Eddie Trunk – Hard Rock Ambassador & Preservationist (INTERVIEW)

Eddie Trunk is at home on the day he calls to talk with Glide about the new season of That Metal Show, the VH1-Classic music program he has been hosting for the past seven years. Born and raised in New Jersey, Trunk has built a metal rock empire just by being himself. All the musicians respect him and all the fans gravitate to him for the truthful gist of what is going on in hard rock. And that’s because Trunk is simply the real deal. A fan who loved music, he worked at a record store, a radio station, Megaforce Records, in A&R. He has written two popular volumes of his Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock & Heavy Metal, books compiling his favorite bands interspersed with personal stories, memorabilia and photos. He continues to do several radio programs, a podcast, numerous festivals and personal appearances.

He is critically vocal about the Grammys and the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame’s lack of acknowledgement of bands that matter. Bands like Deep Purple, Cheap Trick and Rush; the latter finally being inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 2013. He is not ashamed of who he likes to listen to, he never has been, but he is also not afraid to stand up and say when they have released music that could have been better. “His sincerity and genuine passion for the music always make me glad that he is a spokesman for the broad spectrum of material out there,” Slash wrote in his introduction to Trunk’s second book. “We all love him.”

So with the new season of That Metal Show kicking off this Saturday, February 21st, Trunk continues on, as Slash calls him, “an unbiased crusader in support of the cause.” Last week he took a few moments from his busy schedule to talk about being the rock kid in high school, how Howard Stern inspired him, AC/DC at the Grammys and what bands he currently thinks are at the top of their games. But first, football.

We know how much you love your New York Giants. What happened to them this season?

Yeah, that is my favorite team and my favorite sport. I think we’re going to have a great year next year. I’m very optimistic, actually. I think that the big problem with this year was all the injuries that they had. So I think that Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz together on the field at the same time is going to be a lot for people to handle and if all those guys that were injured, if we get them back healthy and maybe a couple little additions, I think the Giants are going to surprise a lot of people and have a really, really good year. Again, if they don’t have a ton of injuries, which they had twenty-five guys on IR this year, and I know they say injuries are no excuse but obviously it plays a role. So we’ll see. I wish it was September already. I can’t wait.

AC/DC opened the Grammys the other night. How did you feel about that and their performance?

I thought, and have thought my whole life, that the Grammys, when it comes to rock and metal music, is a complete farce and I’ve railed about it for a long time. I think it’s absurd, actually. They have no clue what they’re doing, and never did, and it’s embarrassing and unfortunately because they’re so lost in their nomination process of who they give Grammys to in those categories, it’s actually become utterly meaningless. Even if the artist every once in a while that deservedly win one, it’s meaningless, it does nothing. There’s no spike in their sales, it’s forgotten the next day, it’s kind of a joke.

But as far as AC/DC performing at it, I thought it was a really cool way to kick off the show and I thought that the band sounded good. I mean, there were a lot of people wondering who the drummer was going to be and obviously that was revealed that they brought Chris Slade back. I thought that Stevie Young replacing Malcolm, he looks like him and I’d guarantee 90% of the people watching had no idea Malcolm wasn’t even there. I don’t think in the mainstream world they follow it all that closely. Now I think if they see Angus in the schoolboy outfit, they see Brian Johnson singing, there’s AC/DC. They don’t get into it in the level that we might. But I thought it was a cool way to open the show and give everybody a dose of some hard rock music and then largely after that, unfortunately for the rock fan, there really wasn’t all that much to see.

With Malcolm’s illness and Phil’s issues, do you think that the foundation is still strong enough to hold the band together after they finish this tour?

Well, I don’t know what their plans are as far as going forward past this tour. I mean, they announced dates yesterday and I think there were a lot of people that were kind of grumbling about how few dates there were. And I told a lot of people, Listen, you know, Brian Johnson, I think, is sixty-seven years old. These artists, when they get up there at this age, they’re not going to go out and play three hundred shows in a year. It’s just not going to happen. So I think what you saw with the announcement of these dates is that a handful of shows were announced in stadiums so there is plenty of capacity and it’s going to kind of be, I think, and I don’t know this for a fact, I’m just speculating, but it’s probably going to be a destination sort of tour, meaning most people are going to have to drive or fly to get to see them if they want to. I think the days of seeing a band like AC/DC in every city in the country playing 250 shows a year or something are long over. And unfortunately as fans, they don’t quite get that.

