Cathy Faulkner: KISW, Seattle and the G-Word
Updated: May 31
It is fitting that this episode is being published on World Radio Day. Cathy Faulkner worked at KISW in Seattle from 1981 through to the early 2000's. She spent most of her time as the station's music director and on air. During that period, Cathy championed the local music scene and had a front row view to the ascension of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and some of the Seattle bands that did not get grouped into the G-Word category like Queensryche, and Candlebox. (The G-Word is Grunge and Cathy explains in the show why she cringes when she hears it)
In this episode, you will learn that it is all about timing. Especially in the case of Nirvana who released their Nevermind CD the first day that Cathy took the music director position. We also discussed some other rock radio groups who shaped the soundtrack of rock radio in the 90's like Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Tool and Brother Cane.
KISW celebrated 50 years recently and you can check out this episode from their current morning personality BJ Shea here.
At the beginning of the show we talked about Cathy's amazing wall of memorabilia. Here it is. If you were a music director at rock radio in the 90's - your office looked like this. (Bands may vary)
I have a few of my own pieces still kicking about. Including a signed Alice in Chains piece which is my absolute favourite. I'm going to have to put a note on the back of the piece to remind my boys to have it appraised before leaving it out on the corner.
Check out this gem from 1991 from Entertainment Tonight where they discuss the Seattle Scene. (Cathy appears briefly)
So a few regret about this episode. After listening back I wish I had asked Cathy about the deaths of Kurt Cobian, Andrew Wood, and Chris Cornell, and how she processed them. I also failed to ask about Presidents of the United States of America... Foo Fighters... and all the many bands that passed through her studio. Hopefully there is a next time because this was a fun episode to make. ~Matt
TRANSCRIPTION Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:00:01
The Sound Off Podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill. Starts now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:10
This week, I caught up with Cathy Faulkner. You might have encountered her. She's done a little voice work.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:00:16
City of Seattle generated over 730,000 tons of garbage, or over 2000 tons per day. Less than one third of this was recycled. Open the MD 355 and placed the APS cassette into the front compartment. Life's short. Make it a little smoother with Java works.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:35
But back in the 90s, she was the music director of KISW in Seattle. KISW was at the epicenter of a wave of rock music that washed over the radio like a tsunami in 1992. I've always wondered what it was like to be inside that station when it was all happening. More than 30 years later, I'm about to find out. Kathy gives me a tour of her studio, which is covered with memorabilia.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:00:59
There's FILTER, there's Bush Lenny Kravitz is above it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:03
She also told me that each one of the pieces has a sticky note on the back reminding anyone who looks there to have it appraised before leaving it out on the street corner. Now, if you've listened to and loved rock radio in the 90s, you're going to want to listen to this whole episode. Here we go. Cathy Faulkner joins me from her home in the San Juan Islands. Geographically situated comfortably between Victoria BC and Seattle, Washington. You started radio at the age of 15?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:01:30
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:32
How's that possible?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:01:34
Well, I guess I need to credit my high school and opportunity. I started as an intern at the age of 15 in my 9th grade English class. We were assigned a project to interview somebody in media, and I was a huge fan of Ki's W and the music that they played and many of the artists that they feature. So I called Steve Slaton and as a naive little 15 year old said, can I interview you for a school project? And that's how it all started. We had a great interview. He was more than cordial, and we continued communicating, and he asked if I would come in to answer phones for him at night. And that's how it all started.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:18
Tell me a little bit about Steve, because he started back in the 70s. He's a Seattle legend.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:02:23
Seattle Legend. Seattle native. Worked at various radio stations before KISW. But in around 1971, when Kiwisw became a rock format, slayton started shortly thereafter and is credited with breaking AC DC, Metallica, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, the Scorpions, and as music director and evening disc jockey, he was your how do you say it? It's like the party looking for the place to happen. When you're hanging out in your living room at night and you want to hear what's cool, he had the stack of records to play for you.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:57
So what do you think? You're 15 and you're in the studio and you're answering phones and it's nighttime, which eventually turned out to be your playground.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:03:06
It did, yes. I followed in his footsteps and got to do my radio show during Slaton's hours. Yeah, it was cooler than shit. It was the coolest.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:20
What was it about the nighttime, though?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:03:22
To me there's always been a vibe. Music always is more passionate at night. It hits you in ways that you don't expect. It's a great way to be social. It's a sense of community. Let out your aggressions of the day or whatever. It's a unique playground where you have a more one on one relationship with your audience, or at least back in the day. It's different now, but it also can be the same.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:47
And you broke a big radio rule because you need to go to a small market in order to get big market education.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:03:55
You are absolutely correct, my dear. In fact, when I expressed an interest to management that I wanted to be a disk jockey at Kiw, I said, well, no, you can't start here. You have to go elsewhere and come back. I said, well, there's a problem here. And I wasn't this articulate at 15, mind you, but I think my first air shift was at 17. So I said, there's this primacy recency perception issue and you will always see me as a 15 year old. So when I leave, I'll never be able to get back in the door ever, regardless of what I accomplish elsewhere. So I like it here. I'm born and raised in Seattle. I have no plans of going elsewhere, so I'll just hang out and one day you might need me. And I got a call at my house at about 02:00 in the morning. Somebody was sick and not able to come in and I guess the manager didn't want to do the shift, so called and asked if I would woke up. My parents asked for permission and they drove me to the radio station to do my first air shift. That 02:00 a.m to 06:00 a.m Saturday morning.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:03
Did you sleep the next day?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:05:05
