June 23, 2011
I met Dan Barton at the Timberlea Beverage Room on June 23. He texted me that he was out on the deck having a beer, and that I should join him there. I did. We ordered our food. And we talked about Z103, Q104, publicity stunts, an old friend of mine from Toastmasters, and dozens of other radio-related subjects.
Don’t take my word for it, folks. Start reading!
1. How did you get your start in radio?
Dan Barton: Get ready for a long and boring story. It actually goes back to when I was a kid. I grew up in South Central New Brunswick. It sounds really hip when I say it that way, doesn't it?
Bevboy: What town?
DB: A little community called Cumberland Bay, which nobody has ever heard of.
BB: I have kinfolk along the coast there, Beaver Harbour, Black's Harbour, St. George, St. Stephen. Places like that.
DB: OK. You're looking at about an hour and a half North of there. It's on Grand Lake, around Chipman, Minto. But, because we were in the Centre of Southern New Brunswick, I got to grow up listening to music in Saint John, Moncton, Fredericton. The two big stations at the time for us were CFBC and CFNB. Donnie Robertson was God to me, growing up listening to him on CFBC.
This is when I first learned about benchmarks at the age of about 13 or 14. He had a character that I'm pretty sure Jim Levine was the voice for. It wasJacques Ulock the Lumberjack. Don't ask me to spell that; I have no idea.
BB: I'll do my best.
DB: But, Jacques was a lumberjack who came on and did this comedy feature on the show. It aired around 7:15, every Friday morning. I would religiously get up before school to hear that feature.
Well, they moved it. One Friday I got up, and it wasn't around. I was like, "What the Hell? Where's Jacques Ulock?" A friend of mine at school said, "Yeah, I heard it this morning. It was on right at 7 o'clock."
I was pissed. Now, I had to get up 15 minutes earlier on a Friday to hear it. I was just such a huge fan of it. I loved it. Hearing Norm Foster in Fredericton and growing up listening to all these guys, it would never have occurred to me to have it as a career.
When I was in Grade 9, a guidance councillor said, "OK. It's time to plan out what you're going to do in senior high school and take a look at some careers." They had this great big index book where you could through all these jobs in New Brunswick.
I was casually flipping through it. I came to "radio broadcaster. It suddenly clicked for me. "Wait a minute! These aren't just goofs I hear on the radio. This is a job." I looked at the salary level, which unfortunately was pretty accurate for that time. If I remember correctly, it was around $20 000 a year. It was around 1984. I thought, "My God. I could actually make a living doing this."
Even to back track a little bit, when I was a kid, I did the same thing that you hear every radio broadcaster talk about. I had my tape recorder. I would record off the radio; but then I would also do my own radio show.
BB: I did the same thing!
DB: When I was 13 years old, my next oldest brother and I pooled our money together and bought a stereo system. Our oldest brothers all had one, but they were all moving away, so we needed our own. We bought one that had mic input jacks. If I was recording on a cassette, I could have one channel playing records, and the other channel would have the mic. I used to actually record radio shows. I would do parody songs, because if you had the record, if you pushed the right channel off, the vocals would disappear and you could do these parody lyrics. We did all that crap. I still have reels and reels of tape of that stuff that I'm sure somebody will bribe me with some day. I just thought, "Wow. I could really do this as a career. This is kind of amazing."
As I went through high school, my guidance councillor found a broadcasting school in Bangor. He wasn't a very good researcher because there were certainly ones in the Maritimes at the time. But, he found this one in Bangor. I went down and I checked it out when I was in Grade 12. I was really amazed by it. They had their own radio station. So, I went to school in Bangor, and not really sure what I wanted to do. I just thought, "I just want to get on the air."
It was a great course. The school I went to at the time was called The New England School of Broadcasting. It's the same one that Mike Mitchell went to. He went there the year before me.
BB: Mike Mitchell. The guy from AVR?
DB: Yes. He's at Magic [94.9]/AVR down in the Valley.
BB: Been there forever.
DB: Yes. He has. He loves it down there, and he's a great guy, too. Of course, I didn't know him at the time.
But, I went down there, and I got to get my hands on everything, from producing TV commercials to hosting a show to doing news. When I got down there, in September of '87, the Program Director wanted to put me on the air right away, because I was surrounded by New Englanders. I didn't have the affected accent. I didn't go in the cah to get some beahs.
He said, "You're going to sound great. We're going to put you on the air right away." My 3rd week of school, I was on the air at WHSM. It was part of the curriculum. The thing about taking the course down there was that all the courses were at night. Which, to a college student means 2 things: You're free all day to go on the air; and you also tend to get blitzed at night, because you don't have to get up the next morning. That's another story. I'm sure Mike had the same experience.
But, I got on the air right away. This is a guy who had never been in a radio station. I was fascinated by it, but I grew up in the middle of nowhere. There was no radio station for me to visit. So, my first time in, I'm seeing what the board is, how it works, how the format's put together. I'm punching the mic on to go on the air. My God, I almost crapped my pants. I was so terrified. I thought, "Wait a minute. This sounded so easy. Why is this so hard for me to do? Why can't I just say something? Why am I having such a hard time of it?"
After I got my first show under my belt, I thought, "I'm over thinking this." One of the great things about that school was that they had Program Directors from local radio stations who would come in and mentor the students.
He talked to me. He said, "What are we doing right now? Why don't you just do that on the air?"
So, I came on the next day. It just felt so natural, and so much fun. We used to pair up. We'd get assignment sheets and say, "OK. Dan, you're going to do 2-6 on Wednesday." We would all pair up; any time we got a shift, we would bring a buddy with us so that you would get twice the air time. We would just go in and be absolute goofs. We'd do our own little production pieces. It was a great thing in that there was a format, but there was a lot of freedom just to explore what you could do.
BB: This was before computers were programming...
DB: Oh, God, yes. We were playing records. We were playing carts. CD's had been out by then, but we weren't playing them on the air, because they had yet to come up with a decent cd player for broadcast use.
So, I got to have a taste of everything and go through that so that when I got out of school, I really knew what I wanted to do, and that was just to be on the air.
I graduated in '88. It took a full year to actually get in somewhere. Like a lot of broadcasting students, I had grandiose dreams. It's C103 now, but Rock 103 ...
BB: I loved Rock 103.
DB: Me too. When it launched in the Summer of '87, I said, "That's where I'm going to work!"
BB: It blares into the Valley to this day. I loved that station back in the day. It's where Anna Zee worked before she went to the Q.
DB: Anna will not remember this, but I used to call and harass the shit out of her to play records. I remember calling Anna once. I said, "Anna, I'd love to hear ‘Kashmir' by Led Zeppelin."
She said, "How old are you?"
I said, "17." I was just about to turn 18.
She said, "And you want to hear 'Kashmir' by Led Zeppelin?"
I said, "Sure!" She played it for me.
I worshiped that station. I was sure I was going to work there. So, I got out of broadcasting school and sent them my demo. I can't even remember who was PD at the time. I want to say Eric Stafford, but I'm not sure.
He actually had a phone conversation with me. He told me, "Yeah, you're not quite ready yet. You need to work on this and this." He gave me some direction, but I didn't get anywhere.
Eventually, I learned to set my sights a little bit lower. I started my first radio job in the Summer of '89 at CJCW in Sussex. I just did everything. They were looking for somebody to fill in for the Summer, so I drove the Summer cruiser. I did the Afternoon Drive show. I did the News run when they needed it. It was a great introductory education for me.
After I finished that up, a job came available. It was Junior Swing at CFQM in Moncton, when it was Country, back when that job existed.
BB: I know what a Swing Shift is. What's a Junior Swing?
DB: Junior Swing, at the time, back in the days when you had announcers around the clock, I was on from midnight until 6 am three days a week; and then I did 2 weekend shifts, Saturday and Sunday evenings.
BB: That would have been a full-time job.
BB: Junior Swing? Is that like a shit shift? Is that what they mean?
DB: Yes. It's a way of saying that it's a shit shift. The Senior Swing guy only had to do 2 over nights. And, he had 3 evenings. That was my first, full-on professional full-time job in radio.
BB: What was the format at CJCW?
DB: It was a mix between Adult Contemporary and Country.
[Dinner is served. We eat. We resume talking]
BB: Before dinner came along, we were talking about CJCW. I told you off the record that I had a friend named Jim Kokocki from Toastmasters who was dating the newsperson for CJCW in the 1990's. You know her, and you know Jim. It's a very small world.
DB: Yes. It was funny. After I'd gone to CFQM, and I was there for the better part of a year, that was when they started getting rid of the Junior Swing shows. They brought in satellites, because you could run these syndicated broadcasts that would automatically fire your cart commercials. That was a lot cheaper than paying a slump like me to sit there in the chair.
They didn't want to get rid of me altogether, so they said, "Well, we've got an opportunity for you in Sussex."
I said, "Well, OK. What is it?"
"Well, it's News Director."
I had read the news before, but I'd never been a News Director. So, I took the job. I did it for about 11 months. I kept reminding management there, "I'm OK with doing this, but I really want to get back on the air again."
After 11 months, a Drive show opened up, so I got the Afternoon Drive show at CJCW. I kept pushing to learn more about Programming. This was back in the day when you were still playing records; we had got a cd player when I was there, but record companies weren't servicing that many cd's, so most of what you played was still on 45 or on cart. I saw the rotation system they had set up and I said, "You know, this doesn't work for me because I'm getting a lot of the same tracks again this afternoon. I really want to figure out what you guys are doing and why."
I took it upon myself to learn. What I couldn't learn from the Program Director in house, I would just pick up the phone and call people. I would call Troy Tait in Moncton. He's still in Moncton; he's one of the co-hosts on the C103 morning show. Troy would give me advice.
I would call Tom Blizzard in Fredericton. Tom probably doesn't even remember me calling him. He would give me advice. I'd just try to pick up what I could.
Eventually, I shoved my way into the Music Director's role.
Then, I shoved myself into the Program Director's role.
Then, I took on the morning show. Once I hit the morning show, we needed to hire a news person. That's when I met Paula Henderson. Paula was an absolute news junkie. She interviewed so great. She's just a bold personality, and really full of humour but also very succinct. We brought her on as News Director and we became very fast friends. You don't get up with someone at 5 o'clock and come into work with them and not bond with them in some way, shape or form.
So, yes, we had a great time there. That's when she started dating Jim. It's too funny that you mention that you knew Jim; from him, you knew her.
BB: I haven't seen Jim in years. I'll go on the record. I met Paula about 15 years ago when they came to Halifax for a Toastmasters event. She told me what she did. I talked to her all night long. I'm sure I pissed off Jim. She was probably thinking I was a stalker. The next time you talk to her, tell her I said hello and that I hope I didn't leave the wrong impression.
