Ross Richardson is a Bachelor of Communication (Media) graduate from RMIT and is currently employed as a panel operator at SBS Radio. It might sound like a relatively normal existence, but once a month, he rises early in the morning and heads to Triple R in Brunswick East to fill a volunteer broadcaster gap between the hours of 2am and 6am. It’s aptly titled The Graveyard Shift.
It sounds nightmarish, but in fact, it’s a rather commanding position and viewed as a gateway to greater things in the field of radio. Speak to many orbiting the entertainment cosmos around Melbourne and you’ll realise that quite a few have done time in the chair. In Richardson’s case, he began Graveyarding after capitalising on his RMIT Media Studies’ affiliation program with Triple R, Room With A View.
“Graveyards serve three purposes at Triple R,” informs the station’s Program Manager Mick James. “They are a training ground for people new to radio, a place where people who can't commit to a weekly show can have an on-air involvement, and they are a development space for future program presenters.”
So what drives Richardson and others to do, not only the longest shift on Triple R, but also one that goes to air during a time when most people are asleep? “I know it’s not the type of thing that people listen to religiously, but that’s what we expect, and it isn’t the same listeners every month,” explains Richardson.
Due to the hours that Graveyard Shifts air, first-time listeners are commonly the ones that make up the target market. Whether it be shift-workers, taxi drivers, people coming home from a night out, one ‘particular type’ of listener is almost impossible to pin down.
Graveyarding is such a solitary gig in comparison to Breakfasters, day or evening shifts on the Triple R grid. With nobody else wandering the halls of the station, there’s an unadulterated feeling of musical ownership of the airwaves in this stretch. Alone with their thoughts, isotonic beverages, caffeine, glucose and the music they revere, Graveyarders work a tough, though principled shift.
With new music, pop, sample-based and garage tunes being Richardson’s Graveyard speciality, he admits that the lack of ears tuning in takes nothing away from the significance of the ‘death shift’. “Graveyarding gives you skills to speak at will – SBS is my day job, but Triple R Is where I can do radio more creatively,” he beams.
Concurring with Richardson is fellow Graveyarder and hip-hop, funk and Afrobeat spinner Anna Paterson, who has followed this ritualistic path for the past 18 months, working as a chef by day at Milkwood cafe, just opposite the station on Nicholson Street.
“You do sometimes get odd people calling in and freak out thinking you’re in a building all by yourself at 4am, but it’s a powerful feeling doing the Graveyard because you’re learning great radio skills and supporting Triple R,” she says.
Then there’s Eliana Schoulal, a former Graveyarder and now current host of the wild vintage/neo-vintage Saturday night Triple R program, Hellzapoppin’. “The safety net of a Graveyard Shift is that it’s the dead of night and you don’t know who is listening so you experiment musically and learn how to be a broadcaster,” Schoulal explains.
“I’m always bumping into people who do Graveyards, or who have done them – my partner is even Graveyarding now after being inspired by sitting in with me once!” she states proudly.
To join the Graveyard roster you need to complete the Triple R training course. There are currently 225 people on the roster, some who are more frequent presenters than others on The Graveyard Shift.