Gary Tredwell met us at the K-Rock radio station in New Minas, Nova Scotia. He took us on a tour of the facility. We went to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner. The interview was to take place at that restaurant, but I forgot to to get certain pics and to record the special video supplement that accompanies this interview. Gary suggested we just have the interview at the K-Rock studios, and we cheerfully agreed.
We conducted the following in the official Beatles Boardroom at the K-Rock studios in New Minas. Thank you, Gary, for your time and patience and letting us use your lovely boardroom!
This freewheeling interview covers Gary's career from its beginnings to the present day and beyond.
What are you waiting for, people? Read!
1. How did you get your start in radio?
Gary Tredwell: What happened with me was that I was finishing high school and didn't really know what I wanted to do. I thought that maybe I would take a year off, maybe take a few courses at UCCB [now Cape Breton University]. My parents said, "Absolutely not, no goofing off for you". They suggested, "Why don't you go talk to Dave LeBlanc at CJCB?", because Dave had grown up in Glace Bay, and at one point had worked at my grandfather's grocery store. My mom knew him, so: "Go in and talk to him, because you've always been outgoing and talkative and that sort of thing".
I went in to see Dave, and Phil Thompson was there. I spoke with him, and he said, "Well, I went to Loyalist in Ontario, so maybe you should apply there." It was a great school. And he said, "There's no end to the schools up there that you can go to." I did a demo tape there; Dave LeBlanc helped me do that. I sent it off to Loyalist, and I got accepted. I left Cape Breton right after high school and did two years at Loyalist College in Ontario.
BevBoy: May I ask why you didn't choose to go to the Valley school? [the then Vocational school in Kentville offered a course in broadcasting].
GT: You know what? I don't think it even came up. Phil Thompson had moved to Cape Breton; he was originally from Ontario, I believe, and really loved it, and so was really high on Loyalist. I think I applied to Ryerson as well. That was more tv/radio, and it was a ton more money.
Anyway, I got accepted there [Loyalist]. That was a 2 year course. I came back to Cape Breton. My parents said, "Well, why don't you take the car and drive across the province and stop in at all the radio stations, meet the bosses, program directors, leave a tape and resume behind". So, I did, because in Sydney there was apparently one job available at CHER; it was between myself and Bill Bradley. Bill is still there, and I still consider it the best thing that never happened to me. I never worked in Sydney; I did work in Port Hawkesbury. I got in the car, and I went to Port Hawkesbury and I went to Antigonish. When I stopped in Port Hawkesbury, Bob MacEachern was the program director. He said, "Well, as a matter of fact, we do have a job. There's a guy trying out fo r it this week. Would you like to come back next week and try out for it?"
We worked out some arrangements. I went back the next week, and I think I did 3 evening shifts on CIGO. He called on setting day; my father was a lobster fisherman, which would be May 15th in Glace Bay. It was between one trip; I was taking the truck and loading the traps and taking them to the wharf, so Dad could set them. [MacEachern] called and offered me the job. I said, "Fantastic! I can't be there today." But, I worked there for about 20 months.
BB: Can we talk about Loyalist a little bit?
BB: It's a 2 year program...
BB: ... and you say you went to learn to become a broadcaster. Specifically, what did you learn? How to speak? How to enunciate? How to project your voice?
GT: Well, that will dovetail into a bit of Greasy Gary later on. I didn't think I had an accent. But my instructors pointed out that I had a pretty thick accent. That's not anything to be ashamed of. But, if you're going to work in Toronto, and you sound like a Cape Bretoner ... most people in Toronto don't sound that way, so they may not gravitate toward you. You may not get the job.
They teach you, at the time, how to queue up records, how to wind carts, thread a tape machine, do tape editing with a razor blade. All stuff that's gone now. Learned all that. The mechanics of a show. How to do show prep. How to type. At the very beginning, in 1986 (when I went to college) they were teaching us computers. That was revolutionary; it was all DOS based, and I don't remember any of it.
BB: MS DOS 3.31!
GT: Probably. That sounds about right.
They teach you how to write for radio. You would also learn the basics of engineering, the basics of broadcast regulations and stuff like that. They had a campus radio station; actually, they had 2. They just broadcast internally. You were responsible for doing a shift on 1 every week, and a shift on the other. They had 2 formats: They had a top 40 format on one, and they had an AC [Adult Contemporary] format on the other. Because that would correlate to... if you were going to work at a Country station, the AC side of things: how the clocks were set up, what the songs were, [and so on]. You were responsible for that.
BB: OK. It was a campus radio station ala what Acadia University had; I think they're online now.
GT: I think Loyalist, at some point long after I left, finally did get a low power license to broadcast in the area. It might be online as well.
BB: Interesting, because I always wondered what the Hell people learned at broadcast school. It's a 2 year program; what do you do for 2 years?
GT: You have to do documentaries. You have to do interviews. You're working with a newsperson, so you needed a time out to the top of the hour; they would do the news. So, basically, you were doing everything as if you were really doing it. Lots of practical experience.
BB: OK. Jumping around a little bit here, after you finished your course at Loyalist, how many stations did you work at before you ended up at Newcap?
GT: I worked at Port Hawkesbury. Then I went to Sun FM in Halifax. And then 780 KIXX and Q104 moved in. Then we all moved into C100 and CJCH. So, I worked for 5.
BB: Were you in production? Were you on the air?
GT: I did on air to begin with at Sun FM. And then I moved into Production and did Production right up until December 31, 2003. That's when I resigned, and I went to Newfoundland. I did on air, Production, program manager, garbage, cruiser guy, everything. Now, I'm here.
BB: What station was it in Newfoundland?
GT: Coast 101.1. CKSJ is the official call letters.
2. How did you develop the character of Greasy Gary?
GT: It just kind of happened. I was always doing voices as a kid and make my parents laugh, make fun of my brother, or something like that. Greasy developed at Sun Tower after Q104 and KIXX moved in. I remember Ian Smith was there; Ian's from Cape Breton too. We'd get into these chinwags about Cape Breton. He would kind of do a voice. Cape Breton's one of those places where everyone knows someone named Bumper or Toad or whatever. He started doing one character, and I did another. Whenever I saw Ian, I'd go, "What's going on, 'By?" And like I explained to you and Patricia earlier, if I said, "What's going on?" in Cape Breton, people know exactly what I'm saying.
BB: Everyone calls you Buddy, too.
GT: Yes. "Buddy, what's going on?" Or, simply, "S'Gun on?" I think a lot of it has to do with the Gaelic language down there. If you ever heard Gaelic, which I don't speak; I would like to learn, it has that lilt and things sort of sound familiar, but it could mean something entirely different with the accents. You can speak like that in Cape Breton. It's like speaking in Newfoundland. Well, they've got several different dialects in Newfoundland. Cape Breton does, too.
"Greasy" is basically an industrial Cape Breton accent. It's not a Highland accent. [Effects a Highland accent] You know what I'm talking about there, don't you? [Bev and Patricia laugh]
We would do this stuff back and forth and have a laugh. Greasy started with Tom Bedell's help, as I recall it.
BB: Some kind of client? An automotive client?
GT: It was STP. They had these prize packs to give away. In radio, this stuff drops on you, and what are we going to do to give this stuff away? I think it was Keith Wells [who suggested], "Well, why don't you just solicit people to e-mail in their car tips or call in on the Rant line and leave it there? Tom said, "Well, that's going to be pretty boring, me reading it. Why don't we get Tredwell to do that voice he does and make him some greasy mechanic and call him 'Greasy Gary'?"
So, I did these STP car tips. We did it one Fall, and they liked it so much they renewed it. Basically all I got for it was an STP car care pack. Which I still have, because what am I going to do with this stuff? I still have some of it on the bench at home. I guess I hung on to it as a memento.
But, it started there. Occasionally, Tom would get me to call the Requesta Fiesta and do the greasy voice to request something. And, then, it really took off when B.J. Burke came.
BB: In 2003.
