Radio Daze : 17 – Shedding Skin (I’m writing again)

I started my blog Stuff from Hsoi – writing about whatever interests me, and maybe you February 4, 2009 – 14 years ago. Not surprisingly, the second post to the blog was So why do this?

I didn’t want to blog because I thought it rather arrogant to think that anyone would give a rat’s ass what I have to say. I still think that. I also know that once you put something out online, it’s extremely difficult to make it go away. In real life if you make a mistake or say something you shouldn’t have, eventually it’s lost into the air and life goes on. But if you screw up online, it can stick around for the rest of your life. What doesn’t help is the world has just enough mean people in it that take great joy in digging up dirt and holding your past mistakes over you. Well, let ’em cast their stones.

I still think that.

Or as I later summed it up:

So what will be in this blog? Whatever the hell I want to write about.

It started as a place to ramble about stuff, but over time writing became a creative outlet. I don’t think I’m a great writer, but I have a Bachelors in human communication, and I enjoy observing how people respond to what I write, including how I write it. The communication cycle is fascinating. The blog’s been a good creative outlet for me in both writing and observing. Humans are… funny creatures.

At one point I had to step away from the blog, and then blogging kinda faded away. I did keep Sunday Metal going for quite a while, but even that I let run out just a little while ago because I was tired and going through some shit. It’s some work to make Sunday Metal happen, including requiring a bit of spark or inspiration as many of my work-sessions of “let’s queue up 6 months of Sunday Metal” desired a theme like “all live” or “all thrash” or “all female-fronted or “all hair” or “shit that’s metal and I don’t really listen to them but they are metal and this is Sunday Metal and I need a content theme so…” or the ever popular “whatever rabbit hole YouTube’s algorithm sends me down”. I just didn’t have the inspiration, gumption, nor cycles to sit down and queue more stuff up. But hey, I published this “Radio Daze” series on a Sunday….

Shedding skin

Hsoi’s Radio Daze started when I was packing my office back in Austin Fall 2020 preparing for our move to Bryan. I dug out a bunch of old memories I’d been lugging around since undergrad and high school. I whittled things down, keeping only a few precious things. I found all of these posters and swag from my radio days. I took pictures of the interesting ones then threw out the posters. I also gave all of my physical music collection (CDs, cassettes, vinyl) to a friend who I knew would give it a good home. As I was packing my office, I realized my office represented essentially a 30-year old me – not the me of now 20 years later. I don’t regret throwing stuff out – physically and psychologically. We shed our skin when we grow.

As I took the pictures, I knew I wanted to blog about them; that’s where it started, wanting to write about the posters. Well, the posters are naturally tied to my time in radio, which is tied to my time in a band. As I wrote an explanation of a poster, it necessarily required additional information for context and understanding. Which made me write about radio or the band, which made me realize the article was going to be too long. So I wrote and edited with the mind of having short single-topic “memories”. That is, it’s not an article or a post – it’s me recounting a memory. My goal is to paint a sufficient picture in the mind of the reader, as eloquently as I am able. I may fail, I may paint an incorrect or poor picture, but I try nonetheless. I strive to help you see AND feel my memory.

It started as a handful of posters. It turned into 18 “memories”. While it wasn’t my original plan, I appreciate just letting it naturally evolve – I think this is better. It’s been a lot of work, especially queuing 18 articles for posting and social media. What’s helped is I have a better outlook in my life, driving more things towards completion. It feels great to get out from the weight of my TODO list, that forever ebbs and flows but I’m seriously getting out of the ebbs and into serious flow, getting ahead of the current. I’m not quite there yet, but I have a better drive these days and shit’s getting done. So just like my black belt may be semi-worthless (or all worthless?), it was more about driving to get it done – showing up, putting in the work, getting it done. Satisfaction.

Even if my writing sucks, I’m still going to write and (probably) publish it. This blog is about what interests me, and maybe you.

Thank you for reading.

Mr & Mrs Hsoi, Sep 2022

Radio Daze : 16 – Denouement

I only spent 4 years in radio, much grounded in college radio. But it was also off-beat because it was metal – if there’s any genre consistently shunned, it’s metal. But that’s ok – we prefer it that way. We are the outcasts, the rest of you are poseurs. It was short, and I didn’t get deeply into it, but what I did get into was fun.

WXJM, Q101, Froggy99, WHVY, radio shows, live shows, commercials, promos, on-sites, sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, wine, women, and song. When you’re young and indestructible, stupid and stumbling through life… it was a great time.

