Hi. I'm Tony Fenton
Tony Fenton is a larger than life figure. One of Ireland’s most experienced and widely liked DJs, he currently occupies the early afternoon slot on Today FM, where he attracts an impressive audience. Behind the mic, he is full of braggadocio – but off-air he is a different character entirely. So what really makes the Northside Dubliner tick?
Olaf Tyaransen, 29 Jun 2011
You’re still in touch with a lot of old friends?
Yeah. I’m very lucky like that. I like to put in a bit of effort with friends because it’s important to keep in touch.
When did you have your first drink?
My first beer, Olaf, was a great occasion. My dad was doing a nixer for my Uncle Paddy over in Walkinstown. Myself and my brother Paul would go out every Saturday to help him build this extension. My uncle Paddy was a gas man. His son, Brian, and ourselves, we’d all muck in to help and then we’d go to the pub. The other two lads would go down to the pub, and we’d be brought along. My cousin Brian was a couple of years older than me so he’d be on pints of Smithwicks. My Dad was getting a round and he ordered a Guinness for himself, a Guinness for Uncle Paddy, a Smithwicks for Brian and – “your first drink, lads!” – a couple of shandies for Paul and myself. So we had those. Then my Uncle Paddy went up and ordered two Guinness and three Smithwicks – because, of course, the shandies looked like Smithwicks. We had those and, you know – the very first sip you knew the difference. We were flying. So when my dad went up to get the next round, he ordered, “Same again, please,” and the barman goes, “Three Smithwicks and two Guinness?” and it was twigged that we had had our first beer. He gave us the hairy eyeball look! And that was my first drink. I remember coming home after that and seeing double. Very happy!
Do you still drink?
Yeah, Guinness. Love it. Just love the taste of it.
Nightclub DJ-ing can be a very heavy drinking environment...
It can be, but I was more interested in the music. I did DJ in all the clubs in Dublin, and went away to live in Tenerife and Denmark and gigged over there. And it’d be very simple to get into that drinking culture where you get up and you live for the party of the night, and you booze up while you’re working. It takes its toll. I was gigging six nights a week. So it was like, go to work, do the job, and then weekends Friday and Saturday, have a few beers. You had to discipline yourself because you’d be broken at the end of it otherwise. And I’d see a lot of guys just go the wrong way. I wasn’t interested in doing that. The bigger picture was radio.
When did you get the first radio gig?
Ian Dempsey was on ARD (Alternative Radio Dublin) in 1978, and the next DJ didn’t turn up. So Ian rang the station manager and said, “Look, there’s a friend of mine here, Tony, and he does a lot of mobile DJ work.” The manager said, “Stick him on.” So that was the first one I did – terrible. It was a completely different experience to the live club work I’d been doing. And I had to get the hang of that pretty quickly. Then there was a ‘DJ for a Day’ competition, looking for new talent, and I applied. And Mike Moloney was the man in charge. My time slot was quarter past two until half two – fifteen minutes. Put the first record, put the needle on. With nerves, my hands were shaking. I broke the stylus. And he goes, “Don’t worry about that, sure there’s another one here.” He pops the spare one in: shaking, I broke that. So we did the fifteen minutes on one, and he said, “Look, you talk in between the songs and I’ll change the records for you.” Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. When it was my birthday years down the line, he actually traced back the actual stylus, and bought me a gold version of it, to remind me of how much hair he lost that night. He’s a good friend.