On The Line with Eddie Trunk

Eddie Trunk has been waving the flag for hard rock and heavy metal throughout his incomparable career as one of the most influential people in music. Whether it’s being on the radio, hosting That Metal Show, speaking out against the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or writing his two successful books, Eddie took a dream and achieved it to its fullest. I spoke with the man himself to learn about what it’s like to interview musicians, details on That Metal Show, and of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Alex Obert: When you got started and got to know all these big name musicians through interviewing them on your shows, what was the feeling that you got from it?

Eddie Trunk: As a kid, I was very excited about it, obviously, because these were mostly people that I was fans of. But I always kept that to myself. If I was gonna build a relationship and a trust with these artists, it was fine to be a fan of them, but it was very important not to act too much like a fan. Although most musicians will tell you they certainly love their fans, and they do, most of their fans are not people that they wanna hang out with all the time due to the fact that they behave like fans. The musicians then feel they always have to be on, they just can’t get onto other things, they can’t talk about they love. It’s hard to build a true relationship. So for me, as much of a fan as I was, I kept it somewhat reserved on a professional level when I interviewed them. That way, I can maintain that relationship with them. That’s something that I was cognizant of very early on and still do to this day.

Great example is I remember on a sports side, Mike Piazza who was playing for the Mets, I grew up a huge Mets fan, he came into my radio studio about twelve years ago. And everybody was like, “Oh, you’ve gotta have bats and balls and you’ve gotta get him to sign this before he comes on!” It was the first time I ever met the guy and I was like, “Nope, I’m not having him sign anything. I’m not having him do one thing.” “Ah, you’re crazy, you’re crazy! You’re gonna miss a great opportunity!” I refused and told everybody in the studio, “No autographs, nothing. Just let him hang out.” And that’s what happened and to this day, we’re best friends. That’s an important lesson because I think if he would have walked in the day and I put out a bunch of paraphernalia to sign, it would have turned into a meet and greet and it would be uncomfortable. To me, as much of a fan as I am of some of these guys, it’s always been important to me to make them feel comfortable and not be a superfan around then. It puts them in a better situation and gets a real relationship going.

Alex Obert: Getting into your good friends, how did you develop a relationship with Chris Jericho?

Eddie Trunk: That’s a funny story, actually. I am not into professional wrestling, no disrespect to it, I haven’t been into it since I was a very little kid. I haven’t followed it since Ivan Putski. I had no awareness of professional wrestling past 1979 or something. I knew Jericho was a wrestler, but I had no idea about anything at all in regards to wrestling. Whether he was a good guy, bad guy, popular, what have you, I had no idea. Anytime he was in the New York area, he would always be listening to my radio show and trying to call in on the request line. He had just done a match at Madison Square Garden or something and he’s trying to call my radio show. I don’t know who the guy is! One time he got through and he’s like, “Yeah, I’ve been on hold forever to talk to the illustrious Eddie Trunk.” I’m like, “Yeah, how’re you doing, man?” A lot of people had told me that he would be a good friend if I got to know him and a great guest. But the problem was that I didn’t know wrestling all that well and I didn’t really feel like talking wrestling on my show, as popular as it was.

The other thing about it was the fact that at the time, Jericho had just started doing Fozzy and he wasn’t doing interviews as Chris Jericho. He was doing them as his character that he had developed in Fozzy, Moongoose McQueen. There was this whole back story that he had written the songs for Dio and all this crazy stuff that obviously wasn’t true and was just some sort of made up story. And that’s how he wanted to be interviewed, as that character. I was like, “I can’t do that! I’ve been doing radio for twenty years (at that point). People know. I’m not gonna sit here and pretend like you wrote the songs for Iron Maiden and that you’re this guy.” So I refused to do an interview with him like that and so he decided that he would finally come on the show as Chris Jericho, just a regular guy who’s a wrestler and a metal fan. And ever since, he’s also become a close friend and we hang out whenever we can. But it’s just a funny story because I kind of resisted him at first because I didn’t know much about wrestling and I didn’t wanna talk to him as this character.

Alex Obert: You’ve had him on That Metal Show twice and since then, he released Sin and Bones and will be releasing a new Fozzy album this June. Would you welcome him back on the show in an upcoming season to talk about it?

Eddie Trunk: Yeah, of course. VH1 Classic has the ultimate say as to who comes on and when they come on, I have a lot to do with it, but they make the final say. As far as coming on, Chris is always welcome to come on whenever he wants, sure.

Alex Obert: Getting into the current season of That Metal Show, what’s going through your head in preparation for Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, and Dee Snider coming on soon?

Eddie Trunk: Well I’m not sure if Ace is coming on yet, we’re waiting to see about that. He’s on the west coast and I’m not sure if he’s gonna be able to travel. Peter Criss will come on. Both are good friends, both played my thirtieth radio party in New York. One of the things about doing That Metal Show the way we’re currently doing it is that we’re doing the shows weekly and things change. Dee Snider was not supposed to be on at all and he’s now on the upcoming taping. It’s constantly changing every week cause we’re doing the show week to week. I’m excited to have all the guests. We’ve had a great variety this season, everything from classic rock to more extreme metal and everything in between. It’s been absolutely great. We got a lot of first time guests too, a lot of people that have never been on the show before. Dee has, but it’s been a while since he’s been on the set with us so it will be a lot of fun. Dee’s a great talker, we’ll have a good time.