I do remember the days fondly, and I’m happy to keep them a memory.

Radio Daze : 15 – Dead Horse

If you know the Texas metal scene, you know Dead Horse

I didn’t move to Texas until after my time as Metal Director at WXJM. So I had no idea who Dead Horse was.

Peaceful Death & Pretty Flowers came across my desk and it blew my mind. Unlike anything I had heard before or since. You just have to experience the sonic onslaught – there’s no way to describe it and do it justice.

I still have an old school Dead Horse t-shirt, which is very smedium on me today. If I wear it, it’s only to select shows. It never fails to elicit multiple random encounters, of another concert-goer stopping to point at the shirt; we share a bonding moment.

We’re after the same thing…

Radio Daze : 14 – Spinal Tap

If you don’t know about Spinal Tap, correct yourself immediately. In 1992 they reunited and released Break Like the Wind. A lot of silly promotional materials accompanied the release, and working at WXJM I got my share of them.

The strangest of which was a colander… I tried to keep that one, but it was given away. It annoyed me at the time because the promo materials were sent to me, in my name, for me to decide the future of. Some of the ‘XJM clique now cared what was going on with Cliffy and barged over things – including the fate of the colander. My time at WXJM taught me a lot about “open-minded progressives”.

I did get a t-shirt, a fake backstage pass, and… a diploma. Bitch School is a song from the album, that harkens back to the “smell the glove” references. You just have to watch the movie. It was all silly and good fun. 

Radio Daze : 13 – Wrathchild America

Wrathchild America was a thash metal band from the Washington DC music scene that broke out, getting signed to major label Atlantic Records. To promote their sophomore release 3-D, they did a 4 show acoustic tour, because “unplugged” was all the rage at the time. I was able to score an interview with them.

It was a disaster. The interview was myself with Brad Divens (bass, singer) and Terry Carter (guitar). While they were kind, they were obviously annoyed with me – I was young, unprofessional, inexperienced. I didn’t know how to interview, and it showed. They absolutely were good sports and just tolerated me.😂

A pretty cool show tho, since it was something non-standard for them, but they had the chops to play all styles of music and play them well. It was a fun evening.

I saw Wrathchild America a number of other times, since technically they were a local band. As a result, sometimes the shows played were more of a party and gathering of friends than a formal touring concert, which made them extra cool. I’m curious if when Shannon Larkin is up on stage now with Godsmack he ever breaks out Slave to my Dick. It was all good humor. If you really want good humor, check out this early interview with them back when they were more glam (Shannon’s bi-colored hair). Good stuff.

Me, Terry, Brad

Radio Daze : 12 – WHVY

Pure Rock 103.1 WHVY The Underground! Rock and roll, motherfuckers!

In the Greater Washington DC area, big rock radio was DC/101. In Baltimore, 98 Rock. Then over in Annapolis, 103.1 The Underground. They played “pure rock”, which was basically AOR with a more metal tilt (see also 97 Underground). As credit towards my minor in Music Industry, I had to do an internship. I landed one at WHVY for the summer.

It ruled!

The summer of 1992, before my junior year. I recall getting an early listen to Jackyl’s I Stand Alone and the Music Director groaning about another AC/DC clone. The internship didn’t pay, but the perks were cool for 20 year old me.

Washington DC geography: I-495 encircles DC, straddling into VA and MD to enable the metro area to go round and round. WHVY was in Annapolis I lived at 9 o’clock on the circle, Annapolis was at 3 o’clock then east a bunch more. It was cool tho, because the office was located in the historic downtown area, which was really cool except for parking – everyone had to move their car every 2 hours. It was a long drive for me, but I enjoyed it. I rolled the windows down, cranked the tunes up, and flew down the highway.

Mary Kay Lemay ran the marketing department. She was cool, smart, killer sense of humor and attitude. Lot of fun to work with. There was another intern, a girl I only met once because we never worked on the same days (I just remember how tiny she was). The time we met, Mary Kay was needing us both for an on-site. It was a promo for a motorcycle dealership that was opening – the hook was a chance to win a Harley-Davison motorcycle. You listened to the radio, you were the 10th caller or whatever, you earned a chance – a key that might start the Harley. Then we had the big day on-site, each winner got to choose a key, and one person’s started it. I recall at our booth being surprised at how “metaled out” people got for… this? My mind’s eye can still see this one chick: perfectly coiffed mullet, long dangling metallic feather earrings, animal print spandex, blade sunglasses. Mmm Mmm Mmm. ‘murica. But it was fun, and Mary Kay was a great boss.

