The host of ‘That Metal Show’, Eddie Trunk is currently wrapping up season 14 which airs on VH1 Classic. The season finale airs on May 9th at 9pm EST and will feature guests Billy Sheehan, Frankie Banali, Bobby Blitz and Joe Elliot. I recently spoke to Eddie who talked about being a walking metal encyclopedia, how ‘That Metal Show’ got started, where it’s heading, and more!
Legendary Rock Interviews: I feel like I should call you Professor Trunk …
Eddie Trunk: (Laughs) Well, I don’t know about that because I am really not that smart. But I appreciate it!
LRI: Since there are crazy college courses like the study of Keanu Reeves movies, have you ever considered teaching a class about your incomparable wealth of knowledge in music?
Eddie: No, you know, I haven’t. If somebody approached me about it though, I would actually consider it because one of the things that happens for me when I am out and about in public meeting and people want to know about my history and my career, my experiences and what have you. If there was somewhere out there that felt that was a viable thing I would be open to it. I do a lot of speaking stuff live, I go out in clubs and do my own appearances. I do some of that in that context, in a rock bar setting. But I would be more than happy to do that if somebody came up to me and wanted to approach that. I am happy doing what I am doing, plugging away at my various projects. Anything is possible.
LRI: You have satiated the souls of many music industry die hard fans by creating a platform that has inspired an even younger base of metal heads. What does that fact evoke in you?
Eddie: That’s the whole reason why I do it. I started in this business over 30 years ago to share with others music that I love, and help grow this music in a respectful way. I was never a fan of the stereotypes that came with this music. That you had to act a certain way, or be a certain way, or look a certain way. I was always trying to elevate the conversation a little bit, and get it to be taken more seriously for the great art form that is. To hear from people — which I do all the time — that I got them back into it. Or to hear from younger people that I got them into it at all, it’s great and the whole reason why I started in this business so long ago. Folks are pretty funny, whenever I do appearances or signings or what have you, I always have people come up to me. It’s usually a couple, a husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, and the male will say, “Love the show,” or whatever. And the woman will say, “He makes me watch it.” And then by the end of the conversation she says something to the effect of, “But now actually I’m really into it!” However it has to happen, the bottom line is most importantly people are discovering it, and it’s growing. And that’s really what’s important.
LRI : You have broken down that wall.
Eddie: I think it’s important for people to feel it’s OK to be in to this music. That there’s nothing wrong with it. There’s a lot of people that think that if you are in to heavy music, you have to have a uniform. Meaning you have to have and ‘outfit’, you have to have a look and act a certain way. You have to be loaded in tattoos, long hair, piercings. I have never subscribed to that. And I think in a way that’s what pushes it back a little bit and limits it. Because it gives people the idea of like, not many people must like this music I don’t see anybody that LOOKS like they are into it. And that is a completely baseless thing. I will give you an example: last night I was at a party in Arlington, VA, and the entire party was nothing but people that work in government, White House, lobbyists, Secret Service, TSA, all of these people. Some of them coming in work shirts and ties and what have you. Must have been 55 people there, every single one of them a massive fan my shows and this music. That’s all you need to know. There’s a broader base out there and it’s important to let people know that, as a community, there are all kinds of people who love this stuff and it shouldn’t be so marginalized.
LRI: You are in your 7th year of TMS, how did you conceive of it and how was it received when you first pitched it?
Eddie: My background is radio, but I had also worked at VH1 Classic as a host since 2002. I have now been on this channel for 15 years. When I was on back in the day not as many people saw it because the channel was not as popular and wasn’t in as many homes. I did a lot of stuff for VH1 Classic for 5 years or so. I did every sort of interview, every genre of music you could imagine. The entire time I was asking them to do my own show, let me do things the way I like to do them … have guests on and do this sort of rock talk show thing. And they resisted for a long time. I kept pecking away and then finally was offered the opportunity to do a pilot, which we did in 2008. They asked me if I had anyone to bring on the show work with me because they wanted people to kind of keep it loose and mix it up a little bit. That’s when I introduced them to Don (Jamieson) and Jim (Florentine) who had been friends of mine already, and are stand up comics but were also really into the music. Lita Ford was the first guest and the response was terrific for the first season. We have been going ever since. It was not easy to get on the air at all but once it got up and running it really connected with people and it’s what has kept us going.
LRI: Do you think the show has exceeded it’s potential, or are you still thinking bigger?
Eddie: I personally don’t think we have even scratched the surface. I think there are a lot of limitations being on VH1 Classic. A lot of people make the error when they talk about my show and they say, “Oh yeah, yeah, VH1.” I’m not on VH1. I’m on VH1 Classic, there’s this huge distinction there. Because VH1 Classic is a much smaller channel with much smaller budgets. As a result, we have a lot of limitations on what we can and can’t do, how often we can and can’t tape, when we can’t have music on the show because of publishing and the fees that go along with that. There’s a lot of ‘workarounds’ that make this work within the budget. Out of anything, I just feel we are slowly beginning, there are a million more things that I would love to do to grow and expand to take it to the next level. But the thing about that is, I don’t own the network (laughs). It’s not my decision, it’s not my call. When and if they want to go to the next level with it, I am there ready to go. It’s not the question of a meeting, it is more of a network decision. The network has been so supportive of the show, it has been the anchor for the channel. It’s been great for us, but it’s more of a question of where they want to take the channel as a whole. VH1 Classic has existed now for probably 15 years as a channel. I think it’s a broader question than just my show, it’s about whether they’re going to go as a channel. If they are really going to the next step and develop it further, or how they want to do things. We will see what they do as we go and I can only worry about things I can control. I’ll roll with the punches.
