For nearly 30 years, Eddie Trunk has established himself as one of the foremost figures in American heavy metal as a popular radio personality and record industry player.
But these days, he is known predominantly as the host of the most worthwhile show about music on cable television, That Metal Show on VH-1 Classic. Fashioned in the spirit of the popular sports talk program The Best Damn Sports Show Period, every Saturday night Trunk alongside his longtime co-hosts, comedians Don Jameison and Jim Florentine, argue about music in roundtable discussions with some of the most prominent, respected and sometimes forgotten names in the world of hard rock and metal.
The trio are in their eighth season since launching the franchise in 2008, with a terrific lineup of guests that include Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, Rick Neilsen of Cheap Trick, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor, Jack Blade and Brad Gillis from Night Ranger, dUg Pinnick of King’s X, Stephen Pearcy of Ratt, Scott Ian and Charlie Benante of Anthrax and guitar great John Sykes of Whitesnake/Blue Murder fame, just to name a few, in addition to the likes of Talas/Mr. Big bassist Billy Sheehan, Tony MacAlpine, Vinnie Moore of UFO, Alex Skolnick of Testament and Def Leppard’s Phil Collen sitting in as guest guitarists. Perhaps the most noteworthy moment of this season so far, however, is the final appearance of Warrant frontman Jani Lane, who was found dead from an overdose of drugs and alcohol just weeks after the taping of the episode.
Additionally, Trunk also has a great new book out, Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, which essentially acts as That Metal Show in the print format, with Trunk embellishing on his favorite bands and his personal experiences interviewing or hanging out with them alongside lists of each group’s best songs (in his opinion) and other tidbits and insights that makes him the reigning king of knowledge in his field.
You can also catch Eddie on his nationally syndicated radio show Eddie Trunk Rocks, which is rooted in the Tri-State area on New York radio’s last bastion of rock music Q104.3 (WAXQ) FM, as well as Eddie Trunk Live on the XM satellite radio station “The Boneyard” (Channel 38). He can also be seen as a music host and interviewer for the beloved New York cable channel the MSG Network.
DI had the opportunity to catch up with Eddie shortly after the taping of this latest season of TMS about a host of topics, including the state of radio in New York, the genesis of his book, memories of his NY Steel benefit concert for the victims of 9/11, and his standing with the KISS Army amidst his recent criticisms of the band’s decision to continue touring without Ace Frehley and Peter Criss.
As you know, we recently lost WRXP 101.9. As someone who has been involved in New York Tri-State area radio on the FM dial for so many years, why do you feel it is so difficult for an adventurous or original rock station that is not Q104 to survive in this region, especially considering there is still a substantial audience who turn to terrestrial radio as a primary means of listening to music during morning and afternoon commutes in lieu of satellite radio who want to hear new rock?
I’m all for deep tracks and different radio. I have done that my whole career. I’m all about deep cuts and songs and artists not usually heard on radio. I am also aware however that the great majority of people are not into music to the degree I am and not so interested in exploring. They want the hits and songs they know every time they go to a pre set on their dial. Finding that balance is so key and I think Q104 does it well, which is why they have been so successful for so long. They also have several specialty shows like mine that bring in some audience that maybe would not always sample the station. I’ve got a very long history with Q and have seen so many changes there over the years. Back in the late 90’s it would have been hard to believe that the station would become what it has, but that is a credit to Bob Buchmann and now Eric Wellman guiding it and finding the balance.
I’m rooting for all rock stations to make it to be honest. We need more of them. But I firmly believe that the future of radio is going to be about having more content than just music. Between iPod, Internet and satellite radio getting music you want is easy. It’s going to be about bringing more to the table. That’s why I am much more into talk, calls and interviews being a part of my radio shows, in addition to music. As for RXP, I thought they did some things well, but I also felt there was a large amount of rock music that they did not represent. When you call yourself a “rock experience,” I would have hoped for more artists to be represented. Most major radio ignores 80s based hard rock, which is now a new generation’s classic rock. That’s something that still strikes me as strange.
Do you think a format such as yours could be sustainable as a 24-hour programmed station for FM radio? Why or why not?
