Ian Robinson Interview -- February 7th and 15th, 2009.
The Timberlea Beverage Room (TBR) is growing on me.
We never used to eat there, but in recent months we eat there on a bi-weekly basis. (sometimes 3 times a month). Or is that semi-monthly? Does it really matter? Am I over analyzing something again? You have to let me know!
Ian Robinson is practically a neighbour to me, so it seemed natural for us to break bread at the TBR. I was getting over a bad cold, so my voice is even more nasal and annoying than it is by default. You're lucky you only have to read this, and not hear me.
Patricia and I arrived about 5 minutes ahead of Ian. We grabbed our usual table, figured out what we wanted to eat, and awaited him. Ian arrived, sat down with us, figured out what he wanted to eat, and we started to talk.
How did you get your start in radio?
Ian Robinson: Well, I started in high school. I was fortunate enough to take the radio and television broadcasting course at Memorial High School in Sydney Mines. That was way back in 1981. The high school radio station where I got to go on and do my craft. I listen to those old air checks and I think, "What did they ever hear?" But, on a sad note, Charlie MacMillan (he was my advisor, teacher, mentor, friend), he just passed away last week in a skiiing accident out West, so it was kind of a rough week. You don't realize how much somebody means to you when you're growing up until something like this happens. You think he's always going to be around. He was one of those guys that I remember I was applying for radio broadcasting colleges when I was in Grade 12, and he said, "What are you doing?". "I'm applying to radio college in Loyalist.". "You don't need to do that", he said. "Well, I wanted to use you as a reference". And he said, "Don't worry. You'll have a radio gig before you need the radio college". And, sure enough, a couple of months later, I landed at CJCB and CKPE in Sydney. In Grade 12, I was 17, and Dave Reynolds hired me. Dave, from Hockey Night in Canada.
BevBoy: Doug Reynolds' brother.
IR: Dougie over at 95.7. So, I got to work with Dave for 3, 4 years, and I got to work with Doug at CJ. So, that was pretty cool. I started out at 17 and I did 3, 4 years in Sydney and moved on to CHNS for a couple of years and then CJ. I did mid days there starting in 1989, twenty years ago. Man, time flies.
BB: And then in '94 there were massive layoffs at CJCH and you ended up back at Maritime Broadcasting.
IR: I was at CJ for about 6 years. I finished on CJ on Friday. Dr. Laura was replacing me. I was doing one hour on air, and I had to operate Dr. Laura ---
Patricia: And where is she today?
IR: Exactly. I ended up going from CJ one day to CHNS the next.day. My last song on CJ was Glass Tiger's "Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone", and I said, "because I'm not going too far". So, the next day I showed up on CHNS. I wasn't nasty about it or anything. I figured somebody would read something into it.
I did oldies for about 9 months, and then they sent me up to Sydney for a year to program CHER. So, I went back to the Motherland.
BB: You were management at CHER?
IR: I was in management at CHER. I was the program director. Pretty loosely-termed title. I was janitor and everything else in between. I had to buy the toilet paper for the station. [chuckles]. It was low budget.
I did that for a year. My wife is not from there. She didn't really like it, so we ended up coming back to Halifax and back at Maritime [Broadcasting Systems]. The saga continues, [chuckles] Then CJ again.
BB: Until that went off the air. But we'll get into that later.
You produced the final edition of the Hotline on CJCH on May 29, 2008. Please tell me about that final broadcast.
IR: 9 o'clock, I went in to show up to produce the Hotline for Rick. I go into the news room. Rick is there. He said, "Sit down". I knew it was, "Uh, oh". He says, "Today's the Hotline's last day. Today's my last day. Bring your game face". We heard rumours, but we didn't know for sure.
To go through the whole process: 10 o'clock, Rick goes on as normal. It starts leaking out that this happening, and we start getting calls from listeners saying, "I hear that this is the last day for the Hotline". I'd say, "We'll have more after 12 noon. And that's when the camera crews start showing up. CBC, CTV...
IR: Global. And [Peter] Duffy was there right from the very start. He followed every step from when I showed up to Rick showing up in the control rooms. The first couple of hours were all right. And, then, the last hour was when Deb Smith joined Rick and to be the quarterback for that... I'm looking across at these 2 people. Deb was basically choked up and crying, and I'm biting my lip and trying not to lose it. And, then, Rick, Mr. Tough, he starts breaking down. Rick is a pretty softie guy deep down, off the air. But, on air, he has that persona, that edge; but at the same time the listeners can see that he's a caring guy, and that's what made him so popular.
But, that final hour when you had Peter Kelly calling in, Steve Murphy calling in, Brian Phillips called in.
BB: Doug Reynolds called in.
IR: Dougie called in, yeah. Gloria McCluskey called in. You have all these people calling in. We only have 9 lines on that phone, and ...
P: I called in. I was talking to you.
IR: Small world, eh? Did you make it on the air?
P: [pointing to Bev] He proposed to me on Rick's show.
IR: That's right, too!
P: I called in to say that was my favourite memory of the show.
IR: Right. It was all a blur, that final hour. There wasn't a dry eye in the place the last 5 minutes. We're all wrecked. And,then, Rick signs off and he kind of composes himself for a little bit and I shook his hand and said, "Great job, man. We went out in style." He goes out of the CJ studio and the entire staff is in the hallway and gave him a big clap, cheering for him. That's when he loses it, and darts back into the studio and tries to compose himself again.
