On a recent Saturday morning in Seattle, Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose sat down for an interview with the LA Times after his band’s three-hour concert the night before at Key Arena. A sharp, well-spoken Rose tackled many topics, among them what happened to L.A. radio?:
What are your listening habits these days?
I like radio, and the vibe of whatever — I like finding some obscure station on the radio dial playing Eric Carmen at 3 a.m., you know? I like that rather than necessarily putting an album on. But the radio died in L.A. Just died. To me, corporate radio killed radio and you hear the same . . . “Carry on My Wayward Son” might be a great song, but there are other songs on that album, and there are other songs on Queen albums.
Have you heard anything recently that surprised you?
There was a station dumping their easy-listeners, and it was the best two weeks of music in L.A. I ever heard. It’d go from Queen’s “Dead on Time” to “Fingerprint File” by the Stones, to “Rockaria” by ELO, to “The Theme from ‘S.W.A.T.’ ” Just crazy, fun music. I turned to my friends and everybody was like, “Yes!” I called the station and said, “I will do anything to help promote your station.” And they go, “It’s not a real station. We’re just dumping listeners.” I said, “But this is it! This is amazing!”
Pet peeves now?
It kills me when someone will call KLOS from Builder’s Emporium on their lunch break going, “Play Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung.’ ” It’s like, why even request it? They’re going to play it anyway. And they’re going to play ZZ Top’s “Legs.” And why does everything have to sound old? The only time I hear fresh sounds is in movies. Like “Drive.” There are great songs in that — all kinds of stuff in movies where I’m like, “I’ve never heard this song, and I didn’t even know it existed.” I really miss that.
RBR-TVBR observation: He’s got a point—it’s been a while since the market hosted unique commercial stations like Mars FM, Indie 103.1 (now online) and KNAC (online as well). But LA is not a market where radio should at all be considered “dead.” There’s CBS Radio’s iconic KROQ and Clear Channel’s KYSR, which both dive into the Indie Rock pool more than your average Alternative stations. LA also has a good deal of college and community radio (some which definitely don’t cover the whole market) that play a variety of free-form radio and music he hasn’t heard—ever. Non-comm stalwarts like NPR affiliate KCRW-FM and KCSN-FM certainly break a ton of new music there as well. As to Classic Rock stations digging deeper into bands they already play, Axl is right on the money—and we’ve been saying the same thing for years. Classic Rock stations only skim the musical surface of their format, for sure.