Stephen Keppler: Some Good News
Updated: Sep 13
For natives of Kelowna, B.C., Stephen Keppler requires no introduction. But on the off chance you're not from around there, Stephen is the morning drive host at Move 101.5 in Kelowna, one of the largest radio shows in B.C.
Morning show hosts nowadays have a bit of a reputation for making easy content- lots of audience text and phone lines, asking questions like "What's your worst concert experience? Call in and let us know," so on and so forth.
This summer, though, things haven't been quite so easy for Stephen. If you've been watching the news, you'll have heard of the disastrous forest fires wrecking the West Coast for the last few months. It just so happens that keeping people informed about, and safe from, those fires has become a huge part of Stephen's job.
Stephen talks to us about his humble origins as a radio-loving kid in Edmonton, his roles on morning shows at a huge number of large radio stations in Western Canada, and of course, what it was like helping people avoid those raging fires.
For more of Stephen, listen in to Move 101.5 in the morning if you're in the Kelowna area. If not, you can listen online here!
You can also connect with Stephen on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. If you do, you should also follow the Instagram page for his segment called Some Good News, which (as the name implies) focuses on bringing you news stories that might actually make your day a little better.
What radio does best is communicate in a time of emergency. While the main radio station Instagram and Facebook accounts were being suppressed by Meta due to poor Bill C-18 Canadian legislation, Stephen took to his own account to communicate information.
Radio station social media accounts are not the "be all and end all". In fact - many are currently the "end all" as they don't work. Let your personalities post equally on their social media accounts and the stations' accounts. One hand washes the other.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:02
The Sound Off Podcast. The show about podcast and broadcast starts now.
Matt Cundill 00:13
Steven Keppler is the morning show host at Move 101.5 in Kelowna. If you're a regular listener of this show, you'll know that I think Kelowna is one of the best markets in Canada to spend some time doing radio. There were some serious forest fires over there this summer, and radio played a significant role in keeping people informed and safe. And they did it in the face of Facebook's depressing news. I'll just cut right to the lesson. Live radio is better than Facebook. Stephen is going to tell us about his career, and even his early years in Edmonton, where he grew up listening to radio in one of the most competitive markets in Canada. Now, Stephen Keppler joins me from his vacation home in Whistler, British Columbia, where I'm examining and scrutinizing his microphone's setup. What would you do with an iRig on remote? How does that work?
Stephen Keppler 01:01
So we can actually take this on remote easily if you have the software, just the app and I for- the record it live app. And all you would do- I mean in Edmonton, where other stations you just upload via FTP, but actually with a record it live, you can upload, or you can connect directly into the board. And then an off will record you.
Matt Cundill 01:24
Where'd you go to high school? Was it in Edmonton?
Stephen Keppler 01:26
Yeah, Jasper Place High School. Not far from where you worked at The Bear. So I went there to high school from 2000 to 2003. I think you were at The Bear, I want to say late 90s. Early 2000s. Right?
Matt Cundill 01:38
Stephen Keppler 01:39
Yeah. So we drove by that station all the time. All the time in my '91- What was it called? Shoot. Plymouth Sundance? No, Sunbird? No, that was my brother's car. Yeah, just our- our piece of crap cars.
Matt Cundill 01:56
Yeah. And I'm reminded, I know exactly where that high school is. I don't know why. I know. It's off 163 Street.
Stephen Keppler 02:02
Yep! Right next to Saint FX. So there was two high schools on that giant city block there. And our lives were at the mall. So we'd, we- I lived in Lewis Estates at the time. And we had moved there from British Columbia. And so it was my first- Edmonton was my first taste of taking the city bus and a big city for me at the time. And boy did I cut my teeth there as a- as a young, young football player. And it was a good high school to go to. What's really strange though, is my niece just started grade 10 there last week, and so it's just bringing back all the memories.
Matt Cundill 02:40
I remember Lewis Estates for its very cool golf course. I also- and my buddy Gordon Giles, who I played soccer with, had a place down there. I doubt he still lives there. Maybe he still does. But that was my only ventures into Lewis Estates. Actually, there were a few soccer players that I played with who had houses in there. It was- it was all new back then. It's not new anymore.
Stephen Keppler 03:01
Yeah, it was brand new then, now there's the River Cree. And there's about five other surrounding neighborhoods, but the Hamptons, like my wife and I, we moved back to Edmonton when I got a job there working for Corus. And we bought in a neighborhood that was Winterburn. I think it was right next to Winterburn school. But it was a- it was a farmland when I was in high school, and then moving back, it's just like this urban sprawl.
Matt Cundill 03:25
And you really were a mall kid, because you had an early gig working the Boston Pizza at the mall.
Stephen Keppler 03:31
How'd you know that?
Matt Cundill 03:33
I do my research, my friend. That is funny. Was Hooters still in the mall? Is Hooters still in the mall?
Stephen Keppler 03:35
Actually, my brother started working there when he was 16. He was a busser. And I was in between gigs as an actor. And I got a job working there because we knew the management. Like I know the owner, Troy Houseworth, one of the nicest guys you'll ever hang out with, and he owns a couple of BPs now. That was such a fun, fun gig because you met so many different people and interesting people from across the world, like people from the Netherlands trying to order a barbecue chicken pizza, when they kept saying pork or like- and you just have to learn how to be a communicator and it was- it was a cool job. Yeah. Hooters is gone, but it was when I was there. But now it's called First Round, it's like a bar. Or it's like a sports pub. So they have a lot more TVs now and it's less scandalous I guess. I don't know, Hooters- We went there in high school. We we'd order like the cheapest stuff on the menu and be just gross.
