Rants & Raves Index
We're pretty sure the guys who killed the show never even HEARD the show....
USA Biker Nation - R.I.P.
Yet another "corporate merger" that ends up with the little guy taking it directly in the shorts. Whaadayagonnado?
So, I don’t know if any of you were listening out there – I kinda hoped you were, and we often got response that indicated that was the case, but Trash and I were involved in a Radio show called USA Biker Nation for about the last year and a half.
First off, kudos to the masterful Peter Boyles who knows more about radio than any man has a right too and all the other folks who worked to make it happen. I really had the easy part – show up and talk about bikes. For a guy with my background – what could be easier? Well, after several months of working with just Peter and I, I introduced Peter to the Trashman (who you all know from these pages) and they hit it off right away: Peter has an uncanny eye for those who are true blue and those who are slinging horsehit – and, if you know that Trashman at all – you’ll know he’s a man who stands behind what he says.
So the die was cast – the three of us met every Saturday at the ungodly hour of 7am to be on the air at 8am. We met at the local studios of Clear Channel (a giant radio company in Colorado), tried to scrape up enough cream for the coffee, adjusted the duct tape on our headphones (nothing but the best for our Biker friends) and for two hours we talked about bikes, riding, the people that ride them and pretty much anything that Peter wanted to cover. Don’t get me wrong – Trash and I had our days of input, but lest you forget who is one first, it was Peter’s show all the way. Trashman and I were mere radio pups in the presence of the master, AND he paid the bills.
So as a rule it was the show Peter wanted, and we were fine with that, because Peter generally had a pretty good show in mind. Now I will admit that sometimes the guests left me a little non-plussed, simply because in a lot of ways I felt these folks really hadn’t done anything spectacular enough in the world of motorcycling to warrant three appearances and several hours worth of radio time. Peter had a love and respect for people who brought a different type of energy to the sport than a traditionalist like myself would’ve found interesting: sculptures, photographers, women riders, museum curators – people who spent most of their time on the artsy side of the sport as apposed to the asphalt side. Don’t get me wrong – these people contributed to the sport – but not like Mondo Bondo, Big Daddy Jr. and several well-know outlaws who all helped shape the persona of what the biker today is all about. He had those people on, but you could tell his heart was in a difference place: Peter loved motorcycling as art, I love motorcycling as the penultimate of mechanical zen – a place Peter feared to tread.
These are bikers man, and they build and ride bikes – but whenever the conversation would turn to engine types, carburetors, transmissions or any of the well-loved and well-worn parts of those machines that have become part of our very soul, Peter would make the “knife across the neck” sign and hustle us on to some other topic. Hey, it was his show, if he wanted to talk about Women Motorcycle Safety Course Instructors – well, more power to him.
So Trash and I kept quiet about the stuff we know and love – building bikes, that close association that can only happen when a man (or a woman) builds a machine from scratch and then rides the hell out of it. For those that haven’t done it, there’s simply no way to describe it – for those that have done it, well – there’s no reason for me to go on about it – you KNOW what I’m talking about. So the show went on into a year and half while gaining audience and momentum. We had some high points and we had some low points, most of our lows were of a technical nature: dead air, poppy spots, dropped phone lines, etc. To be honest, I have never seen such a simple technology that was plagued with so many problems.
And it drove Peter crazy. If there’s one thing in this world that Peter Boyles wants, it’s a professional and polished show. He leaves the audience with the “kids don’t try this at home” air that comes from doing radio for 30+ years. When the gremlins of AM technology worked against him (and it seemed like this show was had a veritable PLAGUE of technical issues, mostly caused by old equipment that simply wasn’t growing younger on it’s own). The other rough area was “live events” – many times it seemed to me that we were trying to create a biker scene rather than immerse ourselves in the scene that already existed. Peter threw himself into these live events with and energy and vengeance unlike anything I’ve seen before – as if he could create a successful event by the sheer force of his will. But the fact remains, when you’re expecting 500 people and 50 show up, it’s pretty hard to hide. It wasn’t for lack of effort on Peter’s part – he fairly injected the events with his own energy, but in the end it was a lack of alternative media publicity that laid these events to rest. It was obvious to all that you had to do more than pimp an upcoming event on your morning talk show to fill a hall, you’d get some people – but not ALL the people.
There were events that were packed too, and those were really some of the shows high points: set up right inside the open door of a fairly radical gun shop with the USA Biker Nation Babes slinking around while bands blasted out music, Big Dogs blasted out exhaust and vendors blasted out brats, beer and more – these will be hard images to erase, and I can’t imagine why I’d want them gone – as they say “A good time was had by all”.
