Welcome to Top 5 Fun Friday, a regularly-occurring blog feature where I give you a list of extremely specific pointless shit from my life no one asked for. Why? Because the internet is STILL incredibly un-fun in 2021 and I enjoy blogging. It’s Friday and these will be fun! This week’s list…
Top 5 Favorite Moments from My College Radio Interviews with Bands
The first taste I got of interviewing someone for real, I didn’t actually do the interview myself. I had just joined the radio station, was on overnights, and the main punk chick at the station lived down the hall from me in my apartment complex. She was interviewing the Mad Caddies in a couple of days, knew I was a huge fan, and asked me for some questions. So I sat down, banged a few out based on what I knew and what I had recently read, and handed them off to her.
She met up with me a couple of days after the interview and said, “Oh my god, those were the BEST questions! The band even complimented me and said they NEVER get questions like that!” When she aired the thing, I listened to it, and she didn’t change a single word of my questions. It was in that moment that I knew I didn’t want to be anyone’s Cyrano de Bergerac ever again and wanted to start interviewing bands myself. I knew enough to know not to ask them rote, dull horseshit like, “Who are your influences?” or “How did you guys get your name?” all I needed was some help in getting connected to them.
So I started bugging our Music Directors for connections and introductions, and set about building my own little interviewing empire. I’ve interviewed more than 300 people on this show, dozens more through various other projects I’ve done, and countless others I’m sure I have long since forgotten. It’s just about my favorite thing to do, and it all started by interviewing bands while in college. KCSU was great for this type of thing because it was a CMJ Flagship Station, had an outsized presence in the college radio landscape, and got incredible access to pretty much anyone we wanted.
So let’s take a stroll down memory lane and remember the weird, the funny, the frustrating and the otherwise noteworthy from my time in college radio. In no particular order, here are five of my favorite moments from interviews I did in college radio.
The time Yellowcard invited me to smoke pot on their tour bus
My first big time interview, I accompanied my friend Jitter (the aforementioned main punk chick from the station) to interview Yellowcard as they sub-headlined under No Use for a Name. Yellowcard was about to blow the fuck up, and we caught them on the upswing.
Two moments I’ve written about before that I’ll briefly mention here: https://jonofalltrades.us/invincible/ 1) Tony Sly came up the stairs into his dressing room where members of Yellowcard and Jitter both smoked cigarettes during the interview. He told everyone to cut it out, and I felt proud about being the only who wasn’t smoking. It was like I was trying to impress my dad or something. 2) I probably disappointed Tony Sly when I compared Good Times to In N Out Burger, which caused him to go there pretty much immediately. No idea how that burger was for him.
After doing the interview, which everyone really enjoyed because once again I came correct with my questions, we took some pictures (see above) and their lead guitarist Ben asked Jitter and I if we wanted to join them on their bus and smoke some weed. Jitter demurred for reasons I can’t remember while I, having only smoked pot like a half dozen times in my entire life at that point and knowing I had a square and very uptight girlfriend awaiting me in line, got too nervous and ultimately declined.
Reader, I don’t regret much about my life, but declining this offer is one thing I definitely regret to this day. I was 20 years old, hosted a fucking college punk rock radio show, and somehow was too much of a pantywaist to light up a joint with one of my favorite bands? Jesus. What a waste. Most people only get a handful of opportunities like this one, and I went, “Nah, I’m good.” What was that tour bus like? Who else was on it? Would we have been friends afterward and hung out when they came through town? These are all questions I’ll never know, and that bugs the shit out of me.
The time I failed to record Sascha from Mad Caddies – TWICE!
So it’s finally my turn to interview the Mad Caddies for real on my own, and I bring my brand new minidisc player (remember those?) to record the thing. I hadn’t used it much, but figured I knew enough to make it work. We find Sascha downstairs at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins, proceed to ask him questions for like 20 minutes, and it’s great. He’s a friendly dude, answers the questions thoughtfully, and since we’re downstairs backstage at the venue, my co-host Kaycee and I end up getting to hang out with the other bands on the bill. Everyone is amazing and hilarious, especially The Real McKenzies, a group of Scottish hooligans wearing kilts. I saw that lead singer’s dong about a half dozen times that day.
We head back to my car to drop off the equipment before the show starts, I plug in my headphones to the playback because I want to hear the sound quality, and horror of horrors, it didn’t record. Oh shit. In the midst of freaking out, I somehow lock my keys in my car while it’s running. So I have to call a roommate, get him to bring me my spare key, unlock the car, shut it off, swallow my pride, and knock on the Caddies’ tour bus to see if Sascha will do it again.
Swell guy that he is, he agrees, and we do the whole thing again. After like the third question, he pauses for a second and says with a laugh, “I gotta tell you, man. It’s surreal doing this exactly the same way again.” I said, “Yeah, I know. It is for me too. I’m SO SORRY for making you do it again.” It mercifully ends, we part ways, I fall all over myself apologizing and thanking him, manage to get the equipment put away without locking my keys in my car, and go enjoy the show.
The next day I go to listen to the interview. I failed to record the fucking thing again. Unbelievable. I’m totally crestfallen (and also very hungover), but I vow never to make this mistake again. From that day forward, I have always made sure I know what the hell I’m doing from on the technical side because nothing is more mortifying than wasting someone’s time (TWICE!) and having nothing to show for it.
