SPIN GODDESS by Michael Aronovitz
Female Rock – Jockeys Writing the History of Metal as it Happens
Close-Up on Jess From Rock Rage Radio
For centuries we have put English scholars and literary professors on the highest of pedestals by granting them the otherwise unlimited authority to decide what we read. School curriculums are based on classics, and classics make up a catalog of specific novels, novellas, poems, and plays commonly referred to as “The Canon.” Millions of written works have been published and only thousands have made it into The Canon, let alone the mere hundreds that keep managing to appear in The Norton Anthology and the other required texts we trudge through in middle school, high school, and various colleges.
In a way, said scholars and professors rule the world. And whether we come of age reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, or struggle with the darkness of the warped human spirit after reading The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, we should be aware that we are only given a small number of stories to be aware of in the first place. This is a big responsibility for our scholars and professors, is it not? On the one hand, they could be seen as hideous gate-keepers, putting difficult books in front of us to serve their self-interests, almost like rites of passage they force down our throats to make themselves powerful. On the other hand, they could very well open the world for us to enjoy in all its terror and beauty.
I am a professor of English. I have two masters degrees, and my specialty is Modernism. I do not decide what goes in the Norton Anthology, nor what gets placed in the Canon, I’m not that high up on the food chain, but when I am assigned a literature book from the college, I do have the choice of which stories I am going to teach. I base my decisions on the various talking points the given text would offer, and I assign readings that will make the students argue. That way, we can write our own texts off the text. It’s a participation sport. Like listening to metal.
I love heavy metal, because it is the most difficult type of modern electric music to play, and the one most studied by its fans. It’s also raucous, rocking, and loud, filled with thunder and swag, and I get just as excited hearing “Space Trucking” by Deep Purple as I do thumping around to “I, Alone” by Amerakin Overdose. Metal has forged a long and complicated historical legacy if we agree that the starting point was the release of Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut in 1970, and its definition remains massive and gloriously ornate if we consider all the genres, sub-genres, off-shoots, and threads. And since blasting a new Five Finger Death Punch record is just as attractive to a rocker as a limited edition quarto version of Hamlet might be to a lit. nerd, it is high time we recognized our modern-day Spin-Goddesses creating the Canon for Metal.
Female DJ’s are interpretive artistic scholars, creating the pulse of our life-murals. With the rise of Internet Radio, women have suddenly come of age, creating the state of the art by building our Metal-Canon one awesome song-list at a time. And these spin-jockeys are not just eye-candy. Get that thought right the fuck out of your head, because they stay up all hours, listen to songs endlessly, study beat patterns, measure production values, assess vocals and stage personas, travel to all parts of the world, interview people, sleep in their cars, miss planes, and craft a lexicon of metal so potent and crucial, I almost feel they are to us like Anne Sullivan was to Helen Keller.
I decided to kick off this column with an interview I was lucky enough to get from a female DJ at Rock Rage Radio, but before unveiling my first Spin Goddess, I thought it would be a point of interest to briefly discuss the mechanism. Rock Rage Radio got started in 2013 and has since become the largest online radio station in the world, that’s right, the world! (Three cheers for metal). They are also the most voluminous supporter of unsigned bands in the industry, reaching around 1.4 million listeners weekly, and broadcasted in countries around the globe. Their Facebook page is Rock Rage Radio, and the website is www.rockrageradio.com where listeners can tune in and listen continuously. They also have a free app for smart phones (simply Rock Rage Radio) and one can register to win tickets to major shows and festivals around the country there. Rock Rage staffs all over the United States and in several other countries, so when I was granted this interview, I was thankful and intrigued!
Our Spin Goddess of the month is Jess, Rock Rage Radio, and she is one smooth customer, introducing songs with taste, subtlety, and a silky southern tone that would color the world. She is best known for her two hour broadcast every Sunday 4-6 PM Eastern Standard Time called The Sideshow, https://www.facebook.com/TheSideshowRockRage/?pnref=lhc and I will be the first to tell you that it’s a magnificent way to close down your weekend. Jess’s playlist is diverse and brilliantly tailored in terms of mood and transition, and I prefer to listen to The Sideshow up in my office drinking beer and browsing through my social media. Still, I can assure you that Jess’s broadcast would be an awesome backdrop for driving fast with the top down, running on a beach with your headphones in, or just sitting on your porch looking at the weeping willows, sipping a mint julep, and petting your hound dog. Jess is the epitome of the master M.C., raising issues when relevant between certain songs, and letting the music do most of the talking. She’s cool, she makes you feel good, and she lets you know that you’re part of the process.
