10 Questions with ... James Kurdziel
January 13, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
WEDG/Buffalo, all the jobs that led me to this.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
It's all I've ever wanted to do. Growing up, I wanted to be like Fred Norris. To me, that was the dream. Write, create, collaborate and perform at the same time. I decided radio was what I'd do when I was around 9 and never deviated. It was also important for me to do this in Buffalo. I was willing to move, but I really wanted it to happen here in my hometown if I could be so lucky. Some people don't get that, especially since its Buffalo. But when it comes to my thoughts and goals, I never really cared what people understood.
2. What are you most proud of from all your years at 103-3 The Edge?
Honestly? It's that I'm still here. That's weird I guess because there are a lot of things to be proud of, but I started here as an intern in 1999 and I've been through three ownerships, some GMs and a bunch of predecessor PDs yet I've never left this building. My little girl (now 13) took some of her first steps in the halls I still wander. My friends are here and I need them. This place is so meaningful to me. This place and I are good for each other. Being here has been my priority and I'm thankful that I've been able to grow and thrive in one place and at one station. I'm very proud of that.
3. It's been nearly 20 years since The Edge first signed on as Alternative. After shifting to Active Rock for most of the past 10 years, what led to the station's return to Alternative?
Historically, we've always moved around to the healthiest part of both formats. It was a pretty smooth transition. Val Garris said something to me once and it really connected: The heritage of The Edge will always be alternative. It's allowed us to take a lot of liberties over the years. Almost three years ago, Val thought it might be a good idea to start following the pendulum to some of the alternative hits that were becoming undeniable. We did. Then we did more. Now it's paid off in a big way. Funny thing is at the time, I saw that The Buzz in Nashville had made similar strides and I thought "man, they really get it. I'm going to follow what they do." Guess who was the PD there at the time? [Editor's Note: Troy Hanson, Cumulus Corporate Programming/Rock Formats]
4. Shredd And Ragan have been with 103-3 The Edge since its inception. What makes this morning show so successful?
It's an honest show that happens in real time. There's no throaty voices, no hollow stunts, and they don't pretend to be anything they're not. It's a great reflection of where we live. If you listen to them, you have zero doubt that you're getting a truly Buffalo product. Just as important, they continue to embrace technology rather than fear it. If it can help them get their content heard, they're in. Also I think, for them, they're not worried, you know? That can really put stress on a show. They're proven and well supported. Oh and it's a really good show. That always helps.
5. How would you describe yourself as a programmer?
Different, to a point. I have a lot of reverence for broadcast radio. I know the history and I've seen the resilience. But I'm also a staunch futurist. I always want to evolve and think forward. I get very frustrated if I feel like something isn't working to that end. I still have weaknesses in my game, so to speak. But I have more experience now, so I can more easily identify those things and reach out to the right people to help me adjust both practically and philosophically. I wouldn't ever want to be a finished product as a person, so why would I ever want to be set in stone as a programmer? I like to learn, apply and change.
6. What do you love most about your job?
It's when we have ideas and hash out something from nothing. "Hey, we've got X to give away. What can we do"? We try to come up with unique ideas, even if they're stupid. We once did bracket contest to rank guys named Dan. That was the whole thing. We knew it was dumb. We called it, "March Dan-ness." It was so idiotic that there was no choice but for it to be hilarious. Then it became pretty big for us. But we never did it again, because I like to move on to the next dumb thing, you know? Radio today is too afraid to just be dumb and fun sometimes. It all comes from the collaborative creative process, which is probably my favorite thing about being a human, let alone in radio. When you can take a step back and realize you were a part of organic originality, it's really special. My job allows for that.
7. What makes 103-3 The Edge unique?
Our relationship with comedy is so good. I call it our secondary format. Two of us here are stand-up comics and comedy writers. We do our own (pretty awesome) comedy events and we also have relationships with comedians and clubs at all levels. Our morning show has a long contact list of comedians who are always willing to be a part of things we do. We've done festivals, clubs shows and on-air features that center around comedy. I think, here, people come to us for that near the level they come to us as a music entity.
8. I see that you tweet quite a bit. How do you use social media?
My thoughts on socials are based on two main things: First, it's the internet, let's not take it too seriously. More than anything, my goal is to be funny and/or sarcastic and I LOVE to tweet fight (ask the local newspaper writers). Second, for comedians, radio and TV people, it's a great way to extend your on-air persona. It can be as though you're letting people in the room when the mic is off. And if you're genuine, they'll appreciate that. I like Twitter MUCH more than Facebook, but our audience doesn't and I realize that. They're a Facebook first crowd. So you have to make Facebook the priority to get your station content to your listeners on their turf. But personally, I just love talking shit and Twitter's my bae.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _________?
Whining to Troy.
10. What would surprise people most about you?
Earlier this season, I was benched for Kyle Orton. It was tough to take at the time, but I just want to support my teammates the best way I can and be ready when coach says it's my time.
How did you get the nickname Evil Jim?
Oh you mean the worst nickname in the history of nicks and names? When I interned, there were 5 Jims at the station. The promo guy at the time decided to call me "Evil" and he was stupid. But the PD thought it was a "cool name for a stunt guy" (isn't that the worst statement? Cool name for a stunt guy? BLECH!) And I was stuck with it until I finally stopped even answering to it. If you ever called me "Evil Jim" in my voicemail, that's why I didn't call you back (jk luv u). My favorite thing to do is beg people to never acknowledge it.
What are your hobbies?
My daughter is 13, so my hobbies are whatever she wants them to be, pretty much. I know way too many lines from The Fault In Our Stars. Otherwise, I'm always writing. Comedy material, music, bits, blogs, imaging, whatever.
Last non-industry job?
Bartending/waiting tables in college. I don't miss it. Ever.
First record ever purchased?
The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour. The record store didn't have Sgt. Pepper.
Bob Dylan when I was 16. He did almost all of Freewheelin' and it was amazies.
What was the best concert you saw in 2014?
Imagine Dragons for this reason: It was in the Air Canada Centre, sold out. In between their 7th and 8th songs, Dan stopped and said with his voice shaking, "I just realized that the last time we played here, it was at a bar across the street and there were 25 people there. Thank you so much." I loved that moment for them.
Favorite band of all-time?
The only band that matters (The Clash)
Favorite band of 2014?
Royal Blood. Watch them go big, ya'll. Oh and if you read that and went "well technically they came out in 2013," go pound sand, dude.