Matt Cundill 04:41
You're not- You're not the first Edmonton actor to appear on this show. Because Christian Zyp, who's a long time CJSR guy, and you're nodding your head. Do you know of this individual?
Stephen Keppler 04:52
I know of Christian Zyp. I don't- I don't think we've ever met. Which is crazy because we've been in that commu- We were both in that like the theatre community, and a little bit of the film community as well. So it's like crazy how- it's crazy how many actors will be- will get into broadcasting, because I think it just comes natural- like being natural comes natural to us.
Matt Cundill 05:14
CJSR is his radio gig. He's had it for 25 years. But his claim to fame with me is is how we met. And I'll just tell people to roll back in the episodes and go listen to that 90 minute episode of the story- of his story, which is a rather incredible Edmonton story of how he got meningitis, and he lost his limbs, etc, etc. So, and I mentioned that because we also played soccer together as well. Wow. Yeah, that's- again, he's never worked for radio station. We count CJSR though, right? Because it's a- it's a good-
Stephen Keppler 05:45
I count CJSR because there's so many people who talk about like, it's got like this cult following in Edmonton. And if you're- if you live in Edmonton, and you don't know what CJSR is, then I guess you haven't lived in Edmonton long enough. There's- you know what, Derek Scott, he's guy I met in Kelowna, and he's back in Edmonton. And he wants to get this old radio show he had with his buddy, Pharaoh. And it was called Evil Petting Zoo. And they played all sorts of like, just like rap, like, indie rap and really unique stuff. And that's why I like CJSR, because they- they play whatever they want. Like you could almost say they had- they were one of the last station staff disc jockeys, right? Like where they play whatever they wanted, and what they were feeling at the time.
Matt Cundill 06:33
My first weekend in Edmonton in 1994, I took a look to see what was going on. It was the Fringe Festival. And that's a big deal for anybody who's an actor in Edmonton. It's- it's the Superbowl of Fringe Festivals for- Oh, yeah. It's big. It's good.
Stephen Keppler 06:51
It's the second largest Fringe Festival in the world, next to the Edinburgh Fringe. And it's a- it's a riot. Like, if you're not performing in the Fringe, what you do is you go down to the beer tent, you hang out and you meet some artists, you hang out with some friends. And then you just go to shows. And doesn't really matter what show you see, because everything is unique and different. Like I performed in the Fringe and a children's show. And I remember a mob of friends coming to see it just because they were- you know, they were bored in the afternoon. And they came and it was like you're performing- like, you felt like a rock star. And then other times you go to the Fringe at like 10 o'clock at night and you think everything's winding up? Well no, there's a 12:30 showing of Bat Boy the Musical at La Citee Francophone and you're like, Yeah, let's go. Let's check it out. And you're blown away at this unique musical that you've never even heard of before, only knew through tabloids, right.
Matt Cundill 07:42
Do you have a story from the Black Dog Free house you want to share?
Stephen Keppler 07:47
I don't think so. I don't even- I don't think I have been to the Black Dogs since I saw Mostly Water Theater perform there. Unless you dug up some random story about me being there?
Matt Cundill 08:01
No, I just wanted to know if it still was what it was and is what it is, because that was my- that's where I hung out.
Stephen Keppler 08:07
I think the Black Dog is- I don't know, like I went to the Black Dog when I was fresh 18 to go listen to live music. That's all I really remember from it. And you'd go to- I think it was Squires? I think Squires was around then. And a couple of those other pubs who, I think they're all like gone. Which is, you know, that's- that's the nature of white half.
Matt Cundill 08:31
So your acting. Fringe. Jasper High School. And then your first experience with radio, I want to say, is Astral up on Stony Plain road.
Stephen Keppler 08:42
No. So I toured through Western Canada as an actor. So I did Jubilations Dinner Theater in West End mall there. And we went to Winnipeg, and we did shows at Celebrations Dinner Theater, and we'd go to Calgary and do shows there. And then I was doing film and television for a while. Actually, I have a pretty cool story about how I kind of started to get interested in radio. I was doing a indie project. And it was a Star Wars fan film. I don't want to get into who was the director because I think that's a long, long story. But I met Fearless Fred, he and I did a scene together. And we just kind of shot the shit. And what I loved about Fred was just how natural he was. And I was like, Dude, you're really killing this. He's like, cool, I've never acted before, yada yada, you know? And we had like two or three lines. It was very basic, but it was a Star Wars fan film. And if you know Fred, you'd be like that, that is on point. And he was working for The Bear at the time. And I was a starving actor. Like I was what some would say successful because I did be- I was in two Oscar-nominated films. But that doesn't mean you're an amazing actor. And it just means you you saw a little bit of success. So I remember seeing Fred leave with like a decent car, and I said, Dude, what do you do for a living? He's like, I'm in radio. And then we started chatting. And then I started listening to his show. I'd call in the odd time, but then you know, life happened. And my girlfriend at the time, my now wife, we moved to Vancouver. And that's when I started doing real film auditions, like for bigger movies. And I was like, trying to make it. Like this was 100 pounds ago, I was basically like, hauled into these cattle calls to be like, the next Edward from Twilight, and I looked around the room and I went, I'm not as good as these guys, but I'm really good at being myself. And then that's when I, just overnight, enrolled to be in Columbia Academy in Vancouver. And so AJ Junip and Dave Smith kind of guided me along the path of what it's like to be a radio announcer across Canada. And then out of nowhere I started working for- so my first radio experience per se was actually for Astral- so you were right there- in Richmond, which was Virgin Radio at the time, Shore 104. And I already forget what the AM station was. But that station was ran by Ronnie Stanton. And Taylor Jukes. Like they're so successful now. And then I just kind of would do whatever it needed- whatever anyone needed. I was the promo team, street team. But I did more than that. I went in, I said, I would go in on days where I wasn't doing anything and said, Do you guys need anything done? And I would just go out and do it. And yeah, it was pretty cool to learn from like Nat and Drew and Scooter, Aaron Davis, Crosby McWilliam, like so many really cool people working in that- in that building.
