ABC Radio Adelaide Drive presenter Jules Schiller fires up his Volvo. “When I started at the ABC I realised it is compulsory to have a second-hand Volvo,” he says. “That’s just the ABC way. Peter Goers considers this one basically brand new because his Volvo is from 1978 and always breaks down. David Bevan, the morning announcer, has an old Volvo. You’ve got to fit in. No point having a flashy sports car.” He pulls out of the carpark at his apartment on Greenhill Road. “It’s reliable, it’s safe. It’s not sexy, but that’s the ABC way. We’re not exactly sexed up.”
Jules has a way with words. He has to, they’re his livelihood. The Adelaide-born radio and television presenter carved a career all over the country. During the nineties, he worked as a scriptwriter and co-host on 3RRR’s breakfast program, dabbled in triple j radio, and went on to work in Melbourne and Sydney on the likes of Triple M, Fox Sports, and The 7pm Project (now The Project).
He’s a funny guy and returned to his former home turf to take up the ABC mic. We caught up with him for a spin around Adelaide – to get to know him and some of his favourite places. First stop, the house in which it all began. “I wasn’t born in there, I was born in Calvary Hospital, but it’s where I came back to.”
Jules was born in 1969. “I was actually born in the same year as my brother, which is bizarre. He was born in January of 1969 and I was born in November – 10 months after my brother. I think we can safely say that I’m a massive accident. My parents went to a New Year’s Eve party in Adelaide with no kids, and the next year they went to the same party with two.”
Jules’ mother is from Casterton (“near Mount Gambier, just on the Victorian side”) and his father was born in Williamstown in Melbourne. “He was an ASIO agent. He joined ASIO in 1965 and Adelaide was his first posting. He was a snoop in Adelaide. Peter Goers is devastated because Dad found out that [Peter] didn’t have an ASIO file.”
It was serious stuff. Jules’ father had a code name. “When you’re a spy, you actually use the first two letters of your first name when you choose a code name. So he was Paul Shearer. His actual name is Peter Schiller.”
ASIO duties took the family to London for five years when Jules was four. He discovered his father was a spy by accident. “This is kind of where the Get Smart and the James Bond thing evaporates. You know how houses have one of two landlines? Basically, someone rang and I picked up the phone at the same time as my father so I was able to listen in on the conversation. They were talking about spy things.”
Jules laughs when he recalls his dad’s seventies moustache. “I figured that he must be either [working] in pornography or a spy. I was happy to know it was spying. I love the fact that when he came to Adelaide, he combined being a spy with also being a boundary umpire. He was an amateur footy coach and he always loved sport. He’s a rabid Hawthorn fan. In fact, my grandfather had a heart attack outside [Melbourne’s] Glenferrie Oval. He was actually pronounced dead outside a football game. You know, there are people who literally, especially men, die every year at sporting [events]. There are some cardiologists who tell guys they’re not allowed to go to [watch] live sport because it puts their health in danger.”
These are the types of stories Jules pursues. “I was looking for someone to interview for the story,” he says. “There’s a Hawthorn fan from Semaphore who is actually hooked up to a blood pressure machine while he watches the games. If it gets too high, he turns the game off and goes for a walk on the pier or on the beach to calm himself down.” He shakes his head. “I think that’s what I love about sport more than the actual strategy and the results. I like the actual human side. The madness.”
Jules loves footy. “I’m a Hawks fan and the Crows asked me to MC their Winter Ball at the Entertainment Centre. I’d written all my jokes of what it’s like to be a Hawthorn fan after winning so much.” The event occurred the day after Hawthorn beat the Crows in Adelaide. “The mood in the room was foul. No-one was laughing. I looked [out] at this room of hatred.”
Jules drives down French Street in Netherby. “Dad said there used to be a supermarket at the end of this street. It’s kind of interesting how things change over time.” He pauses. “They’ve knocked down the house, which is kind of disappointing. My parents were here for about two years. Obviously, since Dad was a spy, he would’ve taken the number plates off [the car] as he left every day and I’m sure there were secret rooms and various listening devices strung around the house.” He chuckles.
