There was really no way to judge impact a show like TNN Radio was going to have on local music when host Jimmy Alvarez first sat in front of the mic in 2004. He had no idea if anyone would listen or care about what he was doing and despite his history on air with 106.7 KROQ FM, there was no guarantee that this little experiment in the OC market was gonna yield any major results. Fast forward 14 years and 999 shows later, TNN is operating on a higher frequency than anyone could’ve imagined. It’s become an outlet for countless local bands to get their music played and a platform for major artists like The Offspring, Social Distortion, Blink 182 and even Blues great Buddy Guy. But more than that, TNN Radio is a bridge between music’s past and future that reminds us there’s still stations out there that don’t have to play by the rules of a standard format. They play whatever they want, as long as it’s good.
This Sunday, TNN celebrates it’s 1000th show from their Laguna Beach studio at KX 93.5 FM broadcasting at their normal time slot from 1-3 p.m. Bringing on a parade of special guests, fun memories and great music, Alvarez and his crew are sure to make it an exciting show that speaks volumes about where they’ve been and where they plan to go with a few songs and jokes in between. Recently the Weekly spoke to Alvarez about the long journey to 1000 shows and what continues to make TNN Radio worth a listen all these years later.
OC Weekly: When you started at the station what was your idea of how you wanted to come in and effect things as a radio DJ
When I first started at the station I really looked forward to what Tyler Russell’s mission to provide programming that’s not based on a big brother radio concept. He wanted different programs that played the kind of music people loved whether it was new music or stuff from back in the day regardless of genre, but trying to stay somewhere around the area of alternative music. From my history with KROQ, it was more of a free-form type of thing where DJs got the autonomy to play a lot of different music along with some of the programming. It excited me to go back to a place that gives DJs a chance to be creative and listen to what the music fans want to hear.
Being able to enjoy the scenery in Laguna Beach probably doesn’t hurt either.
It’s nice to go to a place where you can walk down to the beach before or after your show to clear your mind. It’s an important part of being free and creative and that environment is really conducive to that.
What’s one of the main things you remember about your first broadcast at KX 93.5 FM?
The first broadcast I had no idea that anyone was listening and these days we get emails from everywhere–Laguna, Riverside, Boston, Japan, Brazil, everywhere. That, of course, is a result of technology and broadcasting on the internet and through the iHeart app and people listen to us because we work in tandem with a lot of the bands we interview who bring us to their audience and they continue to listen to us they like the show, or the interview we did with their favorite band.
Who are some of your favorite artists that you’ve had the chance to interview on the show?
I think some of the band interviews we do now, I probably could’ve have done here in the early days because we were just breaking out. When we first started this, social media, internet radio, and everything was just taking off so we didn’t have a very big reach, we were just trying to play really good music and reach out and re-introduce ourselves to a lot of industry people. But we’ve gotten a chance to interview 311, Social Distortion, The Offspring, Johnny Vatos of Oingo Boingo Dance Party, Terry Nunn of Berlin, Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons, John Easdale of Drama Rama. All of these guys and ladies whether they be old school or in new bands they understand what we’re trying to do. We also send the podcast to their PR and most of the time they cut it up and use it for their own purposes. We also have photographers and videographers at their shows and send them shots and so it becomes a mutual aid or them to work with us to promote their new shows, albums or anything else they have going on.
Talk about some of the crew you have working with you that help make the broadcast possible.
Over the years we’ve had so many contributors. We came up with this idea in 2004 and podcasts were just starting. Once I got the itch to get back into radio and created TNN, the problem was outside of being an on-air host and talking to people I sucked at everything else. But I couldn’t believe how many people volunteered to help make this happen. I got people to help us from all walks of life to help create the website. IT is so important and to have the infrastructure we have coders, people to help with social media and all the platforms our audience uses. If not for those people we would not be able to do what we do.
We’ve had to bring on a lot of photographers and videographers over the years from all over Southern California, top quality people with great resumes we give them exposure and help give them access to shoot major bands. As we got bigger and bigger and people got to know us it really helped.
As far as on-air talent, Leeza London, Randy Lavik and I all worked at KROQ 20 something years ago. Leeza worked with Rodney Bingenheimer on Rodney on the Rock and did live broadcasts when she lived in London and would bring a lot of bands to Rodney’s attention which he got all the credit for discovering. She has a great ear for music and a following of her own. A lot of the big bands we get are talking with us because of her relationship with them. Randy brings the show to life, she’s funny and makes you laugh. What she brings color to the show to the table is so important. Because of Leeza, Randi, our IT people and photographers working together with me, we’ve been able to put together a quality show together and talk to some of the biggest names in the music business and to this day I still don’t know how we pulled it off.
What are some things you’re looking forward to about the 1000th show on Sunday?
This show is gonna feature a lot of bands who’ve been big supporters of not just TNN Radio and KX 93.5 but of OC music in general. I’m gonna have Aaron Barrett from Reel Big Fish on the show, Johnny Vatos from Oingo Boingo, Noodles from The Offspring, Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons, John Easdale from Drama Rama, big-time supporters of what we’ve done who are a bridge from the past to the future of music.
What do you do you consider to be your show’s primary contribution to local music?
As far as TNN Radio goes, I truly believe the best way to know where you’re headed is to know your past, shows like ours have an obligation to present some of these older bands to some of the kids today. It’s very important for kids to know musical history but to look towards the future and we’ve met so many great fans and bands who we talk to all the time and we think it’s important to support a lot of the bands coming out of Orange County and that’s what this show does.
When I schedule OC bands I always try to book them the same day we’re interviewing a huge band right before them so they’ll have a big audience using our platform to get them the most exposure possible. KX 93.5 totally support OC artists and that’s what I think is the most commendable. There aren’t many stations out there that cater to one market and they do it really well. They play all types of music and support the Orange County scene.
I also want to thank publications like OC Weekly and Smash Magazine in Las Vegas who allow me to write for them once in a while who have taken interest in our show at in KX 93.5 FM and given us a vehicle to promote bands who wouldn’t otherwise get that opportunity, I think it’s important to the vitality of the music scene and I’m glad there are publications out there who have that vision.
Tune in on Sunday from 1-3 p.m. on KX 93.5 FM in Laguna Beach to hear TNN’s 1,000th show. To listen online, click here.