Before He Celebrates 17 Years of Hosting The Adventure Club, Josh Venable Looks At Its Past
"Hold on for one second, I've got to do a break real fast," he says, before pausing to clear his throat as the last notes of Jane's Addiction's "Jane Says" play in the background. "One of the greatest bands of all time right there, Jane's Addiction, going back to Nothing's Shocking. That is 'Jane Says.' Still to come: Mumford & Sons, by request, and, right now, we have a band whose brand new album doesn't come out until July; this is Brandon Boyd and Incubus with "Wish You Were Here."
He's in the middle of his regular, weekday, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. shift out at KYSR-98.7 FM in Los Angeles, talking to us between brief on-air appearances. The gig is one he's had for over three years at this point, since he moved to Los Angeles. He remains a fixture locally, though, despite his new zip code; Venable can be still heard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every weekday on The Edge, and, as has been the case since 1994, he still hosts The Edge's Sunday night anti-format favorite, The Adventure Club. On Sunday night, he'll celebrate his 17th anniversary of hosting (or co-hosting, as was the case in the early years), the popular show, which, for years now, has provided the alt-rock fans with a much-needed dose of something different.
In advance of this impressive milestone, we caught up with Venable and chatted him up about the show's history, its proudest moments, its evolution over the years and, of course, his favorite local acts. Check out our Q&A with the radio host -- and, let's not forget, tribute band frontman -- after the jump.
You're out in L.A. these days. How long have you been out there?
Three and a half years. It's sunny all the time out here, it's crazy.
So I hear.
Actually, it's kind of cold here today, if you can believe that. It's sunny 350 days a year, though.
Has being out in sunny Los Angeles changed your perspective at all on the music you play on the Adventure Club?
Oh, God, no. It's still sad bastard music 24 hours a day on the Adventure Club.
Why did you have to go out there in the first place? Was that a career move?
Well, yes, essentially. I was given the chance to do afternoons, and be the music director. So, yeah, that's why I'm here.
Why did you keep doing the Adventure Club when you moved out there? Does it air out there as well?
So it just stays here in Dallas?
Yeah, but I'm also on in Dallas doing mid-days every day from ten till two.
Why'd you decide to keep doing it, even after moving away?
Why did I keep doing it? Because it's something that makes me extremely happy and it's something that makes a lot of other people very happy.
How did you even get started with The Adventure Club?
The Adventure Club started, I think, in 1990 with Alex Luke, in those really early days of The Edge, and I was his intern starting in 1993, when I was still in high school. When he left in May of '94 to go and work at another radio station in St. Louis, they asked me, being his intern, obviously. How things have changed! How many have times have they just put an intern, who has never done anything before on the air? I'd never been on the air in my entire life, and they asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said, "Of course!" I was far too terrified to do it on my own, so I went and found someone else who worked in the building, Keven McAlester, who used to work in at the Met, which was the Observer's rival in the early '90s, and he was a music editor later on in life, after having worked at The Adventure Club. I think that obviously would help him get that job. I went and asked him, and I said, "You have terrible taste, right?," and he said, "No, I have great taste! You have terrible taste." And I said, "Well, you like Stereolab and Yo La Tengo, and I like the Smiths, and Suede," and he said, "Exactly!" So I said, "All right, let's do this show together -- I think it'll be hilarious. It'll open the scope of things much more than if I were just playing what I was into or you were just playing what you were into."
When did it become a solo thing?
1997. He left after three years to move to L.A., and now he makes documentaries.
This was your first entry into radio, The Adventure Club. Was that what you were studying at the time? Were you trying to get into radio?
I did go to college for it. I went to UNT and studied radio there.
Were you studying radio while you were on the air?
It was kind of pointless. We were learning things in radio classes that were three and five years outdated. I was working there every single day after school, interning there. Then I moved up to weekend overnights, then normal overnights five days a week, then nights, and now mid-days, all the while doing The Adventure Club all those years.
How did you know about the internship in the first place?
I called George Gimarc, who was the initial music director for The Edge, every day for three months, and I begged, and I pleaded, and I used to go to the station when it was in Las Colinas -- I used to go to the station because I lived in Grapevine at the time -- all the time to meet bands as they were coming in. Which, in hindsight, was probably a fairly stupid thing that The Edge used to do. Gimarc would say, "They Might Be Giants are gonna be here in 45 minutes, and they'll be on the air with me!" So I would get in my car and drive up there, and wait in the parking lot, and then get to meet They Might Be Giants.