To be a part of that... Next to 9/11 it was the toughest day I've ever had on the air.
BB: Really? Do you think we'll ever see a Hotline type show back on Halifax radio?
IR: I'd love to. Rick has this style that fits this market to a T. There's others out there that try to be Rick, but he's an original. Look at Rick, Steve [Murphy], [Brian] Phillips, Dave Wright. They all had that connection with the listener. And that's something that's missing in the market, so I'd love to have it back. I'll produce it! [chuckles]
BB: Well, Rick will be filling in on News 95.7 this coming week [February 9-13, 2009]...
IR: Oh, is he? For Krystal or Tommy[Young]?
IR: Krystal? That will be fun.
What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received?
IR: Keep your nose clean. Don't burn any bridges. And be yourself. In this business, you never know where you're going to land. I'm living proof. I have bounced around. It's not my fault; it's just the business. I have been to CJ twice, CHNS a couple of times. You just never know where you're going to land. Magic Christian told me that. He worked at CKCW in Moncton. He's now an official in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He's the director of officiating. I remember when he told me, "Caper! Keep your nose clean!". I always remembered that.
BB: Magic Christian? Is it spelled the way I think it would be?
IR: Magic Christian, yes. Larry Christian is his real name. Great guy, big set of pipes. He worked at CKCW for many years. He worked in Toronto at CFTR. I see him around the rink all the time, so he pops into my announce booth, and he says, "Caper! What's going on?" So, that always stuck with me. Keep your nose clean.
How did you get the gig as announcer at the Halifax Mooseheads home games? What is the latest you got home from a game, and have you ever had to get up super early to do a morning show the next day?
IR: This is kind of funny. People ask me this. I was at Sobeys, Clayton Park, one day. My wife sent me to get groceries. I ran into MMark Church, who is a buddy I met at CJ on a tour. Mark was in to check out the radio station, so we became buddies. He says, "Ian, by the way, the Mooseheads are looking for a new announcer. Tony Thibault is leaving." Tony worked at C100. I said, "Oh, I'll look into that".
So, I called the team up. Matt McKnight was the director of marketing. I introduced myself, and I left a voice mail. Never heard anything back. I called back a couple of days later, and finally got to talk to Matt. I said, "I hear you're looking for an announcer." He says, "Yes. Just drop off your resume". I just had radio airchecks, so I dropped that off.
About a week later, he called me back. This was June, 1997. He said, "Are you still interested in the gig?" I said, "Yes". "Well, it's yours if you want it".
BB: Oh, my gosh. [chuckles]
IR: I just did my 500th game in October. I have missed 5 in 12 years: 2 when my dad passed away, and 3 others for when my kid had a hockey tournament.
It's a passion. I really enjoy it. It's like doing a live radio show in front of 7000 or 8000 or 10000 people, 12000 when it's sold out. I've done the World Junior's, World Women's, NHL Old Timer's, and NHL Exhibition games.
It's a fun gig. It's a pressure gig. You're not just sitting there playing music. You've got a producer in one ear. You've got another producer in another ear. And then, you've got to watch the games. J.C. Douglas filled in for me a couple of times. He said, "Man, of all the stuff I've done, that's the toughest gig". He's done television. He's done Breakfast Television. He says, "You've got to be on when you do that gig". I suppose after 500 games you kind of get an idea of what you're supposed to do.
I remember Bob Cole of Hockey Night in Canada said, "I've been doing this for how ever many years now. I still haven't got it right."
But it is fun to do. And, before I forget, here are some tickets for a game. [He reaches into his notebook, pulls out 3 Mooseheads tickets for the February 27th game, and hands them to me]
P: Oh, excellent!
BB: Bless your heart!
BB: The 27th? Right after my birthday. Thank you!
IR: Well, happy birthday.
P: Maybe this time I won't have someone drop nacho cheese on my head.
BB: Thank you for that!
IR: That's going to be a good game. It's Retro Night, with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, and we're bringing back Gordie Fader, the original organist from the Vees days. He's going to be sitting in section one. It's going to be a pretty neat game. Cape Breton will be here, but let's cheer for Halifax.
BB: Of course, I will!
Thank you for that. As a follow up question, Pat Connolly works with you. He says who just scored and that kind of thing. Is that the typical division of duties between you and Pat Connolly?
IR: Pat is the game announcer. He does the goals, and penalties, where I do all of the promotional stuff. I do the introductions of the players, the starting line ups, the three stars. If there is a promotion in the stands, I do that choreographed with the big screen Silvervision, or whoever's doing the Sub giveaway, or whoever's doing the fan of the game. That's what I mean. It's a big production. You're never idle. You don't get to see much of the game because there's always something you're playing in the next break. Then, you might have the next break all planned, and somebody scores. So, you throw everything out the window and then you have to replan for the following break. It's always interesting.
Pat is a living legend. I've been doing it [the hockey gig] for 12 years. He's been doing it since the ...
IR: 1940's, yes. Pat was there with the Vees. He was there for the [Halifax] Citadels, and now the Mooseheads. And, God bless him, [he's] still sharp as a tack, and still has the voice. When you hear that voice... Wow! To partly announce with him is quite the honour.
And, the latest getting in? Do you want to cover that question?
BB: Of course.
IR: We went into overtime. We were in the Playoffs. Didn't get home until 11:30 and had a 3:15 alarm, so I was working on about 3 hours' sleep. That was a rough morning show. [chuckles]
BB: What station was this at?
