Straight From the Mouth
The Morning Mouth's June Interview with Mojo
(Reprinted by permission; Copyright © 2009 Talentmasters Inc.)
Background check - everything you did before getting to Detroit?
Worked in Chicago at B96 as the producer of George McFly. (The most amazing night show I ever heard. He average a 30 share at night in market #3!) Did mornings at KRQ in Tucson with Betsy Bruce and Jeff Dauler. Moved to Detroit in 2000 and have been there ever since.
Have you always been Mojo? Was it your first radio name? Did you get to pick it out?
No. John Peake gave me the name Mojo. (I think he already had a jingle with that name in it) I've been a lot of names. Peeping Tom, Tommy Gunn,
First time you knew you might be good at this?
I still don't know if I'm good or I just work hard. I got a great lesson from my PD in Chicago Dave Shakes when I was 18. Dave told me its the person the out innovates that will always have a job. I feel like we do a great job of trying to be unpredictable every morning.
Person who pushed you to get where you are?
My dad. He's a Cuban immigrant who moved to the United States and became a doctor. He always told me that you should do what you love. He encouraged me to not spend all my life in school trying to be a Doctor or Lawyer but to have fun doing what I love!
Favorite first radio memory?
Knocking our competitor off in Chicago. I was at B96 when we made Z95 change formats. A couple of years ago I experienced that again with WDRQ going off the air after years in the format to become Doug FM.
Getting a chance to do mornings. I was an afternoon guy/APD for Mark Todd and Mark Kopelman in Arizona and they gave me a chance to replace Jimmy Kimmel as the morning show on KRQ.
People you worked with along the way that are now famous?
Jimmy Kimmel & Carson Daly are the most famous. Carson was my intern in Arizona.
Most underrated jock you've ever known?
Dave Ryan at KDWB. He has a show that would be #1 if he were in New York, Chicago or LA but he moves the Twin Cities. Dave has taught me so much about doing mornings in the Midwest and is one of the most gracious people I know.
Something someone once told you about doing a morning show that proved to be the best advice you ever got?
Make them laugh, make them cry or poke them in the eye. My PD Dom Theodore told me that when he first started here. When Dom came to Channel 955 from KRBE in Houston he had worked with shows like Sam Malone and MJ in Tampa and his best advice to us was to make the listeners feel something. He also was the first PD to ever tell me to drop music.
Who's your radio friend, number one go-to guy when you need some inspiration?
Steve Reynolds. He is the smartest person I know, I'm not kidding. Steve and I have been friends for a long time and I learn something new from him everytime I talk to him. I even believe in Steve so much I pay him out of my own pocket to consult our show.
Being a native, I can say this, Detroit gets its share of digs. But radiowise, it's has both a legendary past and remains one of radio's most competitive markets. How were you able to cut through and make a name for the Mojo in the Morning Show?
Detroit is the best radio city in the country and that says a lot from a guy who grew up in Chicago! Drew and Mike, Dick Purtan, Jim Harper. All of those shows have been offered jobs in New York and LA but love Detroit. It's all about the people. Detroiters love radio. They are passionate about it. I think the best thing we ever did on our show was hire Detroiters to work on it. I surrounded myself around local talent to make myself look local. For years everyone thought I grew up here.
Do you ever run into Dick Purtan? Has he ever given you any advice?
I do. Dick lives close to me. He's a pro who has a great wife and family who have all been so nice to me. The best comment Dick ever made to me was a couple of years ago when I saw him at Costco when he said, "Holy shit Mojo. You've put on a few pounds!" I went on the air the next day with that story and it led me to loose 50 much needed pounds!
I'd be remiss in not asking for your thoughts on the Drew Lane situation. Did that surprise you?
I was. Drew and Mike were doing great. Drew had the best rock morning show I ever heard. He is probably one of the smartest people in this business. I talked to him at a Pistons game a few weeks ago and he just said he couldn't do it anymore. Waking up at 3am sucks! I think he was just in need of a scenery change. Sometimes when your with the same people going to the same place everyday you want something else.
And just to set the table, who else is on the show with you and how long have they been with you?
Spike and I have been together for 8 years! He so damn funny. I sometimes can't keep going from his comments. Kyra has been on the show for 3 years. She is the most un-radio talent I've ever worked with. I have to use the dump button on her more than the listeners. Rachel has only been with us for a year coming from Star 94 in Atlanta. Rachel use to work for The View on ABC and bought a TV style to our show that has made it so much better. She produces the show like a TV show and I think it makes us sound that much more different than our competitors. And finally Rob The Web Guy. At Boot Camp that could up date the site while we were on the air. We have such and active show and with the growth of the internet I want our show to be a leader in that growth for morning radio. Rob is also in his 20's and has great stories about is dating life every morning.
Seems like everyone is syndicating in some form or the other these days. Is that something you've thought about?
I would love to someday do that. I think our show has such a broad appeal and would be a great asset to Clear Channel.
Let's talk about the show: Do you play any music? Is it mostly talk? Many bits? Stunts? What's your show brand?
We play a song or two an hour. We have our benchmarks like Phone Scams, War Of The Roses and Senseless Surveys but I think the bigger appeal is that our show can talk about something and that night its making news on our local tv stations and the next morning its in the Free Press. We have done a great job of being the show that Southeastern Michigan has to listen to or they feel that they've missed something. We talk a lot about the members of the shows lives but we do the best by letting the listener be the star!
Describe a typical day: time you get up, when you arrive at the station, when/how you meet with the rest of the show to prep?
I get up at 3:30am. Shower and read my e-mails. Arrive at the station at before 5am and have a pre-show meeting with everyone at 5:30. Our first live break is at 6:05. We are on the air until 10:30 and we tape and meet until 12:30. I would say the biggest amount of show prep happens in the morning and afternoon. Rachel does a great job of making the show a new show every :30 minutes. We have most everything laid out but a lot of curve balls are thrown during a show and we are always ready to change.
Best/worst thing you ever did on the air?
Best was the on air marriage counseling session with Eminem and Kim Mathers. I never had more world press call for any other bit. Worst was when we had a guy eat his dead Dads ashes for concert tickets. I knew it was bad 2 minutes into it!
Three of your favorite questions to ask celebrities?
If you could take anything back what would it be. What would you rather be doing instead of us talking to you. When's the last time you had really bad sex!
Most revealing thing any celebrity has ever told you?
We had Sandra Bullock admit to an eating disorder after hearing a 16-year-old listener cry about hers before our interview. It was great. Sandra helped the listener!
You take over the entire radio business tomorrow: Name something you'd immediately change?
I'd make people entertain more. There's much better technology than radio and we are going to kill this business by being music machines. We need to develop talent!
This year Morning Show Boot Camp is celebrating it's 20 anniversary. We've had the pleasure of your company at many of these events. Among our attendees, whose company do you most look forward to? Who could you talk with forever?
I love Jeff and Jer. I know everyone sings their praises, but there's a reason for that. They are great guys that have such a good show. They are my favorite show to steal from!
Speaking of Boot Camp, it's always exciting to see the faces on young up and coming talent as they meet the likes of Mojo and others like you who are the stars of our business. When one of these talents comes up to you and wants to know how to make it big, what do you tell them?
I tell them the same thing that Jeff told me at a Boot Camp in Atlanta years ago. Coming to a weekend like this is the first way to get to a good station. I know some companies won't pay to sent their shows to Bootcamp, but what a terrible message this sends to talent. I have been paying out of my pocket to go to Bootcamp because its management thinks we just drink and do nothing for 3 days. Well, they got it right about the drinking, but I always come back with great ideas for the Fall book after Bootcamp!