But in the end it wasn’t ratings that killed the beast, it wasn’t a hot coffee cup in the lap lawsuit, it wasn’t an on-air fight amongst rival club members and it wasn’t a spare tire filled with white powder that brought down the potential Goliath. It was a small man in a suit in an office somewhere making digital love to the only thing that would have his weak seed – a copy of Microsoft Excel. And that program replied to the man after much pinching, punching and squishing around that this show, this “biker” show simply didn’t make any money. The truth is the show ran in the red for most of it’s adult life and was just getting to the point where Peter wouldn’t have to PAY to get it on the holy bird in the sky – because if you ain’t on the bird, you ain’t shit. We had finally gotten to the point where the number of cities that had picked up the show meant that all the production costs were covered when BLAM, like a door shutting in a stiff wind, we were done for.
Somewhere there’s a guy who owns a big company called Trident Media. They have a bunch of radio shows and they wanted more – so they bought a company called Jones Radio, which was the “syndicator” for USA Biker Nation. Jones Radio was our pimp and somehow the bitch had been holdin’ money out in it’s titty bank. It wasn’t for lack of love – the cities that carried us loved us (or so they say), but it was for lack of scratch after a year and half on it’s back that set the boys driving pink Cadillac’s and picking their teeth with switchblades to ask the terrifying question “Where’s the money, motherf**ker?” and that meant it was time to turn USA Biker Nation out to pasture with thousands of other well thought out and well executed, intelligent programs. Not with a BLAM, but simply a reshuffling of program schedules and it was off to that radio graveyard in the sky.
There were lots of things that came together to make USA Biker Nation a really great radio show – and who thought you’d ever hear the words “really great radio show” again? But there were more things holding it back – people are dropping AM radio to replace it with HD radio, XM Radio, Direct Satellite Radio, Cable Radio and Internet Radio. The competition for audience share has gotten so intense that it’s a flat out miracle that we made it as far as we did – but pushed by Peter’s unstoppable will-power, what else could’ve happened?
Peter has said he’s OK with it, and has other projects to fill his time. He just signed what he claims is his last radio contract – when this one expires he’ll be 71. It’s really a shame our plans of buying a motorhome a driving around the country like some AM three musketeers reviewing motorcycle events and hamburger stands throughout the US will never come to be. But Peter has projects – and so do we.
The biggest beef Trash and I had with USA Biker Nation was VERY minor – we simply felt it didn’t contain enough information about building bikes. It simply didn’t touch the technical aspect of the motorcycle because it was looking at women bikers, drag racing stars and women who were starting driving schools. All worthy causes, events and people to be sure – but nothing beats the visceral feeling of popping the top 4 bolts off a stock Harley 5 speed and plunging your hands right into the heart of the beast. Fixing, modifying, creating and making that monster so much yours that anybody would be STUPID to even try to ride YOUR personal machine.
We love the glean off a well-burnished carburetor, we get hot when we hear a new motor turn over for the first time, and the side-by-side running of two big twins down a country road rolling into a slow but steadily increasing RPM can be pure orgasmic music to the soul. We’re bike builders and we can’t explain why we do this any more than base jumpers can explain why they jump off a cliff or white water rafters can explain why they like spinning, head first, underwater to a waiting waterfall. We read the new biker magazines cover-to-cover in hopes of finding some new part that solves a problem nobody but us would understand (how to fit a five-speed transmission into a 4 speed frame, how to powdercoat really cheap aluminum and how to wire a motorcycle with only 7 wires), when we go to a bike show – we don’t go to the bike judging room, we head directly for the parts boxes and begin sifting through old gears, housings and bearings in a box marked “Early Shovilhed – Make ofer”. We build when we can’t afford to, when we don’t need to and when the garage doesn’t have any more room. It’s as much a part of our personality as the morning crap, the first cup of coffee or the yawn at the end of the day – we’re thinking about cutting up that frame we have in the garage and making it a hardtail.
That’s why we’re going to do what we’re going to do, which is keep the tradition going started by USA Biker Nation. We’re going to do it without Peter, because he’s got other stuff to do – and in his heart of hearts I don’t think he views the internet as a medium that can take on radio. But Trash and I have seen the light on the odometer – it’s the right time to bring a new kind of show to life, a new kind of online experience and a new kind of information exchange for those of us gearheads who, when not actually building bikes, can talk endlessly about what they’d like to build next, and how they’d like to build the next bike, and the motor the next bike will have, and the color they’re gonna paint the tank, and how they’re gonna build the transmission, and how they’re gonna rake the frame, and how and how and how and how and how…it just goes on!
For those people we will present “KickSartTV.com” – a combination of internet radio, internet video, chat room, interactive video and whatever other digital shit we can fling at the wall. Some of it’s gonna stick – and that will be the basis for “kickSartTV.com”. So come join the great experient in the evolution of radio to the internet. Ask some questions, jump into a chat room, call us up on Skype or, better yet, hook up a cam to your skype account and come visit us in real-time video! Check out the site http://www.kickstarttv.com for updates. We’re pounding away as hard as we can over here, so check it out, join in and relish the new that has sprouted from the old of USA Biker Nation. Welcome the new medium – welcome KickStartTV.com!
- Warren Fuller