GT: Yes. B.J. arrived, and B.J. is what I guess you'd call a Morning Zoo host. It's a cast of idiots, and he's the ringmaster. He showed up in the studio I was working in. He just came bashing through the door. He said, "S'Gud on?" I said, "Nuttin, 'By!" He said, "I hear you do voices. Do one." So, I did the greasy voice. He said, "You're coming in Monday." I said, "What for?" He said, "You're going to come on the radio!" "What am I going to do?" He said, "Don't worry about it. We'll come up with something. You just talk in that voice, and we'll be ok."
It just went from there. I came in, and did the voice, just my own take on things, my own personal take. Then, I set up an e-mail, and people started e-mailing me. Then it was, "Maybe I should tell a joke". I got this joke, so I told [it].
BB: That's risque humour. How do you get away with those [jokes]? "It's not about the hunting, is it, Frank?" The bears, and the guy gets ass raped. I mean, my God! [chuckles]
GT: [chuckles] Well, I guess I have a good p.d. there covering for me in JC Douglas. You know what? I've never gotten anything personally to my e-mail or to my face about the jokes. They're accepting of it. The audience at Q104 are ok with it. I get people come up to me and tell me that their kids listen. I say, "Really? You're pretty liberal! Mine don't." But, they live with Dad/Greasy Gary. They hear lots of things, I'm sure.
But the humour just seems to work. Sometimes, if I just go on a rant, it really happened. Most of the stuff that Greasy Gary talks about, it's true.
BB: This week, you were talking about how you wanted to get air in your tires. They made you buy something in the convenience store.
GT: Well, I wasn't going to buy anything because I have a compressor in my garage. I went home and used my own compressor.
BB: They wanted you to pay a dollar to use the air compressor.
GT: Yes, to get air in my tires. I couldn't get change because I waited 8 minutes to buy a cup of coffee, which wasn't worth 9 minutes of my time. I left. So I didn't get any change. But, it's all real. Sometimes, I'll change the names to protect the innocent or the overly guilty so I don't get sued. People are accepting of someone that will tell it like it is.
I got in a bit of shit over the comments I made about the bridge.
BB: I don't remember those ones.
GT: They want to put fencing along the bridge so people won't commit suicide. It's like, "Great! Perfect. Just what we need. More weight on the bridge. If they're going to jump, they're going to jump". I said, "Why don't we just make Sundays, 'Commit Suicide Off The Macdonald Bridge For Free Day"? We can have the recovery boats and the cops down below. We'll fish you out of the water; there's no 3, 4 days wait. The family don't know where you are. Let's just do it." Because, if people are going to do it, they're going to do it.
BB: They are. That's true.
P: They're going to climb the fence!
GT: And I got hate e-mail from people because I insulted them. I typed back, "I didn't insult you. Sorry for your loss, but I'm not going to apologize. It's my opinion. I'm allowed to have it. I'm pretty sure that the constitution says I can say what I want. If you don't like it, don't listen to the station or call the Rant Line and call me an arsehole. Either way, I don't care, because that's just the way it is.
3. Tell me how you got your first job as a program director. Was it at that station in Newfoundland?
GT: I had found out that a friend of mine that I had worked with in Port Hawkesbury, he had worked and lived in Newfoundland for a long time. He had been a program director. Eventually, he and a friend of his put in an application for a license in St. John's, Newfoundland. I believe they were the only applicants. No, OZ may have applied as well for another station; they were denied because they had tv and radio and print already, and the CRTC will not give you more than that because you've got everything you need.
Andy Newman is his name. He and Andrew Bell were successful and granted a new license for a new FM station in St. John's. I was pretty sick and tired of doing production, which is basically Same Shit, Different Day. I had wanted to move up, and had taken some courses at St. Mary's. Scott Bodnarchuk was amazing: He would let me go, and he even paid for some of the courses. I took some Business courses so I could learn more.
BB: He's a nice man.
GT: He's a great guy. He was letting me do that. There were a few opportunities that had come along with Newcap, but I didn't feel that I was considered enough because I didn't have any management experience. So, I met with Andy. He said, "I need somebody that can do everything, and I know you want to do this. So, I will make that happen as well."
I talked it over with Mrs. Grease. [I said] "This is what I want to do. Can we do it?" She agreed. She was pregnant at the time. Gillian had just started school, so I left ahead of them. She had to pack up the house and everything got moved . They flew over; that was a nightmare: Pregnant with a cat in the bag. I literally mean, a cat in the bag on an airplane, that tore its way through the bag.
Our son was born over there. I literally did everything there. I was part of the morning show for a while. I did the evening show voice tracks. I did Production. I did program directing stuff. I did promotional stuff. I did it all. It was a great 4 years. I really enjoyed it. But, I knew it was a training ground. Not that I didn't want to stay, but when an opportunity like this [K-Rock] comes up... because this is the third radio station I've been at for launch, from before we hit the air. I was part of Sun FM when they signed on in 1990. And then for the Coast of 101.1 in St. John's. And now to bring K-Rock on. The synergies of coming back to Nova Scotia were perfect because Kelly really missed home and missed her mother and her brother. So, I came, and no regrets.
BB: When you left Halifax to go to Newfoundland, Q104 still wanted a piece of you, because you were still on the morning show for 10 minutes every morning. But not at first.
GT: Well, BJ [Burke] was definitely instrumental in wanting me back. Me leaving, there was no discussion about Greasy Gary. "This guy's leaving Production; we need to replace him". I left over Christmas, really, when you look at it.
They were getting phone calls and e-mails. "Where's Greasy Gary? What's going on?"
The phone calls started. BJ would call. "Are you going to do it?" [return to the morning show].
"I'm kind of busy. I'm launching a radio station here. I'm pivotal/instrumental in it. "
Then, JC would call. I said, "Look: We can work something out. I can't see this happening until the station is on, and we have all the chinks worked out of the whole thing, and it's all working."
We launched Coast on February 12, 2004. I think sometime in March I started calling back in to Q104. It really got big then. It was the whole, you're taken for granted, and you're gone. People were going, "What the Hell's going on? This guy's usually here at 7:10. He's funny. He tells a joke. It's risque. And he's gone."
I got a pretty good deal. They pay me to do Greasy Gary. But both of these things [pd. and Greasy] are totally separate. I'm not obligated to do anything beyond Greasy. And, here, I'm the program director.
I can't believe how popular the character is.
BB: I love Greasy Gary. I just get such a kick out of him. You can just say, "Good Morning" and I start laughing.
GT: I met Rob Wells from the Trailer Park Boys. I've met all those guys. Rob Wells said, "Man, you've got it fucking made." I said, "What do you mean? You're the guy on tv. You're the big shot tv guy. " And he said, "Everybody listens to Greasy Gary, but nobody knows what you look like. Me, I go everywhere and they know who I am. You can go anywhere. Nobody knows what you look like."
That's kind of shot the Hell out of the water now. I've gotten to see concerts and meet celebrities. It's great.
BB: "Who's Greasy Gary? You?"
GT: Well, exactly. People don't believe it. B.J. Burke has introduced people to me in bars. They refuse to believe that I'm Greasy Gary. I'll do the voice and whole bit, and they still don't believe it. They don't believe it.
BB: If you didn't do the voice... It's still hard to reconcile how you look with to [the mental image of] Greasy Gary.
GT: Literally, 98 to 99% of everything I've ever talked about, it's real. I have a '65 Mustang. My kids are called Gillian and Rhys. I lived in Newfoundland. I'm from Cape Breton. I've told stories about Cape Breton. I've mentioned people from Cape Breton that I know. For the most part, it's all real.
BB: Embellished a bit?
GT: Embellished, yes. Maybe a bit of spit and polish on it. Lipstick on the pig or something like that. Make it fly a little better or whatever. But I'm totally blown away that people like it. I've even sold t-shirts at a couple places, and sold a couple hundred. I'm still amazed.