But it’s difficult for these guys when they reach the age that they’re at and we’re seeing it all the time. We’re seeing Judas Priest announce that they’re kind of winding down. Rush has announced they are kind of winding down. Motley Crue is saying they are done. It’s just hard for fans to understand that nothing lasts forever and time doesn’t stop for anybody and the touring and the traveling takes its toll on these guys. But I think that any band, as long as they can continue to perform at a high level, I think, should keep going and playing as often as they want and whenever they want. I think that the bands that should stop are the bands that you start to say to yourself, “Why are they still doing it? Clearly the guy can’t sing anymore. Clearly the guy can’t play anymore.” When it happens like that or you get down to no original members or one original member, it just becomes a joke, then I think it’s time to kind of gracefully go away. But in a lot of instances, a band like AC/DC, I still think that they’re going strong but I think that they probably have to really pace themselves as to how much they bite off and how much they can handle.

What about a band like Foreigner who has only one original member, Mick Jones, and he only performs when he feels like it – but they are still out there and still hugely popular.

That’s an interesting scenario. I do think that that band sounds really good and all that but again, Mick barely plays anymore and that is essentially a Foreigner tribute band. I mean, there is not one original member in that band. And they certainly sound good and I think what Foreigner has been able to do is probably a model that other bands are going to think about following. But only a few bands can get away with it and Foreigner is one of the bands that can and here’s the reason why, and I don’t mean this as a dis to Foreigner at all because I actually really like the band. Foreigner, even in their heyday in the seventies, they were kind of a faceless band. They didn’t have anybody in that band that was like a pin-up. They didn’t have anybody in that band that was like this one star. Foreigner was all about the quality of the songs and the band itself was kind of like, you know, of course it was Lou Gramm, of course it was Mick Jones, but there weren’t really people running around with posters of those guys on their walls. It wasn’t like it was Robert Plant. It wasn’t like they were star personalities. And I think that is why they’ve been able to do this because if you have AC/DC and don’t have Angus Young there, you’ve got a problem. Everybody knows who he is and what he looks like.

It’s a little bit of a different thing where Foreigner, they can get away with it because it’s, “Oh, we’re getting to hear a great band play these great songs. Oh Mick Jones isn’t here?” People don’t even really know and I think it’s a pretty unique situation that they have and not a lot of bands are going to be able to do that. But they have been able to. So that is an interesting scenario where that is the one band that has been able to actually perform without an original member.

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You’re about to start the new season of That Metal Show. It’s number fourteen, is that correct?

That’s what they tell me. I stopped counting a while ago (laughs). I just know that for me, even though that sounds like a big number, for my personal taste, we don’t do the show nearly as much as I wish we did.

What do you have planned for this year?

We’ve got twelve new shows that start on the 21st of February, which is the premier. We have a new start time of 9:00pm Eastern and we have a very, very diverse roster of artists. Probably the most diverse roster of artists we’ve ever had. You mentioned Foreigner, we had them on the show at one point and clearly the show’s called That Metal Show but I think a lot of people have figured out by now that we do rock, we do metal, we do hard rock. It’s really much broader than that. And I think this season is going to show that more than ever. So we’re going to have a wide mix of styles of music. We’re going to have newer people. We’re going to have younger people. It’s going to be pretty wide-ranging and we start with our debut with Geddy Lee from Rush and I’m really excited about that. We haven’t been on the air with new shows in almost a year so I thought it was really important that we get a great kickoff debut guest and we got it with Geddy coming on. I don’t know how many people realize that Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from Rush were both on our show in the very first season. And we haven’t had them back in a very long time and I’m really excited that we’re going to get him back to not only kick off our season but again that’s a band that kind of has said they’re going to be scaling back how much they play so it’s certainly a great time to grab them.

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What do you think is the biggest question people want answered about Rush, that you’re going to talk to him about?

I think without question the biggest thing that Rush fans want to know is, is this the end. I think that there’s a lot of people and a lot of discussion and rumors out there about Rush ending and this being somewhat of a farewell tour; maybe not using that terminology but them pretty much winding down and this being the last real tour. They’ve alluded to that. They’ve told me in the past that they probably would never really do a quote-unquote farewell tour and bill it as such. They’d probably just kind of drift away kind of quietly and I think that’s what’s happening and that’s kind of what they’ve led people to believe. So I think the number one question that anybody wants to know is, are we pretty much seeing the last Rush tour and what their thoughts are about their future given their age and how long they’ve been doing it. That’s definitely going to be a big point of discussion I think.

