Full Throttle Rock – Eddie Trunk
Article By: Curt “Dudley” Miller
Originally Published In The October 2013 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Eddie Trunk has done what every hard rock and heavy metal fan dreams of — he’s turned being a fan into a career. His sole mission was to do everything he could to promote the music and bands he loved. He began working at a radio station before graduating high school. Soon after, while working in a New Jersey record store across the street from yet another radio station, he began filtering the latest hard rock and metal music to that station’s DJs, making the station’s programming director none to happy. He later joined Megaforce Records, the label that signed Anthrax and Metallica. There, Trunk was instrumental in signing KISS’ Ace Frehley to a solo contract. He later left the label for a full-time radio gig at New York’s Q104.3FM, where he still rocks the airways. Eddie has a show every Monday night on Sirius called Hair Nation. He’s also the host of VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, and in 2010 he released his first book: Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock & Heavy Metal. Cycle Source had a chance to sit down with Eddie at the Northeast Motorcycle Expo in Boston, MA. Here’s what he had to say about his 30 years of promoting the music that moved him so much he had no choice but to dedicate his life to it.
CS: What’s your first recollection of experiencing music: your parents’ music collection, radio, church, even before the Raspberries?
ET: Before I encountered the music of the Raspberries, it was the mid-‘70s. I was very young and mostly listened to the pop music of the day including: 1910 Fruitgum Company, Bobby Sherman, and Bobby Goldsboro. I also remember having a lot of Partridge Family albums, too.
CS: What was it about hard rock and heavy metal that resonated with you more than any of the other music?
ET: It was the aggression, the energy of the music, and even though I don’t play any instruments, there’s something about the tone of a loud guitar that drove me to hard rock and heavy metal music. The sound of a big, loud, resonating power-chord is something that, to this day, I still love. The other thing that’s really essential to me is vocals. With any music that I love, I’ve got to like the singer. If I don’t, I’m done no matter what’s going on.
CS: It never seemed to occur to you that becoming a radio personality at such a young age and without being a known commodity was, and still is, absolutely unheard of. At the time, did it seem like, “Hey, maybe this is just the way things are done in the radio business?” Or had you begun to realize already that you weren’t the average fan and that your passion and willingness to work hard to promote “your” music had already struck a chord inside the music industry and people were taking notice?
ET: At the time I was trying to break into the business, my only passion was a desire to share the music and bands that I loved with other people. As I got older and wanted to make a living and a business out of it, I tried to diversify as much as possible. I may not have had a backup plan should a career in the music industry not work out, but I wanted to have my hands in all areas of it. When I was very young I wrote about music, got into radio, worked for a record label and in artist management, and eventually got into television about 10 years ago. It was always a building blocks kind of thing, and to see in which area I could get some traction. Once I got a taste of radio and broke into the New York market, that’s when things really changed for me. I made the decision to chase the media side of the business and doing all of the things I’d done before. Knowing about the business and various people in the industry at different levels really gave me something tangible that others really didn’t have.
CS: Looking back now, how might you view that tremendously eager young man that only wanted his bands and his music to get the recognition and the airplay he believed they legitimately deserved?
ET: I was simply a fan fighting for the bands and the music I loved, and I’m that same exact person now. I’m not saying this just to sound humble — I really do consider myself just a fan. The difference now is that I’ve got a wife and two kids that rely on me. I’ve reached a point where I’ve had to find a way to make a living at it. I never want to lose sight of being “that fan,” but I also need to make certain that the bills get paid.
CS: What would you advise an up-and-coming musician or just a music lover aspiring to be a music host/journalist for radio or television, as to how they might become the next Eddie Trunk?
ET: It’s incredibly difficult, even more so now than it was when I broke into the industry since there are so many outlets for media these days. It used to be if you had a radio show, you were “on the radio.” If you had a TV show, you were “on TV.” Nowadays, media is such a big open pallet. Anyone can create a blog, a Website, or a Twitter account. I’m not saying that to disparage anyone who does it; it’s just much harder to navigate the waters as to what’s real and has some traction and what’s not. It’s just like the record industry. It used to be that when artists created CDs, it was an accomplishment. Now anybody can come up and hand me a CD because people can make them in their bedroom. So things have gotten very cloudy as to what’s real. Thus, it’s become very hard to distinguish oneself in this industry.
CS: There’s some concern these days that music and musicianship are in danger of becoming diluted as digital recording and production methods, like Pro Tools and Autotune, replace traditional recording methods. Are you inclined to go along with that or do you believe that true musicianship will continue to strive?
ET: I’m certainly more of an old-school guy in the sense that I love my CDs. I enjoy things that I can hold and consume myself with. I’m much more into that than someone just emailing me a song file. Now I know everything moves forward eventually. I absolutely think true musicianship will always survive. There are real artists out there, like Dave Grohl and Slash, who’ve gone back to more analog styles of recording. Those guys are talented enough that they don’t need tricks. So, although the digital world will likely have some small place in rock music, most people know that the real talent is in rock and metal bands. They’re the ones who can recreate it every night and who’ll want to enter the studio and capture it live.
CS: No interview could ever do justice to your incredible story, but can you tell us about a couple of moments that stand out in your mind?
ET: I can definitely tell you about the most recent one. I was on the road with Aerosmith and Cheap Trick. Originally, I was travelling on behalf of a promoter and doing some meet-andgreets. The bands found out I was there and completely took me under their wings. They let me fly on their plane and stand on the side of the stage while they performed. The whole trip was a rock fan’s dream-come-true. One night, Cheap Trick let me pick their set list. I had the chance to hang out with Steven Tyler while he was warming up for a performance, and Joe Perry even asked me which shirt I thought he should wear on stage. Those guys are gods of mine! It was definitely my highlight for 2012!
CS: When and how did Don Jamison and Jim Florentine become part of your life?
ET: We originally met in 2000 at an Ozzfest event. Like me, they’re from New Jersey and have spent their whole lives there. We’re all the same age, and they were both listeners of my radio show. They explained that they were both comedians and loved to listen to the show after gigs. Eventually we all became friends, and after a while, they started making regular appearances on the radio show.
CS: Where did the idea for That Metal Show come from and how far along into the creative process were you when you knew Don and Jim had to be a part of it?
ET: The whole process of creating That Metal Show went through many transitions. It kept evolving and it took a long time to convince the network. Eventually, in 2008, VH1 Classic came to me and said they wanted to pursue the idea. Originally, there were a number of different people attached to the show as potential co-hosts. I knew the people at VH1 Classic needed to meet Don and Jim. They were a perfect fit. The network was looking for a couple of ball-busters who could mix it up a bit, but it was very important to me that the co-hosts really loved the music and respected the bands as well. There was no doubt in my mind that Don and Jim were those two guys.
Eddie Trunk has spent a lifetime loving and promoting hard rock and heavy metal. He recognizes the talent, the musicianship, and that “punch you in the gut” affect that only resonates from loud guitars and powerhouse vocals. Look for Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock & Heavy Metal anywhere books are sold and Vol. 2 of that same book later this year.