Ed MacDonald and his wife Jennifer from just down the road here. I think they're in Vaughn's or near Windsor: Huge fans. They showed up at the Q104 25th birthday with their Greasy Gary shirts on. [all laugh] Mrs. Grease didn't even wear hers. There's just something about the character. As near as I can figure it, I've read a lot of books about broadcasting and psychology and stuff like that. Because it's so out there, it's probably why it fits. It's not Andy Rooney doing his spiel at the end of "60 Minutes". It's not a stand up routine. It just sort of happens.
One of the reasons why it's so good: I wake up. I make a cup of coffee. I go down and tur n on the computer. And then I get set to call in. I may not be feeling that good that day. But B.J. Burke, Bobby MacDonald, and Lisa Blackburn, will pull it through. It would not be as funny if I didn't have them to rely on.
BB: They're straight men to you?
GT: Well, sometimes I'm the straight man. It's a cast that really works well together. I've been approached by others to do Greasy Gary. But I said, "I don't know if it's going to work because I don't know the people. I don't have a rapport with them. I don't sit down with them every day. I don't have beers with them."
Would it work? Maybe. It might not be as funny. But when you work in broadcasting long enough, you can pretty much wing anything.
BB: Is the character funnier because he's only on for 10 or 12 minutes a day than if he were on for the full 4 hours of the show?
GT: Yes. I think he's probably funnier because of that.
P: Leave them wanting more.
GT: Well, exactly. You get your chance. This is your window to listen. If you miss it, then you had better hope that one of your friends heard the joke. I get that all the time. People will listen to the joke, write it down, and then they're ready at work if anybody missed it to tell the joke.
GT: I've been told that when I'm finished, 250 people will get out of their cars at the Dockyard and finally go in to work. Or at the Michelin plant: 300 people will get out of the car after I'm done, after I've hit the punch line of the joke. I just can't believe it.
BB: It's like lightning in a bottle.
GT: Yes. But another production thing: When you do a character voice in a commercial, one of the mistakes that's always made is it goes on too long. A commercial of a bad Arnold Schwarzeneggar impression just lingers on and on; and people start thinking, "Did I feed the cat today? Did I remember to turn on the dishwasher?" You lose them. You use a little piece of it, that will work.
If you can get a really good impersonation of George Bush, don't kill it for 30 seconds. Hit the high note with the voice, and get out. Let the announcer do the other stuff that needs to be done. Let the voice have the funny parts.
But there's nothing worse than a voice that drones on and on. By the time it gets to the punch line, you've lost them.
BB: But I agree. If you were for the full 4 hours it would get kind of old.
GT: Well, once in a while. When I'd come home on vacation, I would go in, and I'd show up around 6:30 and I'd stay for the show. And that's ok because it's one day out of the year that Greasy Gary is right there and can take part in everything. But to do the whole thing, it might get tedious.
P: Were you there for the Q 25th anniversary?
GT: Yes, back in November.
P: You were there?
BB: I wanted to go so bad. I had to take my mother to the specialist. But I heard [the radio reunion] all weekend.
GT: It was fantastic. There's probably quite a bit of it on Youtube. I think that JC might even have some sort of a package put together on dvd.
P: Because BJ and Bobby Mac... [starts to laugh]
BB: He kills me, too.
GT: You should interview him.
BB: I want to interview him.
P: It's like he forgets the microphone is on.
BB: In theory, I see where you're coming from, but in actuality they can never forget that the microphone is on.
GT: Well, he says the most outrageous things just to get people pissed off. He is totally cool with that.
P: That is his niche: To piss people off, and he's good at that.
BB: When they had the layoffs in the '90's, they delayed the layoffs. That's when Stan Carew walked off the air.
GT: Yes. I was there that day.
BB: We can talk about that if you want. But Bobby Mac did a call-in show: Call in and complain about how shitty radio is. And they let him do it!
GT: I think that what the people that wanted a replacement for CFDR forgot was: You can't replace it. It's a commercial radio station. I look back on that, and it's helped me when I went to two more stations that signed on.
There was more money spent on the sizzle than the steak of Sun FM. I remember engineers being there hooking up equipment; the deadline was fast approaching to launch that radio station. They didn't know if it was going to work because they had so much stuff to do. I remember management walking around trying to match the carpets to the drapes. That's what was important to them. [Bev and Patricia laugh]. The mahogany furniture had arrived. They overspent on that place; they overspent like mad. It was all sizzle before they had even procured the steak, as far as I was concerned.
It was a great radio station. Art Hustins is a fantastic man because my pay cheque was always there, for years. I'm pretty sure he didn't see any money until he finally sold the radio station.
BB: To Newcap.
GT: To Newcap. I haven't seen Art in years, but if I do, I'll thank him for that. I still have the staff list from Sun FM because I couldn't get rid of them. There were just so many names on there. Les Stoodley. Barb Anderson. Mike Cranston. There were 35 to 40 names on the staff list: People behind the scenes and on air. We launched K-Rock here with 18 people. At Sun FM there was closer to 40. We had a full newsroom with 6 people. [They were] reporting, and news, I think, into the evening if memory serves, but it doesn't because it was so long ago.
The reality was is that there weren't just enough people 50+ that were listening to the radio station, and then advertisers that wanted to get together with them. We signed on Sun FM with 2 commercials: One was IGA, and one was a funeral home. All the people who told Art Hustins they would support him, they didn't f##*ing come to the table. They wanted to wait and see. Well, guess what? You blinked, and it was gone. It had to go further towards C100 in order to start making money. And, even then, because of some of the restrictions that were placed on the license: 51% non hit, 51% instrumental music, I think it was at the time 30% Canadian content. You had spoken word commitments. News commitments. Regulations on, uh...
P: Beat that, Obama!
GT: I don't know where it went.
BB: For the benefit of my readers, Greasy Gary just caught a fly in mid air, like Obama did. That's amazing!
GT: I don't know where it went, though. I might have bounced him back that way or something.
Anyway, the layoffs. I worked 14 years in Halifax. From prior to day one. I was hired, I think, July 12, 1990. My parents were on a trip around the world. I called them; they were in Australia. It was the next day. I called them Friday night (it was Saturday morning in Australia), to tell them I got a job at the new radio station.
So, all of these names of people I worked with...
BB: Tony Beech.
GT: I followed Tony Beech on Saturday night. There were people in their fifties and older that knew who I was simply because I came on after Tony Beech on Saturday night.
BB: The station was live then?
GT: We were live 24 hours a day. I started doing 4 over night shifts on Sun FM. Then, I sort of morphed into doing some Production stuff and producing some of the feature shows that they ran. I even did a Big Band show at 22 years old.
BB: Did you like the music?
GT: I did like the music. And, unfortunately, most of what I have is on digital audio tape. A DAT tape. Where the Hell are you going to get a DAT machine now? I had probably 20 or 30 DAT tapes filled with Big Band music. What the Hell do you do with that now? Nothing to play it back on.
But so many people came through there. I kept the staff lists; they're somewhere around. Right up until that time I worked for them. It's kind of disappointing that they changed the call letters and everything like that. But, really, seeing what happened there: That's what fired me up to be a program director.
BB: How so?
GT: Well, because I saw what was going on. You look at it and go, "You shouldn't do that! That doesn't seem like it's gonna work." They did things without research. It's like, "Why are we still the new 96.5 Sun FM? It's been 4 years! I don't think it's new any more."
It's like "The New 89.3 K-Rock". I dumped that in September. We launched in June. I said, "We're going to be done with that in September, because it's not 'new' any more in my mind".
BB: After 3 or 4 months, the bloom is off the rose.
BB: I liked what Sun FM was originally. It certainly was eclectic.
GT: It sure was eclectic! You'd play The Letterman. You'd play something instrumental from James Last or Montovani. And then you might play The Eagles. You might play Bekker-Cavanaugh; Canadian instrumental stuff. And, then, international smooth jazz.
BB: What were the ratings like? I realize you weren't selling any air time, but were the ratings there?
GT: The ratings, I think, in the very first book were really good. But, they just couldn't sell it. Some great people worked there, and we tried to do what we could to sell it, to conserve and make it work; but it just didn't.
