MONTREAL — Yes, Rockman is his real last name. Really. The name continues to be irresistible fodder for doubters over the years — something loads of people can’t bring themselves to believe because it is, frankly, just a bit too perfect for CHOM 97.7 FM disc jockey and veteran heavy metal vocalist Jason Rockman.
It may have appeared a bit too perfect for the brass to pass up when they were looking for a new on air voice almost five years past.
“I get it all the time,” Rockman says good naturedly. “I used to get it with my group (Slaves on Dope), and I get it a lot now with the work I do at the station. Everybody thinks it is a fake name. My name is the Rockman when I am on air, so when I was told by the station they were going to give me the name the Rockman I thought, ‘Man, that is cheesy.’ But it’s me since I love music and it makes sense, I love rock and it is my last name.
Some things are only supposed to be, and if Rockman’s work-related destiny was secured by a century-old penmanship malfunction, that’s excellent with the man who hosts Amped With the Rockman — featuring large, brash rock in the finest tradition of CHOM — five nights a week from 7 until midnight. And now Rockman can claim another plum tract of radio real estate with a brand new show, On the Record, on talk-radio sister station CJAD 800 (Saturdays from 7 to 9 p.m., and replaying Sundays in the 1-to-3 p.m. time slot).
“The entire notion of On the Record is to catch a high-profile man — a musician, a celeb, a public figure — and find out what makes them tick musically,” he explains. “Say, someone like Sugar Sammy. Folks understand him for his comedy and his onstage persona, but they do not necessarily know that his favourite all-time group is Culture Club.
“He is a serious romantic and a hardcore ’80s fanatic.”
In addition to Sugar Sammy, the show has welcomed Men Without Ozzy offspring Kelly Osbourne, former Hab Georges Laraque, Hats frontman Ivan Doroschuk, Quebec vedette Roch Voisine, star chef Chuck Hughes and Sean Lennon. On deck: celebrity Alan Thicke and performer Gregory Charles.
“Everybody likes talking about music; everybody has a first concert, and a desert island disc. So it’s not difficult to grab somebody and say, ‘Hey, let’s talk about music.’ And with most folks, their guard goes down 100 per cent and they merely want to share.”
On the Record enables Rockman to stretch out and gratify his bottomless, bred-in-the-bone inquisitiveness. This natural interest, combined with an ever-expanding universe of interests, figures conspicuously in his considerable skills as an interviewer. It is also an important part of the reason he’s to be found throughout Montreal’s media map nowadays, appearing and in his job as media co-ordinator for Montreal Comiccon.
It was not always this way.
Arriving at CHOM is, in no small way, Jason Rockman coming full circle.
“I grew up listening to CHOM, it was always on at my house, so it was a big deal for me when we won L’Esprit,” says Rockman. “To look around and see myself working here now … it’s rather odd.”
Formed in Montreal in 1993, Slaves on Dope shipped out to L.A. en masse in 1999 “because we’d exhausted all our chances in Canada.” The foursome had dwelt there exactly one year before they discovered themselves on Sharon Osbourne’s Divine Recordings label and in the lineup for the touring significant music festival Ozzfest, which they played.
“It was an incredible chance; I only wish it had continued a little longer,” he laments, “but after Napster and all that, everything just fell apart.”
The closing wheel came off the adventure when Rockman quit having had his fill of the nonstop touring rock ‘n’ roll life. Civilian life arrived as a shock that was quick, and with a life lesson.
“We’d been on the way for 10 months,” remembers Rockman. “I came home, we played a show in December, Christmas happened, and by mid-January I was working at a Sunglass Hut in Angrignon Mall.
“I remember being at work one day when this girl walks by, and then she walks by again, and then again, and finally she comes over and asks, ‘Are you the vocalist of Slaves on Dope?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ Then she asked if I was purchasing sunglasses, and I said, ‘No, I work here. I am the supervisor,’ ” he laughs. “And I recall she came back two days later with her album and I ‘d to sign it for her.
“It felt so degrading at the time, but it taught me a lot about humility,” he says. “I have ever been a person that looks at a situation and says, ‘OK, I am here, I’m going to make the best of it.’ That is how I ‘m — I am positive.”
He would move on and spend the following five years working for his dad at Rockman Trucking, during which time, after a six-year intermission, a leading positive appeared: Slaves on Dope regrouped and restarted, grownup fashion, at peace. It was the beginning of something. And soon another door that is quite surprising was to throw itself open.