Straight From the Mouth
The Morning Mouth's February interview with Mojo
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2010 Talentmasters Inc.)
This interview is taking place on the heels of your show's return, via syndication, to Tucson, a place where you once ruled as The Mojo & Betsy Show. What's it feel like to be talking again to a city you once dominated?
Mojo: "I vowed to myself if I was ever going to come back to Arizona I would come back to a station that can only be heard in the station parking lot and that is why we are on HOT 98.3."
Clear Channel seems to be in the syndication mode. Johnjay & Rich expanding out west, Paul & Young Ron covering Florida; Elvis Duran covering the east and, oh yeah, that Seacrest guy, just to name a few. Were you surprised that your first foray into syndication was out west? Are more markets planned soon?
Mojo: "We hope this is just the start; we don't look at geography as much as our show fits into the puzzle of our station's format. Our show is entertaining anywhere."
Since the days of Mojo & Betsy, how would you say the show has changed most?
Mojo: "The show has become less bit oriented and more real-life oriented. We deliver our entertainment for an audience with a short attention span and want to respect the time our listeners give to our show."
Aside from you (Mojo) there's Producer Rachel, Shannon Murphy, Spike and Rob the Web Guy. How would each of describe your complete roles?
Mojo: I always hate when the host of the show is referred to as the bus driver. Maybe that's because I'm an shitty driver. I'd say that I'm the air traffic controller. I have so many talented people surrounding me my main
Spike: The "S" in "Spike" stands for sarcastic, smart-ass, shit-starter.
Shannon: I guess I would call myself the "ultimate girly-girl." (To radio dorks, I would be the "female voice of reason.") I love shopping, going to concerts, makeup, hanging with my girlfriends, traveling, reading trashy magazines, and watching TONS of TV ... Especially if it's E Bravo. I'm also the pop-culture junkie and Hollywood know-it-all on the show ... I do an hourly segment called the Dirty on the 30.
Producer Rachel: I think I am the glue that holds it all together and or "The Firefighter" as Rob calls me because I put out all of the fires.
Rob: MacGyver, I fix things that are broken. I make things happen when people say it can't be done. That being said, I don't even know my job title? Seriously. Mojo's youngest calls me a "Power Fixer" because I came over with a generator when the lights went out. I used that as my email signature until I started getting real mail that said "Power Fixer" on it.
Rob, are you the one that handles all the Facebook & Twitter stuff?
Rob: I am, but it's not just those, it's other sites like YouTube, we're even "LinkedIn." As for Facebook, we all have our own accounts and interact, rather than just posting stuff about how cool we are or pointless links to our website. If we wouldn't care, why would we expect a listener to? That's why we have 26,000+ fans on the page. Other shows that are in 10+ cities have half that. You can't just 'have a myspace' you HAVE to interact!
Just between you and me (wink, wink), Does Mojo lay out your job descriptions for you, or are you able to modify in a way that best fits your talents?
Mojo: It is always changing. I have a horrible problem of being a control freak. I rely on Producer Rachel, Mike McCoy (PD) and Steve Reynolds (Our Show Coach) to keep evolving us.
Spike: We occasionally revisit our roles on the air but know what's expected of us and how listeners perceive us.
Shannon: We're all pretty comfortable in knowing where we fit on the show, and how we're supposed to manage that role. Since I'm still the newbie (August 2009), I get a little more behind-the-scenes coaching than all of the "old folks" with whom I work. (Sorry guys. Had to!)
Rob: We are a baseball team. We all know where we are supposed to be, and when. But that doesn't stop us from running around the field. If someone's closer to the ball, they don't just watch it fly by.
Producer Rachel: It was pretty clear to me what he needed from a Producer, someone who is aggressive when it comes to booking guests and tracking down people in the news, keeping him organized and on point. I don't think he expected that I would be as much of a bulldog as I am but it gives him the chance to be the pussycat. It's a good balance.
Let's talk content: give us 5 of the coolest things you've done on the air over the past year or two? Plus, the one thing that got you the most news coverage?
Interviewing President Obama and using him in a Phone Scam was very cool. Busting Kate Gosselin holding hands with her security guard got us national attention. We also caught our Mayor cheating on his wife and weaved ourselves into the sex scandal as it made national news when we sent a moving van to the Mayor's house to help get him out of town.
How about planning: Do you walk into each day's show with a complete outline, or is there constant updating?
Spike: We create an outline each morning but the sign of a good show is when we drive off the track and set fire to our schedule. It's live radio so it would be foolish to not go with the flow.
Obviously, no city has been harder hit by the recession than Detroit. How much, if any, does this effect the content of your show? Are there certain types of bits you avoid right now?
Spike: We are very tuned in to the struggles of our listeners because we are Michiganders. I've lived in Detroit for 14 years and our show has been on the air for a decade. Our listeners are also our neighbors, friends and coworkers. We don't avoid any topics... if anything, we like to dive in head first and get our hands dirty with topics others are avoiding. Honesty has become our hallmark and we were careful to step into the world of syndication only if we were able to continue focusing on local Detroit issues. We accomplish this by reserving time each hour for local breaks while our network stations are hearing music.