IR: That was at Rogers, when I filled in for sports there briefly. I was doing that news/information/sports run.
BB: You can't phone it in.
IR: You can't phone that in. You've got to be on your toes [chuckles]. There's no songs in between the breaks.
BB: I'm sure the Mooseheads information was especially current.
IR: I took a mic to the game! [chuckles] Got some fan crowd noise.
I will provide some names of people you know. Please say something about them.
IR: He has the distinction of firing me and hiring me. I shouldn't say "fire". Laid off. In 1994 there were six of us. At the time, it was pretty tough to take. But it came full circle. Terry called me back and hired me to work at CJ again as well as at Kool because Terry was involved in programming at Kool for a little while. So, when I hear "Terry", the words "fired" and "hired" come to mind. I'm thankful for the hiring again because he brought me back to the dying days of CJ, and I know CJ meant a lot to Terry, and it meant a lot to me as well. It's kind of ironic in that phase. I learned a few tricks from Terry, that's for sure.
P: It was probably a thankless job for him as well [firing Ian and the others in 1994].
IR: Well, that's it. It was a corporate move out of Toronto. I was a part of the CJ family for so long. Six years is quite a long time, and that was my first firing/laying off/restructuring/whatever you call it. You're not a real radio guy until you're fired, and that was pretty tough. We had just found out that we had a baby on the way, which added to the pile. But everything worked out in the long run, and I remember Terry calling me in 2006 when I got laid off at MBS. He [said], "Hey, keep in touch.". When he took me back, he said, "Consider this your homecoming to CJ". It was pretty neat.
BB: That was pretty classy of him.
IR: Very classy.
BB: What's Terry up to these days? Is he still in town?
IR: Yes. I believe he's doing a little consulting. His wife works at the station still. Christine does traffic for the stations. His son is actually marrying a Cape Bretoner, so Christine hauls me aside and gets me to teach her some Cape Bretonese. I have her pretty much fluent in Cape Bretonese now.
BB: Da Mudder Tung.
IR: Da Mudder Tung. I taught her a few things. "You going to the time?" She goes, "What?". "You going to the time?". What's the time? "Oh, that's the wedding reception"; that's "the time" in Cape Breton.
IR: The Rickster! One of the best news guys I've ever worked with. I've worked with a lot of them. Rick is your typical, hard-nosed news guy. He just lives, eats, and breathes it. He has this old notebook. He probably still has it. It's like a big pad of all of his contacts. It's gotta be 20 years old. But, you ask him, "What's Gloria McClusky's number?", and he Rick just pulls it off. "You have Gerry Lawrence's number?", and he pulls it up. [Rick] is just a true news guy. I remember we did drive together at CJ, and he was my newsguy after John Foster left. I remember Rick would haul out the tag at the news: "3:55, from CJCH. Nova Scotia's Authooooratative Newwwwws Voice". I kept getting him to stretch it and stretch it and stretch it.
IR: The funniest guy I've ever worked with. Right from day one, he was one of the guys I idolized growing up. I remember watching Brian do Atlantic Lotto. He would have all of the radio guys on, so you'd get to see what the radio fellas looked like. He would have such and such on from whatever radio station.
I'd watch Phillps do that on tv, and I remember one of the first times I came up to Halifax. I wasn't working here then, but I left Phillips out of the Russell and Robie Street intersecion, in his Porsche. I stopped traffic. "That's Brian Phillips. I have to let Brian out!", so I got to let Brian out, and he waved at me.
And, so, then a couple of years later, I got to work with him. I was doing the all night show. I was training at CJ on all nights, so I would know the board for middays, back when we had an all night show to do. I remember the day I met him. You're always nervous about how these guys are going to be, right? He's in the announcer's lounge, and he's got his great big loud yellow ski jacket on. I said, "Brian. It's Ian. Robinson".
[Mimicking Brian Phillips] "Ian, it's really nice to meet you. How's it going? Ian, you must be really tired, man. You've been up all night sounding good on the radio, sounding good on the radio." Just typical Phillips stuff, eh? I have a Phillips tape. I have to make a dub of it. It's got all of his out takes. You'll piss yourself laughing.
BB: I have to hear that, yeah.
IR: Oh, it's priceless. I remember taking over for Phillips; this was back in the old Robie Street days. I had a cold that day. I was only 22 at the time. He goes, "CJCH. Ian Robinson's up next. He's got a cold today. As a matter of fact, Ian's had a cold since he was 12". [laughter]
And, I was doing the Castle of Coke remote another time, another big CJ promotion, at Mic Mac Mall. I got this new blazer, something out of the '80's, right?
[Mimicking Brian] Ian Robinson's up next in the Castle of Coke. He's got this new blazer on today. As a matter of fact, he looks like the Fifth Top. [laughter]
IR: How does he come up with this stuff, right? Totally off the cuff. He's not writing this stuff down. But that's just some of the funny stuff he's done. But he's one of the Boys, and he was one of the first calls I got when I got laid off (or fired, or restructured) from MBS in 2006. To get a phone call from Brian Phillps is pretty classy. And from Dougie [Reynolds] as well. And Terry Williams. You know who your friends are when you're down and out, because we've all been there. But to get back to Phillips: He's one of a kind, man; a huge talent.
A blast from the past: John Biggs
BB: We're Facebook friends.
