10 Questions with ... Roxy Myzal
December 2, 2014
1. What was your first job in radio or the music business? Early influences or mentors?
I was the MD at WXLO-99X, RKO-owned Top 40 in New York City in 1977. Mentors: Paul Drew, Dave Sholin, Rick Sklar, John McGhan, The Beatles.
2. Can you give us a quick thumbnail of your career background before you started working for United Stations?
There have been many jobs. I started my career in Boston in 1975 as director of the Boston Record Pool, an organization of disco club DJs. Then I moved to New York in 1977 to be the MD of WXLO (99X), a pioneering hybrid Top 40 that played everything from Chic to Van Halen and became "the most-listened-to FM Station in the Nation." Then I became the local promotion manager for Atlantic Records in NYC, and was promoted to National Disco Promotion Dir. where I worked with the Atlantic dance artists during the Disco Music explosion in the late '70's.
After the disco ball dimmed, I headed to Chrysalis Records for a National Rock Promotion position. From there I went to work at Rolling Stone and helped develop a radio network and worked with over 325 Album Oriented Rock stations that carried syndicated shows under the Rolling Stone banner.
From there I leaped to DIR Broadcasting 'til 1985, when I was offered the MD position at a state-of-the-art 24-hour LIVE music video television channel in Boston, V66. When the channel was sold to the Home Shopping Network in 1987, I moved to Los Angeles where I helped launch radio programming for the newly formed MCA Radio Network under the auspices of MCA Records and Universal Pictures. I actually worked for Robert Kardashian at the MCA Radio Network and knew Kim and Kourtney when they were little seven and eight-year-old girls!
From there, I accepted an executive producer position for a film production company, representing music video directors. In 1994, Sony and Warner formed SW Networks, and lured me back to New York City to work on a new radio network and develop a show called Pure Concrete (then a heavy metal radio show done in conjunction with a hard rock promotion company, Concrete Marketing.) That show morphed into hardDrive in 1996 with the hiring of host Lou Brutus. In 1997, the show was sold to MediaAmerica and then moved to United Stations in 2001. I have been producing and writing hardDrive since its inception and in 2007, launched the nightly 7PM-Midnight daypart version, hardDrive XL.
3. How long have you been at United Stations and what are your main responsibilities there?
I joined USRN in 2001. I have a team of two excellent engineers, Zak Tranese (hardDrive) and Bill Powell (hardDrive XL). My most awesome assistant, Paul Spagna, keeps me sane. I write the weekend show, program the music for both shows, arrange interviews for Lou, Paul and myself, including video interviews, working with our video engineer Danica D'Souza to edit interviews. I help to provide Lou with info for hardDrive XL logs. I also edit artist sound bites that appear on air for both shows. I also schedule live performances and secure contests. I write the music news blog and other items on the www.hardDriveRadio.com and contribute to the hardDriveRadio Facebook. I also voice the music news feature "Dirt" on hardDrive XL and contribute to the new hardDriveRadio APP. I also write promos for contests, and oversee our imaging director Taz. Work with Lzzy Hale of Halestorm on our weekly feature Ask Lzzy. Plot and plan the hardDrive Live Tour with Mike Childs. Work with our great IT department head Julian Woolsey on the tour site, APP (Andre Yancey) and website. Take calls from promo reps. Help affiliates and affiliate department at USRN with their needs and formulate marketing ideas. Work with our international reps in securing new markets. And I buy air fresheners for the rest rooms.
4. Let's talk about hardDrive. It is arguably one of the most influential syndicated Rock radio shows in America. For those who aren't familiar with it, can you give us a quick history lesson on the show? How long has it been around and how many stations are running it now?
Thank you for the props, Ken! hardDrive launched in July of '96 at SW Networks (a Sony/Warner venture). The show was sold to MediaAmerica in 1997, then acquired in 2001 by United Stations' Andy Denemark. The precursor to hardDrive was a show called Pure Concrete, which we did in conjunction with Concrete Marketing, a mostly metal show hosted by then Q104 PD Bob Elliot, which launched in 1994. I noticed the wave of nu metal (aka Extreme Rock) coming around in '94-'95. I loved Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit, Korn and thought we should modify our metal-leaning show to attract more stations (KXTE and other stations who were reporting Alternative, but playing harder music, were popping up). After combing through a box of airchecks sent by Jacobs Media, who we were consulted by at the time, we discovered Lou Brutus doing afternoons at WRCX/Chicago, and brought him on board. We couldn't come up with a name for the show, so my boss at the time, Corinne Baldassano, did while we were at SW Networks. In July, hardDrive will be 19 years old! In February 2007, hardDrive XL was launched. And earlier this year, we signed GONG 97.1 in Nuremburg, Germany, so we are indeed "the World Famous hardDrive!"
