While most music channels are opting out of programming outside the realm of reality television, VH1 Classic boasts an impressive schedule that actually includes videos and a variety of music-themed shows. In 2008, the network debuted That Metal Show, a round-table talk show covering all things hard rock and heavy metal.
Hosted by radio personality Eddie Trunk, as well as comedians Jim Florentine and Don Jamieson, That Metal Show is gearing up for its fifth season, broadcasted for the first time from Los Angeles. With guest appearances including Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead), Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society), and Dave Lombardo (Slayer), season five is sure to garner an onslaught of proudly raised horns from coast to coast.
I had the opportunity to speak with the guys following their whirlwind week of filming in LA to discuss what’s in store this season, as well as standout moments from the past.
I know that all three of you are big metal fans, so I can imagine how the idea for the show came about, but how did it actually come to fruition, and how did you get hooked up with VH1 Classic?
Eddie: I was a host for VH1 Classic for about 4 or 5 years prior to doing this show, so I have a history and a relationship with the channel and the network from having worked there for awhile. One of the things that I had done previously for the channel was host their music video hour called Metal Mania, and I always had this idea of doing something bigger than that, in terms of just introducing some videos. I really wanted to do something that was more like The Best Damn Sports Show Period for rock and metal fans. I had been pitching the idea for years actually, and it went through a lot of changes and different evolutions.
I have a background in radio, and I’ve done a radio show focusing on metal music for 27 years now. And Don and Jim, for the last ten years or so, have been good friends. They’ve popped in on the show many times and sat in with me and talked metal and just played records, and we were all just really good friends that were all into the same kind of classic hard rock and metal. So when it came up that we wanted to bring in some different elements and mix it up a little bit, I introduced the network to Don and Jim, and we shot a pilot and here we are getting ready to do season five.
Don: It was pretty amazing because Jim and I were fans of Eddie’s radio show when we were out on the road doing comedy; we would drive back from gigs and we’d be listening to him. Obviously, Ed has this unbelievable knowledge and passion about metal, and we’d hear him talk about the band Accept for twenty minutes and be like, “Wow, we’ve got to meet this guy, ’cause he talks like we do.” And we finally did hook up, and like he said, this is sort of our rough version of what we did on the radio show. We would just come up and hang, goof around and bust chops, and listen and talk about metal.
Eddie: When Don, Jim, and I first met, they told me they were listeners of the show and we got to know each other. We’re all around the same age, we’re all from Jersey, we’re all into the same music, and it was like we’d known each other forever. So it just was really natural and made a lot of sense for these guys to come into it and bring what they bring to the table, and it made for a great team.
You’re gearing up for your fifth season in May. What are some of the more memorable moments throughout the course of the show, and who have been some of your favorite guests?
Eddie: This is the first season that we’ve ever done from Los Angeles, and all the shows prior to this we’ve done at our home base in New York City. We’ve had some tremendous guests in the first four seasons, but most of these artists do live on the west coast. So we had always really wanted to do a season from LA, and it made the booking process really easy. We have more artists than we know what to do with now that the show is established, so we were really excited about that.
One of the things that I was really excited about pulling off was reuniting George Lynch (ex-Dokken, Lynch Mob, Souls of We) and Don Dokken. People will see them on the set with us together for the first time. Then there’s a guy like Lemmy who we’ve had on the show twice; this is the first time that he actually sits on the set with us and joins us as our main guest.
There are so many great moments that people are going to see and one of the things we really wanted to do with this season was spend a lot of time with each artist on set. Many of these guys have 30-40 years of great stories, and we try to tap into those with the time we have. So people are going to see a bit more stuff that is artist intensive with the guest of the show than maybe with some shows in the past.
Don: I saw the Lemmy show. It’s the first show of the season, and I fell off the chair laughing; it’s just such a funny show. And Ed’s right, the interviews breathe a lot more now, and it feels so fresh. It lets the artist feel more comfortable and go into areas that they wouldn’t normally.
I was geeked out when we had Alice Cooper in one of the LA shows. He’s one of my all-time favorites, and he talked about everything from sheep balls to being in the mental asylum when he was battling his addiction with alcohol. We really go into some cool stuff with him.
Eddie: Going back to the earlier shows, a couple things that stand out in my mind—I think it was in our first season, I got Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson (Rush) to come down from Canada just to do the show. They came in and out on the same day, and that really meant a lot to me. As far as my favorite show, for me personally, that we’ve done up to this point, would be a show that we did with Scott Gorum of Thin Lizzy.
Don: Yes, yes!