Song parodies were always a real hobby of mine. You can ask my wife now; I still do it. A commercial will come on, and I'll randomly make up new words for the commercial. It's just something stupid that I do.
We would do things like that to crack each other up. A lot of that was really, really, really offensive.
BB: I have an x-rated version of the Casino Taxi commercial.
DB: Really? Who did that?
BB: I made up some words of my own. It's really obnoxious. We can go off the record for that.
DB: [laughs] We'll have to go off the record, too, for my version of Leslie Gore's "I Will Follow Him". It quickly turned into "I Will Swallow Him".
BB: That's what I would have done.
DB: [Dan quotes some lyrics best left to the reader's imagination] But Paula was absolutely fantastic. She was still there when I left in '96. She went from there to the CBC. She's worked for the Conservative party for years and years.
BB: What did she do at the CBC?
DB: That's a great question. I'm not sure. I remember her telling me at the time. I came back to Sussex for a visit because I'd moved to Sydney from there. We had dinner together. She was just so excited to be going to the CBC. It was a reporter job, I believe.
BB: OK. I had forgotten her name after all these years.
DB: Well, it was funny when you mentioned Jim Kokocki. I hadn't heard that name in 15 years.
BB: He's a good guy. I wish him well.
OK. What year are we at now?
BB: Where did you go to from there?
DB: I went to CHER in Sydney. CHER's another one of those radio stations that half of us in the Maritimes have gone to. It's like a rite of passage.
When I joined Maritime Broadcasting in 1989, it was owned by MacLean Hunter. MacLean Hunter sold it to Rogers in '94 or '95. It really quickly became apparent that Rogers wasn't interested in owning Maritime radio at the time. They bought it for the cable. Maybe they wanted Chatelaine magazine. I'm not sure. They got that, too. But we got pamphlets from Rogers at the time saying "Here's the company", but nobody from the company ever came to visit us. I had the sense at the time, "This is transitional. This isn't going to last."
Back when it was Maclean-Hunter, Merv Russell was the President of the Atlantic Radio arm of Maclean-Hunter. He didn't want to lose it. He got together with 2 investors, Robert Pace and Gerry Godsoe, and they bought the Maritime arm from Rogers. They named it MBS; they took back the Maritime Broadcasting System name.
From then, they started buying up a few properties. They bought a minor interest in a radio station in Sydney, which was CHER. They didn't own all of it, but they owned a small portion of it. Part of the agreement was they would put management in place. The General Manager they had at the time was Shawn Russell, Merv's son. They needed a Program Director. The first Program Director they had was Ian Robinson.
BB: Ah, yes. He and I talked about that. He was that, plus he would be the janitor at night. He would do everything.
DB: That's how it was. And, he would have done the morning show, too. Ian was there not quite a year. He wanted to come back to Halifax.
BB: His wife was from here.
DB: Yes. And, who doesn't love Halifax? I was in Sussex, so to put it in perspective, Sydney didn't seem like a bad move.
So, he had left. I applied for the job. I got it. I went there never having seen the radio station. I don't know if Ian described to you how it looked. It was not the most elated I have ever been. I arrived the night before my first show. I had a tour. It was on Charlotte Street. It was on the second floor of this old building. I'm not sure who designed it, but you walked in, and the board, I'm pretty sure, they used it to mix Christ's sermon on the mount. It did have sliders, but man, it was old! There was a thick layer of dust on everything. The board wasn't properly mounted; it was just sitting there with wires hanging off of everything. There was no air conditioning in the building. This was September of '96; it was still hot. Ungodly hot. You could really smell the tarponds. It was gorgeous. The newsbooth was a closet. When I say "closet", I mean literally a closet, a little room with one of those bifold doors. You go in and sit down and close it behind you, with just enough room to get in. The production studio was in the middle of the building with a huge glass window so when people were coming into Reception, they would tap on the glass and wave to you. It was a clown show, that building.
I'd love to hear what Ian thought about it. But, we've met before and chatted a few times. We've never talked about CHER. We really should.
BB: Well, he does live in Timberlea.
DB: Well, he's close to us.
BB: I'll get him in touch with you.
DB: For sure.
But, anyway, I went in and I did the morning show there. I was the Program Director. I did that for about a year and a half when Maritime decided they were expanding further and they bought Fundy radio stations. Fundy Radio had 2 in Sydney, CKEP and CJCB. And, they had 2 in Saint John. They owned CJYC and CFBC. So, they bought those. And, they needed an Operations Manager to look over the whole thing. They asked if I would be interested in doing it.
"Oh, God, yes. Absolutely, I would be interested in doing it."
They were in separate buildings at the time, with 2 separate union agreements. So, I was doing the morning show, and having a lot of fun with it. I did some crazy crap there. I absolutely love working at an Oldies station. But, we didn't have a Production Manager. We had basically nothing. So any bits we did on the show, I produced myself. I did parody songs. I had a character that would come on the show; his name was Swami Bob. Swami Bob would come on and do psychic readings for people. I didn't even bother recording it. I'd just go back and forth between my voice and his. This is what a clown show it was, doing that show.
People would call in and basically, as Swami Bob, I would have the paper sitting in front of me with horoscopes and make up crap as I went along. It was a hit; people loved it. The phones just went crazy. I actually did a variation of that at Z. I don't know if you remember that one. When Jeff, Nikki and Shane were doing the morning show, they would have a guy come in called Psychic Cornelius.
BB: And that was you.
DB: That was me. That was exactly the same voice. Same idea. I just threw the paper out and made shit up as I went along.
Anyway, when I started helping out with CKEP and CJCB, they were further down on Charlotte Street. I’d get up, do my morning show, do a little air checking with the morning talent, generate some logs, and then take off down the street. I also helped host the talk show, by the way. Another story. I’d come back, meet with the afternoon guy at CHER. I got really fat in Sydney. I’m not sure how, because I walked like a bastard.
BB: You did Talkback?
DB: Yes. "Talkback" had been dropped by CJCB. They brought it over to CHER. They brought in a host. She was having a little trouble the first day. So, I jumped in and helped her. Then, I found myself hosting the talk show for the rest of the week. I thought, "How the Hell did I get into this?"
I’m not the most patient guy in the world. So, when people are calling into a talk show, and want to make political arguments, I have a hard time not just coming out and saying, "I’m sorry. You’re stupid. It’s like this."
BB: Were you on the air as Dan Barton?
DB: Oh, yes.
BB: At both stations?
DB: No. This was just at CHER. I wasn’t on the air with the other 2 radio stations. I was the Operations Manager. I was working from about 4:30 in the morning until 6 or 7 at night every day. That wears on a fella after a while.
By the time 2001 hit, I had been in touch with Tom Blizzard with Astral. in Fredericton. At the time it was Tele Media. I said, "I like your company. I like what you guys do. If you ever have an opportunity, let me know."
Tom called me in early 2001 and said, "OK. We’re going to take CKCL in Truro and flip it to FM. Would you like to be part of that?"
I said, "Oh, my God. Yes!"
BB: Big Dog?
DB: Cat Country, actually. He called me. I came down and met with him. We talked about it. I said, "I’m definitely in." I got the job.
Working with Tom is a blast. To launch a new radio station is just one of the most amazing things, because you really feel like you’re getting to see something from the ground up. Obviously, Tom had a huge handle on everything. But, he let me feel like I was a part of it, and he did let me have input.
Together, we went to copyright the name for Tele Media. They had a CKAT out in ... I think it was Alberta. We found the Cat Country brand down in the States. Nobody had copyrighted it for Canada. We copyrighted it for Canada, and Tele Media owned it. There are still Cat Country’s around to this day, besides the one in Truro.
We launched Cat Country and had this enormous launch. Bill Hart had been there; he was doing Afternoon Drive at the MIX, as it was called at the time. I’d worked with Bill before. I said, "He’s going to be the morning guy at Cat Country." So, that’s where we put him. We launched, and it was huge. It was fantastic. We had a great time.
BB: It’s a nice facility, too. I interviewed Moe Dunn there a couple of years ago. It’s in the industrial park.
DB: There used to be a great restaurant across the street called The Capricorn. It’s since moved out to the highway.
BB: There’s a diner across the street now. I’m not sure what it’s called.
DB: Is there one there now?
BB: Two years ago, there was something there.
DB: I haven’t been to the station in years.
So, I was there for less than a year. It was Christmas of 2001. Maybe a month before that, I got a call from Jim Ferguson. Jim Ferguson was a Programmer over in Charlottetown. He was looking after CFCY and Magic 93. CHTN was AM at the time; it was in the building.
DB: Yes. That was in the days when they had Local Management Agreements. They had one with NEWCAP. They were all in the same building; Jim was the Operations Manager, looking after it.
Gary Barker had been Vice President of Programming for MBS until late 2000. Once he left, Robert Pace had asked Jim, "Would you look after this?" Jim was doing it, but it’s a big job to look after how ever many radio stations they had. It may have been 19 at the time. Jim wanted some help brought in.
Jim and I were good friends. We’d worked together and respected each other’s work. He called me. "Would you be interested in coming in and helping me take this on?"
I was intrigued only because I wanted to work with Jim. We’re still great friends to this day, but I thought, "Man, it would be fun to work with him."
I had a meeting with Jim and Robert between Christmas and New Year’s, 2001. They put a deal together on the table; they wrote it on a napkin. I said, "I’m in."
So, in January of 2002, I put in my office; and off I went to Moncton. Jim was based in Charlottetown. I was based in Moncton. I was Operations Manager of the stations in Moncton. At the same time, I was helping him and doing roadwork.
BB: So, this is 2002.
DB: I know it’s a long ass boring story.
BB: Not at all. I’m just trying to piece it all together. Some other things happened, because by 2005 or so, you were working for Evanov getting Z on the air.
DB: Well, in 2002, Jim and I worked together. We did a lot of great things together. We helped re-organize some of the radio stations. It was in 2004 that I sat in on my very first CRTC hearing. That was when Maritime was applying for a new FM for Halifax. They weren’t trying to flip CHNS. They applied for an entirely new FM license. And, they applied for an FM in Fredericton.
I’d never gone through that experience before, but by God, I loved it. I thought, "This is just amazing." So, we went through that process. As history will tell you that MBS didn’t get either one. It was all my fault. I’m kidding!
BB: 2004 was when they announced the four licenses. It was the station that became Z. News 95.7.
DB: Well, this is how I came into contact with Z.
BB: All right.
