Sharp as ever

Sharp as ever

Legendary KROQ-FM deejay Richard Blade hosts a day filled with ’80s music at VillaFest Sunday in Old Pasadena

By Carl Kozlowski 09/12/2012

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If there’s one thing Richard Blade has learned over his 30 years in America, it’s how to throw a party. As a wildly popular deejay at the pioneering alternative-rock radio station KROQ-FM, the native Englishman helped shape the musical tastes of a generation of Los Angeles residents, and his ties to the 1980s have since provided him with a career that, much like his favorite music, has never died.

In fact, Blade has managed to succeed on several career fronts, including hosting the Sirius XM Channel 33 satellite-radio show “First Wave” from noon to 6 p.m. each day. He’s also written for science-fiction TV series, including UPN’s late-1990s series “7 Days.” This Sunday, he’ll host a party that’s become one of the coolest musical events of the year in Pasadena: the Villa Fest Music Festival at Villa Sorriso restaurant in Old Pasadena.

“I’ve worked with all the deejays and both the bands before, so it’s like a reunion for me,” Blade says. The fest lineup, which is headlined by The English Beat and The Spazmatics, features deejay sets by Robert Risque, Jose Shuton, Ana Luisa, Alex Transistor, Juice, Juan Franco and Hife. “The key for ’80s music sticking around so long is it’s good music and really fun, especially after enduring grunge and the dark music of the ‘90s,” he adds. “I think that made people look back and say ‘This was good.’”

While Blade still speaks with the same youthful excitement and energy he brought in his move from England to Los Angeles in 1982, he is concerned about the current state of rock radio. He notes that a lot of alternative-rock stations are changing formats, while classic-rock stations like K-EARTH and KOST are shifting from 1960s and 1970s music to playing more from the ’80s.

Blade believes there’s little or no chance of 1990s music making a comeback, but notes that today’s teens and preteens are embracing the ’80s tunes due to new technology.

“Kids today don’t see it as old music, because they have iPods on shuffle and they’ll hear Lady Gaga, Little Wayne and A-Ha back to back and like each,” says Blade. “I’ll get 11 and 12 year olds asking for ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’ by English Beat and ‘The Metro’ by Berlin at parties where I deejay. I joke that these kids were 16 when these songs came out.”

As for his own personal longevity, Blade credits his being “in the right place at the right time.” He decided early in his tenure at KROQ that if the alternative-music scene was going to be part of his career, he was “going to have to need to know everything about the band, music and audience.’ So far, that loyalty has been amply rewarded in return.
Blade’s been playing and listening a mighty long time, having begun his career as a deejay spinning records at clubs across Europe. After a three-month gig in Norway, which he’s quick to recall as “500 miles north of the Arctic Circle,” he set his sights on LA and its nearly perpetual sunny weather. He first worked on-air in Bakersfield, San Luis Obispo and Long Beach before landing at KROQ.

Today he has a well-rounded life with plenty of non-deejay activities on his schedule, including teaming with his wife to rescue dogs from animal shelters. He also loves water sports and engages in long-distance swimming and paddle boarding,

“I worked really hard at all three things and that’s been the key. Whether being on the radio and talking to the audience or deejaying live, I want to make sure the audience has a good time,” he explains. “I always appreciated when deejays remembered my name and played the songs I asked for, kept me on the dance floor having a good time. I just want people to have fun and a good time. That’s what kept me going over the years: I still love the music. I’m one of the audience, too. When I’m not playing it, I’m listening to it.”

VillaFest is at 3 p.m. Sunday at Villa Sorriso, 168 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Tickets cost $25. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call (626) 793-2233 or visit sorrisopasadena.com.

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