Eddie Trunk is poster child for people like me. The difference is Eddie Trunk put in the work, built up a reputation and now at least has a name. The rest of us waited until technology made it easier to have our own website and do our own versions of what Eddie Trunk does. He’s currently on his fourteenth season of “That Metal Show.” Later today it’ll air on “VH1 Classic” with guests Kerry King from Slayer and Lzzy Hale from Halestorm. Zakk Wylde is playing guitar in and out of break. Eddie Trunk is one of the few people doing the Devil’s work keeping rock music in existence here in America. I got the chance to chat with him and had a great conversation with him.
You can listen along here:
Bob Zerull (BZ): You’ve been working in the music industry for 30 years. You’ve seen it change and fall apart. You also work on the TV and Radio side as well. On Demand entertainment is becoming so prevalent how has it affected your career and your industry?
Eddie Trunk (ET): Well on the TV side there is nothing I can do about that because I don’t own the TV show and I don’t have any say on what goes on there. That’s up to VH1 and Viacom to decide how they want to distribute it as on demand content. They do make it available online which is huge these days. That’s a big deal for getting the show to people who don’t have “VH1 Classic.” I wish there was a lot more that we’d be able to do on the TV front, but it’s not my decision to do that.
On the radio side I do two radio shows a week. One on terrestrial radio that’s syndicated and one on satellite and as you mentioned I added the podcast recently as well. Obviously podcasts by design are on demand. I resisted doing a podcast for a long time. One of the things that made me interested in adding it was the fact that they are archived to some degree and you can get them and listen to them whenever you want for the most part. That was interesting to me because the one thing that bummed me out about radio for the 30 plus years I’ve been doing it is that I’ve had these amazing moments doing interviews, but unless people were listening at that very moment it was gone. There was no way for a new audience to discover it. Some of that has changed because people record everything these days and it ends up showing up on You Tube. That’s kind of cool. I prefer doing broadcasts live whenever I can because I love that spontaneity, but at the same token having people be able to get it online whenever they want is certainly a big thing and becoming bigger everyday.
BZ: I feel like your industry has been affected just like the music industry has been affected. We’re always asking who’s the next Metallica who’s the next this or that. Who’s the next Eddie Trunk? There are several people doing what you do for free, not as good but they’re still doing it. Will the industry allow for another Eddie Trunk?
ET: I don’t know if the industry is allowing for this one. It’s funny man, I’m lucky and thankful for all the stuff I have and have been able to build for thirty plus years and grateful that people see me that way. There’s a lot of misconception about it too. A lot of people think I’ve got it made in the shade. He’s got the world at his fingertips because of the outlets that I have. That honestly couldn’t be further from the truth. People would be shocked to learn that it’s still a battle everyday to keep what I have and grow what I have. It’s an incredible challenge. This music and genre that I operate in is very marginalized. Trying to get new radio stations to carry my show. My syndicated FM show is three hours a week that could be run at any time. You wouldn’t believe the struggle everyday that the woman who’s job it is to get that on radio stations deals with. These people tell me how they love seeing the TV show, they’ll have me on as guests on their morning show but to actually put my radio show on for three hours and let me play that music, absolutely not. Fortunately I have about 30 stations that do allow it, but it’s a battle everyday.
Satellite Radio I do one show a week. I’ve asked and tried forever to do more than that. You would think the guy has got a TV show, he’s built a following, he’s got a great name and gets some great moments, you would think Sirius XM which is a very celebrity driven outlet would say lets do more. I’ve tried for over a decade. It’s incredibly difficult.
“That Metal Show,” last year we did twelve new episodes the entire year. I don’t want this to sound like I’m complaining at all, there’s just a very different perspective that I have on it than I think some other people have. I’m doing fine and I’m grateful for what I have but everyday it’s a battle to grow and build on what I have.
I can’t imagine the obstacles for somebody else that would try to do it. I think the number one obstacle is that because of technology anyone can do it. As a result you have a lot of people who are fairly unqualified doing interviews or doing writing or getting access that honestly don’t even have a legitimate platform or history to get it. Now the pool is so much bigger. Trying to disseminate what’s real and what’s not is the biggest challenge.
