bill bodkin speaks with famed DJ and VH1 Classic host Eddie Trunk …
He might not be a guitar hero, a hellbent-for-leather lead singer or a god of thunder, but Eddie Trunk is one of the most important people in heavy metal.
The New Jersey native is the last of a dying breed: a DJ that matters. Not just a voice that fills up the time between songs and commercials, Trunk is a true tastemaker, a defender of the faith. Simply put, he’s a fan of the music he plays.
Trunk has made his career playing and promoting the music he loves most: hard rock and heavy metal. Throughout his lengthy career as DJ, an A&R rep (for MegaForce Records), a television host (for VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show) and now an author (Eddie Trunk’s Essential Guide To Hard Rock And Heavy Metal). Trunk has become a focal point of the metal community. His vast knowledge of the genre is mind-blowing. He’s brought bands back from the brink of obscurity to the forefront of the minds of young metal fans — whether it be on his shows or through live performance.
In essence, if there were a true “metal god” walking the earth today, his name would be Eddie Trunk. No one has promoted the genre, its artists (from the obvious to the obscure) and its true essence with more passion, knowledge and excitement.
Pop-Break’s Bill Bodkin recently spoke to Trunk, who’s been on a whirlwind publicity tour for his book.
Eddie Trunk on his Essential Guide To Hard Rock & Heavy Metal
PB: Can you describe how the book came together. Were you approached by the publisher, or did you pitch the book idea?
ET: An old friend, musician Neal Casal, had done a book for Abrams [the publisher] of Ryan Adams photos. They told him they were looking to do a metal book, he told them he knew me, we met, and away it went.
PB: Why choose to do a list book instead of a straightforward autobiography?
ET: I will do that some day, but to do it the right way you have to tell the honest truth and dish some dirt, and since I still need to work, not a good time to do that. Plus, my publisher does not do that style of book, so this was a good way to enter that world. But there are many personal stories in it.
PB: When you saw the final, printed version of the book, did you have any second thoughts like, “Man, I wish I had included that band.” Also, what were some of toughest calls on bands that you didn’t include the book?
ET: Being new to the book world, I had no idea how much editing had to happen. I just thought you add pages. The end of the book has a couple pages titled “More Essentials.” I wrote full spreads for those bands, so those cuts were tough. The 35 main bands were chosen because of their impact, and/or because I had great personal stories and photos for them.
PB: In the same vein, you have a lot of amazing bands in the book, and then there were some that were a bit more obscure. For example, why include someone like Billy Squier, who most people know for his two radio hits?
ET: Read the chapter. People forget the guy headlined arenas for a few years and in reality had much more than two hits. Billy was important to me, and I was a huge fan. Technically, he was the first artist I ever saw live when he opened for Kiss in Piper, his first band. I think he is brilliant as a writer and was the gateway for the pop hard-rock crossover of the ’80s. Def Leppard used to open for him. I have always been a fan of hard rock and heavy metal, as the title suggests, and always played both on the radio and TV. So the book has Billy and Bon Jovi, and also Slayer and Megadeth.
PB: In the book, you write about some of the biggest names in metal and hard rock history — many of whom became personal friends, like Rob Halford and Ronnie James Dio. As a longtime metal fan, can you explain the feeling of becoming friends with the singers and musicians you idolized and loved as young metal fan?
ET: It’s kind of surreal because I still just consider myself a fan. But I gained the trust of many of these mega artists, and sadly they know I’m really one of the few guys out there with a major-market radio show that they can get a real interview and always get their new music played. I’m lucky to have their trust and support and call many of them friends, but I am still a fan. Just don’t geek out around them.
PB: One of the experiences you talk about in the book is the night Axl Rose showed up on your radio show. Can you talk about the experience of having one of the most enigmatic/reclusive people in rock come onto your show, and can you speak about the emotions running through the studio that night?
ET: Nobody knew it was going to happen — totally out of left field. Don Jamieson (long before That Metal Show), Jericho, Scott Ian and Sebastian Bach were all there. Already a packed studio. Bas made it happen. The story is all in the book. All I was thinking was that somebody would blurt something out that would make him leave, and I tried to walk the line best I could and keep everyone in line. He stayed almost four hours.
Eddie Trunk on VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show
PB: The new season of That Metal Show is just starting up. What names can we expect to appear on the show that you’re excited for?
ET: Kirk Hammet and Uli Jon Roth were on the kickoff, which was great. [Whitesnake lead singer David] Coverdale for the first time, [Kiss guitarist] Ace [Frehley] returning. I know all these guys well, so they are all fun when they get in the spirit of the show. This is the first time we have guests coming back. It’s Season 7, and it was time, and many were cut short in the days the show was only 30 minutes.
PB: Your co-hosts Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine seem to have a fun time busting your chops and just cracking jokes in general. How hard is it keeping a straight face when the cameras are rolling? Any specific shows where it was almost impossible to stop laughing?
ET: That’s what they are there for. They are also both big fans, but they are there for the X factor. As stand-up comics, you always need to be on your toes around them. But we are all truly great friends and I got them the gig because they had done my radio shows for years and we had great chemistry and they really know the music also. So we laugh as hard off camera as on, sometimes harder. The farting is brutal. They will just blow gassers anytime, anywhere, with anyone around. It’s insane. Total juvenile, total fun, lots of outakes.
PB: What artists are on your wish list to come on as guests for That Metal Show?
ET: [Black Sabbath guitarist Tony] Iommi, UFO, Motley, Ozzy, Kiss, Axl, Van Halen. It’s all schedule and timing for the most part — except Ozzy and Kiss, who always pass.
PB: My co-editor is a huge fan of TMS, but is not a metal fan — he’s a massive Elvis Costello and Roxy Music fan. He wanted to ask you if you’ve run into other non-metal fans like him who still really enjoy the show. And what do you think it says about your show that a non-metal fan loves watching your show every week?
ET: I have, and it’s a HUGE compliment actually. For a show to be successful, it has to attract more than the natural audience and we have been able to do that. Means people are watching for us as well as the bands. So thanks. All are welcome, and maybe it gets you to explore the music. That happened lots with my book already. People have started to seek out and listen to bands after reading about them. As a matter of fact, my editor now loves Billy Squier because of my book.
PB: You’re in your seventh season of TMS. What do you think it is about the show that has made it so popular and has allowed it such a long run?
ET: The fact that we are all true fans and love these bands and are passionate and where it on our sleeve. Even if we are down on a band, it’s because we are fans. People love the interplay with us, the features, the spirit of the show. It takes them back.
Eddie Trunk Answers Random Metal Questions
PB: I’m a metal fan but haven’t been able to find new bands to connect with the same way I have with the classic metal bands (e.g. ,Metallica, Anthrax, Kiss, etc.). What newer hard rock and heavy metal bands would you recommend for people to check out?
ET: Not much for me either; Airbourne, Black Stone Cherry, Buckcherry, Black Country Communion, a few that come to mind.
PB: What are your thoughts on the recent snub of Bon Jovi and the continuing snub of Rush and Kiss into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame?
ET: Please don’t get me started! TONS of bands snubbed, all genres, a total joke … just watch TMS or listen to me on radio.
PB: And finally, you’ve championed UFO for a long time. For someone who might want to get into the band, what album should they start with?
ET: Strangers In The Night, then anything with Schenker, Chapman or Moore on guitar. I have turned on tons of people, and that’s one of the many things I love about what I do.