Alan Cross Interview

Ever sit listening to the radio and think, “man…I wanna sound like that?” Radio personalities are a very special breed of people. It’s not only a prerequisite to have that signature voice but they need a noggin brimming with musical knowledge and interesting tidbits. Alan Cross is by far one of the most knowledgeable music junkies out there. You know him and love him…and Orange Country Reverb snagged an exclusive interview with him!

OCR: I remember specifically turning on my radio at night anxiously waiting for the last song to play anticipating the opening sounds of The Ongoing History of New Music. There would be a static hum and then BAM…that memorable voice. When did you realize you had a voice for radio?

AC: I never thought that.  I don’t even think it today.  Man, you should hear some of my early airchecks.  My voice is higher and my delivery can only be described as “wimpy.”  It’s just something that developed over time—without the aid of drugs, smoking or drinking.

OCR: You are to music fans what William Shatner is to Trekkies. Did you ever expect to have such a cult following as a music journalist? Super fun follow-up question: are you now or have you ever been a Trekkie? If your response is in Klingon we will get the hint.

AC: Funny you should mention Shatner because he and I have become friends over the last year.  I toured as his sidekick across Canada with his “How Time Flies” show.  I’m still not sure why he picked me.  Maybe it was because our speaking styles are, uh, similar.  Sometimes.  And yes, I’ve been a Star Trek fan for decades.  And I have a cult following?  Really?

OCR: Travelling is a big part of your job. Can you recall any strange customs or cultural traditions you have experienced in different countries or various provinces acrossCanada?

AC: Traveling across Canada isn’t that big a deal.  The most notable differences between places is the pace of life.  In Southern Ontario, things move at a million miles an hour.  Just try to move that fast in Halifax or Winnipeg.  I dare you.  Here are some quick international impressions:  (a) The US believes they invented rock’n’roll and no one can convince them that anyone else’s music (or music knowledge) is better.  Yeah, there were the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin and a few others; (b) No one loves music more than the English. I’m convinced of that; (c) Japan has become far too insular and is almost incapable of exporting music to the rest of the world; (d) China is the Next Big Thing; (e) Because Asia came to rock later than we did, they have no cultural memory of the rock’n’roll of the 60s.  For them, rock began in the mid-1980s.  The result is a completely different cultural perception of what rock is, what its role in society is and how fans and performers relate.  I’m still thinking this one through.

OCR: Recently there have been numerous rumours and talks of music documentaries in production. What is one of your favourite music documentaries and if a documentary about your life was in the works, who would you cast to portray the starring role?

AC: It’s not a documentary, but I really like “24 Hour Party People.”  I know most of the people in the Happy Mondays and they tell me it’s very close to reality.  If someone were to portray me, I’d go with Michael Fassbinder.  And it has nothing (well, not much) to do with certain anatomical properties.

OCR: Do you think CRTC regulations are restrictive when it comes to introducing independent Canadian music to the airwaves?

AC: Restrictive?  Hell, no!  It’s OVER-restrictive.  And highly political.  Don’t get me started…

OCR: If you were stranded on an island with nothing but a boom-box (that for some miracle had a lifetime battery, and coincidently, there was also an airplane wreck a week earlier that implausibly left behind five of your favourite CDs) which five albums would you survive on?

AC:

1. Stone Roses – Stone Roses

2. Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine

3. The Who – Who’s Next

4. Peter Gabriel – 4

5. Oasis – Definitely Maybe

OCR:  Can you describe your favourite band encounter?

AC: Usually, it’s U2.  You can’t help being sucked into their world.  Although I once had a very relaxed and friendly conversation with Eddie Vedder.  When it was over, he hugged me and thanked me for coming.
OCR: What is the most outrageous experience you have had at a live concert?

AC: It was inSan Franciscoat one of those old Blind Date contest concerts.  The Foo Fighters were playing in front of about 800 people.  I stood next to the guy fromMilwaukeewho spewed the contents of his stomach over about a dozen people.
OCR:  What was one of your most uncomfortable interviews?

AC: The Beautiful South.  They showed up drunk and surly to a live radio interview.  Answers were monosyllabic or shrugs of shoulders.  It ended after 90 seconds.
OCR: If you could interview one rock legend, who is in the big gig in the sky, who would it be and what would you ask them?