BZ: It’s almost identical to what some of the rock bands are going through now. Some of my favorite bands have been around twenty years that are touring constantly just to make ends meet. It’s frustrating to see as a fan. I want to see them doing better.
ET: I think oversaturation is a big problem everywhere right now. Because of technology anybody can make a record. Anybody can distribute music. Anybody can call themselves a journalist, anybody can have a website or blog. It used to be that if you were a real band you had a record deal, a publicist, and a radio person. If you were a writer you had a magazine that you could drop on the table. I don’t know how publicists do it. They must have every person coming at them, from “Rolling Stone” & “Time” magazine to a guy doing a blog in his bedroom claiming to be media. You have to figure out what has reach and what doesn’t. It’s the same with bands. It used to be if you had a song or made a record you’d already accomplished something. There was already some validity. Most artists don’t even want record deals anymore. Some of the filtering is out of the equation already. The filters are gone. Now you have to do your own homework.
BZ: Right now I guess The Foo Fighters are the newest stadium rock band out there and I know there’s Lady Gaga, Katy Perry who can still do that. But I can’t see a rock band getting there again because it’s hard to keep a band together. It’s so diluted. The only way to really make it is to stand the test of time.
ET: That’s another area where things are diluted. There are so many bands and most artists have more than one band that they’re in at the same time. You don’t even know where these artists really hang their hat. What’s their priority? Sometimes people put out records and they don’t even do a live show because it’s over before it started. That’s a big peeve of mine right now. All these thrown together super groups then they can’t even do a live show because none of them are going to take a second away from their main bands, which is where they make their money. You get invested in it as a fan, as a writer or journalist and you’re telling your audience how great it is and a week later these artists are telling you forget about that I’m on to this other thing. It’s really quite a mess right now.
BZ: I love the eclectic guests you’ve been having on this season of “That Metal Show” this year. As a fan it’s frustrating to see other rock and metal fans turn on bands because they aren’t following the rules of the sub genre they’ve been assigned to. It’s cool to see a wide variety of talent on your show this year. Was that intentional or did it just kind of happen?
ET: It’s evolved. It’s come with time. In the beginning we had a lot of issues with that. We’d tell people all the time that asked about having new bands on the show that the channel is call “VH1 Classic.” The whole channel is built on classic music. We would always say you wouldn’t go to “ESPN Classic” to see new games; you go there to see old stuff. That’s what “VH1 Classic” is and always has been, but we’ve grown above and beyond “Vh1 Classic.” We’ve become the flagship show for the channel. So we’ve been able to grow beyond what the channel specializes in. This seasons definitely our most eclectic guests but it’s been slowly something that we’ve grown into. Our audience has grown along with us and it’s opened things up a lot and we’ve enjoyed it.
This week’s episode alone you’ve got Lzzy Hale and Kerry King and Zakk Wylde all on the same show. I’m all for it. Most of our audience is down with it as well and that’s important. After 14 seasons and a hundred and something episodes you have to do it otherwise you keep retreading the same turf. The fact that in our fourteenth season we have more first time guests than we’ve ever had and more variety than we’ve ever had says a lot for the continued evolution and hopefully future of the show. There’s still a lot we can be doing.
BZ: Are the artists having fun with it? Like did Kerry King and Lzzy Hale get along? It seems like it’d be fun.
ET: Actually they do and that’s what you’ll find. A lot of these people you don’t know how they’re going to work together. In Europe the festivals in Europe are very eclectic. A perfect example is Lzzy Hale and Kerry King, they gave each other a big hug, and they know each other. Musically they’re completely different. Halestorm is a rock band and Slayer is the most aggressive metal band. But most of them know each other and respect each other. Even if they aren’t into each other’s music there’s an immediate bond there and that’s really cool to see. We had a show where we had Darryl McDaniels, Marky Ramone and Gary Holt. That was an instance where none of those guys knew each other. We brought them all out on the set at the same time and they had a blast, it went great. For most artists it’s kind of a fraternity unless they’ve had some issues or blowups behind the scenes at some point.