Eddie: While we love having the big names on, I’m sure Don and Jim will tell you that sometimes some of the more under-the-radar guys make for a great guest as well. And the show with Gorum was just a slam dunk. The segment that we did in the show was funny, and Gorum was a great guest. All three of us are fans of Andrew Dice Clay, and he made an appearance in the show. So that’s one that I always really love; that show was really one of my favorites.
Don: It’s always cool too for someone to change your perception of how you thought they might be. Even a guy like Steve Vai, I thought for sure he was going to come on and talk about pentatonic scales and how to design guitars and stuff, which I would’ve been fine with, but I just wouldn’t have had much to say. And man, he came on and had amazing stories of playing with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake and Frank Zappa. He’s got such a rich history and he’s such a great story teller, and we just had so many laughs with him on the show and that was really neat.
I’d say my favorite show was definitely one from season four, which we had Kirk Windstein from Down getting our logo tattooed on his chest. And not only did he get the logo, he got a giant creature that takes up pretty much his entire chest from tattoo artist Paul Booth. And inside the gapping mouth is the That Metal Show logo, so we love Kirk for paying the ultimate homage to our show.
Jim: And Don doesn’t say that because he’s signed to Steve Vai’s label either.
Don: You are too!
What made you decide to move the show to LA? And is it a permanent move or just for this season?
Jim: They just decided that since we were going to do the (Revolver) Golden God Awards out there—we were going to do some red carpet stuff and they wanted us to present an award—we figured while we’re out there, we might as well do the show out there and hopefully we’ll do more.
Eddie: I’d love to do it every other season. I’d love to do New York, LA, New York, LA, because the access to artists is so great on the west coast.
You know, we knocked out 8 shows in like 7 or 8 days in LA. We weren’t there for very long. We do two shows a day, and we did back-to-back days, so we really got a lot done in a relatively short period of time out there. I’d like to see it alternate. I think that there’s value to being in both places, but it’s really up to the network, whatever they decide to do.
A big part of the show focuses on more classic hard rock and metal bands, but are there any modern bands that you guys are into and would like to have on the show?
Jim: Yes. Buckcherry, Amon Amarth, and Slipknot.
Don: As far as booking bands for the show, obviously because it’s VH1 Classic, we cater more to that audience. As much as we can sometimes go out of our comfort zone, it’s difficult. I agree with all the bands Jim talked about—I love Hatebreed, and I love Danko Jones, and Broken Teeth. There’s a lot of bands that we would love to have on the show, but then again, our show definitely focuses on the classic metal bands.
Eddie: I personally have always been a big fan of Marilyn Manson. I’m also a big fan and supporter of Buckcherry, and I like Airbourne. There’s a number of new things out right now that I like, but like Don said, the channel we’re on is called VH1 Classic; it caters to a classic rock audience and we have 21 minutes a week to—
Eddie: [LAUGHS] 21:30 to get all these interviews in and fill those voids with these guests. And the guests that we’re having on are guys that have 30, 40 years worth of stories, and they have no outlet at all on TV.
For a lot of the newer bands, you know, Headbangers Ball still exists, MTV2, and places like that. For these classic artists, there’s literally no place for them to go on television, so that’s the niche. That’s what the channel caters to. That’s what most of us are mostly about.
Of course, we all like newer things, but we have to keep it to what makes the most sense, especially given the time we have with these guys.
How does the process of picking guests for the show work? Do you guys have total control of who comes on, or does someone else have influence over that?
Eddie: The decision, at the end of the day, comes down to me and the Executive Vice-President of Music and Talent for VH1, Rick Crim. Rick and I have known each other for decades. We’ve worked together in different capacities over the years, and he’s always been a great friend and an ally. He has the final rubber stamp on everything, but he and I work very closely together in conjunction with his department, which includes Jackie Milwich and Sandy Alouette. They work under Rick and they help as well, but at the end of the day, it’s myself and Rick.
I know that all three of you guys have other careers outside of the show, so how much time do you typically devote to filming each season, and how do you balance the schedule with your other work commitments?
Don: When we tape the shows in New York, we usually do a season over a period of three weeks or so, doing two shows a day. Obviously, our schedule was condensed in LA, but that’s usually how we do it.
Now as far as balancing career around it, the TV show comes first. When they call, we block out that time, and that’s pretty much dedicated to that. Jim and I mostly work on the weekends doing stand-up, so that schedule usually doesn’t change too much.
Eddie: My radio shows are on Fridays and Mondays. If I have advance notice that we have to work on one of those days, I can always record them. But we all have some flexibility. All three of us, at the end of the day, really are kind of freelancers in what we do. We’re all hustling on different things and different fronts, so it’s just a question of clearing up the time that we need. Like Don said, when they call and say we’re gonna roll, then we just block out that time on the calendar.
