“In 1970…people would have called Black Sabbath extreme metal.” Talking Heavy Metal with Sam Dunn of Banger Films

Heavy metal music has the most passionate, dedicated, and loyal fans of any genre in the history of modern music. As a lifelong metalhead I can make this bold statement because I’ve spent time with musicians and fans of other types of music, and although they may love it, they don’t live the lifestyle like the heavy metal folks. Fans of the genre have gotten tattoos of their favorite bands, been buried to heavy metal music, and based their lives on a band’s tour schedule. Sure, fans of One Direction may turn out in the hundreds of thousands for a few years, but fans of Iron Maiden have been doing it for a few decades.

Within the realm of heavy metal, certain people function as ambassadors. Two that I’ve interviewed further the same cause in different ways. Bill Peters is the godfather of classic metal in Northeast Ohio and Don Jamieson waves the banner nationally on That Metal Show. My guest this week has helped to dignify the heavy metal culture and protect it from those that like to claim it’s primal and aggressive. It is. But it is also sophisticated and complex and nobody illustrates that better than Sam Dunn. Dunn broke onto the scene in 2005 with Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and has continued to produce professional, educational films about the often misunderstood genre.

Along with Scot McFadyen, Sam Dunn runs Banger Films. Over the past seven years they have created Global Metal, Iron Maiden: Flight 666, Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage, Metal Evolution, and Rush: Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland. Dunn also has a documentary in production aptly titled, Satan. Sam is a Canadian and a musician as well as a film director. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in hard rock and heavy metal, including Bruce Dickinson, Geddy Lee, and the late Ronnie James Dio.

The widely-successful series that aired on VH1 Classic, Metal Evolution, chronicled the history of heavy metal through the decades but did not include the most recent strand, extreme metal. With an IndieGoGo campaign running through October 8th, Dunn hopes to raise enough money to finish the episode on his own. Sam is an intelligent, articulate, metalhead and I enjoyed talking to him about the moms of Slayer, Norwegian church burnings, and Satan. Not necessarily in that order.


I feel like I have somewhat of a personal connection with you because you chose to film Rush: Time Machine 2011 in Cleveland. Tell me about your experience doing that project.

Cleveland is an extremely important city, not only for a band like Rush, but for rock and metal. Generally, it was those northern American towns that were the bread basket for bands like Rush touring in the 70s where they found an audience for their music. So Rush wanted to give a little love back to Cleveland because it was the city that broke the band in the U.S. and they knew it was going to be an amazing crowd. It all worked out really well.

Why the Midwest? What does the Rust Belt mean to Rush?

I think it’s got a lot to do with the fact people in that part of the U.S. feel a really personal connection to the band because they toured early on in the small towns of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, all through the Midwest. So they’re going back and playing where they played in 1973, 1974, 1975 to people who saw them when they were in their early teens. And at that age, those are your formative years. You’re starting to cement your musical tastes. So going back to those places, you see a lot of people who saw them back at that time. In that part of the world, there’s a little bit deeper or personal connection to the band because they have such a long history together.

I couldn’t believe that it’s been eight years since Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey was released. I’m wondering what your thoughts are looking back on that? How do you feel about it these days?

It’s a film we’re still really proud of. It premiered at TIFF [Toronto International Film Festival] in 2005 and really opened a lot of doors for us. It was really the first documentary that took metal seriously as a style of music and as a culture, and really tackled the question of why it polarizes people. The film really resonated with a lot of people and did really well around the world. We were obviously pleased. I think that there was this whole world of metal and rock that hadn’t really been paid attention to in documentary or film form with a few small exceptions like Spinal Tap. So it helped us establish a lot of relationships with artists like Geddy Lee and Bruce Dickinson—two good examples of musicians who we went on to make movies about. It really helped us and is still doing something for us now.

I think one thing that sets it apart is that it’s a real cultural study. It’s an anthropological study of not only the music but also of the subculture. Was that something that you had in mind at the outset or did that evolve as you worked on the film?

It was always our goal to make a film about metal that wasn’t just for metalheads, that would connect to a broader audience. One way to do that was not to talk only about the intricacies of the music or do a super-detailed account of the history of metal, but rather look at it as a culture. I wanted to look at it as something that was born in the 70s and is still going strong today. I wanted to ask, “What is the appeal of this music and why does it cause so much controversy with things like the PMRC?” We looked at the church burnings that happened in Norway in the 1990s and bands like Cannibal Corpse getting their records banned around the world. It was about much more than just the music. It was about the culture and the impact. We felt that it was that part of the film that could interest even Kerry King’s mom.

Well, when you can get the moms of Slayer to watch, you must be doing something right. [laughing]

We know a few moms of metal guys that understand their sons a little bit better after our movie, so I think that’s a good thing.

Definitely. It seems like it also planted the seed for Metal Evolution, which to no surprise, did so well because it’s such a comprehensive look at all of the branches of the metal tree. I was wondering if you had a particular episode or sub-genre that you found particularly engaging as the creator of that show?