Doing my first air shift on Kiw, I probably didn't sleep for a week. I mean, in reality that was a dream come true. Now, have I listened to the air check? No.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:19
I think back to, you know, when you're inside the radio station and you want to do the shift and you are 17 and by today's standards we look back and go, wow, that that's kind of crazy. And I'm thinking to myself, that's a little bit crazy. But I don't think it's all that crazy because I was 18 when somebody called me up and said, we have nobody to do showm. Can you come down and do a few hours? And there I was on my local rock radio station with barely a year of broadcast experience, doing a show which the air check has also disappeared for that, surprisingly. Why do we look back at 17 and 18 and think that was really young but when you're 17 and 18 it was completely normal.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:06:01
I guess what I miss in my later years that I had then is age wasn't a factor. It was this blind ambition of something you were interested in and ready to do a deep dive. And when I coach or consult with people who are trying to get into voiceovers or radio or musicians that I've worked with over the years consulting them on different marketing strategies, one of the first things I say which makes me sound so analog and so old school, but it still is true. You have to be willing to put in the time. You have to be willing to do internships and fetch coffee and do the crap work because you need to be standing by for those opportunities to present themselves. You can't wait at home while you're gaming for somebody to text you and say gosh, do you have the time? So I think those opportunities can still be recreated.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:58
Today I've got a 23 year old upstairs who is looking for work and I suggested why don't you go and help out so and so with their political campaign. You got a Polly side degree. It's like I'm not being paid. I'm not going to put in the time for that. And then he resumes his video game.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:07:16
Mine is 18 and I will say as I sit on my hands and count to 50 with every issue that him and I converse over, he finds his passion, his pace and his path is very different than mine. But when something lights a fire enough, he can make the world move.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:07:41
When was it that you first got your hands on the music department? Music scheduling and getting involved with the radio station after the radio shift, working.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:07:51
With Steve as his assistant. He was music director at the time. So I interacted with the labels on a regular basis, just backing him up and ordering stuff or coordinating different promotions. Selector, I guess came into the station in the because we were one of the early clients for Selector. My job was to break it to see how far I could stretch the music scheduling system to see if I can get it to freeze up. And so I would get a bonus if I could break it and I got a few bonuses so that was fun.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:08:24
How did you break it? Wasn't it Dos?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:08:27
It was oh, it was basic, total Dos, green glowing screen. I'm big on shortcuts and I'm big on finding different ways to merge data and I continually tried to push it farther than it was designed to do. So I broke it a few times. But it was great. It helped, I believe it helped the software be better because we sent those off to the company and they, they figured it out. As far as music in charge of actual music decisions, I would say that was in the late 80s when I took over the metal show at KISW. So that was when I started working with some of the local hard rock heavy metal bands, bands that we already played, but I could go deeper and further and started doing interviews, appearing at concerts, working with, getting local hard rock acts to open for national acts when they were coming through town. That was when that all started. And then in 91, which somebody pointed out to me, I didn't realize it till about a year or two ago on the day Nevermind was released, was when I became music director at KISW.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:36
Yeah, listen, I mean, metal and first of all, we were inundated with hair metal and Bon Jovi and Deaf Leopard and Guns and Roses. And then by extension, we've got all these other bands that are playing harder stuff. That's the heavy metal. But this was a local show you were doing, right?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:09:52
It was a local show. So we were playing depth. Queens. Rike. That was around the time of mine crime for me. Pantera, Motorhead and Anthrax, Metal Church from the Seattle area. Forced entry and then getting into more of the thrash metal going deep on Metallica. And it was a lot of fun. And I'm amazed I don't have tinnitus to this day.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:17
Yeah, actually, I'm looking at you using the Sony headphones, the ones that I had to ditch because I do have Tinnitus.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:10:24
Yeah, because it cups so much. Yeah.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:26
And they're sort of like at the higher pitch as well. So the ringing in the ears goes on long after the podcast ends. So congratulations for avoiding that. Because I can tell you, I don't.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:10:35
Know how I pushed it to the limit. There's still time, though. There's definitely still time.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:41
Well, lucky you. And then what about a band like Alice and Chains? So I look back at 1990, there's Man in the Box, but that feels metal.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:10:50
Oh, and it was. It started at college radio and Metal radio is where Alice started when they signed with Columbia. And susan silver, who managed alison chains. Manages alison chains? She said that I was the first to play Alice. The song was we die young. And I think, if I'm not mistaken, I played it off a demo cassette before I got the EP from Columbia.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:26
Two minutes and 20 seconds of Pure Power. Pure Power, that's one of my favorites.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:11:34
Yeah, that's a great one.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:35
But it was labeled metal and it was in our metal pile before it landed in the grunge pile.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:11:39
And even if you think of Man in the Box, which was the first single that was released to rock radio, even that we played that in regular rotation for months before many other stations picked it up because it was harder than the average bear or the sound itself was more full and thicker. That didn't have that. I don't know, it sounds so mainstream now. But I remember having so many phone calls with people that were, for lack of a better term, afraid to play it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:09
Oh, I worked for all of them.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:12:12
Is it okay to play? I'm like, yeah, give yourself permission, man. Go for it. Yeah. Maybe it's because of my metal roots.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:20
But the song is like twelve years old, and it's like, I think we should be playing that during the daytime now.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:12:27