The time a news chick mispronounced “Shiite Muslims” at least a half dozen times
One of the great things about college radio is just hanging around the station when you don’t have anything to do. One time I was there in the middle of the day for no reason, and the band Knee Jerk showed up for a mid-day interview. One of my favorite local bands, I had interviewed them twice on my show already, so the DJ who was on at that time asked if I wanted to step in and do this one too since he wasn’t prepped for them. Sure!
It’s a fun and easygoing chat split over two segments with a news update in the middle. The news chick comes in – some sophomore who’s green, decently poised, but very nervous – and starts her update. Apparently she had never heard “Shiite” pronounced, so as she read the news about whatever was going on in the Middle East that day, proceeded to mispronounce it in exactly the way you’re imagining again and again and again.
It’s so uncomfortable, Steve, the lead singer of Knee Jerk, is staring at me mouthing the correct way to say “Shiite” in a total panic over and over again. We opt not to stop her in the middle for reasons I cannot fathom in 2021, but as soon as she’s done, she knows she’s made a mistake, and goes, “Ok, HOW do I say that?” We tell her. SHEE-ite. She’s heartbroken, but we don’t bust her chops and offer some encouraging words. When I come back on the air, I offer a correction and an apology, and we move on. Live broadcasting, kids. It’s really something.
The time The Riddlin’ Kids wouldn’t stop saying “Big City Burrito”
At one point I was up for the title of Punk Director at KCSU, which I ultimately lost to a dude named Mark who I never saw eye-to-eye with. Since he was my genre director, I asked him to set up an interview with the band The Spitvalves who were coming through town in a couple weeks. He never even tried, shooed me away when I offered to do it myself, and the day of the show told me to just bang on their tour bus door when they got into town. Thanks, you fucking amateur hour jackass. I’m going around you forever now, damn the consequences. And no, I did not just bang on their door because I’m not a goddamn idiot.
So when the Riddlin’ Kids come into town, I do all the work myself, get them booked to come into the station in the middle of the day on a Saturday, and proceed to interview them on another DJ’s show. They’re unbelievably cool and generous with their time, and shockingly patient when the clueless hip hop-humping regular DJ chimes in with some of the dumbest questions I could never conceive.
One of the band members is from Fort Collins, and at one point starts talking about how much he wants a Big City Burrito. Who can blame him? But a pertinent point to mention here is that college radio is prohibited from even mentioning, let alone advocating for, any brand on-air. He won’t stop saying it by name to the point where my Program Director comes in, gives me a look, the “cut it” throat gesture, and the guy goes, “Oh, sorry. When I say Big City Burrito, I mean ‘my mom.’ So please bring my mom, who I call ‘Big City Burrito’ to the show.” He says the name like 6 more times.
I go, “That’s great, man. We will work on getting your mom to the show, just PLEASE stop referring to her by that name shared by a restaurant here in town.” This whole thing still makes me laugh when I think about it because 1) he was clearly fucking with us, 2) that rule is so arbitrary and stupid, and 3) I used to annoy that poor Program Director with all sorts of asinine questions (Sample: “If I can’t say Altoids, can I refer to them as crack biscuits?”), so this was extremely on-brand for me.
The entire insane hour+ I spent with Andrew WK
Remember when I said these moments were in no particular order? I lied. This is my favorite interview I did in all of college, and is probably in my Top 3 of all-time. Andrew WK is singularly the weirdest person I have ever met and I am forever grateful I got to spend an hour on his B.O. and weed-smelling tour bus as he talked at length about a multitude of things about which I did not ask.
He opened the interview by talking for literally 7 minutes about “Old P.D.’s Peanut Heap,” which, best I can tell, is just some insane bullshit he made up when he and some mates covered a table in a giant pile of different types of peanuts. He talked with great intensity and interest about it, it never went anywhere, and had no point. It was the strangest shaggy dog story I’ve ever had anyone drop on me in an interview before or since.
Later in the interview he spent several minutes bemoaning the decline in the proliferation of pinball machines. He transitioned that point, as one does, into talking about ant farms and the brand leader in the space “Uncle Milton.” How, or why, we got on these subjects I cannot remember, I just remember sitting there mystified at what a supremely surreal experience this was. Here was this giant rock star we somehow gained access to, and all he wants to talk about is peanuts, ant farms, and pinball machines.
While talking about touring, he lamented not having much time to see the places he played, but discussed how much he enjoyed seeing “that big mountain we have here.” I asked which one – Mount Evans? It was, after all, our tallest one. “No,” he replied, “it’s like Old Porgy’s Frosted Cap.” Scrambling to think of what the fuck he could be possibly referring to, I say, “Pikes Peak?” “Yeah, that’s it!” So, if you ever hear me refer to Pikes Peak as “Old Porgy’s Frosted Cap,” now you know why.
The one that ultimately got me and led me to believe he was performing some sort of goofy performance art with this interview solely for his own benefit was when he shared with us how he and his bandmates started shortening words. Instead of Gatorade, they’d call it “Gate.” For water, “watt.” Thinking I’m finally on the correct wavelength for once, I ask him, “So when you come here, do you say, ‘We’re going to Denv?’” He looks me dead in the face and says perfectly straight, “No. Why would I call it that?”
We interviewed him for an hour, and asked him like 7 questions. I pretty much never knew which end was up, but walked away energized and disoriented. And one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty. No matter who I interview now, I know I can handle it. Because nothing will ever be as weird, as singular, or as fantastical as interviewing Andrew WK.
That, and I make sure my fucking equipment works.