Metal Evolution was born out of the heavy metal family tree that we created back when we did Headbanger’s Journey because we knew that film wasn’t going to be a detailed history of metal. We thought that maybe somewhere down the line there’d be an opportunity to do something more in depth and that’s what Metal Evolution became—eleven episodes on the history of the music.  When it comes to specific episodes, I’m a big fan of the thrash episode because that’s the one sub-genre in the series that is really close to me and includes a lot of bands that I love. But I think from a storytelling perspective, the shock rock episode was fascinating to make because it allowed us to take a step back before Alice Cooper, who many people attribute to being the godfather of shock rock. We looked at people like Arthur Brown, and even PT Barnum who wasn’t a musician but was an entertainer, that used shock to entertain the public. So it was a lot of fun because it allowed us to do something that touched on things just beyond the metal realm.

It seemed as though you went into the 80s metal episode a bit skeptical but you came out the other side with a new appreciation. That time in metal often gets a bad rap. People call it hair metal or glam metal with a derogatory tone. Would that be a fair assessment? Did you come out of that episode with a different perspective on the 80s metal scene?

Glam metal in the 80s when I was a teenager was not my cup of tea. I was more into the heavier styles. Granted, my first cassette was Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry and Ratt’s Out of the Cellar. But I quickly got into the heavier stuff. When it came to the episode on glam metal, from a documentary perspective, it was great because it’s always more interesting when you have two sides represented. There’s a debate still about whether this should be called metal or not. I am still not a fan of those bands. [laughing] When I come into the office in the morning, I don’t put on Poison to get me going. [laughing] However, I always had the preconception that these bands were manufactured, that they were the products of record executives in skyscrapers. But I learned that’s not the case. In fact, it’s not the case with bands that did quite well. I’m talking about bands like Poison or Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, etc. They were doing exactly what they wanted to do and not solely because they thought it was going to be commercially viable but because it was a bit of a “fuck you.” I learned a lot from Rikki Rockett who said, “People wanted to fuck us or fight us and that’s exactly what we wanted.” So there was a weird twist. They almost had a punk kind of attitude with what they were doing and that’s not what I expected at all. I didn’t come away a bigger fan of Poison’s music but I certainly came away a bigger fan of Rikki Rockett and his attitude. I thought, “That’s fair—I don’t have to love your music but I respect your attitude.”

I think in a way the industry came to them as opposed to the industry creating them, and that’s an important distinction to make whether you like the music or not.

Don’t get me wrong; the hair is ridiculous. [laughing]

It was even so back in the day, wasn’t it? The great thing about Metal Evolution is that the series isn’t quite done. I was wondering if you could talk a little about the Indiegogo campaign you have going on? Me and my band [Threefold Law] have already contributed. Tell us about the campaign.

Well, we did the main series—eleven episodes—and it was always our hope that we could do an episode on extreme metal but the broadcasters thought it was a little too heavy, a little too niche for their market. And that’s fair. I understand that. We were happy that we got to do this massive series on metal and it made a big contribution. Of course, the one glaring omission was extreme metal so we decided to get an Indiegogo campaign started and fund it that way. We know its music that is underground but that has a really passionate fan base. The people who like extreme metal, love extreme metal. They live and breathe it. Once you find a stronger cup of coffee you can’t go back to Folgers and I totally understand that because a lot of the music that I listen to is at the extreme end of the spectrum. We had one campaign and raised almost $40,000 which was amazing and that helped us pay for the first phase of the project. That involved a lot of travel, a lot of equipment, vehicle rentals, a crew, and travelling around the world. We went to New York and Florida. We filmed in Toronto and we went to Norway, Switzerland, France, and the U.K. And so here we are. We’ve got all of this great footage, we’ve got an episode mapped out, we’ve got it planned and ready to go, and now we’re in the second phase fund raising campaign because we’ve got to turn that footage into something. We pay our editors because our editors are some of the best in the business and that’s what’s allowed us to create the good work that we’ve done so far. That’s one part of the cost. The other part of the cost is paying for all of the photos, footage, and music that we use in the episode. That can get quite costly especially if you’re dealing with major labels. So there are still costs. We’re right smack dab in the middle of the second campaign and we’re pushing. We’re releasing little snippets of interviews every week. I’m writing a blog on Revolver on the top five metal albums of all time. We’re keeping the campaign really active, so we hope we can get to the finish line and make it.

And every couple of bucks helps. So I would encourage all the readers out there to go the Indiegogo page and contribute—let’s get that episode made.

