Kevin "Koz" Koske is the afternoon host at the Mix, WTMX (101.9 FM)
Rick: Despite the fact that you've worked all over the country (L.A., Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Denver), you're a Chicago boy. Compare the degree of difficulty integrating your show into a market you don't know at all to doing a show in your home town.
Koz: I think it was easier to do a show in a market I hadn’t grown up in. Growing up listening to major-market radio here in Chicago and Los Angeles made it easy to bring a big market approach to smaller markets. I always want things to sound bigger than life.
As far as my show, it’s been easy to plug myself into a new market because the same rule applies no matter where you are. Talk about what other people are talking about. I’ve never been a “guy from Chicago” doing a show in Palm Springs (Photo: KCMJ-Palm Springs studios 1991), L.A., Denver or anywhere else I’ve been. I’m just a guy on the radio who involves listeners in the show, taps into their lifestyle and keeps things local with the overall goal being to “marry the market.”
Being on the air in Chicago, my hometown, has been a dream come true. There’s a sense of pride that comes with it along with a dose of humility. A lot of the personalities I grew up listening to are still a big part of this city. It’s privilege to be on the air along with them.
Rick: You grew up in Chicago during the 70s and 80s, during a time when some pretty outstanding radio personalities graced the airwaves. Who were your favorites growing up?
Koz: I was always glued to ‘LS as a kid. Everything about it was magical and bigger than life. I loved listening to Larry Lujack and Tommy Edwards for “Animal Stories” and, of course, “Boogie Check” with Landecker.
But when I was 13, I discovered “Steve and Garry” and that’s when I fell in love with radio. I would run home everyday from Grove Jr. High to listen to them and I taped everything they did, so I could listen to it when they weren’t on. Of course, my mom didn’t think the show was appropiate and I lost my radio more than once while listening to “The Worst Seat in the House.” It only made me listen more.
Then came Brandmeier. A group of us would sit around a lunch table at school and talk about his show like you would talk about a TV show. Exploding Phone Booths, Mouth Guitar Contests, Piranha Man and, like Steve Dahl, Brandmeier had a band! Life was good and radio was great until I moved to L.A. when I was 15, but I had friends send me tapes of Steve & Garry, Brandmeier, Kevin Matthews, Alan Kabel, Spike O’Dell and anything else I could get my hands on.
Rick: I think it's safe to say that your show has a certain level of irreverence. I love your show rules. Would you mind sharing those with people who may not be familiar with your show?
Koz: I think any hint of irreverence came from doing the “Sorry List” at the end of my show. Apologizing to people while playing Patsy Cline has left it’s mark.
The show rules were created on the train one night. I came up with 10 because 3 didn’t seem like enough. A few of the rules…
Rule 1: What happens on the show stays on the show.
I don’t have a podcast. So obviously, everything that happens stays on the show.
Rule 2: I always answer my own phone.
I’ve never had a phone-op or a producer. Nothing is better than an unprompted listener and their reactions. I don’t ever want to miss an opportunity to make a listener a star.
Rules 6 and 7: Indiana calls are subject to humor and Wisconsin calls are subject to “stereo-type.” These are in the spirit of good old Chicago rivalry.
Rule 9: Friday email must be sent in ALL CAPS. It’s FRIDAY! If it arrives in lower case, it gets answered on Monday.
Rick: How would you describe your show to people who have never heard it before?
Koz: (Photo: Koz and friends at Wrigley) I joke around that my job description is to make sure that you are not doing your job. My “Kill a Half Hour” (3:20p-3:50p) is themed around that and there’s a web element to the show with Koz’s Corner for anyone who wants to screw around at work or just dive deeper into something mentioned on the show. I like to think I give people an escape from the everyday worries of life. If I can take somebody’s mind off their problems for a minute then it’s been a good day.
Rick: In the PPM ratings, the Mix is a powerhouse. PPM ratings have also shown that middays and afternoons may be just as important (if not even more important) as morning drive. Has that changed your approach in anyway?
Koz: My approach has always been to do every show as if it were my last. That hasn’t changed with PPM. You still have to make every break count and you still have to relate to your audience. You have to work hard to leave an impression with them that keeps them wanting more.
Rick: The Mix is owned by Bonneville. You've worked for all sorts of different companies (Entercom, CBS, Gannett, Salem) so you can answer this better than anyone. Working for Bonneville really is a different experience than working for any other radio company, isn't it? What are the differences as you see them?
Koz: I’ve had the privilege of working for some great companies during my career and to now be working for Bonneville is a blessing. Bonneville has an exceptional work environment and their commitment to this industry, as well as the community, is really something special.
Rick: Recently one major company announced that they would start voice-tracking evenings in addition to overnights (which many companies already voice-track). Are you worried about the future of music jocking?
Koz: I was sad to hear about this because traditionally, nights have been a testing ground for new talent in smaller markets. You still have to put talent on your radio station to be successful, so I think there’s always going to be a need for jocks. But consolidation weeded out a lot of “C” students and now economic budget cuts are taking their toll. No question it’s a tough time. For me, as a former programmer, I’m concerned about where the next generation of talent is going to come from and what opportunities they will be presented with because they are the future of our industry.
Rick: You've been in Chicago now for four years. What have been a few of your favorite moments on the air?
Koz: Here are a few...
• Asking Gwen Stefani what her favorite cuss word was.
• Pitching Simon Cowell on the idea of turning the presidential election into a reality competition called “American President.” He liked it.
• As a father, being a part of “Eric and Kathy’s 36-Hour Radiothon” for Children’s Memorial Hospital here in Chicago.
• Putting my mom on the air for the first time (right after I started at The Mix) only to have her put me on hold. It was her way of telling me to never do it again.
Rick: We share a sickness. I saw the picture of you and your son dressed in full Cubbie-regalia--which means you've also passed along this sickness to the next generation (as I have). Is it ever going to happen for us or are we both engaging in a form of child abuse by making our children into Cubs fans?
Koz: You know the Chicago rule, “You are what your dad is.” Austin just turned 2 and he’s already seen the Cubs in the play-offs twice and the Bears play in the Super Bowl. How long did we have to wait to see that? This child is leading a charmed life. But as much as I want the Cubs to win the World Series, I’m terrified of the thought. Can you imagine? If we finally win it, what the hell are we gonna do?