One of rock music’s most influential people is arguably Ted Stryker, the famous radio personality whom entertains music lovers on the airwaves at The World Famous KROQ. Asked how the Southern California Native came up with his radio name “Stryker” he says, “I started in radio in 1993, and I just liked the name Stryker; so I said, ‘That’s who I’m going to be.’ Now it’s like twenty years later, and I can’t believe I’m still allowed to work on the radio. It’s crazy.”
The popular DJ–whom is ON AIR at KROQ from 2PM to 6PM–began his career at KFMA in Tucson Arizona, a town he says he appreciates so much. Stryker is known for breaking new bands by giving them air time, especially with his Stryker 4:20 feature wherein he highlights never before played on the radio music by playing an unknown song ON AIR at 4:20 in the afternoon.
The DJ is so recognized for his skills in identifying trends in the music industry and songs that have popular appeal, he was offered one of the very first judge seats on Season 1 of American Idol. He infamously declined the seat, a decision which has set his life on a different course and grounded him in humility.
Aside from a few guitar lessons he once took, Stryker says he has no musical talent himself. He says having a great ear for what sounds good “is not necessarily a skill someone has…it’s someone expressing their taste in music and not being afraid to say, ‘I like this. I think this is good.'”
The three most significant things Stryker feels got him to where he is today he says are, “meeting a guy named Bruce St. James in Tucson who put me on the radio first on a station called Power 1490, and there was a documentary that was recently made about that radio station which is really cool. It’s called A.M. Mayhem. [WATCH THE TRAILER] It’s really good. It’s won a few awards; it’s unbelievable. So that’s one. Number two, a guy named Del Williams. He is a guy that has been so supportive since the day I met him when I worked in Tucson. He really has given me great advice and guidance since the day I met him. Also, my KROQ co-workers and the incredibly hard working staff who are the BEST in the business. Kevin Weatherly from KROQ, from day one, has been a mentor and a person whom I trust. His instincts are always right on the money, his ideas of how to execute things on the radio are perfect, I never thought in a million years I’d be where I am, I owe it to my KROQ family. That’s number two. And number three I think, I’ve put in a lot of hard work, so a combination of those three things.”
Friday, June 7, 2013, I spent an afternoon with Stryker, first chatting for an hour or so while we sat outside on the patio of a cute coffee house in Hollywood and then watching him run a Matt and Kim interview and live performance in the KROQ Red Bull Soundspace. The seasoned DJ is a fountain of knowledge, full of sharp witty responses and is ready to conquer the world.
WATCH Part 1 Stryker “Stryker ON AIR KROQ”
PART 2: The World Famous KROQ’s Stryker Advice To Bands
I ask Stryker about the theory that corporations are controlling radio playlists and things have changed dramatically in the past fifteen years for bands trying to get air play. Stryker disagrees. He says, “That’s an interesting statement, but in my building, not true. There’s not a man in a suit controlling the station. If I like a song, it’s the exact same system from when I first started in ’99. I would bring it in, I’d give it to them, I’m like, ‘I think this thing is really good.’ Sometimes they make it on a regular rotation, maybe it ends up on locals only on Sunday, maybe I play it on my 4:20 feature, and it’s a one time thing and it gives the band exposure. But I think, I think it’s no more difficult now than it was then.”
He goes on to say, “In fact I think it’s easier for bands to get their music at least into my ears…say here’s a link, here’s a YouTube video, here’s a SoundCloud. Where before, in 1999 and 2000, it was like, ‘All right, we’re going to send you a cd,’ and then are they going to really send it, and then I’m getting so many. I’m like, ‘Which one is yours?’ Then so many of the bands are really unintelligent when it comes to writing it out; like giving you a disc and they don’t even put their band name on it. Then they give you like twenty songs, ‘Here it is!’ I’m going to go through twenty songs? Really? I mean, I would like to, and I appreciate your hard work, but give me your best three.”
It’s no surprise that Stryker wound up in the music industry growing up in a household where he was exposed to a wide variety of amazing music at a young age. Stryker says his parents favorite bands were The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin and that a lot of musicals including Music Man, Guys and Dolls, and West Side Story were played. He adds, “Then on my own I listened to a lot of radio. I loved listening to the radio. I love how local it felt, and it hopefully still feels for people in Southern California.” He says he listened to The Mighty 690, (which is now gone), KROQ, Pirate Radio and Rick Dees in the morning.
