Interview with Sacramento Radio Personality Pat Martin

by Alex Cosper

Conducted June 23, 2015 on Facebook

Alex: Ladies and Gentlemen, with me tonight from Sacramento is Pat Martin, the man who holds the record for longest time on the air at the same station in California's capital. Today we'll talk about Pat's radio career at KRXQ 98 Rock as well as his earlier gigs in San Diego and Los Angeles. Pat, thanks for joining me. Nice picture of you and your wife Monica Lowe, who has also had a great radio career

Pat: Thanks, my wife doesn't take a bad picture .. but feel free to Photoshop me out of the picture.

Alex: I interviewed Gene Simmons of Kiss once and, of course, he did most of the talking. I keep hearing from people like him that "rock is dead." Do you agree with Simmons or does someone just need to shake the dead rocks out of his head?

Pat: It kind of IS dead in a way right now. We need something big to happen, like Nirvana did in '91. There's just lots of mediocre music right now .. don't get me wrong, there's some good stuff .. just not enough of it.

Alex: Yet KRXQ is a top station in Sac right now along with classic rocker The Eagle, your sister station. How do you explain that?

Pat: KRXQ is actually a very personality driven station, by design, to make up for the lack of quality new music. In focus groups, listeners tell us they tune in to 98 Rock more for our personalities than the music.

Alex: We'll talk about your record-setting career at 98 Rock in Sac, but first give us some background on how your radio career started in San Diego - the place I'm talking to from right now. It's also the place where you met your wife, Monica, while you were at KGB.

Pat: Yes, I was at SDSU working at college station KCR, when KGB's Program Director, the late Rick Leibert, called me down for an interview. After talking for a couple hours, he offered me a job .. weekend over-nights. I was ecstatic. I ended up there for about ten years.

Alex: In Los Angeles at rock station KMET you worked before the arrival of John Sebastian, who I just interviewed. People still talk about "The Mighty Met" even though it hasn't been around since the late 80s. What was it like working for such a legendary station?

Pat: It was a dream come true. It's the station I grew up on and idolized. KMET was, and probably still is, historically, the greatest rock station that ever was. It was kind of surreal to work there. My parking space faced the Hollywood sign. That's the view I would pull up to each night.

Alex: I understand that during your LA years you were neighbors with rock star Ronnie James Dio.

Pat: Yes, Ronnie lived close by. He was such a wonderful guy. Everybody knew him and he was the most gracious person I've ever met.

Alex: So following KMET, you wound up in Sac in 1988. Tell us how you got the gig at KRXQ, which at the time was called 93 Rock. Wasn't the station programmed by women at that time - the team of Judy McNutt and Pamela Roberts?

Pat: Yes .. I was referred to KRXQ by their consultant. After leaving KMET in early '87 (they changed format) I had returned to KGB. They actually took me back, but things didn't go so well and I found myself on the beach .. literally .. in March of '88. I came up to Sacramento to help 93 Rock for a couple of weeks with their imaging production, and the GM offered me a gig. I took it and here I am today.

Alex: Tell us how KRXQ put legendary station KZAP out of biz in 1992. I know they're returning as a low power station and people love them as a legend, but in the ratings game it's all about competition. You'll recall they were very boring at the end while your station maintained an exciting rock edge with a younger audience.

Pat: When I joined KRXQ, KZAP was still the market leader, and we were the young guns coming up the ranks. They had about a 9 share in the ratings, and we had about a 2 share. By the time they changed formats to country, we had a 9 share and they had a 2 share. They were attacked from all sides, including KWOD and The Eagle. It was over for KZAP, they had their time.

Alex: Yes, KZAP was great for years but in the end they had weak programming. Thanks for mentioning my old station, KWOD. We're buds now, but during the 90s you were PD for awhile while I was your crosstown rival programming alternative station KWOD. What's your memories of that era?

Pat: Well, I remember KWOD never sounding better. You had that station humming. We (93 Rock) were trying to figure out who we were, and how much we would embrace the whole grunge thing. It took a while to find out where we were going. And honestly, I never asked to be the PD .. they just threw it at me. I still had to do my 5 hour airshift, I was dealing with my son's illness, and it was a very trying time personally. But somehow I got through it all.

Alex: Thank you, Pat. KRXQ definitely regained momentum in 1996, my final year at KWOD, so my hat's off to you and Curtiss Johnson for a great job. That year in February the Sac Bee wrote about how KRXQ, KWOD and The Zone (where your wife Monica worked) were all playing kind of the same music. A few months later Metallica did a free show at Tower Records, which you promoted and we ignored. It was a big event. I didn't think they fit our sound, yet it helped you guys a lot. What's your memory of that event?

