Metal Injection Interview: Ad-Free Heavy Metal Global Radio Service, GIMME RADIO, Adds DJ's Randy Blythe, Ben Weinman, Johan Hegg & More!
If you haven't checked out Gimmeradio.com, the first world wide and completely free metal radio station, then you owe it to yourself to do so, immediately! With an ensemble of awesome DJ's like Randy Blythe of Lamb Of God, Ben Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Jessica Pimentel of Orange Is The New Black, and even yours truly, Gimme Radio looks to revisit the golden era of radio, and build a community for the heshers on a world wide web platform. In short, it's honestly one of the most exciting things to happen in metal in a while, and I couldn't be happier to be part of it.
Talking with one of the creators, Tyler Lenane, and hearing his passion for the project, inspired me to conduct an interview with him. Hopefully this can give you, the listener, some insight into the foundation of the radio station, the passion for metal behind it, and give you a few more reasons to get involved with this awesome service.
Metal Injection: Tyler, let’s talk about where the idea for Gimme Radio came from. Did you have a background in traditional radio that you were unhappy with?
Tyler: Not much, but what I do have a lot of experience in is in the digital music world. Myself and two of the other founders –David Rosenberg our COO and Jon Maples our Head of Product – have, collectively, about 40 years experience and have worked at companies like Apple, Beats Music, Google Play, Rhapsody/Napster, 8 Tracks, MOG, and Live365 – and Gimme Radio really comes out of an unhappiness with what happened with the digital music services. Because those services are in a race to try and win over as many subscribers as possible they have to go broad and shallow – they have to appeal to as many people as possible – and in doing so they really cannot concentrate on what I feel are the most vibrant and exciting genres of music- like metal.
Metal Injection: There are so many things that set GR apart from every other music service in the world, but one I always get really excited over, even on my show, is that GR has the ability to play music that you can’t even find on any other streaming services. Can you tell us how this is possible?
Tyler: We want our DJs to play whatever they want and we’ll bust our ass finding really obscure or really old stuff into our catalog for our crew. Look, any online radio streaming service has the ability to play pretty much anything that’s out there, but putting in the work for genres outside of pop music likely won’t give the big services the big returns they need, so they don’t. Also when most services are making playlists they are focused on stuff that is going to resonate with as many people as possible – you aren’t going to get a a lot of underground Portuguese black metal or you’re not going to find people insisting that the version of “Hit The Lights” by Metallica is not the one from Kill ‘Em All, but the version with Dave Mustaine playing the solos, the one that appeared only on the second pressing of the Metal Massacre compilation. We really do want to be a place where fans can discover new music – I feel like a lot of the discovery tools out there can’t deliver like great radio can. So we put in the effort to find specifically what our DJs want because it’s important to us, it’s important to our DJs, and it’s important to our listeners, and the whole experience.
Metal Injection: I can’t say it enough, but I really commend what you guys are doing. Not only is this one of the most artist-friendly companies I know in metal, because you actually purchase the music then continue to support it, but it’s all for the sake of metalheads across the globe, and I’m sure that’s no easy task. What do you think has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced with the company so far?
Tyler: I think one of our biggest challenges has been trying to bring back a sense of community through shared listening while we are living in an “on demand” world. You wouldn’t believe how many people are discouraged by the fact that they can’t get what they want when they want it – that they cannot go back and play a DJ’s show whenever they feel like it. We struggle everyday with the question of whether we make the shows archived and available 24/7 – or keep it linear. For now, we really think that the magic of real radio – of waiting to hear what song comes next even if you don’t love the current song, is really powerful. That sense of excitement is something that’s really important to me personally. I mean, I remember sitting in my car listening to the college radio station’s punk and metal shows and not getting out of the car because for fear that I may miss something that is going to blow my mind. Same thing with early MTV and shows like Headbangers Ball or 120 Minutes. You couldn’t tear your eyes away or you might miss the next great thing. We are trying to recapture that feeling with Gimme Radio.
Plus it’s really amazing when you see a conversation going on in Gimme Live – the live feed – between someone in NY, someone in South Africa, Finland, and Canada. It’s happening more and more as we grow bigger and as more people find out about the station. I’m starting to see people actually forming friendships in the feed and I’m seeing people log off with “Ok everyone, gotta go, see you tomorrow.” It’s amazing. I’m starting to see that this can really happen, that we can actually build a community outside of Facebook or Instagram – a community of metal fans that are all listening together and all having a conversation about music, not a cat meme.
Metal Injection: I absolutely love the community driven camaraderie you’ve built for Gimme Radio. Not only have you enlisted many of my touring friends as DJ’s, but you’ve built a platform for listeners to interact with the playlists they curate. GR is making radio exciting again! I know you always have new DJ’s popping up, can you tell us about some of the more recent additions?
Thanks Frank, we are psyched you like it. So in this month alone we’ve premiered Randy Blythe from Lamb of God who is doing a killer punk show called The Power Remains. Its theme is that the metal you love really has deep roots in punk. It’s a really fun show with tons of folks contributing in Gimme Live. And he invites other people on his show who are in metal bands but are big fans of punk – guys like Jesse Leach from Killswitch Engage and Nergal from Behemoth. We’ve also launched Jessica Pimentel – she's the lead singer of Alekhine’s Gun and also, Maria Ruiz on Orange is the New Black. She also just released this amazing single from another band she is in called Black Heart Sutra which we’re playing on the station and I think you guys at Metal Injection also premiered. Jessica’s show is brutal – in the best way possible – lots of classic death metal, but also new stuff that a lot of people probably haven't heard yet.
