Owner, CD 102.5
By David S. LewisPublished January 1, 2012
Randy Malloy is a brash bastard, with his damned surfer hair and 1950s-style good looks. He’s a booze vacuum, and I bet he could drink his way out of a vat of beer. He spoke of once eating whole baby rabbits on a salad, and has rescued me from my own drunken winter abysses on occasion, picking me up on his custom-built, lethally fast Vespa scooter and whisking me across town on ice-covered streets to relative safety.
When I arrive to interview him at his office in the new CD102.5 station offices in the old Swiss Chalet on Front Street, he pours me a whiskey and hands me a beer. As usual.
We begin our conversation with guns: the purchasing of new ones (I’ve recently adopted a slick little Mossburg) and the restoration of old ones (Randy’s .22 squirrelkiller just returned from the shop).
We’ve begun a few conversations with firearms, in fact; a couple months ago, we went out to Deer Creek State Park’s shotgun range and shot clay pigeons for the first session of what has been an eternal interview. I let the recorder go as we fumbled about with my brother’s 12-guage (this is what led to us buying our own), in part to distress the intern tasked with transcribing the interview. Irritatingly enough, Randy beat me by nine points, which led to me introducting this article with the phrase, “Randy Malloy is a brash bastard.”
We drink and talk of muzzle velocities and range, pigeon throwers and slug calibers, and the day we thought the station was going to be conquered by right-wing Christian talk radio.
Last month, the blogosphere reported the station had caught fire, and most of us thought it was going to burn to the ground …
(Laughs) Wow, I’ve not heard an analogy like that. I’ll toast to that one, buddy (slurping sound of Jameson’s). In fact, it did not burn to the ground.
Was it ever a real problem? What the hell happened?
What the hell happened?
Honestly, I’ve no idea.
Randy went on to explain that, when he bought CD101/102.5 from his long-time boss, alternative radio pioneer Roger Vaughan, the local management agreement for the tower and, thus, the signal for the station, seemed to be available and “someone, somewhere” thought there was an opportunity. Overtures of an entity looking to buying the station’s lease for Christian talk and rock caused an outpouring of angst on Columbus-area message boards.
It was great water-cooler fodder, and it was great for businesses that were able to use that to negatively sell me … ‘Aw, they’re going to go out of business, don’t buy them, buy us’ … radio is infamous for that. We are horribly bad about not playing well with others.
What kind of reaction did you get from the hep community in town?
Ninety-nine percent said, ‘Is this true?’ And we said, ‘No,’ and they went on about their business. The mobilization of support was unbelievable. I took that as an unbelievably positive sign: that we do, in fact, matter to people – that we do serve a purpose and have importance in the culture. We’re just a small business. It’s just rare in our particular case, because there aren’t a lot of them, like a hip boutique in the Short North. It’s really hard for us to think of ourselves any other way. So what that we work hundred-hour weeks, and go to shows five nights a week, and get up at the weirdest hours? To the people here, that doesn’t matter; we do it all the time. It’s par for the course. You do it long enough, and it kind of becomes your DNA.
How long is the lease for?
The TBA started again as one November 1, 2011; we have five years with a two-year renewable. That takes us through 2018.
What happens then?
We’ll deal with that way before it ever ends. We’ll figure it out. But, for close to at least another decade, you should be able to rely on us being exactly what we are, breaking new bands, having fun, being a uniquely just uh, the insanity of being a small business that sells nothing but this intangible quantity, just air (laughs).
Serious question: What could cause the station to stop broadcasting before 2018?
Well, if the Mayans are correct and the world comes to an end, what, around December 20th? That would be a problem. Uh, any natural disaster that would make the viability of any business not work – N1H5, a pandemic …
You’re talking about the Dreaded Indie Plague, then …
Yes, exactly. If suddenly people decide new music sucks and they’re going to listen to nothing but Beethoven, Wagner and Bach … I don’t know, I actually do listen to some classical music. It’s good stuff.
Sounds like we’re off the hook.
Unless we do something so cataclysmically wrong, more so than we’ve already been doing wrong for the last 20 years, then we’ll keep on doing this. I hope to be doing this for a really long time. People say, ‘When are you going to grow up?’ I grew up a long time ago; I just refuse to grim up. My mom says it the best: “Randy, when are you going to mellow?” Mom, I’m not a bottle of Bordeaux! This is who I am. The air got under the cork a long time ago, and I spoiled.
What can we expect next from the station? Now that it’s yours, what are you doing differently, what cool projects do you have in the works?
