He walks into the studio in his bright colored shoes each afternoon, and his familiar voice fills the airwaves as he takes a seat in front of the mic. He’s whom many refer to as the face of X96 - Todd Nuke’em.
Surprisingly, the Weber State graduate didn’t originally intend to work in radio. Nuke’em pursued his Associates Degree in psychology and had aspirations of being a high school teacher, or guidance counselor. Nuke’em snickers thinking back, “A guy with a pink Mohawk as a guidance counselor, I don’t know if that would have worked.”
His story sounds like fate. At 18, he answered an ad, and Bill Allred interviewed him for what ended up being his first radio gig. He got his start working at what was then KJQ.
“It was terrifying when I first opened the microphone,” Nuke’em said. “I opened the microphone and tried to speak. Back then you had to do everything. You had to press the buttons and play the CDS, and there was so much more. Now it’s all on a computer and it kind of runs itself. I’d turn the mic on and try to speak, and press buttons all at the same time. It was scary.”
Nuke’em said he still gets a little nervous when he first opens up the mic each day. But, he likes to refer to this nervousness as energy. “You just kind of get this performance buzz knowing that you’re talking to a lot of people, and that kind of wakes you up,” he said. “You get use to it, but you don’t ever forget that little buzz that comes with it.”
“I just kept doing broadcasting, and the more I was around that it really kind of infected me,” Nuke’em said. “That’s just where life took me. The more I did it, the more I wanted to be involved. And then here I am, as program director.”
According to Nuke’em, the origins of KXRK began at a station called Super 107 in Orem in ’83 when Nuke’em was in 7th grade. He listened to KCGL, KRPN, and KJQ Top 40 during the day, but by the time he worked at KJQ, it had already became an alternative radio station. Nuke’em was at KJQ until December of ’91 when the station changed owners.
Nuke’em said the new owner promised to make a lot of improvements, but instead they didn’t pay the bills. Eventually, everything was shut off and the employees (including Nuke’em) went packing.
“He was basically taking the money and running,” Nuke’em said. “We all saw where that was going, so everyone quit at the same time -right before Christmas. The first couple weeks of December, which was crazy to do, but I was young and stupid.”
He was unemployed for awhile, before sales manager, Jim Facer, and Jim McNeil(owner of United Concerts) pooled resources and leased the station KFMY (previously a Top 40s station in Provo). The ratings were bad and they were losing money. So they leased it, and put X96 on in February of ’92.
“You look back at how we did things and I don’t know how it ever succeeded, but it did. It took off from there.” Nuke’em said the key to X96’s success lie in listening. “We’ve always tried to pay attention to the audience. They’ll tell us what they like, and we give it to them.”
Nuke’em said that over the years the one thing that hasn’t changed is “the love for what’s next. People love bands from Nirvana to bands like Mumford and Sons. Right now, Lorde is super popular. And, Lorde reminds me of Fiona Apple from the ‘90s, which reminds me of Kate Bush from the ‘80s. So it just kind of circles around.”
Todd Nuke’em’s brief absence from the station left fans with many questions. Bill Allred interviewed Nuke’em shortly after his return in an interview podcast for the Let’s go Eat show to discuss what it was like to have your dream job – lose it – and then get it back, again. Many wondered if Nuke’em got nuked. But what happened is that on December 15, of 2011 Nuke’em’s contract did not get renewed.
Nuke’em was gone for seven months and came back, working part-time July of last year. He got his position as program director back a few months ago.
“I was shocked,” Nuke’em spoke of his contract not being renewed. “It’s broadcasting and things like this happen you know, but my contract ended and they told me they weren’t going to renew it so I was free to go and find another job. My only experience was tending the salad bar at Golden Corral. I tried to go back to the salad bar, but they wouldn’t have me.”
Nuke’em often jokes on air about being fired. “I don’t know how management feels about it, but I try to have a good sense of humor about it,” Nuke’em said. “Everything that I went through for those seven months of being unemployed there has got to at least be a good punch line out of it.”
He tried to get on with some other local stations, but he didn’t get an immediate response. “I was so naïve, I thought ‘well hell I’m Todd Nuke’em, I’ll just go get a job anywhere I want. But, that didn’t happen. It was humbling. It sucked, though. It really did suck.”
Nuke’em would like to thank all of his fans who supported him, and helped make it possible for his return to X96. “Thank God for Facebook, because that helped me stay in touch with everyone. People were very supportive. People missed me.”
“I thank everyone more than I can even express for supporting me,” Nuke’em said. “There was this slow sort of build of people that slowly started to realize I was missing. They started pestering X96, saying ‘what is going on, where’s Todd?’ and it just kind of kept snowballing. I can’t thank people for supporting me enough. The listeners brought me back. It wouldn’t have ever happened if X96 listeners didn’t start the outcry to bring me back.” He said he would also like to thank all of the X96 staff. “I really wouldn’t be here without people supporting what I do on the radio. It’s as simple as that.”
Written by: Stephanie Gonzales
You want answers? Here’s your chance to ask Todd Nuke’em a question. Post your questions in the comments below, and Todd will answer what he can next week in a new article about where X96 is at currently, and what changes he foresees.