Q & N: Ralph Renna will roll with punches, continue to push local music

For more than 20 years, Ralph Renna has been a force to be reckoned with on the local music scene. A

For more than 20 years, Ralph Renna has been a force to be reckoned with on the local music scene. And that’s not about to change any time soon.

While one of his biggest platforms, modern rock station The Edge 104.9-FM, has been replaced by a country format called The Cat, Renna is positioning himself to work around these changes and keep promoting local music.

His Capital Underground Radio, which featured all local music and interviews with local bands at 9 every Sunday night on The Edge since 2006, has moved online to both his Web site, www.ralphrennarocks.com, and a new Capital Underground site, www.capitalundergroundradio.com.

The free concerts sponsored by The Edge that Renna has hosted at The Dublin Underground on Wednesday nights since 2008 will continue on a trial basis without The Edge’s sponsorship. And there’s Capital Underground Television, which will continue to air on digital cable channel 1005.

Related story

Click here to read Gazette music writer Brian McElhiney’s story about the fate of Renna’s Capital Underground shows

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Renna, who still works for 104.9’s owner Albany Broadcasting as assistant production director, is continuing with Capital Underground. He first got on radio in 1988, and has worked for such stations as 102.3 WZRQ-FM Z Rock among others. He’s also been running his own production company, Say Uncle Productions, since 2005, and about six months ago officially incorporated it as a business. For a while, he also wrote a weekly local music column in The Record in Troy.

But even before that, he was active on the local music scene, promoting shows and playing in bands. Today, he plays bass for hardcore punk group Politics of Contraband; sings for metallic blues rockers Black John Wayne and hardcore metal band Last Call; and plays bass and acoustic guitar in the instrumental Ghosts of Godparents.

Q: Where did the idea for Capital Underground come from?

A: Overit Records [founder and owner] Dan Dinsmore had come to me to host Capital Underground, an advertising show all about local music. The first show featured our bands, Last Call and Clay People, which is Dan’s band, with Idols Never Die and Dead Rabbits. We started promoting the bands to help promote the radio station — hey, listen to 104.9 The Edge. So helping Overit Records host this on the radio station eventually led to the job I have here now.

Q: What was your initial reaction when Albany Broadcasting decided to replace The Edge with The Cat?

A: My reaction was like anyone else’s — I was shocked. We found out when it actually happened, five minutes before we could hear it turn to country. For me, personally, it was a big blow — it is to the whole Edge staff. But that’s radio; that’s what happens sometimes. For the company, it was the best move, being there was four rock stations around here. But for me personally, nothing’s really changed. I built up such a good reputation as a promoter and a local musician, and as a leader for the local scene.

Q: What are your plans for Capital Underground Radio? Are you hoping to move it on to another radio station, or keep it online?

A: I am sticking with [Albany Broadcasting] through the format change. There’s been talks, but nothing is set in stone yet. They realized that Capital Underground was a very important piece to the building, so it may wind up on one of the other stations in the building; that idea has been tossed around.

Q: Now that Capital Underground is no longer affiliated with The Edge, will the show’s focus move away from hard rock and metal?

A: We will stay Capital Underground Radio, minus 104.9 The Edge. We’re sticking to the roots format of interviews and music, and that’s that. It will be all genres of music, with more genres of music, more local hip-hop, more — I guess a little more country, maybe, ha-ha. But definitely more hip-hop, since we’re not limited now.

Q: Did you ever feel that the show had become pigeonholed into the metal or hardcore scenes?

A: That was my niche; that’s me coming out of the hardcore and metal scenes. But it also worked against me, because I’ve had other bands on the show, like bluesy, acoustic folk. This is for everybody, and it took a while for that word to spread. We weren’t afraid to bring death metal and hardcore bands in, and other stations weren’t doing it. There’s no reason why a genre of music should be excluded because of the nature of its sound. If it’s FCC-worthy — there’s no vulgarities — we’re gonna do it.

That’s where we stood above the rest; we even had hip-hop, comedy, local writers, any form of entertainment. What other stations weren’t doing, we were stepping all over it and bringing in whoever wanted to come in.

Q: What do you think was the biggest factor that made Capital Underground a success both on radio and at the free shows at Dublin Underground?

A: I’ve said this from the beginning: there are other local radio shows, but why mine works the best and why people remember me, is that I am what I do. Anything I could get for my band, I’ll extend to other bands and help them out, from designing a flier all the way up to getting them a national show at Northern Lights. If I had the opportunity to pass that around, more than interview a band, but put on a show — I’m here, here’s my cell number, this is what I do, this is what I am.

Q: Now that The Edge is no more, what happens next for the hard rock and metal scenes in this area? Do you see any other radio station picking up the slack?

A: I’ve been working with local music, underground, hardcore, since 1988, so going on 21 years now. In January of 2010, I was told that Metal Storm [a three-hour show Renna hosted after Capital Underground] would no longer be a program at The Edge, simply because surveys told them there wasn’t a market for it, which I do disagree with.

There will be a place for it again, and somehow, I’ll be a part of it, or if not a part of it, I’ll be a supporter. It’s one of the genres I love. I like the heavy stuff, so I’ll throw on Slayer, but I’ll throw Johnny Cash on just as quick. The Edge was not afraid of that, but they made the decision to switch formats. I’m still an employee here, and I’m lucky to have a job, one, and I’m lucky to have a job in radio, two.

But, I’ve been here 21 years, and it’s just the beginning, dude. I’m not going anywhere.

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