IR: He's a great guy even though he's a Montreal Canadien's fan.
BB: But you're friends anyway.
IR: We're friends anyway. He played goalie for us in the Metro Media Hockey League in the 1990's. I was trying to block a few shots for him, but I didn't block enough for him.
But my favourite memory of Biggs is the day we flipped formats.
BB: Yes. July 19, 1993 or something? 23rd? Whatever it was.
BB: A Friday.
IR: 23rd or 24th. It was a Friday morning. We had this staff meeting the evening before. Everybody was convinced we were going to go Country. I was going to wear my cowboy boots to this meeting, but I had shorts on and didn't think they would look right.
Anyway, we go in and they unveil Classic Rock 92 CJCH. Everybody's like, "Yeah!!". Then, "We would like to introduce our new morning man.". The boardroom door opens, and who comes in but John Biggs. We're like, "huh?" [laughter]
Then, "We like to introduce our new morning man for C100". And then Kelly Latremouille comes in and we're like, "huh?". [laughter].
And, then, to hear the switch the next morning... We were all in there, it was such a big event, to hear that switch at 7 o'clock. Kelly signed off on CJ; Biggsy signed off on C100. [It was] an exciting time in radio to be a part of that flip. Unfortunately, it didn't work out, but at the same time, we had a blast doing that.
BB: That was a fun format for six months. I kind of wish they had given it more of a chance. I'm not sure whose decision it was to kill that format, to go to all rock and roll oldies, but it wasn't as much fun after that.
IR: Not at all. And that was kind of the demise for CJ for the talk format, and for a few of us there who it didn't work out [for], but to be a part of that exciting transition with Biggsy and Kelly was fun times.
IR: Deb. True sweetheart. We hit it off on Day One, being Cape Bretoners and all. We have that mutual connection. Her cousin is a good friend of my wife Roxanne, so we have that as a connection. Newcap is moving out this Spring, May sometime I guess. She will be one of the people I will miss the most when we move out of the building. To deal with Deb and Rick on the Hotline for that last hour is something that I'll never forget. And, Deb and I will always be buds no matter where we work, but ... she'll always be my facebook friend, too. [laughter]. And so will you!
BB: And she's management, now, right?
IR: Friggin' management types! She's got that big friggin' management gig so I have to be careful what I say to her. [laughter]
BB: We can go off the record if you want to.
IR: No, no, no. Keep that on the record. She'll get a kick out of that.
BB: All right.
IR: Millsy. Biggsy. It's like hockey.
IR: Philly. Are you open to Bevy?
BB: Well, sometimes they call me "Bevy", yes. [laughter]
IR: My wife goes by "Roxie". You can't get a Y on Ian. I don't like "Iany". But, with Millsy, being on the air with him is like being on the back deck of my house having beers. You've got to watch what you say with him. We forget that we're on the air sometimes. We get carried away. We haven't been hauled in yet. He's just got this great sense of humour, this dry wit. It's like being on the air in a kitchen party. That can be dangerous sometimes.
We've done mornings at Kool, KIXX, and CJCH. We had a blast the few months of CJ when he filled in for Deb and I filled in for Brian Phillips. We'd shut the mics off and say, "Can you believe that we just said that?" [laughter].
BB: Let's hear your side of the story. There was one time on the air, on CJCH when he said "potchy fag". He reported [when I interviewed him] that you almost went off the road. What happened that morning?
IR: I was driving in on the 103 from home. I was a die-hard CJ listener. I was listening to the news. He was doing the weather. We all make mistakes. But, when you make a mistake, you just keep going. He just started losing it, and he started laughing. The "potchy fag" thing just cracked me up. He's got it in tape, and we have it on the computer at work. But, when I hear that, whenever there's fog in the forecast, and he brings in a new forecast for me on Kool, I ask him, "Is there any potchy fag in the forecast there, Chris?" He'll never really live that one down. That was priceless.
I called the CJ control room, the Hotline. Deb answered the Hotline. I said, "I just want to report that we got some potchy fag out here on the 103. Drive with care". [laughter]
We all have the ones that get away from us, and that's the one that got away from Millsy. A classic.
BB: You almost went off the road?
IR: Safely, though. I kept it between the lines. [chuckles]
Is there a difference in how you broadcast on AM versus FM? Different content? Things you might say on FM you wouldn't dare say on AM?
IR: The other night I was on Q104, and I got to say, "Shitstorm". [chuckles]
BB: Yeah, I heard you.
IR: I can't get away with that on KIXX.
BB: Or most any FM station.
IR: No. The only time I can get away with dropping some stuff is on Q between 9 and midnight, or after hours when it's voice tracked. We have disclaimers running that say, "The program you're listening to may contain language that is offensive to whomever".
BB: Deb Smith does those.
IR: Yes. Anyway, you are allowed to drop F-bombs if you want, but I dropped an S-bomb the other night just because it was such a crappy day with weather.
BB: Did you say that one can drop an F-bomb on the air?
BB: You can say the F-word on the radio?
IR: You can, with the disclaimer.
BB: Holy crap. I mean, holy shit!
IR: At certain times, because the disclaimer's running. Same as on television now. If you have a disclaimer, people complain. "Well, we have a disclaimer running".
But, to me, I'll drop an S-bomb, but as far as anything else, I won't go to that line because I'm on the other stations, so I really don't want people hearing me on Q dropping an F-bomb, and hear me on Kool the next day saying "darn" or "frig". There's a certain line.
