Behind the scenes at Virgin Radio

Just what do the DJs get up to while the tracks are playing? Behind the scenes at the UAE's biggest breakfast show


Priti Malik is already at the deck when we arrive just after 5am to learn what goes into putting out one of Dubai’s most popular breakfast shows, which boasts an average of 700,000 listeners at any one time (and that’s not counting those who stream it online). The show doesn’t kick off for another hour, but the perennially chirpy NYC native has been in since 4.30am, after waking at 3.30am to clean her kitchen, prepping for the morning’s broadcast and putting together a timesheet for the show to make sure everything runs smoothly. It’s a schedule that proceeds with borderline military precision to make sure the team avoid every producer’s worst nightmare – dead air. Priti and Big Rossi, the show’s producer, third member of the KFS on-air team and purveyor of truly strange news (in his section ‘What’s Rossi Reading?’), spend time collecting gossip from around the world, before they’re joined by Aussie and show captain Kris Fade – he of the impressive braids and familiar booming timbre.

As the clock hits 6am, Kris roars into life: ‘Hello mum! Hello dad! Good morning!’ As the show runs across four hours, it evolves to suit each different listenership. ‘From about 6.50am to 7.30am, we’re talking to parents and kids on the school run, and then from around 7.45am to 8.45am, you’ve got commuters and people getting up for work,’ Kris explains. But regardless of who they’re speaking to, one thing remains the same – the brain-spinning, relentless pace with which they blast out the show. If you think they move fast on air, it’s nothing compared to the high-speed hustle every time the mics go off. Once the tracks start playing, the trio are handling calls from listeners, ringing up pop stars, pulling together traffic reports and making sure the next segment is as tight as possible. When two songs play back-to-back, it’s the longest break they can expect to get in the full four hours, and during this tiny seven-minute micro-break it’s a race to use the bathroom, fill up on caffeine, check out the thousand or so texts that have just flooded in (plus reply as often as they can) and make sure they’re not about to pronounce a new pop artist’s name wrong in the next segment. Little wonder Kris has lost an impressive 24kg in the past year – who has time to eat in an environment like this?

These guys live their lives over the airwaves. It may be a four-hour airing, but once the show’s done, they’re straight into preparing for the next day, heading out to meetings and doing personal appearances well into the afternoon – but all three admit to feeling ‘the 3pm slump’ after such an early start, and try and get to bed by 10pm. Still, it’s not just the three of them whose lives are entwined with their jobs – their families also play a part, whether they expect to or not. Kris’s mum, Gilda, and wife, Maz, are regular contributors – not to mention some of the show’s most popular – with Gilda even interviewing David Guetta on air at one point, while Priti found herself getting engaged live on air earlier this year (watch the video on the show’s website – it would turn even serial meanie Simon Cowell into a weepy mess).

But it’s all worth it. As Kris says, what could be better than getting paid to have fun on the radio, interview stars and travel the world? For Big Rossi, a high point (literally) was being ‘fired’ by Richard Branson at the top of the Burj Khalifa in 2013, while Priti fondly remembers the day she got ‘married’ to Brit singer Jay Sean at the back of Virgin Megastore (‘probably not legally binding,’ Rossi confides). All three recall clearly (and are perhaps still recovering from) their 28-hour broadcast in Mall of the Emirates
back in 2012 – a feat for a radio host anywhere in the world.

When asked to try and pick out a high from his stint on Dubai’s airwaves, Kris is philosophical: ‘How do you compare singing to Kim Kardashian and having her sing back with giving a father-to-be from Karama a brand new apartment? You’re changing people’s lives, just by making the commute to work okay. Every day is awesome.'

It might be a bit sentimental, but we’ll skip getting into a fight with nearly a million listeners about it. One thing that can’t possibly be disputed, however, is that the trio work their socks off at un-earthly hours to put on a good show and have a huge amount of fun doing it. It’s enough to make you want to work in radio, well, drive-time, maybe...

The Kris Fade Show airs Sunday-Thursday 6am-10am on Virgin Radio 104.4FM.

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