10 Questions with ... Jeremi "Big J" Schlader
March 15, 2016
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
My first job in radio ultimately was Stunt Guy for our morning show, at the time, called The Byl and Doug Show. About three or four months after I started doing that for free and sitting around on the couch in the lobby, I was hired as a board op.
As far as my early influences go -- I only really had one and that was Jim Rome. I loved listening to him and I was definitely a clone. Though I never considered radio really something I was going to get into as a career.
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
I'm going to try and condense this story and not turn it into an entire chapter of a book! I was only a year into really working in radio .. working on the morning show, doing a weekend shift, and board oping all while doing another full-time job and college. Our PD at the time, Jacent Jackson, happened to also have a specialty show on Sunday night called Hip Hop Nation. Along comes the Up In Smoke tour. The tour was winding down and wanted to throw a tour party here in Boise, so the promoter invited all the staff to this party. Enter Hip Hop Nation; Jacent wanted to try and get some interviews and for some crazy reason he wanted me to interview Eminem.
The week before, Eminem pistol-whipped some dude, and I was green and nervous about the whole situation. We get to the party and are mingling, and I'm seeing things I never saw before, ha! So, Jacent is talking to Eminem's manager, I'm just standing there like an idiot and Eminem is playing a video game. I get super-impatient with the whole process and I just tap him on his shoulder and say: "Excuse me Mr.Eminem?" He turns around and I put my hand out to shake his. He looks me up and down, then decides to shake my hand.
I say, "So is that cool?" and he asks, "Is what cool?" "Doing the interview?" I ask, he responds, "Oh you need to talk to my manager!" He then turns back around, and the manager overhears all of this and comes down on me like an ANVIL! "No one talks to EM on his day off but me!" I turned as pale as a ghost, and Jacent looking at me like what the hell just happened. I laugh so hard about it now, but that interview never was going to happen anyways. The next week I quit my full-time job and dropped out of school. I knew what I wanted to do, and I would put all of my energy into working in radio.
3) How long have you been working for KQXR (100.3 The X) and what makes this station so unique and special?
I've been here 161/2 years! Man, almost to 20! So that fact alone makes it difficult to answer the second part because I've never worked in another radio market. I think one aspect is that through all of those years the station has seen some change. Even though we went from the Alternative panel to the Active Rock panel, we've always done a great job of listening to the audience. Even when it was an Alt station, we always leaned on the aggressive side. Boise likes to Rrock! Sure the Pop stuff is going to make a big splash, but Hard Rock and Metal is the meat and potatoes of this town.
4) You and PD Jeremy Nicolato (Nic) do the morning show together as The Morning After with Nic and Big J. Give us some of the benchmarks of the show and what makes it tick?
Well, Pop Culture Smack has been with us since the beginning. Basically, listeners have to match popular culture wits with us. We switch up who asks the questions every few months or so to keep it fresh. Ask The Morning After is a lot of fun as well. We take questions about all walks of life and answer them for the listeners. Let us not forget about Rock Wars! We take a topic and choose songs to represent those topics. It can get weird sometimes, but we enjoy the benchmarks that involve audience interaction. Ultimately, though, what makes The Morning After tick is the chemistry between me and Nic. We don't have to do a lot of verbal communication; sometimes we can read one another's mind.
5) The past few years, your morning show has done live broadcasts in May on the road from Boise to Columbus, OH for the Rock on the Range show. What are some of the highlights of those broadcasts and are you doing it again this year?
Well, the first time we did it we brought four listeners with us in an RV! We parked outside the Stadium. We chose a route that went through our home towns, which was really fun! So after that first run, everyone just assumed we drove the RV to Rock On The Range. We took a three-year break from that and went at it again taking different routes and stops along the way. Some of our favorites would have to be The College Basketball Experience in Kansas City, MO, The Toy and Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, OK, and the Super Museum in Metropolis, IL. Yeah ,we are nerds. Sadly, we have retired the old Road Trip from the agenda. These trips are taxing on us and the family. We are usually gone 10 days. Doing a morning show and then driving 10-12 hours in a day is just kind of insane.
6) Now let's talk about the music on 100.3 The X. As the MD, when you listen to new music, approximately how important by percentage is gut, research, sales, video play, and chart position when determining the status of a record?
I'm going to say 80% gut! We don't have research, so that is really 0%. Sales is a tricky thing because Boise is an extended DMA market and we don't often get breakdowns of how records are doing here locally. I'm happy for bands that have a great sales story, but nationally doesn't tell me the Boise story, and that is what I need to know. Same goes for video views. Chart position is always tricky. There are times when a record might be in the top 10 that we aren't playing. That's when we really have to think if we are making the right choice with a record. Another part of the equation for some of the established bands is the kind of ticket sales they generate when then come to the market. It certainly isn't easy, but so far we have put together a pretty good track record.
7) What's your take on current Active Rock music and give us your take on the Active Rock format as a whole.
Here in Boise we are fortunate as we don't have any direct competition. So my answer might be different if I had to think about contending with both Active Rock format and Alternative format. We had an Alt pop up a few years ago and didn't get much traction. There was a reason we left that panel to do Active Rock. The whole reason I bring all of this up is that it seems to me there is a big push to throw in a bunch of Alt bands into the rotation. I can say unequivocally that Mumford and Sons sounds pretty weird between AC/DC and Disturbed.
8) KQXRhas long had a reputation as a "tastemaker" station ... especially when it comes to new rock and metal ... how do you balance that so it doesn't adversely affect the station's cume and TSL ... especially during the day?
That is making a big assumption that the listeners don't have anything to do with the "tastemaking" part. Granted, we hear a song like "Weather Man" from Dead Sara or "Let It Burn" from Avatar and think these are awesome songs, but they certainly wouldn't make it into regular rotation unless we were sure the audience was pushing the song on the station. That is why our "Free X Show" series is so important. We get to see how our listeners react to those artists when they come to town. I don't think you could force bands like that on your audience and keep the cume and TSL as high as ours has been here in recent history.
9) What are your three favorite artists or songs of last year and why?
Let's start with Ghost! I was in that camp that always questioned the "metal" stigma with this band, until I saw them live at The Knitting Factory. What exactly is Metal anyways? Cause they sure looked the part live; I get it if you listen to the albums because it is a different experience.
Next, how about a band I mentioned before, Avatar? Hail the Apocalypse was an awesome and intense album and they have a new album coming out this summer.
I was so happy to hear that Lacey Sturm was doing music again; I couldn't wait to hear her stuff. Life Screams has got all the things I loved about her when she was in Flyleaf. I can't wait for our Free Show with Adelita's Way, Lacey Sturm, and Stitched Up Heart on April 15th.
10) Finally, where and how did the name Big J come about and what does it all mean?
Sixteen years ago, I was sitting in a radio studio for the first time with two of the funniest radio personalities named Byl and Doug. Right before we go on they asked me what they should call me. I was stunned. I stammered for a moment and blurted out Big J. Later when I tried to change it to something normal, our PD said nope! Too late everyone knows you as Big J. I picked it because my name was Jeremi and I was a big guy. Ha, that is it! No metaphors there, sorry everyone!
What do you like to do for fun and relaxation when you're "not" in radio mode?
I really enjoy hanging out with my family! I have two teenage daughters. One is about to graduate, the other a freshman. So they keep me busy and the wife keeps me laughing. Then when I'm trying to relax from all that I play Xbox. I'm a nerd!