Longtime radio DJ Rusty Redenbacher was unceremoniously let go from his position on WTLC-FM (106.7) on October 1. The station cited a "zero tolerance policy" in regards to a track Redenbacher had played on a September 27 Club 106.7 show. The track, "Sriracha" by locals Cosby Sweater, had guest vocals from Redenbacher and, according to WTLC, did not fit the stations R&B format. The conflict of interests presented by a host playing a track he's featured on plus the format issue resulted in Redenbacher's dismissal, which soon caused a social media uproar amongst his listeners and fans.
And roar they did - after all, Redenbacher's much more than a presence on WTLC. He's a longtime Indy musician and tireless scene advocate, from his solo work, to former groups The Mudkids and Birdmen of Alcatraz. Two weeks out from his departure from WTLC, Redenbacher's already got all kinds of plans cooking for new work supporting local music (plus a new brew dude position at Outliers Brewing Company, opening very soon). We reached out to Redenbacher to find out what he's planning.
NUVO: Tell me about Outliers [where Redenbacher will be working].
Redenbacher: Outliers is a new brewing company started by Ted Miller from Brugge; he's going to be the head brewer there. I'm just going to be doing a lot of social media work and delivering beer and representing the brand in the street. These are people I've known for 30 plus years; I'm going to go back working with some people. Sometimes you just need to be around people you know, I guess, that know you. I'm into Indiana beer. I'm into that, so it's going to be cool.
Redenbacher: October 21 is when the joint opens downtown. There's a restaurant opening called the Owner's Wife. You could talk to Ted Miller more about that. You guys should really probably talk to him. Brugge has been in Broad Ripple for years and we're doing the new thing on Mass Avenue.
I've been the music dude all these years and now I'm just going to be the beer dude for a while, still make music; I'll still be doing my podcast and all that other stuff. I'm just gonna go be the beer dude for a while.
NUVO: Well, beer goes perfectly with music.
Redenbacher: People sometimes feel like they need a beer and everybody don't run to the record store because they need an album. So, I'm going to be the beer dude for a while. Just go have some fun with that. I'm looking forward to it. I like to work.
NUVO: Whats been surprising to you about the reaction from listeners and fans [since you announced your departure]?
Redenbacher: Just that there was so many of them and they were so vocal. I wasn't pushing that. I fell back and did the interviews and said what I had to say and that was that, but to see 60 people coming out of the woodwork. ... People here don't respond to tweets or don't necessarily go to Facebook and hit when you're on the air. To see all those people speak up, that was amazing to me. It let me know that I was reaching people and they were coming to mess with me and it was just cool.
I wasn't doing a bad, bad thing. I'm out at clubs every Friday night now because of that. I enjoy doing it and I enjoy bringing it to people and I enjoyed my Saturday shift and I enjoyed working with Karen in the studio everyday. I enjoyed everything about it.
I want to make sure people understand that I wasn't trying to be a hardass and be like "I'm going to play this song!" It wasn't like that; I've played that song before. I'd run it by my boss before. It was not something I did thinking I'm being a hardass. It was something I did thinking, "I'm going to play this song on the radio because it's dope and my boss liked it when I played it for her and we're not going to have any problems because I did it two months ago."
The way it went down was just ugly to me. I was like, "That's just whack." If it was a problem, somebody could've told me Saturday or a Monday, I was there all those days. Like, "Wow. I don't even get a warning. Nothing. I don't get a write up. I don't get a suspension. Shit, take me off the air for a month."
NUVO: Put a letter in your file. Something.
Redenbacher: Something, I can't really think of any of those that I have.
NUVO: Do you have a sense of where the firing came from - how high up?
Redenbacher: I don't know. I don't know. Shit happened the day corporate came in town. Whatever. It could be a lot of things. I have no idea because I don't know what to think because I would've never expected for it to happen.
[pauses] I guess I would. Let me be really honest. Yes, I would because like I said, I've seen it happen to people before where it's just like, "What? What'd I do?" I'm not trying to drag this out, or keep talking about it really. I'm more about the way people reacted. I'm more interested in talking about that at this point. I never would've expected that.