And there's your reputation. I've been kicking around here for a while. I don't want people to think I'm a pottymouth. I mean, I am when the mic's off but... [chuckles] . On the air, you try to keep it clean.
But, there's different deliveries. Kool and C100 are more uptempo. It's kind of like a Top 40 delivery, where[as] on Q there's the rock delivery. A deeper delivery.
BB: And it's a conscious thing that you do, right?
IR: A conscious thing. You don't go on screaming on Q104. You're not the old rock jock from the 1970's. You're more conversational, talking-to-a-friend-on-the-phone kind of thing. "Did you hear about this? Paul McCartney's on the Grammies this weekend doing it with Dave Rholand of Foo Fighters". You still [have] the rock delivery.
Whereas, you go on KIXX, you're really folksy, conversational. When I'm on there with Stephanie Woodin, again, we have to watch what we say because she's like my big sister at radio. She's got me more gigs than I can count, from the CJ days to when we worked at MBS for a while, and now we're back together at KIXX.
Every station is different. You just try to focus, and try to deliver what they want for that format.
BB: What format would Ian Robinson speak in if he had the choice?
IR: Good question. I like them all. How's that for politically correct? [laughter]
BB: Which delivery is the closest to how you would normally speak to someone off the air?
IR: I'm pretty close with KOOL because it's the music that I grew up with listening to, and the music I work with the most. Not to say that I don't enjoy Q104, or don't enjoy C100. I really enjoy KIXX because I grew up listening to block programming in Sydney on CJCB. Jay Bedford was the country announcer, and here I get to work with his kid Zach Bedford on C100.
So, when I'm on KIXX, it's like I'm 12 years old again and listening to the radio playing the stuff that Jay played when they were hits. Even the stuff I played on Cape Country, CKEP in Sydney, I'll be rolling out an Alabama song that was a hit that I remember playing for the first time in 1983, '84, '85 or whatever. And here it is, classic country. So, on the one hand I feel that I'm getting old.
But, KIXX and KOOL are my favourite formats. And, of course, I can't forget the old CJ oldies format where that was just a blast to work that one. But, to answer your question: I enjoy them all. Politically correct radio guy!
But I'm too old for The Bounce. I'd put a hip out there if I go on there. [laughter].
BB: I'll go on the record and say that I'll listen to Z103.5 before I'll listen to that other station. And I do listen to Z103.5.
IR: Cogsy [Jeff Cogswell] does a good job on that.
BB: He does do a great job [So do Nikki and Shane!]. And he's a great guy. He was one of my interviews. I have to be supportive.
What does a radio producer do? I'll see your facebook updates saying that you're producing something on Q104, or C100. And, of course, you were the producer of the Hotline for a while there, so what does that really mean?
IR: You're the quarterback for the broadcast. Even though people don't hear you, you are the lifeline to what is going out over the air. Later in the month, I'm producing the C100 radiothon for the Breakfast Club, so they're on location, and I'm back in the station pushing all the buttons and lining up all the interviews, making everything happen. If there's a phone call coming in for an interview that they have to do, I line all that up. I time out the hours and get everything jammed together.
BB: So, you're busy.
IR: It's busy. I operated the Q104 Sex Show a couple of weeks ago.
BB: You're blushing, Ian!
IR: Well, did you hear what happened?
BB: What I heard was that Scotty Mars was talking to a woman. She said, "Can you say what this is on the air?" He says, "Let's just call it a ring". [laughter]
IR: [chuckles]. That was one of the stories, but about twenty after one on Sunday afternoon, everything was going fine. I'm back to the station. We had had to pre-record all of those segments because you never knew what people were going to say. I edited out a few things. "Vibrating pussy pump"; I had to edit that out.
We're taping this interview with Scotty Mars. This lady brings over this high voltage sex wand and is going to zap him. To make a long story short, she plugs it into his broadcast electrical power. Scotty says, "How many settings do you have on that?" [She says] "Well, do you want to start at 3 or 4?" [Scotty says] "No, turn that Big Daddy up to 10!"
She cranks it up to 10, turns it on, and zaps Scotty, and blows our entire broadcast feed! The whole 5K line.
BB: Oh, my God.
IR: The sex wand blew the line off the air. The shit hit the fan. I'm back in the studio, and I had to go on the air. J.C.'s calling me. He says, "Go on [the air]. You anchor it. Get Scotty to do call in's. I wasn't prepared to go on the air. I'm just the producer, so to speak.
I had to grab a forecast, had to do this, had to do that. In the meantime, I have an engineer in one ear, Scotty in another phone, and J.C's. on the intercom saying, "Ian, phone me at home. What's going on here?"
Shit, man. There's too much stuff going on. So, I had to re-launch the broadcast, from our engineering rack. You have to call up the line again from the broadcast site. To make a long story short, for about 40 minutes, all Hell broke loose, all thanks to a sex wand and Scotty Mars. [laughter] You never know what you're up against, from one day to the next. But I think Scotty was happy. He went home with a smile on his face.
P: Thank God it didn't go to 11!
IR: I'm just glad I wasn't there [at the sex show]. Technically, you're called an op [short for operator], but I like to call it a producer because you're doing a Hell of a lot more than just op'ing. Especially when something goes for a dump on location, you've gotta have an announcer there [at the studio] to jump on [the air], instead of some kid who's just there pushing buttons. You can't get a teenager to go on the air and pull it off. It's another part of the business where you never know what's going to happen from one day to the next.