In your travels documenting extreme metal, I’m assuming you had an interview with Satan and then you signed him on to do a documentary. Is that how that worked out? [laughing]

If you’ve met Satan, you should be part of our team because I’m still looking. [laughing] Satan [the documentary in production] is something separate, obviously, but it does have a connection to the extreme metal episode. In Headbanger’s Journey we looked at all the church burnings that happened in Norway and covered that part of the story. But it revealed that no one had really looked at the musicality of Norwegian black metal. I think because of all the controversy and the theatricality of the music, people have lost sight of the fact that what happened in Norway musically in the early 90s was pretty important. Extreme metal was getting pretty glossy at that point and the Norwegian scene was reclaiming a more primitive or raw sound that had been lost in metal and then added their own little twist to it. It was kind of like a bit of punk rock meets a bit of KISS with a dash of anti-Christianity in there. I think that’s an important story to tell because I think people have forgotten that this was also music and some really great bands came out of that era. Bands like Emperor, Enslaved, and Immortal who struck this balance between being raw but also epic. Before that you could be one or the other. You were either epic like Iron Maiden is epic or like Dio is epic. Or you had to be raw like Napalm Death or Bolt Thrower is raw. I think what the Norwegians did is they found a way to combine those two things. So from an historical perspective I think it made a pretty big contribution.

So the Satan documentary might hint at some of these misconceptions? I remember back in the day when AC/DC was satanic and KISS was satanic. Was that a label thrown around by conservatives to undermine the music?

The Satan documentary has a longer backstory. It did come out of our conversations with the Norwegian black metal-ers. We were fascinated by their perspective. What we’ve embarked upon for the Satan film is a much broader story. It’s not just about Satanic music. It’s also about Satan in film, literature, media, and pop culture. We’re taking a broader look at why the Devil has made such a big impact in the creative and entertainment world over the past several decades. Satan is a big topic, so it’s hard to wrestle Satan to the ground.

I wish you luck with that. [laughing] Whenever I interview people in the heavy metal realm, I like to ask their opinion on the future of heavy metal. Some of our pioneers are aging and in declining health and it always begs the question. What do you think?

I think the future of heavy metal is bright. It’s never going to go away. I’m going to make the argument in the extreme metal episode that it’s actually the extreme bands that can be credited with really pushing the music forward. It is by far the most adventurous, risk-taking, sub-genre of metal and because of that it’s always carving out new directions for the music to go. It’s like an art. Often it’s the underground, avant-garde artists who are the ones that push it to the next place and then everyone follows. In 1970, if the term had existed, people would have called Black Sabbath extreme metal, right? I think that’s where it’s going. We’ve got the grandfathers of the genre that are still going pretty strong— Maiden, Rush, Sabbath. And in my personal opinion, Sabbath put out a pretty damned good record. At that same time, you have to remember that metal is a breed of the underground and that’s never gonna change and that’s where the real vitality is going to continue to come from. So that’s part of the story we’re telling…

Contact:

Official – http://www.bangerfilms.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BangerFilms
Twitter – https://twitter.com/bangerfilmsinc
Indiegogo – http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/metal-evolution-extreme-metal-the-final-round

#KickassKleveland – Alan Cox

Alan Cox

Go ahead and try. You’re not going to come up with a one-liner about his name that Alan Cox hasn’t already heard. When the new guy took over for Maxwell in December of 2009, callers felt compelled to tell him how much they “hated the show” which has become a rallying cry for loyal listeners. Airing daily from 3-7 p.m. on Cleveland’s 100.7 WMMS, The Alan Cox Show has charted in several key demographics. Articulate, thoughtful, and witty, Alan hosts a morning radio show in Detroit in addition to the afternoon one in Cleveland with Billy Squire (no, not “The Stroke” Billy Squire) and Erika Lauren. Alan has been a DJ for a long time and has come to know radio well, broadcasting in his hometown of Chicago as well as Pittsburgh before coming to Cleveland.

Erika Lauren

You never know what you might get when tuning into The Alan Cox show. Topics can jump from gun control to penis pimples in a matter of seconds because Cox is that versatile. He does not believe that shock radio has to be dumbed down and is sometimes criticized for his vocabulary (huh?). Alan controls the switchboard, often allowing callers to make their point or hang themselves by it. 

While Bill is a somewhat new addition to the show, it is clear that Alan and Erika have developed a sibling-type relationship and even though many of Alan’s pop-culture references go over her head (Erika is in her 20s and her year of birth is not her fault) he doesn’t dwell on the inescapable reality that she is half his age. A fan of heavy metal despite a Catholic mother that had him in church almost daily, Cox is also a disciple of George Carlin, drawing inspiration from Carlin’s mastery of language and razor wit.

Bill Squire

The show started The Black List which is neither offensive nor controversial; it’s a simple idea born of the misconception that only white guys into Led Zeppelin listen to WMMS. Cox has a “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude about his show that undoubtedly turns some listeners away but garners many more. On any given day, I find myself squirming (“Sperm News”) or nodding my head in agreement (“Why Florida Sucks”) and I respect that level of integrity in a show that doesn’t pander or talk down to the listener.

I felt privileged to be able to have a conversation with Cox who was kind enough to spend time talking about Rush fans, tombs made out of feces, and boobs.


How did you get your first break in radio and how do you think the industry has changed since then?

