As one half of the Big Drive Home’s presenting duo, Mohamed ‘Mickey’ Ibrahim’s voice is synonymous with being stuck in traffic and hating your life – that’s part of the package when you have your own prime-time radio show on Nile FM.
For us at Cairo Gossip, however, he’s come to be something of an imaginary BFF – a voice without a face and a strangely comforting one at that. But after basically stalking him via social media and showing up randomly at his home to throw rocks at his window, we sat down with the man himself to talk about humiliating moments on air, getting into fights with people on the internet and kissing a dead fish.
Let's start with Nile FM - what’s it like to talk for a living?
The big misconception about radio is that all you do is talk for a living; very few people actually do their show and leave. Aside from the show, I help run the station, manage the team, and run through fan e-mails. We schedule music on a daily basis and we have a database of music that needs constant update, so doing the show is really the cherry on top. Also, being in show-business means you have to be in a certain mood. If you’re having a terrible day, it has to seem like you’re having a wonderful day. Nobody wants to listen to someone who complains about his life.
How did you get into ‘show-business’?
After I graduated, I wanted to study Computer Science and be a programmer or focus on my music. I majored in Commerce at Cairo University because, basically, there was nowhere else to go. I then started work at an advertising agency, but I knew that I wouldn’t get anywhere with my major and I hate 9-to-5 desk jobs. The advertising company I worked for had Nile FM as a client and they were hiring at the time. I took the opportunity to send them a demo and they called me after that for an interview.
I then had to choose whether to work in advertising or to work with Nile FM. I didn’t really see myself working in an adverting agency anymore, so I figured working in show-business and music wasn’t a bad idea. If I didn’t work for Nile FM, I would definitely be a rock star.
How would you describe your fans?
Our listenership is mostly between the ages of 12 and 25. They’re young, enthusiastic, energetic and interactive. Before the revolution we didn’t focus too much on our Twitter and Facebook accounts, but they are more active than the usual messaging service.
Without seeming sadistic in any way, have you had any on-air mishaps?
I fell from a chair once on air. In our old studios we had smaller rooms; the computers were a little bit more exposed than they are now. There was something wrong with the chair and I was switching from one computer to the other. I then slipped off the chair and I smashed into the computer that was running everything - everything was shut down.
It was pretty embarrassing, especially because there were cameras. It was five minutes of dead air. When everything started working again, I had to tell people that I fell out of a chair.
I love it. Sorry, not sorry. Anyway, do you listen to the same music that you play on your show?
As you grow older, your taste in music usually changes. When I was younger I couldn’t even consider listening to the music we play on the show. Of course there are songs that are terrible, and that I would never listen to, but you grow to appreciate certain
elements of a song. It’s still not the music I have on my iPod, though.
Speaking of your own musical tastes, you're a pretty active musician yourself - tell us about that.
I was in a band for 12 years, but we recently dissolved it - Idlemind doesn’t exist anymore. We recorded a few songs, and we had enough material for two or three albums. We stopped for quite a few reasons. The thing is, when you put very talented people in one room, one of two things happens: either this band goes somewhere, or the band becomes a cage and a limitation for them.
Spending 12 years in a band is like being married. You don’t want to get into another relationship right away; it takes a lot of work to get used to another band. In Egypt, as sad as it is, no bands playing in English will get anywhere. The most successful Egyptian band that I know that doesn’t play Arabic music is Scarab. It’s the only band that toured outside Egypt and has a record distribution deal and somehow made it. Yet they didn’t make it enough for them to make a living, everyone has a day job. It’s either you play Arabic music, or you’re satisfied with being that small. I don’t know what the next step is for me musically.
You're pretty active on social media - what is it like ‘digitally’ interacting with your fans?
I have this reputation that I get into a lot of arguments - I’m a very opinionated person. Sometimes, I forget that people are actually listening to me and I’m somehow famous; they might not know me on the streets, but they know me online. I have to be careful with what I say because I represent the company that I work for. I mean, I try to make it as clear as possible that those are my opinions and not the company’s.
I also sometimes forget that people who listen to me are kids. If for any reason they look up to me – I don’t know why they would but if there is any reason they do - I don’t want be a bad role model. Nevertheless, I do love to argue for argument's sake, it’s my sport.
Tell us three things we don't know about you.
I had my first kiss when I was 16. It was like kissing a dead fish. I remember, it was in her house on the couch, it was and it was definitely awkward. Just a kiss, though, I promise!
The other thing could be that my cousin is Allen Adham. He was one of three co-founders of Blizzard Entertainment - the company that created games like World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo.
Lastly, I’m a very shy person. With my job, and performing live with my band, people often think otherwise. To this very day I still crap my pants whenever I get on a stage. Introverted could be the right word. I have social anxiety.
If you had to choose a superpower, what would it be?
My friends were talking about that and they think that I would be Bruce Banner. They seem to believe that I’m the scientist or the smart guy who has a lot of issues keeps them all inside and doesn’t show them. I think Charles Xavier could be more fitting for my personality; it would save me so much work if I knew what people were thinking.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I could be dead in ten years – it’s a long time. I’ll be 39 in 10 years! I don’t like to think about it. I would like to still be in show-business, but maybe not radio. I would like to make enough money to live normally and do something that I’m passionate about.
Catch Mickey alongside Zeinab on weekdays between 5PM and 7PM for the Big Drive Home.