DJ Rossstar: The Bridge to Your Favorite Artist
Nine years ago, an American University student grew sick of watching bands interviewed by the same Average Joe and asked the same mundane questions on a cliché set. “Why would I need to watch Green Day do another interview when they’re going to be asked the same questions again?” says DJ Rossstar, now in his twenties. Then the light bulb went off. “I’m in college. I have a radio station. I’m going to do an Internet show,” he proclaimed.
Rossstar then began reaching out to local artists, all whom were rather receptive. “Almost immediately I started doing shows once or twice a week,” he says. However, this was in 2002. This was before YouTube, MySpace, Facebook or Skype. Most people were skeptical of his project, declaring that the Internet would soon die off and therefore put an end to his show. Despite criticism, he created DJ Rossstar’s Punk Rock Radio Show – an interactive radio show where fans could call in and directly ask the bands questions.
And now here he is – having recorded over 1,000 shows with some of his favorite artists and currently living in Los Angeles, California, DJ Rossstar found himself on the phone with me, recounting the tale of his slow but sure rise to Internet fame. Let’s just say I was a tad bit nervous reciting interview questions to a guy who abhors cliché interview questions. Check out some of our conversation below:
So you started the show in 2002, but when did it really take off?
It really was year by year. Until 2004 I used to do my show on an interview station called Idobi radio. I would get 2-3,000 listeners a week but it was the same audience. But it wasn’t until I started using Stickam that I saw an incredible increase I popularity. I started getting viewers who didn’t know who I was but that saw that I was a featured show. I saw my viewers go up to 30-40,000 in a year. I started to see it grow even more in the past three years when I began to expand my interest. In the beginning It was l all pop/rock like Boys Like Girls, Cobra Starship, etc. They all gave the same answers. So I got bored and my audience became repetitive again. So around 2008 I started to expand my guests. So some of the odder artists include Katy Perry, Brandy Cyrus, Jackson Rathpone (Twilight), Juliet Lewis, The Veronicas, Shwayze the rapper. So it increased more to 40, 50 and 60,000. Each show twice a week had a different genre of audience.
Who has been your favorite guest so far? Or maybe I should say guests, if singling someone out is too hard.
I honestly like every show because I like meeting new people so to me it’s exciting every time I go on the air. I don’t know if they’re going to be funny, serious, cool, not cool, etc. The most exciting interviews would be the one s I grew up listening to in college and younger. I’ve had Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, Goldfinger, MxPx, New Found Glory and more. The fact that they all came over and became my friends after were the “holy crap” moments.
It’s just fun cause we’re talking to the viewers, we’re letting them call in, people get to speak directly to their favorite artist. Off the top of my head I remember Andrew McMahon. Those phone calls he got were people touched by their music. I love being the enabler. On the internet, you can be whoever you want, say whatever you want. So a lot of these kids might be afraid to approach their favorite artist in person. Behind a computer or phone you can say whatever you want.
What artists will be featured on the show in the near future?
There’s one guy I had over last week named Andy Grammar and he now has a song all over the radio on Adult Contemporary stations. On Thursday we have two artists – I The Mighty and K Sera. Then the week after that we have Touche Amore.. A lot of times these artists don’t know when they’re going to be in town. But living in LA… there’s never a shortage. The Honest is coming over in March.
Your biography says, “DJ Rossstar knows music.” What do you look for in a band?
if I’m going to bring someone on, they have to have somewhat of a following. They need to have something going on whether they’re about to be on a tour or have a new EP coming out, there needs to be some hype about a band at the moment. What I usually do is like two weeks before ill see if there’s any mainstream artists in town. If no one is around ill look for the locals. There are some artists that are really interactive through social media and some that aren’t. I like people that are like me, that are proactive, that are always trying to think of new ways to engage their fans. I might find a rock band from San Diego and even though they only have 340 followers on twitter, but they’re responding to all 340, I’ll bring them on. I look for people that care about their music. You can tell from someone’s music site, how hard they’re trying. Also, if I like the songs I’ll of course bring them on.
You’re now a featured columnist in Substream Magazine. Tell me a little about that…
I found Substream in the store, like Hot Topic. I was reading through it and then asked if they’d be interested in doing an article on my show. So they wrote an article, like a page and a half. A couple months later I wrote to them again and I asked if I could write a column in one issue. They were like, how about we give you a column every month? They said I could write about whatever I want. That’s what I love the most that I have freedom to write whatever I want. One issue ill write about whether or not you’re too old to go to a concert, or a new unsigned band, records that inspired me growing up. etc.
They’re giving a lot of unsigned bands to get in print magazines. I like that you can open up Substream and can see like 40-50 bands that weren’t in the previous issue. It’s cool to see my column. To me that’s a huge accomplishment.
So what else is it that you want readers to know about you and your show?
I want them to know that you can follow me on twitter [@DJRossstar]. I’m on there all day. Since I only do my show twice a week for one hour each time I try to keep them occupied all week. So today it was like – name some of your favorite records you own on vinyl. It’s a way to interact with the viewers. Sometimes ill post suggestions for bands I might want to interview in the next month and see if they want them. I just want them to know that I’m really interactive all week. There’s always something going on there.
Well there you have it – the story of DJ Rossstar and the passion that sparked a career. To watch the show for yourself and witness bands pile in on the DJ’s couch in his small L.A. apartment, log on to http://www.stickam.com/djrossstar on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7pm PST. He’s an excellent communicator and will make you feel like you favorite artist is just chilling out in your own living room. Join the chat room or get your phone ready to call in during a live stream. To watch previous shows, interviews and more head over to ThePunkRockShow.com.
(Rebecca Cicione is a freelance journalist and publicist based in Philadelphia, PA. She specializes in music and nonprofit PR. She has interned/worked with companies including Columbia Records, Dreamlight Entertainment and One Praise Magazine – and currently works with IndieVisionMusic.com and Come&Live!. Check out her blog here.)