Thursday 18 January 2018

Waking hours: Derek Mooney

Derek Mooney, 43, is a radio producer and broadcaster. From Donnybrook, he lives in Kilmacud

I sleep for about four hours a night and always have done. I can go asleep very quickly, but I'll wake up after four hours -- and that wouldn't matter whether I'd been out all day working really long hours, or not working at all. I drive people mad when I go on holidays with them. After four hours, I'm drifting in and out of doziness. I usually get up around eight o'clock.

There is absolutely no structure to my life. Whatever else happens, I've got to be here in the radio studio at half one.

At the moment, I'm also working on Fame: The Musical; I'm presenting it. This morning I was down in the Grand Canal Theatre doing links. The programme is looking for two people who will play the leads in Fame: The Musical, which will go on tour all around Ireland. They have to be able to sing, dance and act.

I have the radio or television on every night. I have to, because I have a tinnitus condition in my left ear 24/7. It's no joke. But some people have it really bad. I've had it for 11 years. I remember the day I got it. I was after having a wet shave, but I have a memory of them using some kind of electronic device for massaging your face afterwards and a vibration went right up through the jawbone. I remember coming out and having the 'zzzz' sound and it never leaving me. So I think it was that, but it may not have been. I went to every specialist at the beginning, but there's no cure for it -- you just get on with it. I have the TV or radio on because of that every night.

When I start listening to the radio, it would be Morning Ireland. Also, I can hear the birds. After 18 years on nature programmes I know the sound of most birds.

I've only one radio: a tiny little transistor radio, which is 10 years old. I carry it everywhere with me. If I have a shower, I bring it to the bathroom and when I'm in the kitchen, then I bring it with me. I change the batteries. It's not that I'm frugal, just that I don't believe in waste of any kind -- what's the point? I leave the house at 10 at the very latest. Then I don't leave RTE until seven in the evening. I don't take lunch, I have a sandwich at my desk.

I started out in radio. I just think I was born to be a broadcaster. I didn't do it for the fame. It's just like someone always wanted to be a train driver, or a doctor. It isn't any more complicated than that. I grew up in Donnybrook, and went to school at the back gate and I used to dream about working in RTE -- literally. Gay Byrne was my hero. My first job in RTE was during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as a runner. I worked through the night, and I absolutely loved it. I literally worked my way up.

When we started this radio programme [Mooney] I felt that some commentators were very snobby. You don't always have to take yourself terribly seriously. Sometimes it can be frivolous, other times it's meaty material. We have a great team. The whole idea is local stories that have a universal appeal. Occasionally, we'll have a sprinkle of stardust, but we don't rely on stars. That doesn't appeal to me.

I couldn't think of a better job, and I couldn't think of a better slot. For the most part, people are very nice. When I mentioned my tinnitus on air, someone sent in a CD of hypnotherapy with a bit that specialised on tinnitus. I put it on in the car one day, and about five minutes into it, it said, 'Do not listen to this in the car'. People still write in. Not everyone has email, or a phone that can send text messages.

Sometimes people send me mass bouquets. I like to reply to everybody if they sent a card and to acknowledge that I got something from them. OK, it may not be relevant, or it may be a crank; there are plenty of cranks. I'm a crank myself when I want to be, the only thing is I don't put pen to paper. If I've nothing good to say, I tend to say nothing. In interviews I don't ask anybody anything too personal. I wouldn't like to think I would leave somebody in a situation where their whole life is destroyed because of something stupid I had said, or by me putting them on the spot.

I like my job, and I like being a radio producer. I like being on air, but I'm not going to die tomorrow if I'm not. You'd miss it -- like when I stopped doing Winning Streak, I missed it. But I don't think anything like that is important anymore. I miss my late brother a lot more than I miss Winning Streak, I can assure you. Since he died, I don't miss anything as much as you miss somebody who shouldn't have died. I think when you get a little older -- I'm 43 -- I'm seeing people sick and dying. It all sounds like a cliche, but I don't want any hassle in my life.

I leave here after half six. I go to the gym every day, bar weekends. I do about 20 minutes on the cross trainer and five minutes on the bike. I'm not killing myself. I don't want to be Arnold Schwarzenegger. I had a 6.2 cholesterol level, so that's why I started. On the way home I'd go into the local shop and buy a breast of chicken and whatever it is I'm going to eat and make it. I'm an average cook, but I wouldn't be afraid to try something.

At the moment we're getting ready for our listeners' choice concert, Mooney Tunes in NCH with the RTE Concert Orchestra on May 5. I'll be picking Cavalleria Rusticana, but I'm not into music. Sometimes I'll watch stuff on YouTube -- Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick -- but I certainly wouldn't know who's in the charts at the moment.

In the evenings I usually go over to friends, and then at weekends I'd be out on a Friday or Saturday night. I like sitting in a restaurant and having a couple of bottles of wine, then to get into a cab and go home. But I might go to The Dragon, and occasionally I go to the bingo at The George on a Sunday. In the evening I'll watch the news and Prime Time, and I haven't missed The Frontline since it started. I think Pat is like a surgeon with a scalpel. Then I've got the box set of Yes Minister, which I turn on every single night. Within a few minutes I'm gone.


'Fame: The Musical' is on Sunday nights on RTE One, at 6.30pm. See

In conversation with Ciara Dwyer

Sunday Independent

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