BB: That's too bad. How about the new Lite 92.9 that's starting now in Halifax? It won't be anything at all like Sun FM was. I'm thinking it will be like a lighter version of Kool FM.
GT: Well, I tried to get on their website and it didn't work. I can't tune them in from here. But, it will be interesting to see what their "light rock" actually is. That first morning when Sun signed on, it wasn't quarter after 9, Marie Smith called to complain. She was the head of "Let's get this license; let's get this on the air". [She complained] because we played "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" by The Eagles. That was rock and roll.
BB: She was pissed off about that.
GT: Yes. Meanwhile, all the other stuff that CFDR played was in there, but that was rock and roll. And, again, it's like, "Who are you to decide what people want to listen to?" One of the greatest bands ever [is] the Eagles. Millions and millions and millions and millions of albums sold. People know the song because they can sing along with it. So, why shouldn't we play it? It may be rock and roll to you; it's easy listening to somebody else.
P: It's Country Rock to somebody else.
BB: I just wanted to talk about Sun FM because it was a nice experiment that failed due to poor research I guess. And, too much money being thrown at it and not enough of a revenue stream being generated.
GT: Well, that's how it works. It's not an inexhaustible supply. You have to make it in order to spend it, and make payroll. It was a great radio station. Dean Bradshaw did "Starlight Serenade". He would come in and produce that every couple of days. It was an hour long show of Classical music.
BB: We'll never have that again in Halifax.
P: I remember listening to that.
GT: But, could you, today? I don't think you could. There's just too many choices through the internet. If you want to listen to Classical music, how many millions of choices do you have? If you want to hear instrumental music, how many million choices do you have through the internet? Any sort of block programming like opinion, talk-back type shows: You can get that on the internet.
Or, can you do that today, and also post it so that it's a podcast? Can you do that?
BB: Probably not music because of copyrights.
GT: Yes. Throw that in there because somebody wants a piece of it. Somebody feels that they're owed something for it.
So, could it work? Maybe. I mean, Halifax, the greater area, is what, nearly 400 000 people? Could you maybe do some of it? I just don't know. It all comes down to making money, or being extremely efficient at how you deliver that product.
BB: Well, look at the Hotline on CJCH. It was Rick [Howe] and a producer: Amber [LeBlanc] or Deb Smith. Two people doing a radio show for 3 and a half hours. And they cancelled it last year. There isn't enough demand for something a little bit different. Everything has to be homogenized, it seems.
GT: I think it was just the fact that they were a voice in the wilderness. Nobody was listening to AM any more.
BB: They got no promotion.
GT: I don't know what their budget was, but I know that they were getting promoted on C100. But the audience of C100 probably just didn't want that. They're not going to leave what they like for something like that. It comes down to: If there's an audience, then you supply what they want. It's as simple as that. It's unfortunate, but there's only so long that any business can carry something.
And, then, it's got to fit. You can't take the Hotline and put it back on The Bounce. It's probably just not going to work because again, those people that come to The Bounce expect something. "That's not what I want". So, then, they might go to Z103. And when will they come back?
To be completely honest, I said (and I wouldn't be the only one) in 1993, 1994, "Where are the Top 40 stations? You're not playing anything for young people? They don't have anything to listen to?" You had classic rock and you had Country and you had Sun FM, and you had C100. [C100 played] light rock. It wasn't hit music. They played some, but it was a very restricted play list of what they would play. And, for a long time, they just weren't playing anything for young people.
The point is, now, that it's a growth market. You've got people that are 30 years old that don't listen to C100, Q, or anything else. "You weren't playing what I wanted then. And you're still not doing it now. But, oh, these guys are".
It's just a reality. Think about back in the '50's when a station like CFDR was the norm. And, then, a station like CHUM in Toronto comes on and starts playing rock and roll. Playing Chuck Berry, Elvis and Fats Domino. Same thing.
BB: Different generation. It is what it is.
GT: Totally different. I can't stand the music my daughter listens to. But occasionally she picks out that "I Shot The Sheriff" is Eric Clapton. Or, that's The Doors. My sons says, "I really like The Who. And the Rolling Stones; I like them". He's 5. That's great. [smiles proudly]
4. What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received?
GT: I've got so many over the years. Bill Bodnarchuk had a great thing to say: He interviewed everybody that came into the building , because he was the general manager when we all moved in [in 1998, Newcap moved Q104, the then SUN FM and 780 KIXX into the pink palace on Agricola Street]. One of the things he said was, "At this place, we're all responsible for it. If you see a problem, you own a problem." I thought that was a good piece of advice. He said, "If you walk down the hall, and there's a piece of paper crumpled up on the floor, and you walk past it, a client may walk along next and see it and think, 'What a pigsty!' So, why would you walk past the piece of paper? Pick it up. Put in the garbage. Problem solved".
"If a phone doesn't ring, and it's in an important place, and you know it doesn't ring, then tell someone who can fix it".
Another one was from Andy Newman. When I became a p.d. with him. It was like, "You know what? If a decision needs to be made, you need to make a decision, right or wrong. We can fix it later, but I'm pretty sure nobody will die. It's not that kind of business".
So, a couple of great pieces of advice.
BB: Rob Johnson said something similar when we sat down with him
last Fall. "Nobody's going to die if you give the wrong time on the radio".
GT: Well, exactly. Or, if you miss your talk break and it sweeps into the next song, and there was no [station] i.d. Nobody dies. It's great that way.
Mike Cranston was such an influence on me because he came on board at Sun; I got a lot of solid advice from him. Just listening to the guy, I got to be a better broadcaster.
BB: And he's still really good. Do you ever hear him?
GT: Once in a while, I catch him doing the newscasts, or spots or something like that. I call him the "Mentor". He was sort of balding, and he had long hair in the back; it was getting salt and pepper. I used to call him "Leopold", from the Bugs Bunny cartoon.
GT: Yes. But he's fantastic. I have met so many great people. There's a list that's very short of people I don't care for. But the list of people I've worked with, and met, and known, is long. Just fantastic people.
BB: I presume you don't want to list the people you don't like because you may end up working with them again.
GT: Well, probably not, but they'd have to figure it out for themselves.
BB: OK. Fair enough.
P: Keep a little mystery in the interview!
a. J.C. Douglas
GT: JC is a friend and, I guess, a co-worker. He is Greasy Gary's p.d. He's a great guy. You know what? Hopefully he'll be flattered by this, but I've seen what he's done at Q104. and I try to do the same here. I try to have that kind of passion because he has incredible passion for Q104. I want to be the same for K-Rock. I want to do as much as I can to make this radio station a success. I know there are people in the Valley that it matters to. I want to treat them the way JC treats Q104 listeners. He tries to give them everything and anything they could ever possibly need and just solidify that friendship that they should have with their radio station that they love.
BB: I think he joined in '86. He was there for 12 years. Then, he took the year for Breakfast Television, and came back 10 years ago [to become p.d.]
GT: His midlife crisis.
BB: Virtually his entire adult career centres around one radio station. That's very unusual.
GT: It is very unusual. It really is.
BB: Brian Phillips, I guess, would be another one, with CJCH, although he had some interruptions along the way.
GT: Yes. He did the tv thing.
BB: But it's unusual for one person to be associated with a radio station for such a period of time.
GT: Well, you know what? It's the same as Cal Ripkin, Jr. It's the same as Steve Yzerman. It is unusual for someone to spend their entire career in one place. Is JC going to be there in 20 years? I'd put money on it.
BB: He might be the general manager by then.
GT: Could be, if Ted Hyland ever steps aside or moves on or something. But, then again, as general manager would he be happy? I don't know.
BB: He strikes me as the kind of guy who wants to be on the air and maybe he isn't on the air as much as he would like to be.
GT: Yes. But, you know what? The passion that he brings, he couldn't do both. It's near impossible, and he would kill himself. Thankfully, Ted manages him and doesn't allow him to kill himself.