AC: Kurt Cobain.  “What’s your problem, man?”
OCR:  What is your favourite current outdoor festival?

AC: I’m not a fan of outdoor festivals.  I’ve been rained on, muddied, vomited on, frozen and otherwise made miserable too many times.
OCR: Can you describe your biggest “star-struck” moment?

AC: Having a private conversation with Bowie.  I’m not sure I heard a word he said because I couldn’t believe I was speaking with him.
OCR: When can you tell  an interview is going South and what do you do to bring it back on track?

AC: Fortunately, very few interviews have cratered on me.  But when it does happen, you have to ask yourself “Is it worth it to continue? Or should we just end it here?”

OCR:  What are some new music trends you are digging? What could your ears do without?

AC: I’m a fan of anything fuzzy and distorted, so I’m hoping for a full-on shoegaze revival.  I want emo and anything Auto-tuned to go away.  Now.

OCR: What up-in-coming bands should we keep a look out for?

AC: I’m interested in a group called WIXIW (pronounced “Wishes”) and an English group called The Wholls.  Give a listen to Crocodiles, Pomegranates and MSMR, too.

Rock on over to Alan’s website (http://www.alancross.ca/) and follow him on Twitter (@alancross).

Connie Bio

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14 thoughts

  1. Alan Cross’s answers are great but I wanted to hear more about his adventures w/ musicians and his most memorable moments with them. You focused too much on things that even he didn’t have an answer for. Would have been sick to if you probed more at his answer to the CRTC regs. The man is a genius with tons of musical knowledge and it’s not showing itself here.

    • Hi Jim. Thanks for stopping by Orange Country Reverb. I appreciate your comments and feedback. The interview was conducted over email, so in that sense, probing further for answers was not a pliable option. As it relates to the CRTC question, even in person if someone chooses not to get into a highly political debate there is no point to pursue it. From my point of view, I wanted to ask Alan questions that he wouldn’t typically come across. I’m sure you could look up handfuls of interviews where you would get the answers you are looking for. There is more to music journalism than just discussing favourite interviews or band encounters. I’m sure he gets questions like “who was your best interview?” or “what are some of your most memorable moments?” ALL the time. Boring and repetitive questions receive boring and repetitive answers.

      • Thanks for replying, and I see your points, but as a music listener who followed him for a long time, I think we care more about Alan’s stories about musicians he’s met than his groupies or dream documentary. He’s met sooo many musicians and I’m sure that he has a lot of stories to tell. I wish I could sit there and listen to him talk about all of them! There were questions about his faves and questions like his first decision to become a radio host, which has been asked many times before, so I’m kind of confused with your approach. I also dont think emails should stop you from getting the answers that readers want. Don’t be happy with first answers. But your right, I will look elsewhere for an interview that has better information about him. Thank you.

      • As a fan, I know Alan has a lot of music stories to tell and on a regular basis he tells them through various sources. He is a natural storyteller, so it isn’t a shock. At the same time, I have watched interviews with him where he has discussed the most sublime moments he has encountered. I have listened to his radio programs and enjoyed his amazing first hand accounts of band interviews. I never asked him about his decision to BECOME a radio host, which would be redundant, but I asked when he first discovered his voice as being suited for the radio medium, which opened up a dialogue about his growth as an entertainer. I am happy with the first answers I received and would not expect him to respond to follow-ups due to his demanding schedule (although I’m sure he would be more than obliging). Thanks again for your feedback. I hope you do find the answers you are seeking.

      • Seems rushed! I dunno why… I think there’s too many questions and not well-thought out. Nice try anyway … good luck.

      • Haters gonna hate. You said you wanted more and then complain about having too much. You are a horribly indecisive critic. Seems like you wanna pick at things no matter what. With that aside I really liked the interview. It touched on a variety of topics. Keep it up and don’t be discouraged by people who don’t have a clue about interesting and well-prepared content.

  2. Good interview! Despite what the haters say I really learned about about Alan from this. Trekkie for life! I think it was well-thought out and gave fans a glimpse into what we want to know.

    • P.S I wouldn’t take a comment with “dunno” to heart because it doesn’t seem like they have a big enough vocabulary to express grown-up ideas.

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