Exclusive interview: Ted Stryker of AUDIENCE Music series talks brand new season

Ted Stryker
Ted Stryker is a seasoned music DJ and journalist who is now an AT&T AUDIENCE Network star

One of the best on-air personalities in Los Angeles hosts a bang-up music series for AT&T AUDIENCE Network.

Ted Stryker, aka Stryker to many is a KROQ-FM staple who has done a bit of acting and red carpet interviewing in his day, but his new gig at AUDIENCE Music Concerts has upped the ante for the SoCal native who brings out the best in music artists.

Tonight he sits with the band 311 and talks about their beginnings and the future, while the band treats fans to a killer set.

This season there will be 14 artists that Stryker sits down and interviews in an unfiltered and unedited stream of amazing insider information, musical performances all taped with a live studio audience.

Stryker hits his stride showcasing artists across all genres of music.  “I feel so lucky to work on this show,” said Ted Stryker in a press statement. “I get to interview my favorite artists, hear their inspiring stories, and watch them perform in such an intimate setting.”

All concerts are recorded in ultra high-definition 4K, and they include tonight’s event with the band 311, plus French Montana, All Time Low, Hanson, Andy Grammer, Hunter Hayes, Atlas Genius, Neon Trees, Bea Miller, Rachel Platten, Echosmith, Rick Ross, Charlie Worsham and Vic Mensa.

We spoke to Stryker today about his AUDIENCE network series airing on Friday night and got a special sneak preview of the 311 interview too:

Monsters and Critics: You’re one of the things I miss most about Los Angeles. I listened to you on KROQ, and I’m in Idaho now.

Ted Stryker: I love Idaho. I’ve gone the last four of five years there for one-week vacations.

M&C: So tell me everything. How did you get this gig with Audience Network?

TS: Bart Peters, who is one of the executive producers, I had worked with him years ago, briefly, on a project. Then roughly, I guess it was probably two and a half years ago, I got a call and Bart asked me if I wanted to do one episode of a show from the Final Four basketball tournament, which was in Houston. And I believe, like, Panic! at the Disco and Fallout Boy and Lucas Graham were playing. I’m like, “Of course I would love to do that.” But at the time, I was not exactly sure, like, what was I gonna be doing out there?

Turned out to be very in-depth interviews, there were live performances. And then a few weeks after that, I got the call, and they’re like, “We’re gonna do this series, and we would love to have you be part of it.”

So there wasn’t an audition. Although maybe, secretly, going to the final four with Panic! at the Disco and Fallout Boy was the audition.

M&C: Tonight your show features the band 311…

TS:  That episode that airs Friday, is the 311 episode. We shot close to 70 episodes so far now.  I think the number one thing is, every member of the band is in the interview. A lot of times, not just with 311, but other bands, you’ll see two of the guys. But every guy is not only in the interview, but every guy has something really cool to say.

They talk about their fans quite a bit, and we learn a lot, and I don’t think they’ve talked as in-depth about the struggle before the success. Because a lot of us know, “Oh, they got this song and this album went top ten, and they have a summer headlining tour 15 years in a row.”

Just hearing about how Nick Hexum, the lead singer, moved from Nebraska by himself at 17 or 18 years old to L.A., and then went back to get the guys. But it’s the little nuggets in between all that stuff, that the fans are gonna love, and the performance.

Everybody watching, I think, is gonna be jealous that they’re not there, because the audience is two feet away from the band, which is so cool.

Nick Hexum (R)
The band 311 opens up about the early days and performs a smashing set

M&C: How big is the audience in this show? In the live audience?

TS: Let’s see, I think, I don’t know the exact number. It’s probably around 250 people.

M&C: Shot down in Manhattan Beach [California] Studios?

TS: That’s where we shot this current season. The, I think it’s 14 or 15 episodes, that’s where we shot it, yes.

M&C: What was the most surprising interview that really you’re most proud of from a journalistic standpoint?

TS: Holy mackerel, let’s see here. I’m gonna name a couple if that’s all right. Really, the first one I’m gonna say is Keith Urban. Now, everybody has heard of Keith Urban. The history of my interviewing bands, for the most part, leans towards rock, alternative rock. On the TV show, it’s all genres. But never have I interviewed a guy from that genre who is that big.

I think there is such a relaxed vibe in it, in just the way he was talking and the things he talked about, and his struggle, whether it was as a child getting signed, moving to Nashville, substance thing, abuse, it just, I’d say that is right there in my top interviews.

I really enjoyed talking to French Montana as well. That episode has not aired yet. He was so good and so open. And again, it’s not the scene that I shoot for, but every one of the artists…Like, no one is just handed a fantastic career, all of a sudden you’re an A-level celebrity.

These men and women I talk to all have this competitive spirit in them, and this fire that you see in like a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James or something. And it’s not necessarily they’re competing against the other artists, although there’s a hint of that. It’s, they are competing against themselves, and not letting themselves down. And there’s something that fuels them, maybe it’s something in childhood. It could be somebody telling them, “There’s no way you’re gonna be successful.”

Or maybe it was being raised by a single parent, and they want to make someone proud. Whatever that is, they, every single one of them has that.

M&C: When did you know that you were exceptionally good at drawing people out and getting people to trust you, that’s revealed so much? When did you know that you had that skill?

TS: I really appreciate that. I have not really thought about it like that, but I don’t know if I can pinpoint it, but I … Early on when I first got a job in AM radio in Tucson, and I would just have the local deli worker on, honestly, I think I maybe felt it then. Like it’s just a relaxed environment that’s just, when you come in you’re gonna be relaxed and open up, and I’m relaxed, and we’re not gonna be robots on here. But I don’t know when, and I just want to say how much I appreciate that compliment, it’s very nice.

