High on the air during higher learning.
As I mentioned last issue, the college I attended—CUNY’s Bernard M. Baruch College—was primarily a finance school. There weren’t many metalheads around, so the few of us there were naturally gravitated toward one another. It was one such rocker dude—a bleach-blond, longhaired lothario named Darren—who introduced me to the school’s radio station, WBMB.
Located in the basement of one of Baruch’s buildings on Park Avenue South in New York City, WBMB was by far the coolest campus hangout for a music lover like me. The station consisted of a soundproof studio with a recording booth and an engineer station, a back room stacked floor to ceiling with vinyl, and a large lounge area with couches and a fridge. Best of all, there was practically zero faculty supervision.
Among the colorful cast of characters in the BMB crew were Darren’s pal Mark, a tall “poseur” dude with a lisp and an attitude, and Boozah—a cross between Fat Albert and Charles Bukowski who, as his nickname suggests, had a habit of getting hammered. Many an afternoon, he’d lure us down to Bar X—our preferred watering hole, across from Madison Square Park—where we’d suck down a few $2 Jägermeister shots and drafts between classes. Or, more often, we’d blaze a jay in the park, then veg out in the lounge and play board games. One particular afternoon stands out in my memory: A station newbie named James “Filet” Mignon and I got totally baked and held an epic, one-on-one Connect Four tournament. Three hours and 100 games later, I’d missed my last class but had memorized every winning move and strategy imaginable.
After engineering both Mark’s and Darren’s shows for a semester, I was stoked to earn my own timeslot. Adopting the DJ name “The Steppenwolf” (after my favorite Herman Hesse novel), I began spinning the coolest tracks from every era and subgenre of rock twice a week. I’d spend hours poring over the vast library of vinyl and stacks of CDs, discovering new artists like Tool and Marilyn Manson, and digging up forgotten treasures like St. Vitus’ Born Too Late or Kyuss’ Wretch. Since most record companies sent new albums to radio stations before their official release date—and since commercial stations didn’t play metal or underground bands—I got to premiere brand-new metal before nearly anyone else on the East Coast. I vividly remember the day Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power arrived in the mail; I could hardly wait until my shift to play the first single, “Mouth for War.” Or Monster Magnet’s Dopes to Infinity, which I played in its entirety.
Unfortunately, since Baruch was a business school, the radio station was not a high academic priority. As a result, our broadcast signal only reached a 10- to 12-block radius—which meant that aside from those in the student center and cafeteria, there weren’t too many other people listening. But that didn’t stop any of us from putting our all out onto those airwaves. Occasionally, we’d even convince a local band to come in for an interview or to guest DJ. I did two on-air interviews during my three years at WBMB: the first with Sisters Grimm, a glam rock group fronted by a somewhat skanky pair of twin sisters I knew from high school, and the other with Brooklyn hardcore legends Life of Agony, who came on to promote the release of their classic debut album, River Runs Red.
My show, The Wolf’s Lair, ran from my sophomore year in 1991 until I graduated in 1994—the same year I began working at High Times (whose offices were conveniently located just down the block from campus). Besides the fun memories and musical discoveries, DJing at WBMB provided me with the experience and confidence I’d later need when, a decade later, Sirius Radio’s metal manager Jose Mangin offered me my own stoner rock show on their Hard Attack channel. And though writing will always be my professional passion, I often miss the excitement of turning the masses on to new underground music and hope to return to the radio airwaves again someday.