BB: He used to do The Sunday Flashbacks. He would fill in and now he "just" does Studio Q on Sunday evenings, which I know is pre-recorded. He isn't on the air that much otherwise. He interviewed Paul McCartney last month.
GT: I heard some of that.
BB: He sounded like a school boy. He was like a little kid. It's like me talking to you guys.
P: That probably made his career.
BB: It was probably a career high.
GT: I would think, because he is a huge Beatles fan. There's a few I've met: Jamie Patterson, Mike McFarland. I'm like, "OK. They're all right". I'm a Rolling Stones/Led Zeppelin guy. The Police. I've got my favourites, too.
b. Ian Robinson
GT: Ian's a great guy. He's a big fan of Greasy Gary.
BB: He's my neighbour.
GT: Oh, is he your neighbour?
GT: I didn't know that. I was in the city for the Chickenfoot show. He happened to walk by. I said, [as Greasy] "S’gun on?". He came over and we had a chat.
I don't think I've ever worked with Ian.
BB: You never produced him?
GT: No. Ian would have been with, I guess, CJCH in '90. Then, over to CHNS/CHFX. I don't think we ever worked together.
[Colin from the morning show then enters the room. Bev flogs his blog. Two minutes pass]
BB: What's that thing you said to Ian? "What's going on?"
GT: [As Greasy] "S’gun on?"
BB: [laughs] I can't do it. I just can't.
GT: I'll write it out for you later. That helps some people.
BB: All right.
GT: I met Gary Sandy.
BB: Oh, from WKRP?
GT: Right. He was trying to say the same thing. I happened to be in one morning at Q104. He was doing a play at Neptune The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Darian O'Toole was in as well.
BB: Darian/Karen Begin. I dated her once.
GT: Did you? And you lived to tell about it.
GT: She grew up with Mrs. Grease.
BB: Did she really?
GT: Small world!
BB: It is a small world. I wrote about Karen Begin/Darian O'Toole last year on the blog. If you google "Darian O'Toole"...
GT: I'll find it.
BB: You'll find a dozen posts I wrote about her. I got people from San Francisco writing comments about Karen...
GT: [snaps fingers] I think that's how I found the blog. When it was announced that she was dead, we were pretty skeptical. It's like, "What would ignite the career again?" It was a couple of days, and I was doing some google searches to find some information.
BB: I got my feelings out about Karen from all those years before. She's gone. I'm sorry she died. That's life. But I don't understand what happened. She was in a hospital. She broke her leg. She died. It doesn't make any sense.
GT: I think it was a blood clot or something that broke free and it killed her.
P: An embolism?
GT: Yes. That's what it called. She fell off a bike or somehow injured her leg. And that's how it ended.
BB: That would do it.
GT: Apparently it's true because her parents had a memorial service. It's for real.
BB: I was there.
GT: But there were a lot of people who were quite skeptical or dubious of it.
BB: There were not a lot of people at that funeral. It was a big Catholic church and there were maybe 50 people there.
GT: Well, maybe more people knew Darian O'Toole but didn't know Karen Begin. That's probably exactly what it was. My wife knew her but [Karen] didn't flow through any circles of friends that would stay together. My wife has friends that she's still in contact with from high school and younger, but maybe just not so much with Karen.
BB: JC said that she was a troubled girl who had a lot of demons. I think JC fired her.
GT: I think he had to.
BB: It's sad, because she was very talented. She could have had an amazing career in the States, but she ended up back in Nova Scotia. I'm sorry, but you don't go from such heights and return here. You start here, or you finish here.
GT: Well, it comes down to that population thing. It's ok to be totally outrageous in a city of 8 million people, because somewhere along the way you're going to attract a crowd that are ok with that. That are ok with swearing or sexuality topics or just outlandish topics. If you've got the population base, you can do it. If you don't... It's pretty hard to come to a city of 25 000 and try to do that, because an audience of 100 is not going to pay the bills.
BB: Anyway, I wrote about Karen, and I got a lot of comments from people. Bill Spurr. You must know him. He worked with her at Magic 97. He was her co-host. He's now the restaurant critic at the Herald. He covered her funeral last year. He was talking to Rick Howe. I called in, and he goes, "Are you the blogger who wrote about Karen?"
[We stopped recording for a moment and resumed talking about Ian Robinson!]
GT: He's a Cape Bretoner. Poor bastard is a Maple Leaf fan. If only we could modify that.
BB: You're a Montreal fan.
GT: No. I was actually a Toronto fan. But, 42 years? That's just ridiculous. We've got to get Ian turned around there. Maybe he'll be a Penguins fan now.
BB: You never know. He was at the Sidney [Crosby Homecoming Parade on August 7, 2009].
P: And he has such a genuine laugh on the air. It makes me laugh. Like, I'm in the shower, and he hears me giggling. He wonders, "What the Hell is she doing in the shower?" [chuckles]
GT: [Chuckles] And you're trying to tell him that it's Ian Robinson's laugh? I'd have a hard time believing that, too, Patricia! Really!
c. Darrin Harvey
GT: Great guy. Huge music fan. He will do whatever it takes for K-Rock. He just got a promotion this week, I guess you'd call it.
GT: He's going to be doing mid days five days a week. He no longer has to work on the weekend, unless I make him. Because I can. [chuckles]
BB: Yes, because you were doing some shifts as well.
GT: I was doing Monday and Tuesday.
P: Great to be king, isn't it?
GT: Yes. [chuckles]
[Darrin is] a huge fan of the blues. He's a huge music fan in general. So much knowledge of the Valley, and stuff like that. He's always promoting himself and by virtue of that we get promoted too. He does tv. I don't have Eastlink, so I can't see the show when it's on.
BB: What show?
GT: "The Abused News". He was doing a wrestling show, which only aired on Fight TV or something like that. I don't have that channel either.
BB: I know that when he left Annapolis Valley Radio, I heard he was unloading trucks for Leon's or something. He was totally out of the [radio] medium for a while.
GT: Yes. He sold furniture and stuff like that. But, he's back! But as far as the tv stuff goes, I'll bet if you went to his website, darrinharvey.com , you'd be able to get linked into to see some of the stuff, if not all of it.
BB: We're friends on Facebook, so I'll approach him.
d. Brian Phillips
GT: He used to call me "Gary Trees".
BB, P: [Laughter]
GT: Philly worked at CJCH, and I was in a production studio next door. I'd bump into him every now and then. He's a great guy. He's a card. Learned a lot from him, too. You listen to him, and you pick up stuff.
Since you are a fan of radio, Bev, I would highly suggest to you that at some point I get you hooked up with the Duke Roberts Para Anthology that Hal Harbour/Doug Barron put together years and years and years ago. It is hilarious. It was mainly cause and effect. Brian Phillips is Ground Zero for it. It is a piece of radio nostalgia/history/nonsense/foolishness that you'd have to hear. Steve Murphy's in it. Paul Mennier. Brian Phillips. Doug Barron. Terry Pulliam.
BB: These are on air gaffes? What is it?
GT: It's outtakes and created stuff. It's a fake life and times of a radio announcer named Duke Roberts who did work in Toronto. They used to send out these tapes, L.A. aircheck. You'd hear shifts that people did that were scoped down to just what they said on air. They got one one day of Duke Roberts. He has a website, too: dukeroberts.com . Anyway, Phillips used to take them off, make fun of him, make up his own breaks. [As Brian] "Duke Roberts on a stoned again Tuesday" [laughter]
You know you're ok if Brian calls you "Big Digs". "Hey, Big Digs". The Para Anthology is classic.
BB: Where would I get that?
GT: I have it somewhere.
BB: Can you burn me a copy?
GT: It's on cassette!
GT: And digital audio tape. I might call Steve Lunn down at Q104 and see if they have a dat machine that still works that I can borrow. I guess I'll have to plug it into my computer and get the stuff off dat tape that I thought was going to be an "ideal storage place for stuff that you wanted to archive".
BB: Well, if it has a line out jack, and you computer has a line in jack...
GT: Yes. Should be able to figure out that part.
BB: Anything else you want to add about Brian Phillips? It's a shame he's not on the air any more.
