Greg Kihn Discusses Becoming a Radio DJ and How He’d Run the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Greg Kihn, who you may remember from his hit-making days in the '80s ('Jeopardy,' 'The Breakup Song'), was also one of the first rockers to make the transition to radio, having served as the ratings-leading morning man on California's KFOX, the largest classic rock station west of the Mississippi, for over 16 years now.
If you were ever to get him on the phone, you'd see exactly why the energetic, knowledgeable and utterly likeable Kihn is such a natural for the radio. He answered the bell ready to talk freely about everything from his old life to his new jobs (he's also a successful author), his famous friends and even UFOs. We'll stick to his current career and his thoughts on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for now, look for the rest of our highly enjoyable talk shortly:
So, did you just decide to switch from rock star to DJ one day?
Well it was more gradual, I'd always done radio. During the '70s and the '80s, anytime we went on the road, I did a ton of interviews. I got to the point where I was really comfortable on the air, and I would fill in for people, you know, for a seven to midnight guy. A friend of mine was on vacation for a week, I filled in, and I did too good of a job -- they offered me his job! I've been doing mornings for almost 15 years now. They say you get used to it, but you never really get used to getting up at that hour. It's a lifestyle, you've got to teach yourself to get to bed early.
You also published your first book around this time, right?
Well, also in '96 I started my writing career as well, my first novel was published that year, 'Horror Show.' I needed to stay home, I needed to get off the road. I published four books between then and 2001, and to tell you the truth, none of it really seems like work -- I've been making it up as I go along!
And now you're working on a book about the Mafia?
Actually, it's a TV show, and I wrote the pilot and what they call "the bible," which is the plot for the entire season. It's called '45 RPM,' and we're shopping it right now. I've been down to Hollywood a couple of times, we're meeting with various networks and production companies, there's genuine interest here. So far so good, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed.
A lot of musicians have followed in your footsteps and become DJs -- Nikki Sixx, Alice Cooper -- did someone beat you to it or are you the pioneer in this field?
I can't think of anyone who beat me to it, but it was the kind of thing where, it seems like musicians, especially guys who had been media-savvy, would be able to plug into a thing like this pretty easily. I think in Nikki's and Alice's case, both of those guys are glib and media-aware, and for them to be able to jump on the radio, it's not that tough a transition. I think someday there will be a lot more musicians on the radio, to tell you the truth.
Do you listen to competing radio shows at all? Or just focus on your own work?
You know what, I've never really listened to other people, I don't know what I'm doing. and if I DID know? It would be a bad thing. So I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Really, why I think the radio show works is because it's so natural and conversational, just like the way we're talking right now. I don't have a shtick that I have to do. It's just me, I'm just paid for being me. It's pretty good work if you can get it!
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions have caused a lot of controversy lately -- what's your stance on who's in and who's out?
Well, I have issues with whoever's the induction committee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I don't understand where they're coming from. I say throw the bums out, let's start over again. They let people in that I wouldn't let in, and they're keeping people out that I would have welcomed in with open arms. Most of the guys from my graduating class -- I'm taking early '80s -- are not in the Hall of Fame. It's obvious that there's a New York, east coast artsy-fartsy bias. How do you explain the Talking Heads being in the Hall of Fame and not Journey? They should both be in! All my friends should be there, why isn't Joan Jett in? Eddie Money, the Doobie Brothers. Is Skynyrd in yet? I don't know, but they should be if they're not. Every year it seems to me, they come up with half a dozen names and maybe three of 'em I disagree with, but I think they should have a lot bigger of a door, to let people in.
Watch the Greg Kihn Band Perform 'The Breakup Song'