I tell people that I fell ass-backwards into radio because I did. I was doing stand-up comedy in college and needed an internship. My girlfriend at the time, her sister was leaving the biggest morning show in Chicago. The DJ was a guy who in the late 80s early 90s was just crushing. She said, “Well, they need an intern. Do you want me to put in a good word for you?” I said yeah but I hadn’t really thought about radio. I was already performing and I thought, “Why not?” I got the internship and ended up getting hired after that to produce the show. Once I left that show and saw how a program of that magnitude was put together, I kind of caught the bug and so I spent the next couple of years doing stand-up and radio at the same time until I figured I needed to do one properly instead of doing both of them half-assed. So that was my first break and then I started sending tapes out. The industry has changed a lot. When they deregulated radio in ‘96 everybody started buying up stations. So it’s changed because of that and the rise of the Internet. The pendulum has kind of swung back the other way now where radio stations that survived did so because they hyper-served their local community rather than trying to cast such a broad net. I think the stations that survived and the personalities that survived did so because the figured out what got them to the dance in the first place, which is hyper-serving local listeners.

How is your morning gig in Detroit different than your afternoon one in Cleveland?

The Detroit morning show doesn’t necessarily need a full show in the morning. It’s still a lot of music, probably about nine songs an hour, and they kind of let me do what I want in between. I have about six breaks an hour. Its six to ten in the morning and it’s just me. Up until I returned to Chicago in ‘06 to do a morning show there, I had always done a solo show. So this show (afternoons on 100.7 WMMS) and the one I did in Chicago are the first two ensemble shows that I had done. The Detroit morning show is me going back to doing a solo show but it’s not as much heavy lifting because it’s pretty short breaks a few times an hour, in between songs. The plan is to grow it outward. For now it’s a new station, they’ve only been on for about a year, and I’m their first morning guy. The initial hurdle is just getting people used to hearing somebody in the morning when they didn’t before. They don’t require as much in the way of a full show, whereas here I have four hours of blank canvas I have to fill. The bulk of my day is spent preparing for the talk show here. The show in Detroit, because I’m familiar with that area, is a lot easier to do because I can make it sound as local as I need to make it sound, but content-wise, there isn’t as much preparation for me to do.

What about Pittsburgh would surprise Clevelanders?

People in Cleveland hate Pittsburgh because I think it’s primarily a sports rivalry, but I think Cleveland could learn a lot from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is another Rust Belt city that found a way to get over its hump. Pittsburgh got over the hump that Cleveland hasn’t gotten over yet. Pittsburgh reinvented itself as a tech hub and as a medical hub. I know that Cleveland exists as a medical hub too, but Pittsburgh’s also got a real thriving art scene. I think Cleveland has a lot of those things already but they just haven’t grown to the point where nationally and internationally they’re seen as a city to contend with whereas Pittsburgh ends up making a lot of lists for livability, and for sustainability, and for innovation, businesses moving in, and so on. I know there’s a rivalry between the two cities and having lived in both that is my assessment of it. There’s a lot of great stuff in Cleveland. Cleveland still seems to be burdened by low self-esteem that I think Pittsburgh divested itself of a long time ago.

How are you preparing yourself for the upcoming Tomb of Feces world tour?

Rigorously. [laughing]

Rush: Finally due or overrated?

I approach most bands on the strength of their drummer. I’m a drummer and so obviously Rush is one of those bands that when you start playing drums all you’re doing is listening to Rush albums all day long because you think you’re going from point A to point Z, or point YYZ, as the case may be. I like Rush a lot. I think they’re a fantastic band. I’m glad they’re getting into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame just to shut Rush fans up. Rush fans have been like the Boston Red Sox fans of rock and roll for so long. They’re overdue and they’re more than deserving. It makes the fans happy and it’s clearly a band that should have gotten in a long time ago. I’m glad to see them go in and I just wish it were here this year.

What is your technique or approach to the interview?

I’m always trying to make them better. Over the years, I’ve learned what I think does work and what doesn’t work. I have to be genuinely interested in the guest. There’s a lot of guests that I get pitched that I turn down because I’m not really interested in what they do. It’s hard for me to manufacture enthusiasm. There have been a few guests that I’ve had on that I’m a fan of but they were just awful on the radio or they were having a bad day or whatever. I hear a lot of people interviewing where it doesn’t sound like they are listening. I think if you want a good interview it has to genuinely be a dialogue. It can’t be just asking a question and then waiting for the next time for you to ask your next question when they’re done talking. The best interviews that I think that I’ve gotten are ones where we organically talked. Obviously they are on because they are promoting something but I don’t want to do a five or a ten minute commercial on what they have coming up. I’ve had people on before where clearly they don’t want to talk they just want to pitch their project, and that’s fine, that’s what they do press for, but that doesn’t really interest me. I’m not really sure that there’s one way to go about doing it. I think that my style has developed to where if I like what somebody does, I talk to them and we have a conversation. I prepare for it. I do have specific things I want to ask. I think it’s a matter of liking what they do and kind of having a regular conversation with them. There have been a few times that I’ve had somebody on where I was really geeked out; I was a real fanboy, but I try to keep that to a minimum.

