Straight From the Mouth
The Morning Mouth's February Interview with Opie & Anthony
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2002 Talentmasters Inc.)
When did Opie and Anthony begin?
O: Long Island, WBAB. I'll give you the nuts and bolts. I've been doing radio since I was like 17. I've been everywhere from WCMF in Rochester to the Fox in Buffalo. Then I came home to WBAB on Long Island to do nights. I had a very successful night show. The whole O.J. Simpson thing went down and the one way I wanted to capitalize on it was to get local bands to sing songs about the trial. You remember how big it was and all the characters, Judge Ito and Kato and the rest. I get this song, "Gonna Electric Shock O.J." from a band called Rock Gut. That was Anthony's band at the time. I must have gotten 20 or 30 songs. I mean it was a huge contest for me. I was playing all the songs, got a couple chuckles here and there, but Anthony's band's song stood out like you wouldn't believe. I got tons and tons of requests. After playing it almost every night, I invited the guys in to play it live. That was my intention at the time. I had to fill up five hours every night, this would kill ten minutes. They played the song and Ant and I instantly had each other the rest of the show. I was like, "Holy shit, dude. That went pretty well. Why don't you come in next week?" Slowly but surely, he started coming in every week.
Was he being paid?
O: At first, no. You know how radio is. You always get these side people that come and go. Then Ant came in on a regular basis and I was able to scrape up a little cash for him.
A: The money didn't even matter to me. I still had my day job. I was in construction. So, I didn't care about the money. I just wanted to get a foot in the door. There really wasn't much opportunity to get into radio.
Anthony, was being on the radio something you had wanted?
A: I'd been saying that my whole life. I wanted to, but things like having to work for a living really kept me out of the loop. I had always wanted to do it. I was in construction, but I always considered myself as someone who should have been in radio doing construction, as opposed to someone in
O: Like Ant said, it wasn't about the money or anything. Then it was apparent to Ant and I that we wanted to work together. I, at this point, wanted to try to build some kind of show that was more than just me on the radio. Ant and I are equal partners, but back then I was trying to build a show. I was getting killer numbers by myself at night. I had this new guy, and we were just smoking together. Things were really clicking. So, it was obvious that we needed to go somewhere else if we were going to make a name for ourselves. So I told Ant, "Trust me and I'll find us a gig. It might be in a weird city, but you know, if you are really gung ho and you want to give this a try, I'm more than willing." We sent out two tapes, one to Dallas and one to WAAF in Massachusetts.
O: That was 1995. Well, we got fired in 1998, so 1995 is right.
A: We were hired in March 1995 and fired in April 1998.
You went from nights at WBAB to PM drive at WAAF. How were you able to sell them on personality radio outside of mornings?
O: We sent an amazing demo tape to Bruce Mittman, the GM. He understood what we were about. He understood that he needed to let us talk a little more than the average rock jock. We were like their morning show in afternoon drive.
So you got fired in Worchester and hired in NYC. How did you do that?
O: We got fired from WAAF. It was a crushing blow, because a lot of people think we did it on purpose, which is pretty silly. We weren't that smart. We were just living on the edge of our seats constantly and taking chances. We finally got nailed with that prank, thinking we were untouchable because our ratings were so huge. We were drastically wrong, because there was a huge merger going on between American Radio Systems and CBS at the time. We could have affected the merger. It's been told to us over the years that it was pretty much, "Get rid of these guys."
O: Ant has some incredible natural abilities. I think he would say this too, I taught him the basics. He got a crash course in it, that's for sure. There were times that I would be yelling at the Program Director or management in general, while we were on the air with commercials playing, because of some crazy bit we did. I'd be yelling and screaming and fighting for our point and early on, Ant was like, "Dude. Don't wreck my gig, man." He had never seen anything like that.
A: Yeah, I didn't want to go back to the rooftops.
O: Now when we go in for some of these battles with management or something, Ant is right there toe to toe. So, it's pretty funny to watch what he has become. But in the beginning all he was thinking, "Man, I don't want to go back on the roof. I don't want them firing us. Shut your mouth."
So, how did you get to NYC?
O: We got fired, and then believe it or not, we were a wanted commodity and people came out of the woodwork to hire us. I shouldn't say they were coming out of the woodwork. We had Atlanta that wanted us and two stations in New York. Being two guys from New York, we were thinking in our heads, "We are crazy if we don't go to New York and give it a shot." But the situations at the time were horrible. WNEW was just an old Classic Rock station with very old jocks that were in this building for many years and weren't moving. And there was K-Rock, with Howard pretty much running the place. So, how do you make your name? So we choose WNEW.