M&C: The red carpet is just a nerve-wracking thing, no matter how famous you are, and yet your humor just kind of slides in there. But has it ever gone south, or where you felt like anything that you did, it just wasn’t cracking through?

TS: I’ve had some interviews like that, and I only blame myself when that happens. I don’t really remember all the great ones, but I remember when it just didn’t go that well. And of course, no one can hit or bat a thousand in anything they do. And I always just like, “Was I not prepared? Did I not ask the right questions? Am I having a bad day? Am I looking, am I off putting it? What is going on here?” So yeah, there’s definitely been a couple of those over the years.

M&C: Tell me about the structure of the show, do you begin with the interviews and then the concert? And how many songs are in the set?

TS: When we shoot the interviews, they’re about 40 minutes long. We never cut, we never stop. We have seven or eight cameras rolling the entire time, and that’s what I think keeps us in the rhythm, and just adds to the relaxation part of it. I don’t wanna say it’s not formal, ’cause it is formal, and it’s very in-depth, but going from minute one to minute 45 keeps them engaged. And I study so hard before each interview like I can’t sleep for two days before each one.

The amount of songs that the artist plays varies, but I believe it’s probably between 8 and 12 songs, and the way that we do the interview is, I mean, it is shot, I give so much credit to production, sound, lighting.

We weave in and out from a song or two that they play live, into the interview. And as we’re kind of wrapping up a topic in the interview it segs back into the performance. So it’s not just 30 minutes play, 30 minutes talk. It’s in and out of both for the entire hour.

M&C: You’re a Los Angeles native, but you went to college in Arizona. When did you come back to California, about what year?

TS: I came back to California full time in 1999. I started my radio career, though, in Tucson, in 1993.

M&C: What makes KROQ different than any other FM station in the country, in your opinion?

TS: I think it’s a combination of the music we play, with the way that it’s delivered, and the events that we create.

M&C: What’s your favorite KROQ event that is pretty well-known? What’s the one that you live for?

TS: It is the summer KROQ Weenie Roast, it’s called, and that is our own, and then it’s the two-day winter festival we do, which is called the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas. And we book these shows, we produce these shows. Every detail of the way the stage looks, to the way my broadcast stage looks, we do everything.

And it sells out the first day every single year. The lineups are always great, and I am so proud of those events that we do.

I’m also, the coworkers that I have, are so good at what they do, because I mean a lot of people will play the new Blink 182 song, but it’s the way it’s delivered, and then it’s having the band on, and you can hear the excitement in their voice. Or just playing a new band that no one knows.

I was the first one to play Twenty One Pilots. Even in this day and age when you got the internet and all this stuff, I heard them and I’m like, “I have to play this.”

So even though it’s tough to play stuff first these days, I think we still kind of are, hopefully, a leader in a combination of new music, and keeping our finger on the pulse of what’s out there.

M&C: You definitely cover the big music festivals. Do you think that the Audience Network might expand this premise and take you on the road to America’s best festivals, from Bonnaroo, Coachella, to Boise, Idaho’s week long TreeFort Music festival?

TS: That would be so fun to do. I mean, to take the show on the road and do it at festivals and film the bands, and then get the interviews and package everything.

Holy moly, that would be so fun. I don’t know if that’s their plan, but I’m gonna suggest that to them. And so many people can’t get the tickets, and can’t afford to go to these big festivals, so it would be really cool.

M&C: What do you want the audience to geek out about for this season? Of all the artists that you filmed for this season, who’s going to be the biggest surprise? You got to meet Rick Ross, how did that go?

TS: This is something that I learned about Rick Ross, and I hope it comes across in the interview. Creative people out there that are doing well, we know that they are so focused on the creativity, on their songs, on their music videos.

But Rick Ross is a guy who’s a ’10 out of 10′ when it comes to creativity. But also, not only does he have time for it, but his business intelligence is a 10 out of 10. He has his record label, he owns restaurants all around the country, he signs artists, he’s in on the budget of what they’re gonna spend on music videos for his artists. He is in control and in charge of so many things. He’s also got his own alcohol brand… I mean, just an incredible guy, again business side and creative side.

M&C: That’s fascinating. Anyone else, like Andy Grammer?

TS: Andy Grammer is a singer who’s had a lot of success, who got his start by playing on Third Street Promenade in Los Angeles. Busking, I guess, is the right word to say, he was busking, people were just tipping him. And he has gone on to just be, to have a really great career. I mean he has got a big fan base, he plays big shows, and just a super charming guy.

I think that’s one thing that the audience hopefully appreciates, and I can see it online, I can see the comments to the band, and people write to me is, they love when their artists are on TV, so relaxed and laughing and talking about things that maybe they did not know about, when it comes to the audience not knowing about the artists.

The group Prophets of Rage were on. I don’t know if you know this crazy supergroup. It’s three of the guys from Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morello, Tim, and Brad Wilk, then B-Real from Cypress Hill, and Chuck D from Public Enemy. And they came on, and that interview was up there with my favorites of all time, because Tom Morello is so smart and so well-spoken, and then you throw in a guy like B-Real, whose voice is completely different than the speaking voice of Tom Morello, but also so intelligent but just in a different style. And that was really a great one.  The Prophets one, I believe, already aired. But Rick Ross hasn’t aired, French Montana, Neon Trees, Hunter Hayes.

M&C: Who have you not booked? And who are you dying to get on your show? You can give me the top three.

TS: Okay, my top three. Now again, you’re asking me who would I want in fantasy wish list land…Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters, Jay Z.

AUDIENCE Music Concerts airs Friday at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT (DIRECTV Ch 239/U-verse Ch 1114).

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