New website, being designed by a great group of guys, Dynamit. They are fans of the station; they approached us like, “Please let us do it! We want to do it!” Great group of guys who grew up listening to the radio station, they are passionate about us, and they get it. That will hopefully allow us to do some other things. We are really looking to get back into the streaming world; that’s a huge concern for our listeners, and again, the reason we stopped was purely financial. Because of the royalties; they’re so expensive, it’s punitive. And because of the way it works, we can’t monetize to pay for the stream. It’s expensive – $30,000 to $50,000 that you can never recoup. Which is great! Pay the artists. We do, we pay fees, exorbitant fees, and it’s great. We understand the artists deserve to be paid, but at the same time, don’t penalize us and make us pay twice. So, that’s kind of what happens when you stream. We have to monetize it up front; I’ve got to have it pre-paid essentially, I’ve got to have it sponsored. I can’t rely on selling the ad space for it like I do for the radio station. It’s got to be paid for before I do it. And we moved. Hellooo! We’re in a bigger, cooler space. We’ve talked about doing concerts outside, we’ve talked about closing off Front Street and doing basically a sweaty summer rock show. Local bands, maybe some food trucks, maybe something hip and cool, all charity. All as a fundraiser. Again, local. Local local local. We’re locally owned and operated; we are a small business that is for Columbus, by Columbus and in Columbus. And we will continue that, it’s not going to change, it’s what we are. So, you know…
And here it drifts again: Randy is a consummate businessman, and in the course of the conversation, his answers to my questions are often redirected back to the business of running an independent radio station successfully, almost as though he is brainstorming possible strategies out loud. He is as on-message as a politician, a veritable PR recording for the station. When I interviewed him after last month’s skeet shooting session, I experienced the same quandary: he is an incredibly conspicuous personage. Often out and about, the man is large, visually striking and louder than hell – his voice, still tinged after 20 years in Ohio by his New Jersey upbringing, is brash. The man is unlikely to be mistaken for a wallflower – if there is action, he is in the middle of it. But, for such a public figure, and such an elaborate personality, who exactly is Randy Malloy?
We’ve tried very hard to cement our relationship with the arts community, because we believe that a strong arts community will make for a better city. It will help keep and hold those key young professionals, which will be leading the charge for this city in the future. We’re huge advocates of the whole Wonderland project, and we’re huge advocates of Independents’ Day, and we’re strong allies with GCAC. The Greater Columbus Arts Council, they’ve got great initiatives. To be part of something bigger than ourselves, and to be able to give and pay something forward, I think is right in line with our listeners’ belief systems. We don’t just talk the talk, we really, really believe and walk the walk, because this city is better place when people advocate and actually have belief in doing this and actually do it.
Randy, you’ve slipped into cheerleader mode.
You’ve got me pegged. I’ve got to be a cheerleader, that’s all I am. That’s what I’ve said for 20 years: I’m a f*cking cheerleader. I’ve said that from word ‘go,’ the only thing I am is a cheerleader. I don’t manage anything; I manage a cheering squad. Plain and simple. You have to love it; you _have_ to love what you do. And like I said, we (he and Roger Vaughan) always joked about it. ‘Are you still having fun?’ Because, it’s like, the minute I stop having fun, I wouldn’t do this. I would leave and start doing something else. I would not sit here if I wasn’t having fun.
It hasn’t always been fun, has it?
Yeah, trust me, as with any human being and any other job, I have my bad days. And there are days and there are weeks when I’m like, just miserable, because life just sucks sometimes. Gravity is a law for a reason: the Earth just sucks. And yes, life sucks. When Andy (“Andyman” Davis, longtime DJ, humanitarian, and Columbus personality) died, that sucked. I mean, that was my friend. He wasn’t just some guy I worked with, he was my friend, you know? He wasn’t this bigger than life guy, you know, ‘Andyman!’ He was my friend, who I hung out with every day for f**king 20 years. Every day, I spent more time with him than I do with my own family – because he is family. I spent every day with him, eight hours a day. Drank with him, went out at night, saw him places, and it just was – it just sucked. We buried a bottle of Jameson in the drywall (here at the new studio), because Andy loved him some Jameson. Before we sealed up the wall in the main studio – right about the center window – we got a bottle of Jameson. The people that were there that night, we all drank it; talked about him, got the bottle, signed it, and put it up there and the dry wall guys came and buried it forever. Just because he’s part of it. We always wanted him to be a part of the place. He was part of the culture; he was part of our whole process. I don’t want to be maudlin about it, but at the same time, I miss my friend. I spent every day with the guy, and it sucks. And every day is a reminder that he’s not there. When I listen to an old Big Room (recording) and I hear his laughter in the background, and it’s like, f*ck. It sucks, because you can never get away from it, and it’s a constant reminder. But at the same time, I’m okay … I’m okay with the reminder. It makes me not forget, it makes me remember my friend – a guy who cared, who had passion for the station, passion for Columbus, passion for these bands, local musicians, for children’s charities, to do something right. That’s the good in all of us. You don’t meet people like that all the time, and he was that guy.
This interview with you is awfully much about the station, isn’t it? Are you so closely defined by the station at this point that there’s nothing left of just Randy?