Right? I mean, I was so spoiled. I know that many. And traveling more as I got older, 17, I didn't travel much. As I traveled more, I realized how different markets are and how blessed I was to be able to start and finish my radio career at KISW, because it's a harder than average area of the country musically, and it's a harder than average radio station. So playing Alice in Chain's Man in the Box during the daytime wasn't a big thing.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:01
Why did this happen in Seattle?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:13:04
An amalgam of a lot of things. One of the things that's been talked about how culture goes in cycles so 90s is going through a renaissance, and there's a lot of interviews and reflections that are looking back on the think. One of the factors is the very radio station that I worked for that growing up with Slayton and all of the other personalities that played Kiss, round the Clock, judas Priest, Round the Clock, Metallica, Zeppelin, the depth at which that station went in, playing Zeppelin on and on and on. The icons that came out of Seattle were my age. They grew up with that stuff. And then you take the punk influence of KCMU or some of the college stations in the area, and just the irreverence of passion for music. It all blended together and created the sound that Seattle is known for. It just all mushed all together. Then you had the brain, and that kept us inside, practicing more, hanging out with our musician friends. So it was an amalgam of so many different pieces.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:14:18
I know somebody might be listening and saying, oh, that staying inside thing is not a thing.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:14:22
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:14:25
I like to point to Winnipeg. Winnipeg, where it's freezing cold, but inside you got Bachmann, Turner Overdrive and Neil Young and the Guess Who who all played inside. So being inside, it's definitely a thing.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:14:40
Oh, absolutely. And the thing that I loved about I was trained by some of the best, the absolute best in the business, like Steve Slaton and Gary Crow, who had this just insane, insane sense of humor. John Langen just absolutely crazy creative sense of humor, and the programming genius of Beau Phillips, all of them inspired us to take a different, a fresh look at things, or look at things in a different way. And fun facts and crazy statistics are some of the things that came out of that time. And talking about the weather of the Northwest per capita of that day, number one, in serial killers, number one in reading books, number one in sales of convertible cars and sunglasses. So when the weather's crap, we go in one direction, and when the weather is great, we get in our convertible and we go in another direction. It's. So seattle.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:36
And how come Nirvana was the one that, on your first day on the job as music director that bled out across America and confused CHR programmers and really in one song, changed the sound of rock radio? And for those who don't know, it was all of a sudden, here's Nirvana and the Def Leppard and Bon Jovi and even the Guns and Roses at the time was sort of being challenged by this new sound.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:16:02
Correct. I believe that the road was paved by many that came before Nirvana and Nirvana was part of that resurgence in the late 80's. The actual answer to the question, why? I think everybody is trying to find that Holy Grail answer. It's the lottery ticket. You can't plan it, but yet it can happen. And it aligned at a perfect time when people, especially young kids, teens, early adults, were looking for something else because they were tired of the fifth album from such and such a band or media had gotten to a point where Saturation was starting to happen faster than it did in a non computer age. And it's an amazing record, but I think credit to the Human and the Melvins and Mother Love Bone and Soundgarden and early releases of Nirvana and constant touring paved away and created a swell Nirvana. And then you add some of the things that were happening in La. At the time. I would have to credit Jane's Addiction that was breaking open. Soundgarden was, I think, the first Seattle band to get a major label record. But it was pretty monumentally magical what Nirvana accomplished in that three and a half months from September to January when they tipped Michael Jackson out of the top spot on the charts. I think that was the time frame. I know it was January, but I don't remember the date.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:17:51
Yeah, I remember going home for Christmas 91 and I gave my cousin a copy of the Nirvana album and he's like, what's this? And he was going to school in Middlebury in Vermont, and I said, Take that back to Vermont with you. You'll be popular.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:18:05
We are so used to instant access in this conversation. You turn me onto a band that I hadn't heard of or a song I can Google it and play it in like ten minutes and be exposed to it. But watching that one to three year, four year period of time, watching Seattle travel around the country and watching it take off and even the joke from the singles movie when it was a Matt Dylan, right from the band, he said, we're big in Belgium. The big the big joke was they were big in Belgium. They couldn't do shit locally, but they were big in Belgium.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:18:41
Talking here with Cliff Poncia. Cliff, any comments on the Seattle Sound and Citizen Dick's place in it? Well, I don't like to reduce us just as being part of the Seattle sound. I like to think of us expanding more. Like, we're huge in Europe right now. I mean, we've got records. A big record just broke in Belgium.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:19:02
And these bands in the early 90s were touring in Europe and being well received. It's almost like I'm america is a little bit late on the whole scene.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:19:14
America has actually been late to its own music cycles on a couple of occasions. You just mentioned that one. Then I think back to 1981. It really took MTV to really get the keyboards happening with Soft Cell and Duran Duran, Human League and to get that stuff going.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:19:34
Maybe because we don't have mass transit. That like lack of mass transit sounds.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:19:47
And a band like Soundgarden in 1988. I was playing it on college radio at the time and I had it in the more hard rock and possibly the the metal side of things. But it's grunge.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:19:59
Yeah, but grunge has so much oh, God, I said the G word. It has so much hard rock influence. If you talked to Kim Thale, Sabbath was a huge influence for him. So, yeah, there's there's huge roots.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:15
What's wrong with the G word?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:20:17
Well, I love Megan Jasper from Sub Pop when the New York Times interviewed her and wanted kind of the vernacular that went with the music scene and she made it all up. And I know that we need a word to describe the scene and I know the music is grungy, but being from Seattle, I try not to use the word.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:39