DB: Rogers was there, pitching their news stations. Evanov was there, pitching Z. And, by the end of the year, the announcement came out, "We’ve approved the Rogers stations." Global was approved. Evanov was approved.
Having been at the hearing, Evanov was impressed with I had done. They were impressed with my presentation of the whole thing. Certainly, I was a part of a team; I wasn’t the only guy up there. (I guess) they thought, "OK. There’s a Programmer up there we should talk to."
They contacted me in early 2005 and asked, "Would this be something you would be interested in?"
I chatted with them and thought, "Wow!" This was a chance to launch another radio station. It’s so exciting.
It took a long time. They ran into delays, and they weren’t ready to launch. It was the summer of 2006 by the time we had hammered out a deal. They’d already launched. It was funny because part of the interview process was, "OK. Design some clocks [sp.?] of what you think the radio station should sound like in Halifax."
So, I did. I sent them 2. I came from my last interview in July of 2006. I drove into Halifax; and Paul Evanov, who’s the Vice President of Programming, had been testing. "So, what do you think? Sound like what you wrote?"
I said, "Sort of. It’s off a little bit. You guys took the essence of what I gave you. But, it’s not quite right."
I met with them. Their consultant was Greg Diamond. Greg’s with ByrnesMedia. And, they decided I’m the guy.
It was funny. MBS was not pleased with the fact that I was talking to somebody. They certainly found out. I remember the day I went for the interview. Mike Shannon was the VP of Programming at the time. I had taken a personal day to go on the interview. I got six or seven phone calls that day, on my personal day. They were really frivolous phone calls. I thought, "There’s one reason why they’re doing this." My phone bill would go right to the company. When it did, the roaming charges would show exactly where I was with each phone call. It was fine.
Anyway, it wasn’t too long after that, about the time the phone bill came out, that I got a call from Mike Shannon. He said, "We need to meet on Monday."
I thought, "I’m going to get fired." I said, "OK. Cool. What time are you coming?"
He said, "About 5:30."
I said, "Well, my wife works. I’ll be at the house. Come by and have a beer."
He said, "No. It has to be at the office." That’s when I knew.
So, the funny thing was, I signed with Evanov at 4 o’clock. MBS fired me 90 minutes later. It’s a funny industry.
BB: But you got a little bit of a package.
DB: Oh, yes. If I had quit, if they had waited one day, I’d have got nothing.
BB: Some things work out.
DB: They did.
BB: And, you were at Z from ...
DB: September of 2006, and I left in March of 2010. And, I have to say, the first 2 years certainly, was the best time I’ve ever had in radio.
BB: How so? The young, enthusiastic staff?
DB: Well, it was a chance to build a team from the ground up. I wasn’t going in and inheriting somebody else’s staff. Here’s a radio station that’s bare bones. Cogswell and Shane Wilson preceded me. That was it for on air staff. Both great guys. And, it’s funny: Cogswell , when he had left Q104, I was the guy who hired him for K100 in Saint John. So, I was certainly knew Cogswell.
I remember when Paul Evanov was doing the deal with me. He said, "You’re going to get to hire your own staff." Then, he called me just a week before we did the deal. He said, "I hope you don’t mind. I hired your morning show host."
I said, "Well, I don’t know if I mind or not. Who is it?"
He said, "Jeff Cogswell."
I said, "No. No. Cool with that." [laughs] So, here were Cogsy and I working together again.
But, I got to build the on air staff from the ground up. Some of the office staff was there, but not all of it. It was a chance to build, not just an on air staff, but to build a culture. We had such a good time.
The talent that we had in there! I lucked into some great people. Certainly, there were some people that I knew. There were so many people that applied. It was insane.
To go through the resumes and land on this one guy, Marc Michaels. He’s in Red Deer. Who the Hell is that? I put on his demo. He’s doing his thing. I thought, "This guy’s really good. He’s really funny. I have to do some digging on him." I was told, "He’s a talent, but he’s wild. You’re going to have a hard time working with him."
I thought, "Great! He’s going to be bursting out of the gates, and I’ll have to rein that in. Fantastic. I’d love to do that."
So, I called up Marc. We talked. He had another job offer at the time, but we got to talking about what we liked about radio. He said, "Nah. Screw it, man. I’m telling the other guys to get lost. I’m gonna go with you."
He came over. I said at the time to Paul Evanov, "I just hired this guy for Afternoons, Marc Michaels. He should be a morning talent, first of all. Second of all, we’ll only have him for a year. But, holy shit, will we have fun for a year." And, we did.
Marc just tore the place up.
BB: I don’t recall him.
BB: It really wasn’t my taste of music that much. I’d make a point of trying to find out who people are. I’m sorry I didn’t hear him.
DB: Marc basically had a morning show on in the afternoon. It was entertaining as Hell. He would do such simple little things. The phoners that he would do, where he would just call local businesses and say, "Can I talk to Stupid?"
"Who you looking for?"
"Are you calling me Stupid?"
"No. I’m looking for Stupid. I’m not calling you Stupid. I’m looking for Stupid."
He would just do random stuff like that. He would come to me every day before his show. I never had to schedule a meeting with Marc Michaels, ever. With the other announcers I would say, "Hey, your aircheck’s going to be at this time." Never had to do that with Marc. He was on the air at 2; at one o’clock he was in my office ever day. He’d say, "Hey, Boss Dan. Here’s what I want to do."
Once, he had seen this Facebook page where there was a guy, and I can’t recall his name; his girlfriend had put it up, that said, "If I can get 10 000 to sign up for this page, I will get a tattoo of Bruce Frisko."
So, Marc said, "Boss Dan, what can I do with this? I want to get this guy on the air. "
I said, "OK. Let’s do that. But, this guy’s going to come on and you’ll hear the same story that you have on the web page. What can you do that’s different with it?"
He said, "I don’t know."
I said, "Why don’t you call Bruce Frisko?"
He said, "Do you think he would take a call?"
I said, "Shit, it’s even funnier if he doesn’t! Record it all."
"Yeah, where’s the Frisk? I want to talk to Frisk!"
"Frisk! Come on. He’s my bud. He’s doing the evening news. Frisk. Get Frisk on the phone."
He eventually got him on the air. He asked him what he thought about this tattoo. Bruce Frisko played along with it great. He was fantastic.
The end result of it just completely blew out how ever many people it was that were supposed to join this Facebook page. We did an event at Bubble’s Mansion, if I recall, when it was still there. Bruce Frisko came out to see this guy.
BB: I remember that. I didn’t realize it was Marc Michaels. Where is he now?
DB: Again, I knew I wouldn’t keep him long, because he was a morning talent. Somebody was going to scoop him up. Chris Myers, who is a casual friend of mine, and I were running into each other on the road. We’d be going on these trips to Canadian Music Week and these record company junkets.
He was Program Director for The Beat in Vancouver. He was hugely successful. But, he’s originally from Saskatchewan. He had a chance to come home. They were launching a brand-new radio station in Saskatoon called Wired. He wanted to put on a hybrid Top 40 format just like Z. He wanted Marc Michaels.
Mark came to me. He said, "I think I might have this opportunity. What do you think?"
I said, "I think you should be doing mornings. Chris Myers is a great guy. You should go work with him. I’ll call Chris for you."
I called up Chris. I said, "I understand you’re looking at Marc Michaels." To some Program Directors, it’s taboo. You can’t go after somebody else’s talent. You know what? It’s all about the talent. Where are they going to be happy? I don’t own anybody.
I would never go to Marc and say, "Oh, shit, man. You can’t take that morning job. I need you here." He should be doing mornings. I’m not going to hold him back.
I said, to Chris, "Here’s the scoop on Marc Michaels. I’ll tell you the same thing I told my VP. You’re going to have him for about a year. Then, he’s going to get scooped up. But, you’re going to love every second of that year."
So, he got him. And, I don’t think Marc lasted there the year before he got picked up in Calgary.
BB: Is that where he is now?
DB: I think he’s done such great things. He’s still a great guy. We still keep in touch, not as much as either one of us would like to, I’m sure.
BB: You mentioned that the first 2 years at Z were amazing. You’re alluding to something that happened after those 2 years. Do you want to talk about that?
DB: Well, it’s like you only have your first date once. It’s the same thing with launching a new radio station. Staff comes and goes. We had a lot of great people come through that building. Marc left. Chris Evans left and went to Z in Toronto. He’s still there today. Megan Edwards came in. There’s always that excitement of meeting new talent.
BB: Megan got there after Mel Sampson left, right?
DB: Yes. Actually, I’d forgotten that. Mel came in after Chris. Then Sandra Klaric. Then Megan. We went through a lot of people. But, as a springboard; nobody left there and went on to crap. They all went on to better jobs.
Megan is one who came in: Fresh-faced and had never really done radio before. She was interested in TV. I knew there was something about her, so we put her to work. Look where she is now. She’s still doing the mid day show, and she’s got a TV show on EastLink. She’s doing fantastic.
I remember very vividly when The Bounce launched. We had come in saying that C100 was vulnerable. We’re going to take their lower end [demographic], and we did. We did it really quickly. It was there for the taking.
So, CHUM did the double team thing, which was very smart on their part. They took C100 and The Bounce and double-teamed it against Z. They overtook that market share again very quickly.
Certainly, there was some disagreement between Management and myself as to how to get that back. We didn’t see eye-to-eye, and that’s OK. That happens with owners sometimes.
It was at that point that I thought, "I could keep doing this. I think we could get through it, and we’ll bring the station back." But, my God, I had been in radio how many years at that point? 21 years. I thought, "I think it’s time to do something of value. I think I have something to offer." I wanted to be in a position where I don’t actually answer to anybody but me; I want to be able to put out, "Here’s what I think you should do." God, how do I even do that?
I talked to a consultant friend of mine in Toronto, Debra MacLaughlin. She’s actually a research consultant. We talked about what would be the best way for me to approach this. It was to try to take a little bit of work on the side. I thought, "Well, OK. I could do that. And, I can still be really happy doing Z."
It was at that time that I talked to Robert Pace and wound up signing on 6 of his stations as clients. I said, "Well, I guess I can just go do this full time." I just fell ass backwards into it.
BB: Would you have been allowed to stay at Z while working freelance for the competition?
DB: Not for competition, no. If I had just done the freelancing for markets that Evanov didn’t compete in, it wouldn’t have been a problem. But, certainly, I couldn’t take on 2 other radio stations in Halifax.
BB: So, it was a mutual thing that you left Z?
DB: I left on very good terms. I still stay in touch with those guys. Paul Evanov and I chatted on the phone just a couple of weeks ago. Adam Robertson is their Head of Operations; we’re great friends. I still stay in touch with them.