Matt Cundill 11:42
Tell me the difference between acting and being on the radio, I've always said that if you could be on the radio, you need to be yourself. But if you're acting, you have to play the role of something completely different. Is that fair? Did I get that right?
Stephen Keppler 11:55
It just depends on what kind of an actor you are. Like, every role I play is an extension of myself. So while you're right, I think it's- it's not as cut and dry as that, like, I tackled a role last year. So I still act. I don't do it professionally, per se, but I still get paid for it. But last year, we did SpongeBob the Musical. And I had to tap into my inner Patrick Star. And so just trying to like find my way around that role. I was like, Okay, well, what part of me is that kind of person in a vegetative- not not a vegetative state, but like, somebody who is just kind of mindless. And so I kind of tapped into a piece of myself where I'm able to shut my brain off. And it's kind of funny I say, that because you're always paying attention on stage. But there's certain roles you play where you need- your eyes need to say that you're- there glazed over. And so I was definitely Patrick Star. You know, my closest friends wil be like, Oh, Kep, you were so Keppler at this moment in your life, and they point out those things, which is really cool. So, while you're right, I mean, I don't think there's a wrong answer to that- that statement either. Like there's nothing wrong about it. So, yeah, yeah I guess.
Matt Cundill 13:08
You've also done a number of roles in radio, you mentioned marketing, but you've also sold.
Stephen Keppler 13:13
Yes, that was my first job.
Matt Cundill 13:16
Tell me about the sales experience.
Stephen Keppler 13:21
So when I was in Vancouver, I was faced with an opportunity. So it was to stay with Astral, which would- which had been purchased by Bell. And Ronnie had offered me overnights at Virgin Radio Vancouver, and so did Taylor. They kind of pulled me into their office, and it was pretty exciting. And I was actually going to fill in as a producer for Scooter when he was away. So I was definitely making my way up the ranks. But I believe you need to go cut your teeth, I believe you need to go somewhere and fail. I believe you need to learn as many jobs as you possibly can in this industry, to make yourself a Swiss Army knife. So a job that popped up for Astral/Bell in Golden, B.C. And it was sales and on air mornings. And I went okay, that's a morning show. We need that. Can I do sales? And I thought, well, I'm passionate about the product. I need to learn. What better way for me to go to a market size of 3000 people and just go in and kind of fail every day, and learn every day, and become something greater? Because I think- and it was great, like, Golden was the hardest job I ever worked in radio. You know, you wake up, you do your morning show, and then after, you're out there hoofing it, going to mom and pop shops. This isn't like going to a business where they have all the money to spend on their advertising. No, you're going to mom and pop shops, and you're selling ads for two bucks a spot, so that they'll buy enough that they'll spend $95 a week for a month. Right? So look at that. $400 a month is actually a lot for a guy who owns his own shoe- shoe store. Or Doug Barrault who owns Barrault Furnishings, or the Sears outlet store. I mean, we had a Sears- Like there's just- there's something about it. But also, working there taught me- because I was out there in the community so much, it kind of just ingrained in me that you- to sell ads, you need to be out there and you need to be with people. You can't just be sitting in your studio, wasting your time there. You need to be out there connecting with people. And so I was never the greatest radio host out of Golden, ever. Chris Cameron, in my opinion is and was. He was the guy who was there before me. And he was awesome. But I think you're- I'm never going to be the best radio host, but what I'm going to be is your best friend, I'm gonna hang out with you, and we're going to- you're going to remember me, and I think that's that's like a big key- key takeaway that I had from Golden and we had some major successes there. One day, they got nominated for one of those Kraft $100,000 contests from TSN where if they got enough votes, they would get a new rink or $100,000-
Matt Cundill 16:07
Oh, the Hockeyville.
Stephen Keppler 16:08
Yes, thank you. Hockeyville was a different one. This was a- but they're all relatively the same. So I rallied the town for two weeks straight. I was out there handing out flyers saying hey, vote, vote, vote. I sold a remote to the grocery store. And it was my first remote ever, and I was there in front of the pop. All this, like, all the pop it in front of me, and I was just saying vote, vote, vote. They ended up winning, and it was really cool to see this town, like, come together. This tiny little town of 3000 people beat Revelstoke, and beat Salmon Arm, and beat Vernon a little bit. It was just really cool to see. So, and again, that was like my first taste of, okay, radio is powerful. You just need to be out there working with people. You can't just sit back and hope they come to you, right?
