As they say, “everyone has to start somewhere…”
For me it was the summer of 1992. I’d moved to Davenport, Iowa from my longtime home in the South Suburbs of Chicago the prior February, somehow managing to find myself elected Vice-President of my class for my upcoming junior year of high school at Davenport North. I was 15, bored, and obsessed with film, television, and music.
Sans a few things I’d filmed with my parent’s old Super 8mm camera, I had no experience with shooting or editing video. My prior on-camera exploits were limited (a Superbowl Shuffle parody vid, etc) as well, yet somehow I felt the urge to start playing around in the world of Cable Access.
Armed with a borrowed Panasonic “Omnimovie” Video Camera and free editing equipment courtesy of the local Cox Cable facility, my world was about to become captured on the murky format of VHS.
At the start, the show had no real format. I’d pulled together a few friends and we’d sit around the apartment living room, re-dressed as a sort of no-budget late-night talk show, talking about movies, music, high school sports, and other random – mostly boring – bullshit. Mixed within would be the occasional music video or poorly produced comedy sketch starring yours truly and whoever happened to be available that day. The show also had no name, so it became “The Jim Zahn Show” until a few people started calling it ZTV – a name that stuck.
Like much of Cable Access, ZTV was pretty horrible. Painful to watch (it still is), hard to produce, and existing solely for the purpose of “something to do,” we’d made seven or eight 30-minute episodes and for some reason – people were watching.
The show scored a full-color spread in the Quad City Times, got mentioned on 97X (the big “rock” station in the Quad Cities), and people were actually taking the time to send “fan mail” into a P.O. Box we’d established. Since the internet wasn’t really here yet, the show also got it’s fair share of “hate mail” as well. The people that bitch have always had the biggest mouths… At one point a show produced by a handful of jocks from Assumption High School (the local Catholic bunch) even went to psuedo “war” with me (I never fired back), going as far as to have a character called “The Zahnanator” on their show. Their beef? ZTV was in the QC Times and their show wasn’t.
On a trip to the local Co-Op Tapes and Records, I’d seen a flyer promoting the fact that my favorite band, FAITH NO MORE, would soon be appearing at the Col Ballroom in Davenport. They were “Touring on ANGEL DUST,” and I was damn sure that I’d be there. I was a fan from the moment I’d heard them, and to this day can remember my Mom taking me to K-Mart to buy THE REAL THING on cassette, and my Dad taking me to Musicland to buy ANGEL DUST on CD (longbox!). On the way home from the record store I wondered if I could get the band to appear on my show.
The following day was an interesting one spent cold-calling record labels to somehow make this happen. Thanks to directory assistance, the calls began. Unlike most tales of the “big, scary, music industry” – surprisingly my calls were taken. Slash Records pointed me to Warner/Reprise, who in turn put me in touch with Shore Fire Media in New York, and a publicist named Mark Satlof.
Satlolf was exceptionally accommodating. After conversing for quite awhile he asked me to fax a written proposal to be shown to, and approved by the band’s management.
ZTV was FNM approved.
On September 22, 1992 – I met with the band at the Col Ballroom in Davenport. With no interviewing experience of any kind, I sat down one-on-one with all five members of the ANGEL DUST lineup: Mike Patton, Billy Gould, Roddy Bottum, Mike Bordin, and Jim Martin to answer questions thrown out by friends at Davenport North, and written down on green index cards. I may not have known it at the time, but what you’re about to see is my “trial by fire” – an awkward set of interviews that set my entire life in motion. If Biff Tannen were to steal the DeLorean, go back in time to 1992 and stop the interviews from happening, my life would have taken a very different path.
I hope you all enjoy watching these clips, and for the members of FAITH NO MORE and Mark Satlof… a belated “thank you” for giving a kid a chance, and igniting my musical fire.
On a side note, that fanmail/hatemail that would arrive after each episode would air? Suffice to say the mailbox was pretty damn full after the FNM episode, and thanks to the internet – I was actually able to track down a few of the people that sent in letters eighteen years ago.
I never thought that hanging onto so many of those letters would prove fruitful, but in this case it did. On the night of the FNM concert, a group of cheerleaders from Davenport Central High School joined FNM on-stage for “Be Aggressive.” Heather Jones was one of those cheerleaders, and had sent in a couple of letters after the show. Below is a recently acquired photo of the girls along with Roddy post-concert, courtesy of Miss Jones…
Pictured left to right: Kristin Crawford, Katie O’Hare, Roddy Bottum, Heather Jones, Amanda Jansen Wachuta
I hope you’ve all enjoyed this trip back in time as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing it. For the few that have asked, I will indeed be posting some of the other “lost” interviews from the era. The box of tapes has been cracked, so we’re just getting started.