So I can totally understand that because when we say grunge, immediately people think alison Chains, Pearl Jam Soundgarden, Nirvana. But there are these other bands from Seattle, too, who don't get that G word. Queensryche.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:20:53
Right. Well, they're so part of it. So then you don't hear about Screaming Trees and then you don't hear about Satchel and then you don't hear about Brad. And then you don't hear about Green Apple Quickstep. And then you don't hear about Sweetwater and then you don't hear about Goodness or Karaokery or Hammerbox or the Gets or I mean, Slater Kenny, Brandy, Carlisle. I mean, the whole breadth and depth of our music scene.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:17
Thank you for mentioning Brad. I will need to go and jog my memory with that because somebody took me to the concert.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:21:24
Oh, Brad and Satchel. Sean Smith. My vocal angel. Their music always would ground me when I was having a bad day. I would put on Brad or Satchel or some solo Sean Smith and the day would look completely different.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:39
So what about a band that had had a hit before Nirvana? Like Queensryche. A little bit more on the progressive side. And obviously a band I know that you're very close to and and you've worked with and I think you had a national radio show with them. Were you doing an album launch?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:21:56
I think, with them I did three. We did a world premiere of Promised Land out of Bad Animal Studios made that studio rest in peace. They just tore down the building. And the listening party was at the Museum of Flight, which was amazing because Krista Garma was a new pilot at the time. So, anyway, we did that, did a concert special and then they did the album Here in the Now Frontier. We did a live thing at Sakura, New Mexico, at the Very Large Array. That was crazy. In regards to Grunge or the Seattle music scene. Unfortunately. Queensryche, I think got overlooked. Their biggest album, Empire, was 1991. But as more formula rock was coming out and the new music scene was taking over, queen Strike didn't get into the sentence in many instances. They also were held prisoner by the pop music scene where the clubs in Seattle didn't play original music. Their first show was RKI's W, rising Star show in the Paramount. They opened up for Zebra in 1983. That was their first show and then had to find different ways to do concerts because the clubs were all the pre recorded, non original music. Seattle music scene changed that because they worked together and rented VFW halls and student union buildings and put on their own shows if the clubs weren't going to give them the time of day. So created the demand and then the clubs turned around and the whole scene changed.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:23:43
Queensryche also had some pretty good back catalog and some other songs that would get played on radio not only in Seattle, but across America. And Jet City Woman did quite well. Another rainy night without you and then here in the now frontier I enjoyed it as a record, but to your point, I think it was sort of lost in and amongst all the other stuff that was being thrust down that 19 94 95 era, which was strange.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:24:11
Well, and I think it goes to kind of the trappings of trends, fads, labels, genres. It's either all or nothing. There was a point I came across an interview that I did with Candlebox shortly after they released their first record in 94 95. And they had trouble getting a record deal because they were from Seattle, because Seattle had saturated so much. And so every label had to have their Seattle band. So nirvana. We were talking Nirvana 91. So by 94, I don't think there's any reference to Seattle on their debut record other than the lyrics and the context. But they were not marketed as a Seattle band and they get left out of the shuffle because of that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:00
I kind of felt that the record company was telling me to add this hairband.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:25:06
Candlebox a hairband?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:08
Yeah. I thought that was very strange because they didn't know what to do with it because they weren't going to call it grunge.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:25:13
You can't yeah. By that time, it had saturated so much. The Fashion Week in New York had $400 versions of Eddie Vetter's thrift shop jacket that he wore, and people were just like, I'm up to here with, okay, enough of Seattle. So how to get under the radar and get through all of that?
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:33
I mean, are you rolling your eyes like the Eddie Vetter jacket and that stuff? I mean, it's surreal.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:25:38
Well, I think the surreal thing from being on the sidelines in the epicenter of where it was happening, we knew in 88 there was something happening, and we knew it was going to be big. The rest of the country caught on in 90 91, and by 90 94, Seattle was a four letter word. So we by 90 94 or I can just speak about me personally. I was just holding on for the ride. I mean, by that time, everything was happening so fast. The second album from Pearl Jam, Broke Records when it came out, sold a million copies in one week, which at the time was absolutely unheard of. Eddie was on the cover of Time magazine. It's just like it was so big that there was no bringing it back. We were surfing at that point.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:31
The records came fast and furious. What sort of national attention did your station or Seattle or you get being at the epicenter of it all at the beginning?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:26:41
Or are we still talking at 94.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:44
Right in the middle of the tsunami?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:26:48
We were in an interesting position. KISW was always known for breaking new artists and known for supporting the local scene. And certainly I'm not going to negate the other players. There was an alternative station in the market at the time, the End KXRX, which was kind of an offshoot from KISW and some of our old staff, they would play local artists and then the college radio station KCMU, which is now KEXP. All of us supported the local scene. So for Ki ASW, and for me personally, labels were looking for us to if a local artist was releasing a major label release, they were counting on us to play it. Now we had to play it to help build the audience to get them the deal in the first place. So there were many situations during the tsunami where we had played a single or a song for upwards of a year before the label released it as a single, then needed our support in order to get the rest of the country to pay attention. Temple of the Dog was a perfect example where it was released in 91. But it wasn't until Ten became multiplatinum and Soundgarden had released, I believe, Bad Motor Finger, then an M rereleased Temple of the Dog because there was now an audience paying attention and it gave Andrew Wood the focus. The lead singer of Mother Loved Bone that we lost tragically gave him and Mother Loved One the attention that they deserved in this tribute project, Temple of the Dog, we had already played Temple of the Dog for a year and a half and it was being treated like this brand new thing. So we would play it, but we would play it as many times as we wanted to play it because we couldn't brow beat the local audience. Our job was to serve the local audience, but we were a huge factor. Everybody was paying attention on what we were playing. And because it was a highly competitive radio market, it wasn't just Seattle bands. At a certain point, I was one of the early supporters of Tool in getting Tool off the ground. The bands from across the border. We would play in Seattle when other places in the United States wouldn't even be paying attention. It was an interesting balancing act from a business standpoint, but ultimately, it was super serving the artists and the audience and the vibe that KISW was known for. Focusing on our market, that's who we were there for.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:29:15