If done right, yes. I am a huge fan of talk radio and enjoyed working at WNEW when it was FM Talk. It was very creative and entertaining to me to do and listen to. Goes back to what I said earlier – content is king – that along with audience interaction, interviews, just more compelling stuff than just music. That’s what interests me. Everyone has phones with 1000 songs or more in them. You gotta have more going on to survive in the near future I firmly believe. TMS has hardly any actual music in it, mainly because TV publishing is so expensive, but it has become the networks most popular show because of the content and way it is delivered. A lot of the TV show was born from my radio show, so I feel strongly it can work the other way.
Where do you see the future of FM radio?
Evolving to be more than just a music service. I think it’s a very scary time for DJs to be just a nice voice between records reading liner cards because we are seeing those jobs replaced by voice tracking and computers. There will always be the Lite stations of the world that will do fine as a music service, but to truly survive you gotta do more than just play songs. I think a hybrid of talk and music is key. Deliver unique content you can not get elsewhere or from your iPod.
How did you come up with the idea for the book?
An old friend and musician named Neal Casal had done a book for the publisher Abrams and had suggested me to them for a book on hard rock. I originally thought I would do an autobiography but they don’t do those at that company, so we came up with an idea that was 50 percent photos and 50 percent stories and insights from me. People really seem to love the format and layout, so it seems to have worked. It’s a mix of several things that people have really connected with.
What were your thoughts about publishing a book in such a harrowing environment for physical product these days? Where do you stand with the recent closing of Borders happening now?
I’m new to the book world but understand like music, things are going to digital. My book is a prime example as a book much better served as a physical item. The layout and photos are so important to its design. I still love newspapers and magazines, too. For me turning on a computer screen equals work mostly. Last thing I want to do is fire up a computer to unwind. I love reading the paper every night and getting lost in that as opposed to a screen that to me means work.
Tying into that previous question, did you make the book adaptable for the Kindle or the Nook, or do you believe the e-book format would take away from the experience of reading it?
It is available in some digital formats but that is more a decision for the publisher. But it is much better as the real deal and is something of a coffee table type book as well.
Where were you on 9/11?
In Las Vegas on vacation scheduled to fly back to Newark that day. I go there every year in September with friends to celebrate the start of football. Got the call around 6 am Vegas time in my room and felt helpless being so far away when my home area was being attacked.
Besides reuniting Twisted Sister, what was your favorite memory of the NY Steel show?
The entire event being such a huge success and putting a positive light on this music. I was driven to do that event partially because I hate the stereotypes with metal and hated the way people were saying it was too sensitive a time for people to see and hear metal bands. That made no sense to me. So many cops, firefighters and EMTs listen to my radio show in NYC. I was glad I could do something positive for them, the cause and for fans that like heavier music than Billy Joel, etc. I also remember there was pressure for Anthrax to play under a different name, which they did not do I’m proud to say.
What do you feel is the most underrated album from your years at Megaforce?
People think King’s X sold millions of albums – they did not. Sadly never went Gold. So maybe Gretchen Goes To Nebraska, because it just should have been massive.
Two bands I signed that tanked sales wise were Prophet and Icon. The Prophet album had great songs and performances, but was not mixed nearly heavy enough, way too little guitar. Some good stuff on the Icon album we did but two original members were out of the band at that time including the singer, so it was a tough sell. However, I loved both of the band’s Capitol albums.
What has been your favorite moment on the new season of TMS thus far and why?
Having Tony Iommi for our premiere was awesome. Doing something called That Metal Show and having Metal’s founding father was great. Sammy Hagar and Lars Ulrich were also highlights for me. And it was very sad to have had Jani Lane and then he passed away weeks after. He seemed great when we shot the show as people will see.
What is your fondest memory of Jani Lane prior to his appearance on TMS. Do you feel like Warrant has caught a bad rap over the years?
I was not close with Jani. I had done some things with him over the years but would be lying if I said I was close with him or knew him well. I think sadly two or three bands get singled out from certain eras as the poster bands for all that is perceived to be wrong or excessive from a scene of music. Warrant and Winger took a lot of hits, very undeserved, to be honest. Warrant had legit big hits and many bands would kill for that. A good song is a good song that stands the test of time, and I think time will prove Warrant had many. They just made a new album without Jani that is also good. I recently met Jani’s brother in Ohio and he was thankful that people saw his brother on TMS last in a positive respectful way.
How far do you, Jim and Don go, as friends?
