OFF-MIC: Ryan Manno

OFF-MIC #3: Ryan Manno

Meet Ryan Manno.  He’s been Q101’s go-to guy since the new millennium started.  After bouncing around roles and responsibilities at the station, he currently shares the evening slot (6-10 p.m.) with his brother, Kevin. 

When I worked at the Zone, I’d run into Ryan at dozens of concerts.  It was never lost on me that the then part-timer was doing all the A-List music interviews.  He got them because, for one, he was good; and, just as important, he was willing.  More often than not, at least in the 90s and early 00s, most jocks couldn’t be bothered to do offsite interviews or hang out at shows.  In Manno’s case, that fact afforded him a terrific opportunity to establish his role both on the air and within the industry.  He did all the interviews, put in all the extra work, and did so with enthusiasm.  It didn’t go unnoticed. 

James VanOsdol:
For context, bullet point your resume.

Ryan Manno:
I started at Q101 as a Promotions Intern in 2000 during my sophomore year. The following Fall, I interned for Sludge, which was the bridge to my part-time on-air work by 2002, before even beginning my senior year of college. I worked with Mancow, as part of his regular crew, from 2003-2006. I have hosted the current evening show on Q just short of two years, and was paired with my brother in the Fall of 2007.

JVO:
After lots of years as the utility player at Q101, it seems like you’re finally living your “moment.”  Is that accurate?

RM:
Couldn’t be more accurate. Dating back to the part-time on-air days, I was still working as a Promo Assistant, hanging banners at the Auto Show during the week. I was more of a free-floater than anyone in the building.

I remember when the Mancow thing blew up, they created some fake position for me called “Music Correspondent.” Basically, I wrote a blog every week and hung out at shows. Totally unfulfilling for someone with drive, you know?

But this, as you said, certainly feels like my moment. This is what I’ve “floated” towards. And I honestly couldn’t be happier.

JVO:
Be honest…was it tough at first to have to share your show, even if was your brother you were sharing it with?

RM:
Absolutely. I hated sharing my time at first. Just the notion of sharing, in general, pissed me off. I knew what I wanted to achieve. I knew what I had been working towards. It was specific and clear. So to have another cook in the kitchen posed an undeniable degree of frustration. It’s since worked out.

JVO:
You and Kevin have an effortless on-air rapport, which is to be expected.  That being said, is the way you communicate on the air different from off?

RM:
Only in the sense that we know we have live mics in front of our face. I think that affects everyone who has done this.

We’d totally still argue, off the air, about whether or not we’d want to watch Julia Louis Dreyfus do a nude scene. Now we’ve just learned to save it for the show. Truly, what you hear on our show is genuine, unfiltered brotherly rapport.

JVO:
Do you two actually see too much of each other now?

RM:
Ha! He’s become a wife to some degree. We start planning the show every day at 3, and stay in constant contact on the BlackBerry, rattling off ideas. There are moments where it’s complete overload and we just want each other to disappear.

This is exactly why I feel so sympathetic for radio teams who are just paired up by some clueless P.D. I couldn’t imagine spending this many hours with someone I didn’t know or like.

It’s got its pros and cons. The fact that he’s my brother makes it easier to spend too much time together.

JVO:
Were you a volunteer for the Mancow show, or were you recruited?

RM:
I was actually recruited. I had a short stint doing the overnight show, so I’d see Cow every morning when he came in for his show. He fell into this bizarre habit of asking me to tell him something new about music every day.  Eventually, he just asked me to stay an extra half hour and grab a mic. It turned into an hour, sometimes two. It was actually really organic between the two of us. When Freak left the show to go over to The Zone, that’s when I became a full-time cast member.

JVO:
What did you learn from the Mancow experience?

RM:
So much, James. I could talk for hours on this. I won’t, so let me take it two separate ways.

First, I learned what it meant to be on the “big stage.” I had to quickly adapt and find my professionalism. I was 21, man. I hadn’t had a taste of syndication. I had no ramp to ease me into what it meant to be on the radio in LA.

I didn’t know what it was like to have an affiliate in Fresno fly me, Turd and Cow out for a weekend to host their annual Summer show. It was all surreal. But it was happening too quick to drag my feet. Point being, it taught me how to carry myself under pressure.

