When the talk show THAT METAL SHOW premiered on VH1 Classic in 2008, no one one could have predicted that it would last 14 seasons (with more to come). No one, that is, except heavy metal music fans.
The show, with host Eddie Trunk and co-hosts Jim Florentine and Don Jamieson, mixes it up regularly by inviting legacy metal band members as well as a few present day musicians. Longtime rock DJ & promoter Trunk acts as the full rock encyclopedia & endless fan, with comedians Florentine and Jamieson moving the proceedings along as only good standups can. The show has grown into a full fledged phenomenon and VH1 Classic’s most successful show to date.
We caught up with Jamieson, still out doing gigs and preparing a follow-up to 2014’s Hell Bent For Laughter album. He told us the inside dirt on his favorite interviews, his own band, and how comedy and music are really the same.
Q: How many seasons now?
Don Jamieson: 14.
Q: 14? Is that the longest continuous job you’ve ever had?
DJ: Not including doing comedy for the last 18, I guess it is. The show’s had a pretty long life, under the circumstances on television. I’m very grateful, but that means it’s all downhill from here. (laughs)
Q: You came up in the 80s, so what was the first album you ever bought and the first metal album you ever bought?
DJ: The first one that launched me into this world was Kiss Destroyer. I was 9 years old, and these guys were rock stars, they were superheroes, and they were comic book characters all rolled into one. There was nothing cooler, and I never thought I’d ever listen to another band. Why would I? And then I put the album on and “Detroit Rock City” comes on, that was it. To this day, I’m still a Kiss fan. The first metal album I ever picked up was Iron Maiden Killers. And just on a leap of faith, I thought it was so cool looking, and having looked at the album art, the music did not disappoint. It was off to the races after that.
Q: Metal fans tend to be very loyal, but highly critical, which is something you find in the world of comedy as well. You have to deal with audiences. What do comedy fans and metal fans have in common that you’ve noticed over the years?
DJ: It really is the sense of humor. Most of the bands in metal have a great sense of humor about themselves. Alice Cooper is one of the best storytellers of all time. Whenever you see him on talk shows, he’ll have amazing stories and end with an incredible punchline. He’s sort of the Bill Cosby of comedy – without the roofies.
DJ: It’s the same old thing. All musicians want to be comedians, all comedians want to be rock stars.
Q: You started out early on at MTV when Jon Stewart and Kevin James were working there. What do you recall about those days?
DJ: I was working behind the scenes on the comedy shows. I always had an amazing love for comics. That’s how it’s been since I was a kid – comedy and music. I identified with both, especially the bands and comedians that I liked. There was always something subversive about the ones I liked. When I was eleven, maybe I didn’t exactly understand what George Carlin and Cheech & Chong were talking about, I knew that it was something that I wanted to hear, but I shouldn’t be listening to, which is exactly why I did it.
Q: Speaking of subversive, you’ve been opening for Andrew Dice Clay for quite a while. What would be something that you suspect people wouldn’t know about Dice that you think people should know?
DJ: He has eleven toes.
Q: (Laughs) Well, besides that. I saw him in the Woody Allen film, and think many people continue to underestimate him.
DJ: One of the things people don’t know about him is that he started out to be an actor. Comedy was just a vehicle to get him on a stage. It’s no surprise to me that he’s going this way. Look, I think the controversy that still swirls around him to this day is a testament to his genius. He created this character that is so polarizing, people are still discussing it. Some people still don’t get the joke.
Q: His Album “The Day The Laughter Died” is a brilliant album in its own way.
DJ: It’s Dice going up stage for two hours and bombing, and he puts it on an album. If you know him, it makes total sense, but from the outside, people say, “Why would he do that?” But that’s Dice. He does things to get a reaction. That album is a comedian’s bible. You listen to that going to gigs, and a comedian thinks, “If Dice can bomb this bad, I won’t feel so bad if I bomb tonight.”
Q: Back in the 80s, we all used to watch MTV and go to record stores, and our tastes formed from there. How do you keep current on music now, seeing as how there are so many places to get music and hear people talk about it?
DJ: Basically, from THAT METAL SHOW, I get sent a ton of music. Just walking down the street, I’ll get handed CDs & download cards all the time. That’s the advantage I have with the show. I get exposed to much more music than I ever would without it. And I try to listen to it as much as I can. That’s the thing about us metalheads – we’re loyal to our old bands, but we always love discovering something new. There’s a couple of new bands out there I really love, and we’ve been trying to work them into THAT METAL SHOW as well.
Q: Speaking of which, how did your band Gunfire & Sodomy come about, and what can we look for in the future?
DJ: Gunfire & Sodomy is an acoustic death metal band I created — because serial killers need a favorite band too! It was another creative outlet, combining acoustic with death metal, so we did some dates, we opened for GWAR, we put out an album on Metal Blade Records. We’re not doing it right now, one of the guys in the band has three daughters and I think some of the subject matter weighed heavy on his mind.
Q: With THAT METAL SHOW, Eddie is a longtime fan & promoter, and the tone of the show is pretty friendly to all bands. I think you probably get some flak for not drawing the line with bands at a certain point. I mean, I’m trying to think of a band from the old days that couldn’t get on THAT METAL SHOW, and it’s hard. Where do you draw the line? White Lion? E’nuff Z’nuff? Trixter? Babylon A.D. —
DJ: — who I just saw on the Monsters of Rock cruise! Well, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Many of these bands have a similar problem. When the band continues to be true to their sound, the fans say, “why don’t you do something new?” and when they do something new, the fans say, “they should just stick to what they know.” If we don’t include someone, they say “Where is whoever,” or “why can’t you bring on whoever instead of having this guy on again.” For us, there’s no line, the challenge has been taking chances and working in new people, going more classic rock sometimes with Heart or Mick Jones from Foreigner, and then stretching the other way by having Dillinger Escape Plan or Amon Amarth or Hatebreed on the show. Longevity comes from blurring that line, and doing the unexpected.
