OFF-MIC: Scott Davidson (Rebel Radio)



OFF-MIC #8: Scott Davidson







 

Meet Scott Davidson, Chicago music figurehead.  Or more specifically, Chicago metal figurehead.



I’ve been trading emails with Scott over the past month or so about his ongoing and wholly underground “Rebel Radio,” a metal outpost as pure in intent as it is in sound.  Currently heard on AM 1500 WPJX and AM 1330 WKTA, “Rebel Radio” continues to work towards its goal to expand its audience beyond the limited transmission strength of its current homes.  Davidson says that he’s in talks with a few other stations at the moment, though nothing could be confirmed at what I laughingly call “press time.”  Perhaps more interesting than that is the fact that he’s going to start a metal talk show called “Rebel Radio Round Table” on WPJX, which will also be aired on AM 1280 WTMY in Sarasota, Florida.





James VanOsdol:

From the beginning, let’s roll through the history of Scott Davidson:



Scott Davidson:

It all started when I was five years old. My grandma bought me a drum, (and) I banged on it for months until I broke the head. When I turned 15, I got a drum set, started playing in numerous bands and then I joined Stonehenge in ’88. In ’89, I got my first taste of radio at a radio station called G-Force; that lasted a year and a half. Then I stated Rebel Radio (on) July 10th, 1994, and I have been running it ever since. I started out promoting my own bands, such as Stonehenge, and I began booking other bands (like) Trouble, Pantera, Iced Earth, Arch Enemy, and numerous others. I started booking some shows at Chances R , Thirsty Whale, then I started booking full time at Smiley Coogans which then led to Matrix, Nite Cap and Legends. I have also booked shows at House of Blues, Metro, and Double Door, as well as many other venues. At the current moment I play drums in six different bands including Smoke, Heaven and Hell (Chicago), Stoneface Nation, (and) Judas Rising. The newest band, Earthen Grave, features Ron Holzner, Ex-Trouble, on bass and Rachel Barton Pine on electric violin. I also do a cable TV show called Rebel Vision, (hosted) since 1998.



JVO:

Rebel Radio has a new(ish) 24-hour home on WPJX.  Explain how this works–are you brokering the time, or are they paying you? 



SD:

No, I am not brokering time on WPJX. They are paying me to do Rebel Radio, but I have brokered time in the past (on) AM 1240 WSBC and AM 1470 WCFJ.



JVO:

Is this a long-term solution for Rebel Radio?



SD:

No. Rebel Radio is going to be back on the Internet 24/7, streaming Real Audio live at Rebel Radio.com. I am also hoping to add more stations and hoping to go on to satellite soon, like I did in the past. Back in the day, Rebel Radio was on five stations at the same time in Illinois and Wisconsin and we were the first radio station to broadcast Real Audio on the web.



JVO:

Love of metal is one thing.  The fact that you’ve stayed committed to keeping Rebel Radio going for this long shows unbelievable passion.  Were there times when you wanted to say, “This is too much work.  I can’t do this anymore?”



SD:

Yes, of course, and there were people that doubted me.  That is part of what kept Rebel Radio and I going. I also have an extreme passion for music.



JVO:

How do you grow Rebel Radio while keeping it pure?



SD:

By sticking to what got me this far and not selling out. 



JVO:

Did you ever foresee that it’d last as long as it has?



SD:

No. I am suprised that we’ve been on the the air for 15 years. 



JVO:

What was your plan when you started Rebel Radio?



SD:

To play music that no one else was playing on the radio and hope for some day to have a 24 hour Rebel Radio format. 



JVO:  

How do you judge the success of Rebel Radio?  Is there a gauge, be it financial or perceptual?



SD:

To me, just staying on the air for this long (15 years) is a success.  The threshold for me is to have a Rebel Radio Network airing in other markets.  If I was doing this for the money, I would probably be doing something else. 



JVO:

Do you work with labels?  Promotions companies?



SD:

All the time, since day one. They get me the artist interviews, meet and greets, concert tickets, and much more. I have a great relationship with all of them.



JVO:

Do the promoters and labels still operate under that “quid pro quo” mentality, pulling that “you

scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” routine?



SD:

Yes, that has always been there.  But I think that happens in almost every business.



JVO:

What’s the plan for streaming?  It seems to me that if you have a solid streaming solution in place, when wi-fi makes it to car stereos, it’ll off to the races for Rebel Radio.



SD:

I agree, and we will be streaming online again within a few weeks at Rebel Radio.com.  It’s already in the works. 



JVO:

The midwest is undeniably a great region for metal. How often do you see local bands play live who make you think, “holy crap, I’ve gotta put these guys on the air?” 



SD:

It happens a lot.  When I see a band I like a lot, I play their CD the next time I’m on the air. Examples (from) when I first started would be Disturbed, Soil,Symphony X, November’s Doom, (and) Lungbrush. Today it would be bands like Trials, Dirge, and Diamond Plate.



JVO:

We’re living in a time when metal is more needed than ever.  With the economy in turmoil, a global swine flu felling countries, and the fact that the world is a scarier place to live in every day, metal remains the music that takes the piss out of everything–if only for the span of a five-minute song.  Two part question:  How would you categorize the state of metal today, and do you feel that the environment is shaping the scene in any way?



SD:

When I first started Rebel Radio back in ’94, everyone said metal was dead, but today the scene is stronger than ever. But today’s a different day in the music industry, with all the illegal downloading and such. I see a bunch of bands with D.I.Y. attitude. I think with the state of the economy, it’s giving bands a lot more stuff to write about.



JVO:

Speaking of the economy, have you seen an impact on the club side?  Are people still going out to

shows?



SD:

Yes, people are, but it not as consistent as it was in the past with the non-smoking ban, and it’s alot tougher with the police getting much stricter with DUI’s.  You have to be alot more creative.



JVO:

For many who don’t listen, metal is…loud, abrasive, music.  The fact that there are so many nuanced subgenres in metal would come as a great surprise to them.  I’ve been trying to pinpoint where your personal enthusiasm lies–is it thrash? NWOBHM?  Something else?



SD:

The most fervent fans I’ve seen lie in Power Metal & Death Metal.  Its hard to pick just one, but my favorite bands are Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Pantera, Slayer, Iced Earth, Metallica, Black Label Society, Machine Head, Tesatament, Megadeth…    



JVO:

Along those lines, there really isn’t a “typical” metal listener, is there?  Would you say that Rebel Radio’s audience is pretty varied?



SD:

Yes. I say there is a wide range in age group varying from young kids to old schoolers, and I try to make them all happy.  



JVO:

How does it feel to be a true figurehead in Chicago’s metal community?



SD:

It feels good. It’s pretty cool when the people from JAM Productions, House of Blues, and other promoters call me all the time and ask my opinion on how bands will draw at their venues.  I go to places all the time and people know who I am. People say to me all the time, “thanks for turning me onto this band or that band;” without me playing them, they might have never heard this band or that band.



JVO:

What five albums should new listeners study as homework before taking the full Rebel Radio course?



SD:

Black Sabbath “We Sold Our Soul For Rock and Roll”

Judas Priest “Metalology”

Pantera “Vulgar Display Of Power”

Metallica  “Master Of Puppets” 

Slayer  “South Of Heaven”


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