Matt Cundill 16:56
And then after Golden, did you go to New Cap?
Stephen Keppler 16:58
Yes, I went to Brooks, Alberta to be a music director and morning host and, and that was a fun station because I got to program the music the way I saw fit. Jeff Murray, man, that guy. He was so awesome to me. And same with John Petris, the station manager. But Jeff Murray, just he- he let me just go. He was like, yeah, just do what you think is right. Go- Go fail, go- Go have fun. And he really made radio fun for me.
Matt Cundill 17:24
And how long after it was- was it before like, you know, the Broosk station began to get amalgamated into, you know, other New Cap properties? And was that during your stint?
Stephen Keppler 17:34
No, I was only in Brooks for nine months. And then Abby White pulled me up to work at KG Country to take over for- Greg Shannon had already left and Tara Lee was still there. And Tara Lee just decided she was kind of- she needed a break from radio. And so they kind of they gave me the chair, basically. And I wasn't there too long. It was a pretty short stint, because Corus came calling after about three months in Red Deer. Edmonton was always on my list of radio- radio markets to work in. And not because it was home, but because Edmonton is the most competitive radio market in North America, I believe. And I could be totally wrong. And you could argue with me, but in my eyes at the time, I was like, I need to go somewhere and start competing and start learning- learning that side of the business. So I wasn't in Red Deer for very long before Corus came calling. Ronnie and Greg Johnson came calling and they said hey, we got an afternoon drive position open at 92.5 Fresh Radio. Why don't you come up and work for us? And I was like, Power 92, let's go.
Matt Cundill 18:45
Isn't it amazing? Like so many people would still call it Power 92 after all these years, and they probably even called up and gave the phrase that pays as well.
Stephen Keppler 18:52
Oh, absolutely. Like Power 92 plays today's best music, now show me my money. Like that was on people's answering machines. It was everywhere when I was in, you know, Junior High, High School in Edmonton. So to work at that station was like, Okay, this is awesome. And- and the cluster there. It was really cool, because he had KISN Country. And 630 CHED there as well. So it was- what a neat building to work at.
Matt Cundill 19:16
Yeah, I'm trying to remember exa- the exact address of the building. I think it's something like 63 Avenue and 90- anyway-
Stephen Keppler 19:24
Matt Cundill 19:25
Thank you, Roper road.
Stephen Keppler 19:26
Yeah, just this old- it's this giant warehouse of a of a radio station. It's awesome.
Matt Cundill 19:31
Yeah. And lots of talent having passed through that building over- over so many years. And you're at a heritage frequency at 92.5. And trucking along nicely. Did you get to do music there as well?
Stephen Keppler 19:43
I was an assistant music director, because I kind of said I'd like to continue to learn Musicmaster, but when I got there, we were using RDS selector so I had to learn how to use that, and I don't even- I don't think any other station uses RDS selector now, but I know how to use it which is great. I don't know if that's going to be helpful in 20 years, but learning as many programs as you can always helps. So, yeah, Paul O'Neill was the music director when I was there. And Paul O'Neill is a radio encyclopedia, like that guy knows about every station, about every frequency, who worked there, when they worked there, when they flipped formats. Like, he's a knowledgeable radio guy, just- and he, he really showed me that there's so many more passionate people about the business. And I love that. Paul was just so fun to work with.
Matt Cundill 20:30
And what's it like working back in your hometown?
Stephen Keppler 20:32
It was cool. Because you had old friends from high school who text the radio station and say, Is this Keppler? I say yes. And they say, like, Keppler, Keppler? The guy who ran down to the high school hallways in his full football gear and like, tried to fake tackle people? And like, yeah, that's me, that's me and- And it's just one of those things where your brothers are proud of you. Your family's proud of you, and you feel- you feel something about being in your hometown, you know the town. So when you get on the air, the first time you crack the mic, you already know what's going on in town, you already know what's going on in people's minds as they're driving home from work. So it's like you have this head start almost, because when you start in a new town, you got to learn like little things like who the mayor is, or, or what's the most frustrating traffic- traffic spot. And in Edmonton, I had already known that the rat hole was gone. But I already knew about the rat hole. And I think that's- that's a piece- that's a small piece of how you understand your market is like what's frustrating for them every single day. And now it's the white mud, in the hand day in the yellow head. And, you know, it's it's a different market now than it was four y- I left four years ago. But when I got there, I knew that Oilers are always a huge top- a top of mind conversation, and it was cool. So you could you could reference things that had happened 20 years earlier on the first day you're cracking the mic. And I think that's so powerful.
Matt Cundill 22:03
Within the first four days of me working in Edmonton, somebody called in to say that there was a problem at the rat hole and I said, What's the rat hole? He goes, you're not from here? No. And then he told me to fuck off and go home. Bear listeners, man.
Stephen Keppler 22:16
That was the Bear. Bear listeners, man, like they're- they're rough. Let me tell you, they- but I'd love to- That's a station I'd love to work on just so I could see all the- I think I would get attacked pretty easily on the Bear. I think the- I'm an- I'm an easy target for bullies. So like, I think I'd use that to my advantage.
