Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Folks Behind the Music - Spotlight on Chris Griffith - PoDunk

 A new column featuring on the folks who make it their life to spread the word on good music.  Today, Chris Griffith of Podunk Radio.  Check em out at

Start at the beginning, how did you get started with this crazy idea of broadcasting music?

Ah, damn... I was probably 5 or 6 when I started playing radio station DJ along with my sister. In high school I was lucky enough to have a weekend disc jockey job at a local country and western station fall in my lap; I hated country music but to be a radio DJ at 16 years old was pretty cool and seemed to appeal to the ladies. I had a bad habit of saying things on air that would get me trouble with the station owner and the FCC - I eventually had enough of it and walked out one Sunday; figured I could get a job at the local rock station but turns out the same dude owned it as well. By that time I had knocked a chick up, had a family and had to pretend to be an adult for a while.

A lot of years went by and one day I was listening to an internet radio station at work and thought “Shit, this the way to go! No rules, no boss, no restrictions on content!!”; I talked to the owner of that station, he suggested I  start with podcasting, eventually I moved over to live broadcasting. Shit at that station went downhill pretty quickly and I wasn’t happy with the way things were going there, always having to beg listeners to donate money to keep the station on air - it became real tiresome real fast, when I discovered the “station expenses” were actually paying those jackasses household expenses I bailed along with several others. Two days later I bought a domain name, started payments on a hosting service and PoDunk Radio was born.

We're all the product of our musical past. What's your musical history? First album you ever bought? First musical epiphany moment? First album that terrified the hell out of you?

My dad was always listening to music, everything from Deep Purple to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys; the musical influence in my house growing up was VERY diverse.

The first album I bought with my own money was Blondie’s Eat To The Beat on 8 track I was 6 and had the biggest crush on Debbie Harry.

My musical epiphany moment came in 1984. Van Halen ruled the airwaves and I really didn’t see the big deal with them. Pretty much every band was doing that shit. I was out kicking a ball around the yard one day and an older kid across the street was washing his truck and I heard the most awesome tunes ever coming out of his stereo. Bad Brains Rock For Light. I had never heard anything like that,  it just reached in and grabbed me. I hopped on my Huffy and hauled ass down the street, bought a pack of blank tapes and had that guy make me 6 punk rock mix tapes. I can honestly say my life changed that day thanks to Bad Brains.

As far as an album that terrified me? I don’t know that any album has ever terrified me but my mom had this one Captain and Tennile record that I absolutely despised. There was also an ABBA 12 inch we had very briefly that made me want to vomit like Linda Blair. 

What's the last album to grab you by the throat and insist you listen?

I honestly can’t say. Due to the nature of what I do, I get a ton of music every week in my inbox. To the point that honestly, it’s pretty much a blur. Obviously the bands I have listed on my small digital label stood out to me more than the rest. Animal Train, Old Guy Drive By, Social Trauma, etc.. There is also The Creep Crusades (formerly the Pharmacists, out of DC) are really badass and I think that The Bloody Muffs make some of the most fun music around.

What do you see happening in the music scene today, good and bad?

I see a lot of hate, bitching, squabbling, back stabbing, and whining (nothing has changed since I was in a band 20 years ago). I’ve had bands ask me to take their music off the station simply because I aired a band they have beef with. Fucking immature jackasses. I see too many kinds think that because they scraped up enough change to have some records pressed means they are rock stars. I see a lot of kids getting ripped off by shitty labels with bad intentions, radio stations and magazines that charge them to air their music or do an article on them. It’s sad really. On the opposite side of that I see a lot of bright young talent, I see a lot of older guys finally getting more settled in making that last stab at doing what they love and trying to have fun with it. I think the promise and hope in the latter balances out the bullshit of the former though.

With so many music sites, how would you describe what you do? What's your unique take on the music and radio?

There are so many music sites and online radio stations out there, it’s pretty overwhelming (and a bit daunting) when you sit down and really look at what’s out there. I don’t like to think that I have anything unique about what I’m doing except that I’m not out there constantly telling everyone how great my station, label, or digital magazine is and how much everyone else sucks. I really like to keep drama, conflict and hate out of my life, in all aspects, it gets pretty tough at times, but then again so does anything else, right? I just try to be straight up and honest with people. I’m not going to bullshit anyone, I’m not going to ask anyone for money to defer station or zine expenses, as far as the label goes - pretty much everything I put out is free or very low cost and that cost is more for the band than for me. Even with the label I’m not in this to make money - I’m in it to help these kids get more exposure.

Illegal free downloads on your site. Yes or no, and why?

No. Each week I (try - sometimes I skip a few) to post 5 albums or EPs that bands are already offering up for free on bandcamp or wherever. 90% of the content of PoDunk Radio is artist or label submitted music, the other 10% is stuff I bought and got permission to air. If a band is trying to make music with their music, then people should pay for it. Everyone needs to eat, even musicians.