What were you like growing up? Were you the rock kid or a nerd?

I was actually somewhere in the middle of the two because when I was growing up, if you were into the music I was, which was hard rock, you were considered a nerd. I graduated high school back in 1982, a long time ago, but the years I was in high school I was considered a total outcast. I was not in with the in crowd at all. I was not invited to the parties. I was considered this music geek and a guy that was not into the cool music of the time. A lot of the stuff I was into was not considered to be hip, cool music. And I didn’t care. I was defiant about what I liked: this is what I like and if you don’t like it, that’s fine. But I was judged a lot by what I liked at the time and what I didn’t like and I found that there were a lot of people that pretended to like music to just be in with this certain crowd and to get into parties and stuff; but they truly didn’t really like it. And I hated that. I always hated people that were fake and phonies about what they liked and didn’t like. So I always fought that and as a result, I kind of got lost in my own little world of music.
I started pursuing a career in music as early on as my earliest days of high school. And that’s all that really consumed me at the time. I wasn’t a good student. I didn’t do well at all as far as grades or anything like that. I certainly wasn’t dumb, I just didn’t apply myself because I really didn’t have much of an interest in the stuff that was being taught. I was just totally in my world of caring about music.

What was the first song or album that completely blew you away?

Well, the first time I totally became consumed with rock music, and the first time I think I really properly heard rock music, was as a very little kid. I was probably nine or ten years old and I was in the backseat of my parents’ car and a band came on the AM radio called the Raspberries and they were a power pop band. Up until that point, I was only really into pop music of the time. I was only a little kid and I was into the Partridge Family and things like that (laughs). That’s what I listened to, that was pop music for kids back then. All of a sudden this band called the Raspberries came on and they had this song called “Go All The Way” and it had this real big guitar riff that started the song. I remember the minute I heard that as a little kid, I still remember to this day, it kind of perked me up and I was like, wow, that’s really cool. What is that? This big loud electric guitar. And I went out and became this huge fan of the Raspberries (laughs). I had every record and got really consumed with that band. That lasted for probably a year or two and then when I was in junior high school, a friend of mine introduced me to KISS and that was the real game changer because getting KISS Destroyer and putting the record on and staring at the cover, that’s what really was the big, big, big game changer. But the introduction was definitely from this band called the Raspberries and that was the gateway and then it was all about KISS.

Who was the first real rock star you ever met?

Wow, that’s a good question. It’s tough to say because I honestly don’t remember. I mean, it’s been so long and I guess because I’ve been doing this as a career for better than thirty years, it all just kind of bleeds into each other. So I don’t really recall but I do remember when I was in high school, I was supposed to go see KISS in Massachusetts, which is quite a ways away from me, it’s about a four hour ride for me, and I couldn’t go because I had an appendix attack. I had to have my appendix out and somehow my mom felt bad for me so she wrote a letter to KISS’ management telling them what happened.

You have to remember back in those days at that point in time KISS was very down on their luck. They were not a popular band. They didn’t even play New York because they couldn’t get a date here so the closest they were playing was in Massachusetts. I remember my mom wrote this letter and somebody in their office responded to the letter and said that they would be willing to, the next time they toured, they would be willing to meet me because I was such a fan and because of what happened and I was in the hospital and all that. The next year I did go to Massachusetts and I did go to some version of a Meet & Greet back then (laughs) and I did meet some of the guys in KISS. This would have been around the time they just took off their makeup, Lick It Up, or maybe even a little earlier than that. So that’s a very early memory of having some sort of impactful meeting with people that I was a fan of.

Did you have a mentor?

I don’t know if I’d say I had so much a mentor. There are people that have certainly influenced me. The local radio station that I grew up with and listening to in my backyard in New Jersey, a station that is still on the air called WDHA and that had a big impact on me as a kid because it was my local station and I was really very much shaped by what they were doing and listening to the music. They would play full album sides of records and the DJ’s actually picked their own music and that had a lot of impact on me just as a radio listener. But as far as what I do now and as far as an interviewer, which is kind of how I built my name to some degree, the one person in radio, cause the hugest part of my history is in radio, I think without question the person that had the biggest impact on me in radio is Howard Stern. Even though I don’t do the same type of radio or broadcasting that Howard does, Howard Stern was the first guy I ever heard who spoke honestly, who said how he really felt, had no filter. There was no BS with him and I remember back in the day listening to him when he played records and music and was a DJ.