BZ: A few months back you did an interview with Steven Adler that kind of went viral on Blabbermouth talking about the possibility of a Guns n Roses reunion. Me personally I don’t really want to see it because I love what Slash and Myles Kennedy are doing so much that I would rather watch that at this point. What’s your take on that?
ET: I love what Slash and Myles are doing. I’ve said that many times. Both are good friends. I think this is the best thing Slash has done since Guns n Roses. The entire band is great. A reunion of Guns n Roses would be way more massive than either what Axl’s doing with Guns or what Slash is doing now. He’s certainly building this bigger and bigger everyday around the world. I have a different take on Guns n Roses than a lot of people. To a lot of people Guns n Roses is this bigger than life mythical monster rock band. Yes they are that, but to me, I remember seeing Guns n Roses in the earliest days. I saw them at the Ritz I saw them in clubs before they broke. I heard “Welcome to the Jungle” way before it was ever released and I have the upmost respect for them and what they do and what they accomplished with those records.
Maybe its because of how old I am and I’m around the same age as them and I was already well into the music industry when they came out. I don’t have that same sort of mythical feeling about them. To some people it’s their Led Zeppelin and I just don’t feel that way about them. I think they’re a great rock band that made an icon all time great hard rock record but I’m not living and dying by whether they reunite or not, I’m actually kind of fine either way. For the drama and the spectacle of it I guess I’d like to see it, at least a string of shows but it’s not going to really move the needle for me one way or another.
I think sometimes the legend gets bigger than the reality. Don’t get me wrong I think Guns n Roses were a game changing massively great rock band. I’m not diminishing them at all. I’m just saying that I think sometimes the stories and the legend build more of a demand than anything and I think that’s what happened. You’ve got this whole generation of people who’ve never seen Guns N Roses live. There’s that demand now.
BZ: There are several newish bands and even some classic bands that are coming back. In the last episode you had Europe as your pick of the week. Then there’s The Winery Dogs, Black Star Riders, Heaven and Earth, Rival Sons these are bands that are labeled classic rock but classic rock radio only plays the hits. How do these bands without over saturating themselves live get to the next level?
ET: I don’t know. I wish I could give you an answer to that but I honestly don’t know. It’s something that I’ve been trying to get a handle on and figure out. I see so few people playing new music on a real consistent basis. Black Star Riders is another one with a great record. There are so many of them and there are so few in radio, which is where I made my name and made a huge history. It’s mind boggling to me. So little radio is tuned into this stuff outside of specialty shows like mine and people whom really live and breathe it and love it. It amazes me how few radio stations truly support some of this stuff. I wish that wasn’t the case but I don’t know what the solution is.
I think that we’re in a time where everything is so oversaturated. There are so many records so many bands. All these artists have more than one band that they’re in at the same time. There’s so much going on. You have peoples attention diverted in a million different directions. Everybody is staring at their phones, or playing video games or whatever they’re doing. It’s a whole different universe and everybody’s attention is so distracted. I don’t know even if this music is being delivered how many people have the attention span or desire to learn about it. I’ve made it a point to always feature new music, new bands, new releases on my radio shows, on my TV show whenever I can. My radio show every hour I play at least two or three new songs. I think it’s important to keep the music going to keep the scene going and to build this because there is so much good new stuff out there.
I don’t know what the reaction is. I don’t know what the sales potential is. I like the fact that I have friends that work at record companies that tell me when I play something or when I do something as the pick of the week on the TV show or something just as simple as wearing a t-shirt of a new artist on the tv show that they see a spike in sales. It might be a small spike but it’s still a spike. That means people are responding and taking a chance on this stuff. On a bigger scale to break these artists wide open I don’t know what it’s going to take. There are some really great records out there that aren’t being supported.
BYLINE: Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.