LRI: Is it your natural personality that brought you to these relationships with artists and give you the freedom to believe that a project like TMS would be successful immediately?
Eddie: I think having the relationships I’ve had, going in to this show with already more than 20 years of experience of the music industry under my belt was an enormous asset without a doubt. It enabled me to already have great relationships and trust and connections with them. It enabled me to get guests to come on in the first season, just because they knew me, trusted me and knew it was real. So it was invaluable. And it continues to be, because a big part of what I do behind the scenes on the show is bringing in guests. It is super important and it also gave me a huge comfort zone when I sat down and talked with these ones, because I know them already. It’s very rare that anyone comes and sits down for an interview with someone they know, so there’s already this built in sort of connection and trust. I know where I can and can’t go. I know what works and doesn’t work with this person, I know how to get them to open up a little bit. It’s something I’m lucky I’ve been able enough to develop over the years. It’s a huge asset, and it continues to be.
LRI: The bonus is the personal connection and you can tell the funny story that nobody else knows.
Eddie: Yes, but the negative side to that is the fact that … you know I pride myself on being honest if I don’t like something. It’s a very, very tough thing when you have an artist that you are a friend of, and have a huge history with, that they are doing something you don’t necessarily like, or not really that in to that new record, or think they made a misstep according to your personal taste in what they did and you have to still be able to have that conversation with them about it. You have to every once in a while ask that tough question. One you know they don’t want to answer. But if you are going to be true, you’re actually going to have a trust and a following from your audience. You have to go there. You have to do it. So every once in a while you are going to lose some people. Some people are going to get pissed off about that, they are not going to want to work with you. But so be it, I think it’s more important to stay true to your audience and have that honest dialogue.
LRI: Did you have any professional education directly related to being on radio & TV?
Eddie: No, my whole trip was trying to spread the music that I loved and the bands themselves. I worked at the college radio station, while I was in high school I worked at the record store, did some freelance writing. Right out of high school I did some work for a record company in artist management. But no, radio was really about being able to play the records that I wanted and to share the music with the people. I got into radio because I had an idea, more than I had any sort of ability as a broadcaster. My idea was to do a weekly radio show that focused on hard rock and heavy metal music, which back in ’83 was not something a lot of people were doing. Maybe there were one or two other shows in the country that had a similar sort of concept. It was very unique and not many people anywhere were doing something like that. Now it was, let’s get this idea on the air, here’s how we can do it. I brought in a sponsor to buy advertising, which is what always checks boxes with radio. When I got the radio show going, the program director realized that I was an 18 year old kid, and that I had no idea how to do radio. They ended up taking one of their DJs that was there already, who wasn’t really into the music, and let them be the voice of the show while I was behind the scenes giving them all the songs and telling her how to pronounce the band names. That was really frustrating for me because it was like, “This is my show, and nobody even knows I’m doing it.” I dealt with that for a little while until I became more comfortable on the air and then they let me do it.
LRI: Do you have a flat-out idol? Even as a kid, who did you want to be?
Eddie: I certainly did love Kiss for decades, and I continue to as far as the good stuff that I loved. The guys and I grew up having these real rock heroes, when it came to Kiss it was definitely Paul Stanley. I was always a huge fan of Paul’s. Which is ironic because he is the guy in the band who dislikes me the most. So be it. But again keeping with honesty, I was always a fan of his back in the day and the performances, the singing and the songs. I was always a huge Aerosmith fan, and continue to be a huge Aerosmith fan. I have a big poster of Joe Perry on my wall. All the stuff that anybody who, well I’m almost 50, so anybody who grew up in the 70s and into exploring rock music would be in to: Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Van Halen. I was a huge Billy Squire fan, which I don’t talk about all that much because it never seems to come up, because his band PIPER was the first band I ever saw live. And I still love Billy Squire’s music. And of course UFO, and so many other things as I began to discover stuff. All the 70s-based stuff is what really got me going.
LRI: Was it about the hook, song or band itself?
Eddie: It was always about the song, without a doubt. The vocal and the melody. I like heavy music, but I absolutely need some level of singing and melody. One of the big things I have a hard time with is some of the metal is that all these guys are screaming instead of singing. Once I hear screaming or growling, in large doses I am kind of out, you know? I need to have some melody, people singing on any music I really like.
LRI: Without laughing, is it possible that there could be a music revolution so that industry standards could bring the artists, companies, and press together in harmony so each entity could be properly rewarded for their work?
Eddie: That’s a pretty big question. I have no idea. You have all these different people doing 360 deals. All these different ways to put everybody on the same playing field, but honestly I would really have to think about that one. I don’t know, there’s a lot of components to that, a lot of pros and cons to making that happen. I think it’s important to have some separation between the press and the labels and the artists. Just to keep objectivity.
A big thanks to Eddie Trunk for taking the time to speak with us.
Tune into THAT METAL SHOW this Saturday night at 9PM to catch the season finale.
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