Alex Obert: With the addition of the guest combinations, what are some of your favorites that you’ve had?

Eddie Trunk: Well actually, my favorite shows are the ones where there is no combination, where there’s only a single guest. I like time to talk. The hardest thing for me to do with That Metal Show is to be able to be restricted so much for the amount of time we have. I’m not used to that because I don’t do that in radio, it’s very different for me. I prefer one show, one guest. It gives us more time, like this week’s episode with Mick Mars, Mick is out the whole time. We get to talk to him a bit more. But as far as combinations, Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar together are tremendous. They’re funny, they don’t take stuff too seriously, you can say anything you want. Those are the best guests, the ones you can mix it up with and have a good time with and really get into it. They’re two of my favorites.

Alex Obert: With the move back to New York City for this season, what led to the change of the round table format from season twelve?

Eddie Trunk: You’d have to ask VH1. They decide on the set and all that stuff, VH1 Classic does. I honestly don’t have any input at all about the set or what the show looks like cosmetically. And honestly, I don’t really care. A lot of people went crazy about the glass table and I just laughed about it cause I was like, “I don’t care if we’re doing it on milk crates on the street.” To me, the bottom line that’s most important is that we’re doing it, not what the set looks like. We are far from a cosmetic show. (laughs) We sit out there in jeans and t-shirts, so I don’t really care what the table looks like or any of that stuff. But now that we’re in New York, that set that was done for that one season is still in LA. It’s in a warehouse somewhere in LA. When we moved the show back to New York, which hasn’t happened in years, I believe it was more cost-effective for them to build a new set, as opposed to trying to transport the one that was in LA. So that’s all I know about that. There were a lot of people that didn’t like the round table, there were some people that did like the glass table. I honestly didn’t care one way or the other. I was just happy to be doing the show as I am now and people seem to like this new set more now, so that’s cool.

Alex Obert: Speaking of tables and the new segment Put It On The Table, would you consider changing up the questions for the next seasons to avoid continuous replies of “Happy Birthday” for song they wish they wrote and to shake it up a bit?

Eddie Trunk: Well we’ve had Happy Birthday said a couple times, but not every time. The kind of idea of doing that segment is to keep it consistent, that’s kind of the whole point of it. You get to see how different people answer the same question. Some questions make the cut and some don’t, sometimes we alter that, but the whole point of it is that everybody gets the same question.

Alex Obert: Whose idea was it to have that be a segment on the show?

Eddie Trunk: We started that last season in LA and I believe that came from our producer, Jeff. I think that was his idea. One of the cool things about watching That Metal Show, especially for those who have watched it for a long time, is the evolution of the show. I mean we’ve changed the show dramatically over the time since it started. From a half hour show to an hour show, to no playing in the show to now having guest players, to the bit we do with Skype. Every week now, we have different stuff happening and not happening. It’s always changing and evolving and ideas can come from anywhere. Of course all three of us have had ideas, fans have e-mailed me ideas and I’ve sent ’em in and said “Yeah, let’s try this.”, our producers have certainly had ideas. It’s a team effort and if somebody has a good idea, we’ll try it. If it works, great, and if it doesn’t, we won’t do it again. There’s been stuff that we’ve only done once or twice and never did again. And then there’s stuff we’ve done that has become stuff we can’t seem to take out of the show because people love it so much, whether it’s Strump the Trunk, Throwdown, or Top 5. Outside of Stump the Trunk, I don’t think anything has been there since day one that’s still there. I think we’ve always changed stuff out.

Alex Obert: I heard you mention in an interview several years ago that you were pitching names for the show and you were afraid that “That Metal Show” would pigeonhole it to just metal. But what were some of the other names that you were thinking of at the time?

Eddie Trunk: Honestly, I don’t remember. There was a list of about a hundred names and it was so long ago that I don’t remember. I don’t know if I still have the list. I just know that that is true that I did not want metal in the name of the show. The reason why is because I had been working for VH1 Classic already for a number of years before doing That Metal Show, I did all sorts of interviews for them and I did all genres of music. And I really enjoyed that. I always wanted it to be a rock and metal show, but I felt that if we had metal in the title, it was gonna limit us and we wouldn’t be able to have guests on like Leslie West and Paul Rodgers and Mick Jones and Heart and people like that that we have had on. It was just going to be like, “Well we’re not metal, what are we doing on there?” Fans would go crazy because they’d be like, “Well they’re not metal, what are you doing with them on there?” And that was like that a little bit in the beginning, we were restricted in the beginning. But people have now realized that regardless of the name of the show that it’s basically a rock and metal show and we’re gonna have that sort of variety on it. But that was the only reason I was against metal in the title is because I wanted to be able to do rock and metal, I didn’t wanna alienate artists and have fans ask, “Why are you doing this?” and “Why aren’t you doing that?” There are still some artists that won’t wanna do it and some fans that don’t understand, but for the most part, everybody kind of gets it. It’s a rock and metal show and I say that at the start of every episode, all things hard rock and heavy metal. We’ve kind of established that over the years, people understand a bit more what we’re actually gonna be doing.

