“Side Jams” Celebrates Its One Year Anniversary

The original Side Jams logo by Gail Flug.

I’m pleased and surprised that my podcast Side Jams has already reached its one-year anniversary. When I was younger, reaching a milestone like this felt like it took ages to achieve. Chalk it up to youthful impatience. But as I’ve progressed in my career, I have learned that once you plant seeds, even if they take time to grow, they can yield a great harvest.

I originally created a podcast mainly with musicians many years ago. I also featured author Sven Davison and iconic comic book artist Sergio Aragones. There were 11 audio podcast episodes and one video podcast, but I was using much cruder recording methods and did not have really professional audio gear, with the exception of the “Metal Masters 4” video interview with Charlie Benante, Phil Anselmo, and Kerry King that was done at a junket in New York City.

I look back at those early podcasts as a rough draft for Side Jams. I was able to figure out what worked and what didn’t, what I sounded like through a microphone, and how I could further sharpen my interviewing skills. Working in a radio-based format rather than the written word is a different animal. I have been interviewed on radio and television before, but being the one doing the interviewing is different. I tend to speak quickly and have learned over time to temper my pace as well as improve my diction. That has been a rewarding process in itself.

I originally came up with the idea for Side Jams around late 2018 after a few people kept encouraging me to do a podcast about either music or movies. Yet given the one million podcasts floating around in the Internet ether, I thought to myself, “What can I really offer that is any different than what all these other people are doing? Does the world really need a podcast with me spouting off about pop culture, music, or movies?” I decided that I needed a fresh angle, and after a few months of consideration I came up with the idea for Side Jams.

Three of Side Jams’ earliest guests.

The premise of this podcast, which is to explore the outside passions and hobbies of musicians, is a natural extension of the work that I’ve been doing over the last 25 years. Sometimes you have a very limited amount of time with certain artists – there are phoners or in-person interviews that literally last only 15 to 20 minutes long – but oftentimes I have ended up doing an extended chat that lasted for up to two hours. Naturally, word count limitations dictate that only essential information be included in any story that I’m writing, so any really interesting diversions into outside territory only warrant a minor mention as part of a more focused feature. But with Side Jams, I have the ability to talk to people about topics of interest that they don’t normally get to expound upon too much in interviews, or if they do, that information ends up on the cutting room floor, so to speak. That has happened to me more times than I can remember.

My output at the beginning of Side Jams was a lot more modest. I intended to crank out many more interviews, but my full-time gig as a freelancer often meant that my time was occupied by more pressing matters that brought in the green. My initial focus when I began this podcast was not monetary gain but to establish the brand, build up a library of interesting interviews, and hone my craft as a podcast interviewer. One of my best friends, Gail Flug, even designed the upbeat original logo with my mug for free which I truly appreciate.

Then I did an interview last year with Christian Swain for his podcast Deeper Digs In Rock. He knew of my reputation as a writer and was intrigued by my podcast premise when I brought it up to him. He soon invited me to join the music-centric Pantheon Podcasts family co-founded by by Peter Ferioli. At the time, my original intent was to interview artists across different mediums, hence why voice over actor Roger Craig Smith is episode number one. I was not sure if I wanted to just focus on music or be broader in scope, but I soon realized that the challenges of going it alone were daunting. Plus the idea of being part of a broader network which could help me promote my work was too enticing to pass up. I also realized that I could interview people that were actors or painters or writers if they also had a musical sideline or talent. I interviewed Jeff Goldblum for Playboy.com four years ago, and considering his jazz career, he is certainly someone I would love to have on this podcast.

Since officially signing on with Pantheon in February, I’ve had to adhere to a stricter schedule. I promised them two podcasts per month, but lately I am shooting for one every ten days. With quarantine lockdown still in effect, this is the perfect time to bank a lot of podcasts. So far I am very proud of my achievements with Side Jams, and I am excited for many more interviews to come.

I have to thank the ever-growing Pantheon network for their interest and support, and also to Peter for designing me a snazzy new logo (which retains Gail Flug’s original tagline). I also need to thank the people who jumped onboard at the beginning when the podcast was still a concept and not even released yet. Coordinated by Alfred Hopton, Roger Craig Smith was the first episode and a great debut subject. Veteran publicist Alexandra Greenberg arranged my interview with Jean-Michel Jarre, with whom I have a history. Another longtime PR cohort, Arielle Roselli, hooked up the Ash Costello and New Years Day group chat. Guitarist Alex Skolnick, whom I have interviewed a few times over the years, eagerly agreed to do an exploration of his favorite literature in the Strand Book Store, and Dani from Cradle of Filth consented without reservation just based on our friendship and without even knowing what we were going to talk about until we sat down backstage. The advantage of having been in the business this long and developing solid such relationships has made it easier for me to get this podcast off the ground and build an excellent collection of interviews. Thank you to everyone who showed support and faith in me from the start.

There are many more exciting things to come with Side Jams, and I hope you enjoy the forthcoming episodes. If you haven’t had a chance to, please feel free to peruse past episodes that you have not listened to. It does not really matter if you are a strong or even casual fan of any artist(s) who have been interviewed. The point here is not to promote their latest albums, but to get them to talk about topics you might relate to or be interested in learning more about. Whether they are discussing stargazing, horses, collecting antiques, or reading science fiction, everyone interviewed herein has fascinating things to say about each of their chosen “side jams”.

Thank you for listening, and I hope you enjoy what comes next. There are exciting times ahead. I know I’m stoked.

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