Radio Spotlight: BallZach’s 'Local Edge'

Matty Day

matty day | local edge | dec. 2016

Packers got you dreading Sundays? Switch from Wayne, Larry or Harry over to Razor 94.7's “The Local Edge" for a blast of something better from the 920. Sunday nights from 10 to midnight the show features local and regional punk and metal bands, brought to you by BallZach. There's nothing else like it on local radio.

BallZach?!

Born a quarter-century or so ago in Beards Fork, West Virginia, perhaps the greatest consistency of young Zachariah Pukel's near-nomadic childhood was music. His older relatives instilled an appreciation of Appalachian bluegrass, but Zach gravitated toward alternative rock. He's especially thankful his late mother showed him the likes of Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam at age 9.

“I kind of branched out from there," says Zach, crediting his open worldview to his parents' frequent relocation. But wherever they lived, his mom always took him to concerts – including Manson at age 13 – fostering his early interest in hard rock.

“I liked the heaviness, the lyrical content, the anger," says Zach. “Once I connected that with the fact that girls like rock, that was it."

Zach was a teenager when they settled in Wisconsin and he started making music of his own. His favorite bands always articulated emotions in ways that he personally couldn't, but as bassist for An Affair to Remember he finally gained a medium for his own expression. Furthermore, through booking and promoting his own shows, Zach got connected to a number of touring bands. (This era also saw his first brush with his future employer; at age 16 he bought advertising from Razor to promote a show he'd booked.)

Though Zach's reputation as a promoter grew considerably, he decided to “retire" from booking after his band broke up and he enrolled at St. Norbert. There, Zach's passion for music immediately drew him to the college's radio station, SNC Radio.

For three years he hosted the popular Monday Night Meltdown, an hour-, then two hour-long weekly metal show. During a spell as the station's interim president, he utilized his position to upgrade SNC Radio's aging equipment.

“I knew what I wanted," says Zach, who leaned on his experience as a musician to choose the gear. “New microphones, new cords … things people could continue to use well past me graduating."

With his senior year looming and with graduate school in mind, Zach sought an internship to help pad his resume. Naturally he sought something in radio, starting with his top choices.

“I'd always listened to Razor and WAPL since I moved here," says Zach. “I knew those would be the stations I'd fit in best with."

On a whim he called Roxanne Steele, the promotions director for Razor and WAPL.

“Razor hadn't had an intern in years. It was a tight-knit group of people; they had it down to a science. There was no 'let's go out and find an intern,' until I showed up and asked," says Zach. “I gave [Roxanne] my resume and a demo of the show I did at St. Norbert."

Zach landed the internship. He succeeded at all its random requirements and earned his way on to the air with greater frequency, until the station officially hired him in March 2015. Now, not only does he get paid to do what he loves, he also gets to rub elbows with some of his favorite musicians, including Zakk Wylde, Mark Morton from Lamb of God, M. Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold, and David Draiman from Disturbed.

The Local Edge

Zach's Sunday night show is another “distinct pleasure" of his job. Bolstering the GB music scene, “The Local Edge" has been a staple of the station since its 2000 inception. Zach took the show's reins earlier this year, pushing local bands that might otherwise go unnoticed.

“My strength is local music; I go to the shows," says Zach. “To give back to a scene that spawned me – there's nothing better than that."

Area bands submit recordings directly to the station (see Razor947.com for guidelines). Whether Zach plays a given band's music or not, he always promotes upcoming shows on air and on the Razor's online calendar. He's also sure to play touring bands' music on his show ahead of their trips to Green Bay; Goddamn Gallows are a group he's particularly promoted, and are now in regular rotation on Razor. Spread the word!

“If you're playing Chicago, and you're on your way to the Twin Cities, call me!" says Zach. He's happy to connect touring groups with music venues and local support.

More than anything, Zach wants to be a resource for fans and musicians in, or traveling through the area.

“I look at myself like an encyclopedia; I'll direct you to where you need to go so you can be a fan and you can support bands. Even with the internet you may not find them," says Zach. “That way, that band grows. You grow by a thousand fans, suddenly you're signed.

“If I can do that for a band in Green Bay, that's the dream."

State of the Medium

In the age of podcasts and streaming, what power does radio still have?

“It's an underdog, but it's an underdog that refuses to lose," says Zach. “Current technology's made it so radio is almost obsolete. But the fact is, you can't kill radio. Everybody's got a car. Until they make those streaming services and satellite radio more affordable for the everyday person you're never going to get rid of FM stations."

He sees radio's primary internal problem as stagnation; stations surviving on advertising dollars fear changes to their format will cost them listeners and revenue. Externally, and regarding the music industry in general, his assessment's more complex, requiring terms like “two-sided coin" and “necessary evil."

“Asking whether the internet is a pro or con to the music industry is the wrong question," explains Zach. “Music has to be consumed in a variety of ways, as long as you're not going out there and ripping people off. There are multiple ways to get an audience engaged. The music industry has to find a way to figure that out, especially with rock."

He likes the streaming service Spotify, for example, as means for bands to gain exposure.

“If you're music's not easily accessible, you can kiss having a fan base goodbye," says Zach. “The downside of that: you'll never see another rock album go platinum. Those days died in, what, 2005?"

One of Razor's undeniable abilities, though, is that they're willing to sponsor and promote any shows that Zach throws together, including …

BallZach's Birthday Show!

Yes, Promoter Zach's coming out of “retirement" Saturday, December 17th. As a bit of an experiment, he's set up the following bill at Gasoline:

  • Lowlives – “Green Bay hardcore to open things up."
  • Reburial – “Kick it up a notch. Cutting edge of metal here. One of the best new, hard metal bands."
  • Suffer in Black – “Oshkosh blackened doom."
  • Aronious – “Experimental technical death metal."
  • 20 Watt Tombstone – “Death blues. Super influenced by old school delta blues, but with kind of a metal crunch to it."
  • Slowburn – “Headlining from Milwaukee. Kind of like a Chevelle, Breaking Benjamin, Razor rock kind of band."

The show starts at 6 p.m., is open to the public, and since it's at Gasoline, won't have a cover charge.

Head down to wish him a happy birthday, and to support his renewed efforts in bringing original music to Green Bay. Check “The Local Edge" Sunday nights at 10!

Matty's Must-See (Other) Music of the Month

  • King Mud, The Short Timers, Jiffy Slim – Thursday, December 1st at Lyric Room (21+).
  • MoneyGang 920, Honyockers, Windpipe, Razor Fist, Kepones – Friday, December 9th at GBASO (all-ages).
  • Mr. T Experience, Nobodys, Rev. Norb & the Onions, George's Bush – Saturday, December 10th at Lyric Room (21+).
  • The Pukes, George's Bush, Kepones – Saturday, December 17th at Rock n' Roll Land (all-ages).
  • Blueheels, Snowbirds, Ian Olvera – Friday, December 23rd at Lyric Room (21+).

Matty's written about local music since 2012. He currently performs with J-Council, the Priggs, the Foamers?, Muddy Udders, Cory Chisel and Adriel Denae. E-mail: LemmyThru@gmail.com | Twitter: @PollutedMindset

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