We are great friends, long before TMS. I got them the gig on the show because we were friends that would hang, go to shows, and they would sit in all the time on my radio shows. When VH1 Classic said they wanted a couple guys there to mix it up with me I knew just who to call. They really didn’t know who they were so I sent in some of their comedy stuff, we all had a meeting and shot a pilot and here we are in Season 8. Obviously, there is a lot more to it than that but it’s a great team and it clicks because we are friends and all legit fans. The difference is I do this (music) 24/7 and they are stand-up comics, so they come at it from a different angle, but it makes a great team. We don’t hang out as often because I have two kids, Jim now has a son, everyone is busy, but we still do go to shows together all the time when our schedules permit. Nothing changes and that’s great.
Have you ever thought about bringing TMS back to the NY area?
We are all based in the NYC area, but the simple fact is that 95 percent of the music world lives in L.A. It’s up to VH1 Classic at the end of the day, but we do them in L.A. because it’s much easier to go to the artists than to have them come to us. I’d love to do some specials or something here in NYC, but for the most part unless all the musicians one day pack up and come East, we will most likely stay West.
If there is one band whose catalog has yet to receive the deluxe edition treatment, whose would you most like to see a campaign for and why?
Metallica. Can’t believe it has not happened yet. The CDs are still the original pressings. It would be great to have them remastered with bonus tracks. Probably the one major act it has not been done for.
Where do you stand with avant-garde metal acts like Neurosis, Isis and Boris? Would you ever have groups like them on the show?
The show is based on classic rock and metal from the MTV era. That’s what VH1 Classic is based on. They want people on that screen whose videos were well known. We get TONS of calls about a huge variety of artists, but we do what most people want. We have found a formula that works. If we didn’t we would not be on eight, soon to be nine seasons. We all have stuff we like outside of the core artists and do our best to work it in, but at the end of the day it’s what the show and format calls for.
In regards to your Top 5 segment on the show, can you hit me with your picks for best metal producers?
Producers? Martin Birch, Bob Rock, Ted Templeman, Andy Johns, Ron Nevision, Bob Ezrin, Eddie Kramer, many I am a fan of; that’s just a few. The new Anthrax production is unreal by Jay Ruston and Rob Caggiano.
Being that MTV just turned 30, do you have a favorite memory of the channel?
Going to a friend’s house before I had it as a kid and waiting for cool rock videos to come on. I remember many old live Triumph and Billy Squier clips! The countdown shows were also cool, everyone calling in to get rock and metal in the Top 10 each day. Labels had rooms with kids dialing to get their acts on it.
Have you ever tried to reach out to Jann Wenner to personally lobby for nominations for the likes of Kiss, Rush and Cheap Trick into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which you have done many times on your shows through the years?
No. It’s a committee of people. The thing needs much more of an overhaul than one person. But I’m happy to talk with anyone about it if they want to hear it!
What was the coolest gift you ever received from someone you interviewed?
Billy Sheehan gave me a custom bass on the set of TMS last season and he just signed it for me last night. That’s pretty cool! Joe Elliott recently gave me his own beer and Rick Nielsen gave me an iPhone cover with the Cheap Trick checkerboard design. That’s some recent stuff.
In regards to Kiss, what annoys you most about the backlash you have received about your stance regarding the group today?
That the 99 percent of the positive things I have done and said about the band for thirty years go without mention or credit, and the one thing I don’t like is blown up and becomes the story. Amazing really that you can not still be a fan and have an opinion. I have loved and supported all eras of that band, and I’m still the only one that plays their music in NYC, but I choose to not embrace this lineup with two people packaged as others. That was the line for me. If you’re good with it great. I also think it’s sad that instead of coming on radio or TV to discuss and debate it, they run from it, and their fans don’t get to see them or hear them on shows that actually are hosted by knowledgeable fans of theirs. I’ve seen Kiss do tons of shows that do nothing but mock them when they are not there. Very strange. It’s all about communication and not buying into random internet stuff. It’s also funny when others say stuff and it happens on my show, so it becomes me that said it unless people communicate very hard to set things straight. My doors are always open and I remain a fan for the most part.
Besides Ozzy and Paul and Gene, who is another metal or hard rock act that has been on your wish list for a guest spot on TMS that has yet to appear?
Ozzy and Paul/Gene are the only people we have not had because they will not do the show. Anyone else is just a schedule issue and we hope to get them soon. Motley, Maiden, Van Halen, Axl, Jimmy Page, Steven Tyler. Tons of guys hopefully in time.