After the cancellation of shows like MTV’s Headbangers Ball and constantly being snubbed by mainstream media programming, the rock and heavy metal community can at least celebrate that the flagship program for the genre isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
VH1 Classic’s metal roundtable, That Metal Show hit record numbers with the June 1st Season 12 premiere and will reach a landmark 100 episodes this Saturday (June 15th). I caught up with host Eddie Trunk to talk about hitting No. 100 and what the show means to the world of rock and metal.
Almost every show in the rock/metal genre has been cancelled or moved to online formats. How does it feel to hit 100 episodes of That Metal Show on a major network?
It’s pretty remarkable. I think back five years ago or so when I was first trying to get this together and fighting to get just one episode on. It was not easy in the beginning to get everyone to see the value and vision of how this could really work.
It went through a lot of growing pains in the early days and lot of different evolutions of people attached, so it was really touch-and-go for me for a long time whether the show would ever actually get off the ground and actually make it. The fact that it has and that it’s hit 100 shows and that we’re the longest running show in the history of, I believe, VH1 and VH1 Classic is pretty remarkable. It’s truly a testament to the fans of the music who really connected with it and made it a big part of their weekends.
The show hit record numbers with the Season 12 premiere. What do you attribute to the show getting such high viewership this season?
I think that mainly it was because people were missing the show so much. We were off the air for the longest period of time without new episodes before these new shows started a few weeks ago, and I think that played a big part in it. You know the old saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder? I think that’s what it was. Even though the show was still on countless times as repeats, I think people started to get really frustrated because there were no new shows.
If it was up to me, we’d be doing them every night, but it’s not. It’s up to the network, and they control the budgets and they control those decisions. So unfortunately we don’t do these shows nearly as often as I wish that we would. We [also] have a whole new set and a relaunch of the show that I think a lot of people were curious about. And Jason Newsted was a great first guest. He’s a guy that hasn’t been on TV in a long time, and I think he was a great way to reintroduce the show, too.
After reflecting back on 100 episodes, is there any single interview or show that sticks out as your favorite or most memorable?
There’s certainly a few. I think one of the greatest shows we ever had was Brian Johnson of ACDC because, needless to say, he’s the singer in one of the biggest bands in the world, but he also is just a great guy. No B.S. about him — what you see is what you get.
Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony are a couple guys who are always a blast to do interviews with. I love the real people. And what I mean by that is I love artists that don’t come with this certain air about them, that don’t come with their guard up, that say “Don’t talk to me about this” or “Stay away from this.” They want to come, they get the spirit of the show, they want to mix it up and have some fun with you, and they’re not so hypersensitive that you can’t say this or say that.
Rob Halford is always great. The late Ronnie James Dio, of course, who was one of my great friends, was always great as well. Lars Ulrich is always great. The other big stuff that comes to mind immediately is Steve Harris, who had eluded me for a long time, and we finally got on. The icons of the genre that we deal with. I mean, any time you’re sitting next to them and you’re lucky enough to have them on the show, it’s really special.
When you came up on the 100th episode, did you purposefully book Rex and Sebastian or did it just happen that they were available?
Like I tell a lot of people, I think it’s awesome that we hit 100 episodes and it’s a great landmark, but as you’ll see when the show airs, there’s really nothing different about this show. We didn’t even know until just before we started shooting as the schedule broke that that was 100. Nothing against Sebastian or Rex Brown, but there was no plan in place.
I don’t want to mislead people. I mean, we don’t drop balloons or bring out a cake. [laughs] I think we reference in the show that it’s our 100th and that’s great, but that’s really the extent of acknowledging it in the episode. There was nothing really out-of-the-norm done, but, of course, it’s a major landmark not only for our show but for any show to have gone that far.
Have you added anything new or different this season in regards to new segments or new formats?
Yes, this entire season is completely different. From the first show, the set is completely different. There are probably six to eight completely new features in every episode that we’ve never done before and some returning features. Each show has completely been given a makeover in this current season.