5. In 2007, you guys started hardDrive XL, a daily weeknight version of hardDrive. How different is this show compared to the weekly syndicated hardDrive and how many stations are running this version?
Two hours vs 25. hardDrive XL is formatted; hardDrive comes straight out of my head! LOL ... I don't like to talk about numbers of stations, but suffice to say the show gets excellent ratings everywhere we are! Lou Brutus is arguably THE best talent there is; his material is unique, entertaining, informative and thought provoking. We attract the biggest names on the planet to be on the air. The jewels in the crown are the bands - both new and established. I am so proud of what we have accomplished over the years and the careers we have helped launch, and the respect and support we get from the industry in general. Between our two shows, we reach several million ears weekly.
6. Let's talk about the hardDrive and hardDrive XL host Lou Brutus. He obviously does a great job as a host with music info and artist interviews. Tell us how your collaboration makes the show work?
Well, there's no doubt how great and talented Lou is! With the support he has from the hardDriveRadio Team, he has a wealth of info. And when he doesn't, or when listeners send in questions with stumpers, we are at the ready. We interact with our listeners daily! We have the hardDriveRadio app, which is another awesome and a great way to interact quickly with listeners! For music info and news, we aren't TMZ, we don't like to spread rumors. Of course, we tease things that are true, but a lot of things we can't divulge!
7. Now let's talk about the music on HardDrive. Approximately how important by percentage is gut, research, sales, video play, and chart position in determining what music, both current and library, is played?
My credo is: If it's good, it should be heard. I am getting pickier in my old age, but I think these music director ears have served me well since the '70s when the station WXLO (99X) was the first Top 40 on the East Coast station to play Van Halen "You Really Got Me" on the same station with Chic and Meatloaf, and now today, one of the first to play bands like Korn, Rage Against The Machine and Slipknot.
I still get really excited about bands, taking great pride when one we are playing starts to chart and have success. (Conversely, my label reps will tell you we "giveth" and we "taketh" away since I don't always play the same songs each week on hardDrive.)
hardDrive plays 100% currents. I have the challenge of wanting to lead the way on music, but produce my shows a little ahead of reality, but for the most part, we are mostly on the money, I think. I use Mediabase and Nielsen charts as a basis. For hardDrive XL, we are about 50% library to current and rotate about 250 songs in the library. I would tell you how we do it, but then why would people need us? Our affiliates will tell you how important the night show is to their ratings. We kick ass!
8. What's your take on current Active Rock music and the format overall? Is it as good as six months or a year ago, better, or about the same?
The music is getting better and better. I think the future is looking really bright where there are stations that still have the PASSION and BELIEVE in what they are doing. Stations like WJJO, WBHB, WZOR and KQRC, to name a few. Watching bands like In This Moment, Of Mice & Men, Bring Me The Horizon, Black Veil Brides all making big strides. (Check out We Came As Romans.) Big bands are back in full force: AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Slipknot, Seether, Godsmack, Volbeat, Korn, Linkin Park, Slash, Bush, Nickelback, Live. If anything, I wish we had more room to play more records! I like the harder tunes, but once in a while, a mid-tempo or, dare I say, a BALLAD gets in my head and I am inclined to give it a little love. The more adventurous and unique sounding the band, the more compelling they are. Of course, that is subjective.
I also think the old way of thinking about how to program a contemporary Rock station needs to be rehabbed! It's time to start thinking more progressively. Try new things. When a big album comes out, what's wrong with playing a couple of songs off it? As long as you inform the listeners, "Hey I heard this off the new 'such and such' CD today. What do you think?" Engage. Give out info on the bands, especially if they are brand new! Allow listeners to discover new music WITH YOU. Talk about the artist -- where they're from, anecdotes about the group. Be topical. Be thought provoking. Don't take listeners for granted. Remember why you got into radio in the first place. Think like a FAN! And get out to see shows. Be with your listeners. See reaction first hand. And for God's sake, DON'T LOSE THE PASSION!
9. What are your three favorite artists or songs of this past year and why?
Oh there are so many, but these pop up now: Rise Against (the entire album), Of Mice & Men, Nothing More, Foo Fighters "Something From Nothing," Korn "Never Never." Love artists that push the envelope and try something different!
10. You're stuck on a deserted island and you only have five CDs with you. What are they?
Oh, I hate that question. I want an iPod with a thousands songs ... and my second wish, is for electricity on my yacht parked nearby.
What do you like to do for fun when you're not in radio mode?
Garden, cook, travel, be with my man. And play Plants Vs Zombies and Words With Friends!