10 Questions with ... Andy Langer
June 2, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
In '90s Austin, "Slacker" was more than a movie -- it was genuinely a way of life. Doors opened if you showed the slightest flash of ambition because slight flashes of ambition were so rare. In 1995, I was writing about Austin music for our alternative weekly newspaper -- The Austin Chronicle -- and saw an opportunity to leverage my name recognition (in what was still a small town) from the paper into a radio show. Flash of ambition shown, Z-Rock handed me the already badly titled Texas Shock Syndrome - a Friday night local music specialty show. A year or so later I jumped to 101X (KROX) and launched "The Next Big Thing" - a Sunday night specialty show for new and local music that ran nearly 18 years (we discontinued it earlier this year on 101X and will be bringing it over to KGSR sometime this summer). In January of 2008, I accepted a full-time offer for nights at KGSR and have since done middays, a short stint co-hosting a morning show, and most recently, three years of afternoons.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
Like every other kid on Long Island with a boom box, I grew up making meticulously curated mix tapes from songs I heard on Z100 and WLIR. I also remember leading my junior high school in an effort to win a WBAB promotion whereupon the school that wrote the station's call letters and Joan Jett's name on as many 3x5 index cards as possible won a private performance in the school's gym. I'm guessing we filled out 40-60K cards (unthinkable and non-replicable in these environment-minded times). We lost to a Catholic high school whose board ultimately decided not to collect on the prize after being advised of Ms. Jett's offstage proclivities.
2. Who are/were your mentors?
The legendary Jody Denberg is/was the finest on-air radio talent and programmer this town has ever seen. And I don't use the phrase "legendary" often or lightly. It was always nothing but a pleasure working with him and learning from him.
3. In addition to holding down afternoon drive - you also do a special New Music show you do each week night at midnight. Tells us about that!
What we've dubbed The Music Meeting is nothing but new and local music. And indeed, it's an hour each weeknight. If the Black Keys or Ray LaMontagne have a new album out tomorrow, this is where we might play three songs from it -- but it's primarily where we'll play artists we've yet to add with obvious soon-to-be-hits and new music that for whatever reason falls just shy of what we do, like Sam Roberts, The Hold Steady, Robert Ellis or Deer Tick. It's 100% my picks every night -- a truly rare freedom to be afforded in commercial radio and one I treat with the utmost respect and care.
4. Radio is not all you do. You continue to write, yes?
Absolutely. Radio is more than just something I do five hours a day, but it's hardly my main gig. Since 2002, I've been Esquire's music columnist. I'm also the music columnist for Texas Monthly and for the Texas edition of The New York Times.
And twice a week since 1999, I report for our 24-hour Time Warner Cable News station -- what's essentially the Austin equivalent of NY1. All three mediums -- print, radio and TV -- inform each other and honestly, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I had all my eggs in one dying media basket. Instead I have them spread across three. That looks like a smart strategy now, but it was born of necessity -- the thing nobody talks about when they reminisce about '90s Austin was how hard it was to find one gig that paid a living wage. I needed three gigs.
5. What new bands are you most excited about?
I continue to be evangelical about Robert Ellis. Songwriters of his caliber come along incredibly infrequently. I'm also intrigued by New Orleans' Benjamin Booker. His "Violent Shivers" suggests he's on the verge of following through with a game-changer or three.
6. What do you like best about your job?
I like that what's the most fun here in Austin and the projects I'm most heavily involved in -- our giant outdoor summer series, Blues On The Green, and our annual collection of live performances, the "Broadcasts" CDs both figure prominently into KGSR's commitment to the community. Year in and out, our two-CD "Broadcasts" collection, which raises 100K+ annually for local non-profits, is quite clearly, inarguably, the finest collection of on-air performances from anybody, anywhere. And Blues On The Green is a community event in the truest sense. It's a giant free picnic with live music that damn near the whole town turns up at the park for.
7. What has been your biggest career highlight?
Google this search string: "Esquire + What It Feels Like To Get High With Snoop and Willie."
8. What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
Saying "I told you so" never gets old.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ...
... wanting to tell someone "I told you so."
10. If you wanted to completely change careers today, what would you do?
I'd work with giraffes. Not kidding. If I believed in spirit animals, mine would be a giraffe.
Last non-industry job:
Twin Oaks Day Camp, counselor.
First record ever purchased:
Michael Jackson, Thriller
Rod Stewart's Infatuation Tour
Favorite artist of all-time:
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?