Matt Cundill 22:34
Did the rat hole connect Fort road? Is that what it was?
Stephen Keppler 22:37
Yeah, it was just- it was a way to connect downtown. So it's been so long because the construction down there. I think you're right. I think it was Fort road. But it has been so long, since the rathole even existed, that I can't even- I couldn't tell you to be honest with you. I'd have to like Google it.
Matt Cundill 22:57
I'll do it after the show. Just for my own edification, just to go down memory lane here.
Stephen Keppler 23:03
Now, when you were in Edmonton, did they start building the hand day?
Matt Cundill 23:07
Stephen Keppler 23:08
Because I remember when the hand day was one quarter mile stretch between the white mud and Lazard road and we would take our '91 Sunfires and our- like high- in high school. We'd take our our beat up cars and we'd race them down that one stretch because nobody was on it.
Matt Cundill 23:25
Yes, that's all it was. And it was a fast strip of land where the police would hang out at some point they figured it out.
Stephen Keppler 23:34
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 23:54
The Sound Off Podcast supports podcasting 2.0, so feel free to send us a boost if you're listening on a newer podcast app. If you don't have a newer podcast app, you can get one at newpodcastapps.com.
Matt Cundill 24:08
Did you do what everybody else in Edmonton does? And that's when they get an opportunity, you leave Edmonton to go to Kelowna.
Stephen Keppler 24:18
Yeah, well, it's kind of funny. I- we had spent five years, almost five years in Edmonton, and they had flipped formats. And it was a tough time for me because I think I was successful at the new format because they wanted us to be content creators. And they wanted us to be not just jocks, and I think that was actually really good for me because I'm a bit of a Swiss army knife, like I can do just about anything. I'm a performer, but I was getting up too early every morning to not do a morning show, and I thought- it was just- I don't know if it was for me, and I thought, maybe I do need a change. Maybe this would be good for me, and Kelowna had a position available, and I thought, I think it's time for me to do- to go somewhere else. I really liked Edmonton. I liked what we were doing there at 92.5 The Chuck. But I wouldn't say that it wasn't for me, because I was- I was successful there, but I wanted to go somewhere different. And I think Kelowna was just an awesome change of pace for me. I mean, I work harder here than I probably ever did anywhere else. But just the chance to move to a beautiful place and be there for a few years was a great opportunity. And my wife is from Kelowna. So it was all just, yeah, it was it was kind of an easy choice to go there. Even though I was, I was, uh, I was on the up with Corus. But, you know, I didn't burn any bridges. I was happy there. But I thought let's do something for my wife now. And we went to Kelowna. And and it's been, it's been awesome.
Matt Cundill 25:47
What was the job in Kelowna that you took?
Stephen Keppler 25:49
They had a position available at 101.5 Easy Rock, and I was already familiar with the format because I had done the format in Golden, and I'd already worked for the cluster. So I had an in there with Janine Carr, and Ken Kilcolin, he's the one who interviewed me, and obviously Boyd Leeder was going to be the PD at the time, also known as Rhubarb Jones.
Matt Cundill 26:12
Or Rutabaga, if Graham Hicks mispronounces it, or miswrites in the Edmonton Sun like he did one day, which led to endless jokes. Yeah.
Stephen Keppler 26:20
I heard that story. I heard that story, man. I can't wait. I hope Boyd listens to this.
Matt Cundill 26:26
Oh, he listens.
Stephen Keppler 26:28
Oh, yeah, he does.
Matt Cundill 26:29
Oh, yeah. I mean, the one day he makes the paper and they call him Rutabaga.
Stephen Keppler 26:34
I've been called worse. I've been called Stefan Keppler. So I can't really make it- like rutabaga is still pretty good, though. That's, that's it anyways, so I got an afternoon job in Kelowna, working with, you know, Rhubarb was my PD. And he kind of just like, he's like, he threw the reins off me. He's like, go, go, do whatever. And I loved that. Because I felt like I could just, again, go back out there and fail, fail fail. So I kind of hit a reset button on my career that way. Not saying I didn't learn anything. And, and I learned so much in Edmonton, like I learned about ppm markets about about having a niche and having, I have so many tools in my bag, going to Kelowna that. I took all of those tools. And I again, kind of just threw them to the ground and just started playing with this empty canvas. And so Boyd was amazing for me there in that way. And then obviously, nine months into my tenure there COVID hit. And so it was a tough time, they're going into a studio when the roads are completely empty. But again, you know, you got to look at every experience is as a learning experience. And I learned that, you know, what I picked up and gold and about being part of the community, I need to do that here. I just need to do it differently. And that's when more came about was my career. But to start, I thought, you know, Kelowna was a great change of scenery, great, change your pace, and I learned again learned and that's I think, if you learn every day, you're going to be so successful in this business. If there's any young broadcaster who says, What does it take to be successful, I say learn every day, go in and be willing to fail. Keith Johnstone, he said, he's recently passed. But he's, he's one of the greatest improvisers and the godfather of improvisation. He would tell his students every day say out loud, we suck, and we love to fail. Let me ask you about rebranding, because I know you had to sit through one when you went from Fresh to Chuck. And I want the perspective of somebody who's a little bit younger in radio to let me know what a rebrand is. So these decisions get made by older people who are likely 50 plus, who have a lot of radio experience, and they believe that you can come out and one book a whole thing or rebuild it. And in you know, within a year we can hit this particular level. But I can't remember a rebrand in the last, you know, five years that has had that sort of success or projected success. So what is it about rebranding a radio station? That doesn't work anymore? I don't know. I think rebranding is an interesting choice. Because I feel like people are scanning the dial so much, that they forget what brand they're even listening to. I think rebranding is great in the sense that you can refresh, you can put a fresh coat of paint on whatever it is you're doing. And you can take a dye tired brand, and you can give it a fresh coat of paint, right? But if you're not going to change the music, and if you're going after the same demographic, what are you doing? You're kind of wasting your time. I think you're just wasting money. So I've been a part of a few rebrands now and the main takeaway I have is that it's it galvanizes your station. Everyone gets excited about a rebrand listeners get excited. You can do so many cool things when you rebrand. Let's look at Sonic in Vancouver. That was probably one of the coolest stunts I've ever seen. And and 92, five, when we rebranded with the chuck, we did heritage days, and we were down there, exposing the brand to new people. And you can be successful if you have a great launch. You need to be solid though, right after that launch, you can't just hit the gas and do the quarter mile, you need to hit the gas and do the LeMans. You need to be going, going, going, going going. And then you need to keep doing that. I think I think radio is all about keeping your foot on the pedal. I don't know if I answered your question there, though.