BB: Did you play a role in getting Live 105 on the air?
DB: I sat on the CRTC panel that did that application. We got the license.
BB: There was some confusion as to what the format would be. I heard it would be a AAA. That was what the understanding was in 2009. Was that a smokescreen?
DB: No. It really wasn’t a smokescreen. It’s a funny thing, when you apply for a radio station [license]. I’ve lost track of the number of panels I’ve sat on; I think I’ve been in front of The Commission 9 or 10 times. I could add it up if I had to, though.
You always apply for the format that you think you might launch with, or, to be honest, the one that looks sexy in front of The Commission. But, when it came time to apply for the Halifax one, there was a general feeling of, "You know what? This might be the format to go with." We had genuine research that said, "OK. There’s room for it."
The CRTC doesn’t regulate format. We could have gone in saying, "Hey, there’s room for another Country station." They could have given us another Country station license, and we could still launch with a Modern Rock [format]. It doesn’t matter.
But, after we got the license, we were really taking a hard look at it and saying, "OK. Well, AAA... How exactly is this going to sound?"
BB: A lot of talk. A lot of long sets of music.
DB: Yeah. Are we going to play Indigo Girls and talk about our feelings? What is it are we going to do, exactly?
Once we did put this format together, how do you sell it? How are you going to explain it to clients? You can’t walk into a client’s office and say, "Hey, we’re an Adult Album Alternative radio station!" Well, what the Hell’s that? Now you have to turn around and explain it to them. It’s not like Q104 going in and saying, "Hey, we’re Rock." Well, that pretty well sums it up, doesn’t it? Or, FX101.9 saying, "We’re Country." AAA? What does that mean to anybody?
So, we really started taking a look at what is a format opportunity that’s going to make sense for this market, that’s going to give us the best possible position. Certainly, Rock was one of the ones being thrown around. The format wasn’t 100% determined when I left. I had a feeling that was where it was going. That [decision] happened after I left.
BB: You didn’t have any role whatsoever in hiring the on air staff? That was Rob Johnson.
DB: Yes. That was definitely Rob. Rob was also a friend of mine. I actually recommended him for the job, when I knew I was going. It’s a crazy industry, isn’t it?
BB: It really is. It chews people up live.
DB: We’re basically like nomads. You don’t want me in this town? I’ll move to another one.
2. Everyone I talk to tells me they have great respect for you. What have you done, or tried to do, to earn the respect of your colleagues and subordinates? I'll say on the record that I'm not fond of the word "subordinate".
DB: I’m glad you said that because I don’t like that word either. They’re people I work with. They’re all colleagues.
The first thing I’ll say is that you haven’t talked to everybody. I got into management at a very young age, probably too young. I wasn’t really sure how to deal with people. At the same time, it taught me what not to do. When you say the word "subordinates", I know when I first got into management, I did treat them as subordinates. I was 26 years old. I was a bit young, not trained properly to handle it. I learned, unfortunately, from that experience how not to deal with people. I didn’t get the result I wanted from people because I wasn’t treating them respectfully enough.
It was when I got to step back from it and say, "OK. These guys are on air. I used to be on air. What did I love about being on air?" Once I got that in my head, wouldn’t they love the same thing about being on air? Wouldn’t they love to have input? Isn’t it their show? Why the Hell am I treating it like it’s my show?
When I came to the realization that I live vicariously through the on air staff, my role’s to help them. It’s to let them do what they do and provide every possible resource for them to do that. That’s when it became more of a team atmosphere for me. Certainly, I had that going at Z. Cogswell, if you ever ask him about them morning show meetings we used to have, used to tell me that we should record them. They were a Hell of a lot of fun. We would always come out of that [meeting] with an exact idea of what we were going to do on tomorrow’s show.
That was always what a morning show meeting was about to me. "What happened this morning, happened. Maybe we could have done that a bit better. What are we going to do tomorrow that will be fun and people are going to go nuts over and remember?" I handled it that way with everybody.
Again, Marc Michaels. Mel Sampson was great with that, too. It’s like, "I love what you’re doing here and here. Let’s think of something else we’re going to do tomorrow that will make this even better."
One of the things I figured out, maybe a bit too late, is that when you’re hiring a personality for the radio station, you’re hiring partly because of their personality, because of their voice. I was always very careful of, "Is this personality the right thing?" I got really lucky with a lot of people that just had these fantastic personalities that I melded really well with. Again, I saw my role as: Help them show that personality on the air. You’re not their boss. They’re not your subordinate. You’re there as a team. They’re the one that gets to be on the air. I’m the guy that helps facilitate what they do.
BB: That’s a good way to earn respect, isn’t it? You treat people the way you want to be treated.
DB: I guess, if you’re telling me that somebody has some sort of respect for me.
BB: Everyone I talk to.
DB: That’s nice to hear. I’ve had a lot of people that I work with I have a genuine affection for, not just because they’re great talents, but because they’re great people. I like to work with great people. I’ve been really lucky in that respect.
BB: Last year, when [then Z103 Program Director] Rob Johnson had that publicity stunt where he threw the morning team off the air for a day and a half and said whatever the bullshit was about how ...
DB: They apologized for what they had said on the air. I had breakfast with them that day. [laughs]
BB: He told you he was going to do it?
DB: No. I knew what it was because it had been done I don’t think even a full year before, at Hot 899 in Ottawa. When it happened on Z, I immediately recognized that’s what it was.
DB: It was just ludicrous.
BB: People assumed the worst. You came to her defense on Facebook.
DB: Oh, my God. Absolutely. Nikki is such a big-hearted person. She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. I love Nikki to death. I had joked at the time that I had hired her for every job that she had because I’d hired her for 3 different jobs. Now that she’s in Virgin in Montreal, I can’t claim that one.
But, just to have somebody suggest that Nikki would do that showed how much they didn’t know about her. It upset me. I had to say something. I didn’t want anybody having any kind of misconception. Whatever the stunt, I didn’t want anybody thinking that about her.
BB: To that extent, in that context, do you think that stunt was successful or maybe a mistake?
DB: Well, I think it was successful in that it had a lot of people talking about it, including all of the competitors. It didn’t really pay off for them ratings-wise. But, from the goal of having people talk about the show? Sure. And, I think that was the goal of it, anyway. "Let’s get people talking about that morning show!"
BB: Jeff said he got an extra vacation day.
DB: [laughs] We had breakfast, he and Shane and I, out in Bayers Lake that morning. I said, "Well, you guys aren’t doing anything. Let’s grab breakfast before I go into work!"
3. Tell me about your first programming job.
DB: It was interesting because, with that first programming job, I told you that, earlier in my career I wanted to learn about programming. I didn’t feel I was getting it from the person I reported to at the time. So, I just started calling people.
Once I actually had the gig, I felt that I had to expand this out. That was when I first got in touch with Jim Ferguson over in Charlottetown. He was working for MBS at the time. That’s when it was still owned by MacLean-Hunter. I started trying to broaden out a little bit and talk to as many people as I could.
It was interesting because I could get everybody’s different perspective on it. It was almost like that thing of first discovering religion. We all grow up going to church if your parents go to a certain church. But, then you reach a point in your teenage years when you say, "I’m not really sure what I believe in. What else is out there?" That’s what it felt like: Taking a little bit of what everybody had to say and saying, "OK? What do I believe is right? What do I think is the right way to go?"
So, it was a great education in that respect. I still approach it from that same way. There’s still so much more to learn. Anybody who thinks they’ve got it all down is crazy. I’ve never met a programmer who does. Now we’re going into PPM’s.
I used to do some work in Toronto, when I was with Evanov. I would actually fly to Toronto every couple of weeks and help out at Z103.5 Toronto. When PPM’s came in, that was a whole other kind of radio.
BB: What are PPM’s?
DB: Personal People Meters. They’ve used them down in the States for years with Arbitron. They brought them into Canada a couple of years ago. When I first started dealing with those, you weren’t dealing with sample sizes that were really large, but you could see how people use radio. You could actually plot it out on a graph and put your audio with it.
When you saw a spike in audience, and it stayed up there, this is what was happening on the air. When the audience dropped off, you could pinpoint exactly what was happening on the air.
BB: How can you be creative and have fun when you have the PPM’s monitoring everything you say and do?
DB: This is the funny thing. At the last Canadian Music Week I went to, they had a Programmer from down in the States who was saying, "OK. We’ve had PPM’s for years. You guys just got them last year. Do not make the same mistakes that we did. Do not program to the PPM. Because, the rule of thumb suddenly became (certainly in Toronto, and it’s spilled over here), "You only have 5 seconds to talk and get out. That’s it. Just play the music."
OK When I went to the PPM dial up, and I put it up against audio, it showed me that excessive talk does make them tune out. But, if I took other radio stations’ talk sets, some of them such as Q107 in Toronto, the audience didn’t drop off during talk sets. Why is that? Content has a lot to do with it.
If you flip on the Q morning show, sometimes those guys will go on for 3 or 4 minutes. When they have the feature with Rachel Dodds on, they go on for 10 minutes. I’m happy to admit: I don’t turn off a second of it. I’ve told Rachel this. Any time I can catch you on Thursday mornings, I’m going to listen, because I love it. I think it’s hilarious.
BB: And, Greasy Gary is on for a good 10 or 12 minutes.
DB: Greasy Gary is another one. It always depends on what time I get out of the gym, right? If I get there early, I get out in time to hear Greasy. Sometimes I get out at 7:30, and it’s like "Crap! I missed Greasy Gary again!" But, yes, that’s another one of those features you tune in for. Some days, it’s a couple minutes of talk. He does his birthdays and a joke, and he’s out. Some days those guys go on for 7 or 8 minutes. But, you still listen to the whole thing.
So, that was really accurate data showing me it’s not length of talk. It’s, is it any good or not? Do you need PPM’s to tell us that? You should know that anyway. But, unfortunately, a lot of broadcasters have misinterpreted that as, "Oh, God, you have to be in and out in 10 seconds or we’ll lose them." Well, OK. If you’ve got nothing but crap to say, you’re right. But, if you’re creating something compelling, I don’t necessarily think that’s the case.
I do think there are certain day parts where you have to keep that music moving. If it’s in the middle of the office day, and I’ve got you in the background, if I don’t hear anything but [talking] for 20 minutes, I’m probably going to switch you. But, on a morning show? Give me a break! It needs to be compelling. And, we’ve got some people in this market who are really good at that.
I know that’s a long stretch from "the first programming job"!