James was also in marketing. I remember he used to be something like the road manager for the band Heaven’s Edge (I always loved Find Another Way). The General Manager and Program Director were both from KNAC. The PD was Bryan Schock. I remember thinking “he’s old”. They brought a lady down from Canada, Shannon Rock – to form the morning show team, Shock & Rock in The Morning. Get it? Radio. I just remember it being awkward the few times I listened to it (which I normally couldn’t, because their signal didn’t reach where I lived; I think the tower was only 3000 watts). The Music Director was old too, but a cool guy and knew his rock. I think he did the afternoon drive, and he had a golden voice for radio. Karen Aylor did evenings. Late night dude, Matt something… this is when METAL took the airwaves. Mandatory Metallica and all that sort of stuff.

When I first arrived for the internship, the gal working the front desk was Betsy Sepesy. She was cute, and we both had instant attraction. I had arrived early so we got to chat a bit while I waited. We hung out a bunch. I remember her apologizing (feeling embarrassed) about the paper towels in her shoes – that the soles of her feet get really sweaty. Girl, that’s fine and all, but it wasn’t even an issue for me until you mentioned it and now I can’t not think about it. 😂 While Betsy was cool to hang with, I came to realize that she wasn’t the kind of girl I was looking for. She too got enamored with the music industry, packed up her things, moved to NYC, I think moved in with Steve Prue or something. I don’t really remember, but that was the last I heard from her. I remember she borrowed my core music industry textbook and I didn’t get it back. I loved that book!

In the early 1990’s, rock was changing but still cool. I got to see some bands at Hammerjacks like White Trash; Life, Sex, & Death; Lucy Brown. I got to listen to a lot of good music. I got to learn about radio. There was good rock and roll.

Radio Daze : 11 – In Debt

“Hi. We’re In Debt. Hope you’re not!”

The Q101 hot young afternoon drive-time DJ was Dennis Hughes. Dennis and I got to know each other. He told me he was the drummer in a local rock-and-roll band, In Debt. He invited me to come over and jam with them.

I took my Washburn KC-40 and Peavy Bandit 112 over to a house. I think Dennis was renting it at the time, then Ray (singer) & Dione (wife) did. Set up in the basement, and tried to jam some covers. The band was ok. The founding guitarist, Scott, was a DJ over at Q101’s sister station, a country format. As a guitarist, Scott was a little loose; he wanted to be Bruce Springsteen. I was more rock-metal, tighter. I think Dennis wanted to go a bit more that direction. Enter Sandman was about the hardest we did, with much of the covers being good 70s/80s rock stuff. Scott got pushed out and I became the guitarist.

The original bass player, I forget his name, but he was one of those noodley types. Stu Hamm, 70’s funk walking, he was good. He left because he didn’t like the direction (man). Another dude joined, he was alright. Biggest thing I remember is he borrowed my Randy Rhodes guitar books and I never got them back (the band dissolved shortly after). 

Love this shot

At one point we had a keyboard player, Karen, and she could do a good Wilson sister on Alone. She was divorced, 2 small kids – I remember the youngest, cute little button, had a crush on Dennis. It was adorable. 

Ray. Singer. I loved Ray, his wife Dione (and her girls Jackie & Jamie), his brother Mike. Good people. Salt of the earth. That blizzard? I managed to escape my apartment and get to the house, now that Ray & Dione were renting it, along with their girls. Dione made a HUGE pot of soup, which she just kept out on the back porch – it was below freezing, so why not! We’d open the back door, ladle soup into our bowl, close the back door, microwave, eat, stay warm! Because we were trapped, we binged. They had the complete North & South on VHS (the first 2 seasons, this was just before 3rd season came out). I had never seen it, so I watched the entire thing. Blizzard. What else you gonna do? Jackie and I dated for a bit. After I first moved to Texas, when I originally moved to Bryan, one day I came back home to a note on my door. It was from Ray. He was driving a truck (Dione was with) passing through town. He stopped by to try to see me. To this day it pains me that I missed him, but that he thought of me is a precious memory. I love you and miss you Ray, Dione, Mike.

Dennis. He’s all about that rock and roll life. He dressed like what a 90’s cute hip boy would do. He was a bad boy drummer. And yes, our egos clashed. Don’t get me wrong – I had guitarist disease too, and Dennis is a good dude. We both just had egos. In some ways it was good, in others not so good. But aren’t those the sorts of tense relationships that make a band? 😂 Dennis was a good drummer. He had big dreams. He put a lot of work into the band. I’m grateful he invited me over, and I’m thankful for all the time we shared together. I’m glad we were able to reconnect. Love you, Dennis.

