Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit tunes into his show. So does Travis from Blink-182 and David from Korn. And so do vast numbers of Southern Californians between the ages of 12 and 34.
His name is Stryker and his 6-to-10 p.m. radio show on KROQ-FM (106.7), and particularly his "Furious 5 at 9" countdown, are a must-listen for teenagers, young adults and anyone interested in knowing what alternative rock that demographic is listening to.
Stryker, along with the listeners who vote for the five new songs to be played on the "Furious 5 at 9," have become arbiters of what new music makes the cut and what doesn't. Earlier this summer, Stryker's audience responded big time to Alien Ant Farm's cover of Michael Jackson's '80s hit "Smooth Criminal," and the song is now in heavy rotation not only on KROQ but on such stations as KIIS-FM (102.7) and KYSR-FM (98.7).
"I have a really good relationship with the listeners," Stryker says during an in-studio interview after hanging up with Peggy, a teenager from Eagle Rock who called in to request a song. Stryker's sitting at the computerized display in the broadcasting booth on the ninth floor of the KROQ Burbank studios. From his spiky blond hair to his Skechers-clad feet, he looks more like a kid at play than the No. 1 deejay in his time slot in the second-largest radio market in the country. Indeed, in the next station ID plug he plays, the guys from Linkin Park tease him for "almost looking old enough to have his learner's permit."
And that, largely, is the key to his success. Ted Ramone Stryker, 27, mirrors his audience. He's a local boy who went to Palisades High School, played baseball and listened to KROQ. He still checks out up-and-coming bands at the Roxy and the Whisky. He's training for a triathlon.
As Stryker tells it, he stumbled into a career in radio in 1994, while a student at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He says he met a guy in a parking lot at 2 a.m. who worked at a Top 40 station and offered him a job. From there he moved to an alt-rock station in Tucson, a job that better suited his musical affinity (Nirvana and Radiohead are his favorite bands of all time), where he hosted the morning show.
KROQ programming director Kevin Weatherly heard some tapes of Stryker and invited him to L.A. for a tryout. Stryker started at KROQ in March 1999 as a fill-in disc jockey but was soon put on full-time in the 6-to-10 p.m. slot (the lead-in to the syndicated "Loveline" program hosted by Adam Carolla and Dr. Drew Pinsky). His show quickly gained listeners.
His radio success offers him a nice friendly slice of celebrity. He gets to talk to and hang with rock stars. At KROQ functions, he's mobbed by fans, particularly women who want to be photographed with him. His managers were able to procure for him a small speaking part in the upcoming Cameron Diaz movie, "The Sweetest Thing."
But his latest sideline, hosting a game show for MTV called "Who Knows the Band," which will debut Sept. 24, will no doubt increase his recognition factor.
Two other KROQ jocks, Kennedy and Carson Daly, made the leap to MTV. Kennedy had a brief but bright zeitgeist moment as the hip young Republican virgin who liked to rock (she was featured in Vanity Fair; the character McGovern on "Murphy Brown" was based on her).
But Daly has become a one-man brand, with his syndicated radio program, cellular phone commercials, a late-night show on NBC and celebrity girlfriends (Jennifer Love Hewitt and Tara Reid), all stemming from his gig hosting MTV's "Total Request Live."
Stryker is quick to acknowledge the comparisons, particularly to Daly, put pointedly notes, "I'm not going to be introducing Britney Spears videos. They're gonna let me be me. The way I am on the radio is going to be exactly the way I am on MTV."
Although Stryker says he has no immediate plans to leave KROQ--he'll continue his evening shift at the station and tape the MTV show in the mornings--Weatherly notes that Stryker may be "on the cusp of breaking open on a mass scale."
"He's got a lot of years left in radio, if he so chooses. But I think he has the potential to be a big star, a multimedia star. He's a natural."