There’s who I am, and what I am. And, sure, the ‘what’ I am is this guy that’s worked for the radio station for 20 years. It defines me. It really does. It is my identity, I can’t lie about that – but it’s not all of me. It’s an intrinsic part of my makeup, without question. But there are lots of people who know me for what I am, not who I am. People who know me for who I am, they see past my obnoxious radio station persona, and just see the obnoxious persona. (laughs)
You’re an unabashedly accomplished drinker. How do you that?
Well, I attribute it to good genetics. I have some good German-Irish genetics, which I think helps a lot. And it’s all about eating a good base, to make sure you’ve got a good base before you drink. Obviously that’s an important factor. Don’t eat a lot of steak, eat a lot of carbs: potatoes, rice. Plan ahead. And it’s all about pacing; it’s not a sprint – it’s a marathon. So if you know you are going to have to have an enjoyable evening, and you are going to be expected to be a personable person, well, you know, don’t start doing shots of Jameson’s at six o’clock. Or, hold off and do one at six, and don’t do one again until nine. Not six, seven, eight, nine and 10 … that’s all. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
You’re a loud man. You’re brassy. Do you ever just rub people the wrong way?
(Loud screaming laughter.) Wow. Yeah. There are a lot of people that I don’t ever rub the right way. And I apologize for that. But I guess, coming form the east coast, that I don’t have a good filter. I have found it to be both an asset and a detriment for a lot of my life. I have some really good friends who, when they first met me, thought I was a complete and total a**hole. Once they get to know me, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re not as bad as I thought,’ and I’m like, ‘Thanks?’ I make no apologies, I’m just me. You know, it’s sort of the unfiltered me, and I haven’t learned. It’s served me well and it’s also definitely backfired on me. Kicked me in the ass, many times over. Yes, that’s a fair assessment, that I’m not the quiet type. ‘Wallflower’ has never been used as a descriptive word for me.
What are some of the last things you think about each night, before you fall asleep?
Everything. Everything. I pass out. I don’t usually sleep. I only sleep about four or five hours in any night. I don’t usually go to bed until two (a.m.) and I’m always up by seven, if not earlier. I don’t sleep much. I don’t understand it; I’ve just never slept very much. And I keep a notepad next to the bed, and so if I wake up, I’ll either get up and scribble something down in a mad fury and then go back to bed, or just get up. But I can fall asleep anywhere. You put me in a moving vehicle – doesn’t matter if it’s a car, an airplane or a rickshaw – I can be out in seconds.
You’ve been doing this for two decades. What was your favorite period in terms of the music itself?
That’s probably almost an insurmountable question, it really is. I love the music that we are playing right now, I do. I love it. So some of the bands out right now are amazing. But what I fell in love with, the alternative genre, goes back to when I first started 20 years ago. Right now I’m listening to things like Kasabian’s new album, the new Black Keys, the Kooks … some of these bands are great. But, 20 years ago, I mean … the Ramones, the Pixies, I’m a huge fan of the Pixies. Iggy Pop, and Iggy and the Stooges. The Clash … I mean, the stuff that now the bands look at today and go, ‘My influence was,’ and these bands I’m like, ‘Yeah, I love those bands, too.’ You’ve got Dramarama, you’ve got the Kinks …
I don’t think I’ve ever asked this one before – I find it a cheesy journalism question – but who are your role models?
You know, I think that’s one of those questions that I don’t really have an appropriate answer for. Because I never really had role models. I grew up in a culture where my dad worked that sort of nine-to-five job, came home, had a martini, read The New York Times, watched a little TV and went to bed, and that was it. A lot of the beliefs that I got came from my dad, because he was a very smart man who was self made. He was the first of his family to go to college … went to the Navy, was a Seabee … became a city manager in New Jersey, and became one of the top city managers in the nation. So I have a lot of that same belief system; I work very hard, and I try to be a good person for the most part, I try not to impinge on other people’s lives, but at the same time I’ve got that little devil streak in me that’s like, ‘Well, you know, let’s go have some fun. Why NOT?’
So probably my only role model was my father, really. I always like Charlton Heston and Clint Eastwood because they were the tough guys in the movies when I was growing up.
A lot of your client base and fans and everyone has moved towards more of this tight jeans, androgynous hair, boys-look-like-girls-look-like-boys era, where the masculinity of yore is almost politically incorrect – yet you have cultivated this hard-drinking, gun-owning, self-reliant tough guy aura, who points to Heston and Eastwood as examples of cool. Is that a reflection of your reluctance to stay hep, or do you find some kind of nostalgic value in traditionally American masculinity, or what?
I think that – and only speaking for myself, because the last thing I want to do is represent anyone else, let alone a culture – I think everything has its time and place. If anything, I’m stuck in an older culture. I try and live this …
(knocking on the door)
(Radio DJ at the door) The truck broke down.
The ice cream truck broke down?
(DJ) Yeah. It’s broken.
And then the truck broke down. I need to play mechanic now.
(Portions of several interviews were used for this article.)