GT: It is. It is. But what is the outlet for Brian? Would Hal FM be a fit for Brian Phillips? It may be. But I don't think that Brian Phillips would be pleased with working for MBS. It just probably wouldn't happen. Brian will gladly just retire and not have to get up at ridiculous hours of the morning anymore. I know he's got kids and grandkids; [he can] enjoy them.
e. Jamie Patterson. I think I wrote you this list before the layoffs at the station.
GT: You probably did. It was quite a shock when they let him go, along with Shauna [MacKinnon] and Kelli [Rickard].
BB: And it's your company, so I guess you have to be guarded in what you say.
GT: Well, guarded? Not really. It's a situation of the economic climate; it's specific to that station. When the station tumbled out of the top 3, national money didn't come.
BB: The ratings were down enough to justify...
GT: Down enough that Country 101 [FX 101.9] jumped up into third. Most national buys will be 1, 2, 3 in a city the size of Halifax. When you lose 20 or whatever the percentage is, drastic changes can come.
BB: Well, you would think that they would look at a format change. There are rumours that they may flip formats.
GT: I don't know anything more than you know at this point. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. This is one of the times I don't. I didn't know about the layoffs coming at all.
BB: Well, why would you?
GT: Yes. It's not my domain. I do work for the company, but you know what? There are people in Alberta working for the company. That were unaware that changes were coming in Halifax.
I trained [Jamie] at Sun FM.
BB: He was the man in the van!
P: Oh, I remember that.
GT: I pretty much trained everybody, if they were new, they came in and did overnights with me, and evenings after we recorded on stereo videotape the over night shows. I recorded them, and they ran for years until the format changed. I trained everybody, and I trained Jamie. [I have] a lot of respect for him because he's done some things that I don't think I'd have the courage to do.
BB: Such as?
GT: He did stand up comedy, and I never did. He was in comedy troupes and maybe did some tv and stuff, and I never did. I never had the courage. I have a very spontaneous humour. I've never really tried to write comedy; I don't know how.
I have very specific ideas. People say, "You must like 'Saturday Night Live'". No. "You must like 'Two and a Half Men'". I see the jokes coming a half a mile away. I pick things up, humour-wise, pretty quick. Saturday Night Live? I just got so sick and tired of watching it because I would say, "Why didn't you do this? If you had done this in that skit, it would have been funny. Do something totally outrageous, like somebody should get a pie in the face right about now". Just as an example, because it's so out there. Or, you know what? This is not funny. This impersonation of this person is bad. You've broken a major rule: If it's bad, it ain't good.
BB: The guy who does the Obama impersonation on SNL... it's terrible.
GT: I haven't seen that show in years. I don't even watch it.
But Jamie has done stand up comedy; he's been around for a long time. He's a great friend of mine. We always get together, and we always laugh our asses off. There are so many people, .like Doug Barron, and Darrin, and JC, Tom Bedell. You sit down with any of these people and just laugh and carry on. You might not see them for weeks or months; but then you see them and the friendship picks up again.
Jamie Paterson will come up with something because he's just too talented. [Bevboy note: This interview was recorded before Jamie Paterson got the job as morning man at Lite 92.9].
BB: On the radio or some other medium?
GT: You know what? He could do tv. He could do radio. He could probably write a book. He could probably do anything he wanted. As long as he believes in himself. And you know what? Somebody would have to tell him: Do it; do it. Or, Lisa will probably kick his ass and make him do it. [chuckles]
BB: Well, he has time to think about what he wants to do next. They probably gave him some kind of package.
GT: Yes. But if they flip format and it's something he could do, they should probably call him back, because I think there's a 3 to 6 month grace period where you can regain your seniority.
BB: So, a layoff in your company is not necessarily a layoff, then? You have the right to go back?
GT: Well, I don't know if you have the right to go back. But let's just say for argument's sake: If they did change format, and they took him back, up to a certain point, his benefits he could get back.
BB: Well, let's hope for the best. Because, obviously, their Fall  book was really good, from what I understand. I read the overview of the ratings. I'm the only one who’s not in radio who reads that stuff. Their ratings were down in the latest book by that percentage?
GT: I don't know exactly what the numbers were. I don't really look at that. Sometimes I'm curious and I'll look what the 7 to 7:30 block on Q104 is like.
BB: Of course you would. I realize that p.d.'s have to look at the numbers. They have to make changes sometimes...
GT: Yes. Well, I mean I just don't get this, "We Play Everything:" stuff.
BB: "We Play Anything" at KOOL. Which one are you referring to? Kool or [Magic 94.9]?
GT: Kool. "We Play Anything".
BB: Well, no, they don't.
P: I called in, and made a request. They could not honour it. They couldn't do it.
GT: What did you ask for?
P: I asked for "Patricia the Stripper".
GT: By Chris DeBurgh.
P: Yes. And they couldn't do it.
BB: Probably didn't have it. Rob Johnson explained it to me last Fall. He said, "We Play Anything like what we play now". They don't complete the sentence; it's not a full stop.
P: There wasn't room for all that on the sticker.
GT: I suppose, yes; but it's kind of misleading. I mean, we play classic rock here. But some of it is classic pop. You can play "Ebony Eyes" by Bob Welch. It might not be exactly classic rock. But, you know what? It's certainly not Finger 11. It's something that the audience should be familiar with. And, to a great degree, it fits. We can play it. We could probably play "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett.
f. B.J. Burke
GT: BJ Burke is probably the single biggest thing that keeps Greasy Gary going. He wanted Greasy back. He's a fantastic ringmaster; I've said that before. BJ will assemble a cast of idiots and will be the ringmaster. Nobody does it better.
BB: I'd love to meet BJ Burke.
GT: Then send him an e-mail. I will give you his e-mail; you should interview him. He's got some interesting stories from his career. He worked here [in the Annapolis Valley]
BB: He worked at AVR. Blair Burke.
GT: He's a fantastic guy. We usually hang out when I get to the city. His wife is wonderful. His daughter Tanna is wonderful. He came by this summer. They usually camp for a little while up here. He's been in the station. Loved the station. I think that a lot of the layout and what you're going to see at the new Q104 is going to be taken from here, because this is really a fantastic facility, and they really need that because it's not Queen's Square [Q's original studios] any more. [At] Sun Tower, we were just jammed in. When we moved to the Pink Palace on Agricola Street, again, kind of the same thing. Q104 and KIXX got rid of equipment and had to use stuff that was there from CHUM, and some of it [was] just totally ill-suited to what they wanted to do. But they had to live with it. So, now, they're getting what they deserve: Some really good studios and new equipment and stuff like that.
BB: So, pretty much what the stuff you showed me earlier is what they're getting?
GT: Well, they're still going to use Selector. I think they're getting Axia boards, and probably the Neumann microphones.
But, BJ is a great guy. I love hanging out with him, and Bobby. They come up here fishing. They'll probably come up in a couple of weeks, and I'll go over and have some laughs with them, drink some beers and stuff like that. It's just a great time.
BB: Well, drop my name.
GT: He keeps Greasy on the air. He gave him the big break.
BB: And he could stop it tomorrow if he wanted to. He's not obligated to keep Greasy going? You have no contract, per se?
GT: No. We have no contract. At the end of the month, I tally up how many days I did and send an invoice in about 45 days later I get paid for it. I have an inbox with about 1700 e-mails.
BB: A lot of spam, I'm sure.
GT: Most of the spam gets caught. But a lot of stuff that I've seen before, I will see again. But BJ is just fantastic.
6. If you had an unlimited budget, and didn't have to pay attention to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, and could ignore the CRTC and your bosses at Newcap, what format would you program, and why?
GT: I think I would do classic rock. I'm pretty much doing what I want, but I am paying attention to my bosses and the CBSC [chuckles]. I pretty much like classic rock. I did grow up in the '80's, and I do like a lot of '80's stuff. But again, there's just not enough people that care about it to make a living off of it. There are only so many people who are going to enjoy Trio "Da Da Da", and Duran Duran and White Snake and stuff like that. Billy Idol, a cut like "Blue Highway", or something like that; it's not going to work.
