10 Questions with ... Eddie Trunk
September 16, 2014
1. When did you get into radio and can you give us your radio history?
I started in radio right out of high school with one of the first-ever specialty shows focused on hard rock music at WDHA. For me it was always about finding ways to share the music I loved with more people. As a result I worked in a record store, worked for a record label, was a freelance writer ... anything I could do to spread the word. I've done regular format on all the stations I worked for, but always maintained by own show doing my mix as well.
Having that creative outlet has always been extremely important to me. It's what's given me my following and helped launch everything I've done since, including my TV career on VH1 Classic. I was at DHA part-time from '83-'94. Then I went through the tunnel to NYC to Q104.3 when it was an Active Rock station doing weekends. From there I went to WNEW '98-'02 working a variety of formats and re-launching my own hard rock show on weekends. I remained and even expanded and became a syndicated show when WNEW flipped to FM Talk, for a couple years the only music based show on the station. After the Opie & Anthony stunt took the station down, I went back to Classic Rock Q104.3 in 2002 which has remained my flagship ever since. The show is heard on the station Friday nights 11p and is the only outlet for hard rock and metal in New York City.
2. What radio stations and personalities did you listen to when you were growing up?
Radio for me was always about being honest with the audience, sharing opinions, engaging them. I grew up listening to WDHA as a kid and that shaped my music tastes greatly and my interest in radio. But the only real personality who impacted me was Howard Stern. When he came on the air in NYC I heard a guy for the first time that wasn't a fake, was willing to say he didn't like something, was willing to talk about his issues, his problems with his career, etc. I remember one day back when he played music he backsold a record and said he didn't like the song. It hit me like a ton of bricks! Wow, you don't have to be a phony and pretend you like every song!?
I do a totally different style of radio obviously with my focus being music, but far and away Howard was the guy who influenced me that you can be more real and transparent. Not everyone will like it, but it carries you so much further in the end and is much more freeing and creative.
3. You've had a reputation as an expert on Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, which ultimately culminated in your Radio specialty shows. What Hard Rock and Metal bands influenced you growing up?
The first time I ever heard distorted guitars was The Raspberries "Go All The Way" as a little kid on AM radio in my parent's car. That was a game changer and they were my first favorite real rock band. Then a couple years later in 1976 my friend introduced me to an album called Destroyer by a band called Kiss. After that like many I was consumed with the band and they became everything to me. From there, Aerosmith, Sabbath, Van Halen, AC/DC ... much of the usual '70s-based hard rock of the time. But Kiss was the big gateway into that.
4. Can you give us the specifics of how the Eddie Trunk Rocks radio show originated?
I was working in a record store across the street from DHA as a kid out of high school in 1982. The owners and PD of the station would often drop by the store and I would always tell them about these metal records I loved and how they should be playing them. They didn't know what to do with metal but did know we were selling it. The manager of the record store had a pirate radio station in his basement. One night I went to his house and he helped me make a demo. Next time the DHA brass (Mark Chernoff was my first PD) came in I gave them the tape and asked if I could come by late at night and play some of the metal we were selling.
That's how the show was born. Many think it is one of the first ever hard rock/metal specialty shows. The show has changed names many times as it has evolved and moved around, but that is how and where it all started. It's also interesting because although it is still very much a hard rock/metal show, it is more rooted in deep cuts from classic artists and new music from artists that have that vibe. Metal has become so splintered in so many directions and much more extreme. Everyone has a different definition. I don't do the extreme stuff. Mostly classics that are often very underplayed as well as new artists that connect to that sound.
5. For those who haven't heard the show, give us some highlights of special features and music you feature on the show on a weekly basis?
I play about two new songs an hour from either a new artist or a new song from a classic artist. There is so much great new music out from established artists and it bothers me how little attention it gets. As a music fan and former A&R guy too, it bummed me out. I love people hearing that stuff when it works. I also give news and opinion around all the music. People love hearing honest opinions and relevant news and stuff that stimulates them if they agree or not. Everyone is in so many directions now you would be amazed at how few people know a band like Iron Maiden has made four studio albums the last 10 years or so, or that Judas Priest just put out a new one.
I also do a popular feature called The Underground Classic, which highlights a song from an obscure or forgotten artist and I provide an update on what they are up to. I also feature artist interviews. I recently launched a very successful podcast so sometimes I pull 10 minutes from that for the radio show and then if people want to hear the full in-depth hour, I send them to the podcast. which is free. For stations that prefer things more music-intensive, it helps and the listeners who want a long interview can grab it when they want.
I end every show with a ballad. It's the only one I play in the entire show and a good transition into whatever the station is running after me. Being flag-shipped from a major station like Q104.3 that doesn't play music as hard as I do, it helps to end with something like "Love Song" from Tesla instead of having them go back into regular format after if I ended with Slayer!
6. How is the music chosen on Eddie Trunk Rocks? How much input do you have with the music?
100%. I do it all. Always have. I produce and program the show myself from day one. There were very brief times in its 31-year history that a PD or MD wanted to be involved, but they quickly check out and let me go. The whole reason I do the show is my love of this music so it makes no sense to not control what I play. I'm not saying I know it all by any stretch, but in this area I have met very few who know this stuff like I do. That being said, I am also not dumb. I know there needs to be balance with the lesser-known stuff I play and I play tons of major artists, but just not the hits. Why would I? Makes no sense to do a specialty show and play the same thing the station does all the time anyway. I never understood that.