Matt Cundill 30:35
You did quite well, actually very well.
Stephen Keppler 30:39
I think rebranding is the toughest thing. I've been a part of a couple. I'm so fortunate that when rebrands happen, I've been always a part of the conversation. Because I've been on so many formats, I understand different demographics. I guess you could call me a yes, man. But I believe that you can make content for everyone, you just need to understand who it is you're talking to, and build your material out for your global audience. And that means for everyone, so your company might say that you're doing your show for 2550 For females, while I look at it, like okay, we're gonna put it through the lens of a mother of two. But also I have a man. So we're gonna find ways to inject all of these things. And that's kind of the cool part about radio is that you know, you want to be able to talk to anyone in the car. You should be right next to anyone.
Matt Cundill 31:31
And you touched on COVID. What do you think radio's legacy is coming out of COVID. As you look back at like the two really bizarre years, and it doesn't, you don't want to speak for the whole radio industry. I just want to know your experience and how COVID Landed for you. You're in Kelowna, to medium sized market. It's a high touch market. What do you think radios legacy is, going through that? From your experience.
Stephen Keppler 31:56
as such a tough one because COVID was really, really hard. Every radio host I talked to, they struggled. I mean, we all struggled as a community. Everyone had their own separate struggles as well. I think there were some radio hosts who went I can do my show from home. This is great. But it's it's lonely. You know, and you don't realize how lonely it can get to combat the loneliness. I spent a lot of time on social media. And I took my social media presence, and I put it on the air. And I created a community of have good news. Good news in the Okanagan, just sharing all the good stuff. And I actually got the idea from Fred Kennedy. Fearless, Fred, because Fred had done shut down shout outs. And I was like, That is a great idea. Let's go positive. Let's do that. That was great for the first year. But as we got into the political turmoil, and the convoy ship show, yes, like, it just got so tough. And now you're like you're jumping on the air, people are driving around, people are listening to you. And you have to be very careful with your words. You have to be very careful about what you're saying. Not just to offend people, but not to incite panic, not to incite, you know, outrage, but you're there to be their friend. It was tough, because there were so many people calling us on the air and getting mad at us. You know, calling us cowards, for not talking about the convoy, calling us cowards, for not telling people to get a vaccine didn't matter what stance you took, you weren't going to win. And that was the difficult part about radio there. Like what had happened was I we had flipped formats in January of 2021. And they moved me to the morning show. And I had taken over for a heritage morning show. And let me tell you, I was not a light guy. I liked person for the first three months, in my favorite comment about the morning show was juvenile trash. And what I liked about it, though, is I went, I'm on the right path. I'm trying to get the 30 I'm trying to go after people my age to talk about what things that things that mean, more to us. But I wasn't well liked. So there was a lonely three to six months, especially bringing in all of that other stuff. You know, I remember saying on the air, I got vaccinated, I'm pretty happy about it. Oh, I shouldn't have done that.
Matt Cundill 34:26
And I think maybe you got that blowback during that period, because radio is so powerful. And there are people who want to be acknowledged for what they're going through, you know, two years of going through the convoy- listen. Two years of going through COVID, I'm no fan of any of that stuff. But I get it. I get it. I think when somebody calls you up like that, they're just asking to be heard. That's all.