And that's what I did. I would take the Billboard magazine or the RnR. I would flip to the page and look and see, oh, what's KISW playing this week? And then I would go through my stack of records and say, well, they played this 30 times. Let's find out why they're playing this 30 times. I would listen to it. They might be on to something. We would put it on the air in Edmonton or Montreal or wherever I was working at the time, if I was allowed to, and I could convince the program director, and Tool is a great example of that, because I remember having the conversation with my program director saying, Tool, Sober, what's this? And I couldn't figure out where it fit. It wasn't grunge.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:29:55
It was an illegal. Its own. We always talked about in the early days of radio, we talked about the faceless bands and Rush and Pink Floyd come to mind as classic examples. Tool is also in that category that in the early days, because we were seeing them in smaller places, we had them headline an outdoor show. For us, it was little men on stage making big, big sound. But at a certain point, seeing Tool live in concert, it's bigger than that. They've entered that faceless genre of, you just remember Tool, and you don't see Little Men on stage playing instruments. It's just this huge experience. And so I started playing them off the Opiate album at Metal Radio. And then when Underto came out and Sober was a single, I think they released Prison Sex as a single. Before that, I had worked with Zoo Records because they were about to run out of marketing money, and nobody could convince them to invest more. And so the. Label reps that I was working with and the success that we were having, you guys have to really, seriously reconsider this. And at a certain point, they put more marketing muscle behind it and that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:31:12
Record really sort of lay the groundwork. It would be probably six months, maybe close to a year that maybe a station like WAAAF in Boston would be running it. And then I think it was 95 when Enema came out and everybody was ready for it at the same time.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:31:31
Sober was a single for almost two years. So imagine being the first station to play it. And how long do you keep that going without absolutely burning out your audience? We could do it easily because KISW was known internationally for going deep on records while we were playing the single. And maybe the spends weren't hitting the 30s like other radio stations were. We were playing four other tracks. It's like, let's just play the whole damn thing.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:31:59
Here's some other bands that I have drawn inspiration from. Thank you. To the songs that you added. The music of Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:32:08
Oh, my God. I had the most amazing conversation with Kenny Wayne Shepherd when he came through town this last time. And his dad, since I have the same name, I would always call Ken Shepherd Daddy Wayne Shepherd. So it was Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Daddy Wayne Shepherd. They told me a story that I had never heard. They were stunned that we at Ki Double U started playing Kenny's debut album, which I think was 96, if I'm not mistaken, because they said, the land of grunge has no place for the southern root rock of Kenny Wayne Shepherd. And it helped break them open to other stations that otherwise they may not have been given the time of day, you still go back to the roots of rock. And Seattle had huge success with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Leonard Skinnard and other, for lack of a better term, please don't hate me for saying the meat and potatoes of rock. And there was no question his youth, his talent and the edge on that record, it didn't stand out. It fit right in with Sound Garden and Pearl Jam and Heart and Led Zeppelin and Sabbath. It fit right in with the little music salad we made every day.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:34
And the meat and potatoes, which actually goes into the salad, was banned to at the time. I mean, the way we were we'd been talking about KISW. People are going to think that it's been like wall to wall grunge, but no, of course not. You've got it. You threw in a little bit of Kenny Wayne Shepherd and then the meat and potatoes rock. I think of at the time, cry of Love from 1993, I think of Brother Cain.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:34:01
We've had huge success with Brother Cain, and what was so great is they ended up coming to Seattle and they recorded their Seeds album I believe, in London Bridge Studios, the Land of Pearl Jam singles, temple of the Dog, and Alison Chains Motherland. Yeah, they fit right in.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:34:17
And as well, you're not far from Canada. So a band like the Tea Party also had a home with you?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:34:23
Oh, huge home. And bless their heart to me, their family, absolute family. I was invited by their label to see them at, I think it was the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, and they did one of their legendary four hour shows where Jeff Martin would pull out the bow and do his, you know, Zeppelin rendition on his guitar. And I know it's unfair to generalize his vocal quality and the similarities to Jim Morrison. And even with the power trio of Rush, there was something magical about the Tea Party in the musicianship that those three men could create on stage. We were a huge market for Rush. We were a huge market for many of the artists from across the border. And the Tea Party was one of our rising stars and could sell out the Paramount without even blinking. So it was a joy to work with them. And I'm very grateful that we're still friends to this day.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:35:20
More with Cathy in just a second, including that whole Metallica napster thing. And what was it like to work with Steve Young as her PD? Long time listeners of this show have heard stories about Steve Young and other episodes from his time at places like City FM in Winnipeg, CJ in Calgary, and Wnewfm in New York.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:35:40
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Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:36:02
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Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:36:08
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Matt Cundill (Host) 00:36:11
What was it like working with Steve Young?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:36:14
