“When I started here [at WZBH 93.5 The Beach] two months ago, I heard Dave [Grohl] owns a home in Rehoboth Beach and visits several times a year. We get Dave sightings from listeners to alert us when he’s in town. If I could meet Dave before Frank Pain, that would be awesome.” – Johnny Maze
By Carl C. Sundberg
At first, Johnny Maze strikes you as a tough son-of-a-bitch, the kind of dude you wouldn’t want to cross. Before your first conversation is over, you realize…he is that guy. What else can you expect from a kid born in Jersey and raised in Houston? But what else you realize is that it’s very clear the guy has a massive heart, sharp sense of humor and complete laser focus when you talk to him. Some people you talk to, you can tell they’re not really listening. They’re waiting for their turn to talk. Not Johnny Maze. When you talk to Maze, he is listening, intensely. To every word you say. It’s at once disarming as it is comfortable. And it is probably the secret key to Maze’s epic career so far and what will carry him even farther. If you want to make it anywhere in the radio business, you have to be able to listen.
Growing up in Houston, Maze listened to some legends in the radio game. “Glenn Beck, Elvis Duran, Moby, Stevens & Pruitt, Scott Sparks, John Lander were all influences,” Maze recalls. Luck would have it, his destiny would be sealed one day in high school. “Being the 93rd caller at 93Q when I was 16 to win 10th row floor tickets to see Motley Crue was the defining moment to be interested in pursuing a career.”
It wasn’t too long after that night that Maze started his radio career. Right out of high school, he worked in the promotions department of KNRJ Houston. It was one of those rare gigs – a paid college internship. From there he stomped much terra and moved up through the ranks, a rockstar radio tour of his own making, getting into rock at KHLR College Station, TX as APD/MD. Late nights/swings at KTBZ Houston for three years. APD/MD of KCCQ Des Moines, Iowa. APD of KSYR in Shreveport, Louisiana. PD of KRXE in Lafayette, Louisiana. PD of WRXW in Jackson, Mississippi. PD of WXZZ in Lexington, Kentucky. PD of KICT in Wichita, Kansas. And now Maze hangs his hat as PD of WZBH in Maryland, not too far from where he was born in the grand scheme of things.
His programming and on-air philosophy is simple. “Rock radio should be fun,” says Maze. “Goofy, funny writing of imaging with solid rock records. I tend to be more conservative in looking at music. I side with more cume friendly records. The jocks should be relatable with everyday life and topics that our target would identify with.”
His daily routine is firmly rooted in a leadership role and Maze works through his day methodically, systematically and with the ease of a true professional. From programming to sales to community involvement, Maze is dialed in. “I live .7 miles from the studio,” he says. “So my commute is 2 minutes if I catch the light or 5 minutes if I don’t. First thing I do is check the morning shows as I carry Billy Madison on WZBH and Bob & Tom on my classic rock. I look at the trades and the music charts each morning. My APD Drew gets in after 9am and we talk about what we need to do each day with imaging and contesting. I meet with my Promo Director almost daily as he and I handle the websites and liners/contesting. I also check in with the sales manager and the sales team daily to see if I or programming can do anything with sales pitches or meetings. In the afternoon I show prep for my afternoon slot on the classic rock. I am also involved in the area chambers and there is usually a weekly event that I attend to make sure I am meeting with area businesses.”
When asked what the rock radio industry should be doing better, Maze is pretty clear. “I think having more industry gatherings to continue the bond between radio and the record industry is key,” says Maze. “If you aren’t sending a representative to either RadioContraband Convention or at least one or two of the major national festivals, you should consider putting that in the yearly budget. Relationships help foster opportunities for more ways for listeners to connect with their favorite station to have unique experiences when their favorite bands come to the market. Bands have more fun when they know the PD’s or talent of the stations.”
What are your three most Rock & Roll moments?
1. Being on the stage with a mic in front of 40,000 at a station festival is a cool experience and memory. 2. Coming full circle and being able to re-brand the Motley Crue show in Wichita as the T95 35th Birthday Bash and sitting front row, center stage and watching them play. First concert for me to their last concert tour. 3. Getting to meet and interview Little Steven just recently will always stand out.
If you were to start up your own radio station, and could pick from anyone in the business to be your air-staff, living or not, who would your lineup be? What would the format be? Music? Promotions?
An Active Rock station is my preference. Howard Stern, Wil Pendarvis, Whipping Boy (John Wilbur), Lou Brutus… female talent would be Susan Wise, Lisa Kendall, Dayna Steele
What are you currently listening to and what are your top 5 favorite bands/artists?
Currently, I’m really into Ghost, Red Sun Rising, FFDP, Sick Puppies, Shinedown. All time favorites are Tool, Metallica, Van Halen, RHCP, Foo Fighters.
If you could have a drink with any person alive or dead, who would it be?
I have yet to meet Dave Grohl. I’ve seen Foo Fighters four times and each time they are amazing. When I started here two months ago, I heard Dave owns a home in Rehoboth Beach and visits several times a year. We get Dave sightings from listeners to alert us when he’s in town. If I could meet Dave before Frank Pain, that would be awesome.