But, classic rock would be what I would gravitate to.
BB: Are there songs that you would like to play, but for the reasons you just described, you don't? You select the music here, right?
GT: Yes. I select the music for here. There's always ways to play some stuff out of the ordinary. There might be some stuff that's day parted here at K-Rock that we'll only run at night. And there's probably a good reason for it. Like: "A Whole Lotta Love" by Zeppelin. [Jimmy] Page's guitar solo in that can get a little loud and long, you wouldn't really want people at the office tuning away. You just play it in the evening.
And, then, again, there might be some stuff... I had a discussion today with Neil Spence; he's one of my part timers. He said, "I played a Who song. I don't think I'd ever played before. It was 'Long Live Rock'. It's a great tune."
We started talking about Pete Townsend, and some of his solo stuff. And, really, there's only one solo song by Pete Townsend that we play...
BB: "Rough Boys"?
GT: No. Actually, it's "Let My Love Open The Door". We could probably play "Rough Boys", and I'm pretty sure I have it. But I love the album, "White City". But most people wouldn't know "Second Hand Love", or "Give Blood", and songs like that. But, I was saying to Neil, "Maybe on a certain weekend or if you were doing 'lost stuff', that you would be able to pull out something like that and play it".
BB: I like, "All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes". That's my favourite Townsend album. It came out in '82.
GT: I don't think I have that one. "Empty Glass" was first, and then that one, and then "White City" was about '84, '85??
BB: Thereabouts, yes.
GT: I have "Psycho Derelict" and a few others and stuff like that. But, it's that spice thing that you talk about. You play some stuff that's a little out of the ordinary, like "Ebony Eyes" by Bob Welch, or The Firm: "Radioactive". Stuff like that that you play in between the stuff you play every day like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. And it makes sense.
7. I am hesitant to ask this question, because I've never heard a private radio person say something nice about the CBC. But, what is your opinion of CBC radio?
GT: I'll break the mould and say something nice about the CBC. I will say that their production and just their ability to do things, obviously, is beyond what private radio can do. Their execution, and their production values [are] all top notch.
But the knock I have on the CBC is that they're more exclusive than inclusive to me. I never grew up listening to CBC. It was not something I listened to. I tried it for a while, back in the '90's; and it just got to the point where it's like, "Enough talking. I don't need the minutiae of this story. I don't need 25 minutes about the fighting in Lebanon." Because, you know what? They've been fighting in Lebanon for 20 years now. I'm sure it will continue for 20 years. And the minutiae of it doesn't affect my life.
Or, just some of the stuff that they do. I get the biggest kick out of seeing Jion Ghomeshi. "We love our beer. We love our hockey. We love our Arts". What? What? You're talking like we all finger paint in Canada. I'll give you the first two. You got those bang on. But the Arts? You couldn't light me on fire and push me down a hill and say, "As you're rolling down there, when you get to the opera, you'll be fine!" No. Ain't gonna happen.
Dance? Opera? Some theater I'd be ok with. But that's just an asinine statement. What arts do you patronize?
BB: I go to the theater the odd time. I guess, what is Art?
GT: As part of the gentry, and the land baron like yourself, as patrons of the Arts, it just sounds ridiculous.
GT: It does. Like I said, they tend to be more exclusive than inclusive. You know what CBC Television should do? They should have "Hockey Night in Canada" on 6 nights a week because they make money at it, and get off the government teat.
BB: I miss Jim Nunn, though.
GT: I don't. He's one of the worst interviewers I've ever seen.
BB: He was irrereverant. He was not always respectful of his guests.
GT: I think that's what it was. I know Jim. I met him a few times.
BB: Tom Murphy is better?
GT: I don't watch television news. I get my news from the K-Rock news room. And I might see some stuff online. But I don't read the paper. You can pick up any paper, and all the stories are the same. Because they all come off the wire. For the most part, it's filler. The Cape Breton Post is ads and filler, and the obituaries on page 2. That's all you need in Cape Breton.
But CBC: They've exhausted their relevance for me. I don't depend on them. I'll say something here that maybe we'll have to edit out later, but in Wolfville they think the sun shines out the CBC's arse. They come here once a year. They do one event. That's it. They don't tell you the weather. They can't tell you why the 101 is backed up. They can't tell you about a barn fire in the Valley while it's happening because, well, that needs to filter through the system. And they're not here; they're in Halifax. If you listen to CBC Nova Scotia, it's "Main Street". It's Barrington Street. It's Spring Garden Road. It's not Commercial Street in New Minas. It's not Bridge Street in Kingston/Greenwood. It's the homogenization that you talk about. They will do what's going to please the most number of people. That's why there's no local radio stations any more. Does Sydney even have CBC?
BB: They still have an Information Morning.
GT: I could ask my father; I guess he still listens to it. But the original intent of the CBC was to provide broadcasting to Canadians. And in about the '50's, they had 99% of the country covered by CBC radio. But, really, I don't see the relevance of it any more. I don't know why they need 3 networks.
Aren't they changing one to play newer rock music?
BB: Uh, CBC Radio 2 got rid of most of its classical music and replaced it with stuff. Rich Terfry/Buck 65 has a show in the afternoon. He bumped Jurgen Goth who had been on the air for 20 years.
GT: Right. And there's that whole, "Why is there Bounce and Z103 in Halifax?" And look at the backlash that CBC are getting from these older people. Because you took something away. But it's like, "If we don't we die with you! We age and die with you." And then CBC Radio 2 is like [makes noise like wind whistling through a ghosttown], because there's nobody listening to it any more. They all died.
BB: That would be a funny Greasy Gary rant now.
GT: [As Greasy] Yeah. They have to change. Arseholes!
But that's pretty much CBC in a nutshell. I was going to look it up to be more definite, but they receive over 1 billion dollars a year to run the show.
BB: That's a lot of money!
GT: Denise Donlon? I think I remember her from City TV, Chum, The New Music when John Roberts [J.D. Roberts] was there, and....
BB: Steve Anthony?
GT: Steve Anthony came later. She did Fashion Television as well...
BB: Jeanne Beker.
GT: Jeanne Beker! And then Denise Donlon came along. I remember watching that show and hearing about this new band called U2. That's fantastic, what they did then. So, what she brings to the table is that reality of radio and pleasing the most people, but that's a tough row to hoe. It's really going to be tough for her. To take classical music away, which is probably less than what percentage of sales in the country? One percent? How many people are buying rap music today? Or downloading it? And how many are buying Classical or downloading it?
BB: Well, I guarantee that nobody's downloading Classical music, because they don't know how, because they're old.
GT: Right. Exactly.
P: In defense, I kind of miss the Classical [music on CBC Radio 2], because it was something I did [to help me sleep]. But at 3 in the morning...
BB: They have overnight programming from around the world on the main CBC service. It's whatever spoken word programming they can find.
GT: You know what? As someone who pays a little bit of attention to broadcasting: On the one hand I'm ranting about the CBC. But, on the other hand, the CRTC gave out television licenses to ... I think it was a Russian television station, an Italian television station, and it might have been Al Jazeera or something like that. They gave out these tv licenses. Pretty much the crux of the argument was, "There's people in Canada that want to keep up with what's happening at home."
Wait a second. This is Canada. This is home. What's happening in Russia, or Italy: Cut the cord. Because that's not home. How can that be home, if you live here? I think they exonnerated them from having Canadian content rules. Well, do that for me, please! How about a little love here? I'm in Canada and paying taxes. Voting.
BB: [A poor Greasy Gary impression] Bunch of arseholes!
GT: [As Greasy] Bunch of friggin' jeezlers!
BB: I'll learn to speak that way. I promise!
8. I am from the Annapolis Valley, and would have killed to have a classic rock station there when I was growing up. How different is programming such a format in a small conservative part of the province, versus how you might approach programming it in Halifax or a larger market?
