Radio Daze : 7.5 – Red Decibel Records, Part 2 The Coup de Grace

Red Decibel Records (Discogs) was the project of Jake Wisely. I really loved this label and their output. Their radio rep, Brent Ashley, was really cool and we developed a solid relationship. He sent me not just normal album releases, but special run 7″ and 10″ records, posters, various cool stuff. Note that a lot of their stuff was Minneapolis music scene.

Album cover poster

Their band I really got into? The Coup de Grace.

The Coup started as a traditional metal band (“Daylight Dawning“, “Barbed Wire“), but later albums took a “lighter” turn (still good rock, but not as metal). Jimmy Mecherle – also known as Jimmy Coup – was singer, guitarist, songwriter. In later years Jimmy would play with Andrew W.K. as well as do a lot of Thin Lizzy related things. I dug The Coup a LOT. That debut album still is awesome to me. “Daylight Dawning” is classic, and of course I learned to play that on my guitar.

Steve Prue, Mark Abramson; Roadrunner Records

One college summer I went to NYC to see The Coup play. Just me, traveling by myself from DC to NYC to see The Coup play. I used the time to visit some of my industry peeps: Mark “Psycho” Abramson & Steve Prue (both at Roadrunner); my reps from Mechanic, Big Chief, others. I had never been to NYC before, and I was young and stupid. Some the reps needed to go somewhere, so I piled into the backseat while one of them stopped off to pick up a big bag of weed. He later told me to just go to this reggae music store, raise your finger in a “1”, and well… I walked out with a dimebag of my own.

?, Kurt, Jimmy, Steve, Brent. The red tie-dye shirt was a #IYKYK thing. I had one and wore it often.

Later that evening I met up with Brent at a club where The Coup were playing. Watched the show. Met the guys. Hooked ’em up. Everyone was hip to rolling back to Rita’s place (Brett and Rita were trying to get together…). We all get back to her place, Jimmy rolls, we pass the dutchie. Had a nice evening. Steve (guitarist) was sitting next to me and all night would look at me and say “thanks for the bake, man” 🙂 They were very kind people. Good dudes. I also remember not meeting the drummer until the next morning –  he was sleeping in the van with their gear. That was the moment I learned that was a thing bands (have to) do. We shared some coffee and talk in the kitchen that morning. Then I headed out.

Before we went to Rita’s tho, Jimmy was hungry and he wanted to grab a bite to eat. I don’t recall the exact time, but it was wee hours… 1 AM? 2 AM? He invited me along. I was surprised? “You can get food at this hour?” “Dude, this is New York City… of course you can!”. And off we went in search of, as Jimmy put it, the BOLDEST sandwiches. We found a bodega, got some BOLD-ass sandwiches, sat on milk crates in the sidewalk, ate and talked with Jimmy of The Coup de Grace.

I was rockin’ and rollin’ and having a grand time. What an experience! That here at age 50 I can still recall it so well… yeah, it’s a core memory.

Steve, you’re welcome, man. ❤️

Radio Daze : 7 – Red Decibel Records, Part 1

Cool show poster

Red Decibel Records (Discogs) was the project of Jake Wisely. I really loved this label and their output. Their radio rep, Brent Ashley, was really cool and we developed a solid relationship. He sent me not just normal album releases, but special run 7″ and 10″ records, posters, various cool stuff. Note that a lot of their stuff was Minneapolis music scene.

Drop Hammer were a solid thrash metal band, very traditional sound.

Libdo Boyz were more of a punk band. Brent told me their album “Opgu” was named because one of the guys had a hat with “Top Gun” on it but the “T” and “n” came off so… Opgu. I had the Godzilla Barracuda 10″ – it went to a good home during the move to Bryan. I would dare say I probably had the biggest collection of Red Decibel product outside of perhaps Jake and/or Brent (thanks TO Brent and Jake).

Distribution via Metal Blade. Nice.

Rapscallion I thought were pretty cool. Avant-garde, if I can use a term. Debut album, “Gardens of Machinery” was more traditional sounding, if you could even call it that. Sophomore effort “Chameleon Drool” was more eclectic and I’m sure would never appeal to the mainstream, but I liked it in part for how offbeat it was. I remember the back cover with the track listing was printed all wrong, so I made an index card with correct listing – this was WXJM’s CD, so it needed to be accurate for the DJs.

They had other bands like Walt Milk (didn’t know much from them, I think I only had a 7″), Season to Risk (pretty cool), Fat Tuesday (another interesting “artsy” band, but it was cool), I recall an industrial band Bloodstar. But the band I really got into? The Coup de Grace.