4. The Megan Edwards question. You lose your iPod. I find it. What songs on it would surprise me the most?
DB: Like a lot of programmers, if you go through my iPod, there's a huge variety of music on it. The stuff that's cool would shock you. I've got some Johnny Cash: "Live from Folsom Prison". I love listening to the banter on it.
It’s varied tastes, but it’s pretty cool. I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t think that Johnny Cash is cool. I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t think that Motorhead is cool. You can say you don’t like it, but it’s not, not cool.
You’ll go through all of these songs, and then you come across this big hunk of cheese, like "I am the One and Only" by Chesney Hawkes. Do you remember that song?
DB: If you ever watch "Doc Hollywood" with Michael J. Fox, that’s the song that’s playing in the opening, when he’s taking off from his hospital in his car. Big hunk of cheese.
BB: I kinda like ABBA.
DB: I love ABBA. You know how I first got into ABBA? Through Led Zeppelin. It’s a neat line to draw. When they recorded "In Through The Out Door" in the fall of ‘78, they went to Sweden to record in ABBA’s studios in Stockholm. The reason why is because Page wanted to get that same bright, live sound they had on their albums. I said, "Really?" I was a huge Zeppelin fan. Still am a Zeppelin freak. I said, "I’ll have to check this out".
I started listening back through their records. When you put on "Dancing Queen" with headphones, it’s not just the fact that they’ve got melodies, but the production is meticulous on those records. At the end of the first chorus of "Dancing Queen", with headphones on (and I don’t know how else to describe this), you hear a really low guitar part in your lower left ear. It’s almost buried in the mix. There’s so much stuff going on there. I thought, "My God. This stuff’s incredible!" I started getting more into it. Yeah. I’m an ABBA geek.
In the midst of all this cool rock stuff, and cool pop stuff because I’ve got lots of Eminem on my iPod. Then you’re going to hear Chesney Hawkes, and ABBA. I’ve got pretty broad tastes. I love Eminem. I think he’s an absolute genius.
BB: How come he hasn’t been more successful lately? Some of his albums have faltered.
DB: His last album didn’t. When he put out his so-called comeback album a couple of years ago, it didn’t really take off. It was because he was taking it too seriously. He wasn’t doing what he’s best at. This last album is just absolutely stellar. His sales figures have been crazy. Nobody does platinum albums any more, but he did.
BB: Him and Gaga?
BB: Any Lady Gaga on your iPod?
DB: Yes. She’s absolutely brilliant, whether you think she’s ripped anybody off or whatever.
BB: I think she’s this generation’s Madonna.
DB: Whether you like Madonna or not, you can’t really negate the fact that she broke a lot of ground. She did do things that nobody else had ever done. Gaga, even though she borrows from here and borrows from there, and freely admits it, is still breaking new ground. She’s got a fanatic following.
We did Summer Rush in 2008. It was the first time I saw her perform. It is the only time I met her. She had only just put out "Just Dance"; it hadn’t taken off yet. We had her on the bill. We wound up putting her on second last, just before Nelly.
She demanded to sing live, which created a lot of problems. She wasn’t there for sound check. She had been over in England. Her record company had phoned me and said, "OK. We’re getting away; we won’t be there for sound check."
I said, "Well, we’re going to put her on late." We did. I think it was 10:30 at night or something like that.
When she got there, she had to have a headset mic, which was woven into her costume. It didn’t work. I’d sent Cogswell out to do the intro. He did, and came back. The mic wasn’t working. She’s singing, and nothing’s coming out.
The crowd’s getting really restless. They start chanting, "Nelly! Nelly! Nelly!". I said, "Oh, my God! This is not going to go over well."
We eventually got it figured out and gave her a hand-held mic. She wanted to get rid of the headset mic. "Just take it off". She said, "No. It’s woven into my costume." Her seamstress had to come over and take the cord all the way through her costume. I thought for sure that anybody who walks on that stage is going to be pelted with bottles.
She went out. The crowd is chanting "Nelly! Nelly! Nelly!". She won them over. She only did 3 songs. She didn’t even have a full album out at the time. One of them was "Just Dance", of course. She was fantastic. But, she wouldn’t go out and lip sync it. We had the track. She wanted to sing it live.
BB: That says something about her.
BB: I had no idea she had played here. Now, she’s too big to play here.
DB: The last year I did Summer Rush, 2009, we had Justin Bieber. I think we paid him $2500. He was a youtube sensation, but he had only had the one single out. The kids went frigging crazy. He begged me to get him into the after party. I said, "Well, it’s at a bar." He was, what, 13 or something at the time. Couldn’t do it. His mom came, though. [laughs] She had a great time.
That was one thing that was great about Summer Rush. We’d always get these artists who were just on the cusp. The first year, we had Rihanna headline. You wouldn’t get Rihanna back to Alderney Landing now. It wouldn’t happen. But, we got her, just as "Umbrella" came out.
5. Please say something about the following people.
A. Mel Sampson
DB: One of the things that I love about this job, is that, sometimes, you get to work with the talent when they're just starting their career. You get to see the potential.
I interviewed Mel for a job in Miramichi of all places. I interviewed her in Halifax when I was working for MBS. We just hit if off; she was one of those people I sat down with and thought,"You're just a cool person." I heard her demo, and it sounded pretty good. I thought, "You're going to be a lot more than your demo on the air."
She took the job in Miramichi. She wasn't long there before I brought her to Moncton. I put her on the air there. She just blossomed so fast; the audience absolutely loved her. Who has met Mel Sampson and doesn't absolutely love her?
BB: She's a lovely, lovely person.
DB: She's just a really, really good person. That comes across so well on the air. As soon as you listen to her, you're like, "I know this person, and I like this person."
So, when a mid day position came open at Z, Mel was interested in coming. I said, "Oh, my God, yes. I'd love to have you here." I brought her to Z. It was funny. She was only there a short time. But, she got the best mid day numbers that that radio station ever had. She had come from doing AC formats, and was doing Top 40, and sold it like nobody's business.
I remember when she got the job in the Valley. She came to me, and she was in tears. I knew that she was kind of a package deal: She and Goose were looking to work in the same place together. She came to me in tears and said, "Well..."
I stopped her. I heard that Goose had got a job down in the Valley with Newcap. I said, "It's ok. I know Goose got the gig. You should definitely go. It's good. You've delivered me some fantastic numbers. I think you're awesome. Just relax and go. It's ok."
I think she's a fantastic person with a huge, bright future. If I ever hear that Mel Sampson is out of radio, I'll kick her ass back in. [laughs]
BB: You'll find a way to find her a job?
B. Jeff Cogswell
DB: Jeff is a great talent. He's got a really great heart. He's got a great delivery on air. The funny thing about his persona is that he's got ... I don't want to call it a rough exterior. He's got a slightly gruff exterior that you see through immediately if you have 2 brain cells to rub together. You can see that he's not gruff at all. He's the kind of guy who speaks his mind very quickly, but he's automatically loveable, I think because he loves everybody.
I've had this conversation with him before. I said, "I know a Hell of a lot of people. I'm not close to the number of people you know." And, he doesn't just know names. He keeps regular contact with so many people. He's really, really well-connected. He's not well-connected just because he keeps a Rolodex. He's well connected because people like him. He's a likeable guy. He should be working radio in Halifax. I hope and pray that at some point soon he is. He should be. It's criminal that he's not.
BB: It would just take another station opening up a mid-day show or something.
DB: I'm glad you said "a midday show". I was afraid you'd say, "another station opening up". We don't need another radio station. [laughs]
BB: There are a lot of people in radio who are criminally underemployed.
DB: He's one. He's gotta be somewhere.
BB: Brian Phillips is another one.
DB: Brian Phillips! Oh, my God. Talk about a radio legend. I remember watching him on tv when he used to do the Atlantic Lotto. You remember that, too?
BB: Of course.
DB: At the same time, I'm saying, "Who the Hell is he?" I was growing up in central New Brunswick.
BB: And, somehow, he would be on the air at CJCH the next morning, at 5 o'clock.
DB: Yes. A lot of morning people are funny. You don't have any real evidence that they sleep. Cogswell was like that when he was doing the [Z] morning show. He would send me messages at 11:30 at night. I was like, "Dude! Go the Hell to sleep. You're in to work in another 5 hours. For God's sake, go to bed!"
BB: There'd be remotes at the Pogue Fado ...
DB: When the station first launched, he was live to air at both The Dome and The Palace.
BB: And, then on the air the next morning.
DB: Yes. And, you'd never know it. It wasn't like he was all, "Oh, my God. It's Jeff." He sounded like Jeff. He pulled it off. I don't know. Maybe he doesn't sleep.
BB: I go on Facebook. I can see who's logged on. He's always at the top of the list, no matter what hour.
C. JC Douglas
DB: Who doesn’t know JC?
BB: He’s been a good friend of the Blog.
DB: You know what? I think he’s been a good friend of radio in general. He’s one of those guys where, every time I get a chance to talk to him, man, he’s always fun to talk to. And, not just about radio, because he can certainly talk radio. And, he can talk music.
I was actually at the Newcap Christmas party last year. He and I talked for half an hour; radio never came up. He’s just a guy I can carry on a conversation with. He’s very generous with his conversation. At the same time, he’s a smart radio guy. I can tell you that I can’t think of anybody else in the industry who works as hard for it as he does. JC’s not successful by accident. The guy works his ass off for it, and it shows. It’s not just the fact that he’s hosting the Sunday show. I know how much work he puts in behind the scenes. It’s not just because I know people he’s worked with. You hear that coming through the airwaves. You hear the fact that he puts so much work into it, has so much passion for it.
I remember when Alex Chilton [lead singer of The Box Tops] died. JC appeared during the lunch time show. I can’t remember if it was because Anna Zee was on vacation or if he just decided to pop in and do it. But he presented the complete history of Alex Chilton: What the story was behind his vocals on The Letter, the fact that he was only 17 when he did it. JC’s encyclopedic that way.
BB: He would have just known this without having to research it?
DB: Oh, yes. I know he didn’t research it; he just knew it. I’m a music phile myself. I love packing away that stuff. You know, like knowing that Led Zeppelin recorded in Polar Studios in November and December 1978. JC’s into all that stuff, too.
I have a lot of respect for JC.
BB: I’ve asked this question of other people who know each other at other stations. I’ve never asked a program director what it’s like to program against another station when that station’s PD is your buddy. You’re competing for advertising dollars. You’re competing for market share. It’s 2 different formats, but it’s still competing in those ways. How is that?