Stephen Keppler 34:52
Yeah, I've done- Sid Smith from Corus in Edmonton did a great job of like helping me. And I only had maybe a dozen or two good conversations with Sid. So it's not like he was my dad. But like he was really good at, you know, listening to people. You know, when I saw angry hosts come into his office and I don't think Sid would say a word. He'd let them say their piece. And then they would go about what to do next. And that I kind of took that approach with listeners calling up the radio show. So if you were upset, and they told me what they hated about me about whatever's going on, I said, first off, thanks for calling. You know, thank them for taking the time to tell you how they feel, whether you agree or not, they have passion and they want to call you. That's great. Let's, let's use that. And then you know, if you disagree, gently, gently talk about why you disagree. But also ask them questions. Ask them what's life like right now for you? Because maybe something's not great at home for them. And maybe they just lost their job. Maybe they're not necessarily upset. We're not talking about the convoy. They're upset because they're not sure if they're gonna have a meal tonight, dinner tonight, you know, like, you know what I'm saying? Like, there's a lot that's going on in people's lives that we forget. Because we're always thinking about ourselves. We're always thinking about what's going on in our heads, but we're not thinking about them. You have to ask yourself, what took them the courage to call into a radio show, knowing they can be recorded and put on the air right away? That takes courage.
Matt Cundill 36:19
Yeah, they have a story to tell and they want to tell it, or at least have acknowledged. Which kind of dovetails into the more recent events that you've been going through in Kelowna, which has been on fire for the better part of a little while, where West Kelowna, you know, fire jumped over the river, and you're facing yet again, a forest fire disaster. I think it was 10 years ago, that a number of homes were burned down in Kelowna.
Stephen Keppler 36:46
The big- the bigger one was about 20 years ago. Yeah, it was the- Yeah.
Matt Cundill 36:51
I do remember that one. I guess I don't remember how long ago it was, but...
Stephen Keppler 36:54
Feels like 10 years ago, Matt. It does.
Matt Cundill 36:57
Yeah. I'm thinking- I'm thinking of my buddy, Bruce Davis, who was- who did sales at The Bear whose house was decimated in the whole thing. And yeah, you're right, it was 20 years ago, it was 2003. Oh, my goodness.
Stephen Keppler 37:07
And it was almost 20 years ago to the day when the set- the next fire had happened. And this one was big.
Matt Cundill 37:13
And here you are on the radio. And here you are in the face of Facebook, that is not going to be sharing any of your links and news. And it prompted me to sort of say, hey, Facebook, maybe you should just let this one go? And make it happen for people, you might save a life in the process. But radio in a time of emergency, I've- there's moments where I downplay it, and I say radio is not there. But I think Kelowna was there for it.
Stephen Keppler 37:38
Oh, absolutely. Radio was there for everyone. So I was on vacation when the fire happened. And when I saw it had jumped the lake, I told my wife, we gotta go. We're gone. We're going back to Kelowna. As I'm packing the car, my program director, Amy Gilbert. Amy was like te- she texts me. She goes, where are you? Can you come in and I said, I'm packing the car. I'll be in Kelowna in six hours, you put me where you need me. Because of the news on Facebook being cut. Because of all that, they're going to come to us, because we are real time and we have warmth and inflection and we can guide you through what is going on. So I get to the station and Amy throws me on 99.9 Virgin Radio and she goes, you're gonna do afternoons. I've never done Virgin. Okay, whatever. I go on there. And I do an afternoon show. And I don't think anything of it. What I do is I report on the fires, I report on what's going on. And I keep it pretty somber but, but safe tone. I don't want people panicking. What was really neat was when I hopped off the air that night, things kind of had calmed down. I was going to be on AM 1150 That night on the talk radio station. But I wasn't. But I'll never forget being at the grocery store, running into a P one on my station move 1015. And she said, when I heard you were on Virgin radio scanning the stations. She heard me, she left it on because she goes I didn't want my kids to be scared in the car. But I wanted to know what was going on because I was driving around that whole afternoon. And that is why people listen to the radio. That is why we need to be there for them for moments like that. If you wanted the up to date information you could have been on an 1150 But you know she wasn't in trouble. It was her friends that were in trouble and she was worried for them. It was a scary time though. From downtown Kelowna, we can see West Kelowna and West Bank and I saw houses just blow up across the lake. And I don't think I'll ever get that out of my head. You know, that was that was a very scary moment for me because I thought these embers can jump the lake because they did two nights ago. You know these houses are just they would go it was another learning experience. Because I need to be I need to be there for whoever's listening who whoever's there to hang out, and I need to be there next to them in the car to explain the situation. And then the next day, I was on an 1150, board opping never board opt in my life for our station General Manager, Ken Kilcullen. And I learned a lot listening to can interview people throughout the day talking about the fires and how he had he had such cadence and tact. And I don't think I would have had that. So I mean, I learned a lot from him. But I was, you know, it was hopping on with him every now and then to say a few words. But then, you know, you run into listeners, and they're like, Hey, I heard you on this station, I heard you on that station. And you gotta thank you from them. And the last thing I was wanting was a thank you for reporting on fires. But we got it. And it was, it was pretty neat. But, you know, we've had friends lose their homes. And it's been hard watching them go through the grieving process, because you're seeing them go through it in real time. And so this is just another another one of those events. That brings me closer to everyone in Kelowna, because we've we have a shared experience. And not saying that COVID wasn't a shared experience it was, but this is natural disasters are scary, because you don't know what's going to happen within five minutes. I mean, the fires are still burning right now. And it's, it's still scary, you can see the whole mountain smoldering, but there's a lot of people who are back in their homes. And that's good, but it's gonna be a long road to recovery.