I remember listening and he would play a record and come out of the record and be like, “Well, that was the biggest piece of crap I ever heard.” (laughs) It like stunned me cause I used to listen to people play music and every record they would come out of they would go on about how it was the greatest record ever made and I was like, can this person really like every single song they’re playing right now? Of course they don’t, but they can’t say it because you have to sell everything, you have to be politically correct, you have to say the right things all the time.

So Howard was the first guy I ever heard that shattered all that. He still played it but he also said he didn’t like it. But he still had to play it. And that had a huge impact on me because I was like, wow, here’s a guy who is actually being real on the radio, who actually has an opinion and isn’t afraid to give it, and is kind of tearing down the illusion a little bit. That meant a lot and had a lot of impact on me for sure and I learned a lot through listening to him, that it’s okay to be yourself. Sure you’re going to get some blowback for it and sure you’re going to get some heat from some people about it cause they’re not going to like everything you’ve got to say, but I respect that. I’d rather have a situation where there’s a few people that don’t like you because you’re not so PC but you get a hell of a lot more people who know who you are and do respect you because they know you’re willing to say what you really feel and that was really important to me.

You actually played a part in Winery Dogs coming together. That must have been exciting for you when that happened?

Yeah, it was. In a lot of those interviews they mentioned that and that was nice of them to do that. A lot of people also don’t know that I have a history in the music business. I actually was in A&R in the eighties and actually worked for record labels and such and so I’ve worn a lot of different hats in this business over the years. The situation with the Winery Dogs was just a case where all three of those guys were friends and I was a fan, certainly a huge fan, of all three of them. Originally that band was going to be with a different guitar player/singer, a guy by the name of John Sykes. He walked away from it and decided he didn’t want to do it. Then Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan were kind of upset cause they really wanted to do this power trio and they figured it was a dead issue and it wasn’t going to happen. I suggested Richie Kotzen. I said, you know, there’s this guy that I’m a huge fan of and I think he’s a very underrated talent and I said he could come into this thing and make it really special and still keep it going. So I just connected them and they did all the rest. But they were very gracious and very nice about giving me a lot of the credit for having the idea. Some people think when I do stuff like that I have some sort of interest in it in terms of like I manage them, I have a piece of their business, I make money from them (laughs). None of that is the case at all. It just was simply a case of three friends and I thought it would be a good idea if they worked together and I suggested it and they went and made a great record. It’s nice to have some association with it and it’s really nice to have those guys to mention my role in it but I’m just happy that it worked out so well and they made a great album and will hopefully have a great future.

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Do you think Black Sabbath has another album in them?

I don’t know. Possibly. I think Tony Iommi is the undisputed all-time master of riffs and when you have that catalog of riffs, I think that he could make twenty good records still if he wanted to. I’ve spoken to Tony about this, that “You should sell your riffs,” cause he said he’s just got archives of these riffs. I said, “You should sell them as ringtones cause you could never possibly make music with all of them. There’s just not enough time.” And he laughed and he said, “It’s kind of true.” So I honestly don’t know what their future is but I think that they could make as many records, great records, as they wanted to. The question just becomes, do they have the focus to do it, do they have the energy to do it, the desire to do it. Again, you’re talking about guys that are in their mid-to-late sixties and who have been through this for forty or fifty years and are now having some health issues with Tony. So it just comes down to if they WANT to. But I think if they want to, they certainly can, mainly because Tony has an archive, I know for a fact, of just riffs forever.

Do you plan to do another book?

Yes, I definitely plan to do a third book. I just don’t know when and I just don’t know what the format’s going to be. My impression at this point is that I don’t think it’s going to be a third volume, a continuation, of the first two books that I did. I think if people know my first two books, they are more of a listing of bands that I loved and why I thought they were important and my playlists and a couple personal stories and a lot of cool photos. I could certainly do a third one of those and I might. But I’m not feeling like that is going to be the case right now. I think that the next book that I do when I get the time to do it, I want to get through this season of That Metal Show which will take me into May and then I have some stuff actually already scheduled into June, so I’m thinking maybe late summer would be when I’d really start thinking about what I’m going to do with another book.