What people may not realize is that it really takes us about two weeks to do a full season, in actual real filming time, but the planning and stuff obviously goes on months before that.
Have you considered having the show go on the road, bringing it to a wider audience?
Jim: Yeah, we’re working on that. There’s always been discussions. We’re gonna see if we can figure it out somehow, doing it live in a club, in a rock club, in different cities. But it’s still in the beginning stages with that though. That’d be great if we could.
Eddie: We were in England last summer; we did an hour special from the Download festival. We did the show from—not necessarily on the road, but outside of our studio—we did a one hour special at the Hard Rock in Times Square with Anvil. So there have been occasions when we’ve done that. But again, all of those decisions are really up to VH1. They decide when we work and what we do, and how long it is or where it is. We’re just happy to be a part of it.
Are there a lot of impromptu moments that have just sort of happened throughout the seasons, and is there any consistency on who tends to stir things up when they’re on set?
Jim: This new season we’ve got Zakk Wylde on, and the show could’ve been an hour and a half. It was just pure chaos, which is great. I don’t know how they’re going to cut that into a half hour. When you’ve got a guy like that coming on, you never know what’s going to happen. I love shows like that; I wish more of those would happen.
Don: Zakk brought Black Label denim vests for everybody, and t-shirts for the whole crowd. Before we could even start taping, he insisted that we put on the vests and everything, and button them. It was a whole process, and he was making jokes to the crowd. I can’t wait to see that show myself. It’s gonna be awesome.
Eddie: There’s a lot of things that happen that the live audience will see during the course of the show, but ultimately, until it gets edited, we don’t know what moments they’ve chosen to show and what moments they haven’t. And along those lines, there’s a half-hour additional episode called “Scrap Metal” that we’re going to be doing at the end of every season, which shows stuff that was cut out of the season that just aired. People will see some moments with a lot of guests that didn’t make it into the cut of the show. So there’s other ways that we can address that stuff and ways that we can work it in.
You feature several bits throughout the show, with one of the most popular being “Stump the Trunk.” Eddie, do you keep track of how many times you’ve actually been stumped, and does it seem that questions have gotten more ridiculous as the seasons progress?
Eddie: I get them wrong constantly. I’m probably somewhere around 50%.
One of the things that we were all talking about coming off this run from LA is that this “Stump the Trunk” bit has really taken on a whole new life. We’ve had everyone from Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures) to Rob Zombie and Rob’s wife just coming up to me, yelling “Stump the Trunk” and wanting to talk about that segment.
It’s pretty crazy because in all honesty—and Don and Jim will break my balls and say, “Yeah, you do say you’re a know-it-all”—but I don’t. When people come running up to me and say, “I’m going to stump you,” my first answer is “You probably will.” I know I know a little bit more than the average guy; I’ve lived my whole life in this thing. But some of the questions are getting way out there on another planet, and nobody in their right mind would know some of the stuff that’s being asked.
It’s a fun bit, but people shouldn’t take it too seriously. I think that one of the things that makes that bit, and makes that bit so popular, is not only having people watching me squirm or coming up with a crazy answer, but it’s also what Jim says and does with the person standing next to him when he interviews him. Don’s sitting there to my right, jabbing me, and getting involved. So I think that even though that thing’s called “Stump the Trunk,” I think it benefits from the live audience and the chemistry between the three of us.
We don’t know what makes the show, so we may do eight “Stump the Trunk” bits in an episode, but they only show three, and they pick how many that they’re going to show that I got right or wrong. So when they do show the statistics (on “Scrap Metal”), they’re going to show from what was televised and what wasn’t televised.
Thanks again for the chance to put this interview together. Is there anything else you want people to know about That Metal Show?
Jim: The new season will start Saturday, May 8th, with Lemmy.
Eddie: One of the things that people should know too, and we find this happening, is that people are still just discovering this show. Some people are just now getting digital cable, and some people are just now finding out about VH1 Classic, so every day there’s new people discovering it. And people want to see the old episodes, so you can do that online. You can see them on VH1Classic.com and any of the three of our websites as well.
The other cool thing that we’re really happy about is being that this is the web and it’s worldwide, the show just started airing in a bunch of other countries. We’re all getting a ton of feedback from places like Brazil and Mexico and all these countries that are just seeing the show. So that’s also been really cool because there’s a whole other part of the world that is discovering this, and they’re seeing seasons one and two right now. It’s really cool to see this thing going global.