10 Questions with ... Ryan Castle
December 9, 2014
1. What was your first job in radio? Who were your early influences and mentors?
My first gig was at KATS/Yakima, WA in 1994. I was 16. I was what you would call a "utility guy." I did weekends and fill-in on the Rock and Country stations. I would board-op Mariners, Seahawks and syndicated programming on the News/Talk AM. I even helped the engineers dig up radials around the AM transmitter one summer. I really just liked being around the radio station. Whatever they needed, I was the guy.
Early mentors and influences? Troy Hanson, Steve Goldstein, Keith Hastings, Wade Linder, Dave Hamilton, Fred Jacobs .. I was incredibly fortunate early on to work with and for smart people who in what I can only assume were massive lapses in judgment, believed in me, gave me a shot and helped me along the way.
2. You have quite a varied background of Rock Radio experience. Can you give us a quick list of station's and on air/titles you held at each station prior to joining KISW?
- KATS/Yakima - Fill-in
- KAZR/Des Moines - Overnights then eventually PM drive and Production Director
- KXXR/Minneapolis - APD/Creative Dir.
- WRLR/Birmingham - PD
- WLZR/Saga - PM drive on WLZR and Active Rock Imaging Specialist for Saga
- WZTA/Miami - APD/PM Drive/Creative Dir.
- KISW/Seattle - APD/middays
3. Now let's talk about KISW. Besides being the APD, you've been doing middays for 11 years now. How is it working between two very high-profile drivetime shows like the BJ Shea Morning Experience and The Men's Room in afternoons?
BJ, Steve, their crew and the Mens Room guys are hands-down the best in the business at what they do. I'm lucky to work with such brilliant entertainers. What they bring to the table every day raises the bar for everyone on the entire radio station. Forget being a "Solid Jock." They are game changers and when you play on the same field as the best entertainers in the league being a good DJ doesn't cut it. Dave has really fostered a culture of creativity here. Let's forget the rules of what people on the radio are supposed to do. What do you got? Let's do something different. Let's be entertainers. With that, I get to come to work every day, hang out with my friends and we make each other laugh.
4. You've also had a strong background in the past with Creative Services and station Production/Imaging. How would you describe the overall Imaging on KISW? Care to share with us any interesting positioning statements?
It can be irreverent, maybe a little weird, always entertaining. Our Production Dir. Taz has a few screws loose in the best possible way. I don't know where he finds inspiration for some of the stuff that comes out of that studio. Sometimes I wonder if he's okay. Dave and I like to write some, too. We'll create characters and campaigns that become part of the personality of the station. Some of them will go on for an entire year. It's the only place I've ever worked where listeners call and request promos. I'll get e-mails every now and again from listeners wondering what ever happened to "The Idiot Twins" or the "Lord Bergamont" guys. Of course there's music imaging, "everything that rocks" and personality-focused stuff as well.
5. Now let's put on your APD hat. Give us your take on the health of KISW right now. What are its strengths and challenges from where you're sitting?
We're in a great place. KISW has been Seattle's top-rated adult and male radio station and the top billing station for years. 2015 will be KISW's 44th year and its best year yet. Our strengths are our people, period. From BJ's show to Jolene at night and everyone behind the scenes. This team has been together for about 10 years now. Everyone knows their roll and they execute. It doesn't hurt that we genuinely like one another and enjoy doing it. Our challenges and opportunities for growth are more on the digital side than what comes out of the speakers.
6. Seattle certainly has a great reputation as an influential city in terms of ground breaking Rock bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden to name a few. How much influence does this music have on how you guys program the station?
KISW has a long, rich history with Seattle music that goes back to the early 1970s. According to Jimi's sister Janie, KISW was the only station allowed on in the Hendrix house because we played Jimi's music. We're fortunate to have so many great bands here and to have relationships with them. It's not unusual to have Mike McCready come by to talk about a charity event in town. He's played benefits for us before, too. So have Queensryche and Duff McKagan. Duff, Sean Kinney and I did a radio show a couple years ago just for fun. As far as programming goes I suppose we probably get away with going a little deeper on those band's catalogs than most. No shocker, we play A LOT of Nirvana.
7. Now let's talk about the Active Rock format as a whole. What's your take on current Active Rock music? How does it compare to when you first started working at KISW 11 years ago?
Current music at rock ebbs and flows. I don't know if you could say the bands have been any better or worse or if people's interest in whatever is current at that moment changes. We've always just played what we believe our audience wants to hear. Sometimes that means more current music, sometimes it means less. Our strength is in our personalities, not what shows up in the mail each week.
8) How interactive is KISW with its audience via your website or social media such as Facebook and Twitter?
We do a lot. Probably more than most, but there's tons of room to grow. We have a Digital Program Director here, Leslie Scott, who's great at what she does. She keeps us on point in the ever-changing digital and social media world. Having someone like Leslie in the building focused on that world has been invaluable.
9) What can Rock Radio be doing with their station websites and social media sites to better their stations as a whole?
Your website and Facebook page or whatever is an extension of your radio station. Great content makes great radio. Same goes for digital. You can't just broadcast to people on-line about tickets you're giving away or tonight's bar gig. Create opportunities to interact.
10) Finally, I know that you're originally from the state of Washington. Are you a Seattle sports fan, and if so, do you or the station do anything special with the World Champion Seattle Seahawks?
I actually didn't grow up a Seahawks fan. My family was from Denver so I was a Broncos kid. My years in Minneapolis made me a Vikings fan. Don't get me wrong. I love the Hawks. I pull for them every game they're not playing the Vikings. Elysian Brewing Company who make our beer "Mens Room Red" have a huge bar down at the stadiums. We were part of the festivities for the victory parade as well as the season kick off this year with Soundgarden and Pharell (unofficially of course.) We also have tap handles in both Century Link and Safeco. I'm a long suffering Mariner's fan and a season ticket holder for our MLS team Sounders FC. Our NBA team is currently in OKC at the moment which is still a sore subject around here.
What do you like to do for fun when you're not in radio mode?
My wife and I do a ton of trail running. The Pacific Northwest has amazing outdoor spaces. I like to call it "express hiking."
You're stuck on a deserted island and you only have five CDs with you. What are they?
- Mad Season "Above"
- Clutch "Robot Hive/Exodus"
- Chris Cornell "Euphoria Morning"
- Alice in Chains "Dirt"
- Metallica "Master of Puppets"