How did it start out?
O: We had no doubts, but we had some growing pains.
A: It was tough battle coming from a station like WAAF and then coming to a Classic Rock station where they had a lot of the old jocks that had been at this station for quite some time. I guess the people who were in charge at the time had the idea of moving them out and bringing in some younger talent. They had some contracts in the way, so we spent a lot of time sitting here would get hate mail from the Classic Rock audience saying, "Shut these guys up. Play the music." They would fax "you suck" letters and the rest of the jocks would hang them up in the studio for us to see when we got in. There wasn't a lot of support here from a lot of the staff.
Were you getting press?
O: We got press from the get go.
A: Right when we came in, the mayor thing helped out. We were being introduced as the scourge of society coming to New York.
O: That turned out to be a nice national story for us on many levels. Plus, coming to WNEW, it was a big deal to everyone in New York. "Wait a minute. The station that I grew up with that has just been playing Rock for 30 some odd years... Wait, they are going to make this kind of change?" So there was interest.
You also got some press with the help of Stern. Explain that.
O: We just came into New York and didn't fear him. We never feared him. We still don't fear him. We weren't going to allow him to do to us what he did to so many other radio guys, and destroy them with his audience. We freakin' went toe to toe with him.
Weren't you ordered not to mention his name anymore on your show?
O: That happened for a while, because he was getting so bent out of shape. It was pretty frustrating, but we didn't really have a choice at the time. We certainly had a buzz in New York, but we didn't have power yet. You get to do more, the more the power you get. When our deal was up, one of the stipulations that was really important to Ant and I was that we wanted to talk about him whenever we want. Mostly just to defend ourselves. We got that stipulation in our contract, thank God.
Did Stern avoid your names, too?
O: He didn't' want to mention us. It was more problems than it was worth. It was quite flattering that we got him so frustrated and worked up. Other guys, he would just crush. This is my opinion, I feel that he just didn't know how to handle us. He just couldn't figure us out.
A: We weren't going to just lay down and we weren't going to not talk about it. If you look throughout the years, that's how he's destroyed people. We were saying, "Hell, we're not just going to do this." So we would give it back ten times what we were given.
O: Plus, Ant does an incredible Howard Stern impression.
Do you have Stern impersonations on your web site?
O: They are probably up there somewhere. (foundrymusic.com)
How would you describe your show?
O: It's so cliche, but a bunch of guys just speakin' their minds and not really worried about the consequences. It's pretty much like a bar scene really. And the beers do flow during the show from time to time.
From that I deduce you (sometimes) go over the line?
O: All the time.
Did you go over the line yesterday?
O: I don't really know where the line is. My line is so different.
Your parents live on Long Island? Can they hear you? Do you ever get slack from the family?
O: My family is supportive. I have some aunts that will say something stupid, but I usually set them straight. As far as my mom and dad and brothers and sisters, they are fully supportive. I describe it this way: sometimes my Mom will say, "I was listening to your show today and I heard those girls" or whatever. And then she'll say, "I had to go CLICK." If it is something that makes her feel uncomfortable or she's not into, she'll just do what most people should do... My own Mom turns the station off when she's uncomfortable. But in general, she loves what we do, even some of the crazier and edgier stuff.
Opie, where did you develop your approach to personality radio?
O: Brother Wease (WCMF) is a guy that I really look up to. I learned how to do radio the right way by hanging out up there. I was there for about two and a half years. I chose to just show up everyday at five in the morning to do whatever. If he needed coffee or donuts, or a tape. I did everything. I watched him. It was quite flattering. He would put me on the air.
How critical are you of your airwork?
A: Maybe after a show we go back to the office and talk about something that didn't work. We don't sit there and paw over tapes and criticize.
O: I gave up listening to the show a long time ago. Sometimes when we are in "Best of" mode, like when we are on vacation and I happen to be in the area, I'll certainly tune in. I'll listen to it as a listener. I'll pick up
A: You have to be able to change your game plan midstream. If you have a guest on and you have some idea of what they do. You start talking to them and they are boring. You have got to be able to change your approach to work off how it's going, instead of letting the bad interview run the show.
Do you use characters?
O: Real people. We don't have guys who call in.
Anthony does voices, though.
O: Anthony does voices, which I think is different than having characters. If people call in, they are just real people that have interesting texture to them or interesting stories or something we can exploit. Then we go with it. I would officially say that we don't have any characters. But Ant does the voices, like Tyson, Brokaw, and O.J.
Were you concerned how syndication would affect the continuity of your type of show?