What's been your all time greatest "Find"? That band you "discovered" before anyone else and started the word spreading?

I’m sure no matter what I say here some jackass will hotly contest it but there have been a few bands that I caught wind of pretty early on; The Enders, Minor Decline, Animal Train, and Old Guy Drive-By are some that really stand out, but PoDunk Radio is all about giving these punk ass kids a break and getting them airplay to a global audience. 

If you could write a 1,000 word essay on one song, which one would it be, and why? What makes that song so important?

I really do not know that I could. So many songs have meant so much to me over the years, each for it’s own special reason. I had a shitty childhood and like most people with shitty childhoods music was my safe haven. One song that sticks out to me is World Leader Pretend by R.E.M. That song, more than any other, spoke to me. It made me realize that everyone has their own problems and that by shutting out the people that are offering help you’re only making things worse. It’s okay to ask for and accept help and it’s not okay to pin all your problems on other people. That song taught me that I control my own destiny and happiness regardless of who or what I’d rather pin the blame on.

Give us three bands that we need to keep our eyes out for.

You ask tough questions dude. This is a hard question to answer being that the majority of the bands I am exposed to break up within a couple of months of releasing an EP.

The Enders seem to have genuine staying power, I can really see Jake Thomas taking his band Minor Decline on to bigger things as well and anything that Ronnie Capiz (Shallow Hearts)  is involved in is good stuff.  I was pleased as shit when I saw you guys working with Mothership - I had just seen them live in Ft. Worth mixed in with a lot of punk bands and they fucking blew me away. They definitely have it down.

Tell us about your personal music collection. Vinyl? CD? What's your prized possession?

I LOVE VINYL but the wife keeps me on a tight allowance she really digs her electricity and daily meals and such.  I won’t buy CDs. They lack class and don’t taste right. I have around 4 or 5 terabytes of music on external hard drives. If I can’t get it on vinyl I’ll take the download over a CD. I used to have wall to wall CDs - they were everywhere and I never touched them other than to rip them into my hard drive. My prized possession from my vinyl collection is an original issue (1976) copy of the Ramones that has never been unwrapped. One day all of the Ramones will be dead and I figure it will be worth a nice amount of cash and I still won’t sell it or open it.

What makes it all worthwhile for you?

The excitement from some kid that wants nothing more than for someone to listen to his or her music and like it enough to share it. A simple thank you from a person that tuned in and dug what they heard. I don’t do any of this for me I do it so that one band out in the middle of nowhere can get an email or message from a kid across the state or a thousand miles away saying that they liked their song.

How would your life be different if you weren't involved in music?

I’d be bored out of my skull. Might not even be alive. Who knows. I’m just glad I’m here and there is always something new to look forward to.

Ever been threatened by a band or a ravenous fan?

Ha. No. I’d like to think my low key approach this is to thank for that. And really, even if I were, it’s no skin off my back. People are free to do, say, think and act, however they choose and it is only a reflection on who they are as a person if they have nothing better to do than make idle threats. Now you come to my house and physically threaten me you’ll get a 20 pound chunk of Bois D’Arc branch upside your head.
In the end, what would you like to have accomplished, or be remembered for?

Again, none of this is about me. I still get weirded out when people reference me by name on social media sites. I’d much prefer they point out the station as it’s own entity than me as an individual. I hope in the end that the things I put my time and energy into are looked on as something that was fun while it lasted, something more people would want to emulate in their own way. 

Many people may not realize the hours you devote to what you do for little or no pay. Is there a day job? If so, how do you find the balance?

I am the design/production manager for a small conglomerate of independent newspapers and weekly classifieds papers. Newsprint advertising pays all the bills for the station and zine. I often work 60+ hours a week at my job which does not leave as much time as I’d prefer to devote to my other endeavors. When I’m at home  I devote pretty much all my time to it, which is easy to do because my wife is really happy being left alone with her books for hours on end. Being that I do all of this for free, I do occasionally step back for a few days at a time, watch TV and remember why music is my entertainment preference.

What's next? Any new projects?

I am pretty full up with projects and don’t have time to pursue any new ones. I am about to begin adding some classic and more recognizable punk acts to the station. I like the Independent Punk Digizine just how it is and don’t foresee any changes to that formula anytime soon. PoDunk Records is set to release an all Texas punk bands comp for free mid to late August.

Finally, other than the music, what's your other burning passion?

My wife, my kids, my whiskey, and my weed. Really, that’s it. If what I have now isn’t enough to keep me satisfied and content then I’m pretty well fucked. I’ve lived a great 40 years so far doing pretty much what I damn well please and don’t plan to stop any time soon.

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