Pat: Out of control. Thousands of people showed up out of nowhere. The police shut the whole thing down after about 5 songs. I remember thinking to myself, "man, we really do have a lot of listeners!" It was a good memory.

Alex: Eventually KRXQ's owner Entercom acquired KWOD then changed it into something else. Now Entercom owns alternative station 94.7, along with KRXQ and classic rock station The Eagle. That's like three different flavors of rock. How much overlap in music does 98 Rock have with the other stations and do you consider anyone else in the market to be a competitor?

Pat: Yes, there's some overlap with all three stations to some degree, but each station has their own distinct identity so it's not an issue. The Eagle doesn't share anything with 94.7, but we share some music with both The Eagle and 94.7. As for competitors? Everyone is a competitor .. other stations, streaming services, video games, TV shows, you name it .. everybody is competing for a piece of the pie.

Alex: Tell us how you helped put Sacramento's most successful band Tesla back together in 2000 after they had broken up in the 90s.

Pat: As the legend goes, yes, I am the guy who put Tesla back together. After selling millions of albums and touring the world, the band broke up around '95 .. and they weren't getting back together .. ever. In 2000, 98 Rock needed a headline act for our yearly show, and I thought it would be monumental to re-unite Tesla .. if I could. So after countless phone calls, therapy sessions, and a few bottles of good wine, they agreed. And they've been back together ever since. I'm very proud of them.

Alex: You're also a wild man when it comes to getting up on stage with other bands such as Tesla members, in which you sing along. I saw you sing with Frank Hannon's band at Sammy Hagar's former club a few years back and you kicked ass on "Wild Thing." You also have your own cover band called Animal House.

Pat: Yeah, I've had my own band for almost 25 years .. it's a great hobby. Vince DiFiore from Cake is in my band, and one of our guitar players, Lance Taber, is the original guitarist from the "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" video games. So the guitar hero from "Guitar Hero" is in my band .. pretty cool!

Alex: You yourself appear in a video with Dokken.

Pat: It's amazing that people still bring that up. That's from the KMET days. I was hanging around all kinds of various rock stars, and they asked me if I wanted to be in their video .. so I said yes. I also filmed a part for a Bon Jovi song, "You Give Love A Bad Name", but that version never got released. When I ran into Jon several years ago I asked him about that, and he said his mom is the only person on earth who has a copy of that video.

Alex: Pat, what do you like to talk about when you're on the air doing the midday show?

Pat: Just about everything .. anything that's topical. Music, sports, news, popular culture .. you name it. I put tons of listeners on the air and I incorporate a lot of sound into my program in the way of sound bites, interview segments, TV and movie drop-ins, things like that. My show is an "audio circus" if you will.

Alex: Who have been artists you've interviewed over the years and which ones stand out as the most interesting?

Pat: Man, it's hard to think of someone I haven't interviewed. Just about everyone. I've met Jimmy and Robert from Zeppelin, The Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Ozzy, Aerosmith, Van Halen a million times, Maynard from Tool, and just about every new band from the last 20 years .. lots of good memories. I love meeting musicians because I'm a fan and I respect their work.

Alex: I understand that 98 Rock's playlist is about 20 percent current. It seems at one time the station played a lot more currents. In your view, what do the labels need to do to improve their rock rosters? It seems to me the rock audience has never died, but the music biz has cranked out a lot of over-produced bands in the new century, and any real rocker knows that's not what rock is all about.

Pat: We definitely need a shot of rock and roll adrenaline in some way. There's a lot of things that need to happen, or as you mentioned, NOT happen, like the over-production and the blandness. I'd like to see a few people who can really SING. Where's the great vocalists? Nobody can sing (well, almost nobody). And mostly, we need more rock that is FUN. Where's the joy in rock'n'roll? Where's the fun? Not everything has to be depressing. After all, it's just rock and roll .. quit taking everything so seriously.

Alex: Pat, thanks for sharing these interesting insights and memories about your career. Your longevity in radio is impressive. Any closing thoughts?

Pat: I feel extremely fortunate to be able to raise my kids in one place. My wife and I never wanted to be radio nomads, dragging our family from town to town. So to be here for this length of time is something we're both very proud of. Lastly, thanks to you for having me on this interview. You have established yourself as the industry's leading historian and writer, and all of us in the broadcasting world appreciate your work.

Alex: Pat, that's very nice of you to say and thanks again for this rockin' interview.

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