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A hundred nights of timeless tracks

Mark Rogers in studio at RNZ. PHOTO/ SUPPLIED


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Wairarapa’s Mark Rogers has turned a passion for good art into more than one career.

In Masterton, his second-hand book and antique store draws people from far and wide.

Reaching even further, is his radio show, Nashville Babylon, which celebrated 100 episodes on air this week.

It began when Rogers had a show on Wairarapa’s ARROW FM a couple of years ago.

Unbeknown to him, folk at Radio New Zealand National were listening.

“Presumably, they liked what they heard and got me in to do a pilot show.”

Now Nashville Babylon has been providing curated late-night listening for about two years.

Rogers said a highlight of the show was not having a prescribed a playlist, offering plenty of creative freedom.

“They never tell me what to play, so I’m lucky to be able to mix New Zealand music, British music, American music – whatever.”

He said the core of the show was “country, soul and rock n roll – with a bit of blues and reggae thrown in.”

Rogers has a background in music – he founded the label Loose Music in London with a friend about 20 years ago.

The label specialised in Americana and alt-country.

Under the label, he released music from bands including The Handsome Family, Felice Brothers and Neko Case.

Rogers suggested the artists may not be typical household names, “but they are household names in cool houses”.

He said a lot of bands from his time in London had stayed in touch well after he moved to Wairarapa about 10 years ago.

“We’ve been lucky in having some New Zealand, and world, exclusives [on the show] on tracks by bands like the Handsome Family.”

Rogers co-owns Bear Flag Books and Retro in Masterton with Kate Cosgrove. This week marks two years since the pair took ownership.

He said it didn’t matter if a book was written in the 18th century, or last week, “if it’s good, it’s good.”

For him, the same applied to music.

Rogers described his weekly show, which was recorded in a Wellington studio, like his store – a mix of old and new.

“I’m just as happy playing some obscure blues track from the 1920s as I am playing brand new release from New Zealand’s Tami Nielson.

“It seems to be going down pretty well – listeners seem happy.”

Rogers said he had always been a huge fan of radio – “Going back to when I was a kid in Britain listening to John Peel – who was this legendary British DJ”.

“He played whatever he wanted and broke so many bands.”

“You could always tell listening to John, that he was passionate about the music he played.”

He said working from a playlist lacked nuance, “It’s almost music by numbers”.

“But the ones [DJs] who play what they want, and the music they’re interested in, you can hear that passion.

“And hopefully that comes across with what I do.”

Listeners can tune in to Nashville Babylon on RNZ National Monday nights, just after 11pm.


  1. Great show.always listen,then play previous nights from archives via the net,every morning before work.I don’t have television any more.

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