Dynamic in every way possible. His arrival to KISW, which was as everything was blowing wide open, I didn't know much about his broadcasting past. I was adjusting to a lot of change from us losing a lot of our staff in the late 80s when KXRX became a radio station, and the history of Kiw and the people that I had first exposure to radio with. So he was the new guy that was hired, but he was hired with the blessing, hired by Bo Phillips, who was the brainchild of the legend that is KISW. So if it had Bo's seal of approval, I figured, let's give Steve let's not be Northwest cold to everybody steve, when he walks in the door as a manager and working with him as a I was music director at the time, or he promoted me to music director. So he was program director and I was music director. It was an honor to work side by side with him. He taught me strategy, programming strategy, local competing radio market strategy, how to align with other radio stations. Because Alternative was being treated more like the top 40 of rock. AOR was being kind of left in the dust as far as access to artists. So we worked with AAF and other active rock stations and created our own format. We called it Active Rock and we worked together as an alliance to say we broke a lot of these artists. And you can't count out the power of an AOR radio station, which is the age old war between Hume based listening and time spent listening. And they're just they're both necessary for the success of music and for a good listening experience. But at that time, they were treated as nemesis, competing where one would win over another. So he taught me so much. I miss him very much and treasure the years that we were able to work together.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:38:27
What was the music meeting like every week? How did it start? How did you arrive to the records that you would bring into the meeting? Would you play them? How would you come to a consensus over where the song goes on the radio, if at all?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:38:41
Wow, you're triggering 30 year old memories. So let me see if I can coalesce it into a succinct answer for you. We had a few people in the music meeting. I would do a music call day where the labels would come either in person or by phone because of the stature of KISW. When Steve Young was program director, I felt bad for the locals, but I would hear from the national reps more than I would hear, not more than I would hear from the locals. But the nationals were really spending a lot of time trying to convince us to play stuff. So after doing that on a Thursday, Monday was our music meeting because I think Tuesday is when the reports go out to the trades for publishing. So the music meeting would probably last about an hour. I would narrow down to maybe five choices. We didn't add a lot of records. Our current playlist, like our global playlist of all the different categories, was vast. But the currents or the new songs that we focused on was a very short list. There was hot, medium and light rotations, and the whole list would fit on about three quarters of a page. So we would maybe add one record a week, if we were lucky. And we would pack it for those who know music software. We would pack it depth songs of a new artist to cultivate the new single. So it wasn't like, here's one single and here's another single and do it linearly, one after another. We would always have a current spot that had multiple new songs. Then I would talk about the pressure politics from labels and Steve Young's poker Face is the one thing that I would always remember, that we do things because they work for us and they work for the band. And if it doesn't do that, then we're not going to move. We'll just wait.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:40:36
I'm going to guess and say that the Pressure Politics was a flyaway to go and see the band. It might be additional promotion. What would entail some of that? Pressure politics.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:40:49
Yeah, you're right on the money on that. And also the pressure politics that had nothing to do with our radio station. And that's that it was a priority for the label, whether it was a Seattle artist or a non Seattle artist. So I would say pressure politics, that's the first that I think of. First something that's someone else's agenda and not ours. But it's a balancing act because if you do support something early enough, they're going to highlight your market or they'll do more promotional once in a lifetime experiences between the artist and the audience. And that was always very important to me. But I wasn't going to sell out the radio station or the audience in order to do that meeting in the middle, sure, we could definitely do that. Steve taught me a lot about the patience of waiting until it's right.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:39
I had a moment when I was playing golf with Damon Johnson from Brother Cain and two weeks before the band had been dropped from their label, yet the song is still doing really well on our radio station and we're in heavy. We've got the band in town, they're going to play our Halloween party and the label is dropping it. And I go, what's that about? And it's to what you said. The goals of a record label have nothing to do with the goals of the radio station. And that's the goal alignment. And I know a lot of people who listen to radio over the decades have thought, oh, well, it's a one to one kind of relationship. And I'm like, no, it's not. They want to sell records, we want to entertain listeners, and those two things don't meet in the middle. And I think it may have been Steve who told a few of the people that I worked with that's A turntable hit. And a Turntable hit is a song that does really, really well on the radio, but they don't sell any records.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:42:34
And you need to pair it with a live experience where those artists, many times the audience won't pull the cash out of their wallet and actually physically buy the music until they see them live. And Brother Kane fell into that category for us because their sales would absolutely explode after they played locally. They can mix in and get lost in the shuffle on the air like, it's a great song, but is it worth buying the whole record and seeing them live? There's no question the answer to that is yes.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:43:06
When Kissw did not perform well in the ratings. Why not? By the way? It's always been a ratings leader, but when it sort of wobbled a bit, why?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:43:17
I think there's a multitude of variables. I think every radio station goes through growing pains. I think the best answer that I can give you is there is nothing that is static. So if you are going to experiment in new areas, the audience may like the direction you're going or may not like the direction that it's going. As Kiw got older, and I think management had the hard question, they had to answer, does the age automatically mean heritage? Or does the legacy of Kiw evolve with the generations? And I think under Dave Richards and now Ryan Castle's leadership, kiw has proven that you can be a heritage radio station without playing 50 year old songs 24 hours a day. You can evolve with your audience and know that you're going to lose some and some young ones are going to come in and you're going to stand the test of time. But there's definitely going to be time in there where you're experimenting with how heritage you go or how cutting edge you go, that the audience is going to go, you know what? I need a break. Or society or the culture is going to evolve. That's going to change people's interests where they're just going to take a break. And that could happen too. The adage of, I don't know where the ratings are now, but NPR definitely changed the ballgame at a certain point where people were listening to it all day instead of listening to music. Or as technology, people learned how to get things on demand more. So all those different phases, even the seasons, we would have ratings changes. Top 40 or pop radio stations would do better in the summer, so we had to have better promotions. So we bought a hydroplane.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:45:10