So I'll play AC/DC, but not "You Shook Me All Night Long." I'll play Metallica, but never "Enter Sandman." I'll play Ozzy, but never "Crazy Train." I don't need to ever hear most of those songs ever again as great as they are. And when I play deeper stuff or new stuff I always set it up and sell it a bit so people know what they are hearing. My greatest frustration is PDs who don't get that this is a specialty show and for three hours a week it's okay to find a place to give your audience something just a bit different. They will tell me how they love That Metal Show but won't air my radio show, even though That Metal Show was born from my radio show in many ways!
I have no problem following the rules if asked to do a regular shift, but for my show it has to be me. I also think with the influx of streaming and everyone walking around with 2,000 songs on demand in their phones it's more vital than ever to do some different stuff that becomes appointment listening for the audience. I think my show serves that.
7. After doing your radio show on Rock stations in the past, what's your take on current Rock music? Is it as good now as it was 10 years ago or even in the '80s and '90s?
Nw music is extremely important and all decades had good and bad stuff. Just like the '80s, the '90s ate itself alive with copycat bands and it became oversaturated. Working for an Active Rock station doing regular format in the '90s, there were a ton of bands all sounding like Pearl Jam. You knew that would end eventually, too. It's all cyclical for sure.
I really love the movement going on now that is getting back to great vocals and big riffs. I am more encouraged by new bands now than I have been in a very long time. Rival Sons, Kyng, Monster Truck, Farmikos, Scorpion Child and many others I have been really into. It is just disturbing for me to see how little some of it is worked and embraced. I also hate the way it is delivered. I still love CDs. Call me old school but when a physical package shows up in my mail, I am much more likely to get around to listening to it and looking at it then one of a million e-mails that want you to download from countless players and formats. It's very frustrating. CDs still rule for me and since they are still digital, I can also rip them into my systems.
I see delivery and lack of real follow through as a major issue in trying to break new music. Since labels are so sparse now, most use indies. Don't get me wrong, I love some of the indie guys, but let's be honest, after their retainer ends it's on to the next. Artist development is in trouble and that hurts our Classic Rock in 20 years.
8. As a follow-up to the last question, how well has Rock Radio incorporated Metal music into the mix? Are you pleased with the amount of Metal you hear on Rock Radio today?
No. It is still marginalized and not given the airplay or respect it deserves. This Summer I spent a tremendous amount of time on the road. I was in cities with no outlet at all for new rock music or anything but classic rock. I also heard some really great stations, too, doing some different things that were encouraging. Every market finds what works for them. I'm not looking to take over anyone's drive time with my show. Only asking for three hours a week and see what happens. It's lasted 31 years, so I have to think I'm doing something okay.
I also think some of the stereotypes that come with metal don't help. People always ask me why I don't look or act like a metal guy and I love that. I never felt the need to have the hair, tats and leather vest. If that's your trip, great, but SO many more people love this music and don't rock the "uniform." And if more knew that and I can be an example for that, maybe it can help grow it some in certain circles.
9. How much does Eddie Trunk Rocks use social media to interact with its listeners?
Tons. I'm just at 200K on Twitter and that I use the most. I was never a big Facebook guy but I do have a page and post there from time to time. But I love the immediate back and forth with Twitter. I also do a live satellite radio show and recently launched a podcast; social media is a great way to talk to the audience. Like anything, you can't let it sway you too much, but it is useful for sure and a direct line to your fans. My website www.EddieTrunk.com has been around a long time and is the hub for everything I do, but also broader than that with music news, comments and more.
10. Can you give us a handful of Metal bands to watch for in the next year or two?
My favorite band right now is called Farmikos. They are led by former Ozzy guitarist Joe Holmes. He's a brilliant player and it's heavy, dark music. Also like Soundgarden meets Sabbath meets Alice In Chains with monster guitar. They have some stuff on iTunes with an album coming. I also like Kyng. Their second album is out ... young guys, great riffs and singing. I wouldn't be surprised if Mastodon was poised for a big breakthrough at commercial Rock radio. They have made a very accessible album with some great hooks. And Rival Sons, more on the hard rock side, is really cool. They already made a big splash in the U.K. So much good stuff out there. After 31 years, it is still my biggest thrill to have an outlet to share some of it with people, which was what it was always about and still is.
You've authored two books, "Eddie Trunk's Essential Hard Rock & Heavy Metal" and a Volume 2 edition last year. How have these books been received?
Amazingly well, thank you. The second one happened because the first was such a success and my publisher asked for a sequel. These are not autobiographies or tell-alls. Really just great photos and stories with some of my favorite bands and bands I think are important. There are so many lengthy autobiographies out there these days I think these books really connected with people on a different level. I hear from many that have looked at my playlists or given them to people as a guide to get into the music.
It's amazing how books live forever, too. I am still selling as much of the debut as the new one three years on and still do signings regularly for both. It's been a great thing and I hope to do more down the line. I'm lucky that because of my radio show, and even more so the success of That Metal Show; people know me and have an immediate interest, which is obviously a huge plus.