DB: I’ve been in that situation a lot of times, where I knew the PD across the street. Ultimately, you’re there to do a job. Your job is to try to carve out the best possible market share you can. Steve Jones is another guy who I have a lot of respect for. He’s not just a fantastic programmer; he’s a fantastic person. He and I will chat on occasion. We don’t get together every week, but we get together for coffee occasionally.
There’s a mutual respect there. "You program this way, and I’ll program that way." I feel I’m not answering your question. How do you do it? It’s not a personal thing. I think the programmers who wind up in trouble were the ones who do take it personally. I know some who do. Not only will they not talk to the programmer across the street; they won’t allow their staff. "You guys can’t talk to them, because they’re over there." Well, Christ, we’re all in the same industry. If you’re smart about competing formats, you take out your piece of the market place. Yeah, you’re trying to take a piece from the other guy, but does that mean you have to hate each other? We’re not Spartans on the battlefield. We’re all in this because we love radio. I’m in this because, when the day comes that I have to go out and do a real job, I’ll probably wither and die.
D. Merv Russell
DB: Merv Russell goes all the way back to my Maclean-Hunter days in 1989. He was an enigma then; I never met the guy. I just heard he was the guy at the top. It was Merv Russell and Jack Schoone. Then, Jack Schoone retired, and it was Merv Russell.
I got to meet Merv once, I think, when MacLean-Hunter owned it. He was this larger-than-life radio God. "Oh, my God. This is the guy who started K100 in Saint John!" That was his. He was this radio legend. He had been around the block. He had been on the air. He had done it all and worked his way up through the ranks until he became President of the Radio arm of the company.
After Rogers bought it, Merv wanted to have it back. He got his investors together, Robert Pace and Gerry Godsoe. Then, I really got to see more of Merv Russell. It was a smaller company then and he would come around.
I’ve never told Merv this, but when we did the CRTC hearings in 2004, when I was working for MBS, I really got to spend some serious time with him. I’d always respected the man. I had always respected his achievements. But, when I got to see more of him and more of the personal side of him, I thought, "Wow! This guy is even greater than I gave him credit for."
I miss him. He’s been out of radio now for, what, six or seven years?
BB: If not longer.
DB: He should still be in it.
BB: I used to listen to his editorials on CHNS in the morning. Hardly anyone does them any more.
DB: Merv was known for them. I still see him from time to time. I’ve never told him how much I hated it when he left the industry, and how much I wish he were back. He’d probably find it uncomfortable if I told him anyway.
But, I have a lot of respect for Merv. He was radio for me for a long time.
BB: Him and Mike Cranston.
DB: Mike’s another guy that I’ve crossed paths with I don’t know how many times. He’s seen more and remembers more than I’ll ever know.
E. Denyse Sibley
DB: Denyse Sibley is another character I’ve come across a few times in my radio career. I think it’s because we’ve worked together in different capacities. At this point, she’s described it as we’re almost like brother and sister.
I have a lot of respect for Denyse. She’s got a great profile in the city. And, just like JC, it’s not by accident. She works really, really hard for that. The more time you spend with her, the more likable she is. She’s got such a great personality, and she puts it out there when she’s on the air. I have a lot of respect for people on the air, and I can say, "Well, that’s them. They’re not putting on. They’re not making up bits. That’s them." And, that’s what you get when you listen to Denyse on the air, and when you meet her in person. She’s just so fantastic with listeners. I haven’t met many people who work harder than Denyse. She works really, really hard.
BB: She told me she gets up at 2:30.
BB: I can’t fathom that. I get up to pee at 2:30 in the morning.
DB: [laughs] And, then you go back to bed.
BB: I’m at that age.
DB: She’s another one of those people that I don’t have any real positive evidence that she actually sleeps. I assume that she does at some point.
Not a lot of people work harder than Denyse. I have a lot of respect for her. She’s earned everything she’s got.
F. Tom Bedell
DB: It’s funny. Tom I know more about on air than I do in person. I have met him a couple of times. I’ve had beer with Tom before. He’s another one of those guys that what you hear on the air, that’s Tom Bedell. He’s got a really dry wit. It’s almost like I’d like to hear more of the dry wit on the air.
BB: It does come through.
DB: Yes. I haven’t spent a lot of time with him, but I certainly could. I’ve actually been out with him for breakfast. We were part of a group.
I remember I had beer with him after the first Hal book had come out. We were at, I think, The Lower Deck. I chatted with Tom. Hal had had a pretty decent launch, not huge, but certainly the best book they’ve had, ever. They haven’t had one like it since. Tom was just even keel about the whole thing. We just chatted about music. He’s one of those guys who’s a champion not just of rock music, but he’s a champion of Maritime music. It’s not just his show. Those of you who are reading this who have never met Tom and just heard his show: It’s not just his show. The guy champions local music. And, he knows his stuff. I’ve always got a lot of respect for anybody who knows the music, and doesn’t just play it. Tom’s definitely in that category. And, he’s just a nice guy. He’s one of those guys I could have beer with and say, "Let’s have the next six hours with Tom Bedell! OK. I’m cool with that."
BB: I miss The Requesta Fiesta a lot. Obviously that was a JC decision. At some point, I hope it comes back, because when I think of Tom Bedell, I think of The Requesta Fiesta.
DB: I’ve never asked JC why he took that off either, but I would like to know.
G. K8 [Bevboy Note: This interview was conducted before K8 got the job as Afternoon Drive on C100]
DB: Miss K8!
BB: I have not had the pleasure of meeting her.
DB: You haven't?
DB: Oh, my God. You should.
BB: I would love to meet her.
DB: She's an absolute scream. When we were first starting Z, I mentioned to you before that we had all these resumes coming in. I was going through them. K8 is one of those people who had sent in a demo. Like all the others, I popped it into the cd player. It was terrible. Oh, my God. It was bad. I chucked it.
She kept coming to the station. I remember sitting in my office. Paul Evanov, the VP of Programming, was chatting with me. She came to the door. How did she even get to the door? She said, "Hi. I'm K8. We need to talk."
I said, "OK. We'll talk. Come back tomorrow.", or whatever it was I said to her.
She came back, and we sat down. I said, "OK. I'll talk to you." I talked to her, and she was K8. She's just this really engaging personality. She's really focused. She's really smart. She's really funny. I said, "K8, I really think you're cool."
She said, "Great."
I said, "Your demo's terrible. It's awful."
She said, "Really?"
I said, "Here's what I want to try: I'm going to get you to come back tomorrow." Chris Evans was the midday guy. "I'm going to get you to sit in with Chris. I just want you to pop on the mic whenever the Hell you feel like it. Talk about whatever you feel like talking about. But just talk like this. That's it. Do that."
She came in for two days and did that. At the end of the second day, I brought her in. I pull up the logger. I said, "Listen to this. Tell me what you think of this." I played it back, and it was K8 being K8.
I said, "What do you think?"
She said, "I think it sounds pretty good."
I said, "Yeah. I do, too."
Then, I put her demo on. I said, "Listen to this."
She said, "Oh, my God."
I said, "Yeah. Who the Hell is that chick? I would never give her a job. Never! But, how about you? That stuff you did with Chris. Do you think you could do that on the air?" She said yes, so I hired her. She started out doing the Evening show. She moved to the Afternoon Drive show. And, now, she's at The Bounce. She's doing absolutely killer.
BB: Were you sorry that she left Z?
DB: I was already gone by then. [laughs] I just wanted to see her do well.
BB: She had the Drive Home show at Z. Now, she has an Evening show at The Bounce. I should ask her this question. Why would she go from one day part to another?
DB: Well, you should definitely ask her. There are financial differences from company to company. But, also, there's the fact that, when it comes to Top 40, the Evening show is as important if not more important than the Drive show.
She and I had a coffee. She asked me about it. She was mulling it over. I was already gone at that point. She said, "What do you think?"
I said, "Christ, you should go for it. This is going to open bigger and better things for you."
She actually filled in on Afternoon Drive on The Bounce for a long time. They were between Drive announcers for two books, I think. The last book, she had stellar numbers in Afternoon Drive. She is a talent.
BB: And, yet, they wouldn't give her the permanent position?
DB: I don't know if it's that they wouldn't, or if they had someone else in mind and it took them a while to get them.
K8 is another one that I'm keeping my eye on. She's going to be someone who will be able to write her own ticket if she stays on her game.
BB: In Halifax, or not?
DB: I think she could. The question will be, "Will she?" You know, there are people who are here in the Maritimes by choice. Does B.J. Burke need to be in Halifax? Look where he was. He's in Halifax because he wants to be. B.J. Wilson? Because he wants to be.
DB: You take a look at The Fox in Fredericton. Fred McCausland? He's had offers. He's had offers to go to markets in Montreal. He's still in Fredericton. Why? Because he likes it there.
BB: Jay Bedford in Cape Breton.
DB: Jay's been in Cape Breton forever. So, with K8, it will be her choice. If she wants to stay in Halifax, if that's what makes her happy, she will. But, if she wants the opportunity, she'll go.
Nikki Balch was another one of those [who left]. I just loved working with her. When she had the opportunity to go to Montreal, she asked me, "What should I do?" I know she asked a few people, not just me. I said, "For God's sake, you're in your twenties. Do it now!" When you get to be my age, it gets harder to move. If you want to come back, you can always come back."
H. DJ No Luv. Jeremy Slattery. How am I supposed to address the guy? What do you call him?
DB: [laughs] I actually call him both. I call him No Luv; and I call him Jeremy. He was already hired as Music Director when I started. When I first met him, I was actually introduced to him as, "This is 'Jeremy "DJ No Luv" Slattery' ".
I asked him right away. "Where the Hell does that name come from?" I won't mention which club, but he worked at a club where the DJ's just didn't get any respect. They got no love. So, he called himself "DJ No Luv".
DB: He might be single, but I don't think the guy's lonely. He's an interesting cat because he was on the panel of that CRTC hearing I was at in 2004. He was on the panel with Evanov. The best way I can describe him is passionate. We all got up there; we all did our thing.
The Evanov's got up and they did their whole thing for HFX Broadcasting and this is why we should have the license. The Commission thanked them.
Jeremy stood up. He said, "I have one more thing I want to say." You could see the rest of the panel. Their faces were turning white. What the Hell is this guy going to say? It was quick, but it was a diatribe. "Halifax needs a radio station like this." He went on to say how nobody cares about the youth in this town. He really hammered it home. The audience applauded.
I was like, "Holy shit. Who is this guy?" I had no idea who he is, and he's really passionate about this format.