So as we get to the end of the 90s, along comes Napster. And then this inevitable I guess it was music debate came up and at the center of it was Metallica with the song I Disappear, which went out over Napster, which went on a radio station, was started to be played. And you interviewed the band a couple of times.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:45:29
It's so funny. Just as an aside, I found a box of cassettes and I've been putting some in every day to listen to, to see what's there. And the one that I found just a few weeks ago was my interview with Lars talking about tipster. So it's so fresh in my head.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:45:48
Well, what do you say?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:45:49
The song wasn't finished. What started the whole thing is the concept of just because you have it, doesn't mean it's your decision to share it. It should be the band's decision to share it. And that's what started the whole mess. And then it evolved into, how could Metallica censor me and not allow me access to this song. Well, it's their freaking song, for God's sake. And if it isn't the version that they wanted released, I don't know why we're having this conversation.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:46:26
So I had a similar conversation with Art Alexakis from Everclear. I suggested it might be a good thing for that to happen. And he called me an idiot and said that was the dumbest thing he's ever heard. And I thought, well, it took a while, but then, yeah, he's right.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:46:43
Yeah, he's totally right. And I know that music was used as a testing ground for technology. And in order for people to make technology part of their day to day lives, it had to be free. But I think in that journey that many people forget, because I live in the Generation X where I lived in analog and now I live in digital, that there is a price for art. There is a price. Metallica doesn't just whip these songs out in 30 seconds and just go, here, here's another one, or Here, here's another one. Artists should be compensated for their art. And when that was used as a vehicle to learn technology, we've forgotten the value of the content. And we're currently, I believe, in the information wars of who owns the content. That's why I had to choose between upgrading Paramount Plus to watch the Grammys or wait a day and watch it on my regular streaming service. I don't have TV anymore, so I was surprised that a access type broadcast like the Grammys would not be available on a standard streaming service. I had to pay extra for the privilege to watch the Grammys. I thought that was very interesting this year. That was my crazy observation. So I held out 24 hours and stayed off social media, so I didn't get the real time updates. But I think we need to remember that the art is their property, and I think the artist should have a say in how their material is circulated. Being first isn't necessarily the most important play here.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:48:28
One of the things you just turned me on to was that the music was a testing ground for the tech sector to exchange information and these commodities, necessarily, yeah, a new vehicle to experience.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:48:40
Music, and I believe Bill Gates refers to it quite frequently. And then there's a book called Sing the Body Electric that talks about the early days of Microsoft.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:48:49
And it took a long time, though, but that began to affect radio. But it was in a more slow and strange kind of way.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:48:57
Well, and I know that being 20 minutes from the Microsoft campus, we, as terrestrial radio at Kiw, partnered with them on I hosted many MSN broadcasts. We utilized it as a tool to further the one on one relationship between the audience and the artist. It was a great promotional pair to playing music on the air. And I think Kiw still does a masterful job at it through their social media and their behind the scenes stuff or podcasts or the ability that if you're not hearing it live, you have an opportunity to not miss out. Yeah.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:49:34
I'm very disappointed though, because I can't listen to the radio station because Odyssey only they cut it off at the border.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:49:41
I know, we didn't use to cut it off at the border. I'm so sorry.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:49:47
Maybe I could get it if I could get the Odyssey app. But I can't get the Odyssey app because it's not available in Canada.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:49:55
Even if you have the app because it doesn't work on my phone when I'm in Canada.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:49:59
Yeah, I've tried to get to David Field about this and explain if you have podcasts and you want to promote them on the Odyssey app, we should be able to get them around the world. But he hasn't returned my call yet on that.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:50:11
I'm so sorry. It's not a decision I would have made. I believe that the Internet is supposed to it would be nice if it didn't have Borders. Yeah.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:50:22
I'm not a Geo block guy.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:50:24
Yeah, I'm not either.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:50:26
How did you find yourself out of radio?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:50:28
I chose to leave, I guess. Kind of like kiss. I retired and then I went back into radio. I worked for a couple of other radio stations. Two things. One, I had been developing a voiceover career. Started in the mid ninety s to supplement the radio income, which is not always as healthy as it could be, but it got to a point where I had to choose one or the other. And around the same time, my mother was in the mid to late stages of Alzheimer's. So doing voiceovers and working a few hours a day so I could spend the rest of my time with her. Fortunately, the door was open and I got to visit Kiwis and be on air every few years. Filling in for people. Most recently was right before the Pandemic when I covered for Taron, who works at night. She was on maternity leave, so I got to be on the air for four months, which was the board's changed a lot in 30 years, but I didn't make too many mistakes with that board. It was crazy.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:51:23
Do you listen to radio today outside of NPR?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:51:26
I do, actually. I live in the San Juan Islands, so I'm between Seattle and Canada. So I listen to a lot of Canadian radio.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:51:35