Jess was nice enough to answer some of my questions, and I hope everyone reading this comes to the same conclusion that I did when I finished the interview. I made a new friend, someone I look forward to listening to every Sunday afternnon.
Jess: Hey Mike.
-Thanks for talking to us at Metal Heads Forever.
Jess: My pleasure.
-Where did you grow up?
Jess: Mostly in Louisiana, where I currently live.
-Was it always music, always metal for you?
Jess: I originally went to college for computer science, but that didn’t last very long. Probably good that it didn’t, as I would have ended up changing my major A LOT and wasting money.
-Did you learn any musical instruments when you were a kid?
Jess: I used to play trumpet, and I was in marching band and concert band and all that.
-What were your favorite bands when you were a kid?
Jess: I have a lot of favorite bands! I know in middle school I listened to Good Charlotte, 3 Doors Down, Evanescence, and Green Day. I feel like no matter how many I list, I’m going to leave some out, lol. High school was a lot of Metallica, My Chemical Romance, Guns N Roses, Nickelback, a lot of variety. My dad always listened to rock stations on the radio and my circle of friends had the same taste. I’d spend the night at one of my friend’s houses and we would typically share CDs, call radio stations and request songs, raid the pantry, and make prank calls. But music was a part of everything we did.
-Sounds like my childhood, Jess. But back in the 70’s our parents didn’t understand our music at all. My folks were terrified when I blasted Zeppelin, Kiss, and Blue Oyster Cult back in my bedroom. I always thought all those 70’s bands were really the dawn of metal as we know it now. Do you have any favorite old school bands?
Jess: Oh, Aerosmith is an easy answer for that one, because I was in the front row to see them live when I was thirteen. But there are so many great bands from that time: Queen, AC/DC, Journey, Foreigner, yeah. Another list that could go on and on.
-How did you get your job at Rock Rage Radio?
Jess: It’s crazy how I ended up with Rock Rage – it feels like it happened so fast. I had decided to start following what I truly enjoyed – going to more concerts because I enjoyed them so much even if it meant having to drive long distances. And I did. Last year I went to more than twenty-five shows! In doing so I discovered a lot of bands I wasn’t familiar with, I met a lot of people, and ended up joining the Rock Rage staff.
-Radio seems like the perfect conduit for you.
Jess: No doubt. Radio is the kind of job I always wished I could have, but never figured that I actually would! As a matter of fact, thinking about your question about my past, when I was in eighth grade, we had to job-shadow someone of our choice for a field we were interested in, and I followed the owner of our local FM station – he had an on-air show in addition to running everything.
-What is the hardest part of your job at Rock Rage?
Jess: Time management, ha, ha, but that might just be me. It’s complicated sometimes, going through all the music submissions and trying to get them played before the bands start thinking I forgot about them. I get A LOT of emails, Facebook messages, and notifications to go through every day, and sometimes stuff slips through the cracks. I always feel bad if someone thinks I am ignoring them. I also have regular life stuff to manage in addition to that which includes three kids to take care of.
-What is the most rewarding part of the job?
Jess: I love, love, love giving newer bands under the radar, the exposure they deserve. Just reaching out to them for an interview or playing their music makes a difference, and it is always my pleasure. I have also always loved being able to introduce people to new music, so the two things go together.
-If you had to name one interview, among the many, that stands out, which is the first that comes to mind?
Jess: Hmm. A lot of the bands I play on the station and talk to are friends, so I like them all! The one that comes to mind, however, is the first time I interviewed American Evil. It was cool because it was a live stream and impromptu. I didn’t have a set of questions and it was 100 % winging it. That interview is still up on Rock Rage Radio, and I shared it to my pages if you want to find it.
-Nerd Question, Jess. What exactly does it take to do what you do…technically, preparing, emotionally? What is it like in a day in the life?
Jess: In terms of “The Sideshow,” ideally, I am able to get at least the playlist set by Friday. Still, that doesn’t always work out for me, so I usually end up staying up late on Saturdays, or even getting up on Sundays to do final touches like recording and editing my audio. I usually add songs I know I want to play, listen to submissions I have, and add a few that really stand out. The submission queue is a long one, so it takes time to work through it. I try to place songs transitionally so that the tunes around them are a little similar, but different enough to keep it interesting. I listen through the playlist start to finish to make sure I am happy with the flow. And I like to tag all the bands I am playing on my show’s Facebook page as well as share in the several groups I’ve been added to. I always post the playlist after my show airs to help the bands and get people interested. Then I listen to the show so I can critique myself and check for technical difficulties.
-You go to a lot of concerts. Seems tough in a way. Does it always go smoothly?
Jess: I do travel a lot for shows. I covered 5k miles last year, and one example of a wild time was getting temporarily rained out of the Festival Texas Mutiny last year. They came over the intercom and told everyone to return to their vehicles, but the rain got there before anyone found their cars. And this wasn’t a light rain. It was a torrential downpour. The raindrops were huge, and they hurt! No one could find their cars. Everyone was running around trying to set their alarms off, but with so many doing that it was useless, lol. I found the car I arrived in, but I didn’t have the keys. I rode WITH someone, so I just hunkered down beside it and tried to avoid as much rain as possible.
Jess: At times, crazy. My first trip to Vegas was a quick whirlwind centered around concerts. It was Radio Contraband last year, just the shows for everyone, none of the insider extras, ha, ha. I got up early to drive three hours away to the airport to fly to Vegas on a Thursday morning and barely made it in time for the flight, running as fast as I could through the airport, carrying my shoes. I was the last person to board the plane, right before they shut the doors, and everyone was staring at me panting and going down the aisle. Then, of course, I had a window seat, so I had to squeeze by two other people. On the other side, I waited at the airport a couple of hours for my friend to get off work and come pick me up. Bonus: even though I had talked to her for thirteen years online, I had never met her in person. We grabbed a bite to eat, dropped my stuff at her house, and went to a show at Hard Rock Live Las Vegas. I was friends with one of the bands that played, and we wound up staying with them until 6 AM! We went to a party in a “secret” area of the hotel that was hosted by Anthrax (like what?!) and hung out in the casino after that. My friend and I made it back to her place, and we slept for a few hours. Then we got up, showered, got ready, went to lunch, and did the “touristy walk-the-strip” thing. Later, we went to a show at the Hard Rock Vinyl. I knew a band performing that night also, and again, stayed super late hanging out. I ended up waking up late and stuffing everything in my bag. I lost my glasses and hurried to the airport to fly back Saturday morning. It all went by so fast. I would love to go back someday.
-So Jess, what are some things about you that are unique? You are, after all, a radio personality, and readers might want to know if you like cats, or once ran for congress, or do ceramics, or play on a softball team.
Jess: I do like cats! I have two tattoos that include cats, and a few years ago I was a co-founder for a local non-profit no-kill cat rescue. We would pull cats from the pound in our city and those nearby, get the cats healthy and spayed or neutered (if they were old enough – if they weren’t, it was a requirement that they would be and they came with a voucher for it) and ready for adoption. We also would engage in TNR for feral cats, which is Trap-Neuter-Return. Feral cats are too wild to be pets. Cats can breed often and soon, so we would trap them and get them spayed or neutered to cut down on that population. This is the humane way to handle the situation as opposed to euthanization, which usually happens if they end up at the pound. Returning them helps ensure that other feral cats don’t move into the area since they’re territorial. If you just move them, other cats come right on into the area. It is a lot of work, but it is also rewarding.
-Thank you, Jess! I do look forward to rocking out with you and “The Sideshow” this and every Sunday, 4-6 PM, Rock Rage Radio.
Michael Aronovitz/ MHF Magazine
Michael Aronovitz is a horror author who has published three novels, two collections, more than thirty short stories, and a number of horror and metal reviews. His first novel “Alice Walks” will come out in E-book form through Cemetery Dance Publications this summer. His latest novel “Phantom Effect” can be seen on Amazon here: