WJJO program director Randy Hawke with calendar girls Jess & Shilo
Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison becomes JJO Band Camp on Saturday, August 14th. The outdoor music festival has been growing since it’s inception in 2003, attracts some of the world’s biggest names in modern metal, and is put on by Madison’s solid rock.. er ahhh.. metal radio station… 94.1 WJJO and promoters Frank Productions.
Randy Hawke is program director for WJJO, a station that went from classic rock to “solid rock” around 13 years ago. He has been in radio for 19 years and has also been PD of WAPL in Appleton as well as WLUM in Milwaukee.
MAXIMUM INK: How did Band Camp get started?
RANDY HAWKE: The name came about when Blake Patton and I were brainstorming what we wanted to call our show and we made a deal that the title could not end in Fest, Stock or Palooza. The location was Fred Frank. He starts a lot of sentences with “Hey Randy what do you think about ….” One of those sentences were completed with “having a huge festival on willow Island next to the Alliant.” Band Camp was born. Crazy thing was for the first year we had to spend more time telling people where Willow Island was than who was playing. No event of Band Camps magnitude had ever been held out there. Band Camp put Willow Island on the map. LITERALLY!
MI: How has it changed since the original incarnation?
RH: It has changed every single year. From increasing the number of bands, to improvements on the island. When we started there was not even a power outlet on that island. Some things people notice, like the 25 foot video screen so you don’t miss a thing. Other things like a paved road backstage so busses don’t get stuck mean a huge amount to the success of the event, but kinda go unnoticed. Now look at it. We had a little tiny tailor for the second stage. Of course, it used to take about 3 months to plan, now it is a year around job.
MI: What is better about Band Camp this year?
RH: First of all the line up. We have 3 bands that can headline in this city with Godsmack, Sevendust and Buckcherry. Secondly, the mainstage will blow people away.
MI: What are your best memories/stories from past Band Camps?
RH: I could talk for about an hour about this question but I will try and boil it down. Damageplan at the first Band Camp will always be a huge memory for me. At the time we had no idea that that would be the last time Dime played Madison. It was a special day. He was so gracious that day. To fans, bands, security. He deserves his legendary status.
The lighting scare was just that for me last year. Having the safety of 15,000 people in your hands is SCARY. I am trying to make sure everyone is safe and they are chanting back rain or shine, rain or shine. Hind sight I laugh. That day I was like come on. Just go inside for 20 minutes so no one gets hurt. No one got hurt and every band played. For the record it was not a rain delay. IT WAS A LIGHTING delay. Band can not play on a giant pile of metal that is filled with electricity during a lightning storm.
MI: What is your WORST memories/stories from past Band Camps?
RH: You forget the bad things pretty fast. The vibe both in front of the stage and backstage is so great. The JJO audience is my extended family. They truly take such good care of me. When I get to the post show at Rev Jim’s, sit on a bar stool and talk with a few hundred listeners and hear how great the day was for them I totally forget all the BS it took to pull it off. I enjoy a cold one… or ten.
Even the mud. It SUCKS when the rain and mud happens, but you end up laughing about it at the end of the day. There are some listeners that have complained to me on the one or two times we have had good weather. They say, No rain, no mud. This sucks. It’s not Band Camp without mud. YES IT IS. Trust me I can do without the mud.
MI: How many days does it take you to recover from Band Camp?
RH: There truly is no down time anymore. The minute the show stops, the post show starts, and tear down and clean up begins. That takes a few day. By then we have the recordings from the day and we are producing the live radio show. We do wrap ups with sponsors right away and they want to sign up for next year right away, so it is time to create sponsorship packages for the next year. We have honestly already started working on the date for 2011. So recovery? Does not happen. But I don’t want it to. I love it.
MI: Who is your favorite band to ever play?
RH: WOW that is tough. You know they will all read this and everyone but one will be pissed at me. I already talked about Damageplan. That was special. I really like seeing bands like Stone Sour and Mudvayne play it because those guys came up through the ranks with us. I really loved the crowds response to Jada Pinkett Smith and Wicked Wisdom. They did not expect her to rock that hard and she did. Dope is just a tradition that is a must see every year. I guess my favorite though was _____.
MI: Any Advice to local/regional bands who are trying to get on the bill?
RH: Do the right thing for your band and local music year around. Treat clubs and club owners with respect. Work on your craft and do it so well that we can not help but know you matter. Last year Silence Is Broken played both nights of the pre and post show and were so cool that I promised em one of the local spots for 2010 at the 2009 post show. It has been theirs for a year.
MI: How do you like the new Godsmack album? and Sevendust’s? Any good Sevendust stories from past?
RH: The new Godsmack is great. I like that they are not afraid to put a song like Love, Sex, Pain out. Something with a different texture. They are a great blue collar rock band. The new Sevendust is amazing. Produced by UW Grad Johnny K ya know? Clint is back and every song is strong. The thing I like about both bands is even after all these years they are not phoning it in. They are trying to make great records every time.
Good Sevendust stories? I do not want to cause any fights with the wives… kidding of course. Best time I have had with them was when I took a couple JJO listeners down to Atlanta to hang in the studio with em and watch them record. Let’s just put it this way. Morgan and I may have been over served that day, night and morning.
MI: Is Madison a “Heavy Metal” town?
RH: YES dammit. YES. I have wanted to answer that question for years. The trendy deal is to promote the granola, hippies and hipsters. But at the core this is an AMAZING and world renowned metal town. Ask any band JJO plays. They love this town and it is because of the passion of the people. They love the music, know the music and support the music. YES THIS IS A METAL TOWN filled with METAL PEOPLE. Take that to Willy Street and smoke it bitch.
MI: How do you see the next five years for WJJO and Madison in general regarding music?
RH: Madison is a blue collar music town. Three chords and a cloud of dust. JJO will still simply shut up and rock. Don’t look for us to go all Dépêche Mode anytime soon. We have been playing real rock for 13 years and we play to play it for many more. My kids are 6 and 4, I need to make a living at this for a lot more years.
MI: What’s in your CD Player/Car Stereo?
RH: Brother Clyde Lately. The lyric “Lately I feel like crashing. Like the hold world is coming to an end.” ENOUGH already. Clean up that fuckin mess in the gulf and lets make sure it never happens again. I want our soldiers to have what they need to protect themselves and win. If we can’t supply them with it, don’t send ‘em. When they get home take not good care of them, take AMAZING care of them. How about all these pretty, new bridges. Do you we really need to tear down a perfectly good pedestrian bridge to build a prettier one? How about we leave the other one up and put that money into the two struggling neighborhoods that bridge connects. Music programs are being stripped from schools yet we have enough money to tear down perfectly good bridges so we can make a sexier one? REALLY? The song just really simplifies what we are seeing in the world and makes you say WTF? Oil and Wall Street are making 100’s of millions off of destroying the world.