Cindy Scull always knew that she wanted to be a radio star. She'd learned the basics of tape, editing and audio production on her father's home studio when she was a child. Her father, who worked in the recording industry, would take her and her brother to his studio in Manhattan and roll tape on them making up stupid voices, impressions and fake commercials.
Becoming a radio disc jockey was in her blood.
"Radio in general is like an addiction: You get infected with the excitement, [the] passion, [the] music," Scull says. "It's exhilarating and inspiring. It's like being someone's secret best friend, and you're sharing stories, music ideas, news or just being silly with them." Scull has a familiar voice: edgy, vibrant and sassy. It's been riding the Dallas radio waves for two decades. And yet the thrill of being on the air still courses through her every time she approaches the mic. "Make them laugh, make them cry, piss them off ... Do anything, just don't bore them!" is a motto she lives by.
Scull definitely doesn't bore listeners of her morning show on 97.1 The Eagle. Her show recently hit the No. 1 spot and placed in the top 10 in all key demographics, beating The Ticket and Kiss 106.1 in some places. The last time an Eagle morning show scored this high was in 2000 with Russ Martin's morning show.
"It's pretty weird, really," Scull says. "Awesomely weird."
Since the '90s, Scull has been introducing legions of rock fans to ground-breaking metal acts like Pantera, Ministry and Korn, or legendary acts like Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. She's even introduced us to obnoxious assholes we'd like to forget, like Puddle of Mudd, Linkin Park and Nickelback.
Rock music, as you can tell, is her preferred genre; the heavier, the better.
"Everyone loves the Beatles, Zep, Ozzy, et cetera," Scull says. "But for me I always found myself preferring the heavy stuff. An inner release to crank the volume to 10 on 'Ride the Lightning,' 'Freak on a Leash,' 'Cowboys From Hell' or 'Sweating Bullets' is just another expression that never seems to get old. I am more of a riff girl."
Scull has interviewed dozens of musicians, including Vinnie Paul of Pantera and HellYeah, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper. She perfected her own style of interviewing by learning from some of the greatest interviewers of all time: Larry King and Howard Stern.
"Howard Stern is the next Larry King," Scull says. "He is the best. Period. No one can drag the real dirt out of people like Howard. Half the battle is getting your guest to feel comfortable enough to relax and let it all hang out."
Scull's ultimate high was when she introduced Metallica at a sold-out show at the American Airlines Center in 2009. She was hosting Mandatory Metallica on The Eagle and hanging backstage with the label people who told her to "go rev 'em up for the band." "The entire American Airlines Center arena was packed with the loudest, most insane Metallica fans ever," she recalls. "When I grabbed the mic, I thought, 'Shit, there's 23,000 people here!' But once you get on stage and start pumping the crowd, the response you get is so overwhelming. It's like pure adrenaline. I can see why people want to be rock stars."
In the two decades that Scull has been on air in Dallas she has also experienced some of the worst moments of her career, such as when Russ Martin announced that he was leaving his morning show on The Eagle to run an afternoon show at 105.3, a short-lived talk station. "When he left, it was like the magic started fading," she says.
Scull and Martin have known each other since 1994, when they shared an office. Martin eventually returned in 2010, first in the morning and then the afternoon, at which point Scull took over mornings and The Eagle's ratings soared once again. "I was glad when he came back; he is like my brother," Scull says. "It just seemed like everything clicked into place."
Another horrible time was when she got the call that Dave Williams of Drowning Pool had died on his tour bus in 2002. "I remember breaking down and crying on air while delivering the news," she says. "It was the only time that I have ever cried on air, and was really unable to continue the show. He was our good friend. It was heartbreaking." A similarly tough moment came two years later, when Pantera's Dimebag Darrell was murdered onstage in Ohio. "When Dime passed it was the same, although the station was already off the air at that time," she says.
Over the years, Scull has weathered a radio industry that is constantly changing. She claims there has been "a colossal de-emphasis on new music and rock music in general." She's watched radio evolve from music-driven to personality-driven and back once more to music.
Scull says that today's music industry has become more corporate because of the deregulation that happened in the '90s. It caused a lot of consolidation, which, in turn, eliminated competition.
"That created a stifled, less creative environment," Scull says, "because rather than competing with your adversary, you were co-owned. That meant you needed to position the stations in the market comfortably next to each other so that your cluster wins instead of the individual stations."
The evolution of the ratings measurement system that measures people's listening times also changed the landscape of rock radio. The new ratings system, PPM, showed more channel surfing than previously thought, she says, which resulted in eliminating talk and unfamiliar music.
"The new game is, 'Be familiar, be quick, get to the point, still be slightly outrageous and, for heaven's sake, don't be BORING,'" Scull says. While she's a veteran of the game at this point, Scull has certainly had no trouble adapting: "Everything has changed," she admits, "but I am hoping that rock music will have a huge resurgence soon."
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