What is the current vibe between the Alan Cox Show and Rover’s Morning Glory?

When I first got here that dynamic had existed for so long that I think they felt like they had to keep it going, or that the audience expected it. For maybe the first year or so, they would make fun of me and mock me for my vocabulary or something. I always thought that was a weird thing to pick on somebody for. It’s not really my style and I found it very, very strange. I had never been in a situation where two shows on the same station were ripping on each other. I never met Maxwell so I have no personal beef with him. I have my own thing to do. I’ve always done my own thing. I’ve been on the Rover show a couple of times talking about different things. I understood that it was a lot of theater and I don’t take things personally. I’d see people in the hall and I’d be like, “Hey, what’s up?” I think once they got the vibe that I wasn’t somebody that was going to continue whatever that was, that kind of WWE thing, things settled down. It’s just not my style and I don’t take that stuff personally. I get along with everybody over there. I don’t really run into Rover too much, mostly the supporting cast, but I’ll see him in the hallways and we say hello. We’ve hung out a couple of times at station events. Again, I wasn’t privy to what the prior situation was between those two shows. I only heard about it second hand, but like I said, I’m too busy doing my own thing. I don’t have time for anything like that.

Which promotion has a better shot at creating world peace; Drunk West Sixth Girls or the CLEavage Gallery?

There’s shades of difference between the two. [laughing] I think the Drunk West Six Girls spot is a lot of fun because you’re certainly not reinventing the wheel; that format’s been done forever. It’s fun to write the questions, to be out, and ask girls questions you’ve written and to hear their answers. The CLEavage Gallery was just a matter of getting online activity. That’s as much a part of radio now as the actual over-the-air signal. People like boobs. It’s silly and it’s low brow, but if you say, “Hey were putting a gallery together, send your pictures,” girls will do it. It gives people something to look at. With all of the other humorous content out there, sometimes you just want boobs. [laughing]

Why Cleveland?

I grew up in Chicago and I started there and I went back to do my own show for a few years before I came to Cleveland. There are a lot of people there who just don’t care about radio. It’s not their thing anymore. There are so many distractions and people are immersed in other things. Cleveland is still one of those cities that you have a lot of personalities here who’ve been here a long time. I am flattered and pleased at how quickly people accepted me. I don’t have anything to attribute that to other than the fact I’m still a Midwest guy so I think by extension maybe there’s that Midwest vibe that people get, that sensibility or whatever. People here want to be entertained. People have that sense of pride about being from Cleveland, even though to a lot of other places around the country Cleveland is a punch line. People wear that as a badge of honor. I admire people who thrive under that kind of adversity. I like it here a lot. The audience has been great. It’s a city with some teeth. People in L.A. or whatever might make fun of Cleveland but I wouldn’t mess with anybody from here. It’s got such a good vibe to it and the people know where the bullshit is and if you suspend that then they’ll come along for the ride.

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#KickassKleveland – Chris Van Vliet

An Emmy award winning journalist, a Cosmopolitan Magazine Bachelor of the Year, a WWE enthusiast, and a bass fisherman walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Hi Chris.”

And now you know why I’ll stick to writing instead of stand-up comedy. But seriously folks, we’re talking Chris Van Vliet. As the entertainment reporter for WOIO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Cleveland, Ohio, Chris brings his unique take on the day’s entertainment news and movie reviews  every weekday during The Buzz on 19 Action News. He can also be heard on the radio as a DJ on WDOK, Cleveland’s New 102. However, that only reveals some of what Chris does, not who he is. When he won Cosmo’s Bachelor of the Year award in 2011, he donated ALL of the prize money to the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland.

Van Vliet was kind enough to invite me to the Channel 19 studios where we sat and talked about Cleveland, American Pie, and fishing. An engaging and charismatic young man, Chris is genuine as well. When I had finished asking all of my questions, instead of leaving to go live on the air that night, Chris began asking me questions right up until he had to run downstairs to the set. I found myself in a fascinating conversation with a superb human and I’m grateful for getting that opportunity.

Please allow me to introduce you to Chris Van Vliet.


J: Where did you grow up?

C: I guess not everyone will know this but I’m from Canada. I grew up in Pickering, Ontario, which is about 20 miles, or, 35 kilometers east of Toronto, a town of about 90,000 people. I lived my entire life there, in the same house, with an older sister. It’s a city kind of like any of the suburbs here in Cleveland. You’re on the outskirts of the big city and you go downtown to Toronto for the big events. There would be Leaf games, Blue Jay games, Raptors games or going to the theater. So it’s kind of that dichotomy of living in a smallish town but having this mega-city which was very driveable, half an hour away, and you could go to it anytime. Toronto is the largest city in Canada, fourth largest in North America. It’s this huge influence. It was a great time and I love the fact that now I live in Cleveland. It’s a five hour drive to go back home and I do it all the time. It’s great to be that close to home.

