in:Spire – Interview with BBC’s ‘Vis’ Duane Jones: ‘It’s the people who get up after being knocked down that go the furthest’
He’s a DJ, designer, business man, and a TV and radio presenter, with ties in the sports, music and fashion industries. He’s a BRIT School graduate who’s first real job was on national radio. He boasts an impressive back catalogue, including credentials with Radio 1, 1Xtra, 5 Live, MTV and the list goes on.
He’s best known for his partnership with fellow ‘troublemaker of the radio’, Ace and has kept the nation entertained for the past 10 years. Formerly known as Vis, Duane Jones, is still going strong and has his fingers in more pies than ever but the Pisces-born, self-confessed dreamer knows exactly what it is he’s doing and now he’s here to give an insight into life in the entertainment industry and how it all started for him.
Looking back on his teenage years, ‘I was just going to go and play football. I left school with no qualifications because I couldn’t focus for long periods of time.’ Duane wasn’t planning on applying for any form of higher education and it wasn’t until he asked a friend who they were applying to that he even knew the the BRIT School existed, ‘Being from South London, I didn’t think there was anywhere that would facilitate what the BRIT school did.’
Taking his chances, he decided to give it a go and send it an application form, and to his surprise he was offered an interview. This is when he first realised how much he actually knew about the media and music industry, ‘I thought I just couldn’t focus on all those subjects at school, but subconsciously I was studying media, radio and journalism. What music was coming out, how it all works, how to market things… they said I was perfect for a media course and even at this point I still didn’t know what I wanted to do.’
Duane, was playing semi-pro football at the time and still considered pursuing this as his career, until he saw an advert in a newspaper about the BBC launching a brand new radio station. He sent in a demo and then that was the start of Vis the radio presenter, ‘I’ve worked all over the BBC since. I’ve worked on 1Xtra, I’ve had my own show on Radio 1, I’ve contributed to 5 Live many times, I couldn’t have asked for more for my radio career.’
‘I landed a flagship show on a national radio station as my first job – that was hard to deal with,’ Duane reminisces about getting his big break. He stressed that the hardest thing to overcome was the level of professionalism. ‘We were in at the deep end, having not had a job before this gig, so to learn how to conduct ourselves in different environments was a lot. Engaging with the right people, sending formal emails, being on time.’
Over the past decade, Vis has been nominated for MOBO awards and has picked up his own SONY Gold Award, ‘I did a lot, but in hindsight, if I knew then, what I know now, I think from a business level, I would have been more creative and achieved more.’ Despite being one of the most popular DJs on Radio 1Xtra, Vis can’t help but think there may have been missed opportunities, ‘I think about it, all the musicians that are around now, they were all on my TV show without a record deals, Lethal Bizzle, Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder, I don’t think I capitalised on my position enough or on the opportunities I had.’
Duane has managed to keep his career at the top for the past decade, but he says being able to evolve and move with the times is a key skill to have when working in the entertainment industry. ‘You have to adapt. The most successful people that you look at, know how to evolve and that’s key in today’s world.’ Punctuality is also a must, being early in every sort of way, ‘If you’re on time you’re late. You’ve got to be early for meetings, you’ve got to be early when it comes to setting trends, you’ve got to be early with music, you’ve got to be early when it comes to creativity… timing is everything!’
Being able to stay focused and at the top of your game in the entertainment industry is a lot harder than it seems. From the outside it looks like it’s mainly parties and premieres, when really, it’s so much more. Duane’s longevity in this industry has stemmed from the real passion he has for his work, ‘For me, it’s the need to be creative and express myself. I don’t stop working until I go to sleep. From that first meeting, I’ll work all the way around the clock until literally 2 or 3am.’
For most people, working in so many different capacities would take a toll on their lives, and most people wouldn’t be able to cope with it all, but for Duane, keeping so busy is what keeps him going. ‘I think ideas is my thing, I like coming up with ideas, I’m a dreamer, I’m a Pisces. I just sit there and dream, and those dreams become ideas, and I’m fortunate enough for some of those ideas do become a reality. I tend to compartmentalise my private life, my radio life, my fashion distribution and so on and I think that’s why I am able to have so much going on’.
Looking back on past experiences, Vis is reflective on everything he’s already achieved and makes sure he takes all the lessons he learns from one experience to the next. ‘I told myself I’d never make the same mistakes I made in football in the world of media. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you still have to work hard, you’re still gonna get knocked back, life is not fair like that.’ Swapping a semi-professional football career for one in the media has taught him one thing in particular, ‘It’s the people that work the hardest, it’s the people that get up after being knocked down that go the furthest!’
And 2013 looks set to be busier than ever for radio personality Duane. He’s working alongside ‘Starter’ and ‘Mitchell & Ness’ in the fashion world and is heading up collaborations between the brands and various athletes and musicians, he’s still working on 1Xtra and is also doing work for 5Live, and he’s working for Rio Ferdinand’s 5Mag. ‘With the sports stuff, I think the younger generation especially are bored of the way sports are reported. It’s just the usual facts and figures. I wanna get into the lifestyle of athletes.’
‘That’s everybody’s desired lifestyle to live like a top athlete, so getting into the mind of an athlete, is what I really want to do’. On the flip-side, Duane has also co-founded a new company called ‘Renowned’, alongside Zeon Richards, Wretch 32’s manager, ‘It’s an arts space. We manage, look after and publish various acts: Wretch 32, Jacob Banks, Wizzy Wow, Funny Tummy, Knox Brown and Abas. It’s also got a film division to it as well and the guys that run that day to day are busy getting commissions online’.
Vis has always made it part of his job to find the next big thing and to support up-and-coming artists, and as one last point made to me, he stressed that with all of the constant government cuts and the dropping unemployment rate, he urges people with new ideas to go for it and set up their own business. ‘They don’t teach people how to set up businesses in schools. You go to school, you go to college, you go to uni, you get a 9-5 job and get paid 25k a year and then you retire’. He went on to say that this type of life is being taught to us in schools, but it doesn’t have to be the norm. Be creative and have strength in your ideas and go for it.
Duane’s Top 3 Tips on working in the entertainment industry:
1. Education is so important but it’s not the be all or end all. If you’re an intelligent person, you can teach yourself things, you can be self taught. With that being said, my advice would be to do work experience, get your experience, get the right credentials and put it on your CV.
2. Go to events and network. Meet people, its all about who you know and keeping your relationships.
3. Know your value and be realistic. When you’re at the bottom, it’s just about getting your work out there and taking risks as well. For example, even if you feel that the project is 100 per cent yours, you may have to give a split of that profit away just to get yourself out there. But then on the flipside, know your worth and don’t sell yourself out and work for free if its not valuable.
Follow Duane Jones on twitter @Duane_Jones
Follow Tasha on Twitter @xoTashaaTagged in: Duane Jones, Vis
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