When I inquire if he has a favorite venue in the LA area to see a show, Stryker answers decisively, “The Roxy, Troubadour, Viper Room, Hollywood Bowl. I really like historic places. I know the city of Rome, and Paris, they have historic buildings, but I like the LA historic musical venues. Like I just mentioned, Roxy, Troubadour, The Whisky, I just love going into those places. I love the smell, I love knowing the history in there, I love Sunset Boulevard. The Troubadour is of course on Santa Monica Boulevard; I love going there.” He tells me he has memories of seeing “System of a Down in The Whisky, Depeche Mode at the Troubadour, The Strokes at the Viper Room, Linkin Park at the Roxy when they weren’t Linkin Park.”
We take a moment to jump into current events and discuss this August’s Sunset Strip Music Festival. “And now of course Linkin Park are coming back to play the Sunset Strip Music Festival,” I say. “Right, that’s going to be fun. It’s going to be cool. Those guys worked very hard. They were on the Sunset Strip the other day passing out flyers for the show like old school,” Styker says. “I loved that. That to me is exactly what I love to see, because they’re showing bands, ‘Hey, we’re Linkin Park, but we’re still willing to get out and walk the street with flyers and do the work.’ I thought that was huge,” I comment. “Yeah, I liked it too,” says Stryker and you can see in his eyes he admires musicians who work hard. “Nic Adler who runs the Roxy, he’s the backbone of that, he’s a very cool guy. I like him a lot,” he adds in a sincere voice.
In Part 2 of my interview with Ted Stryker, we discuss what he feels is a Recipe for Success for bands today, the importance of Twitter, and how reality music shows like American Idol and The Voice have created a level of frustration for hard working bands trying to make it.
WATCH Part 2 Stryker’s Advice To Bands
Interview PART 3:
When asked what he was thinking on his first day ever at KROQ Stryker says, “My last radio station was on a dirt road in a trailer. Now I’m on the ninth floor on Burbank looking over the 134 Freeway. I’m thinking, ‘Do not F this up.’ So I just took a breath, I’m like [takes a deep breath] and that was it. I felt pretty good.” It seems he has been feeling pretty good ever since expanding his DJ skills to include television work on The Ellen Show, Young & The Restless and even hosting his own Lexus sponsored music special–something he looks forward to doing more of in the future.
So what new music is Ted Stryker listening to these days? He says he is loving the new Daft Punk album which he calls “timeless” and says, “the last album I downloaded was “Vessel,” which is from a band called twenty one pilots. They are from Columbus, Ohio. Two young guys, they’re really good.” [See twenty one pilots live at the Las Vegas music festival Life is Beautiful in October.]
￼Stryker’s fun loving personality comes though in a quite genuine manner as we chat while waiting for the Matt & Kim show to start. Known for his positive outlook on life, this quick witted and often humorous radio and television personality reaches for self-deprecating humor at times but it’s clear to me that it is all part of keeping himself human and humble.
Once the fun kicks into high gear on the KROQ Red Bull Soundspace stage, Stryker begins his interview by making Matt and Kim laugh, something he consistently does in interviews. Highly skilled at making his guests feel comfortable, Stryker is not shy to invoke himself into the fun and allows himself to act a little silly with Matt and Kim. The seasoned pro then asks a few questions creating a friendly banter between the three. While I’m certain his questions were well thought out and prepared, Stryker delivers them as if they are off the cuff in true Dick Clark fashion.
Before he sends the band up to the stage to play, Stryker hands his own mic over to a few fans allowing them to take over some of his interview time and ask Matt & Kim some of their own questions. This endearing move shows Stryker follows his own advice about making a connection with fans a priority, a skill he’s clearly mastered with nearly 120,000 twitter followers and counting.
In Part 3 of my interview with Stryker AKA The Humpty Dance (the song title he says best describes his personality) he opens up about what his parents did right, getting in trouble in school–he says he never did–and more fun things like his favorite cereals which are Alphabits, Cap’nCrunch (whom he follows @RealCapnCrunch on Twitter) or Crunch Berries and playing baseball.
WATCH Part 3: Stryker Buys His Own Cereal
STRYKER AND CHARITY
Ted Stryker supports several charities personally such as LA Children’s Hospital and works with charities through KROQ like Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center and Heal the Bay. This will be Ted Stryker’s second year in a row working with Chester Bennington from Linkin Park visiting a children’s hospital and charitable cause with which Bennington’s involved in the Phoenix, Scottsdale area.
Special thanks to Sébastien Hameline on camera
By Nicole Hanratty
On location in Hollywood June 7, 2013
Posted June 14, 2013