Before becoming a Radio DJ Steve Lamacq worked for the New Musical Express. Since 2005 he has presented the drive-time show on BBC Radio 6 Music. A champion of new music, Lamacq is a veteran of The Great Escape. He spoke to EDWIN GILSON before heading to Brighton to broadcast live from the event.

You must have seen so many bands over the years that went on to great success. What acts did you instantly think would make it?

Coldplay at the old Camden Falcon in North London on a wet Tuesday night stands out. They played in front of 30 of their student friends. You see a lot of bands who you think might be good in a year’s time, but Coldplay were a lovely mix of self-effacing charm and quiet confidence. I saw Blur when they were still called Seymour at a pub called The Cricketers in The Oval. They were a shambles but incredibly compelling because they seemed to be knocking each over all the time.

More recently Florence & The Machine, Bloc Party and Catfish at the 100 Club and then in Leicester in front of 33 people. And most recently Shame last year at the Brixton Windmill. Even then you could tell they just had creativity and assurance coursing through them. 

How do you think the mentality of new bands has changed over the last few decades?

I think bands are more aware now of other avenues to make money. Go back 20 years and virtually any new band would have stared at you blankly if you started talking about TV or film syncs. And there’s more direct marketing to fans now. If anything that’s brought bands and fans closer together. But it’s certainly difficult. There’s such a disparity between the money made by artists who’ve “made it” and the groups on the bottom rung.

That’s why I’d like to see the big live promoters and the industry bodies, investing more money in the infrastructure for new groups. Otherwise you end up with a situation that’s been played out in sport, where the big guns get all the sponsorship and the new talent – especially if they don’t fit the zeitgeist – have to struggle along doing what they can. 

With many young people using Spotify, do you feel radio is as important as it once was?

It might just be me but I’ve never found a playlist which is as informative as a good radio show. They’re fine for fans who like finding music they already like. I know that might sound a bit snobbish, but it’s not meant to. I go by the old radio theory, which even Peel nodded at, which is that you should play something the listeners probably like, something you think they might like, and something you like. It’s good to be challenged. When we started playing The Streets for instance on Radio 1, we’d get emails telling us to “take this rubbish off.” But four months later people had started to really like it.

Do you ever miss the music scene as it was 10 or 20 years ago?

Don’t spend time looking back at the past. It’s a waste of emotion.

How do you decide who you’ll go and see during The Great Escape?

I’ll usually stumble into something I’ve not heard before. I went to see Idles in Bristol at the 6 Music Festival Fringe last year on a tip-off – and now they’re one of my favourite bands. They absolutely won my heart at that first gig, which led us to put them on the BBC Introducing line-up at The Great Escape last year.

What are the five acts you’re most looking forward to seeing at this year’s festival?

The Districts, Caro, Willie J Healey, Bess Atwell and Gurr.

Steve Lamacq is broadcasting live from Jubilee Square on Thursday and Friday from 4pm to 7pm. BBC Radio 6 Music is taking over Paganini Ballroom on Thursday for a 6 Music Recommends new music showcase.