Alex Obert: Speaking of mixing up music genres, when did your views on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame start? When did you first really take notice?

Eddie Trunk: I don’t remember an exact date, but being such a lifelong KISS fan, they were first eligible to go in in 1999. I, like everybody, was pretty much figuring, “Well, they certainly go in in 1999 or 2000.” And then when they didn’t, and they kept getting snubbed and snubbed and then I saw the other bands going in, that’s when I really started to get aggravated and that’s when I started to look into it a little more closely. And I started to see all these other bands go in so quickly, and still so many iconic bands like KISS, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Rush, being left to the side. As that trend continued, my frustration got more and more elevated. The thing that I found out, and the reason why I’ve always been so vocal about it, which people never understood, is because most people don’t realize and never realized those bands weren’t in. Everybody just assumed those bands were in the Hall of Fame already. People are like, “What’s the big deal?” And I go, “Well you know that Rush, KISS, and Alice Cooper (at the time) aren’t in.” And they respond, “Oh, no. I thought they were in already.”

My whole point about doing that is to create awareness because in the mainstream media, people don’t follow that stuff that closely. They have no idea that those bands are not in. And it would create awareness to other fans to lead to pressure to hopefully change that. Some of it has changed, there’s still a ton of oversights, but some of it has changed. Whether me being so vocal about it has helped or not, honestly, you’d have to ask the Hall of Fame. I don’t know, I’m not about to say that it did. But it certainly couldn’t have hurt cause it’s created quite a groundswell and helped push that groundswell. And we now have Alice Cooper and Rush and about to have KISS going in. So there’s definitely been some improvements. People say I may have played a role in that, I’m not gonna say that, but if I did, then that’s great.

Alex Obert: I must ask, when Guns n’ Roses were inducted a couple of years ago, what was your immediate reaction when you saw Steven Adler wearing a That Metal Show t-shirt on stage?

Eddie Trunk: I thought it was incredible. I mean Steven is a friend and he’s a huge fan of That Metal Show. And I never expected him to wear that shirt on such a huge night for him. I immediately texted him and thanked him for doing that, it was really awesome of him to do. And obviously huge advertising for us! (laughs) He’s a sweetheart of a guy and he’s always what a huge fan he is of the show. He’s a good guy, he’s a good friend, and we’re all glad that he did it because it was a great testimonial for us. (laughs)

Alex Obert: And you had Matt Nathanson on That Metal Show recently with the fact being addressed that he wore a That Metal Show t-shirt on The Tonight Show. Was it him reaching out to be on the show after that or did you guys take notice and try to get him on the show?

Eddie Trunk: He’s an artist that VH1, not VH1 Classic, has supported and done a lot of stuff with. And we didn’t know him at all prior to that happening. It was pointed out to us that he wore that on Jay Leno and we were like, “Who is this guy? That’s really amazing that he would do that!” The VH1 staff knew him and said he’s a really huge fan of the show, even though he’s not a metal artist, he’s a very proud fan. And we’re like, “Wow, that’s really, really cool.” So they said that he’s a major fan and he can talk the talk when it comes to rock and metal and they said, “We’d like to have him on.” and I’m like, “Okay, cool.” The idea of the show is that any artist, even if they’re not a metal artist themselves, if they wanna come on and are actually truly fans, then we’d have ’em on. That’s how we had Mike Piazza early on too cause he’s a baseball player, but he’s a huge fan of the music. That’s what happened with Matt and Matt was great. We had a great time with him. People at first were a little bit leery because again, he’s not a metal musician and nobody knew who he was, and I get that. But I think after people saw him, they realized how into it he was and people seemed to genuinely really like him being on.

Alex Obert: Would you be open to having a VH1 Rock Doc about you and your life?

Eddie Trunk: Wow. Would I be open to it? Sure. Do I think that it would ever happen or anybody would do that? I don’t think of myself like that. It’s funny, as time has gone on, I hear from so many people and younger people that I was an influence to them and they appreciate what I stand for and appreciate what I do. That really means a lot to me. Somebody said to me, “Hey, all this talk about the Hall of Fame, someday you should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” I’m like, “Wow, I didn’t even think on those terms.” They said that because they have other radio and TV people that they’ve put in. And I said that would be kind of funny considering how critical I’ve been of it if I was actually in it. But I never think of myself like that. The only time that I do is when I hit some sort of milestone in my career, as I did last year with thirty years in radio, and there’s a celebration or a party. I just always think forward, but if someone were to approach me and wanted to do something like that, of course I’d be honored and open to it. But I’m more concerned about trying to continue to further the music and the bands that I love and get them treated respectfully. And if someday that comes around to me, I’d be honored if that opportunity was to be presented.

Alex Obert: Very nice. Well I’d like to thank you so much for your time. It’s truly an honor.

Eddie Trunk: Well, thank you. Great to talk to you and good luck with you and to everything you’re doing as well.

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