By Zach Collier
I grew up in a musical home. My mom was a private piano and voice teacher, and my dad was an avid music collector. I remember writing lyrics in my notebooks in second grade, desperately trying to imitate all of the influences I grew up listening to. I was horribly embarrassed when my parents came across them. But a while later, they surprised me with a notebook specifically for lyrics. My mom even went out and got a set of Alfred composition books to help me with theory.
All of this gave me the skills I needed to embrace my tortured, romantic angst in my teenage years and throw myself into music. The time I spent with other musicians playing coffee shops, backyard parties, and the local venues in Vancouver, WA were some of the most formative experiences of my life.
It’s been amazing to see where some of those musicians in my high school scene have ended up. Some are music educators. Others are composing at the collegiate and university level. Reed Perkins, the drummer of my first band, still drums with me (and several other bands) here in Utah.
One of my best friends from the Vancouver, WA music scene is now a classic rock DJ right here in Deseret. Idaho Falls residents know him as Shaggy. The program director, production director, and on-air personality from noon to 6 PM daily, he broadcasts from 94.9 and 104.5 The Pick.
Like me, Shaggy’s love for music formed when he was a kid. But instead of blasting The Tubes, Squeeze, and America from a Volkswagen Fox like my dad, his dad had a truck and was blasting some harder stuff. “I have these vivid memories driving around in the back seat of my dad’s Mazda pickup,” he says. “You know, the kind where the backseat folded out from the wall? He would bust out bands like KISS, AC/DC, Queen, Metallica, Nirvana, and Alice In Chains to ear-piercing volumes! I absolutely loved it. Even when he would purposefully slam on the brakes so my head would bash into the back window. That was really the foundation of it all.”
A head banger (lol) from a young age, Shaggy’s first concert was KISS, and the first album he ever bought was Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet. “Eventually I started discovering bands on my own that my dad never really listened to,” he says. Bands like The Beatles (who are his favorite of all time), The Doors, Iron Maiden, and Black Sabbath.
“Something about Black Sabbath really resonated with me. Mostly the chaotic, over-the-top rock star that is Ozzy Osbourne. I was OBSESSED with Ozzy!” His mom used to yell at him for writing OZZY on his knuckles with sharpie. “I mean, when you think of rock stars who do you think of? Ozzy freaking Osbourne, that’s who!”
Without his love for classic rock, Shaggy says he has no idea what he would be doing right now. His love for classic rock drove him to learn “Iron Man” on the ukulele, and that convinced his parents to get him a guitar. This led to playing a lot of music in high school.
“I had a lot of fun playing in high school. Especially the monthly gigs at Pop Culture with Zach Collier & The Introduction,” he jokes. “Your teenage years are an interesting time because you really don’t know what you want to do musically. At least I didn’t. I had a blues band named Opposite Winston, a heavy metal band named The Sunshine Unicorns, and a hard rock/alternative/blues/folk band named Orange.” In true rock n’ roll fashion, Orange eventually had to change their name to The Red Velvet in light of a potential lawsuit over the name Orange.
“But the highlight of it all was the day we got to play the legendary Hawthorne Theatre in Portland,” Shaggy says. “Sure, we played at 11:45 PM on a Tuesday night, but we played it! I remember setting up backstage, looking at the posters of bands who had played on the same stage, knowing I wasn’t worthy to be there. I mean, The Misfits had played on that stage!”
When he moved to Rexburg for college, he wasn’t the active performer he used to be. “Of course, I played the occasional talent show, battle of the bands, wedding, and a lively gig at the local old folks home!” he laughs. “Other than that, when I was in college I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I started out as a musical theatre major quickly realizing it wasn’t what I wanted. I took a career exploration in hopes that I would find the answer. They make you take a ton of excruciatingly long tests to figure out what you would be good at.”
Radio DJ was at the top of every test Shaggy filled out. “I had never even thought about radio before,” he says. “I had always listened to the radio – classic rock of course. Considering my love for classic rock music and the theatricality of being a radio DJ, it seemed like a perfect fit!”
