10 Questions with ... Axel Lowe
November 6, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Started with Arista records in '91, found myself at 99X right at the launch in '92, moved from late nights to nights to PM drive and even mornings for a year. In 2007 I went to our sister station, Rock 100.5 to do PM drive. Three years later returned to 99X to be PD/AM drive. In September we launched 989 The Bone; I am PD/PM drive.
1) I understand you actually started your career on the record side with Arista. How did you transition into radio?
I had interned for a year and was going to cover Southeast Field Marketing once I had graduated. When I did graduate, there was a log jam in moving the current Southeast rep up to the next position and me in his place. My boss, Linda Alter, said she had a friend at Power 99, Leslie Fram, who could use some help for a few months until the Southeast Rep job opened. In that time at Power 99, I struck up a great relationship with Leslie, Rick Stacy and others. When they flipped Power to 99X (the second month I was there), an opportunity in radio arose. I grew up listening to Steve Dahl and Kevin Matthews and Johnny B (The Loop) in Chicago, but never thought about radio. I was shooting for the label side of the industry, but this door opened right in front of me.
2) If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it?
I love radio and have sold my soul at this point. I'm still having a blast and love what I do, just hoping for some positive traction like everyone else in America. This treading water over the last few years of the recession is making me restless.
3) You actually started at 99X in Atlanta at its inception. Tell us about the early years there and how that shaped your radio career?
Yeah, right place at the right time, for sure! Rick Stacy and Leslie Fram took me from being a fan of radio to truly understanding how to execute it. It was a crash course in radio in those first few months. Sean Demery, Steve Craig, Wil Pendarvis, Steve Barnes and Jimmy Baron were all veterans of radio at this point, so I just watched, listened and absorbed as much as I could. Brian Philips came in as PD a short time later and really inspired me and helped me become the best on-air talent that I could be. Twenty years later, I still go into every show trying to be a little better than the day before.
4) You moved over to sister station Rock 100.5 in January of 2008 after 99X left the terrestrial airwaves. How was that transition for you?
I grew up on Van Halen and Motley Crue, so after 15 years of playing Nirvana and Pearl Jam I was excited to play around in the Active/Classic Rock world.
5) After about three years at Rock 100.5, you eventually returned to 99X as PD and afternoon drive and now the station has transitioned to 98.9 The Bone. How much did your stint at Rock 100.5 help you with this move from Alternative to Active Rock?
To be honest, the Bone consists of a lot of the music I played on 99X all those years. Alternative always moved from AAA-leaning to Active, depending on where the movement was. Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Godsmack, Rage and White Zombie all got their start in Atlanta on 99X. The new stuff is fun; Volbeat, Halstorm and Five Finger are exciting to watch take off. As far as on-air attitude, I'm two-faced anyway. I'm a 21-year-old at heart, ready to raise hell with my friends, but I'm also a dependable loving husband and Dad when I'm at home with my two daughters and wife.
6) 98.9 The Bone is not an actual terrestrial station but operates at W255CJ (FM) & WWWQ (HD2). Can you explain, in your best layman's terms, how this all works?
Yes, I push a button and music plays in your car on 98.9 FM. A few years ago, we would have to explain to people that even though the legal was HD-2, it was a real station on an FM frequency and it covered the city. At this point, there are so many translator signals around the country, people in the industry get it. Some cover a small area; some cover the whole city. We're lucky that our translator antenna is 1,000 feet up on our tower, so we really cover the whole city.
7) Tell us about the music and overall direction of 98.9 The Bone?
We are Shinedown, Papa Roach, Soundgarden, Chevelle, Halestorm, Disturbed, Green Day, Metallica, etc. We are 18-34 M ... '90s, 2000s and new rock that rocks.
8) Now that you're directly involved in the Active Rock format, what's your take on current music in the Active Rock format? How would you compare the Active Rock format to Alternative right now?
Alt has been really fun over the last year; bands like Mumford, Fun., Grouplove, AWOLNATION and M83 exploded on to the scene and Black Keys became a monster band. I remember Alt music was so hot back in the '90s it was leaping to Ttop 40 and charting really high. It had been a while since that happened for so many bands all at the same time. With that said, the difference is that there is a lot less sharing with the Active format. A Halestorm, Chevelle, Pop Evil, or Soundgarden hit is going to live in the Active world; if people want that music, they can only get it here. Shinedown, Slash and Seether continue to write a lot of great melodic rock anthems and bands like In This Moment, Five Finger Death Punch and Avenged Sevenfold give the format plenty of teeth.
9) How does your station utilize social media as a marketing tool?
We are constructing a new template for the website, so social media is our main tool right now. After Project 96.1 disappeared from the Atlanta dial and this station was launched, we utilized their Facebook wall to let their 100,000 "likes" know that we were picking up where they were cut off. Building our Twitter followers is also a huge priority, although I felt the Alt format was more Twitter-receptive than the Active crowd.
10) You also do afternoon drive on 98.9 The Bone. How do you balance programming the station and doing a drive time air shift?
I'm up with the kids at 6:30a for the school launch, then I do some work from home, go to the gym and get into the station to do a few hours of PD work before I hit the air at 3p. The shift is like playtime. I look forward to it every day! If I didn't have multiple things to do on the air, I'd over-prep and talk more than I was playing music, so I like the added tasks. After 20 years on the radio I realize that a monkey can do an air shift, but only a person with opposable thumbs can do an air shift while scheduling music, e-mailing record reps, posting to the station Facebook, tweeting, answering listener calls and being interrupted by sales people all afternoon.
What do you like to do to relax when you're not fully in "radio" mode?
I like home improvement projects. I was lucky enough to host a home improvement show on Turner South for four years (Southern Home By Design). We did 150 shows; they shot around my radio schedule and I got paid to do what I love to do when I'm not listening to music.
Who is the best live band you've seen in 2012 and why?
The one that really stuck out in 2012 was Foxy Shazam. I saw them on three different occasions and the energy and spontaneity never failed to impress me. The music is always spot on, too.
Are you more a TV or movie guy and what are some of your favorites of each?
I like "Modern Family" and catch a little HGTV and sports. I don't like watching too much TV because I'd rather be doing something. When I do watch a movie or TV, it's mostly family time, so it's with the kids watching Idol-Voice-X Factor and Wipeout.