Radio personality Viking Jim has championed the Youngstown rock scene for years. He’s had to remain fairly quiet in the public eye about what he really thinks. Until now. Ed. note: This article first appeared in the winter 2010 Youngstown Pulse. By B.J. LISKO Youngstown Pulse Magazine Editor I don’t clearly remember the first time I met Viking Jim. It was probably at a Hellvis gig some years back at The Nyabinghi. I’m sure the conversation was blurry and me trying to recollect the details now would be even blurrier. What I do know, is that Vike is one of the good ones. He’s a true, through and through rock ‘n’ roller that wants to see the Youngstown area succeed, especially when it comes to the music scene. Viking Jim started The Homegrown Show on CD93.3 The Wolf a few years back (for those of you living under a rock, it airs every Sunday night at 9 p.m.). He’s slammed home rockers in the area he feels are true to their craft. He’s got local rock ‘n’ roll playing on a Clear Channel radio station. He stuck his neck out and even sacrificed a little bit of his own ego being a little more politically correct with things to make sure it happened for the good of the scene. Viking Jim has got an opinion. Always has. Now that he’s no longer completely strapped down to the confines of corporate radio, he’s letting it loose. I met Vike at The Royal Oaks. Some shots later we started talking. Here’s the lowdown. In the time since you started the Homegrown Show, what have you seen change in the Youngstown music scene? It’s better in a lot of ways because it seemed to blossom the seed. There were a lot more bands coming out. The problem was, were there enough venues to handle those bands? So it was good and bad at the same time. Do you think it’s actually reversed since, though? Right now I see that there are a lot of bands, but there are a lot of local music venues with open dates, and that didn’t used to happen to this extent. Are there too many venues now? It’s not that there are too many venues, it’s that there are too many bands that don’t know what they’re doing that are stumbling through the dark. How do we get our band into certain venues? How do we get our band promoted? Speaking of which, is that why you think some bands turn to other people to promote them? There is no such thing as a promotion company a band in this market needs to have to promote there shows. If you can’t get out and get some flyers up and let people know you’re coming to town, if you can’t get up and call the Vindicator or the Tribune, if you can’t make sure your band is getting promoted by yourself, you’re only hurting yourself. Why do you think that bands right now are so lazy when it comes to that aspect? Because they don’t have the motivation. They think that two or three people are going to hear their CD or come to their show. The problem you run into is that mom or girlfriend or cousin is telling you you’re the best band in the world, and you’re probably not. If you have to rely on a promotion company to promote you, you’re getting screwed. It’s so easy to do in a small market like this. If you can’t get your own promotions going, you’re defeating your own purpose. Tell me what’s happening with the Homegrown Show. What are you trying to do with it moving forward? What I am trying to do is to get people out there to hear original bands and quit going to see cover acts. No disrespect to anybody, but I would rather lay my money down to see an original local band that has no following than see a cover band that has a huge following, because the honesty is there with the original bands. Rock radio used to be about being connected with the local people. But it’s gotten so corporatized, you’re being fed a steady diet of Three Doors Down, Nickelback, whoever. You’ve got a ton of bands there that all sound the same. But you’ve got a great amount of local groups with a lot of talent. Feed your head, think outside of the box. Go see something new and original. Why do you think that Youngstown, and it’s been this way for a long time, that people just don’t get it? I mean, you have the good people here that support local rock. But there are so many people in the Mahoning Valley. Why is it so hard to break through to those people, or to convert those people into going to an original rock show that isn’t just the occasional national act that they may have heard a hit or two on the radio? There’s an interesting dichotomy there. First, corporate radio is playing you the same thing over and over again. The corporate radio stations assume stupidity on the part of the listener. For instance, like station A and station B are both playing AC/DC. One may play “For Those About to Rock,” and the other may play “Back in Black.” What’s the difference? Nothing. Between The Wolf and Rock 104, look at the play lists. There is no difference. ‘T.N.T.,’ switch the channel, ‘I’m dynamite.’ There’s an assumption that the listener is stupid. That you don’t know what that B-side is. That if you hear “74 Jailbreak” you’re gonna shit your pants because ‘Oh my God, I’ve never heard that song before.’ And that’s where it ties into the local bands because people are afraid of something new. If they hear something original, or off the cuff, or ‘my God, someone wrote a song with their own lyrics and music and didn’t try to ape somebody else,’ corporate radio assumes you’re an idiot. The assumption is that you’re not going to know what ’74 Jailbreak’ is, or ‘Green Manalishi’ is, or even ‘Ace of Spades.’ Despite the fact that you know damn well what that song is. If you’re going to play a Black Sabbath track, are you going to play ‘Paranoid’ or ‘Faries Where Boots?’ I’m going to play ‘Faries Where Boots.’ I get asked this question a lot, as do a lot of people that seem to be lifers in the local scene, what keeps you going? What keeps you doing it? Why haven’t you given up? Because I have a love for the scene. Because I know there are a lot of good local bands in this town that will fill a venue and make a lot of people happy. That’s basically it. There’s enough good going on to keep me going as well. Getting back to the Homegrown Show, I know you have some plans for next year and that you’re looking to buy that show. Hopefully we can own it outright really soon. Give Pulse readers an update of where that’s at and how promising it looks moving into 2010. It’s looking very promising. I can’t say too much yet. Hopefully working with our friends Jeff, Heather and Russ over at Indie Wax Records, we can get that squared down to where we’re actually going to own the show and be outside of the corporate box so that we’re bringing music to people that they can realize they can go anywhere in Youngstown or the Mahoning Valley, or Sharon, Pa., wherever, to where they can go see an original live rock ‘n’ roll band, hear new songs that will inspire them. As far as the Homegrown Show, and if you’re able to get outside of that corporate box, how will it differ from what it is now? I’m going to play a lot more of what I like. The thing you run into with the local scene, there are a lot of really great bands in this area, but there are even more mediocre bands. As I mentioned earlier, I think that too many local bands think they can write 10 or 12 originals and be done. They focus too much on playing live gigs and not enough time working on their material and their craft improving themselves as artists. Too many bands have ‘yes’ people going with them. As I said, family and friends give them a false sense of how good they actually are. If you’re playing in front of 100 of your friends every time you play, that’s great, but what’s the point in that? You’re not drawing any new people to your shows, not getting any useful feedback. There’s a definite gap between the varsity and the jayvee squads when it comes to local bands. Does the internet and the instant gratification that goes with it, do you think that plays into the work ethic where before you had to hit the streets and you had to make yourself available and seen? I think it does very much so. If you put it up on the internet, any dope can tell you whatever they want to tell you, or say they’re coming to your show or that you’re the greatest band ever. But when it comes to a lot of local bands there’s that lack of work ethic. When there are more mediocre bands than excellent ones, it shows a problem. Some of us in bands are of staunch opponents of the free show trend that seems to be making its rounds in the area. I understand it in certain situations – if the band isn’t good, if they aren’t bringing anyone through the door and it screws the venue, or if it’s a hassle with money being taken from the door and skimmed and going to the wrong people. Certain places like The Royal Oaks, you don’t want to charge people who are already going to be there regardless, so in certain instances I get it. But when places start up and doing free cover it seems that the bands are the ones getting slighted first. What’s your take? Are people that cheap? Well, another problem you run into, and $5 seems to be the standard cover, you’ve got a lot of people that will book a show with four, five, or six bands and charge that cover and half or all of the bands get fucked. If you have to have more than two bands on a bill in Youngstown, you’re overdoing it. If you have to charge from more than five or six bucks for a show featuring locals, you’re overdoing it. So a lot of the time it’s because of there is too many bands on a bill, and bars aren’t going to go over $5. Maybe if they figure the bands are okay with the lack of pay already, they can charge less or nothing at all. Should it be fair to assume in your opinion that only bands that are reputable or have established a following or have been around for a while are bands that people are going to pay a cover to see? Or is everything going to go to free or reduced price? Are bars becoming like promotion companies to where they’re just trying to take advantage of kids that don’t know any better? (Laughs). I wouldn’t say bars are necessarily. Promotion companies are definitely. You don’t see the same thing with certain bars? How is it beneficial to any band in the area? It all looks very shady. Everybody’s trying to pull a fast one. To too many people it’s not about the scene. It’s about making money. Looking at the other side of it, is it a catch 22? Because as we said before, a lot of bands don’t promote, and don’t have the work ethic. So then does it become a product of the bar again thinking the band doesn’t care, so why should they care about reducing the cover charge? Yes. It definitely goes both ways. There’s a responsibility on the part of the band to make sure the word about their show gets out there. But there’s a responsibility on the part of the bar that people know what’s going on there. Some bars don’t promote jack shit, and they could have Led Zeppelin coming to their bar but they won’t promote it because it will cost them an extra buck. Well, to sort of wrap this up, 2010, what’s your outlook for the scene? I hope that the bands realize there are more than two or three venues. I hope they continue to work on original material and hone their craft. Hopefully there’s going to be a lot more action in town, and a lot more venues happening, and it gets better all around. What bugs me the most is people don’t have the sense to go see something they’ve never seen before. I want that to change. Absofuckinglutely.