Well, you can go ahead and mention which stations. I'm sure people would be stoked to hear that.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:51:40
Well, there's the queue. I always have the queue on when I'm outside doing yard work. I listen to a lot of different radio, but doing voiceovers for a large chunk of the day and all of the different demands on our listening, I try and give my ears a break. I do probably lean on my Apple Music account and my CD player more than anything else because I still get sent a lot of. There's three bands locally that sent me new stuff that they're working on. And so I put it on and I just listen to it over and over and over and over and over again until it becomes part of me. And then I give them a critique or give them some feedback and we make some plans. So I don't listen to as much radio as I would like. And you may have this curse when you listen to radio, your programming brain kicks in. So there's a point where it does kind of feel like work.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:52:36
Oh, nobody wants to be sitting beside me when the radio is playing. It's a live air check every time.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:52:43
My husband's so used to it now that after a big break he goes, how is that? And I go, well, do you really want to know? No.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:52:49
So tell me about the voiceover business. What do you specialize in? What do you find yourself doing the most of and how much do you love it?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:52:57
I love it. I love it a lot. The majority of my voiceover work is in Elearning training or different information narration that you need the content on the web and you got to have a narration to it. The other area that I focus on is IVR or app based or phone based voiceovers, voice activated directory systems or explainer videos. On here is this product. Do you want to buy it? So stuff I like is the Elearning stuff the most because each day I get to learn new things and get paid to read it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:53:34
You get to read it slowly too, and at a slower pace. I don't mean to say it's the easier read, but between that and the IVR, it's easier than the other stuff.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:53:45
Yeah, the IVR. When I first got into IVR, I had a huge account where I would get a file of I was just reading names. It was like names and addresses and they all had to sound the same. So I would spend four or 5 hours saying Joe's Garage, Bob's Garage, Betty's Garage and it had to have the same inflection and the same tone and a lot of names.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:54:11
We started off with Joe's Garage and I thought we were going to bust into Frank Sapa.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:54:16
I would need that to recover. But I love it. It's a lot of fun. And with technology I can work out of my house and live in a remote area, so I have absolutely no complaints.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:54:25
So that same conversation that we had about Metallica and being the artist and what happens to the work, you're obviously very conscious about it when it comes to your voice and where it goes and how you license it. How do you approach an AI project? Because I look at it and I just go, no, I think there might be a problem down the road. I'm not sure about its usage. And will I get repurposed and do I trust these people who are emailing me now? If it came from my agent, I would be more inclined to say yes. I think this is something I would take on.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:54:57
I think when it comes to AI and computers, and more importantly, how companies are bought and sold at the drop of a hat, you don't know whose hands they end up in. So I think it's just as dangerous if you're booking it yourself versus if an agent's booking for you. The adage that I go by is so far, knock on wood. My voice has not been created in an AI outside of my knowledge that I can police the usage pretty well. And I have had a small handful of issues in 40 years or 33 years, so I don't worry about it all that much. I'm pretty selective on the quantity of projects that I take on because I want to be able to superserve my clients and be available doing elearning. There's a lot of updates and future modules or I try and keep my portfolio a little more snug. So I'm not really interested in taking on a huge AI project at this time. Like you said, I think there's still some stuff that needs to get sorted out and just because you do the session doesn't mean it can go into every evolution and different package that in a technology way that perhaps we can't see. But the Beatles didn't see CDs, so, I mean, it's going to happen. The technology is going to continue to move forward. I guess, like you, I'm just picky.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:56:30
What is the one piece of memorabilia that you own that you're going to keep to the end.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:56:36
Wow. Well, I guess I'll show it to you after we get done. But I have a Seattle wall that I'm looking at in my office and it has my gold record from Alison Chains and my platinum record from Soundgarden and my autographed poster from Mother Lovebone. So if you're asking me to pick one, I'm just going to say this wall, what's on this wall over here? On the back of it? I have recently put postits on the back for my son that if I get hit by a bus, he will get it appraised before he sends it to Goodwill.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:57:08
You're not planning on being hit by a bus anytime soon, are you?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:57:11
No, but if you're getting hit by a bus, you don't plan for that, you can't plan for that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:57:16
I think about that, too. What are my kids going to do with all this stuff?
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:57:19
Yeah, it's just stuff. I mean, that's what I keep getting stuck on, it's just stuff. But I do know I did not introduce my son to Seattle music. I did play some songs when he was about nine, but I wanted him to have his own musical journey. And of all of the Seattle artists, he found Nirvana and absolutely loves Nirvana. I had a poster, a promotional poster, huge promotional poster like they would have at the Tower Records locations of Nevermind, and it got destroyed in some water damage. And I mentioned it to him, not really realizing how big Nirvana was to him. And he would throw away everything on my wall right now if he could have that poster. Me losing that poster, I still can't live it down, but I did not plan for the water damage that we got.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:58:14
So, Kathy, it's been absolutely great to talk to you. I had a two minute phone call with you way back in the I'm glad I got more than an hour out of you now.
Cathy Faulkner (Guest) 00:58:23
Bless your heart. It was so fun to talk to you today and hearing your stories about looking at our playlists and the decisions we made, that blows my mind. That is such a wonderful compliment and thank you for that perspective.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:58:40
The Sound Off podcast is written and hosted by Matt Kendall, produced by Evan Social Media by Courtney Krebsbach. Another great creation from the Sound of media company. There's always email@example.com.