By Jake Ryan
Published: October 1, 2007
"Donít be territorial. Support the other bands from your scene. And donít think youíre the best band out there, because as fast as you rise, you can fall just as fast."
These are words of wisdom for local bands from Brandon Davis, better known to the world of internet radio as one of its most original personalities, Raven ( www.eggsandkegsradio.com & myspace.com/raveninterviews ).
Raven, 31, is the host of the Ravenís Eggs & Kegs Show on KWTF Worldwide (www.kwtfworldwide.com) and Raven Interviews on New Artist Radio (www.newartistradio.net/RavenInterviews.htm). Raven has traveled a long road to get where he is at in this field, and carries with him a tale of inspiration for both those with aspirations in the music industry and African-Americans.
Raven says his name came from when he was doing poetry in Chicago.
"I read a lot of Edgar Allen Poe," Raven says. "You know, íQuote the raven.í So I got the nickname Raven, and it stuck ever since. Plus, itís dark, itís grim, I like it."
Born and raised in Chicago, Raven says it was a tough place to grow up, and he witnessed first-hand the darker side of the inner-city youth.
"It was rough, man," Raven says. "I grew up in the ghetto. I dealt with gangbanging, sold drugs and just spent a lot of time getting into trouble."
In 1989, he had his first experience in radio with the Young Peoplesí Radio Network on WKKC, a college radio station.
"I did it for a month," Raven says. "But my grades slipped because I was spending so much time focusing on the radio, and no time doing homework. So, I had to let it go. But since then, radio has always been a passion."
Raven dropped out of high school in his sophomore year, and began to focus on music on a regular basis. People would sneak him into clubs around the age of 16, a time when he was introduced to the popularity of house music and house DJs. This would prove to be a very marketable genre later in Ravenís career. It was also around this time that he began to understand the importance of indi and local bands.
"I was showing my support for these bands," Raven says. "Iíd go to shows, buy their CDs. Well, I guess they would have been tapes. At that time, it was pretty much all tapes and records."
By 1997, Raven was working in production and engineering after being approached by an independent record label. He worked with many rap, R&B, hip hop and jazz artists while with the label. This was, however, until 2001, when he began to think of the ramifications of being a high school drop-out.
"I went back to get my high school diploma," Raven says. "I didnít want to go the rest of my life without one."
In 2003, Raven seized the opportunity to start his own independent record label, Eye Of The Storm, for which he would also produce and promote musical acts. Initially, this label catered only to rap and R&B artists. However, he began to grow tired of the rowdy scene.
"I was fed up with the egos and the clubs the groups performed at," Raven says. "So I reformatted my label to rock, metal and death metal. Pretty much everything but rap. I terminated any old contracts I had with rap artists."
This move would prove to be somewhat shaky at first, as the genre of metal was traditionally filled with predominantly white bands playing to white audiences. Raven says he initially faced racial stereotypes as he tried to break into the scene.
"At first, I did (encounter racial stereotypes)," Raven says. "Everyone was dressed like they do at a metal show. And here I was, a black man in basically urban clothes. It was very hard; I got the eye attention of everyone. I mean, everyone was white, and I stuck out like a sore thumb. But the first band to take me serious was Drudge Puppet. Those are my boys."
Raven also has a non-profit organization, Eye Of The Storm, Inc. He says it began by promoting a benefit show in Chicago, from which he helped raise $2,000. From this, he wanted to start a full-fledged charity, but he also wanted to do it his own way.
"Eye Of The Storm, Inc. is a legit non-profit organization," Raven says. "I keep all the receipts, and I want to make sure the money is going to the right places. I want to feel that itís a just cause. The purpose of the non-profit is to help victims overcome obstacles, like the homeless and disaster victims. I help put on various fund raisers, and weíve done many events with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago and the American Cancer Society."
Raven then grabbed for his soft laptop computer case, saying, "See, I even have a dog tag on the zipper for breast cancer. Iím damn proud to show this dog tag."
His work with helping raise money for breast cancer awareness originated when one of the musicians in Drudge Puppet had his mother die from the ailment. Raven says after that he began to do his research and found out the seriousness of those with breast cancer.
"I never really thought about it before that," Raven says. "Its one of those things where many people who have it donít know until itís too late. Thatís why itís important to raise peopleís awareness."
Raven says he has traditionally done several Thanksgiving and Christmas drives in Chicago. He has both drives planned again for 2007, but this time they will be in Denver, as well. And, he also says he has contests on his website where he personally purchases gift cards from $200-300 for furniture and clothing stores. The recipients of these gift cards are based off of their own personal stories and situations.
"Some of those stories have touched me," Raven says. "Iíve been fortunate enough to not be in those situations, and Iíve been really lucky in my life. Itís a way of giving back, and Iíd hope someone would do the same thing for me if I were in those situations."
You can also donate to Eye Of The Storm, Inc. by going to his website and clicking on the "Donate" button.
As for his career as a radio DJ, Raven wanted to get away from FCC stations. He wanted to have more freedom and more fun hosting radio shows.
"Eggs & Kegs originally started out as a morning show," Raven says. "It was Raven Interviews, an hour-long show featuring interviews with local bands, and it was pre-recorded. I started playing a couple songs from the bands I interviewed, and the bands were from all genres. Then, I began to get requests from listeners for more music on the show, and about 70 percent of them were for rock, metal and death metal. The more music I played, the more bands were getting upset that they didnít get enough interview time on the show. I literally had to change my number, since all the interviews were done by phone."
So, Raven stopped the interview process and went to an all-music format, which in turn increased his number of listeners. However, it was difficult to have a show in the morning that people would listen to. He then made the move to prime time, and as an ode to what used to be a morning show, he changed the name to the Ravenís Eggs & Kegs Show.
