“I quit my job at Apple to start a metal station that sells vinyl records,” Gimme Radio founder and CEO Tyler Lenane tells Decibel. “To a lot of people that probably sounds fucking insane. But I believe in it — and I’m hoping to turn a lot of other heavy music lovers into believers, too.”
Well, count us among the rapidly burgeoning choir of the converted: In the few weeks since its official launch Gimme Radio has proven a fun, face-meltingly glorious motherfucker of a heavy metal interface — no ads or subscription fee, just the consistent aural equivalent of a multi-megaton payload deftly curated by a motley crew of DJs that includes not only illustrious Decibel scribes Shawn Bosler and Anthony Bartkewicz, but also Will Carroll (Death Angel; Hammers of Misfortune), Ben Weinman (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Anthony Lazzara (Bloodiest), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal), and representatives of Nuclear Blast and Metal Blade Records.
As you listen, a steady, interactive stream of factoids and trivia cascades down the main page — think a mash-up of Headbangers Ball’s “Triple Thrash Threat” and VH-1’s Pop-Up Video that allows you to chime in. If a track strikes your fancy and you want to support the station, click the “Buy Vinyl” button under the album art and — voila! — time to get your shred on.
“What we’re trying to recreate here is that feeling of hanging out in a parking lot before a show or striking up a conversation with somebody in a record store after you both happen to gravitate toward the same album,” Lenane says. “It’s intimate and knowledgeable and also premised, to a large extent, on what I grew up on,which was great free form FM radio programming.
“You know, you could tune into an underground show and hear Black Sabbath, Agnostic Front, and Celtic Frost all in the same half hour,” he continues. “A return to that is exciting to me. And so part of my philosophy is it’s really amazing when you have a great DJ with a real point of view who can give real context and connect the dots for listeners in a real way so you can go from that Clash song into a Carcass song and it’ll actually make sense. A fucking computer’s never gonna do that! Neither is an editor that one of these huge streaming services pays to make barbecue playlists or metal madness playlists or whatever. That sort of adventurousness and depth in programming is something of a lost art and we’re signing up DJs we think can help us bring it back.”
For Lenane, this effort to curb the Stanley Spadowski-fication of online metal programming is the synergistic culmination of a lifetime’s worth of disparate efforts.
At age eight Lenane bought a copy of Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4, promptly had his perception scrambled by “Wheels of Confusion,” “Snowblind” and “Supernaut.” By thirteen he was performing in his first punk rock and hardcore bands. Soon thereafter he began touring and released an EP on future Green Day/Trenchmouth label Skene! Records with Beef Trust. Straight out of college Lenane went to work at Roadrunner smack dab in the middle of the heyday of death metal. Later, he slugged it out in the East Village rock scene, did time in Tiger Mountain with ex-Nada Surf and Murphy’s Law members. Went to non-Murphy law school. Clocked four and a half (miserable) years as a securities litigator. Transitioned into entertainment law. Got the Ramones’ shambolic affairs squared, among myriad other services to the music creator community great and small.
And now, after a decade spent continually defining and redefining the cutting edge of the “music streaming space” revolution at companies such as Rhapsody, Beats Music, and Apple Music, Lenane has returned to his roots to, in his words, “build something that focuses on the most loyal yet underserved genre” — i.e. heavy fucking metal.
“The niche underground heavy music fan should have a home on the Internet and that home is never going to be any of the big streaming services,” Lenane declares. “When I first got started in this space back in 2006 it was like, ‘Oh, this is awesome — you can play anything you want anytime you want.’ The truth is, though, the longer I stayed the more I saw [these companies] all have the same deals with the same major record labels; they’ve all got the same marketing allegiances. Their whole goal is to collect as many subscribers as possible… And in the process, they’ve become very homogenized — the endless Drake and the Ed Sheeran show, basically. They’re not playing those essential deeper cuts or newer bands. That didn’t sit well with me; this idea that metal fans and punk rock fans and even classical and jazz fans were completely ignored… Sure, it’s a utility and there’s definitely a service provided, but ultimately none of that is connected to the love of music that made me decide to take my life and devote it to rock n’ roll.”
Such a state of affairs could not coexist long with the powerful raised-in-the-DIY strands of Lenane’s DNA.
“It goes back to my hardcore days — when someone’s dictating who gets to play in the sandbox, you don’t just accept it and beg to be let in,” he says. “You build your own sandbox, according to your own dreams and ideals.”
If that sandbox ultimately comes to resemble, in spirit, the greatest Judas Priest album cover never made, even better.
Welcome to Gimme Radio — even if it were possible to turn back, no devoted member of the Metal Militia would ever want to…