J: When you worked for MuchMusic you covered the Canadian entertainment industry. How is the celebrity culture different in Canada than it is in the United States?

C: I think there’s more of it in the United States. Certainly the culture here is more inundated with celebrities. When I started covering entertainment news, Paris Hilton was just starting to get famous and Kim Kardashian came out of the woodwork. You have these people that are made famous for being famous and you don’t have that so much in Canada. The interesting thing about covering entertainment news and music news in Canada is there’s so much focus on the homegrown Canadian talent. So if someone has just a couple lines in a movie, all of a sudden they’re a big star in Canada. Or if someone has a couple songs on the radio they’re a huge star there. They have this thing in Canada on the radio called Canadian content, CanCon, where they have to play 30% of Canadian music on the radio each hour. It generates these big stars and, of course, there are very famous Canadians like Drake, Justin Bieber, etc. There’s certainly not as much of in it Canada as there is here. So when you do find a big star in Canada, we love to call them their own. Even if they live in the U.S. now, we love to say, “Drake, he’s ours. Bieber, he’s ours. Ryan Gosling, he’s ours. Ryan Reynolds, he’s ours too.”

J: Are you responsible for getting Rush into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

C: I’d like to say yes. I’d like to say that I am.

J: Did you use your Canadian connections?

C: I called up the Prime Minister and I said, “Let’s make this happen here.” [laughing] I’m so happy that they’re in. I think there’s a ton of Rush fans that are very, very happy they’re finally in. I wish that the induction was here this year. Although, last year’s class was fantastic. We’re talking now at the station about maybe going out to L.A. to cover that. Fingers crossed, fingers crossed.

J: What movie best represents Pine Ridge Secondary School in 1997?

C: I went to high school during the time of American Pie, and I remember seeing American Pie when I was 16 years old and saying, “That’s us! That’s who we are as teenagers! I can’t believe I’m seeing a movie where everyone I know in high school is somehow represented in a movie.” I just saw it again last week, just to refresh my memory. I think American Pie would be a great representation of not just my school, not just Pine Ridge, but any high school in the late 90s.

J: You won Cosmopolitan’s Bachelor of the Year Award in 2011. The prize money could have bought you many nights in a stretch limo but you turned around and gave that money to charity. Can you elaborate on that?

C: I said from day one that if I won I was going to donate the $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland. At first, it sounds like a nice gesture, but it was a long shot. There were 51 people in it total, 50 other guys. The week before the announcement of the winner we held an event downtown at the Barley House and we raised several thousand dollars that we gave to the Boys and Girls Club even if I didn’t win. They are such a great organization, we work very closely with them here at Channel 19. I know they could use $10,000 a lot more than I could use $10,000. Honestly, when I won it didn’t feel like a win for me. I held that check over my head and I took a bunch of photos and I did a bunch of interviews and it didn’t feel like a win for me. It felt like a win for Cleveland. It felt like a win for Ohio and it certainly felt like a win for those boys and girls. When I went to the Boys and Girls Club the next week I donated the check to them live on the air. Just to see the smile on their faces, I just knew in that moment that this is the absolute best possible thing to be doing with this money. I’ve worked with them since and we have a great working relationship. If I had to do this again, if I had to do this again a hundred times over, unquestionably, I would do that same thing.

J: What is your approach to the interview?

C: I try to treat every interview like it’s a conversation. I’m not a huge fan of the question and answer television interview. It should be a fluid conversation. I think to myself, “If I ran into this person at a party what would be the things that would come to my mind? What would I want to ask them?” I do my best to try and ask questions, like you, that they haven’t been asked before or to try to find a way to ask something in a way that they’ve never been asked. I think that they certainly respect that, especially when you do these press junkets in L.A. and New York and you’re one of sixty journalists interviewing them that day. You try to bring something different to the table. In doing that, you do a lot of research and you just to try to pull a different sound bite out of them, or maybe something they’ve never said before, and that’s kind of when you go, “Alright. That’s a good one.”

J: Why Cleveland?

C: Well I graduated from university eight years ago and since graduating I’ve moved around a lot. This is the fourth market that I’ve worked in and Cleveland is the place I’ve been able to call home for the longest since college. In fact, in a couple more months, this will be the longest I’ve lived in one place since I was 18. That in and of itself, is something that has endeared me to this city. This is certainly a place that I can call home and I have felt so welcome ever since day one. I love being here and I love living here, and I love that there’s always something to do.

J: What was it like interviewing one of our hometown heroes, Drew Carey?