Secondly, Mancow taught me more about how not to behave than how to behave. He didn’t treat his crew with much respect. He treated guests with less. I learned a lot, watching from my corner of the room. And found myself thinking, “Okay, don’t ever be like that.” I find those lessons to be more valuable than the positives.

JVO:
As a proponent of new music, what’s your take on radio’s viability to expose it?

RM:
Great question! I’m finding more and more that it depends on your base audience. See, if we feed our listeners Shinedown, Seether, Saving Abel and Theory of a Deadman all day, we condition them to think that that is new alternative music.

So, when I attempt to integrate something like TV on the Radio, MGMT or Sam Sparro, they feel like they’re at an Elton John concert and either call us “fags” or change the channel. It’s a challenge, yet fun at the same time. I like to push boundaries. I like making someone question what they’re hearing, for better or worse.

I think personal open-mindedness and desire to discover new music dictates radio’s viability to expose it. I never thought I’d find myself quoting Corey Taylor, but he was in-studio the other day and played a Justin Timberlake track from his iPod on the air. He was dancing like a maniac to JT. You could see that he legit felt it. He looked at me and said, “Dude … dig what you dig.” I liked that. Dig what you dig.

JVO:
What sources do you personally trust for new music?

RM:
Word of mouth. That’s about it. Friends. I’ve found that my friends don’t have an agenda that SPIN magazine might. If my friend says, “Let’s go see the Virgins at Schuba’s,” I’m in. If Rolling Stone tells me to, I’m out. The internet is oversaturated. My balls have a Myspace Music page. Friends and friends of friends: that’s who I trust.

JVO:
Name a band that you started out hating but did a complete 180 on.

RM:
Three Days Grace. I thought it was generic, boring garbage at first. “I Hate Everything About You,” was that first single; couldn’t have been a worse lead-in to a band with some actual substance.

JVO:
Seriously?

RM:
Dude, Adam Gontier is fucked up. He’s been through some shit and back. The more time I spent with him, the more I realized that he wasn’t just another empty vessel. They recorded a song called “Scared” in the cold basement of a home haunted by a ghost of a young girl named Emily. They’d been living in the home for weeks, just to get the vibe.

If they’re run-of-the-mill, so be it. But they’ve earned my respect, on an artistic level, far more than any Buckcherry song ever will.

JVO:
Name an artist whose hype you fell for.

RM:
Oh man! This question. Too many to name!

Let’s see…Lady Sovereign? I thought she was the next Jay-Z.  The Arctic Monkeys, of course. That hype ultimately did them in, but you better believe that I bought it. How can you live up to it? Impossible. And I would say The Streets, but I think Mike Skinner has some actual art left in him, so I’m not giving up on him.

JVO:
What was your best interview experience?

RM:
(It’s a) three-way tie : Dave Grohl. Chris Martin. Kirk Hammett.

Dave backstage at the Allstate on their tour with Weezer completely ignored the 15-minute rule and wanted to chat until it was time for him to stretch and take the stage. He was wonderful, beyond any expectation.

Chris Martin had me come to his hotel room at the Four Seasons, when X&Y came out. I sat on the edge of the bed with him and we chatted for almost 30 minutes. He was comfortable there, so I think he didn’t want to stop. He asked me if I knew if Metro was booked that night, because after their UIC Pavilion show, he wanted to go play Metro. I called a few people. They ended up playing Metro.

Kirk Hammett of Metallica was like an overbearing grandmother. We interviewed in a broom closet in Wisconsin, but he was determined that I had enough water, space and general comfort to do a good interview.

All of this has taught me (that) the bigger the band, the nicer they are. It’s those young pricks with that newfound fame-chip on their collective shoulder who can’t see the big picture.

JVO:
You know what’s next…worst interview experience?

RM:
Dave Navarro. I think he’s bi-polar, so I won’t hold it against him. He’s walked out of–and back into–multiple interviews with me.  (At Lollapalooza 2003), he took offense to me saying that “Jane’s Addiction had been around for so long,” because he thought I called him old. So he left. But he came back two minutes later, while I was talking to Perry (Farrell),and gave me a bearhug, telling me that we were “all good.”  We’ve never gelled.

JVO:
You’ve now logged the better part of a decade with Q101.  What were the standout moments for you?