But I think that with the next book what I’d like to do, what I’m leaning towards, is kind of more an autobiography. I want to tell all the stories. I want to tell the stories about how I went from being this outcast kid in my high school in New Jersey to doing what I’ve done in the business on all levels, not just the things most people know me as, from the TV show or perhaps radio or whatever. But all the stories that led up to them, how those things happened, what it took to get them to happen. The good, the bad and the ugly. So I’d like to do that. I’m often asked by people all the time, “Hey man, how did you get to do this?” or “How did this happen?” I’ve got stories for days so I’d like to put those in some pages and get that story out there at some point.

What are some of the other things you said you have going on this year?

There are a few events that I host every year, Rocklahoma, the Monsters Cruise, one that I do every year in Maryland called the M3 Festival and that’s coming up soon. So all of this stuff happens in the April/May area of the year every year. It’s a really jampacked time because we’re also doing the TV show and also two radio shows and a podcast around all that. This part of the year, the first half of this year, is really pretty jammed up. Then on top of all those things, I go out and do live shows in clubs. I do them both with Don and Jim [Jamieson and Florentine, respectively, Trunk’s co-hosts on That Metal Show] and all three of us go out together, and I also do them on my own. We have a lot of fun doing them. We’ve got a pretty big schedule of them coming up and all the dates are on my website and it just keeps me real busy.

But it’s a lot of fun though. When I do shows with Don and Jim, they’re both stand-up comics so they do stand-up and I kind of host and tell some stories. When I do the show on my own as a solo show, it’s really just an hour and a half, two hours, of just storytelling and Q&A and a live Stump The Trump, which everybody likes to do. It’s a little bit of a different tone when I do them on my own. It’s much more of a conversation. When I do them with Don and Jim, it’s much more the flavor of a stand-up comedy show. But they are fun either way and I’ve got a bunch of them lined up already into June. Again, they are all listed on my site and they’re all over the place, from Michigan to California to you name it. So around all this other stuff, I do a lot of that on the weekends.

What bands do you think are at the top of their game right now?

It’s hard to say but I could tell you what I’m listening to and liking right now. That would kind of lead to thinking that those are kind of at the top of the game because they are bands that I like and are my favorite records at the moment. There is a new band called Farmikos that I like right now which features Joe Holmes, who used to play with Ozzy and David Lee Roth, and their debut album just came out and I really like that. There’s another kind of a new band that Scott Ian is a member of called Motor Sister and I like that record a lot. I love the new Marilyn Manson record. I was always a big fan of his since the beginning. I think he’s made a great comeback the last couple of years. I like the new Black Star Riders record, which Thin Lizzy kind of morphed into, and I think that’s really good as well. Those are a few of the new things that have come out that I really have been listening to and really enjoying.

Do you like the new Slash record?

Yeah I do and there’s a great example of bands and an artist that is really at the top of their game right now. If you go see that band live, I mean, Slash is a good friend and he was nice enough to do the Forward for me in my second book, and it’s really amazing what he’s been able to do because he’s got a great group of guys around him, a great band, he’s really comfortable, he’s really doing, I think, what he should be doing musically and he’s carved out a great thing with this group. And when you see them live, you get a little taste of everything. You get some Guns, you get some Velvet Revolver, you get his solo stuff. As far as a live show, they are really great.

But listen, I still think Aerosmith are at the top of their game. I still think that as far as a live act, and you’re again talking about a band in their sixties, they’re still amazing. Some of these guys, they have managed to continue to just get better over time and Aerosmith is another instance also of a band that, and you can probably name these groups in one hand, that still have their original lineup. And that’s unheard of. They are still the same five guys that started it over forty years ago. That’s really special and that’s really something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Any time I get a chance to see those guys, I always do. I’m amazed still at how good they are and unlike how we talked about Foreigner earlier who still sound great and have great songs but are really not Foreigner, Aerosmith is still the original deal. It’s pretty amazing.
And they are still making some new music.

It’s so great that so many of these guys are making new music but it bums me out tremendously how little of it unfortunately gets played and how few people really know that it’s even ever come out. And that’s really a big bummer. It truly is extremely frustrating as a music fan that so little of this new music is given an opportunity and given a fair shake. But hopefully that will change one day. I don’t know. But it’s something I pride myself on doing on my shows, is always playing the new stuff as well and engaging people in that and hopefully turning them on to it.

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