GT: I don't have any really big rules; I sort of take it as it comes. If we run 10 After Laughter, and it's a little risque, I've told people, "Run the disclaimer before it", which warns them, "This is not for the kids. It's got some content there that may not be suitable. It's up to you to click away".
I think, for the most part, a lot of people here in the Valley listen to C103 and listen to Q104 and are tolerant of it. I don't want to exclude anybody, because, again, it is a small area. It's a big area with about 100 000 people [from] end-to-end. Obviously, to be successful, you have to have as many of those people as possible.
So, as far as content goes: I don't think we're very risque at all. And I don't think anybody on staff is particularly edging that way. I don't think they're looking to be that edgy. Colin and Kate may get a little boisterous, but they know where the line is. I pretty much trust them, and everybody else is pretty cool with it. We don't need to be stepping on Q104's toes because, let's face it, we've already established that the population that can listen to Q104 is about 350 000. The population that can listen to K-Rock is about 100 [thousand]. I don't need to piss people off. People may like The Who, and The Rolling Stones and the Beatles and The Guess Who and BTO. This is where they get it. The content doesn't have to be risque.
We run a Nascar feature in the afternoon; Q104 doesn't. I know that people are listening to The Final Lap. We run The Blues; Q104 don't.
BB: I wish they did.
GT: We run 2 hours of the blues. We play Blaine Morrison's show. Like I said, we call it classic rock, but there are some elements that you could call classic pop. The difference is: C103 and Q104 will play newer stuff that is not familiar to me and you. It's a band that may only have come on the scene 2 or 3 years ago. and we don't follow music. We'd rather hear the Beatles, or we'd rather hear Foreigner, or U2. The older stuff.
BB: It's amazing how C103 blares out of Moncton like that. They used to be Rock 103. I can't get over how clear a station that is, from Moncton.
GT: Well, apparently somebody says they were listening to us over in Moncton. I said, "Really. Wow".
BB: That's pretty cool.
9. Tell me about a time when you were nearly fired. What did you learn from that experience, and how did that experience inform you going forward?
GT: Well, I've been fired, so I'll tell you the "Been Fired" story. I got fired in Port Hawkesbury. I was young, just out of school, and pretty opinionated and a little bit rebellious. Bob MacEachern had to fire me.
BB: Because of something you said?
GT: Well, breaking format and things like that. The final straw was playing "Fool in the Rain" by Led Zeppelin at 10 to 1 on a Sunday afternoon.
BB: What was the big deal about that?
GT: "Fool in the Rain" wasn't supposed to be played until after 2 o'clock. I was doing a show called "Classic Gold". After you did the 20 minute newscast and all the funeral announcements, you're supposed to play stuff that's at least 10 years old and had made the Top 10. "Fool in the Rain" peaked at 12 in Canada. So, I played it. It timed out to the news. And that was the final straw.
I got in trouble for playing The Who off album, from "Who By Numbers", playing "Squeeze Box". "Nobody wants to hear that." I was like, "Really? What band is it that just got back together and are doing a big tour? The Who! What's all over the magazines and stuff? The Who!"
I got in trouble for playing the Rolling Stones: "Waiting on a Friend", because it wasn't day parted to play when I played it.
BB: It wasn't what?
GT: Day parted. Something can be day parted so that it's only played at night. It does not play at Breakfast between 6 and 9. And, again, the Rolling Stones. I did know something of what I was talking about. And then, other times, granted, I was just an arsehole. And a troublemaker. And young. And opinionated. So, I deserved it.
What I learned from, and what I still take with me to this day, is: The radio station must succeed. You are a piece of that. The better the piece you are, the better the radio station does. But the better the piece you are, somebody else needs that piece for another radio station. So, you can get hired away.
I'm working with a lot of people here that hopefully one day will land better job somewhere: More money, more prestige, bigger shift, better shift.
BB: And you'll wish them the best.
GT: I will. And I'll be happy about that because I know they did good work for me. And if I could keep them, I would. But I'm not under any illusions that some people that are here won't stay.
BB: The turnover rate at any radio station is amazing, anyway.
GT: It usually is amazing. At SUN FM, it was incredible, the turnover. It was through layoffs and etc, etc. Coast there were very few changes while I was there. There were changes in Sales, but on air, there was only one change. Here, I've added a person. I've not lost anybody.
BB: That's pretty good for a year and a bit.
GT: Yes. It sure is. Because generally, it's a revo lving door. But, again, the one thing that I took [from my dismissal] was: The better I am, it's still me. I'm good at what I do. The radio station benefits. And, then, I am also a marketable asset. So, I can get hired and do a job somewhere else. That's what I learned.
BB: I guess I learned the same thing because after my first job after university, it was at an IT consulting company. They almost fired me after 6 months. I learned what I had to learn. I became hireable elsewhere. It's applicable to most any kind of work.
GT: Yes. You learn your craft. You don't cut corners. You are a marketable, attractive asset. That's really what I learned. As shitty as it gets, do your best, and send out your tapes and your resumes. Maybe somebody drives through and hears you. It's as simple as that.
BB: The fickle finger of fate!
GT: That too!
10. Are you happy with how K-Rock 89.3 is performing? What type of changes, if any, would you like to make to the station, that you would want to share with me? Not saying anything is wrong with the station, Gary. Don't worry!
GT: Am I happy with K-Rock? Absolutely! Ken and I (Ken Geddes, the general manager) basically signed on a radio station, and it's working. It stays on the air, and people like it. We're not having any trouble selling ads, which is the life blood of the thing. It's mainly just small shit. Like, people don't clean up the lunch room. Somebody forgot to set the alarm code; the alarm wasn't turned on the other night.
BB: With all this equipment around here, that would be bad.
GT: Yes. Just small stuff, really. So, happy? Absolutely. The music is, I think, spot on. I spend a lot of time looking at the music and trying to spread the songs, because as we discussed before: If you play too many songs, it's a lot of unfamiliar stuff. You play the best songs. You just have to manage the library so that you don't have Kansas' "Dust in the Wind" play on Monday in the 9 o'clock hour, and then play again Wednesday at the 9 o'clock hour. You want it to move.
It's ok to play a song 5 times a week. You might be skeptical about that. But if I play it at 1am on Monday, you didn't hear it. If I play it at 3 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, you might have heard it. Then if I play it on Wednesday night at 11pm, you probably didn't hear it. Then, if I play it at breakfast on Friday, you might hear it. But, you know what? If you're the person that bounces out of bed at 5:30, and you're gone at 6:30, you're not listening to the radio; and I play it at 10 after 6, you might not have heard it. Or, if I play it at 7, you might not have heard it. So, when you think of it that way, that there are 7 days times 24 hours, that's a lot of time that a song should cycle through.
And, then, you pick the right songs by the Beatles to play. Then, there are other songs by the Beatles that you should play, like "Here Comes the Sun", or "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", but you don't play them every day because most people prefer "Come Together", or "Hey Jude".
11. Teach me, on video, to say "na day". And how do you spell it, anyway? I feel silly, asking you that.
Special Video Supplement!
12. Wrap Up
BB: Gary Tredwell/Greasy Gary, thank you very much for the last few hours of your life. I know I'm taking you away from your family on a Saturday night.
GT: But, it's air conditioned!
BB: It is air conditioned. We appreciate your letting us be here in your lovely boardroom. Thank you very much.
GT: Well, you know what? I just have to say that I'm really happy to do this. I get a little in disbelief sometimes that me or Greasy are that important. I do Greasy in the morning; it's 10 minutes out of my day. I just go on about my business. In Newfoundland it was even better because nobody knew who Greasy Gary was. Nobody cared. I did it from the bedroom in my underwear, and then went to work.
GT: That's all it was. I can give you a long list of people that you should interview. I could keep you busy for months or even years. But definitely you need to talk to the Q morning show. Make sure you talk to Jamie Paterson. Get Mike Cranston.
BB: I've tried to get Mike Cranston.
GT: The list goes on and on of people you should talk to. I'm just thrilled that I made the list.
BB: Cool. Well, once again, thank you very much.