UC Radio's Mike Yusi: How To Succeed In Podcasting
"Traditional radio is as dead as Joey Ramone."
Last year, Rocks Off's editor - who will be played by upcoming Celebrity Apprentice contestant Gary Busey for the duration of this article - hauled us into his office and said, "Dammit, With One F! This radio on the Internet thing is blowing up. We need someone to go deep inside and find the best of the best!
"I want a killer article on 11 of the most awesome Internet radio stations or podcasts. Not 10, that's a commie number! You bring me back 11, or clean out your desk!"
[Ed. Note: Sigh.]
So we did, and the first on the list was UC Radio out of California, hosted by Mike Yusi. We've been listening to Mike's show for years because it's one of the few shows out there that knows the difference between good rock and roll and bad rock and roll.
Yusi knows when a song is a three-minute beer commercial turned up, and when it's actually just good dirty art. The former rarely makes an appearance on his weekly show, and the latter never fails to make one. The music brackets an Yusi's commentary, which is always current, funny, insightful and, most of all, concise. That means he knows when to shut up and get back to the sick electric-twanger tracks.
The fact that his Scottish sister-in-law Charlie opens the show screaming about being naked doesn't hurt either. Rocks Off decided we needed to follow-up with Yusi, and maybe get a glimpse into what is making him one of the most popular podcasts out there.
Rocks Off: What made you want to start an Internet radio show?
Mike Yusi in a recent picture.
Mike Yusi: Six years ago, I read an article about self produced music and talk shows that sounded a lot like the pirate radio stations I grew up listening to, first in Northern California when I was a kid, then in Southern California when I was a teenager. I loved those shows, and my passion for music came from listening to the pirates DJs that spoke with such emotion about why they liked certain bands, and how those bands made them feel and why they mattered in the grand scheme of things.
I had always fantasized about having a pirate radio station, so I figured I'd give it a shot. 5 and a half years and 452 UC Radio episodes later, here I am. The driving force behind it all has always been my love of music, and since I'm not playing in bands any longer, I saw it as a way to stay connected to new music, while helping bands that I really thought had a shot, get some exposure.
RO: To what do you attribute the success of UC Radio?
MY: First my listeners, I've got the most loyal listeners around, some going back four-five years, and they know more about my past shows than I do. Being on Sirius Satellite definitely helped grow the audience, but mostly I think that my experience playing in a band here on the West Coast in the '80s and '90s gives me the ability to tell which bands are for real, and which bands are fluff. I try not to play fluff.
I refuse to play a song that isn't on my iPod someplace in regular rotation. I actually care about the music I put out there for my listeners, and I think it shows.
RO: Do you think Internet radio will eventually complete overtake traditional radio, or will they coexist?
MY: I think that traditional radio is as dead as Joey Ramone. It's all the same formula, the same songs, the same contests, the same everything. Satellite radio is a thousand times better, but even there, the only station I can think of that has a unique personality and truly aims to educate the listeners about music, is Little Steven's Underground Garage. They talk about the music in a way that makes it clear they care, and honestly, that's all I'm trying to do with UC Radio.
I want the listeners to not only find good music through UC Radio, but to understand why it matters, whether it's an album I'm referring from the 60's, or a band like Absinthe, how they link back to L7, and why that's cool and important. I think the music and radio industries are so screwed up that they've forgotten the importance of the end user, the listener, and how they, in the end, will determine what is good and what isn't.
Shows like mine, self produced shows, by people that actually love the music and the process of making music, I think in the end will be the last man standing because the listeners aren't stupid, they know what they want and with shows like UC Radio, they know where to find it.
RO: Can you tell me about China's ban on your show?
MY: A few years ago China put out a list of all of the New Media shows, talk and music, that were banned due to "Indecent and Immoral Content," as they put it. And there I was. I don't know what I said to piss them off, or why they don't like the bands I play, but I do have to thank them.
My "UC Radio Banned in China" T-shirts are my best sellers, and all the proceeds go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in the name of my friend Byron. So thanks Chairman Mao, wherever you are, for being such an uptight ass.