C: We had a great chat. We talked for 15 or 20 minutes on camera. He was open to talking about absolutely everything and anything. He wishes he could spend more time here. He says he only comes back about four times a year. That guy is so amazing and he’s accomplished so much too. Really, really, great guy. This is the thing you find out about most celebrities; they’re so down to earth and so willing to talk. The great thing about that particular situation was that he wasn’t really promoting anything in particular. He was in town doing something at Playhouse Square. A lot of times when you get interviews with celebrities they’re trying to push a new movie or a new album, book, or whatever. This was just Drew being Drew, having a conversation with us out of the kindness of his heart. What a great guy! It was really good.

J: Is there something that you’d like readers not in the Cleveland area to know about you?

C: I think that one of the things is that I love this industry so much. I feel so fortunate to do it every single day. I wake up every morning with the attitude of, “You’re gonna allow me to do this today and you’re gonna pay me?” Recently I started working in radio. I’m working for CBS radio now. I have a show on WDOK. As I sit here talking to you right now, I’ve been up since four this morning. I was filling in on the radio show this morning and I’m gonna be here working at the station until midnight tonight and no part of this is bad at all. A lot of people would think a workday that starts at four and ends at midnight is a pretty rough day, but I just love it. I’m so fortunate every single day to be able to keep doing this, and hopefully that will continue. That’s the plan anyway.

J: If you could get a second crack at an interview you’ve done in your career, who would it be and why?

C: I’m a huge WWE fan and I always wanted to interview The Rock. He’s a childhood hero of mine. I was fortunate last march that WWE was in town at the Q and The Rock was doing interviews there. I got to interview him. The interview was fine and we got some great answers out of him, but I’d love to do it again. I felt like I was 16 years old meeting my childhood idol. I’m usually pretty calm and cool, but I had this grin on my face that I couldn’t get rid of. I thought I was going to be interviewing The Rock. I thought I was going to be interviewing the guy I’d been watching on TV for years and in walks Dwayne. He was cool, super nice, and great, but I think I was expecting The Rock himself to come in and call me a jabroni or tell me to “know my role”. We had a great conversation but I’d love to do it again now that I got the first one out of the way, fingers crossed, I will get that opportunity hopefully. Maybe we can have another great conversation, maybe take it up a notch.

As a writer, do you find times in the day that you have to write?

J: Every day. It’s like if you get up in the morning for a workout routine. I have a writing routine. If I don’t write I feel off the whole day.

C: Really? How long do you write for?

J: Usually 60 to 90 minutes.

C: Wow! And are you working toward a greater goal every time, like a novel?

J: I try to hit a daily word count, usually 3,000 words. The standard paperback is anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000, so if you do 3,000 a day, every day, you have a first draft knocked out in a couple months. It’s taking a little chunk at a time, otherwise it seems overwhelming.

C: That would take incredible discipline. I know you’re obviously passionate about it and you love it, but I can think of days you’d get there and start writing and it just wouldn’t come to you.

J: You have to fight through that. I think it’s similar to what you mentioned about getting off the air at midnight and then being up at four, but you’re so enthused about what you’re doing you just don’t even think of it as a chore. For some people, writing 3,000 words a day or getting three hours of sleep would be tough.

C: Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy sleep a lot. I interviewed James Patterson recently because he did Alex Cross and obviously it was shot here in Cleveland. So I was getting an interview with him and Tyler Perry. James said it didn’t matter what day it was, didn’t matter what he was doing, he had to write. I thought that was fascinating. Here’s a guy who has millions and millions of dollars. He said it doesn’t matter if he’s doing press or on vacation, he needs to write. I’m just fascinated by that.

J: Stephen King has that approach too. I think he once said that there are only two days a year he doesn’t write; Christmas day and his birthday. That’s it. He writes every other day of the year. I’m not THAT disciplined, but that’s the mindset you need to be successful. Advice from guys like Patterson and King about writing is like learning how to slam dunk from Michael Jordan. When the best talk, folks listen.

C: What novel are you working on right now?

J: I’m working on a sequel to one of my horror novels (Preta’s Realm).

C: Cool! So you’ve got the characters developed already. That must make it a little bit easier?

J: Easier in some ways, but you have a longer story arc that you have to remember. Readers, probably like viewers, are quick to point out where you make a mistake, have an inaccuracy, have something in the plot that doesn’t make sense. I have a couple of great editors that help me with that.

C: They can kind of keep you on track or keep you on point?

J: Right. They’ll say, “Hey! This person wasn’t in the scene and all of the sudden they’re over here. How did that happen?” And you say, “Um. Right.” It’s like that in the movies too. Someone is a wearing a digital watch and it’s set in 17th century France.

C: I love those inaccuracies, like the ones on moviemistakes.com. I could spend hours on that. I could spend days on that.

J: Was it Charlton Heston that was wearing a watch in Spartacus?

C: There’s some really bad ones like a guy in a t-shirt and jeans in The Pirates of the Caribbean. He’s standing on the boat and he clearly doesn’t belong.

[more laughing]

You know, one thing I really miss about Canada and my busy schedule is bass fishing. I love bass fishing and before moving here I was in like 10 or 15 bass tournaments a year. It was every weekend. I work a lot on weekends now. In fact this is the first weekend I’ve been here in a while. I’ve spent the last four of six weekends in L.A.