Not long after this realization, he took a radio class at school and loved it. It came naturally to him, and felt like home. Two semesters away from graduation, he needed an internship. “I literally went to Google and typed in ‘radio internships near me.'” An internship popped up for a radio group in Idaho Falls – the closest larger city to Rexburg. Bad news for Shaggy: the internship was for journalism on their Newstalk radio station. “But I thought, ‘hey, you gotta get your foot in the door somehow!’ So I applied. In the application I told them how I really wanted to be on a classic rock station and about my love for the format. I clicked submit and waited.”
A couple days later, he found out the position had been taken by a girl in one of his classes. He was devastated. But hours later, Shaggy got a surprising call. “They were so impressed with my application they wanted to create an internship just for me on their classic rock station. To say I was over the moon would be an understatement.”
He started a few weeks later and worked his butt off. He learned everything he could, and just like he did before, he made new opportunities for himself – even hosting the midnight show as an intern.
“The smartest move I’ve made to get where I am today is that I’ve made myself invaluable,” he says. “I learned as many things I could as fast as I could. I brought my video production skills to the table and helped take the station’s video content to a new level. When you know how to do a ton of stuff and you’re good at it, they’ll want to keep you around awhile.” They hired him on after the internship was over and have kept him around ever since.
Shaggy’s love for radio is infectious. He says he doesn’t even feel like he works a “real” job. He encourages other musicians to look into radio and to create opportunities for themselves. “Radio is doing great. There’s always going to be the naysayers telling you that radio is dead because of Spotify, Apple Music, etc,” he says. “They said the same thing when TV came out, when CD’s came out, even when MTV came out! Radio isn’t going anywhere. Recent reports from Neilson Ratings show that radio reaches 237.7 million people a week. Which is more than most media combined.”
His advice for musicians trying to get on the radio? “It definitely never hurts to reach out to a radio station with your music. I get emails every day from artists who want their songs played on the radio.” He says he tries to listen to as many of them as he can, but not all radio people are like Shaggy.
“For most stations, they’re really only going to play music from unknown artists if first: they like their music, and second: they have a feature in their show where they could throw those songs in,” he says. “For example, I have a feature on my show every weekday at 5 PM called Shaggy’s Picks. Basically, I get to play whatever song I’m feeling that day. Typically, I play a deep cut from a band I like, which often times includes local rock bands. My advice: find a local DJ who has a segment like that on their radio show. If there isn’t a segment like that, ask to talk to them about the possibility of creating one! Especially if you are in the know and connected to a ton of local musicians in the area that have enough content for a regular radio segment. Maybe even a small local concert? It could totally work. Especially if it’s something that the station could sponsor and make some money off of. Cause at the end of the day, radio is still a business.”
As for things you shouldn’t do? “Don’t constantly bombard the radio personality and send them your ‘mixtape’ every week,” he says. “It’s a radio station, not the Sunset Strip. If you annoy them, then they probably won’t get back to you. Just be cool, super respectful, and you never know what might happen.”
Shaggy’s a huge supporter of the Idaho Falls and Rexburg indie scene. Some of his favorites include Dead Fervor, Voice of Treason, Gutter and the Onslaught, and The Opskamatrists. “They’re seriously the greatest ska sensation since Less Than Jake, and they’ve been doing it since 1998!”
Seeing the joy in Shaggy’s eyes when he talks about music and radio really resonates with me. Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I see me in the back of that Volkswagen Fox, mesmerized by the sounds coming through the radio. Shaggy was that kid, too. And now he’s mesmerizing a new generation of kids all over Idaho.
“It always feels great when I run into someone, at an event or on the street, and they tell me how they listen to me every day or love what I do,” he says. “It helps me know that I’m putting out a good product. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up in a bigger market one day if the opportunity is right. But for now, I’m happy where I’m at.”