Eddie Trunk: The Essentials of Rock N Roll

By Jeb Wright

Eddie Trunk has taken the essence of being a rock fan to dizzying heights.  When he started in the music business 31 years ago, just a kid with a radio show spinning discs of his favorite bands, he had no way of knowing that one day he would be an in-demand deejay, a celebrated host at rock festivals and parties, and appear on his own hit television show…  Oh yeah, and be a two-time author.  But that’s what happened…that rock geek from Jersey done good!

Eddie met with www.classicrockrevisited.com to discuss, among other things, his second book, Eddie Trunk's Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Volume II and his VH1 Classic hit television program That Metal Show, where he shares the stage with co-hosts Don Jamieson, Jim Florentine and the best looking cast member, Jennifer Gottlieb. Oh yeah, and rock stars…lots of rock stars.

In the interview that follows, Trunk talks about becoming an author, his future plan to pen an autobiography, as discusses the band UFO…does this guy ever NOT talk about UFO?  We also throw in Uli Jon Roth, Riot and Angel for good measure.  And if you ever wondered if Eddie has remained a fan for all of these years, or pondered whether he deserves the success he has attained, just read on as he opens up and tells us like it is.

Jeb: Your second book, Eddie Trunk's Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Volume II, is now on shelves. Tell me how Volume II came to be. 

Eddie: As I was writing the first book there were a ton more bands that I continued to write about.  I kept sending them into my editor and she called me up and said, “You’ve got to stop sending in bands.”  I said, “Why?”  She said, “You’re running out of space.”  I said, “What do you mean space?  Can’t you just add pages?”   She said, “No, we have a page count and there is a limited amount of what you can do.” 

You will see at the end of the first book there is a section called More Essentials and they are just paragraphs on bands instead of full features.  I thought that if I ever did another book that I would start with the bands in the More Essentials section.  That was the blueprint for the second book. 

When the first one came out and did so well that they wanted another one then I knew I would start with those bands and then maybe get a chance to include some others.  I went a little bit deeper, and I was able to talk about a couple of bands that are not so mainstream, like Angel and Riot. 

The second book was freshly written. It was not material that was lying around and done at the same time as the first one.  It was the same format and the same publisher, but it was all different content. 

Jeb: You are not just a personality; you are a fan of the music.  After 30 years does it feel odd that you get asked to do all of these things like host shows, parties, cruises and write books, or are you to the point where you say, “After all of this time…I have earned this.”

Eddie: Well, I will tell you it is a little bit of both.  I do really honestly just think of myself as a fan but I would be naïve if I didn’t realize that there are a lot of people that actually care about what I do and what I say and the music I play.  I am very grateful that there are people that care about what I say and do. I am proud that I’ve been able to build that sort of trust and relationship with an audience.  It is really cool. 

It is a little bit of both.  I know that there are people out there that are going to really look forward to something like these books.  I have heard from a lot of people who have used them as blueprints to get their kids into the music, or that they have discovered bands because of them.  That’s really cool, because no matter what I have done in the business in the 31 years that I have been in it, I have always made it about spreading the word about these bands that I love.  That has always been the endgame and the fact that it is growing and continues to grow and that I have more than one outlet to do that…I have my website and social media as well, the fact that I have these things is something that I don’t take for granted. 

I try to keep a certain standard of quality to it.  I try to make sure they are done well.  The layout of the books and the quality of the layout is all well done.  That is a credit to my publisher more than me.  I want to do stuff that is of good quality and that is respectful of the music, but also honest.  I think that is what really carries the whole thing. 

Jeb: You mentioned bands in this book like Angel and Riot.  I think it is cool that you are still out there talking about these bands in a very public way. 

Eddie: I’ve got to tell you that almost every single day—I am not exaggerating this—almost every day I hear from somebody via email or twitter that says to me, “Thank you for introducing me to ______ (fill in the band) and because of you I am now a fan of this band.” 

A lot of it is centered around the band UFO because I am such a huge UFO fan.  They are a great band that is very underrated in this country.  I have become synonymous for beating that drum.   I get that more than ever…people want to know where they start with UFO and they can’t believe they missed out on them for over forty years.  That is why I do it.  To help a guy discover UFO’s Phenomenon album and now have it be their favorite record is great.  There are tons of bands like UFO, Angel, Riot and even bigger bands like Saxon that have not got their due.  We had Biff [Byford] of Saxon on the show with [Ted] Nugent.  Where else are you going to get Biff on television?  To be able to do stuff like that really means a lot. 

Jeb: Sacrifice by Saxon is as good as the old days.

Eddie:  It is a really good record.  Their last few records have been strong and I think they are really returning to what they do best.  These guys have such a hard time getting attention and sales and any action on the new music that they make.  To be able to mention Sacrifice on the show is great.

The cool thing and the really rewarding thing is to know that it has an impact and it is reaching people.  We do this segment on the show called Pick of the Week and I mentioned this band that I like called Scorpion Child.  They are a new band that has a very old school sound.  I heard from the head of the record label and he said a couple of days after I mentioned that they had a spike in sales and that they know it happened because I mentioned them. 

