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Wild Card on the Radio: Max Ryan

By David Goe

It’s 5 p.m. and I’m sitting in the broadcast booth at Magic 93.1 FM. “Five at Five” is just getting underway with the new Katy Perry/Juicy J’s joint “Dark Horse.”

The broadcast booth is a lot smaller than I anticipated, nothing more than a walk-in closet, and I’m sitting on a bar stool hanging out with the self-proclaimed “Channing Tatum” of Grand Junction radio, Max Ryan.

“I like to look at things with a sense of ridiculousness,” Ryan says as the new Pitbull and Ke$ha track “Timber” plays over the studio monitors.

The first thing we talk about is the biggest joke in pop music right now, Ylvis’ parody EDM track “What Does The Fox Say?”

Ryan plays me a series of audio clips he recorded earlier that day of listeners calling in to request the dreadful tune. With every clip Ryan playfully teases each listener before ultimately putting the kibosh on their request.

Zendaya’s “Replay” is now on air and we jump right in to talking about Disney stars. Of course Miley Cyrus twerks her way into conversation and shortly after that Justin Bieber’s name pops up.

“That dude’s Vanilla Ice-ing himself off the face of the planet,” Ryan says as the music switches to Eminem and Rihanna’s new track “Monster.”

“Five at Five” is wrapping up with OneRepublic, and listeners start calling in to name the five songs and win a small prize. The phone lines are blowing up and Ryan mows them down like a Tommy Gun.

“Magic. You’re caller number one. Keep trying.

“Magic. You’re caller number two. Keep trying.

“Magic. You’re caller number three. Keep trying.”

He lets the phone bank load up with callers again before finally picking the seventh caller. It’s an excited young girl named Megan and she knows all five tracks. Ryan records a quick phone interview, edits it down and has it playing live on air in under 2 minutes.

This is what it’s like chilling with Ryan. His energy is high and unstoppable and it’s rapid fire for the entire hour I’m there. The only moment of stillness is the split second right before he goes live on air. Ryan stretches his arms wide, shakes out the nerves (if there are any they are undetectable to me), and says “oh yeah” before firing up the microphone for a weather report.

While he’s talking about pressure fronts, I take a quick look around the studio. There are a number of artifacts lining the wall, notably an autographed picture of Barbara Mandrell, a bed pan marked strictly for emergencies only, and a talking Napoleon Dynamite action figure, Ryan’s addition to the collection.

Save for one old vinyl record nailed to the wall, there’s not a physical piece of music to be found. Everything is digital in the broadcast booth and Ryan manipulates the entire show from one gigantic flatscreen monitor.

“That’s my favorite sign in this room,” Ryan says pointing to a cartoon pig named Jeffrey who just happens to be sharpening a knife above deep smoked, country fresh ham.

Once again, it’s Ryan’s cheeky sense of humor on display. It’s the same sense of humor that has made him by far the most entertaining and popular drive-time radio DJ in Grand Junction.

“I’m just trying to bring back the spirit of Casey Kasem or Wolfman Jack to radio,” Ryan says. “I like the idea of leaving a legacy.”

Our hour together is nearly up and it feels as if I’ve only been there for a couple minutes. Ryan’s a powerful, infectious force, and, as I leave the station, the second Eminem song within the hour comes up. This time it’s “Berzerk,” the first single off “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.”

As I get in my car and start to head home I feel pretty good about my time with Ryan. With all the repetition and blandness in pop music, it’s good to know there’s at least one wild card left out there.

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