I give you credit not only for your persistence, but also for diversifying your talent. Being in it so long you could burn out or just become frustrated. How do you do it?
As popular as my show has become, and I am so grateful for it, it’s very frustrating to me that what I do is still considered to be niche. ‘Oh, very few people care about that.’ When I broke into New York radio, I started at Q104 when it was a hard rock station, stayed as it was classic rock, went to [W]NEW in ’98 for the last couple of years when it was a rock station, stayed there for a couple of years when it was a talk station. I was the only rock show on a talk radio station and then went back to Q104 when WNEW went away, where the show has been anchored ever since.
It’s wonderful, but it’s frustrating at the same time, because I only have three hours a week to do what I do. My show is syndicated to a dozen other cites outside of New York, but it still kind of gets written off just like heavy metal in general does, and that’s extremely frustrating.
So to answer your question, I am never, ever complacent. I could have said, ‘Okay, I am doing this syndicated show once a week, it’s all good,’ and just kick back and let other people work for me. I am someone who is always going to get their hands dirty, and no one is going to sell me better than me. I am always on the next possible thing that we can do. Is there another station that will add the show that we can talk too? Is there a way to get more time? Is there a way to expand it?
My biggest joy to this day is the biggest joy I had 25 years ago, and that’s the ability to take a record or CD of something that I truly love, whether it be old or new—maybe it’s something that I just got, or maybe it’s an old Thin Lizzy record that nobody ever played on the radio—to be able to take that, throw that in my bag and play that on the radio in New York and talk about it. If I want to talk about it for 10 minutes, I can do it. Just to be able to share the stuff that I love with my audience! The stuff that has been so underplayed and underappreciated by these artists is still the thing that I get the most satisfaction out of. It’s so rewarding to me.
When people come up to me and say, ‘Hey man, I discovered a band like UFO because of you and now I’ve got 10 of their records.’ Or, ‘I know Thin Lizzy did ‘The Boys Are Back In Town,’ but I never knew they had 20 records.’ Or, ‘I never knew KISS beyond “Rock N Roll All Nite,” because that’s the only song I ever keep hearing.’ That sort of stuff gets me just as excited as when I get a note from Buckcherry with a platinum record, ‘You were the first to play us, thanks for believing!’ As we all know by and large the same songs on every radio station, I never need to hear ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ as long as I live. I’ll get excited to play ‘Riff Raff’ by AC/DC, and that’s pretty much the spirit of my show.
My show is very much a talk show. I don’t make any apologies for that. Other weeks it could be all music; it changes and it is reactionary to what’s going on. I am very honest and talk to my audience as if I would have ran into them at a bar. That’s probably why I have the kind of audience that I do. It can get me in trouble sometimes, but it also gets me a lot of respect with the audience, because they know that I am not a fake. I don’t want to be that guy that every single record is the greatest record that came out. Every concert that I see is the greatest concert I ever saw. I want to keep it as real as possible with people, and if I say that I really loved something they know it’s because I really did love it.
It seems like an obvious thing, but we live in a world for political reasons. My biggest hero in radio by far is Howard Stern. What I mean by that is that he is the first guy that I heard on the radio and I was like, ‘Oh my God, you can actually be yourself.’ He was the fist guy that was honest and open about what was going on in his life and how he saw things. I heard Howard back in the day when he was playing music, and he was like, ‘The Program Director is making me play this, but I think it sucks.’ That’s the biggest thing that I took from him. Yeah, the guy who is big fan of that band is going to be really pissed at you and send you hate letters, but he is also going to listen every week, because he is going to be really interested in what you say. I don’t do it for shock. It’s my opinion, and I tell people all the time, I am not the law. Let’s have a discussion about it.