One thing that helped was being a JMU student, I had access to computer labs. Ray drew a picture of a coin, embossed with a dude showing his empty pockets and a “I’m broke!” look on his face… it was funny, cute, cool. I used the computer lab to scan it in and do some work in Photoshop with it. I touched up a band photoshoot pic and assembled the final promo version of it (e.g. added captions, band name, our names, contact info, etc.)

Nice face!

We played a lot of local shows. There was a battle of the bands at JMU. We played. We came in 3rd place, because we were a good band, but we weren’t a college “prog rock” band. It was rigged, but whatever – we don’t need the approval of no critics because we’re about THE ROCK! 🤘 My parents came out to a couple gigs; that was fun (and where these pictures came from). Dad helped support things, buying us equipment. I remember one show opening for another local band. They did a good Nugent Dog Eat Dog, guitarist did Cliffs of Dover since that was hot at the time. And Karen brought a MILF friend over who tried to fuck me. I went back to her place, but when her son came home and I saw he was about my age, I noped out of there. 

A local dude did live sound, and was willing to haul his gear over to our place to record us. I remember when we unloaded his trailer there was a box of Killians Red that we also brought in and consumed freely. He set up his board upstairs, ran the cables down the stairwell, mic’d up, and away we went. Best thing I remember was when we recorded Heart’s Alone I ripped off the best solo of my life at that point. The notes just flowed out of my fingers like never before, keeping the heart of the original solo, remembering the song structure and melody, but also throwing in a bit of my own flair. It was… peak. At that time I had never experienced something so effortless in expression flowing from me. It was great.

Miss Mystery was this sort of haunting power ballad. It was a favorite of our originals. A song from the Scott days was the title song: In Debt. Yup. The band In Debt with a song called In Debt (might as well pull a Bad Company and name the album that too). It wasn’t a bad song. Not the sort of song I would write, a little too poppy/corny, but it’s fun. There was this harmonized a cappella opening that went something like:

Money! Money! Money! (talkin’ ’bout)

Money! Money! Money! (that’s what I want)

Money! Money! Money! (can I get some for me)

then the guitar kicks in. It was a jangley riff. Bouncy. Corny. Fun.

I’ve jammed with other people in my lifetime. But this was as close as I got to rock stardom, which is to say, not close at all. But it was fun.

Radio Daze : 10 – Scorpions

Tori & I with Scorpions 1991 Captial Centre Landover, MD

1991. Scorpions on tour with Great White and openers Trixter. Scorpions was touring behind their Crazy World album, with their hit Winds of Change. Working at WXJM and having good relations with the reps at both Mercury (Scorpions) and Mechanic (Trixter), I was able to get on meet & greet lists for both bands.

I took my friend Tori. We were in high school band together (I played french horn and was drum major senior year; she was a drummer/percussionist). She liked metal too. She moved to NoVA from the LA scene, so she was all into hair metal (e.g. Warrant). So this all worked nicely.

The show was great. Missed most of Great White’s set due to the meet & greet with Trixter, but it was cool to meet Trixter. Did catch the end of Great White’s set from the floor in front of the arena stage, which was cool. I have this burned in memory of looking WAY up at Jack Russell (I was on the floor, he was on the stage’s side riser), as he walked, planted his feet, then swung his head and body 180º, long-arms pointing out to the audience with a wry smile. Very much frontman. Good stuff.

Tori’s hair was awesome.

Scorpions of course were incredible. Tori was a big fan of Scorpions, so she had a great and I’m sure memorable time. What I remember most? “The Zoo” live is awesome. Also watching Herman Rarebell hitting on Tori, trying to get her back to the hotel (she didn’t, and she was like… dude, you’re old enough to be my dad!). It was pretty funny.

Fun times.

Radio Daze : 9 – Kage

I honestly don’t remember how I came across Kage. Kage was a local band, based in NoVA of the greater Washington DC music scene. I saw them at The Bayou a number of times. They were unsigned, but pretty strong on the local scene. In 1993 Kage won the WAMA (Washington Area Music Association) award for Best Metal Artist/Group. Frontman, singer, guitarist, songwriter Jeff Brasfield won Best Metal Vocalist 1993 & 1994.