Mojo: As you know Don growing up in Detroit..We may be a little fat but we aren't lazy. Detroiter's are always working whether its at the plants or to give back. This past year we started a program called Time Team Detroit. It's a volunteer initiative that encourages each listener to give 1 hour of time over the year to different charities. Its been huge! We've done 3-4 projects a month and have given back thousands of hours to well needed local organizations. As important as it's been...It's the single most proud thing we do on our show!
Rob: Time Team Detroit: We started an organization that matches up listeners with volunteer events through our website. From groups of 5 to 100+ listeners, we've helped people give back to the city they love. So many times you hear people say they want to help, but don't know how, or how they want to do something more than write a check, or simply don't have any money to give. A logistical nightmare, but we pull it off, thanks to Producer Rachel! It's not because we had to, or needed to, we want to. "We don't want your money, just your time." - Time Team Detroit.
In the PPM Path, a lot of shows were/are being urged to carry more music content. Has that been the case for you? Do you think programmers over-reacted? Spike: Our Programming team of Michael McCoy, Todd Thomas, Tom Poleman and Jon Zellner have been extremely supportive of our show and its content. They believe that control lies in our hands to judge when and where music is needed. If the content is strong, it will hold people as well as music. Typically, we play about three songs per hour in order to keep a good flow and reset topics. I'm confident it's a good balance of hit music and compelling, entertaining conversation.
Mojo: We've always played a fair amount of music on the show. I love this format because it's all about pop culture. Our show has relied on the most talked about music and artist and I think that's been a big reason why our #'s are very similar in PPM as they were in diary.
You and other top shows haven't missed a beat in the PPM World. What's your secret?
Mojo: I believe one of the biggest helps has been Steve Reynolds. Steve was working with PPM morning shows for over a year before PPM started in Detroit. He constantly talked to us about the theory he made famous at boot camp..."Cut out the foreplay and get to the fucking!!!"
Rob: Focus on the game, not the points.
One of the aspects of Morning Show Boot Camp which is most gratifying is when a young up and coming morning host walks up to a Mojo, Bert Weiss, Paul Castronovo or Dave Ryan and ask for advice. What are some of your top tips for jocks who want to be successful in mornings?
Mojo: I still remember being a first-time morning show host and walking up to Jeff and Jer at Boot camp asking for advice. We must have talked for 2 hours about morning radio. That's why I love boot camp. There's no other place where a young smaller market talent can get drunk with a radio legend. I would not be in the place I am know if boot camp wasn't available to me. That's why I still to this day pay for myself so I can keep networking. It is so important!!!
Speaking of Paul, he and Young Ron just celebrated their 20th anniversary. In an interview, he said the reason he first got into radio was to meet girls. What was the basis of each of your entree into radio?
Mojo: I grew up in Chicago and listened to Johnny B, Alan Cable and George McFly. Those guys to a Chicagoan are like Brad Pitt and George Clooney to Hollywood. I also knew I wasn't smart enough to follow in my Father's footsteps as a doctor.
Spike: I wanted to be an entertainer but I couldn't play an instrument and I couldn't memorize scripts. I was always a class clown so I figured radio was one way to get paid for being myself. And I wanted free concert tickets.
Shannon: I was literally just in the right place at the right time! I've always wanted to do TV, but did radio internships for fun throughout college. When my first PD (Chris Edge) heard me talking in the hallways while I was in the sales department one day, he asked why I wasn't on the air. I shrugged ... He told me to buy a pair of headphones: I started in 2 weeks!
Rob: This is really a crazy story, but I am a high school and college drop out who started a towing company, towed a DJ's car, which turned into "come by and check out the studio some time." Two years later, I got hired. Beats towing cars, right?
Producer Rachel: My favorite part of working at "The View" was producing Hot Topics but the worst part was knowing people watching at home were screaming at their TVs and wanted to be a part of the conversation Radio breaks that fourth wall and allows the listener to be a major part of what we do every day; it was exactly what I was looking for.
In that same interview, Paul said his Parents wanted him to become a lawyer. If you weren't in radio, what do you suppose you'd each be doing?
Mojo: I'd be a High School history teacher and basketball coach. Have you seen these high school girls these days!!!
Spike: I'd be doing time.
Shannon: I'd be acting in soap operas. For real. (OK, so I'd probably still be waiting tables at this point!)
Rob: Mom always said she thought I'd be good at helping people, like a Doctor, Firefighter, etc. I don't think she knows how therapeutic the radio can be some people.
Producer Rachel: I'd be producing a reality TV show.
This interview is being done two weeks prior to the Super Bowl. Who wants to predict the final score between the 'Ain'ts and The Colts?
Mojo: I'm rooting for the Saint's but think the Colts will win!
Spike: My prediction is Bud Light and GoDaddy will win with the best ads. Is there a football game?
Shannon: Ugh. I HATE football!
Rob: I don't do sports, never have. I can replace a water heater with my eyes closed, but have no idea even what their color sceme is. My girlfriend just punched me in the arm and said "Saints" so I'll go with Saints.
Producer Rachel: I'm not a sports person so the Superbowl is an excuse to sneak off to the bedroom and have sex with my husband because nobody is paying attention so I predict I will win that day
Editor's Note: Mojo in The Morning Celebrates it's 10th Anniversary in Detroit on February 21.