They got the license. I like to joke with him. I said, "Well, it was your speech. Never mind your presentation." He had never done a radio station before Z. It was his first time as a music director. But, whatever he lacked in experience he made up for in passion. The one thing I will say about the guy is, "Nobody can say he doesn't care." You can say you don't like the way he DJ's in clubs; I happen to love the way he DJ's in clubs. You can say you don't like the radio station; I happen to like the radio station. But you can never accuse the guy of not caring. He cares big time. He cares about the format, and he cares about the people in the building.
BB: When I interviewed Neil Spence a few months ago, it was a Sunday evening. As we were leaving, Jeremy was in his office working. He had just returned from Toronto or something. On a Sunday night, he's in his office. I'm not sure how unusual that is, but it says something about a guy when he's working on a Sunday night when he could be home doing something else. '
DB: Well, the fact that he had to do club gigs, or he'd have to go to Toronto... he'd get to go on some great trips. He'd get to go to Miami for a conference down there, but he never missed any work because of it. I would go on the road with him to Toronto, and he would have his computer with him, and he'd be doing music scheduling. He didn't want to trust someone else to do it. And, it wasn't because he didn't think anyone else could do it. It was just that he wanted it done the way he wanted it done. So, he'd do it.
BB: I'm looking forward to talking to the guy! I hope it happens soon.
6. What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received, and who provided it?
DB: I’ve had a lot of pieces of radio advice, and a lot of pieces of programming advice. It’s hard to pinpoint one. It’s funny. The best piece of professional advice I think I ever got was a piece of personal advice. It was from Jim Ferguson in Charlottetown.
I work hard. I don’t want to give the impression I don’t work hard any more. But, I used to work just like an ant digging through an ant farm. Jim told me, "You know what? How much time do you spend with your family?"
I never took vacations. I just didn’t. I said, "Well, I’ll see my family tonight."
The piece of advice he gave me that always stuck with me was, "You’re not going to lie on your death bed and say, ‘God, I wish I’d spent more time at work!’"
It was a good perspective for me. I’ve gone through one marriage. I’m very careful with the second one. Yes, I still work hard; but you have to make sure that you give some balance to your life.
It’s an important thing to tell on air staff, too. I know a lot of on air staff work really hard; but what do they bring to the airwaves if they don’t have some kind of personal experience, if they don’t have some kind of home life? You can’t be a personality unless you’ve got a personal life. It’s really important to find that balance. I didn’t have that for a long time. That was definitely the best piece of advice I’ve ever had.
7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
DB: Saying, "Do you want fries with that?"
[Dan and Bev laugh]
I’ve got a couple of projects that I’ve been working on for a little while. Without saying too much, I think in 5 years, if you came back and saw me, it’d be like, "Holy shit! Are you really doing this?" That would either be good or really bad.
BB: Do you hope to remain in the medium?
DB: I’m always going to have some tie to the medium. I have to be honest with you. I’ve been doing this for 22 years. I never thought I’d go this long. I only started this because it was fun. I didn’t think it was a career. And, to be 22 years into it and still doing it... if it all ended tomorrow, that’s a pretty good run. If I had to start a real job, I’d probably eventually wither and die, but it’d be ok because I’d have got 22 years out of it.
I think I’ll always have some tie with the industry. Even if it’s just with the fact that I’ve met so many really great people in it and I’ll always be in touch with them. Yes, I think in the industry, but I think probably doing something a little bit different than what I’m doing right now. Is that cryptic enough for you? [laughs]
BB: Hmm. You’re cryptic and intriguing. The blog will be out here 5 years from now and we’ll follow up. How’s that?
8. What drives Dan Barton? Do you work to live, or live to work?
DB: It’s both. I love this so much, that it is hard for me to picture myself doing something else. But, I think it’s because I’ve done every facet: I’ve written copy. I’ve scheduled commercials through Traffic. I’ve sold. I’ve been on the air. Programming. News Director. I’ve been a reporter. I’ve done the Summer Cruiser, for God’s sake. Name a job in a radio station, and I’ve done it.
What drives me is just the fact that I really do love all those little pieces that put it together. Any piece that I get to focus on, makes me happy. That’s why I think, if the bottom fell out tomorrow, and I started being a copywriter, that would be ok.
BB: Is there a particular part of being in radio that you feel you found the most fulfilling?
DB: [pauses] It is Programming, because it really encompasses all of those things. You’re trying to create a product. Everything that goes into it, from how scripts are written to how things are produced, to how the announcer delivers to how the mics sound, how your processing is, to what kind of packages the sales team is selling and what you’re promoting, they all fall under Programming, because it all affects the sound of your radio station. I think that’s why I like it so much, because it has every little piece of that puzzle. That’s definitely the piece I enjoy the most.
BB: Is that something you would see yourself doing again some time?
DB: Yes. It’s the kind of thing that, if I did walk away from it, I would miss it, and I would probably be trying to get back into it somehow. I think that’s one of the nice things about doing my consulting thing: If I do step away from it and do something else, I can always pick up a gig helping somebody. I’ll always find one or two people who think I know something. [laughs]
BB: In town?
DB: Either in town, or abroad. The nice thing about consulting is that you can do it from anywhere.
9. We had tried to book this interview for a Chinese restaurant, but you indicated you don’t like Chinese food. Why not? What is it? The MSG, or too many rumours?
DB: [laughs] No. You know what it is? I am one of the most difficult people to go out to dinner with you’ve ever met. It drives my wife insane. You talk about someone who’s a meat and potatoes guy? I am literally a meat and potatoes guy.
BB: You had chicken fingers tonight.
DB: Yes. You know really why it was? There’s a lot of stuff on the menu. I’ve eaten here before. A lot of stuff is good. It’s just that you were hungry, so I said, "Yeah. That!" Which is fine.
But, when it comes to Chinese food, there are just certain types of food that are a little too sketchy for me. Chinese food would fall under that. I have to know exactly what’s in everything.
BB: Some things are best not known.
DB: Yeah. And I can’t live like that. I have to know what’s in it, man. If you go grocery shopping with me, I read the box on everything.
BB: Are you a Superstore guy, or a Sobeys guy?
DB: Yes. I don’t have any grocery store loyalty. What’s on sale this week? [laughs]
BB: There’s a No Frills in Spryfield. The prices are really good.
DB: No kidding? I’ve been to Spryfield; I take my kids to the wave pool there.
BB: It’s where the Superstore was. It’s now a No Frills. It’s a nice store, and the prices are significantly lower.
DB: Oh, Hell. I’m going!
BB: We go there all the time. And, they don’t have Chinese food there, either. Nor sushi.
10. You ask me a question.
DB: Is it OK if it’s a two-parter?
DB: You’ve interviewed a lot of radio people.
BB: I have.
DB: You’ve got a real passion for this.
BB: And a reputation, apparently.
DB: Yes, you do. Sure, you do. Is there somebody in radio who doesn’t know Bevboy’s Blog? I’d heard about your blog long before I even knew who the Hell you were.
BB: I don’t assume that people know who I am.
DB: Oh, they do.
BB: I don’t assume that. I say, "Hi. I’m Bev Keddy. I run a blog, and I interview you radio people." I don’t assume that they know who I am just because of the avatar picture that I use. [Bev and Dan laugh]
DB: Well, what I’m curious about, because you talk to so many radio people, first I want to know: What do you think is the most amazing thing you’ve learned about radio by doing these interviews?
BB: I don’t know if it’s "amazing" so much, as it’s been revelatory. Even stations that play music I don’t like, I can now appreciate the craft that goes into doing a radio show. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before. I can look at these people and say that they working eff-ing hard, day in and day out, oftentimes not for very much money.
I don’t know what the salary ranges in radio are; I’ve never asked that question, and I’m never going to ask that question.
DB: And, all of us will lie to you anyway.
BB: That’s right. Maybe I make more money than some people do in radio, or maybe they make more money than I do. I would feel bad, or they would feel bad. So, why would I ask that question?
So, I appreciate the craft that goes into doing a radio show. It’s a Hell of a lot easier to listen to it than it is to be there doing it. I’m sure it’s a really, really hard job. There are aspects of being in radio that maybe I could learn to do, but I don’t know if I could learn to do them well enough to be hired by you or JC Douglas or anyone else. The more interviews I do with you guys, the more I appreciate and respect what you do. I’m not sure if I’m answering your question.
DB: That’s awesome. It’s funny that you say that it being hard work. I’m not saying that people don’t work hard. I’m saying for those who are talented, it’s not as hard. I think it’s probably similar to acting. You see some of these actors on the talk shows. They say, "My God. I put so much into my craft." Well, I think that a lot of them do; and they work really hard at it. But at the same time, if they didn’t have the talent, it would be impossible. There are jobs out there, let’s take actor for example; I couldn’t act for shit.
BB: I took an acting course a number of years ago.
DB: Did you?
BB: Improvisational acting. It is a hard thing to do. Ever since then, when I watch a movie or tv show, I’m looking at the background players. We were trained in that course that you have to remain in character at all times. You have to be in the back of the bus scared shitless because the bus is going to blow up, right? You can’t be talking to your buddy about the ball game last night.
DB: And, I think there’s a part of that, too, with radio. If you have the talent to do it, it becomes easier. But, I do know that a lot of them work really hard at the craft, too. I think it’s awesome that you’ve had a chance to see that. That’s really cool.
The second part of my question. I don’t know if it’s awkward or not. What’s the most disappointing thing you’ve learned about radio in talking to radio people?
BB: I’m not sure if "disappointing" is the right word. But, the reality is that there’s not very much glamour. I thought it would be, you’re on the air, and you’re having a great time. But the reality is that you get up frightfully early. You drive a six year old car. Maybe you had a fight with your spouse the night before. And, you have to go on the air and be professional and upbeat and so on. The glamour of what you guys do is lost to me. I don’t see it any more. I can see that it’s a craft, and you work really hard at it.
DB: I can shine some light on this for you. Everyone you talk to is lying to you. It’s all hookers and blow. They’re just afraid to tell you.
BB: And another thing: I haven’t met any assholes yet. I’m sure there are some.
DB: Dig deeper. [laughs]
DB: Oh, absolutely. She is. She’s still a sweetheart.
BB: Of course she is. I didn’t mean it in a bad way. She’s just really serious about her career.
DB: You know what? We’re a pretty tight-knit community. You asked the question before of how do you program against your buddies. I won’t say there are no assholes in radio; there’s assholes everywhere. But, for the most part, you’re looking at a bunch of people who love what they do so much that we just naturally bond over it. I think that’s why you haven’t met too many assholes.
BB: And, they haven’t said yes to me yet.
I think that the guy who does the night shift at whatever station you want to name, in his own way will work just as hard as someone on the morning show.