Our big announcement last week was Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg. His show, Hammer of the North premieres this week. His shows are really amazing – on his first one he takes the listener on a journey from his earliest memories of music growing in Sweden through his whole musical history – explaining how all the influences helped shaped the Amon Amarth sound.
We’ve also been getting some great shows from labels – Metal Blade has a rotating roster of guest DJs and last week Pustulus Maximus of GWAR played some insane stuff that you wouldn’t really expect to hear on Gimme Radio. Nuclear Blast has being doing a regular show and they are starting to do some interesting on air interviews like with Peter Tägtgren from Hypocrisy and PAIN. We’re also super excited to have music journalists like yourself as well as Decibel’s Shawn Bosler and Anthony Bartkewicz. And of course lots of people from bands – Ben Weinman from Dillinger Escape Plan should be premiering a show soon and we’ve had guys like John Brookhouse from Worshipper, Ross The Boss, Dean Rispler, Dave Catching from Eagles of Death Metal, Tony Lazzara from Bloodiest – to name a few. Check out the DJ page on Gimme Radio for a full list.
And honestly we are just getting started. We will be consistently adding new DJs and new specialty shows to keep things fresh and interesting. We definitely have a few DJ announcements coming up that we’re sure are going to blow our listeners away, so lots more coming on the DJ front.
Metal Injection: On behalf of all the DJ’s, I can’t thank you enough for giving us the trust to create any show we want with our time. It creates a wide variety of shows that can appeal to just about every heavy listener under the sun. What are some bands you personally prefer though? Who is on your Mount Rushmore of metal?
Funny you mention the Mount Rushmore of metal – there was a related conversation about this on Gimme Live this past week where listeners were going back and forth on whether a fifth face of “Mt Thrashmore” should be added to the Big 4, of course, the conversation was on whether it should be Testament or Exodus.
For me I got to metal really through hardcore. One of the first hardcore shows I saw was in 1985 with DRI and and COC on the Dealing With It and Animosity tour…so the whole crossover thing was always big with me – especially growing up near the legendary Anthrax club in Connecticut – which is super close to NYC – and so I was seeing bands like the Crumbsuckers, Leeway, and Ludichrist all the time…I still have a soft spot for the crossover sound and I think it’s great to see bands today like Powertrip and Iron Reagan bring back that sound and really elevate it to what i think is the next level.
Also, In the early 1990’s I worked at Roadrunner records and so was around when albums like Death’s Symbolic, and Deicide’s, Once Upon the Cross where coming out so I was really familiar with death metal, but what I really sort of missed was a lot of the early Black Metal stuff – I really only started listening to a lot of the black metal bands more recently. For me a lot of the new black metal I’m hearing is some of the most interesting stuff coming out. I like listening to Anthony Bartkewicz’s show, Grave Convulsions, because he is playing some pretty underground black metal bands from all over the world- it’s a really cool show. I think that Succumb out of San Francisco has put out one of the best records this year. I’m also a really big fan of pretty much everything that Black Anvil has been doing.
Metal Injection: That's killer! Awesome to hear something you created, is allowing you to discover new stuff as well. I know it only began a few months ago, but where would you like to see GR in 3 years from now?
Tyler: I want Gimme Radio to be the one true destination for metal fans – where you can listen to great music, discover new bands, and have conversations directly with the DJs, artists, and other fans. The internet has in some ways made it easier to be a fan – you can pretty dig and get all the information about a band you’d ever want and you can buy pretty much anything that has been recorded, but in other ways it's made it really hard. You go one place to listen to music, another to purchase, another to get up to date information about a band, another site to buy tickets…and in all these places you really don’t have a way to connect with other fans of the music. We want to make it easy to be a fan of metal -we want to put it all in one place and also make it interesting and a fun listening experience..
The analogy we keep using is we want the Gimme Radio experience to be like going to a show. You’re there for the music and there’s all this other stuff going on as well. You can go to the bar and chat up some friends. You can go to the merch table and get shirts, stickers and LPs you can’t find anywhere else. There’s a few opening bands you’ve never heard of, and then the headliner comes on that you’ve been a fan of for years. Then someone hands you a flyer for a basement show going on after the venue closes. It’s such a great experience that you are back the next night for a whole new set of bands.
I also believe that having an online music service is not enough. You need to have a real physical presence. There’s a real sense of disconnect without it. Where does Spotify exist? In Stockholm? I guess, but it really doesn’t exist anywhere – and that’s a problem when you are talking about music. Whenever I travel to different cities I search out the local record store, I try and go see a show in the small local venue. I want people that visit San Francisco to go – “Oh shit, we need to go check out Gimme.” When we started Gimme Radio it was always the plan for me and the other founders to have a real physical location where you could actually go to and visit, buy records, have a drink, or get a cup of coffee. One of the founders, Andy Gilliland, who is Head of Creative and designed the entire Gimme Radio site, owns a brewery here in SF called Black Sands – he and I talk a lot about the need for a physical aspect of Gimme – as the real way to build community.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t launch the service and launch a physical retail-type location at the same time – but we haven’t given up on the idea. Gimme Radio shouldn’t just be something in the clouds…it needs to really exist – as a record store, a live venue, a festival. Something. We’ll see.