BB: That leads to another question, because CBC Radio 2 lately has been hiring non-broadcasters to do shows. I mean, Rich Terfry (Buck 65) and whatever that messo soprano's name is who does the mid day show on CBC Radio 2 [It is Julie Nesrallah]. These people are not announcers. They have this huge knowledge of this music, but they're supposed to be broadcasting. That seems [to be] the opposite approach to take. Instead of having broadcasters who have a broad depth of knowledge of music, it's the other way around. Do you ever hear these shows and think, "These people need some [broadcast] training here"? It's a little bit insulting to broadcasters, isn't it?
IR: I don't know if I'd call myself a veteran or not, but you look at the kids coming out of broadcast school today, and some of them that are on the air, and.... We had to fight tooth and nail to get to where we are. And then, there's the others that you made an example of [who] just fall into it. We had to pay our dues, so to speak. Then, there's others who, like the CBC kids, they just fall into it. How do they get these gigs, anyway? To me, it's frustrating. Give them credit; give them kudos. It's all being in the right place at the right time, and that's what it boils down to. I'm thankful for what I have.
You think back to when you were young, and think, "Wow! Why couldn't that happen to me?" [chuckles]
BB: Well, have you listened to those shows?
IR: I'm not a big CBC listener. My mother brought me up on CBC. I haven't heard too much of them, no.
BB: To me, it's insulting to professional broadcasters, not to have broadcasters doing these programs.
IR: That's it. It's all across the board. You look at tv as well. You see some of these kids on tv, and think, "Where the Hell did they get their training?"
There have been times when you multi-task, working at more than one radio station in the same day. Have you ever mis-identified the station you were working at, at the moment? If not, what is your biggest on air mistake that you want to admit to?
IR: No potchy fag so far. I said "Kool" on C100 back in November. I was doing the Retro Request Sunday morning show, where it's basically a Kool format, so you've really got to watch it. I was introducing Godley and Creme's "Cry", which is a Kool format song. So, I'm trying to hit the post, which is like 2 seconds to the intro. I say, "Godley and Creme. Kool... stuff from C100 FM!" [laughter] So, I covered it over that way. Luckily, that's the only time on the air.
There've been a few pregnant pauses, especially when I'm on Q because I'm playing a song I'm familiar with on Kool. So, when I'm coming off a John Mellencamp song, or a David Bowie song, it, "Here on.... Q104, the home of rock and roll".
BB: There must be tags around the station.
IR: There's tags around the station, but you try to be so subconscious of it. That's one of the challenges of what I'm doing right now. People don't realize when you have one station to focus on, that's easy. You go in and do it. But when you're jumping around [it's more difficult]. I'm looking at my schedule for [February]. I just did Q104 this week. I'm scheduled for C100 tomorrow morning; I'm on standby to do the Retro Request '80's. Later in the week, I'm on Kool. The week after that I'm back on C100. And, at the end of the month, I'm back on KIXX. In the span of a month, I'm on 4 different stations. It takes a bit of focusing, but you can always put a call letter sign as big as bullshit in front of you to try to remember where you are.
I did say the wrong call letters on CJCH one time. I don't know where it came from. I grew up listening to CJCB. I was doing the Lunch Time with the Oldies on CJCH. I was coming up to a [commercial] break. I did the break. "Beatles, up next on CJCB!" I hit the commercial and thought, "Where the Hell did that come from? I haven't been there in 4 years". They were so close [in the alphabet], and all it takes is for one second of lapsing. I have that on tape somewhere. My wife calls me a packrat because I have kitbags full of air checks at home.
We all make screw ups, but you don't draw attention to your mistake. I remember Dave Reynolds teaching me this, years ago. "Keep going, just keep going, because if you draw attention to it, you'll bury yourself deeper.". Those words come to mind.
I'm not hoping for any potchy fag in the near future. Millsy!
What have you not done in radio that you would like to?
IR: Well, I've always been the bride's maid and never the bride. I've backed up morning guys forever. I've been the back up morning guy for everybody like Brian Phillips, Gerry Lawrence, Kelly Latremouille, John Biggs, Frank Cameron, the list goes on. Griff Henderson, Frank Lowe...
IR: Everybody. I'd like to get a chance, the opportunity to work the morning show, whether it's a three person morning show, or just me as the host with a co-host. I really enjoy doing mornings. It's a lot of fun. People say, "How can you get your butt out of bed at 3:30 or quarter to four in the morning?". But, your day is done by 11 o'clock, and you have the rest of the day to yourself. My wife loves it because I get to cook supper when I'm on mornings. [chuckles].
I'd love to get a crack at a morning gig. Whether it happens or not, I'm still thrilled to be the back up the big morning guys. "Phil Inn" is my nickname at the radio station. I walk in, and they say, "Who are you today, Phil?" [chuckles].
So, hopefully, someday it will be Ian doing the morning show with somebody somewhere.
BB: In Halifax, you hope?
IR: Yes. I have such roots here. I don't want to pull my kids out of here. I do 3, 4 gigs between radio, the Mooseheads, freelancing at Eastlink. I do the boxing with Taylor Gordon, so I can make a decent living doing this. I don't want to uproot and go to Calgary. I could go to Calgary. I could go to Vancouver, or somewhere in Ontario, but I'm a Maritimer. My wife's a Maritimer. There's something to be said about the atmosphere and the way of life here. Halifax is where I want to be.