I know that you’re all about the classics. Do you also pay attention to the new, more up-and-coming bands in the genre?
I’ll tell you what — I do, actually. And there’s a number of bands that I really like that are new bands. I think that what people sometimes forget is that our show is on VH1 Classic. Sometimes people overlook the second word in that: classic. The entire network is based on classic artists and classic music — that’s exactly what it’s built on. You wouldn’t go to ESPN Classic or a classic rock station to hear new bands, so we can’t feature that much new stuff on the show, but that doesn’t mean that any of us don’t like new music.
If anyone has ever listened to my radio show over the 30 years I’ve done it, new music is an incredibly important part of what I do. That being said, in the show, we have many ways that we feature new bands. As a matter of fact, in this new season we have Ben from the Dillinger Escape Plan on, and we’ve got Johan from Amon Amarth on. We’re doing this new feature called “Metal Modem” where we’re incorporating them in, so we find our ways to talk about, when and where we can, new music. But we also have to be conscious that we work for a network called VH1 Classic, and at the end of the day, most people want to see the icons of the world.
There are plenty of new bands that I like, and if you watch the show we find many ways to at least get these bands mentioned, even if it’s just wearing their t-shirt. It’s funny when I hear people say, “Why don’t you have obscure bands on?” And my answer to that is obscure doesn’t exactly equal TV ratings. Obscure is not something a TV executive wants to hear. It has to be a balancing act. But there’s new stuff that I like. There’s this band out of Canada called Monster Truck, and I like this band out of LA that I first mentioned on the show two years ago called Rival Sons.
How important is That Metal Show to the rock and metal community — to have a show dedicated to this genre on mainstream television?
That would be a question for the artists and the industry. I can just tell you what I hear from these people, and they are incredibly grateful for it. Some of the biggest people in the genre have come and said to me, “Hey, what you guys are doing here is really important. Please don’t stop doing it.” Of course, I never want to stop doing it, but again, that’s not my call if that happens either.
I’ll never forget when James Hetfield came up to me and said, “I watch the show. It’s really important what you guys are doing to help keep our music alive, so keep it going.” That kind of stuff means a lot because the simple truth is that whether it’s a new band, whether it’s a classic band, or band in the middle like Stone Sour (who we had on last week), none of those guys really have anywhere to go on television that’s going to give them any real time and, more importantly, be interviewed by people who truly know and care about them and the genre.
I cringe when I see bands go on CNN or Fox News or any of these shows that you can just tell that the host read the one sheet five minutes before they walked out. I pride myself on being a good interviewer and asking the questions that the fans want to know and, ya know, asking the tough question when it has to be asked. And listen, sometimes that costs you, too, because there are artists that don’t want an interview like that; they’re threatened by people who know a little too much about their careers. Sometimes those guys won’t do the show, but we have to do the show the way we do it and do it from our hearts, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it work.
I can only tell you that I hear from artists every day that tell me sales spiked when we mentioned an album, or hits on their web site spiked when we mention them on air. Just the other day I got an email from a label called Carved Records that has a band called The Texas Hippie Coalition. I think it was Jim who mentioned them in the show a week ago, and they said, “We have a huge spike in sales and there’s no other reason we can attribute it to but the fact you mentioned us.”
That kind of stuff makes me feel great because it shows that the show is having an impact, but more importantly, it ties into the whole reason why I started in this business of TV and radio 30 years ago, which is to help support and grow this music that I think is very under-appreciated and under-served.
The remaining episodes for Season 12 will feature:
6/15 – Rex Brown and Sebastian Bach (100th Episode)
6/22 – Jake E. Lee and Rick Allen
6/29 – Queensrÿche (Scott Rockenfield & Todd La Torre) and Dave Mustaine
7/06 – Rob Zombie & John 5 and Tom Keifer
7/13 – Scott Gorham & Ricky Warwick and Neil Fallon
7/20 – Blue Öyster Cult (Buck Dharma) & Kix (Steve Whiteman & Brian Forsythe)
For more info: