[Photo credit: Audrey Lew]
Some kids grow up without a doubt in their minds as to what they are going to be when they get older: firefighters, teachers, dinosaurs, you name it. Other kids grow up just wanting to be heard. Equipped with an outgoing personality and an unmistakable fiery passion for music, Mike “Gunz” Gunzelman has made a name in the music industry just by being himself. As a broadcast personality, he graces the airwaves of major TV and radio channels during the day (everything from MTV to ESPN), hosting shows on ABC and FOX, but at night is when things get heavy. The Gunz Show frazzles the earbuds of hundreds of thousands of listeners Wednesday and Sunday nights on idobi Radio.
After he spent a summer weekend hanging with Marianas Trench, watching Guns ‘N’ Roses and DJing Emo Night NYC with the Bayside boys, we were able to steal half an hour of Gunzelman’s time to find out what it takes to be yourself, professionally.
How did you get into being a radio host and broadcast personality?
I always had an outgoing personality and wanted my voice to be heard. There was an MTV show called Becoming: Blink-182, where you’d become a band member or whatever. I was a sophomore in high school and my mom dropped me off at this open casting call. I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know anything. I had my Atticus shirt on, my Fender guitar I brought with me, my backwards Atticus hat and my Dickies shorts—I was a huge Tom Delonge Blink fan. I beat out like 350 other people, and I was only 15 years old. I ended up being one of the nine finalists then I actually ended up winning that, so that was my first taste of television or just media. I purposely went to school at Fordham University in New York City for broadcast journalism, with a double major in political science, and I was able to start doing stuff on Fuse as a freshman. I heard about this station called idobi and I wrote the program director, Tom Cheney, one day and he wrote back, “Hey Gunz, I’ve heard about you being around the scene and what not, I actually have an opening this Sunday at 8 p.m., that’s your one hour tryout, good luck.” [Laughs.] So the dream became a reality, and I went on air and I was horrible my first show, coming out one ear of the speakers and everything. At the time there was just a couple thousand listeners and now I average 180,000 five or six years later. I always knew I wanted to do something on air, and the rest is history. It’s been such a positive and mind-blowing experience to get an international following all just from the love of music. It’s been fucking mental. It’s cliché to say that music saves lives, but the beauty about music is that there’s literally a song out there for whatever mood you’re in.
What was the first concert you ever went to?
[Laughs.] One of my first concerts that I can remember, unfortunately I saw NSYNC with my sister [on] the No Strings Attached Tour back in the day. I think P!nk opened for them or some shit, when P!nk had pink hair. One of my other first shows I remember was Semisonic opened for Soul Asylum opened for Matchbox Twenty way back. As far as the scene goes, I remember seeing Piebald open for New Found Glory open for Saves The Day one of New Found Glory’s first ever tours outside of Florida. I was very young, people were smoking cigarettes and I was like, “Oh my God, the devil!” Going to shows was my escape. Going to Midtown shows, Drive Thru shows, the old ska scene at the time was big in New Jersey, being able to see Thursday, Boysetsfire, Saves The Day and the Get Up Kids. I was very spoiled at a young age because New Jersey had one of the coolest scenes; if you wanted you could go to a show every other night, because people were flyering and throwing their own shows at fire halls. Unfortunately, that’s not really as prevalent anymore, but it was definitely a good era to grow up in.
“… if I’m playing something and maybe I’ll go into Glass Jaw, and for some reason my audience that night doesn’t want to listen to Glass Jaw and I see like 10,000 people drop off, I’ll fade out the song and then kick it into something else. The beauty of internet radio is I get immediate feedback.”
With technology, music is becoming so much more interactive, where fans can actually reach out and speak with their favorite bands. In the same respect, how do you interact with and engage the fans of your show?
I thrive with the audience. The beauty of my show is nobody is telling me what I can and can’t play. Unlike professional radio where the “DJ’s” don’t even get to set their own playlists, if I’m playing a new song and don’t feel it I’ll fade it out, or if I’m playing something and maybe I’ll go into Glass Jaw, and for some reason my audience that night doesn’t want to listen to Glass Jaw and I see like 10,000 people drop off, I’ll fade out the song and then kick it into something else. The beauty of internet radio is I get immediate feedback. I also get to take their requests, so if there’s a huge audience for the Maine—BAM! I’m playing the Maine! Hell yeah, I’ll support the Maine, that band has been around for a good amount of years and they’re still killing it, Warped Tour main stage this year and fucking killing it out there. The Gunz Show definitely thrives on fans and just that, interaction.
Where do you see yourself going? Would you like to do this forever or move to a different section of the music industry?
I definitely want to continue being on radio and television, as far as this element goes, I just want The Gunz Show to continue being a bigger brand than it is. Ryan Seacrest and Carson Daly both just started as DJs, Daly used to work out of K-Rock in California with like Bloodhound Gang and Goldfinger then made the move, and now he’s on the Today show everyday. I don’t want anything limiting me or hindering me at all. I’m going to continue getting music out there that I think kids need to learn about, or at least causes or people that are inspirational, or fun.
Shout out to the people who are struggling, whether band-wise or personally, because it can only get better. Society and things are crazy as hell out there right now, so we need to come together. The struggle can be real at times, but just keep pushing through. One of the best ways to do that is through music and escaping bullshit by going to a show and screaming your lungs out, and in the end hopefully we’ll all win that way.
If a good band wins, we all win, because in the end it should always be about the music.
Check out The Gunz Show every Wednesday at 9 p.m. on idobi, and long live the emo revival.