but the most successful at that time – I would go to the European games with my dad, and support United against Barcelona or Roma.’
This is, for a football fanatic, unusual to say the least. “I like to see the underdog do well – just like my music tastes,” he explains.
Jim has worked in radio in every Scottish city, though ironically his hometown career amounted to one show.
“It was overnight on 1st January, and a mainstream show, so I went into the library and picked out The Clash along with stuff you’re supposed to play like Phil Collins – it was a bit of a mix! But it meant a lot to me because I know my late dad was at a party that night and had a wee radio with him, and was going ‘shh, shh, he’s speaking again!’. He never said it, but someone else did – ‘he was so proud of you tonight’, as he wasn’t that keen on me getting into radio.”
As many people in music have heard, it’s not a’ proper’ job. “I certainly didn’t make a lot of money out of it, so I was relying on handouts for a long time, but after years of struggling I think I’ve become quite successful at what I do… and not too bad at it, some of the time!
Jim Gellatly was – when this was written, around 2007 – on Xfm Scotland, Mon – Thu, from 10pm – 1pm, and on Sundays on X-Posure Xtra on Sundays from 18:00-19:00.
And now he’s back – as of April 2014 he’s hosting the Drivetime show on XFM Scotland – on 96.3FM in the Paisley and Renfrewshire area (most likely including bits of Glasgow) as well as on DAB and online via XFM.co.uk. More at www.jimgellatly.com.