MTV's "120 Minutes," the weekly late-night series that championed alternative music from 1986 to 2003, will return to the airwaves on July 30 after an eight-year hiatus. The show, which will air monthly on MTV2, will have a new look and feel, but celebrated rock radio jock Matt Pinfield -- who hosted "120" during the alt-rock explosion of the mid- to late '90s -- will once again sit in the driver's seat.
In addition to his experience as a radio DJ/TV host, Pinfield is a former VP of A&R at Columbia Records, where he worked with acts like Coheed & Cambria and Crossfade. Billboard caught up with Pinfield to talk about the rebirth of "120 Minutes" and the future of rock radio.
What will be different about the resurrected version of "120 Minutes"?
It's much faster-paced. It's definitely been adjusted to the way that people digest music and information today. There could be anywhere from 10 to 12 guests in the show. There's more done in post-production as well. [And] you won't see me sitting on those road cases anymore, although I was very fond of them. I had so many great times sitting on them.
The gig comes at a great time for you, since New York's WRXP just switched formats from rock to talk, effectively putting you out of a job. How bummed are you about that?
[San Diego DJ] Bryan Shock, one of the guys who helped me get hired over at 'RXP, once said to me, "Other than Howard Stern, there's two different kinds of people in radio. Those who are being fired, and those who have yet to be fired." [laughs]
I loved 'RXP; we brought great music to New York City and people were very passionate about it. But these things happen. Obviously I'm . . . sad and disappointed that there is no modern rock station in New York right now, but hopefully that will change and I will be right there at the forefront with it. Radio people have been reaching out to me from a lot of different places, so I don't think I'm going to be off the [air] for very long.
So you're not at all concerned about the future of rock at terrestrial radio?
I think that it's an ebb and flow at this point in time. [People] have been proclaiming that rock was dead since 1962. Back when the ['90s alt-rock] explosion happened with Nirvana and then the whole Seattle scene . . . all of those bands were ruling sales charts. And at that point, a lot of adult contemporary stations started flipping to modern rock formats because that's what people were listening to. I'd like to believe that there will be more superstars coming out of the rock world.
There's so many more avenues for artists to get discovered now than when you first started in the business. Has the Internet really made it any easier for baby bands to catch a break?
I think it's harder for a lot of reasons. It's great that you can just put it up online, but it's so vast. Where do you start looking" Who are the curators" It would really piss me off when people would say, "I'm glad that big record companies are taking it on the chin and downsizing." I say eff those people. A band might have amazing songs, but at the end of the day, it's harder for the guitar group to get out there unless something catches fire, or they have a good indie label like Glassnote, Third Man, Sub Pop, Jagjaguwar or Merge to help them get out on the road to spread their gospel.
Is that why "120 Minutes" is coming back -- to help spread the gospel again?
"120" used to be one of the only things you could do to find new music. You put a tape in your VHS, watch it the next day and go out and buy a record. It's a trusted brand. You'll watch the show and find out about good things and you don't have to spend 50 hours scouring the Internet looking for something you may like. It's a curation, just like some of the great websites out there. I think that "120" is still important and I'm so happy to be doing it again.
Lady Gaga is a mainstream artist with very alternative attitudes toward politics and fashion. Would you ever consider having her on the show?
I'm very fond of her. I admire her energy and her balls to get out there and do what she does. She reminds me of what Bowie was in the early '70s. I love anybody who encourages you to be yourself. What was great about alternative rock in the first place was that there was no uniform"it was about being who you were, doing what you wanted, being a synthesis of your influences and trying to create something new. She's obviously doing it in the pop realm, but how can you not admire her" She's certainly not cookie-cutter.