You throw this stuff out there but it shows the trust that the audience has.  They know my tastes.  Don, Jim and I have similar tastes but we are all into different things as well.  Maybe they recommend something and people check it out.  Don might lean more to the extreme stuff and Jim may lean a little more towards me.  They know I lean more towards the classic stuff.  We make a good balance between all of the genres that we work in.

Jeb:  You talk about Glenn Hughes in the new book. 

Eddie:  I love Glenn’s work.  Deep Purple has always been way bigger outside of American than in America.  They have a higher level profile elsewhere.  Lars Ulrich wouldn’t be playing music if it were not for Deep Purple; they were bigger for him than Led Zeppelin.  There is a much higher level for Deep Purple in Europe for Deep Purple’s lineup with Glenn. 

I was sorry to see Black Country Communion fall apart. He has new stuff coming out.  People can discover Glenn Hughes through places like your website or my radio show. There is a swell of people out there who want to know about this.  There is a ton of great music from classic artists that is not being well represented and I want to represent it just like you do. 

Jeb: Buckcherry is in this book.  They are awesome. 

Eddie: They are a band that embodies that sort of AC/DC in your face hard rock sound.  I was very happy when they came back.  They had a really huge record when they came back and now they have settled into playing to their core fan base for now.  They are still a phenomenal band. They are not a new band but they are a newer band that captures that spirit. 

Jeb: Will there be an Essentials Volume III?

Eddie:  There are a ton of people who have asked me that question.  I certainly could do a third book.  There are enough bands that I could talk about it.  There is even a More Essentials in the back of Volume II and we could start there.  I could do it, and I might. 

It is up to my publisher and if they feel they want to do a third one and if they feel there is enough interest in what I have to say.  I have not had that discussion with them yet.  This book is still new and I am still promoting it.  That conversation will come and we will make a decision on it. 

Regardless of that, I am going to start writing an autobiography which would be very different than the books I have done already.  Anyone who has either Volume I or II knows the books are more of celebrations of the bands that I love.  I want to do a book that is more of a text book that tells the stories about what I’ve done behind the scenes in this business for thirty years, and the ups down and sideways things that have happened.  There is a whole ‘nother side to what I’ve done and another book that I want to write that is really the war stories of how I went from being this kid consumed with this music, to what I am doing now.  I will do that book.  Whether I start that before Volume III or not, I don’t know, depending if I do Volume III or not will determine when I start that book.  

Jeb:  You were in a good geographical location for your career.  But other people were in the same location.  Why you?  Why did this success come to you?

Eddie:  I think that really, maybe, the biggest reason is consistency.  I have stayed true to what I believe.  I’ve stayed true to the music I love and I’ve stayed true to the bands that I love.  I have also been honest and objective.  I am going to say I don’t like something that a band is doing even if it’s to the detriment of that band not wanting to work with me, or giving me shit about it, or whatever. 

It is very hard to build some sort of real trust with an audience and passion from an audience if they think that you’re just going to blow smoke every single time.  You have to say if something is good, but you also have to say, “What was going on with this record?” 

It might have been Sammy Hagar, but somebody called me once and said, “What do you think of my new record?”  I said, “It’s a good record.  I really like it.”  He said, “I needed to call you and find out because I knew if you didn’t think it was good then you would tell me.”  That means something to me and I think that is what happens to the audience. 

Even if I am not personally into something, I am still willing to talk about it, but I am also still willing to play it.  I will give my opinion, but I will let the audience formulate their own.  I won’t hold it against the artist. 

There is a huge misconception that the only bands that get on my show are bands that I like and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve had tons of bands on That Metal Show that I don’t personally love or listen to.  I have tons of bands that I love that have never been on that show.  That is not the criteria.  I just like getting the story out.  I like engaging with these people.  I don’t play an instrument, so this is my contribution to helping these bands and growing these bands.  From day one until now, I have liked the same music.  I like the same genre of Hard Rock and Metal that I like now.  There is a wide net of it and I don’t make any apologies about not liking Death Metal. 

I don’t claim to like and know everything about every style of music.  I don’t claim to know everything, even though we have some fun with Stump the Trunk on That Metal Show.  I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination that I know it all.  I have just been consistent in what I’ve done.  Even in the ‘90s when it was not cool to like this stuff, I was still doing exactly what I’m doing now.  I think that is very important.  I think people reach a point after so many years that you become identified as The Guy when people want to find out about this sort of music.  You become a trusted voice.  It is something that has come with time and consistency.  You have to be prepared and professional. 

Ronnie James Dio was a guy who did not like doing interviews, but he liked talking to me.  His wife has told me that many times, and so did he when he was still with us.  Having those sorts of connections and building that trust with the artists is also a huge thing. 

Jeb:  I tend to lean as a fan to the ‘70s hard rock over the ‘80s. Well, up to about 1983 is pretty awesome.  Which era do you love the most?

Eddie: I would say my personal favorite era is the ‘70s.  There is a tremendous amount of great stuff that came in the ‘80s.  You had great commercial stuff and you had the whole Metallica thing happen and everything that came after.   You had Iron Maiden and stuff like that. 