Q: To follow up on comedy and metal, the show has a lot of fans, but with the internet, there’s plenty of room for people to hate everything. As a comedian, did it prepare you to be on a show that’s both well-loved and but also highly criticized?
DJ: I’m a comedian, so I’ve got thick skin, and I just let the latter just roll off my back. I never take it seriously. When you’re a comedian, if you have a bad set, so what, there’s another one tomorrow. Baseball players are the same way. If I lose one today, I got another one tomorrow. That’s the only way I know how to handle it. As for people who criticize THAT METAL SHOW, they are the ones who’ve seen every episode multiple times.
Q: Like the line about Howard Stern, how people who hate him listen longer than people who love him?
DJ: Exactly. Same theory. We just have more ways to bellyache and complain with social media. I keep it positive on social media because I’m a positive person. If you dig what I do, great, and if not, maybe “Say Yes to the Dress” is more your cup of tea.
Q: Do you recall the worst comedy gig you’ve ever had? Everyone has bad nights, but do any stick out?
DJ: I hope I’ve already had my worst, let me say. Worst ever? Hmmm. Just in general, colleges were really tough to do, and I made my bread and butter there for a while, but they were tough. It’s because this generation of college kids are so politically correct and sensitive, you couldn’t get away with anything because they listen for buzzwords, and believe me, you cannot recover after a row full of nineteen-year-old girls go, “Ewwwww.”
Q: Jerry Seinfeld very recently made similar comments about the college scene.
DJ: It’s even worse now. And it was twelve or thirteen years ago for me to deal with that, and now we’re in such a supersensitive America. And if Seinfeld is having problems with his, uh, edgy humor, then what can ANYBODY say?
Q: What’s the New Jersey “new bands” gig?
DJ: I host the showcase nights for up and coming bands, at a few nightclubs – the Brighton Bar and the Tenth Street Live up in North Jersey. A night for a band to play a weekend in front of a full room rather than a weeknight in front of three people & their parents. I don’t do comedy, I just host it and whatever little bit of clout I have in the business I use to help these bands. It’s really been really satisfying.
Q: What band are you listening to right now that you wish more people knew?
DJ: I think people are really starting to listen to this band Crobot. They are fantastic, Jersey-Pennsylvania band. Their album is “Something Supernatural,” and I’ve seen them a few times now, they are incredible live. Young guys, very hungry, 70’s stoner-ish vibe. Tons and tons of energy, though. These guys don’t stop moving for the entire show. And they are starting to take off, which is great.
Q: What THAT METAL SHOW guest has been the most memorable? As in, you’ll be sitting on the porch when you are 90 saying, “Hey, you know who was great on the show?”
DJ: I like the guys who are really the most honest and raw. It makes for great TV. Let’s see, Marliyn Manson, Phil Anselmo of Pantera, Dave Mustane of Megadeth, but the one I’ll talk about on the porch is Ted Nugent. Love him or hate him, you’re going to watch because you know he’s going to say something crazy, but I was really proud that we kept the topics close to music. We’re not a political show like HANNITY or FOX & FRIENDS, we’re THAT METAL SHOW, and here’s a guy with 40 years of music to talk about. But of course, Ted gets his jabs in. That’s a must-see interview.
Q: What was the most surprising interview?
DJ: In what way?
Q: Has there been a guest on the show that was completely different from what you expected?
DJ: Probably I’d say Mick Mars from Motley Crue. There’s such a mystique about him being dark & sinister guy, and you meet him, and he couldn’t be sweeter. That was the appeal of having him on the show – nobody gets Mick! He told us backstage, “I love doing interviews and I love talking about music, it’s just that I’m in a band with three guys who like doing it more.” He just accidentally created this mystique about himself where he doesn’t want to talk, he lives in his own world, there’s dark forces around, but none of that is true. He’s a real sweetheart of a guy. He’s got a new solo album coming out, and sources are saying that it’s fantastic. It’s really heavy, and I am glad, because Mick is one of those guys who wants to die onstage with a guitar slung over his shoulder. That’s what he’s all about. He lets that chainsaw guitar sound do the talking.
Q: Good to hear that he’s going on to do solo work, because some people figured his health problems would keep him from doing anything after Motley Crue.
DJ: He’s got this affliction, but he says that when he gets onstage, there’s no pain. He’s such a unique performer, so I’m glad too that he’s going on to other things because I’m not looking forward to a new Methods of Mayhem album [an oft-derided Tommy Lee solo project].
Q: What do you think about MTV & VH1 dumping so much of their music programming staff earlier this year? When you worked for them early on, you were one of the comedy guys not music, but it seems that MTV is moving itself as far away from music as possible. Do you have any thoughts on that?
DJ: I always tell people that VH1 Classic is the right place for us because they are the only ones who DO play music videos, like Dio and Scorpions and Whitesnake. That really has become our home, and metal fans are so loyal, they’ve stood by us for 14 seasons. I think that, in terms of a home, we’re in the right place. Layoffs, I mean, hey, that’s just the nature of the business. It’s like baseball – I’m playing for the Mets today, tomorrow I’m playing for the Royals. I’m just glad that they’ve picked up the phone and invited us back, and looking forward to doing some more shows in the fall.
Check out all you’d ever want to know about Don at his website.