In Part 2 I’ll talk about The Coup de Grace and my solo trip to NYC to see them, getting stoned with the band, and enjoying the boldest sandwich of my life with Jimmy.

Yo Brent. How’s Judy?

Radio Daze : 6 – Q101 & Froggy99

If I was going to work in radio, I needed to work in radio. WXJM was cool, but it was college radio – I needed to move into commercial. Q101 was the big local station, whose format I’ve described as Top40 with Adult Contemporary leanings – the kind of thing you hear in a doctor’s waiting room, with Rick Dees every Sunday morning. I was John Williams, and often did the 12a-6a overnights and weekends. I was the FNG so I got the shit shifts. But I had a blast.

The format was fine. I got my dose of Celine Dion, developed an appreciation for Taylor Dayne, played Sophie B. Hawkins “Damn, I wish I was you lover” a lot, and that “I would walk 500 miles” song. “What Is Love” just… oh that song! Have I told you lately that I love you? It was prescribed – I had a list. I played was I was told… mostly. Occasionally timing changed and I’d get to pick my own song to fill, or maybe things go long and I cut. But for the most part, I just spun the CDs, loaded the commercial carts, gave a weather break.

Weather breaks. So we would do something like: “In Harrisonburg it’s 75º, Wayneboro 77º, Staunton 72º… it’s time to Come Undone with Duran Duran on the Q…!” <hit station ID jingle bumper> <spin Duran Duran>. Those temps? The station had a “weather station” on the building, so the Harrisonburg temp was the temp at the station. Then the other two were made up, always within a couple degrees. Seriously. I was told to do that (and so I did that). Yes, I was flabbergasted. I was there to gain experience, and experience I gained.

One year there was a nasty blizzard. There in The Shenandoah Valley, snowdrifts up to my waist, it was nasty. I had to get into the station so I could help run things – you kids and your cellular push notifications! I had to go out into the blizzard to get to the station… that was precarious in a 1983 Ford Escort hatchback. But people needed relief so in I went. I was reading all the closures, taking calls to learn about closures. If you wanted to know what was open or closed, you tuned into the radio. It was cool to be of service to the community, not just entertaining and advertising. It was cool to be a DJ.

But really, it was all about talking over that song intro and “hitting the post” of ending the talk right as the singing starts. Even today, when Kix’s “Girl Money” comes on, I have to intro it – it’s just that sort of song intro. Oh and… I refuse to “kick things off…”; that’s a tired segue.

Q101 had other interesting things too. You’d have regulars that would always listen, call you up. Some of them too young (I recall some dude got canned and maybe arrested over something with a young caller…). Some not so young… and while I had an opportunity, I didn’t do it. So she did another DJ. I know because I was doing my airshift and the other DJ came in to cut some commercials… but his sweats were stuck to his crotch, having just come from spending time with her. Good times.

John Williams was a hasty decision. I showed up for my first shift, introduced myself to the dude who was about to sign off and hand it over to me. He was getting ready to go into his last break, cocked his head back my way: “Kid, what’s your name?” Oh shit! I hadn’t thought of my on-air name! The first thing that came into my head? John Williams (I’m sure due to the composer). And it stuck. Not what I would have chosen if I had the opportunity to put thought into it, but I didn’t. And I don’t know what name I would have chosen, because I had chosen so it was an answered question.

The hot young afternoon drive-time DJ was Dennis Hughes. At the time he was also married to Libby Gardner, the pretty young anchor on the local news (Den-by? Lib-nis?). Dennis and I got to know each other. He told me he was in a rock-and-roll band, “In Debt”, he was the drummer. He invited me to come over and jam with them. I’ll have more to share in a later installment.

Dennis wanted to move up in radio too. He had topped out this market, so he went up the road to the Winchester, VA area and got a gig at Froggy99 (I think they were 50,000 watts). He had me come up too, getting occasional shifts. I forgot my name there… we all had frog names, like “Doc Hopper” or other frog puns to roll your eyes to. It was basically the same stuff, different call sign. One winter the roads weren’t good. I was riding with Dennis in his brand new Geo Tracker. We were heading up to Froggy99 to work, when the car hit a patch of ice, slid diagonally, ending when the driver’s side parallel collided with the guard rail and caromed off. We could keep driving, just a little shook up – the car not so much. And a pisser since it was brand spankin’ new.

I was working my way up in things. I was soon to graduate from JMU and figured the logical move was into a radio gig. I heard the money, I did the math… food OR rent. Not AND, but OR. That’s not going to work. So I panicked and decided to avoid the real world for another 2 years and went to grad school. That’s how I ended up at Texas A&M.

Me and Dennis. I have no radio station pics of us together (selfies weren’t quite a thing yet), so here’s one of us playing in our band, In Debt.

Radio Daze : 5 – Last Crack

Art. Some bands aren’t about sex, drugs, nor rock-and-roll. They’re about art.

I’d classify Last Crack – and their singer/frontman Buddo – as art.

Look at the cover for “Sinister Funkhouse #17”. Listen to the intro to “Kiss a the Cold”, but then also listen to the song itself. Last Crack is different, but pretty damn awesome. I remember getting a promo VHS from the record company that had video of him acting out the Kiss-a intro, in addition to other visual artistry.

My favorite song is an unusual one: “Mini Toboggan“. It’s a sweet story told through the innocent eyes of a child, sledding in the snow with “…2 brothers and a sister we… could… fly!” I find it an amazing and moving song, well-composed, telling a powerful story.

While they were on Roadrunner, I know they did a 7″ for Red Decibel for a song I think called “P.C.T.” (Pointy Cone Titty). I don’t have that record any more, and I only listened to it a couple times because I wanted to preserve the vinyl. 

I did get to see them live at The Bayou. IIRC I went with my friend, Wayne. I just remember the crowd being sparse. Buddo was wearing one of those kinda frilly pirate shirts (see Seinfeld). It was a cool show, shame for the small crowd.

Art.

Radio Daze : 4 – Child’s Play

Child’s Play was a minor success out of where I grew up: the Greater Washington DC area. Hailing from Baltimore, they were signed to major label Chrysalis and released “Rat Race” in 1989, which is a pretty good collection of songs from “good old boys playin’ good old rock and roll”. It was nothing particularly special for the time, but it’s solid stuff. I still enjoy the album.

When I was Metal Dude at WXJM, Child’s Play was doing a local area tour. Someone in Harrisonburg had converted an old building/hotel into a rock-and-roll bar. I interviewed and saw Wrathchild America there when they did a 4-date acoustic tour (as those were the rage) to promote the “3-D” album. Saw a few other bands, including Child’s Play.

I got to sit down with Nikki Kay, John Allen, and Idzi (Brian Jack was nowhere to be found). Excellent dudes, especially John – I recall him as very considerate, humble, good dude. Honestly, I wasn’t familiar with the band much prior to this night, but I became a big fan. John played drums and sang. When introducing the song “Pay Your Dues”, John was dedicating it and called me out as a part of it – I felt special. 🙂  It was a cool moment, these rock stars calling ME out. Excellent set – high energy, kick-ass rock and roll.

I recall their manager bitching to me about various things.

He was bitching about the record company. He and the band wanted to release “My Bottle” as a single, but the record company refused and he was pissed about it. He was like “they release all these George Thorogood songs about booze, why not this?”.  Well… I can understand why. Listen to the lyrics dude! The song’s story is from the perspective of a shitty power alcoholic! “It’s my bottle, it’s my whiskey, and if I want I’ll drink it all. Ain’t nobody, gonna tell me, that I can’t drink no more!” I will agree, the song hooks like a motherfucker – it’s a bitchin’ song as far as songs go. But the story the song is telling is… not a healthy one. I don’t blame the record company for refusing, and I even knew that back then.

He was also bitching to me about Brian Jack, the singer, who of course was high on LSD – Lead Singer Disease. I really didn’t understand what he was muttering to me about, but it was evident that Brian’s behavior was chronic and problematic. I didn’t pry because it was kinda an uncomfortable moment for young naive me. Still tho… it was what it was, just surprising the manager would reveal such a thing to a rando stranger.

I was striving to be in the music biz, so that’s the biz and I might as well get used to it. LOL. It was all good in the end.

I got to take pictures. I got an autographed poster. It was a great time. I was and always will be fan. 

John, Idzi, me, Brian (behind), Nikki, sometime in the early 1990s.
John and I bonding over our name.

Radio Daze : 3 – Gene Hoglan & Dark Angel

Working as The Metal Dude at WXJM afforded me particular opportunities. When Dark Angel was promoting their album “Time Does Not Heal”, their drummer and principal songwriter Gene Hoglan was doing phone interviews. I got to do one.

All I remember was Gene being really cool. Very soft spoken. Smart dude. Not at all like you might expect from his imposing presence behind the drum kit. I actually have the recording on cassette… now I just need to figure a way to get from cassette to MP3. 🤔

When my daughter was drumming, I showed her videos of Gene (“cause I’m not cool!“). She has a Gene-autographed drum head from a Testament show in Austin in 2013.

I really love Dark Angel, especially the “Leaves Scars” album. You drew that “S” logo on math book. I drew the Dark Angel logo – we are not the same.

Autographed poster I received after the interview.
2013, probably @ Emo’s

Radio Daze : 2 – Over The Edge with Cliff

Clifford is my middle name.

I know you now have a Big Red Dog running through your head.

Nevertheless, it’s my middle name. It’s fine.

Going into Freshman year at JMU I knew I wanted to be part of college radio, so I joined at the onset. It just so happened Fall 1990 is when WXJM went 88.7 FM (vs piped into campus buildings). I happened to get in on the ground floor. There was a “metal dude” there, I forgot his name but he was cool and more like a rock-and-roll dude than 🤘 METAL 🤘 – but to be fair, he broke the ice and I’m grateful he allowed me to take over as Metal Director.

Fall 1990 I got a show slot: 9-11 Saturday morning. What a fuckin’ slot, but we all start at the bottom. I remember a write-up in a newspaper which talked about the “Saturday morning metal” – obviously that was me, and I thought that shout out was pretty cool at the time (they didn’t pick any of the snooty alterna-rock shows!). Eventually I did get late night slots (the dude who did the 0100-0300 show after mine, “Garden of Edna”, was pretty cool). We became a staple of the area because metal – or “loud rock” as it was genre-fied – makes for good party tunes.

Anyways, back in early Fall 1990 – freshman year – I got the slot. I needed a name. I was living in Eagle Hall, 3rd floor B wing (we commissioned a “Milwaukee’s Best” logo on the back wall of the hallway). Across the hall neighbors; we had our doors open and just shooting the shit. I knew I didn’t want to use my real name, and of course Cliff Burton is cool as fuck (Cliff ’em all!). So… Cliff.

Then my neighbor just blurted out something like: “You’re going over the edge, with Cliff!”

Boom. Done.

AC/DC has their Razor’s Edge album, Over the Edge. I been to the edge, and then I stood and looked down. Edge of a broken heart. Livin’ on the edge. Edge is… edgy. 😄 It’s cool. 

And, it’s corny. Over the edge, Cliff. Har har! Get it? (nudge nudge)

It was a good time. I got to interview a lot of people and bands. I saw a lot of shows. Played a lot of music. Was a local icon (“CLIIIIIIIIIIIIIFFF!!!”). Got laid. Got drunk. Got high. It was college and a good time.

Upper-right corner.
“…but your puppy dog will!” – I don’t recall exactly who said this, but it was a promo cut for my show by the guitarist (?) for a local band (I think “Newcastle XXX”). He just ad libbed that in, with a little southern-boy twang, and it stuck. 🙂

Radio Daze : 1 – Did you know I worked in radio?

Did you know I have a Minor in Music Industry? Yup – I have a Bachelor of Science in Human Communication, with a Minor in Music Industry. 

From 1990 through 1994 I studied & worked in the music industry. I worked at WXJM, James Madison University radio as “Cliff” the Metal Director/Dude. My weekly show was “Over the Edge, with Cliff”. I also worked at Q101 and Froggy99 as “John Williams”, both stations being Top40 with Adult Contemporary leanings – the kind of thing you hear in a doctor’s waiting room, with Rick Dees every Sunday morning. I interned one summer at WHVY Pure Rock 103.1 The Underground – that summer kicked ass! 

I wanted to be in radio, because rock-and-roll, baby! When I found out how broke I’d be, I panicked and fled to grad school to avoid the real world for another 2 years.  My time in rock-and-roll came to an end, but it’s all good. I had a great time.

That time afforded me some wonderful experiences. When we moved from Austin to Bryan in 2020, I had to clean and dispose of a lot of stuff. I have memorabilia from that time, including posters. I’d like to share some of them, and the memories I associate with them.

Stay tuned…

My FCC license, which I guess is still valid?

Sunday Metal – Badlands

Speaking of amazing singers… how about Ray Gillen and his work in Badlands?

It’s not a great recording, but it’s a live performance and all Ray – no autotune, no backing tracks, just Ray’s incredible voice. (Thanks, Ricky for turning me onto them, all those years ago).

Badlands with “High Wire”

Sunday Metal – Steelheart

Steelheart was another band that came in at the tail-end of the hair metal era, with their debut album being released in 1990 (and what’s with that lame-ass album cover?). Yeah, a lot was derivative and formulaic but…

Holy shit, Miljenko Matijevic can sing.

Sure the “I’ll Never Let You Go (Angel Eyes)” song is perfect for a radio dedication to your high school girlfriend, but the real gem on that album is this song: “She’s Gone”. I always preferred the album version as it’s longer, but all you’ll find online is the radio/video edit. Still tho… those pipes, the emotion poured into singing this song. Simply awesome.