All I was going to do was post a Facebook status and be like, "Hey man, this [happened]." Then I started getting people wanting to talk to me about it, from "This is what's happening to your radio station," angle. I realized it's way bigger than me, man. I think that's what people reacted to. And that's awesome that I can be that flashpoint where people rally around like, "If this guy can't fucking play a song..." People don't even know all that we know the behind the scenes shit. I'm in the radio.
I was really trying to learn. I was finally where I wanted to be in the company with the station. I was trying to work my way up and do good with the station and represent the station well. That's all I was trying to do.
I love radio. Let me tell you what. I love it. It's what I wanted to do and I finally hosted the video show. I mixed on the other station. I did this, I did that. Any job that needed to be filled in for the longest, I was about that. If it was offered to me I would take it. Even if they weren't offered to me sometimes I would just throw my name in the hat.
That's how I ended up doing the morning show for a while and learning how to produce the morning show. Learning what that shit is about. It was cool. I was into it. That's the thing; I don't want people to think I wasn't into it. I loved it, that's what I want to do.
NUVO: Well, if another radio station is smart they'll hop on it.
Redenbacher: Well, we'll see. That's the other thing; I don't want people to think I'm [into] only one type of music. I'll worked at Q95, X103; I'd work at any of them because I actually love radio.
And I love music, and you'll see that with my podcast. My podcast is going to go everywhere. The first two are kind of hip-hoppy just to get back into the feel of things and to play music I like at home. I haven't even had a chance to play music for myself at the crib in a long time. So, get back to playing some music at home just 'cause I want to. Not because I'm doing research for work.
Just get into it. You get right back into it and don't stop. The first podcast dropped and trying to make a little bit extra - sound clips, all kind of stuff in there. Hosting a little bit instead of me just mixing music. Give you a little bit of me and what I think about when I'm playing.
NUVO: And that's called ALIFT?
Redenbacher: Yeah, Act Like It's Friday Though. ALIFT. Basically, I'm going to do what I've always wanted to do as a DJ. When I realized I could use my computer to play records, I could get all the hot shit immediately. It's like look at all the music I could play now. Aside from having a lot of stuff on vinyl already, it was just neat. I could mix Talking Heads with Afrika Bambaataa, and it would make perfect sense.
That's where I'm going to start going with this stuff. That's what I want to do, that's what I've always tried to DJ [like] with the free mixes that I give out. I've just kind of been open with it, [like], "Here's just a bunch of music that I like." These are the songs that if you go and investigate one of these artists, then that's awesome.
Now, it's just like this is why I like them and have a little more focus. It's just awesome. It's complete freedom. You can't yank my turntables from me if I play the wrong song here; there is no wrong song.
If DJ's don't have that kind of freedom, then they're not DJs; their MP3 players, their jukeboxes. With radio, I accept formats and all that stuff. I stayed within format. At home, a lot of people are flipping over that Pandora and just finding whatever and just happy to be finding music.
I'm going to be presenting in kind of that way where it's just kind of free. I'm trying to play rare tracks for people. I don't always want to just be "the jams". I don't have to worry about that. I'll be jamming for sure, but it won't always be "the jam". I may play the B-side. Just come over here for something a little different. It will be a little 45 minute, something for your phone every week or so.
NUVO: That sounds awesome. Thanks for chatting with me.
Redenbacher: Oh no, I'm glad to talk to you. And thank you too. Make sure everybody understands this, thank you to everybody who not just rallied around me [but] that gave me a lot of support in a time that could've been a lot more difficult for me without knowing people are with you. That was really, really remarkable to me.
I always know when people have my back around here or whatever, but it was way more overwhelming, way more than I ever expected to happen. Not just because it was me, but because of what my story represented. And that's beautiful and I'm glad we're going to make some lemonade out of these lemons. There's just no way for me not to keep going and keep talking about music, being about music, making music, representing music and representing home.
Next right now is going to be the podcast. Watch for the podcast. I've got a lot of things I've had on backburners because I've been focused on radio. So, now maybe I'll bring some of those things to the front burners and we'll get to cookin'.
That's what I'm about. Just watch for me. My journey hasn't stopped from the day you started watching me. The day you started watching me I haven't stopped! That's real. Whoever you are at this point, you can verify that with many sources and it sure as hell isn't going to stop now.