For me, the ‘70s guys are the most special to me.  That is when I really grew up.  I was a little kid and those are the things that shaped me musically for the most part.  Aerosmith, Kiss, Van Halen, UFO, AC/DC, Black Sabbath…those are the bands that were important to me as a kid and really opened the flood gates to everything. 

In the ‘80s I was already in the business. I started my radio show in 1983 and I started working for a record company in 1986.  A lot of the ‘80s bands were bands that I worked with and some of them were friends.  I still respect them and like them, but I have a different way of looking at them as we came up in the business together, as opposed to the ‘70s guys as they were the ones that I had the posters of on my wall.  That is the difference mainly for me. 

Jeb:  I am passionate about the Scorpions.  I think the Uli Jon Roth era Scorpions is even more underrated and unknown than your beloved UFO. 

Eddie: You would be right; I would absolutely agree with you on that.  The Uli era of the Scorpions is more under the radar than UFO.  UFO had a couple of moments in America in the ‘70s around “Lights Out” and all of that.

We had Klaus [Meine] and Rudolf [Schenker] on That Metal Show this Saturday night on the Skype segment.  We touch on that a little bit with them in the four or five minutes we have with them. 

Yeah, the Uli Jon Roth period of the Scorpions is phenomenal, but a lot of people don’t even know that existed because the band really didn’t cut through until Blackout here in America.  You talk to Kirk Hammett and he would not be playing guitar if it were not for Uli Jon Roth. 

It was a different sort of band.  It was certainly not nearly as accessible maybe, but they made some really brilliant music for sure.  Uli Jon Roth is a phenomenal talent.  I don’t know why Scorpions didn’t get more of a pop during that era.  Maybe it was a label issue with RCA.

Jeb: Tell us about an album that readers at www.classicrockrevisited.com should be checking out. 

Eddie: I love the new Alter Bridge record.  That record was in my Top 3 of last year.  The Winery Dogs are very near and dear to me.  They were a band that I had a role in assembling.  It was my idea to plug Richie Kotzen into that band.  I think he is one of the greatest talents I know of.  If people have never heard his solo stuff then you need to know that his last few solo releases have been mind-blowing.  Beyond the personal connection, as a fan, I love that Winery Dogs. 

There are some new bands that have come out.  I like some things about Rival Sons.  There is a band called Monster Truck that I heard and I like.  They are out of Canada.  There are movements of bands that are coming out that are newer and younger but have a kind of old school sound.  Scorpion Child at times sounds like Fastway to me.  So, those are the things that catch my ear that I like. 

I’d like to hear a really great heavy band come out, but I haven’t.  One of the big problems I have with music in general is that I need to have vocalists that I like.  If I don’t like the singer, then I am not going to be down with it.  I can’t get into the scream stuff. I’d love to hear a really heavy, heavy band with really good vocals but I have not heard any of that just yet. 

Jeb:  Last one: What else can we expect with That Metal Show?  It seems to be growing. 

Eddie: We are doing the show right now in a completely different way than we’ve ever done it in the past.  In the past, we’ve always done a grouping of the show in a big cluster.  We would do two-a-day for five days and then be done with it and move on.  They then roll them out over the course of two or three months.  Now we are back doing the show in New York, where we are based, which we have not done in four years. 

We do it weekly.  We shoot episodes every Tuesday night in New York and they air that Saturday.  Why that should matter to people watching the show is because it makes the content way more current when it first premiers.  You will never see a premier more than five days old. The show we shot yesterday aired Saturday and it had Scorpions and Alter Bridge. 

Two weeks ago we shot on Tuesday and that is when Motley Crue announced their farewell, so we were able to get on the air right away and talk about that.  I really like doing it that way.  It is more expensive, as we are taking more studio time up.  I don’t know if we will continue to do it that way, as all of those decisions are the networks. 

It’s been cool and fun and it’s great being back in New York doing it where we are all based.  We have a great turnout of guests.  The show just keeps growing.  It is the little show that could. 

It’s the big fish in the small pond to be honest with you.  We are kind of the destination show for the network, which is good.  We are also, in all honesty, on a very small network.  We have restrictions with budgets and we have limitations.  People ask all the time why we don’t have bands play, but people don’t realize that the minute that you put music in you have to pay a lot of publishing money.  We don’t have those sorts of budgets. 

There are a lot of restrictions that are on us that people who don’t understand TV are not ever going to get.  It has worked and it has worked for five years for over a hundred episodes.  We are having a blast still doing it. 

We are always trying new things.  Some stuff works and some stuff doesn’t.  We live, we learn, and we try, and we hope that the audience enjoys it.  If we fall on our face with some of the segments, we say at least we did try.  We will rest it, or we will bring it back, or we will never do it again.  We just toyed with a new feature the other day that you may see us try in a week or two. There is a lot of evolution in this show that only time will tell where it goes from here.  It has been the thing for me, even after thirty years in the business; it is the thing I am most known for.  I have no complaints there.