One-time Mock Turtle and full-time big brother of Steve Coogan, Martin Coogan was one of the musical forces behind Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. Now owner of Manchester's historic VIBE Studios, his experience as a local radio DJ came in handy penning the film's multitude of jingles - some cheesy, some ear-shattering, all hilarious. "We just embraced the clichés," he explained when Empire tracked him down to his home in Lancashire. "I dived in, feet first." The man behind Shape Digital's jingle genocide talked through his heroic work on one of our comedies of the year.
You're one of Empire's unsung heroes of the year.
Okay, great. Glad you all enjoyed the movie. The jingles were part of the story, really.
Do you have a favourite? We loved 'The Partridge And The Poacher'.
That's Steve doing a squawk, and then a shotgun sound. That one's quite good.
Did you get Steve in the studio squawking?
No, he sent that over to me on his phone. I never actually sat down with Steve in the studio. All his voices came to my phone - I think he recorded them on his iPhone - and I just gave them a bit of tweak, a bit of EQ, and they were good to go. But it was really good fun doing them, because having worked in local radio, I know how awful jingles can be. You wouldn't believe how small the budget for making a jingle is, so consequently they're all crap.
For Pat Farrell's old-fashioned jingles it was just me and my wife multitracking loads of harmonies, and then tidying up the timing and pitch, which I can do on the computer. In the old days, for a Radio 1 jingle or something like that, there'd be a team of people knocking them out day in, day out, with three or four part harmonies and people getting aound mics and singing live together. These days, you just do it all on the computer and tidy it up manually.
Did you listen to any radio stations for research?
I knew a lot of them from my time in local radio, and because I'm older than Steve, I can remember Tony Blackburn's jingles on Radio 1 from the old days, so they were quite easy to put together. For the more modern ones my brief was to make them as irritating as possible. I used dance beats and Vocoder to make them sound very harsh and mechanical, rather than warm and friendly like the old-fashioned jingles.
What was your favourite jingle to write?
There were a couple, but I think my favourite would have to be the one where they say, "Take Pat Farrell seriously or face the consequences," something like that. "They'll take it out on the hostages, even the ones with kids." My wife helped with that one. The instructions were for her to crack up slightly as she's saying it, so she goes (wobbly voice), "Even the ones with kids!" (Laughs) That's probably my favourite.
That's the jingle Pat forces them all to put together in a hurry. How long did it take you to do it?
It took me ages, because it had to have a sense of authenticity. Unlike the professionally produced ones, it had to sound like people at gunpoint.
How about Pat Farrell's 'Ring-Ring From Sing Sing'?
I don't remember that one. I did that many of them. The film was still being written while it was being shot, which is mental, but that's how Steve operates sometimes. He has a couple of good writers there, and he knows that it's going to come good in the end. He'd been very, very busy, too - he's shot, what, three or four films that year? So this was being done on the fly and consequently a lot of my jingles ended up on the cutting room floor. For every jingle that's in the film, I'd say there's probably four that didn't make it. I need to see it again, because I've only seen it once and I can't remember what made the film and what didn't. My son's seen it three times already. I'd farmed out a little bit of the music to him, and he's seen it three times, which is great.
So it's a proper Coogan family affair...
Yeah, I think there's a piece of music my son William did on the DVD extras. He's very much into his dance and electronic music, and I needed something done really rapidly, and he just rattled it off on his computer and sent it to me. It was brilliant and I submitted it, so technically it's not all mine. (Laughs)
Have you managed to sneak the expression "jingle genocide" into conversation since the film?
No, I haven't, but I will do now, definitely. Although there's not a lot of opportunity for that in your day-to-day business, is there?
Lastly, what's been your Partridge highlight of the year?
I think it's got to be the premiere, hasn't it? I remember getting rather drunk on the train going down to London, and still being quite tipsy watching the movie, but I didn't fall asleep, which is great for me. I got to meet everybody, (director) Declan Lowney and the other actors - I met Lynn, which was great.