BB: Fair enough.
IR: Oh, I forgot to say that doing mornings on a beach in Barbados or somewhere [would be nice]. That's where my wife and I got engaged, by the way. CJ sent me down to Barbados in the Fall of '90. We got engaged on a beach in Barbados with a bunch of listeners (they weren't there at the time!).
We took five listeners down, and their guests. It's a moonlit night. The power went out at our resort for some reason. So, I get down on one knee and say to Roxanne, "Roxanne, will you marry me?" She starts crying and says, "Oh, why the fuck did you have to do this for?" [gales of laughter]
BB: That's not what a guy wants to hear!
P: [convulsed in laughter]
IR: What do I say to that, right?
P: [to Bev] Now, aren't you glad I didn't say that on the air? [when I proposed to her on Rick's Hotline]
IR: You can use that if you want!
BB: That's a keeper. That's a classic. It's definitely going in.
IR: Obviously, I had to ask her again, and she said yes. Two kids, and 20 years later, we're still going at it.
So, whenever there's a proposal in a movie or someone's asking someone to marry them, I'll whisper in her ear, "What the fuck did you have to go and do this for?" [laughter all around]
So, she'll never live it down. It's good material. I can't use that one on the air, though. That's the only hard part.
BB: Well, after 9 o'clock on Q104, you could, I suppose.
OK, Ian. I've never done this before in my blog interviews. Lucky Number 7 for the interviews. I thought I'd have you ask me a question. We'll see how that works. I'm very nervous. I have no idea what you're going to ask me.
IR: Don't worry about it. I'll hold your hand. Because you and I have a big spot in our hearts for CJCH, I want to know: What is your favourite memory of the big 92 CJCH, of all time?
BB: Oh, my goodness. Well, I'll tell you my first one. It was probably April of 1977 when, uh, what the heck is his name? He filled in for Brian one summer when Brian was on vacation.
IR: Randy Dewell?
BB: Randy Dewell! He was involved in some kind of charity, and he was on the air for 24 hours straight, doing a radio show.
IR: I remember that!
BB: He did that a couple of times. That was my first memory of CJCH from when I was about 13 years old. I was in the Valley. I could just barely pick up CJCH; it was all crackly and everything else. That's my first [memory]
[Addendum: It was on the local news that evening, and I ran to my radio and found the station, and remained tuned in to CJCH from then, more-or-less, until it went off the air last year]
P: [begins to cough.]
BB: I woke up to that station every morning. I didn't like the station down there. I listened to CJCH as much as I possibly could. I certainly remember hearing Steve Murphy [doing the news] at the top of the hour, and Doug Reynolds doing the news at the bottom of the hour, and Brian Phillips in the middle. I listened to the Hotline as much as I was able to.
So, I'm not sure if I have a favourite memory. I just have a whole bunch of really pleasant memories. And, of course, the most unpleasant memory is when it went off the air last year, on May 30th. It was like losing, um,
IR: A death in the family, man.
BB: A death in the family. Losing an uncle. So, do I have a favourite memory of CJCH? No, but I have a whole bunch of really pleasant ones...
P: [Coughing becomes more insistant]
BB: ... although, come to think of it, the most memorable memory would be April 12, 2006 when I called into the Hotline and proposed to this beautiful young woman sitting next to you.
IR: [laughter] That's what I thought your answer was gonna be originally!
BB: So, I have a bunch of very pleasant memories, and proposing to Patricia very much floats to the top. I have 30 years of memories of CJCH radio, and meeting you is up there as well, Ian.
IR: Oh, stop!
BB: I have the show on cd, by the way.
IR: Oh, it's a classic!
BB: Did you hear it?
IR: I heard the last hour. Terry Purcell, our CJ producer, burned off the last hour, and I listen to it in the car once in a while. The last time I talked to Rick, he said he still wasn't able to listen to it.
BB: You're embellishing that one a little bit, but I appreciate the kind words!
We reconvened for a special half hour chat on February 15, 2009, at the local Tim Horton's. He wouldn't let me pay for his coffee.
BB: I was transcribing the [original] interview, and you mentioned how 9/11 was your worst day on the air. You were working at Maritime Broadcasting at either CHNS or Country 101. Tell me about that day.
BB: I was transcribing the [original] interview, and you mentioned how 9/11 was your worst day on the air. You were working at Maritime Broadcasting at either CHNS or Country 101. Tell me about that day.
IR: I was doing drive on Country 101, now FX 101.9. It was a typical day that started off like any other. I got the kids off to school. I got my wife off to work. Our oldest guy was just in Grade One back then. Our youngest guy was getting ready to go to the sitter. I can still remember where [I was] when I first heard that news, because it was such a critical moment in history. My littlest guy was getting a pack of raisins out to go to the sitter's. He was only two, two-and-a-half at the time. The phone rang. My wife was at ATV (now CTV Atlantic) at the time. She said, "Turn on your tv". I turned on the tv and she said that something was happening in New York. Like anybody, we thought a plane had collided into the building by accident.
Suddenly, you're watching the tv and see the second plane go in, and all Hell breaks loose. I realized that I'd better get to work. I called my folks to tell them to watch it. My mother-in-law called.