Matt Cundill 41:29
Yeah, and I've been very skeptical about radio's role in an emergency. So if we were looking at what happened in Hawaii, there was no radio role. It happened very quickly. The officials did not call the radio stations to make any announcements- full disclosure, I'm a station voice at a radio station in Maui. And they haven't really touched their Facebook page in two years. And the station is fully automated with my voice. So I don't know how you have any- build a rapport when you're running a station like that. And if they hear this, I'm probably fired from that particular job. But whatever. That's just the way I think of it. It sort of speaks to the people of Kelowna, and the relationship that they have with trust in radio, why they're calling you to vent about a convoy protest. And when there's a disaster, they're going straight to the radio to find it. And fuck Facebook. First of all, Facebook is not a real time social media platform. X is. I don't think you need it as much as you think.
Stephen Keppler 42:31
No, you don't.
Matt Cundill 42:32
If you're gonna do radio right, you don't need much of a Facebook presence.
Stephen Keppler 42:37
Facebook's been frustrating in the radio industry for people who want to post their bits to convert listeners, because I think social media is meant to convert. It's been difficult for anyone running station promotions to get the word out there, I guess. No, I don't think Facebook has any bearing on this whatsoever. I think it's been tough. And there's a lot of companies that have been hurt. And that's awful. It sucks. But when the fires, I'm going to bring up the fires when the fires were happening. You'd be scrolling through Facebook, and you'd see posts from three days ago, four days ago. And then all of a sudden, we had a ton of misinformation being thrown around on Facebook, because somebody goes well, I heard the fire jumped the lake. Well, that was actually five days ago. That's irrelevant now. Or somebody would say I heard the bridge was closed. And the actual information was it was closed at one in the morning for a couple of hours for maintenance for them to prepare, if the fire comes down near the bridge, because the bridge needs to stay open. That's the bridge that connects Kelowna and West Kelowna. And that's a very big artery for the Okanagan. Facebook was a to me it was there was a lot of disinformation or misinformation being thrown out there. Because Facebook's algorithm, you know, is always thinking about you. They're not thinking about real time. Twitter's great for real time. You're absolutely right. But radio is the only medium where it's all in real time. You can't just sit there in your in your on your dashboard and hit rewind or fast forward. No, it's right there. Right up to the moment. So when you're getting news on the radio, it's up to the moment as best as it can. And that's why we get time checks. I think we should we might need to go back to giving time checks. I think we should do time checks on Facebook, maybe. Maybe that would help.
Matt Cundill 44:17
Somebody told you to stop doing time checks?
Stephen Keppler 44:19
No, I just- I'm indifferent about time checks, because I don't know if it's super necessary or not. Because there's a clock right there on their radio.
Matt Cundill 44:27
But it flashes 12.
Stephen Keppler 44:29
Matt Cundill 44:31
Some of them do.
Stephen Keppler 44:32
It's a good point.
Matt Cundill 44:33
I guess if somebody from Facebook were here, they would say we don't really do news anyway. We're just delivering what other people are saying. And so I would probably say we should get rid of this piece of legislation because it's misguided and a whole bunch of other things anyway, just my take. That's not a question. You don't have to answer that.
Stephen Keppler 44:50
It's a fair opinion, though.
Matt Cundill 44:52
From what you experienced. Through the Kelowna fires. What do you think your station, or the stations in Kelowna, can do better to keep people engaged with radio?
Stephen Keppler 45:04
We as hosts need to be ready to be to hop on the air at anytime. I don't mean be on call 24/7 Because you need to live your life and you need to go on vacations. You need to look after yourself. But I think companies need to be ready to to go into safe mode or, or whatever it is to be there for the listener when things happen. Radio is such an intimate medium, and it always will be as his podcasting. But you know, when there's a flood, people aren't going to go click on their favorite podcasts or they're not going to go to Facebook, they're probably going to go look outside. And then they're probably going to drive away from the flood. Who's going to be there? It's radio. It will always be radio, they will be the first thing people check into.
Matt Cundill 45:51
Stephen, thanks so much for doing this and sharing the recent experience to the wildfires and as well your entire career. I appreciate it.
Stephen Keppler 45:58
Oh, thank you. And I appreciate you as well. There's a promo you guys did at the Bear. I believe you were there. Where you guys invited people to drive their- their Junker cars up to the lot, and you were gonna give somebody a new car. Can you tell me about that? Because I want to hear- I want to hear your side of it.
Matt Cundill 46:17
I think if it was a piece of shit car, we were gonna give you a new car. I think that was played off the Adam Sandler piece of shit car. Yeah. And then we would get we were gonna give somebody a brand new car. Turn- get rid of your piece of shit car. That was it.
Stephen Keppler 46:34
That's how radio is powerful, it was like 23 years ago, and I remember it from when I was in high school. You know, I remember when Sonic launched in Edmonton, and they played nirvana. And I said, Oh my gosh, this is my music. You know? You don't forget moments like that. So, I hope one day I create a moment like that for somebody, and they decide to get into the business, whether it be radio, whether it be television, film, whether it be- whether it be stage acting, anything. Anything in performing, I hope- That's my hope in life.
Matt Cundill 47:04
Thanks, man. Appreciate it.
Stephen Keppler 47:06
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 47:07
The Sound Off Podcast is written and hosted by Matt Cundill. Produced by Evan Surminski. Edited by Chloe Emond-Lane. Social media by Aidan Glassey. Another great creation from the Soundoff Media Company. There's always more at soundoffpodcast.com.