Jules was never tempted to follow in his father’s secretive footsteps. “It’s funny because I’m like the reverse. He was paid to keep his communications a secret and I’m a broadcaster so literally talk about every aspect of my life.”
We head to Fullarton Road. “One of my favourite pubs is down the road – The Edinburgh [Hotel & Cellars]. Mainly because I’ve been there about four or five times and twice I’ve seen Christopher Pyne there drinking. I’ve always wondered what kind of beer garden Christopher Pyne would go to, and it’s that one. I’m not sure if he drinks the light chandys like Tony Abbott.”
Jules’ cousin Paul Gurry also lives down the road. The energetic DJ is known for his high-octane DJ sets. You don’t forget him in a hurry. He makes the Energizer Bunny look lazy.
“Have you ever been to the Union to see him DJ? That’s where he is at his best. I think he’s the only DJ that you actually watch. Most are in their own little world but Paul is completely out there. Let’s go there next.”
As he drives, Jules talks about the move back to Adelaide. “I’d been here from 2004 to 2012 and I loved it here.” During that time, he co-hosted Nova 91.9’s breakfast show with Moclair, Jodie J Hill, and Adelaidean Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald. “He was a constant on that show with me. I really enjoyed working with him. When he started doing radio, he had just come out of the Big Brother house. Sometimes people come out of that reality show environment and get a short hit of fame and then think they will always be as popular as they are now but he genuinely wanted to learn a lot about radio and what you can do with the medium. He made the most of his opportunities.”
Jules went on to co-host Triple M’s national drive show Merrick and the Highway Patrol with Merrick Watts and Rachel Corbett in Sydney. He was thrilled to land the ABC Drive gig in Adelaide during early 2017. “Not only is there my family, like Paul, but there’s also the city, the culture, the arts, the sport. It’s just such a great city. I’d always wanted to work for the ABC. It’s such an icon and it obviously has its detractors, but it’s just a great experience. With The Project I covered elections, national disasters and issue-based stories so it gave me a taste for how interesting that is.”
Jules is a storyteller. He is also a seasoned listener – an essential tool for the radio trade. As a broadcaster, he questions people about their lives. He also shares a lot of his own.
“You talk about the funny bits and the relatable bits, but it’s hard because I’m the only broadcaster on the ABC who’s divorced, single, and a single parent. I find that’s probably the most difficult to talk about because [when] you do talk about it and you get a lot of traction.” He pauses. “People do want to talk about it. You read how statistically about 40 percent of marriages are ending yet it’s still slightly a taboo topic. I found that more interesting than anything.”
So, he opens up on air. “It is important to talk about divorces or family breakups. Especially as a guy. [Many] guys cannot talk about that aspect of their lives and they do hit very low points because they don’t communicate.”
Jules’ 13-year-old daughter Sophia lives in Sydney. “She comes down every few weeks. She is such a teenager. You realise how times are changing. She sent me a Christmas card that said: ‘Happy Christmas Dad, congratulations on having more Instagram followers than I do.’ That was my main achievement in my life and it’s only by about 100 followers.”
Fatherhood taught Jules to save more money. “Luxuries in life aren’t as accessible as they used to be. It’s a challenge but it’s so much fun along the way. Kids are so funny.”
He tries not to tell too many gushing father stories. “You don’t want to get into that area where you find your kid cute and everyone finds them boring. I’m not going to tell a story about my daughter taking her first steps because that happens to everyone.”
On his days off, Jules reads. “That’s another thing I love about the ABC, I get to interview a lot of authors so you’ve got real motivation to read their books.” Jules also presents ABC Grandstanding on Saturdays and when AFL kicks off he presents a show on Sundays in Melbourne. “Sport is just fun for me. I find it hilarious that it’s like a soap opera. We all get obsessed, for example, about who’s going to captain the Crows. There are rumours and people get annoyed that they haven’t been asked and someone’s going to walk out of the club. For me, it’s not that much different to The Bold & The Beautiful – people are just wearing footy boots.”