O: No. The kind of show we do translates well to any city. We never went crazy with local stuff. We went crazy with stuff guys can relate to. We never did the local traffic or weather. We never did local news. We just did more lifestyle and what guys can relate to.
Do you still have times when you re called in the office for something you did on the air?
A: But it's very rare now.
O: We nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem. Ant and I have also gotten smart. We use a lot of codes and Opie & Anthony type language.
What are some examples?
A: We call the asshole the "balloon nut." If you are talking about balls, "yam bag." If you listen to the show. It's almost like a soap opera, you're up on the words. It's a whole other language that people are using outside of the show.
Who do you answer to?
O: Ken Stevens. I personally bounce some ideas off Tim Sabian in Philly. I talk to the guys in Boston. The Program Director in Buffalo, I'm talking to a lot. But they don't tell us what to do.
Name a celebrity that you can't have on enough?
O: Surprisingly, Andrew Dice Clay. Here's a guy who's time has come and gone as far as being on top of the world. We threw him on as kind of a goof at first. He has just been gold.
Are there certain kinds of guests that work better for you?
A: The second tier people. When we have a Schwartzenegger in here or some of the A-list with their publicity people and their agents and management around, it never seems to come off naturally. When we have people like Jim Breuer from SNL, the guy is a great friend to the show. It comes off that way. When he's a guest, when he walks through that door it's not like, "Oh, our guest is here." It's like, "Our bud, Jim, is stopping by." It's like you took they day off from school and your friend is coming over and hanging out.
When you were growning up, were their jocks that influenced you?
O: We would be lying if we didn't say that we heard Howard growing up. We are two Long Island guys. He made an impression on me. I definitely enjoyed it back in the day when you turned on the show and you wouldn't know what was going to happen. I have to say again that Brother Wease changed my whole mindset. I developed since then, but he set me on my path.
A: Growing up I use to love listening to the Top 40 jocks. Dan Ingram and things like that, Cousin Brucie. But that was just when I was a kid growing up. It always fascinated me, the big voice coming out of the radio. Then growing up and listening to Bob Graham and his cranky old man rants always made me laugh.
Who's your producer?
A: We have three main guys behind the scene. Rick is our main producer, Ben is another one. And we have a guy named Stinky.
You guys obviously have built a very successful product. Do you have discussions about product management? How to maintain it, where you want to take it?
O: A great question. As we go forward that's definitely something that has become obvious that we have to look into. At this point, not really. We don't want to start putting a ton of products out there, like coffee mugs and all that crap. Right now all we do is have the WOW stickers, which is our huge promotion.
What does WOW stand for?
O: "Whip Them Out Wednesdays," a promotion that we came up with about six years ago. Basically, guys put the stickers on the back of their car, and if the girls feel like it, they will flash them on the way home. It has been a huge promotion for us.
What do you think of satellite radio? Does it mean anything to you?
A: Not at all, because we give the listeners something they can't get on satellite radio at this time. I think a lot of the basic music formats are going to go to satellite radio.
What do you think about the radio business today? Is it something you talk about?
O: All the time. I think it is so boring and homogenized. I remember when I was really into radio growing up. Just going on a road trip, I couldn't wait to get in the car and listen to what the next town had for radio. Now, I drive a lot and it doesn't matter what city you are in, it's the same exact freaking' station that you in your hometown. It's the Rock Blocks. It's the special lunch hour programming. Pop stations are doing the exact same thing with all the jocks doing the exact same delivery. It's kinda too bad. It's like somewhere along the line, someone told the jocks to shut their mouths up, that they aren't that important. It's sad. Somewhere somebody decided that personality radio should only be in the mornings and the rest of the day, "Shut up and play the music." Like Ant said, he grew up listening to the Top 40 jocks in New York. There was a reason why he was listening. They all had these personalities that came across while they were seging tunes and talking for their 30 seconds to a minute. They made every word count. Their personalities showed through.
Opie, do you remember what your first thought was when you met Anthony?
O: What a freak! Does he own a comb?
A: I had just gotten my hair cut.
What was your impression of Opie?
A: I don't know. I was damn happy to be there.
Are you still (damn) happy?
A: Now, I've been there eight years or so. It's a little different now.
O: I knew Ant had talent the first day I met him. I couldn't fathom that he wasn't in radio or doing anything in the entertainment field. It just amazed me. And he had this wild huge afro thing. I don't even know if it was an afro, it was the wildest big head of frizz. Just look at the Boston album cover. In fact when we first went up to WAAF, we had the Afro Wall, which was pretty much dedicated to Anthony and his do. People would send in photos of other people's crazy hair and afro's and stuff. It was legendary back then.