When I first met them the band was Jeff (lead singer, guitarist, songwriter), Alex Thorne (drums), David Groves (guitar), Mike Groves (bass). Eventually the Groves brothers left and Gary Jordan (bass) and Jeff Mortimer (guitar) stepped in. State of Mind was good for what it was. Shadow of Faith was a more developed album, tho I admit not liking it as much as State. What I really liked was a cassette EP they did where they debuted recordings of: The Chosen, Back Against the Wall, Fight to be Free, Stained Glass, and the cover of The Dead Kennedy’s Too Drunk to Fuck. They included that EP on the tail end of Shadow, and that remains my favorite of their discography.

There were silly things, like the records were released on Egak Records (Egak… Kage spelled backwards… get it?). Or the live show favorite, “You Bitch” – always great for audience participation. 

I saw them a lot live. It was really cool to follow and support them in this way because I got to see songs evolve. I think I first heard the EP songs live. I got to see the stage schtick they did. They knew how to put on a good show. Jeff having this crazy-long hair and whipping it around made for quite a visual (the bridge parts around the solo in Talkin Trash)! They also were still kids and just having fun! It wasn’t a stuffy show at all – very fun atmosphere.

One night at The Bayou, Morty’s girlfriend (I guess that’s what she was?) couldn’t get in because age vs. bar. They were asking me if I could drive her home. I was willing to do so, but in the end something else got worked out and I didn’t have to (and got to see the show).

I got to know Jeff a bit. One precious memory I have is a call I received from his mom, Nancy. You have to know that Nancy wasn’t just Jeff’s mom, but she also managed the band. Nancy Ford, because Nancy Brasfield – “your mom manages the band?!!” – isn’t cool, as she explained it to me. 😄. She was a warm, loving, and supportive person. She called me one day and invited me over to the house for Jeff’s birthday. I was surprised to have been invited, and I went and had a marvelous time. I’ll always cherish how much love Nancy gave.

When my metal show on WXJM was doing well in late night, I had… alas, I don’t remember exactly what I called it, but it was pitting two songs against each other and callers voted on the better one. One night Jeff and Alex came down and guested on the whole show. And over time, Kage’s Darkness Descends was so successful at winning week after week I had to retire it.

I wish the band was able to make it bigger. I recall being at some small Washington-area music convention thing. Cheryl Valentine, who was the Mercury radio rep, was there so I went to the thing so I could say hello. I got Jeff with her and recall watching Jeff talk with her and Cheryl politely taking a State of Mind CD. But despite not making it bigger, I’d like to think they made it well. I had a great time, and I do believe they did too.

Thank you Jeff.

Radio Daze : 8 – Type O Negative

My high school friend Bryan came back home after a summer away. He had a cassette tape with all sorts of new metal tunes on it. There was this one with some lyric like: “Lick me she begged, she pulled down my head… I LOVE TO EAT PUSSY! A taste so fine like sweet April wine, I won’t trade for any money”. 

Well! Wasn’t THAT something for teenager me to hear!

We had no idea who it was – no Shazam in those days, kids. We at first thought it was Sodom, but I checked one of their albums out and it was no where near the same style let along song. Eventually I found out it was the band Carnivore, the pre-Type O Negative band for Peter Steele.

I admit, I like Carnivore. Yes, it’s all the horrible things you say it is… it’s a cartoon, a reflection of the time. It’s art, like it or don’t. I mean come on! They’re dressing up like some sort of Mad Max post-nuclear apocalyptic cavemen! They look like jackasses! It’s goofy! Do you really think this is serious? 

Well… the music is (kinda). You start to get the feel for where Peter was going. Listen to him croon on “Male Supremacy“. It’s Conan. It’s Dungeons & Dragons. It’s the stuff goth girls swoon for. Proto-Type-O.

Mark “Psycho” Abramson at Roadrunner was my radio rep and he knew I dug Carnivore. He got me this early copy of a demo from a band called Repulsion, which was going to be Peter’s next thing. The name was already taken, so they switched to Type O Negative, and the rest is history. It was cool to get the early peek into that project. 

I also remember being at a Pantera / Wrathchild America show at The Bayou. During the show, Phil Anselmo called out a dude in the crowd he saw with a Carnivore shirt. Backstage after the show, I spoke with Phil about it and he brought up the Repulsion stuff, which we then talked about for a bit.

Never got to see Type O live nor met Peter. Was always fascinated by his early distain and later embrace of Catholicism (I’m sure in part because of Nettie).