By Gary Susalis

Born and raised in Southeastern Wisconsin. Waist-deep in my 22nd year in radio. It’s taken me to Phoenix, West Palm Beach, Sacramento and I’ve spent the last decade programming as well as holding down the morning show — The Morning After — with my partner Big J here at The X in Boise. Out-punted my coverage and married a beautiful young lady named Michelle with whom I have two wonderful sons, Jax and Cash. Also, I yell at the TV during sporting events and video games more than any rational 40 year old man should.

1. What is your earliest memory of radio?
Although I don’t remember how old I was, I vividly recall taking a tour of Top 40 WKTI in Milwaukee as a Cub Scout and being completely mesmerized by the reel to reel machines and the cart machines I saw. I just took it all in and thought, “This is the coolest thing in the history of cool things.”  I called into the legendary morning show Reitman & Mueller the next week to ask them how to get into radio. They instantly put me on the air and made a bit about it. Advising me to not do it and spend my life doing something more productive. I did not listen to them.

2. Do you remember the first song you played during your first air shift?
I do. Because I screwed it up.
I went to broadcast school in Phoenix, AZ. and was dropping off tapes and resumes. I walked into KOOL 94.5 – the Oldies Station in town that happened to be #1 12-plus FOREVER. The weekend board up that ran the late night Saturday and Sunday shows just quit — I was there, knew how to run a board and ready to work, so they hired me on the spot. Totally lucky.
I was 18, working at an Oldies station. I couldn’t tell the difference between The Beatles and Herman’s Hermits at the time, but I taught myself digital editing and would leave a very bad demo every week with the PD. (I still have some of these, they are terrible) I don’t know why, but he finally caved and he let me do a Saturday night overnight shift to try out. First break was right out of the top of the hour,  I had to intro the Bee Gees  “I Started A Joke.” Super nervous, knowing I didn’t belong, I talked over the intro and proceeded to continue talking about 5 seconds over Barry Gibb too. Turned off the mic and just hung my head. Awful. It’s like Radio 101 – don’t talk past the post you IDIOT!
The rest of the shift was much better, but the PD made the right call and hired me as the full time morning show producer and not late night Oldies jock. I do LOVE oldies music now, though. All thanks to that gig.

3. What is your programming philosophy?
Not sure I would call it a philosophy, but I firmly believe in letting talented people be talented people. I believe radio is meant to be done by real people that actually reside in your market and have a real passion for it. I think it needs to be focused, informative, but most importantly — entertaining.
Musically: Listen to your listeners. We have molded and re-molded this station based directly from feedback of those that tune in. It’s how we found the current/recurrent mix and it plays a big role in what songs we eventually put into rotation. It’s why we were among the first to play bands like FFDP, In This Moment, Volbeat, Avatar and Bobaflex long before they cracked the charts. Never would have taken those chances if the audience didn’t stand up and show us they enjoyed those bands.

4. Congrats again on winning the RadioContraband Rock Radio Award for Medium Market Radio Station of The Year. What does an award like that mean to you and the station?
Thank you! I struggle sometimes to vocalize what it means to me, to all of us, at The X. I really do believe some of the best radio is being done in the Active Rock format. We can’t get by with the “Topic Of The Day” stuff or the “Call In And Tell Us Your Worst First Date” BS that some can. Real people, real personalities and men and women that truly love the music. They live in this format. So, to be considered by our peers to be among the best this format has to offer means a ton to me and the staff. I’m always incredibly proud of what we built here and the work that went into making this station matter again in Boise. To see that reflected on a national stage is amazing. We appreciate it more than you know.

5. What are your 3 career highlights /rockstar moments so far?
1) Booking The Kyle Gass Band to play a Free X Show late last year. Tenacious D is my all-time favorite band. So, to get 3/5 of that live band here and to play for free for the station was a total selfish booking. I felt guilty about it… almost. Like, who cared but me about this show? Then it happened and the crowd was great and the show was amazing and I got drunk and sang along with every song. It was a cream dream.

2) Doing Morning Show shots with Sick Puppies the morning after X-Fest ’08. The band agreed to stay an extra day so they could come in and do an interview on the morning show the day after their first appearance in Boise. That segment turned into 2 hours hanging with the band on air and off and I think about 3/4 of a bottle of whiskey. This is why they are now our best friends.

3) Career wise: Helping to make the X a ratings success again. KQXR in Boise has a fantastic history. Some ridiculously talented people have worked and programmed this station in the past. It was a juggernaut in this town for a very long time as an alternative station – mostly thanks to those people – Jacent Jackson, Stephen Kalleo, Mat Diablo & more. It was just in the mid to late aughts the numbers went away and the audience eroded. So, when I got here in 07 we were like 4th in our cluster and 13th overall with ratings 25-54 and a no show with revenue. To work with the staff and management to turn this thing around, do music research and ultimately move this station from the Alt panel to Active Rock took a lot of work. Thankfully, we found success both in ratings and revenue. To see the place the station is at now is a testament to the staff and all the work they did and continue to do to make us a market leader without compromising what makes us a rock station.

6. Which new artists are you personally a big fan of?
Love Stitched Up Heart – They are great to us and this town.

Diving into that Blacktop Mojo album and enjoying it very much.

Geeked to see the much-deserved success Avatar, Highly Suspect & Starset are having.

Lastly, I have said this before and I will scream it until the end of time: Dead Sara is the most underrated band in rock. I anxiously await their new stuff.