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Monday, November 9, 2009

strombo back on-air

Good interview from Chart Attack

George Stroumboulopoulos came to the attention of the nation's music fans (and Bono) on MuchMusic, but he got his start in radio.

Now the host of CBC TV's The Hour, he returns to the airwaves with his weekly Strombo Show, four hours of commercial-free music and talk Sunday nights on CBC Radio 2.

In advance of the show's premiere on Sunday (Nov. 8), he spoke to CHARTattack about his relationship with songs and the spirit of radio.

CHARTattack: Making The Hour must be a more-than-full-time job. How and why will you find the time to make The Strombo show?

George Stroumboulopoulos: All I do all night during the week is lay in bed and listen to songs. I'm constantly digging around for new music. It's as important to me as anything in life. I started blogging and twittering about what I was listening to, and I got a lot of feedback. So I started a radio show on the Corus network, but as I found new things and my own musical consciousness expanded, I found I couldn't go as far as I wanted to.

Why did you leave the Corus network for CBC Radio 2?

Radio stations have relationships with their audience. They make a promise to them, and those listeners have certain expectations. Modern rock listeners — well, what has become the modern rock format — don't tune in to hear a wide variety of music they don't know.

Corus never held me back, and my contact Dunner at CFOX was very supportive of what I was doing. But knowing radio, I realized the majority of the listeners did not appreciate hearing hip-hop on a rock station. I was way out there for some of these stations — not all — but those who prefer to play more familiar artists.

And to be honest, after [friend and colleague] Martin Street died I had no interest in going back on The Edge [in Toronto]. So Corus was not the best place for me to be. I think you can tell a lot about a radio by its slogan, and CBC radio's slogan is "everywhere music takes you." That's where I belong.

People grew up with you on MuchMusic. They think they know you — you're the guy who wears Slayer belt buckles. What is it about your musical tastes that would surprise people?

That I like tender music. They think I only listen to one kind of music, but I like beautiful songs. And I like old music, really old blues music.

It sounds like you're going to be Canada's John Peel. Who are your radio heroes?

Anyone fearless. I always point to Jim Richards on CFRB 1010 in Toronto — he's not afraid to be smart. And Indie 103 in L.A. was the best on the planet until it shut down. I grew up on John Derringer and the Rock Report on Q107, that's my style of radio.

One of the exciting things about the new Strombo Show is that it will be available all across the country, even in small towns.

That was a selling factor. I was already ready to leave Corus when the head of the CBC network approached me, but the idea of being in every market was important.

On the Internet, you can find any song now but it takes a lot of work. I'll be doing that work, and it's even more important to me to be on the air in Nunavut as it is in Toronto. The Hour has put me in the homes of all kinds of people, it's brought me together with a ton of other music lovers. And so while a lot of people are already mixing and sharing all kinds of music, like on blogs, I have the privilege to do it for a national audience on Radio 2.

Should anyone be afraid of your show? Your CBC bosses or otherwise?

I don't think so. Although I will play songs from time to time that will scare the shit out of some people because they are manifestos. And it may not be my personal manifesto, but the message of the artist. If a music show doesn't scare you a little, it's not doing it's job. It's not just about discovery of things you like but exposure to things that dare you to change your way of thinking.

What will be your first song on the new show, and does it matter to you?

It's hugely important. I haven't yet decided between something by Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash. Because every show is a "thank you" to those who have provided the great songs. Johnny Cash isn't my favourite artist — Joe Strummer, George Carlin and Chuck D are my holy trinity — but you can't deny he's one of the greatest songwriters. So it will be one of those first, and the other will be in there, too.