OC HIGH: STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS : KROQ Of Ages : Deejay Richard Blade Tunes Into Teen Fans Who Tune Into Him
In a summer state of mind, many Orange County teens are sleeping in and waking up to the voice of Richard Blade, KROQ’s disc jockey from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Blade, known for his flashback lunches (playing old favorites at the noon hour) and many promotional club appearances, draws listeners with his British accent and energy, both on the air and off. A 6-foot-3 bachelor in his early 40s, Blade loves working at what he calls, “the greatest station on Earth.” Some of the benefits: He hears the new music first and can go to any concert he wants.
KROQ-FM (106.7) out of Burbank has been a driving force in the popular trend of alternative rock music.
This year, KROQ is third overall in Arbitron ratings for the L.A. market; it received Billboard’s station of the year award in 1993 and the Rolling Stone Reader’s Choice award of station of the year in 1993 and 1994.
Contributing to that success is Blade, who grew up in England and moved to California, he says, for three reasons: sunshine, blue skies and California women.
Blake usually works five nights a week at clubs as a deejay, which gives him the chance to play whatever music he wants and to see the audience reaction.
“Quite often I’m the first one who can come back (to the station) and tell Kevin, our program director, that (Orange County alternative-rock band) Offspring is going to be huge, or Greenday is going to be huge, because I’ll put it on at the club and people will scream and run out, so you know it is going to do well.”
Blade loves to dance, but because he spends most of his club time as a deejay, he has to settle for dancing behind the deejay booth. “On the fifth night it’s sometimes a little tiring, but I never ever take it for granted. I really love my job, and I like meeting the people, and I really like playing the club music.”
Not every encounter with listeners is wonderful.
“The worst is when people stop you in a supermarket when you are just in a T-shirt and shorts and they’ll say, ‘Do you have any tickets?’ And you’ll say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t,’ and they’ll say, ‘Give me some T-shirts then.’ And you are just wearing your own T-shirt and shorts and it’s obvious you are not carrying anything and you go, ‘I don’t have anything on me. I got some stickers in my car,’ and they’ll (get mad) and walk off . . . but that is, fortunately, rare.”
A large portion of KROQ’s listening audience is teens. Blade says he considers it a responsibility to not promote drugs or drinking. KROQ music does not focus specifically on teens like some stations do, he said, but teens are listened to and respected as KROQ listeners.
“We accept teens as part of the audience; they are not the audience, but they are a part of it, and we don’t like to differentiate and say you are an adult, and you are a teen; you are part of the audience and you are equal,” Blake said. This may be one reason why the station has such broad appeal.
The station receives hundreds of new record releases each week. After the music directors sort out the really bad stuff, Blake said, the deejays will listen to about 50 CDs in one of their weekly meetings, which can go for hours. “If you are the 49th CD, you better be damn good because we are nearly asleep by then,” Blake said.
Teens play a big part in discovering new music. They are the ones who “have their ears to the ground,” Black said. Teens call the request lines most frequently, so if the station receives a lot of requests for a song, it will be moved up in the rotation. If it’s a song the station hasn’t been playing, deejays will go back and listen to it again, to see what they’ve been missing.
The radio station continues to evolve. “One thing KROQ will never be is the same the next day,” Blake said. “At KROQ we are always trying to change. As important as the flashbacks are to us . . . we are always trying to get the new music and the new direction. Five years ago we were very much in a dance mode, as in Depeche Mode. Now we are very much into grunge and rock, and also punk now, with Greenday and Offspring, etc. We don’t know where we are going to be tomorrow--we just want to get the best music we can.
“Just as teens change everyday and every generation, so we want to change too.”
The station plans to be on-line by the end of the year, so that deejays will be able to communicate with listeners instantly through E-mail.
Blade didn’t always dream of being a deejay. When he was 12, he wanted to be a marine biologist. So now he occasionally teaches scuba diving instead. He also wanted to be an actor. After graduating from an all-boys school, he went on to receive his BA in acting from Westminster College at Oxford.
Although he has had parts in various plays, he likes radio better because “acting takes so long. Radio is live and immediate; you do it and you are out of there. With acting it takes all day to do one scene, so it can drive you crazy.”
Blade said that when he was growing up in England there was a lot less pressure than at present in the United States. “In England, a gang was just a group of guys or girls. A drive-by would be when you drive by a girls’ school to check out the babes.”
Blade was inspired by some college deejays, but his greatest motivation happened while working as a club deejay throughout Europe. He was living out of a suitcase, working different countries. While in Switzerland, graffiti on an apartment wall caught his eye. Written by a disillusioned club deejay, it said: “You can sing along with the radio, but you can never be on it.” Blade made up his mind that day that he would be on it.
Blade has worked as a deejay at a variety of stations from Bakersfield to San Luis Obispo. At the smaller ones, he had to do everything from selling time to taking out the trash.
Blade says he really wanted to work at KROQ, even while being a deejay at KNAC in Long Beach.
“I used to come around about once a week and drop off a tape (at KROQ) and say, ‘Anytime you get a vacancy, I’m your man.’ And one day the program director, Rick Carroll, called up and said, ‘We’ve got an opening for two weeks while someone is on vacation. You’ll have to quit your job at KNAC, and you’ll have to work for us for free.”
Blade said yes, he’d do it.
At the end of his first shift, the station owner came in and asked if he worked there. When Blake said he was just filling in, the owner told him not anymore, “I’ll find a space for you.” Blade served as production director for three months and was then given the morning show.
Blade says goal-setting is very important, but for now he’s fulfilled the goals he set.
“I wanted to come to the States, and I did; I wanted to work at the greatest station in the world, and I am; I wanted to do TV, and I have; I wanted to do films, and I have; I wanted to write a couple screenplays and I did, and sold them. And now . . . my goal is just to be the best that I can be within the radio station.”
Blade says he is shy and being a deejay helps him to be extroverted and meet people. Asking someone if they listen to KROQ is a lot better line than, “Do you come here often?” he said.
Blade sees music as part of a continuum.
“In my dad’s age, people listened to Chubby Checker and Bill Haley and the Comets, and the world was going to hell in a handbasket. Before that, people listened to Marty Shore and Glenn Miller and the Big Bands, and before that there was the Charleston and ragtime. I don’t think Pearl Jam is the end of the world; I think it’s just the next evolution in music.”
In 20 to 30 years, today’s teens will be in positions of power, Blade says, and he hopes that they run things better than previous generations. He says he strongly believes in women leaders. “I think women make great leaders when it comes to politics, much better than men as a rule.”
Growing up is getting harder, he says, with more difficult and dangerous pressures every day.
Blade offers these words of advice: “Try and keep away from drugs, (although) I know it’s really hard; don’t marry too young, and set yourself a goal. Don’t be surprised if your life goal changes as you go along. I never planned to be a deejay . . . but I love what I’m doing. Be prepared to be flexible as you go along in life, and don’t let pressure push you off your path. Take your time and realize you’re still young.”