RM:
Any time I can be on stage at Lollapalooza. You know James, as well as anyone, that to grow up in Chicago and to have this city in your bones…when you can introduce The Killers or Death Cab to a crowd deeper than your eyes can see, with the lake or skyline in the background, that’s an unforgettable moment.

I can’t leave out the Grammy trips. You don’t get used to those. No matter what the jaded jagoffs in the press room say, you never get used to being backstage at the Grammy Awards. De-sensitized my ass! That’s a rush.

JVO:
What’s the secret to your longevity?

RM:
Being real. Being local. Being accessible. Being at shows every week. Being visible. Being opinionated. Making mistakes. Trying new things. Not being afraid of failing. Winning. Being honest.

Times have changed. The days of the untouchable, mysterious, mutil-millionaire morning man are gone. Longevity comes from digging it out on the daily. I’ve watched too many nameless faces come and go through these hallways and I always wonder what would have been different had they integrated themselves into Chicago. Like, real Chicago. And I’m not talking about showing up at Cobra Lounge once a month for a work-related going away party.

I love to intro local shows at Goose Island on Clark, if I can. I can’t get enough of what this city has to offer, so I get after it. I’ve been given a great opportunity. To waste it, knowingly, would be the ultimate failure.

Be real. It will translate!

JVO:
Any opinions on HR 848?

RM:
Sure. Let’s shut down all radio stations for a month and see what happens to the recording industry. Disgraceful.

JVO:
How has the music industry changed since you started in radio?

RM:
Another really good question! It’s totally squashed all of my naïveté towards people and their good intentions.

The majority of these slime are a lateral step from used-car salesmen. They have a quota. They need their records on. They backdoor and wheel and deal, and I’m tired of it. I’ve chosen to hit “delete” on all of the specialty pandering mass emails, whereas I used to carefully respond.

If anything, it’s made me trust my ear and my gut more so than ever. No one knows what I think Chicago will love more than I do. Sure, I may be wrong, but I’d rather trust me than John Doe at Hotwheels Record Promo in Tempe.

JVO:
How does the radio industry head toward the light?

RM:
Passion. Embracing, inciting and encouraging passion for what once brought millions to our doorstep. There’s a reason that I used to wait in line at Carson Pirie Scott for Jamboree tickets to go on sale. There’s a reason I used to tape record the “Top 9 at 9.” Passion.

P.D.’s today are so afraid for their own ass, to let a jock voice linger for more than 20 seconds without music, because of what devastation it’ll wreak on PPM. That’s short-sighted. How do you invoke passion in the listener if the messenger has his nuts bound? Impossible.

Freedom will always work. You want real passion? Leave a blank spot on the music log every hour & let me fill it…with “8:16 AM” from 311. Or Thievery Corporation’s “Revolution Solution.” Instead, we’re asked to take ownership of pre-programmed songs that were written when I was 6. I don’t need to tell anyone what’s wrong with that scenario.

JVO:
What do you do to interact with your audience online?

RM:
What don’t I do would’ve been a better question. We have the text window open at all times; people can text live & direct at 99161. Email is always up (Ryan@q101.com). Always on Myspace, Facebook and Twitter during the show. It’s overwhelming at times, but it’s the world in which we live. And I love it. Bulletins, blogs and eBlasts! We push hard to touch every corner of the online community.

JVO:
What’s your long-term goal?  Is it in radio? Music?

RM:
I wish I knew for sure. Kev and I are locked down, contractually, thru March 1st of 2011, so that’s a relief.

But beyond that, I think I want to do talk radio. I have a lot to say. Too much, and sometimes I feel like the music gets in my way. I really want to talk. But I also love to listen. Going back to Mancow briefly, that was one of those “negatives.” He never listened!! He acted like he did, but he didn’t. Argument, in my mind, means that two people are working to find the truth, and I think that’s a good thing.

All told, I think my next dream would be to host a talk radio show.

JVO:
Summarize your professional experience.

RM:
I’m a fan of The Used, so I’m gonna actually throw out an entire verse from a track called “On My Own” from their debut album. Follow me here. It comes full circle. All..and nothing.

See all those people on the ground
Wasting time …
I try to hold it all inside
Just for tonight.
On top of the world,
I’m sitting here wishing.

The things I’ve become,
But something is missing.
Maybe I …
What do I know?

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: