Take it Off
How’d Nick Brunner get an indie-rock program on Capital Public Radio?
For Nick Brunner, a career in radio was destiny. And in Sacramento he found his opportunity: Brunner’s Web-radio program Off Air has quickly become a well-known local presence: He interviews local indie-rock bands, hosts in-studio performances, plays tunes and even introduced Moby at this summer’s Wanderlust festival. I sat down with Brunner to hear the story of how Off Air came to be.
What exactly do you do?
I work for Capital Public Radio in two capacities, really; I was hired originally to work behind the scenes, and a little bit on air, doing “transitional material” between shows like Talk of the Nation and Newshour from the BBC [World Service].
So how’d you get your own program?
Oh. (Laughs.) Excuse me. Almost forgot. Yeah, and then Off Air: It’s this show that I created after about year of Capital Public Radio. I just was really rooting to do something like this with my career, to some degree. … So here we are: an indie-rock dance show.
Where’d you grow up?
[In] the plains of Illinois, where there is little to nothing going on, but it is very peaceful and very pretty. I grew up in a small town called Milledgeville. The town fathers saw that there was a mill at the edge of the village, so, boom. There you go. Town is named.
How did you end up at Sacto’s Capital Public Radio?
I wanted to work in public radio before my 30s, full time, so I went on a job-a-week campaign. I was really excited. Capital Public Radio was the third station I applied for. …
The first thing that went through my head after getting hired was “Isn’t Cake from Sacramento?” I thought I would be walking around and bump into John McCrea everywhere I went.
Did you mold Off Air after another show?
In many ways it is very by-the-book, but I’ve got a few twists on it. I put stand-up comedy in the show. A few alt comedians. … I really like Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Doug Benson—and those guys in many ways do what Lenny Bruce did when he opened up for Dave Brubeck, or Bill Hicks when he opened up for Tool, David Cross when he opened up for Yo La Tengo, and on down the line.
How did you convince the suits to giveyou an indie-dance program?
I went to a station manager and said “Hey, I’ve got an idea for this show,” and I told him a really vague idea of what it was. He was like, “We’re not going to do that.” This must have been five or six months after I had been there. …
Our jazz music director popped his head into the studio one day and goes, “I like hearing you do this show, it puts kind of a pop-edge on it.” So I grabbed right onto that. We had a meeting about it, and that’s really all it took. He said “OK, but the caveat is we aren’t going to put you on air, we’re going to put you on the Web.” So I thought, all right, as long as I get to do it.
It started off OK?
The first week the show was stilled called Off the Air; I was promoting it with little teaser advertisements on air, and we got the nicest, really the nicest “Please stop using that name” from these guys in Modesto. [Off the Air] in Modesto puts on live concerts at different areas around Modesto. So, to their credit, they have had the name and a really cool website for quite some time. It’s just a bummer that this name that I had thought up since I was a sophomore in college was being used. So I wrote back and asked if it would be OK if we called it Off Air, and everyone was happy. In retrospect, I kind of like the name Off Air when I’m saying it better than I did Off the Air. It’s easier to say on air, fewer syllables.