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A Decade Of Breaking Bands: hardDrive Turns 10

hardDrive began as the brainchild of producer and music industry veteran Roxy Myzal with help from former Associate Producer Don Kaye. They originally started the program under the name Pure Concrete with more of a Metal focus. Wanting to go in a new direction, Myzal dissolved that show and re-launched it as hardDrive – a program that would straddle the line between harder Alternative and Active Rock and provide fans with interviews, music news and concert updates. All she needed was the right voice to steer hardDrive into the fastlane.

“At the time we were consulted by Jacobs Media, so they sent us a pile of tapes and the one that stood out for me was the one from Lou Brutus, who was at Rock 103.5 [WRCX] in Chicago at the time,” recalls Myzal. “I thought he nailed every artist interview, he was interesting, and he liked Frank Zappa as much as I did.”

Lou Brutus and Roxy Myzal hang with Godsmack in Montreal.

Brutus, who was also a veteran of WMMR/Philadelphia and WHJY/Providence, signed on for the gig, and hardDrive started in syndication with SW Networks. The show peaked with a respectable 75 affiliates, but when the company folded, hardDrive moved over to MediaAmerica where it began to lose steam. Sure enough, MediaAmerica soon decided to exit the longform music programming business, which ultimately turned out to open new doors for hardDrive.

“They were going to cancel the show,” says Myzal. “That’s when I contacted Andy Denemark, [EVP of Programming] at United Stations Radio Networks, and said, ‘Do you think you’d be interested in a really cool show?’ Without hesitation he said, ‘Absolutely.’ So we packed up our tapes and came here. It’s been a great marriage. The affiliate marketing staff has been tremendous.”

Indeed, over the past five years, United Stations has revitalized hardDrive and helped to double its affiliates, bringing the show to Active, Modern and Mainstream Rock audiences. Now, as it enters its tenth year, the show airs on over 110 stations nationwide, including WJJO, WRIF, KXTE and WHJY, and many stations also stream it on their Web sites.

Denemark says that when United Stations bought the program, “We were not only excited to expand our Rock product, but we also saw the potential of growing the show. It didn’t look like it had been worked to radio that well, and we have more than doubled the station list since that show joined us. That’s no small feat. It’s a function of how good the show is and how wired into everything Roxy and Lou are. The production is flawless, and the audience is passionate for these bands. Roxy and Lou are as much fans of the music as the listeners are, so there’s an immediate connection. They deliver the audience the goods.” He continues, “A lot comes down to ratings, and we’ve gotten e-mails from PDs saying, ‘hardDrive is #1 in its time slot.’ And that’s the bottom line too – a show can be really great, but PDs live and die by the numbers. The show is quality and it delivers for the stations too.”

Brutus and Slipknot’s Joey Jordison contemplate the recording of Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses).

“What’s funny is, some of the stations that still haven’t signed up say, ‘This is our format. We don’t really need this stuff,’” says Myzal of the music. “But I have to say that the quality and frequency of interviews that we get – we don’t just do one interview and never talk to that band again. We continue to add to the news and information that’s happening with that band, and we get updated interviews. We’re like a guide for music lovers to keep in touch with their favorite bands, because we’ll get someone on the phone to talk about their brand new single or new baby they just had. We thrive on giving people the best info and the best music.”

Without a doubt, the key factors that have driven the show’s success are Myzal and Brutus’ prophetic ability to spot a star in the making, and their access to exclusive interviews. The show is constantly seeking out the freshest music and it was the first to take a chance on bands like KoRn, Rage Against The Machine, Godsmack and Disturbed. Furthermore, Brutus’ relationships with many of these artists afford the show access to news and interviews with bands like Tool and Stone Sour that many other shows would not get.

“It’s very hard to make friends in this business, but I’ve been doing this show for so long and I always try to be very respectful of the artists who are on,” explains Brutus. “I don’t ask them stupid questions or try to embarrass them. I try to embellish what they do, so luckily I’ve gotten a good reputation for that. And it’s also allowed me in a few cases to get tight with some people. There’s a few artists that I keep in touch with on a weekly basis, and that’s a fun thing.” He adds, “It’s 10 years now, and it’s gone by in the blink of an eye. We make it fresh every week. We don’t repeat or recycle stuff. We’re constantly out there finding new music and getting to the artists.”

It also doesn’t hurt that with a decade under its belt, many in the flock of current artists grew up listening to hardDrive themselves, which is part of the reason the show is so well respected. “I am continually impressed by Roxy and Lou and their ability to not only have relationships with monster bands in this format, but when a new band comes along, you get that classic cliché of, ‘I grew up listening to this!,’” says Denemark. “It’s incredibly gratifying to have some red hot new band come in for an interview, and they can’t believe they’re in the studio where hardDrive is produced.”

Brutus and Myzal pose with Staind during an autographed guitar giveaway contest.

Brutus concurs, saying, “You can take artists like Breaking Benjamin and Slipknot as examples of bands that listened to hardDrive before their bands had even formed. My favorite story is, before Slipknot took off, [singer] Corey Taylor worked in a porn shop in Des Moines Des Moines was one of our original affiliates and they’ve always been one of our strongest. So Corey would listen to hardDrive for two hours before he went to work at midnight, and he would always tell himself, ‘One day that’s gonna be me on that show.’ He told me that story, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It means so much, plus it’s also a funny story.”

This Fourth Of July weekend, hardDrive will mark its 10th anniversary of bringing new music to the masses. They’ll unearth some old bits and archive interviews from Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Metallica and others, and they’ll sprinkle in some of the best music from the past 10 years (but not too much, as the focus will remain on new music). More archival interviews will air throughout the summer, but the big celebration will come in Minneapolis with a variety of hardDrive 10th anniversary events during Conclave. Furthermore, there are plans in the works for an extension of the hardDrive brand that could appear in the fall.

Looking back on the last 10 years, Brutus still loves his job just as much as when the ride began, and he continues to get excited about going to concerts and breaking the next band. Some of his current favorites include Lacuna Coil, Black Stone Cherry and Eighteen Visions.

“The best time I’ve had with listeners was when I went to WJJO’s Band Camp,” he remembers when asked about his interactions with fans. “There is probably not a more loyal hardDrive city than WI. They just go crazy for the show. And everywhere I went that weekend, people literally stopped me in the street and said things like, ‘hardDrive is the best show in the world. I remember when you played this,’ and people just went on and on. That’s the best thing. What’s better than doing what you love, getting paid for it, and having people say nice things to you about what you do? You can’t ask for more than that on the whole planet.”

** QB Content by Mandy Feingold **


Nicki Farag,
SVP of Promotion,
Def Jam Recordings

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