Jules also writes a lot. “I wrote a series of kid’s books but they’re just for my daughter. I used to tell her a story about a guinea pig called Fergus – I made up this mental world. I’m writing them down at the moment just in case she has kids.” He pauses. “That’s about it. I’m pretty boring. Apart from, you know, recreational drugs and sexting and stuff.”
We hit King William Street and Jules exclaims over the changing street names between Franklin and Flinders Street, Waymouth and Pirie Street, and Currie and Grenfell Street. “It was funny, when I was at Nova, I asked, ‘Why can’t these streets just have the same names?’ It got a huge reaction. I did a test of whether people in Adelaide knew the street opposite. It’s amazing how few people have that working knowledge.”
The Union is busy. The CBD lunch crowd is relaxed. After all, it’s Friday.
“Why have we come here? Firstly, for a non-brand specific beer. As an ABC presenter, there are no brands anymore. This is just a generic beer. This is where I come to see my cousin Paul Gurry, if I’m ever in town on a Friday night this is where the magic happens. He DJs over there in that corner and usually they have to put a wooden board on the window because he’s in danger of falling through.”
Seeing Paul Gurry in action is unforgettable. “He dances with the crowd and throws his headphones on the ground. It’s actually a show. Not just twiddling knobs and being in your own world.”
Paul is an extremely difficult person to get hold of. He doesn’t own a mobile phone. It’s ironic, since the DJ has an uncanny ability to unite people. “He can bring that room together because everyone engages with him and are amused and entertained by what he does. I’ve come and seen him and just been on my own after an event in Adelaide and I end up talking to some guy who comes up to request a song or I’ll have a chat with a group of girls who are up dancing. It actually takes a special skill to get strangers in pubs to chat these days and he can do it. He’s an interactive DJ and it’s almost like he’s doing talkback. He’s telling his own stories, he’s taking requests, he’s dancing with the crowd. He can liven a party up.”
The bond is strong. “He’s hard to pin down but if you ever have an emergency, like you need him to help you move something or you’re sick, he is always the first guy there. He’s not only a good friend but he’s a very loyal cousin. I’m lucky to have him in my life.”
Jules isn’t ready to settle in the burbs just yet. He prefers having people around him. “I quite like living in apartments. There’s always action going on in there. A friend that I went to school with lives two floors up from me so we get to hang out. I like having activity around me.”
His local supermarket is International Retailer of the Year award-winning Frewville Foodland. “I’m going to contact them about hosting the awards next time.”
Next stop, Coopers (Hindmarsh) Stadium. “There’s a real sense of camaraderie among the fans [here],” he says. It’s a place Jules feels at home. Fans have been welcoming. Almost like a second family. He points to the Coopers Snake Pit Bar. “See over there. There are no seats. It’s just a fence and then the grass. There’s no other place in a stadium like this. It has its own bar and security guard. Even if I get tickets for another section I always stand there because you can actually stand at the fence and talk to the players. People just stand there like it’s the 1920s. The most hilarious comments are made by fans to the players as they’re standing there watching. It’s like Statler and Waldorf on The Muppets.”
Jules loves hanging with the die-hard Adelaide United fans. “I like the weird things in sport and that’s a weird place. There are supporters who have been going there since 2004. They’re still there – every time. Like John, the guy who works at the post office. He’s about 65 and stands there every week in the sun with his beer. I’ve been to stadiums all over the world and I have not seen a place like that. It’s unique to Adelaide.”
Listen to Jules Schiller on Drive, ABC
Adelaide, weekdays, 4pm to 6:30pm.
Which South Australian radio presenter would you like to hear from next? Let us know in the comments, below.
Photos: Daniel Purvis