J: Did you travel to do the bass fishing or do you have a favorite spot?

C: When I lived in Toronto I was within about an hour or two from of all these bass fisheries. One place, Lake Simcoe, is about an hour north of Toronto and it’s a world-class bass fishery. So you’re close enough that you don’t have to stay all night. You can drive up first thing in the morning, fish the tournament, head back home, and do another tournament the next day. So that’s one thing I really miss.

J: Is it different than fly fishing?

C: It’s different. Bait casting gear, spinning gear… [laughing] This is going to sound so nerdy and technical. I won’t get into too much about that. When you ask if there is something about you that people don’t know, I certainly don’t think anyone’s going to turn on Channel 19 and assume that I’m a bass fisherman.

J: True. You’re not going to be on the air giving tips on casting.

C: I could. [laughing] I could be giving tips on how to throw spinner baits, flip jigs or work a dropshot. But no one’s going to understand. You had no idea what I was talking about or what I was saying.

J: No. I went fly fishing on vacation one time.

C: You did? Where?

J: Colorado.

C: Was it trout?

J: I have no idea. [laughing] It was one of those deals where the guy takes you out for a day and they teach you the basics.

C: Did you catch some?

J: I caught one.

C: Nice!

J: I was so proud I was able to cast. I didn’t realize the amount of skill that it took. Reading the water, knowing where to throw, how soft a touch to put on it; there’s a whole lot more to fishing than people realize.

C: Sounds like you already know.

J: I know what I don’t know. [laughing]

C: The hardest part about fly fishing is you’ve got all this line sitting around your legs and a fish bites and you don’t know what to do. I’ve only gone fly fishing a handful of times.

J: How is fly fishing different than bass fishing?

C: Fly fishing is more of an art form. There’s the art of flicking your wrist and getting the bait out there which is a very light bait that you wouldn’t be able to cast with any other equipment. A lot of bass fishing, while there are some finesse techniques, is about making as many casts as possible in the shortest amount of time; they call it power fishing. We should talk about something more interesting. [laughing]

J: This is interesting. These are the kinds of nuggets though you unearth when talking to someone that are unexpected and I find that really interesting.

C: When I worked for MuchMusic, it was obviously a very different dynamic from how a news station would function. Here, we’re trying to disseminate a news story and get a message out. When I was on that station, I did a celebrity interview that lasted 15-20 minutes. At Channel 19, we would have to cut that interview down to a minute and a half. At that station, we were given the liberties of going three or four minutes and because we were a MTV style of station, it didn’t need to always be about the album they were talking about or the movie they were trying to promote. If you got a nugget like bass fishing, you ran with it. Or if they really liked a TV show and talked about how they watched it on their tour bus, you ran with it and you made it part of the interview. The fans would eat that stuff up. So now, if I get those nuggets in an interview on Channel 19, I have to say, “We’ve posted the whole interview on our Facebook page. Go check it out.” So, that’s kind of cool. You kind of get both elements that way.

J: I’m relatively new to the interviewing process and so I like to study guys like you who are really crisp with it.

C: I feel like I’m learning every single day. I think that the most important thing you can take out of the art of interviewing is; if you’re not asking questions you find interesting, they’re not going to be interesting to that person. Another really big thing I was taught when I first got into the industry is if you don’t know how you’d answer the question yourself or if you don’t know the answer you should expect, you probably should give it some more thought before you ask the question. Like if you’re gonna ask someone what movie represents their high school, if you don’t know yourself how you’d answer that, you probably shouldn’t ask it. How would you answer that question?

J: Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I’m probably a little older than you, though.

C: What did you think I was going to say?

J: I wasn’t sure. I thought possibly American Pie or Fast Times at Ridgemont High because those are two classic teen movies that resonate with people. They tend to recognize their friends in those movies, but never themselves.

C: So who would you be?

J: I was probably more like Mr. Hand. I was probably more of a rule-follower. [laughing]

C: Yeah, you can watch those movies and go, “Oh yeah, I know that guy.” Everyone knows a Stifler. Everyone knows a Jim. I think everyone even knows a Finch.

J: Did you find yourself more in the spotlight after winning the Cosmo contest?

C: When that Cosmo thing happened, interviews came out of nowhere. I had just fished a tournament with B.A.S.S. which is The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. They called me up out of nowhere and were like, “Congratulations! You just won and placed fourth in our tournament last month. Can we do an interview?” I said, “Yeah, of course. I love to talk about fishing.”

J: That’s a pretty interesting collision of worlds, Cosmo and bass fishing. That’s probably two things people don’t mention together very often.

C: The fact that they ran me on the front page of their website (B.A.S.S.) was mind blowing because I’d been subscribing to their magazine since I was a kid and then one day I’m in it. It was really cool.

J: That’s fantastic. Thanks for talking with me.

C: Thank you so much.