Interview with Eddie Trunk: 25 Years On The Night Train

Eddie TrunkThey say you can tell a lot about a man by looking at who his friends are. So then what would you say about someone who calls Rob Halford, Ace Frehley, Mike Piazza and Jay Jay French, just to name a few, as his comrades or brothers-in-arms? You can say that he is an intensely inquisitive, extremely forthright, and even pioneering music journalist in both radio and TV mediums. Many claim that he would be the first of his caliber for the genre known as hard rock and metal. People came to know his face by his five years on VH1 Classics and of course, his voice is a proud mainstay on Q104.3 on Friday nights from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. as well as on XM every Monday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on channel 41. If you haven’t guessed by now, the man of the hour is New Jersey’s own Eddie Trunk.

Why is he the man of the hour? Well, this year marks his 25th anniversary in the music business.

The secret of his success really isn’t a secret at all. Eddie isn’t a poster boy for garnishing ad revenue from record labels, he isn’t one to just reword press releases in order to hype a band, and he doesn’t think it’s a genius plan to merely spew factoids anyone can read on Wikipedia and call it well-rounded journalism. He approaches his craft with the same honesty you’d expect from a trusted friend. Upon returning from hosting Rocklahoma, Eddie described the metamorphosis of his career from writing a music column for his high school news paper, to working in a record store, to being an executive at Megaforce Records, to being a manager at Loud & Proud management, to spending over a decade at WDHA, and finally, breaking into New York radio and national TV, all the while being driven by the conviction that heavy music should be heard and have it’s rightful place in our society. And let’s face it, at a time when 50 bucks is worth about maybe 25 euros, how much more priceless has hearing a great song on the radio become?

As you can imagine, as someone who as spent the last 25 years immersed in rock n’ roll, there is probably nothing left that Eddie finds shocking or implausible. That is until he got a call from Judas Priest’s management informing him that the band wanted to celebrate his career: “The guys are finishing up a new record [Nostradamus], and they are appreciative for your support for not only them, but the genre in general. You have their services, so tell them what you want to do.” Eddie’s response was, “Let’s do something different and cool, who has ever seen Priest in a small setting? The Hard Rock in Times Square is a great venue, because it’s got a proper stage, it’s a great size, and it’s a great location.” Ergo, if Judas Freaking Priest is offering their services, you must be an exemplary music journalist! Not bad for the kid who recalled winning British Steel on the Boardwalk at Seaside Heights in 1980, and it’s all because Mr. Halford told Eddie that he feels he has a home in New York on his show.

Let’s start at the beginning.

I lived in New Jersey my whole life. When I was in high school from ‘78 to ’82, that’s when all this music that I am still really into came on my radar. I started writing a column in the Madison High School newspaper. I grew up in Madison, and we didn’t have a radio station in our high school, but some people came over from Drew University and said, ‘We have a small radio station, we are considering keeping our radio station on while we go home for the summer.’ They wanted know if the students at Madison wanted to mess around with the station a little bit in the summer. I did it, and it was enough to pique my interest.

From there, I landed what was considered at the time to be my dream job; working at record store. The manager of the store, who is still one of my closest friends, had a little pirate radio station in his basement in Staten Island. So I took a ride to Staten Island, I made a demo tape that I took to the program director at the time of WDHA, and he couldn’t believe the quality of it. The owner of the radio station used to come into the record store and talk to me, and one thing lead to another and they gave me a shot. I pitched them, I said, ‘There is this emerging form of music that you guys aren’t paying attention too, and we are selling a lot of. I would like to come on and do a special show about it. This heavy metal, we are selling tons of records, and you guys don’t play it at all.’ They said, ‘We don’t really see the need to.’

So we had this like ongoing battle for like a year, and then finally, the year was ’83 when—it’s funny because people don’t consider these record to be extreme records at all, but you have to remember 25 years ago when they came out, the three bands that started selling like crazy that made these guys start to listen to me where Def Leppard, Pyromania, just before it broke, Quiet Riot, Mental Health, before that became a commercial hit, and Metallica, Kill ‘Em All—they said, ‘We’ll give you a shot on Friday night and see what happens.’ Many people feel that it was the first ever metal show in America. I don’t, myself, make that claim, but it’s widely considered to be. I did it in various forms and configurations with various different people until ’94, which is when I broke into radio in New York City. The important thing about the whole 11 years that I was doing that show at DHA, it was very difficult as you could imagine, because it a smaller market station, it’s very difficult to make a living doing one show a week there. I still had other jobs, I was still working at a record store across the street, and from ’86 to ’90, I worked for Megaforce Records, and became Vice President of that company for three-and-a-half years. I signed artists like Ace Frehley, and worked with bands like King’s X, Overkill and Anthrax. I had this whole dual identity. That job came about because I was putting metal on the radio when no one else would. The guy who owned Megaforce, Johnny Z, came to me and said, ‘I got this band called Metallica, and no one will play them, will you play them?’ I did. He said, ‘If I could ever get this company going and can hire someone, I am going to hire you, because you have the vision and the balls that it takes to do this.’

My time at WDHA was extremely, extremely important to me, and when I say that it was hard for me make a living, I don’t ever want to make it seem like Mr. Big Shot, that I would never go back there or I would never work in a station that small, it’s not that at all. I don’t ever want to come off sounding like Mr. New York Big Shot Guy! When you call those stations smaller markets, it’s just the economics of it, especially when you are at my age now, and you are married with a couple of kids, it’s very hard to make a living unless you are in a bigger market with more of a reach.