DB: Oh, most definitely. It’s harder for them because when you’re working day time, you have a support system around you. When you’re the night guy, you’re all alone. I remember that feeling really well.
BB: I guess I’ll ask you one follow up question. How did you first hear about Bevboy’s Blog?
DB: It was probably through Facebook. You had interviewed somebody who had gotten tagged. I thought, "What the Hell is this?" I looked into this and looked over on the side [where the various labels for my blog are displayed, showing who’s been interviewed on the blog] and said, "Jesus! He’s talked to all these people! What is this?" I started clicking on them and thought, "This is kind of cool!" I thought it was really cool.
BB: As far as I know, I don’t know if there’s anybody else in the world who does this.
DB: Not that I know of.
BB: There’s a guy in the States who interviews old tv comedians and talk show hosts and so on. He’s the only other counterpart I’m aware of.
DB: This is the only radio personality or radio employee blog that I’ve ever stumbled across.
BB: I started doing it because I’ve loved radio my whole life. Every once in a while, the Herald would interview Anna Zee, or Don Connolly or someone. I would live for those odd occasions when they would do that. It didn’t happen nearly enough. I thought, "I’ll just have to do this myself!". which is a Hell of an egotistical thing to say. I don’t have any accreditation as a broadcaster.
DB: Why do you need accreditation as a broadcaster?
BB: I have no accreditation as an interviewer, either. It’s something I’ve had to teach myself to do.
DB: What accreditation do any of us have?
BB: You go to school, and you get a diploma.
DB: Yeah. OK. Great. And, that and $1.73 will get you a large coffee at Tim’s. I’ve stumbled through a 22 year career. What accreditation do I have to do what I do? Just that I’ve been doing it. How long have you been doing the blog?
BB: Since 2007.
DB: There’s your accreditation. You’ve been doing it for four years.
Inaugurating a new feature on the Bevboy’s Blog interviews. Bevboy approaches a person who knows the interview subject and asks that person to compose one question which will be incorporated into the interview.
This question is courtesy of Mel Sampson, Afternoon Drive host at K-Rock 89.3 in New Minas.
11. What was the first album you ever bought? What was the first concert you ever attended? Now for the "radio part." Should personal musical interests dictate what station format you work at?..
DB: The first album I ever bought was KISS: Destroyer. 1976. I know what you’re thinking: I wasn’t even born yet. I was a huge KISS freak.
BB: Me too.
BB: It was like a disco thing. And they still playing that frigging song on the radio.
DB: I hate that fucking song.
BB: I do, too. And they still play it on KOOL.
DB: That was when I was done; I was done with KISS. "Sorry. You’ve stopped being cool. Your not Rock any more. I’m done." As if the solo albums weren’t enough.
BB: Well, Paul Stanley’s album... I’ll still defend some of the songs on it.
DB: It was the one that sounded the most like KISS. Ace Frehley’s was my favourite. I was always an Ace freak, anyway. But, Destroyer? I was just so enamored.
BB: The stuff from the early ‘80‘s, like The Elder from ‘81, and KISS Unmasked from 1980. That was the one with the comic book cover. It was a piece of shit.
DB: I remember that. It was so awful, so terrible. "Creatures of the Night" actually redeemed them a bit. It didn’t sell that well, but it was actually a pretty good album.
BB: Then they did the "Lick It Up" album, and all the records where they didn’t have make up.
DB: I liked "Creatures of the Night", but I didn’t like another KISS album until Revenge came out. I thought, "Holy shit! It’s a rock record. Awesome."
The first concert I ever saw? I love telling this story. It was April Wine in 1984. It was their farewell tour. [laughter] It was their "One for the Road" tour.
BB: I remember there was an April Wine video from around that time. It had Myles Goodwin in it. Just Myles Goodwin. He was the only official member of April Wine back then or something.
DB: That wasn’t from ‘84, actually. In ‘84 they did a video for "This Could Be the Right One", which had them all in it. If you youtube it now, it’s really embarrassing.
BB: This is a video where he’s performing in front of a television.
DB: I wonder if you’re thinking of "Are You Still Loving Me?",which is a solo single. We could probably youtube it on my BlackBerry. He did a contractual obligation album, calling it April Wine. It was him and Brian Greenway and Simon Phillips and some pick-up players. It had a version of "Rock Myself to Sleep" and I forget what the Hell else was on it. "Walking Through Fire" was the name of the album. It was ‘86. You have me wondering about the video now.
But, in ‘84, they put out "Animal Grace". They did their "One for the Road" tour. They put out the live album in ‘85. That was it. They were done. They did their contractual obligation album. Myles went solo. I think they came back together in ‘93, when they did "Attitude".
But, my first concert was April Wine. Corey Hart was the opening act. He was just coming up. It was a great show.
BB: Where was it?
DB: It was in Fredericton, at the Aitkin Centre. It was just a couple months shy of my 15th birthday. I thought I was seeing God. It was just amazing, you know, to see April Wine on stage. I’d been a fan since i was about 6, 7 years old. I think I was about 6 years old when my oldest brother, who was 10 years older than me, brought "Stand Back" in the house. The first 2 albums in the house were "Stand Back" by April Wine, and "Four Wheel Drive" by BTO. We just played them endlessly. I was seeing my heroes in concert..
BB: There was a discussion on Facebook a few weeks ago about the first record you ever bought. I mentioned that the first record I ever bought, before I even owned a record player, was The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl. You’ve been looking for that album for a long, long time.
DB: When you talked about my iPod, one song I have on my iPod, is "Boys". It’s Ringo on lead vocal from Live at the Hollywood Bowl. I had that on cassette, once upon a time. I loved the fact that when they did that, they recorded it on 3 track. But, it was all from a board mix, from the stage. What you’re hearing on that album is not what the crowd heard. The crowd couldn’t hear shit. They were screaming so loud, they couldn’t hear anything. But, when Ringo starts "Boys", and I think it’s Paul who introduces him, you can barely hear the band. They talk about how they could barely hear each other.
When I put that on my iPod, you hear that rush from the crowd, you can barely hear the band in the background. I thought, "Holy shit. That’s what they heard on stage." I’d love to have that whole album.
BB: It was never officially released on cd, according to my research. Is that because it’s too poor? It’s almost like a lost Beatles album.
DB: I had it on cassette, the worst audio storage device that was ever created.
BB: I bought it the vinyl album when it came out in ‘77. I know who I sold it to. Rick Daniels, who runs The Market in Wolfville. Ever been there?
BB: It’s like an old headshop. He and his wife are in their sixties now. He used to sell a lot of records. I sold my Beatles collection to him. That album is worth money now.
DB: Go check it out on ebay. You’ll see how much it’s worth.
BB: Mel’s last question: Should personal music interests dictate what station format you work at?
DB: You can work different formats. If you’re the type of person that only likes rock, you’re not going to last at a Top 40 radio station. You’re going to hate it. You have to do what you love.
It’s the same thing as a personality. You can work different formats. But, if you absolutely hated rock music, then for Christ’s sake, don’t apply for a job at the Q. You’re going to hate it there. JC’s not going to hire you anyway; he’s going to see through that. You do have to have some affinity for what you play.
You don’t have to love every song that you play. Myself, I do like a variety of formats. I’ve been really fortunate because my favourite formats that I’ve ever done were rock and Top 40. I got a chance to do them both. I enjoy Country,. I do enjoy every format, but if you asked me to do a Jazz station, I couldn’t do it. I can appreciate Jazz; I don’t love Jazz. I couldn’t do it.
BB: Would you want to be the Program Director at News 95.7, if that opened up?
DB: No. I couldn’t do it. Again, news is something I have an appreciation for. I don’t have the passion for it.
So, I do think you do have some kind of passion for the format. Good question, Mel! Well done.
BB: Did you read the interview I did with her?
BB: She’s a young woman, and she’s playing the music of her older brother’s or even her parents’ generation. I just wondered if that felt uncomfortable to her. She happened to grow up in a house where they played that stuff all the time. She has an affinity for it.
DB: It was the same as for me. I was doing an Oldies morning show in Sydney when I was 27 years old. It was 1996. I was born in 1969. Am I going to have an appreciation for the Beach Boys’ "I Get Around"? Yes, because I grew up listening to it. Those were records I got into, too.
It’s funny. One of my favourite quotes about music from that era is from Neil Peart, from RUSH. He says his favourite six drummers were all Hal Blaine. When you listen to a lot of those records from the ‘60‘s, including The Beach Boys, Hal Blaine played drums on all of those.
BB: And you can just tell from the way he plays? I’ve never been able to do that? Maybe the odd time I can hear Charlie Watts who has a certain signature sound, but other than that, I can’t tell one drummer from another.
DB: All those guys played on each other’s records.
BB: As a program director, is it difficult not to play certain songs that you would like, simply because someone decided that this is a classic rock song; and this one, while it’s still a classic rock song, doesn’t fit, for whatever reason in a format? There are a lot of songs that would be excellent to hear, but they never make the cut to radio. I’ve never figured that one out.
DB I learned early on: You have to separate your personal music taste from what happens at the radio. If you were to take my personal music taste and put it on the radio, it would be the most schizophrenic piece of garbage you ever heard. It really would. Again, we’re talking about Johnny Cash, Motorhead and Chesney Hawkes., whom you’ve never even heard of. It would really be far too eclectic for the general public to even be able to grasp on. "What the Hell is that radio station?"
BB: Do you think it’s wrong for Live 105 to be playing "Hurt" by Johnny Cash?
DB: No. It’s technically not classic rock.
BB: Do you applaud them playing the song?
DB: Yes. Definitely. When Johnny Cash’s "Hurt" came out, Rick Rubin had produced that album. I thought, "Wow!" I watched the video. I don’t think my mouth closed for the entire thing, the first time I saw it. I thought, "Oh, my God. That was just incredible." I think a modern rock audience appreciates that. That’s why I said earlier: Johnny Cash is cool. I don’t care who you are. He’s cool. I think the modern rock audience knows that. For him to cover that song was absolutely brilliant because he (and even Trent Reznor can tell you this) gave it a depth that the original just didn’t have. Do you want to talk about a man who’s seen hurt? Johnny Cash.
BB: Dan Barton, thank you very much for the last almost 3 hours of your life.
DB: I feel like I’ve taken up your whole damned evening.
DB: I felt bad. I saw you shivering. I was thinking I should hand you my jacket.
BB: No. That’s what men do to girls. I’m not a girl.
DB: Jesus! I wouldn’t have thought of it that way. [laughs]
BB: I’ll suffer. Dan, it’s been a pleasure meeting you. I thank you so much for your time. Spread the word about Bevboy’s Blog.
DB: Done deal.