Below is the transcript from my interview with Hit the Deck’s Rudy Kizer. Rudy and I chat briefly about the city of Kokomo, the cancellation of his show, and what’s next for him. It was a great time. I thank Rudy for the opportunity and imagine we will have him on the blog again in the near future.
P: What brought you to Kokomo?
Rudy: Funny you should mention that. Really getting involved with the girl I was dating at the time. Well. It is a little bit more complicated than that. I was a grad student at Purdue, blew my knee at, needed a place to live. A friend of mine was living on the west side of town and offered me a room as a place to stay so I could finish up my degree. It was during that time that I met the girl that was to be my wife. She was from here and I got stuck here.
P: Haha. You got stuck here.
Rudy: It’s what happened! As much as people complain about Kokomo, it’s like the Fortress of Solitude – closer enough to Indy that you can get there if you need to but if you want to insulate yourself from all of that stuff you can. And it’s inexpensive to live here.
P: I am guessing that the insulation you mention is the reason you chose to stay here?
Rudy: When you are a one kind of a one man operation, there is a lot to do on a daily basis….in addition to holding down a day job. If you are in the middle of everything there is going to be pressure from every corner of the world to go out and get involved in what’s going on. There is something going on every night of the week down in Indy. If you are in the middle of that, the distraction and temptation to do that is going to be there all the time. The ability to get things done, particularly as labor intensive as the show has been the last couple of years, it would have been impossible to continue to do the high caliber work and get it on the air every week.
P: So talk about living in downtown Kokomo.
Rudy: I’ve been down there three, almost four years now. I tend to think it is getting better. It is a slow, progressively getting better kind of operation. Some of the things the city as done, like the entertainment corridor has probably helped. Some of the stimulus money that has gone into some of the businesses downtown has probably helped. The fact that the city has committed to making downtown more of a community gathering kind of place and things like Ribfest and Taste of Kokomo help. There has really been more of a press to make the downtown square more of a hub and a destination instead of a place where there is just a bunch of businesses. I think the one thing that may still be keeping folks out of downtown is the fact that the rent is so high for those buildings. If they can crack that nut, then you’ve got something to talk about. It will pick up steam and start feeding off of each other.
P: Living downtown, is it a hassle?
Rudy: It isn’t a hassle at all really. It is close to everything. Two grocery stores within 5 minutes of each other. Got a couple of restaurants and bars right down there. The fact that you do have all of the community stuff, you just walk out your front door and you are right there. There really isn’t a whole lot of hassle living downtown.
P: We jokingly say you have two day jobs. Recently you were told one of them is no longer on the air.
P: Can you give us some insight into that and whether or not we will continue to hear Hit the Decks or some variation there of?
Rudy: X103 made a budgetary decision and let the program director go. He was the guy on the inside really championing the show from within the Clear Channel machine. He is the one that really understood it. It could be one of two things. It could be that the folks programming the show now don’t understand electronic music and how it is connected with the younger listener, or they could be going with a completely different format and electronic music doesn’t fit in there.
They made the decision not to pick up the show. Honestly, I can’t really complain. I was there for 12 years. I outlasted two general managers at that complex and a program director. I really don’t have a bad thing to say about anyone there. When you are working for a behemoth like that, these things happen. I’ve been told “You’re not really a radio person until you have been unceremoniously fired by a large corporation so welcome to the club” And here we sit. It took a couple of days for it to sink in. I still stink there is a place for that kind of program on Indianapolis radio. Electronic music is the one thing that is kind of vibrant in music sales, particularly digital sales right now. Somebody may want to pick the show up. If not, we will continue it as a podcast and do some other things. I still have my industry contacts so we will still be able to do the same kinds of things we were doing before and maybe do them with less restrictions than when we were broadcasting. That could be kinda fun too.
P: Are you going to continue to play out and about and run yourself ragged?
