Many music fans who have affixed their sights on a particular genre eventually feels that their lifelong love is getting marginalized in the popular consciousness. This has especially been the case for folks who grew up in love with the sound of hard rock and metal from the '70s through the '90s. Hell, fans here in Portland had to grit their teeth through the disappearance of KUFO, the sole radio station that played nothing but rock in its most raw and aggressive forms.
So, fans have hungrily gobbled up whatever crumbs get doled out to them, be they appearances by Motley Crue at the Clark County Fair or Bret Michaels at the Spirit Mountain Casino, or the block of videos slapped together by VH1 Classic.
Wisely, the cable channel saw what an opening there was for those fans and that sound, and green lit That Metal Show, a weekly half-hour program featuring interviews with some of the biggest names in the metal/rock world. Hosted by radio personality Eddie Trunk and a pair of standup comics Jim Florentine and Don Jamieson - all huge fans of the music - the show has proved to be a massive success for the station, thanks in no small part by appearances from names as big as Lars Ulrich, Lita Ford, Duff McKagan, Ronnie James Dio, Lemmy Kilmister, and Rob Halford.
The hosts of the program have decided to up the ante a little further by taking That Metal Show on the road. Well, at least to the NW for appearances in Seattle and here at the Hawthorne Theater this coming Saturday. All three hosts will be in the house, doing a Q&A with the audience, a little standup, and playing the popular segment "Stump The Trunk" where fans attempt to test Eddie Trunk's knowledge of metal. After the show, a pair of local metal acts - Witchburn and Spellcaster - will perform.
To get some more information on the show, the state of hard rock and metal in the new millennium, and to get his take on some of the more notable bits of news coming out of that community, we had the pleasure of speaking with Eddie Trunk from his home in L.A. last week.
Is a live show like this something you've been wanting to do for a while?
We have long thought about doing this. We hear from people all over the country that would love to hang out with us or meet us. But it's not logistically possible for us to move the show around the country. We thought it would be great if there would be an opportunity to get out there and see some people in more of a club setting and do whatever we feel like. Don and Jim are stand up comics by trade and I travel all over and do a ton of hosting onstage for various events. Don and Jim will do some standup, we'll do a Q&A with the audience. And we'll just have fun on stage.
But this is the first time you've done something like this, right?
This is the test run. We had a date that we were going to do in Connecticut but it just fell apart. Because of our schedule, we can't do 60 nights in a row. So we'll do one weekend a month. Pick markets and fly and in fly out.
It's such an unusual thing to have a show like yours focussed on a style of music that has been, for the most part, marginalized in the commercial music world...
Well, I think it's certainly never gone away. I've spent 30 years in all area of this business targeting this style of music and the various hybrids and spin offs. It's what I specialize with and what I know best. That's the bread and butter of what we do and what our show is about. That Metal Show and the success of it has had an enormous impact on letting bands come back to some degree and get taken seriously. When bands are on our show, they get a spike in sales. There's an immediate reaction to it. I still feel like there's a long, long way to go. I don't think it's anywhere near back to the point that those bands want it to be. But what I try to do with TMS is present these bands respectfully. I hate the stereotypes that come with this music.
But what do you think about bands that you love getting together and doing things like themed cruises and playing state fairs and things like that? It feels counter to the rebellious spirit of the music...
Listen, nobody's a kid anymore. Including the bands. We're all looking for opportunities and outlets and we're no different. We're always trying to get out there and maximize this as much as possible. We want to get out there and shake hands and do what we do and we'll make a couple of bucks if we're lucky. It's no different a mentality than the rock cruises or the casino business. Everybody's trying to reinvent themselves and keep themselves in the mix as much as possible. And so many groups are heading out on the road because there's so little revenue in record sales. Everybody's in competition to give the best bang for the buck.
I wanted to get your thoughts on some of the bigger stories to come out of the metal and hard rock world over the last year or so, starting with the death of Warrant singer Jani Lane.
We had Jani on just a couple of weeks before he passed away. He was great with us and he seemed fine, smiling and happy. The only thing I noticed was that he was very thin and frail. But he seemed very together and sober. It was shocking to me to learn that he died. I was happy that we were able to have him on for his last TV interview and that we treated him respectfully. Shortly after he passed, I was doing an appearance in Akron, Ohio because Tim "Ripper" Owens has a bar there, and Jani was from Ohio. Just as I was getting ready to go on, someone said, "Jani Lane's brother wants to come in and say hello." He just told me that he and his family were really grateful that people saw his brother treated respectfully rather than "There's that 'Cherry Pie' guy again."
What do you think about the issues that are going on among the members of Black Sabbath?
I think it's pretty crazy. It's hard to know what the heck is happening. You have two different things at work there. You have the most serious of all which is Tony Iommi's health. [The 64-year-old guitarist was diagnosed with lymphoma earlier this year.] I still have really no idea of what's truly going on there. I hope no news is good news. Ronnie James Dio was a dear friend of mine and I saw him a couple of times while he was sick. It was "Great, great, he's doing great" and then he's gone. I'd be fine if Sabbath never does another song in their lives if Tony can recover. The other thing going on with Bill Ward is disheartening. The perception is that bands are all for one, one for all. Bill coming out so honestly about the nature of their business dealings is really refreshing. But a reunion show would be severely tainted without Bill. But he's clearly going to sit out over money disputes.
How did you feel about the situation surrounding the induction of Guns 'N' Roses into the Rock Hall of Fame?
Anybody that's followed me on Twitter or listened to me knows that I've been vocal against the Hall of Fame. That's purely because I find it incredible how disrespectful they've been to hard rock bands. Journey, Foreigner, Cheap Trick...none of these bands have been inducted. Rush has been eligible for years but they've been ignored. Guns 'N' Roses had one or two great albums and they're inducted on the first time they're eligible? Not any slight to Guns. I'm friends with a lot of those guys. But I think the Hall of Fame wanted to instigate a reunion of the band. They wanted to be the catalyst and get all the glory. I'm glad they didn't get what they wanted.
You were also very vocal about the appearance that KISS did on a recent episode of Dancing With The Stars. What gives there?
KISS started it all for me. Through every lineup and every era, I've supported them. The Dancing With the Stars thing was not really a big deal to me. I had more of an issue with the way rock and music in general was being presented on that show. KISS will do anything for media attention and marketing. That goes with the territory. But how the show perpetuated every rock stereotype...you know, everyone's gonna stick their tongues out and put devil horns in the air. I hate that stuff.
As someone who works in both TV and radio, were you affected at all by the death of Dick Clark?
I didn't know the man but I grew up seeing him on TV. I really respect the fact that he seemed to be a guy who always had a very open and supportive view of rock music. I saw a clip of him with AC/DC playing "Touch Too Much" and thought that was pretty cool. I think the first time I saw Bon Jovi was in '83 when I was watching the show with my mom.
You're closing in on 100 episodes of That Metal Show, what have been some of your favorite interviews or moments on the show?
Brian Johnson of AC/DC is always incredible. One of the best guys in the world. Sammy Hagar, the same thing. Just a great personality and willing to talk about anything. Lars Ulrich has been on twice. I could talk for hours with that guy. I love the guys that you can be objective about their careers with and they don't get mad at you. Instead of storming off the stage, they'll laugh about it with you.