"Since it used to be a morning show, the name basically means breakfast and beer: Eggs & Kegs."
The Ravenís Eggs & Kegs Show can be heard on Wednesdays on KWTF Worldwide The Edge (www.kwtfworldwide.com) at 5 p.m. mountain time as a two-hour show. He still does Raven Interviews as a pre-recorded show with New Artist Radio under its original format. The shows are also now available on-demand.
"Eggs & Kegs is a live show, which can be tough sometimes," Raven says. "If I mess up, I mess up live. People will hear it. But itís a lot of fun. It mixes rock, metal and death metal, comedy bits, prank phone calls and interviews. It offers what radio used to have: quality and originality. You hear the same things over and over again on FCC radio, with big record labels calling the shots and pay-to-play music still going on. My show has a lot of variety, itís a good show. People can laugh, it will make you smile, and you can also get a lot of aggression out with the music.
Today, the Ravenís Eggs & Kegs Show gets anywhere from 20,000 to 25,000 listeners worldwide, and his audience is growing by the week. People can also chat with him online at kwtfworldwide.com while heís on the air, and you donít have to register with the website to enter the chat room.
"All you have to do is pick a chat name, and enter the room. There is no registering to chat with me while the show is going," Raven says. "And I like to give shout-outs on the air to people Iím chatting with."
In January 2007, Raven decided to make the move to Denver for a change in scenery, saying Chicago was too crowded and over-populated. His move was also in an effort to start up a west coast chapter of his non-profit organization. However, he had no idea what the state of Colorado had in store for him.
"I went to a show in the mountains, the South Park Music Festival," Raven says. "It was the first time I found out that South Park really existed, that it wasnít just a fake cartoon town. It was also the first time I had seen or been in the mountains in my life. It was beautiful, and there were the bluest skies I had ever seen. There were no fire truck or police sirens going. It was so peaceful."
Today, Raven does his Eggs & Kegs Show live from his house just outside of Denver. Several songs from local Colorado bands are now featured, but he still shows his love and support for Chicago-based bands on his show, as well. The format of his show has more of an emphasis on death metal than any other genre.
"I was introduced to death metal by Gates of Purgatory in Chicago," Raven says. "I would book shows and put them on the bill, so it would be four rock and alternative bands and one death metal band. I liked them, and I wanted to keep having them play at my shows. I heard them play so much; I just got tuned into the sound of death metal."
To help promote his radio shows, he has started up the Raven Militia Street Team. He said he would like to get chapters of this street team all over the world, giving its members posters and t-shirts with his logos on them at no charge.
"All I ask is if youíre into metal, and love to promote it, just slap one of my posters up where people can see it. Thatís all."
From his reputation, Raven has earned unique sponsors for his show. One of which is thealley.com, a Chicago-based clothing store. He says he is also very close to finalizing a deal with an energy drink company with some major ties, and is about to begin talk with Malibu. Yet, he still has one portion of his show that he needs a sponsor for: Ravenís Overdrive.
This segment of the Ravenís Eggs & Kegs Show is at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted music featuring thrash, speed metal and death metal with absolutely no talking between songs.
"When one song is fading out, the next one is fading in," Raven says. "Itís just non-stop craziness. Itís going to take a certain type of sponsor to do Ravenís Overdrive. They need to capture the spirit of this segment, something that would represent speed and adrenaline, because itís like an insane asylum.
Raven has also begun to take a closer look at the Colorado metal scene and individual bands that have caught his attention. Among them are Denver-based groups Born In Winter, Less Than Under, Devil Got Five, Moore, Iconocaust, and Colorado Springs-based Try Redemption.
"From what I see, the Colorado metal scene seems to be growing," Raven says. "Itís not as territorial as the scene in Chicago. There, the south side has alternative, emo and various heavy metal groups, whereas up north is dominated by death metal. In Colorado, all areas have all different types of bands."
When it comes to signing a band, Raven says he is more of a handshake person than one who prefers contracts.
He says, "I donít use people or bands for my own advantage. Iíve had bands that wanted to sign with me, but I knew that they could do much more and would be a lot better off with a larger label than me."
If bands are interested in signing with his label Eye Of The Storm, Raven says all they have to do is e-mail him a press kit and some MP3s of their music. In fact, this is something he highly encourages bands to do. If heís interested in the press kit, heíll check out one of their shows, which is where he truly sees if a band meets his expectations.
"I pay attention to everything at a show," Raven says. "Itís not just about the music. I watch for stage presence and the chemistry between the band members, but I also look at the time it takes for a band to set up and tear down. The fastest band Iíve seen do a teardown was Moore at the Gothic Theater; they did it in about six minutes. But you also have some bands that take way too long, and it only takes one band to screw up an entire nightís schedule. Then, other bands have to cut their sets short because one band took too long to tear down."
Raven also says that when he finds a band that shows enough potential, he then wants to know how much of the music business they know. He pays particularly close attention to what questions the band asks him about the business, and also wants to find out how much initiative the band has.
"A band can get on stage and not put on the best performance in the world, but that doesnít bother me much. Those things can be worked on at practice and in the studio. But itís really those other things Iím looking at when I watch a band perform."
Raven has seemingly been through just about everything in his life and career, and still carries a positive attitude and outlook. He says he can be used as an example for minorities in America, accomplishing achievements such as having an independent record label, a non-profit charitable organization, hosting two radio shows, and earning sponsors along the way.
"Look at where I came from and how I was when I was younger, then look at how far Iíve come and what Iíve been able to accomplish," Raven says. "It also goes to show that metal appeals to more than just white people, so donít be so quick to judge people because of their color."