Rudy: Yes, run myself ragged indeed. That is why the timing of this seems so crazy because things are starting to blossom and there has been more demand for, not just myself, but the other guys on the Indy Mojo DJ roster as well playing more commercial venues. I mean the last thing I did for X103 was open May Day and play between the bands at May Day. That is a monster kind of thing. To make the moves that were made at a time that electronic music has penetrated to where Skrillex and DeadMaus5 are house names seems short sighted. I’ve played out more in the past few months than I have in probably the four years. It’s been a lot of fun. Running yourself ragged a little bit, but I guess you can sleep when you’re dead. (laughs)
P: Are you still going to do a monthly here in Kokomo at the Social?
Rudy: Actually. The Perspective is starting an internet radio station and has asked for some help programming that. There is a possibility we may try to live stream, at least audio, from the monthly we do here in town. So we will see how that goes. Everyone knows that broadcast media is important but is not the Holy Grail it once was. There are all of these other venues you can leverage to get you stuff heard or develop a product. Going forward broadcast is a part of what we want to do, but not all we want to do. We will try this streaming thing and do more with Hitthedecks.net and RudyKizer.com.
It is one of those things where you find out on Monday afternoon and I was upset Monday evening. I woke up Tuesday and was oddly fine with it because I didn’t have to go through the production ringer of getting a show together for a station that didn’t really understand or appreciate it. Then you get the scorned lover effect where you start to get mad about being dumped and start making other moves. I have started investigating internet radio as well as other broadcast media. We have had some nibbles but nothing set in stone. It is oddly liberating to get dumped like that and look around and just think, wow, there are a lot of options. The twelve years of experience, five on the air, plus all of my industry contacts makes a pretty compelling package for someone. I honestly believe we won’t be without a home for very long and we will just continue to prep for bigger and better things.
Indy has been really spoiled because of the amount of top-notch local DJ talent that we have in this scene. I am humbled and honored to be a part of it and present this music that has been such an important part of my life. I’m not done yet. There is still more work to be done.
P: Two more quick questions. First, as an employee of IU Kokomo, do you have any comments on it’s transformation over the last couple of years in really becoming a part of this community?
Rudy: It’s an interesting question. For so long as an employee there, it was like treading water. We were a part of the community but we weren’t doing anything to reach out to become a more integrated part of the community. Then Chancellor Michael Harris walked into the room and all of that did a 180 in about three tenths of a second. The first week he was there he was already meeting civic leaders, trying to get IU Kokomo more involved in all of the community efforts. I think it has made a huge difference. IU Kokomo is no longer thought of as that glorified high school down there on South Washington Street. It is becoming not only a more well-respected educational institution, but a more well-respected partner in the rebuilding of Kokomo. It was kind of dire there for a moment, but, luckily, the region has had some breaks go our way. Chancellor Harris has been there every step of the way making sure we are front and center of any exciting things going on here. It has made a marked difference in the way the university is perceived by the general public.
P: Last question, or comment really. You get the last word. You can give advice, comment on anything, tell a story. It’s your time to say whatever you want.
Rudy: Well, as far as getting into this game, I’ve been doing this for close to 30 years now and I ha the idea when I was in high school and then the technology finally caught up to my ideas. Close to 15 to 18 years later. None of this ever comes easy. Nothing that is worthwhile, worth doing ever comes easy. You’ve got to have a goal in mind, focus toward that goal, and you’ve got to continue to work at it every day. Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice. Then when you are sick of practicing, practice some more. I was talking to a friend of mine that does social networking for the likes of IBM and a bunch of those heavy weights and he claims that studies have shown that to become an expert at something it takes 10,000 hours of practice. So that kind of puts it in perspective. You can’t do a little bit and expect it to just come to you. You also can’t do a little bit, experience failure, and walk away from it and expect things to be okay. You have to really want it and it has to be something that you feel deep down in your soul. I’ve always felt that way. There are lessons to be learned from failure. The important thing is you take those lessons, apply what you’ve learned and continue to step forward.
P: I thank you for your time, Rudy. It is always a pleasure chatting with you. I know our readers are excited to find out what you will come up with next.
Rudy: You know, I am too.
You can keep up to date with what Rudy is up to by visiting Hitthedecks.net or following him on Twitter @hitthedecks.