Would you be there by yourself, or were there other kids like you?
No. There are no other children like me. I met Erasure, I think, and the Sundays, and They Might Be Giants, all of which, I think, said, "Wow, you seem nice, and you're here, and dorky, with a stack of vinyl for us to sign. Why don't you come up and watch us play in the studio?" Gimarc kind of got to know me from that, and I called virtually every day for, I think it was like three months. From what I remember, and the story that Gimarc and I have told back and forth over the years, it's that I finally just begged and begged and begged, and finally one day, he said, "Josh, what is it that you want to do here?" And I said, "I will do anything! I don't care!"
It's kind of like one of those quintessential breaking-into-radio stories. It's almost so cliché it's perfect!
He'd say, "Show up sometime this week after school." Needless to say, I skipped school the next day and showed up at 8:30 in the morning. I did everything: I got coffee, I made copies, I put away CDs. I did whatever. Like I said, I was a senior in high school getting to meet all my favorite bands. I was still extremely wide-eyed and couldn't believe all this was happening to me. It was a kind of nice, Almost Famous existence for a while.
The obvious thing about the Adventure Club and its appeal is that it's a little bit different from regular Clear Channel-formatted radio...
All formatted radio.
When did it take the shape that it's still on today?
When you guys took over and you were trading back and forth?
Yeah. And I think Alex before that. The show has definitely gone through phases where Alex was more Brit-pop-heavy than the solo years that I was on in the mid-'90s during the big explosion of Brit-pop, and people couldn't believe that. He was into Lush, into the Cocteau Twins, into the Sundays. Alex had a big thing for old British bands. Then, when Keven and I took it over, there was a lot more American indie rock, a lot more local music included, and I think that's kind of the trajectory that the show has been on ever since. When you look at the bands that the Adventure Club has helped to break over the years, they're definitely not exclusively British indie rock bands the way that I think lots of people immediately associate The Adventure Club with that style of music.
Who are the bands you're most proud to have played early on?
Coldplay, Mumford, Oasis, Weezer, the Old 97s were first played on the show, the Polyphonic Spree. I remember that the Polyphonic was the weekend after Wes died. Tim brought the Polyphonic Spree up to play for the first time on the show, and it was his first interview after Wes passed away, and it was this long discussion about that. We played Eisley, too. Tons of local bands. Tons and tons of local bands.
Was that always the plan, the local bands, or did that just come to be?
What do you mean, the plan?
You mentioned playing a lot of local bands. Obviously the 97s, Eisley, etc. I know Smile Smile gives you a lot of credit for getting their band off the ground too. Did you want to play local bands?
I said this in something in the Observer quite a while ago -- it makes no difference to me where somebody is from. If it's good, it's really good, I'll play it. There are very few bands that are quintessentially Texas, you know what I mean? The Dooms UK could have been from anywhere when we started playing them, and Funland could have been from anywhere when we started playing them. As long as it's good, it will get played on the show. I always hated the "I don't play enough local music" argument, and that criticism has always seemed absolutely asinine to me because I play what I think is really really good at the time. If there is not a flood of great music coming in from the 76-whatever zip code, then it's not gonna get played. It's not my fault! It's other people's fault for not making better records.
If that's the asinine criticism, what is the accurate criticism of the Adventure Club?
Let's see. That I'm not humble enough. [Laughs.] Once again, I think that the show is great, so why should I sit back and say, "Oh, well, the show is really not that good"? Eff that noise. The show is that good! What don't people like about me? Lots of people have said that I'm not a nice person in person, which I've never really understood. I think I'm nice to everybody!
You're nice on the air, but not in person? Is what they're saying?
I guess. I've had bomb threats called against me for, quote, "Not being nice on the air." Which I think is awesome. But it made my mother cry, by the way -- both times that she found out about, at least. One time, they had to come out and do a sweep of our cars in the parking lot...
No way! Because of a bomb threat? What's the story there?
That I was making fun of the Toadies on the air. [Laughs.] And an overzealous Toadies fan called in a bomb threat.
Were you actually making fun of the Toadies?
Of course I was! [Laughs.] The story would be not nearly as fun had I not actually made fun of of them.
Maybe the worst criticism is that I'm an elitist, which I always found really stupid.
Well, I just don't like terrible music. There's a huge difference in being an elitist and being somebody that refuses to suffer from stupid music that's made for five-year-olds.