I got off to work. I dropped off my youngest son off at the sitter. I was usually in around 10:30 or 11 o'clock to do my shift. When I arrived, CHNS was voicetracked by Mike Cranston. Mike is also trying to do his news director duties and keep updates going on [CHNS]. The ops manager at the time, Mike Halverson, said, "Would you mind going live on Oldies?" I said sure. We pulled the plug on all the automated programming on Oldies and I went live on midday at CHNS. Darryl Goode would do updates at the top and the bottom of the hour from the newsroom. He would feed me all the latest information.
Then, my wife called me and said that her brother Alden, who is a pilot out of Vancouver, was apparently in New York! That brought a close family tie into this whole tragedy. I'm on the air and trying to keep focused. About an hour later, we found out that my brother-in-law had taken the red eye out of New York on another plane. He got out at 4am, 5am, New York time, back to Vancouver. He was safe at home, but for a couple of hours we didn't know if he was involved in this mess or what the whole story was. It was a little chaotic.
I got that out of mind, and then I had to focus on [how] this was one of the biggest tragedies in North American history. This is unfolding with you on the air at the same time. With the Oldies format, they're always uptempo and happy and [energetic]. One of the saddest days of your career, and you have to re-focus everything. At first you start looking at the music log and see, "American Woman". Gotta yank that. And, you look at all these other songs as did all these other radio stations across the country and North America, to make sure that the songs they were playing weren't reflecting what was happening in front of us.
Through doing that I finished up the mid day shift on Oldies, and then I had to go do my normal shift (2-7pm) at Country 101. I literally finished at one studio at five to two, and at 2 o'clock go over to the other studio to jump on the air over there.
BB: Was this on Barrington Street, or had you moved to Sackville Street by then?
IR: This was Sackville Street, Sovereign Place, 5121. I sit in the chair, I look up at my screen, and the first song I see kicking off my 2 o'clock hour was Travis Tritt's "It's A Great Day To Be Alive". We had a touch screen. Counting down to the song, I did some fancy manouevering with the touch screens to delete that song and get another, more appropriate song, in. Again, in Country, you have to watch what you're playing because any patriotic, U.S. songs which Country is known for, you have to stick handle around that. I also had to delete Brooks and Dunn's "Only in America".
We stayed live on 101 until 7. The drive guy on Country 101 did evenings [voicetracked] on CHNS. And, vice versa, Tony Smith, the drive guy at CHNS, did evenings on 101. I had to stick around to do some more live updates, because the planes were landing in Halifax at that time. You had to put in some live updates there to keep people up-to-date. All in all, it was quite a traumatic day. Next to the Hotline's final broadcast, [9/11] was a pretty tough day.
To put it in perspective, the most emotional day ever, because it was local, was CJ and doing the final day of the Hotline. The last half hour, there wasn't a dry eye in the place. Especially me, trying to keep it together for Rick and Deb. You had all these cameras and people calling you from every angle of the Hotline core listenership. We had everybody from Hotline listeners to politicans to celebrities calling Rick on the Hotline. It was two of the biggest days of my career that I remember for being the most emotional.
BB: As a follow up: Generally speaking, how hard is it to be upbeat and professional when maybe you're not in a good mood to begin with? Maybe there's something going on in your life that is bringing you down a little bit, but you have to go on the air and [be upbeat and positive]. How do you do that? How do you reach into your psyche and pull out happy stuff when maybe you're not in a good mood anyway?
IR: Again, I relate back to when I started out at CJCB in Sydney at CKPE. Dave Reynolds taught me this advice. He said, "You're an actor". That always stuck with me. You could be having the worst day. Your dog could have been hit by a car. You could have been in an accident. As long as it's not life-threatening, you have to go in there and perform. You could have broken up with your girlfriend that day, or night, [but] you have to be professional. You could be having the crappiest day, and you still have to go on the air and turn it on. Not with every job can you do that.
That's where being in this radio business separates the 9 to 5 jobs from the radio jobs where you have to be an actor and be a professional. You have to put your personal life on the side and do your job and focus.
BB: There must be days when it's hard to do that.
IR: I had a fender bender last summer [chuckles]. I had to go over and pick up my rig. I was doing drive at KOOL. I picked it up at the mechanic's. I just walked over from the radio station. Driving back (I was on the air at 3, and this was around 2:30), this eighteen wheeler does a roll back and lands on the hood of my van. I'm on the air at 3!
You're pissed off to the tenth power. I had to go on the air. Nobody knew what was happening. In the background, I'm on the phone with the insurance people. I turn the mic on, [and say], "96.5 Kool FM. We play anything. Here's Madonna. Sunshine and 25 degrees. Great looking day. Kool FM. " Then, I shut the mic off and say, "That son of a bitch rolled back on me!" [laughter]. And I'm still trying to get the frigging insurance to fix it! [laughter]
Ian, thank you very much for doing this. We really appreciate your time, and tearing you away from your loving family for a couple of hours.
IR: No sweat. Thanks for the clubhouse!
For more amazing interviews, keep checking out Bevboy's Blog! A couple more are in the works!
For my past interviews:
If you want to read my interview with Deb Smith, click here.
The J.C. Douglas interview is here.
The Dawn Sloane interview can be found here.
And don't forget about the Jeff Cogswell interview!
The previous interview was with Rob Johnson!
The interview with Chris Mills is right here!
More interviews are in the works, so keep your browser pointed to... Bevboy's Blog!
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