I first met Jason Rockman when I was working in promotions for CHOM977, VIRGIN96 and CJAD800. We briefly crossed paths one day when he was getting out of the elevator and I was getting in. I had a bunch of promotional materials in my arms and so, kindly, he held the door open for me. As the elevator doors were closing I told him I liked his “hulk” back pack, to which he responded with a huge smile and a “thank you.” Since then, I have learnt a great deal about the man behind the “rock-man” on “AMPED,” his CHOM977 evening show that runs weekdays from 7pm until midnight.
Upon arriving to the station for Jason’s interview, I walked through the CHOM977 studio door and found him wearing a Montreal Habs jersey. He was sitting behind several computer screens and microphones, staring intensely at a flat screen television which was evidently displaying the Montreal Canadians vs. Bruins playoff game. While welcoming me with a friendly inside joke and that big familiar smile, he was ruffling through some papers on his desk, checking his phone, and tapping his foot to the beat of the music playing through the speakers on the studio wall. Quite suddenly, he went on the air live, speaking to his listeners with all the fervor of a teenage fan boy chatting it up with his best buddy about his favourite bands. The truth is, Jason Rockman is that fan boy and simultaneously a Montreal music guru for CHOM and CJAD as the lead singer of his internationally known band, “Slaves on Dope,” the Montreal Comic-con media coordinator, as well as a guest panelist for Todd van der Heyden’s fame factor segment on the CTV news network. According to Jason, he is also primarily a father, a husband and a sponsor for the people he directly helps who struggle with alcoholism through Alcoholics Anonymous.
Jason’s life wasn’t always as lucrative and fulfilling as it is now. Growing up he was a good kid and “things were pretty rosy” up until his parents divorced, Jason explained. Their divorce gave Jason the desire to get out on his own at a young age. “That might have been something that led me to trouble with drinking” he said candidly. Jason continued to explain that in high school he was a bit lackadaisical and was really a little bit of a space cadet. During his high school career Jason lived with his grandmother, but he clarified to me that he ultimately “moved around a lot.” Despite moving around, one thing remained constant throughout his life, and if you haven’t already guessed, that was his passion for music. “My mom and dad were extremely open-minded, neither one of them were musicians but they were music lovers. My Dad was into Bob Dylan, the Beatles, etc. My mom was into Willy Nelson, some Motown, Air Supply, and the Beatles too. I had a lot of music around me; the radio was always on in our house.”
When Jason was in Cegep at Dawson College, he completed his first year in the theatre program there but his teachers were not impressed with his results. “They held me back after the first year, and they wanted me to do my first year over again even though I had passed and,” he smiled proudly, “I did it over again. I did so well the second time around that I told them to f*ck off and that was it for Dawson.” So then I went to McGill; well, I didn’t go to Mcgill, but I went to do theatre there. They had this thing called the ‘McGill players’ and it was a theater group at the Shatner Centre, but you were allowed to go there even if you weren’t a student and do theatre with them. That’s where I kind of bottomed out.” When I asked Jason what he meant by that he explained to me that his career without drinking ceased to exist at the age of 21, approximately around the same time that he was performing with the “McGill players.” It was when a good friend of his killed himself and a family in a drinking and driving accident that Jason realized the severity of his problem.
“It was one of the most important moments of my life when I got sober. How I called AA to this day is a weird phenomenon. I just told myself I’m going to call AA. I just called 411 or whatever, and I just said I’m going to call, and then I did, and then I went to a meeting,” he said, with still that conviction. He told me that Alcoholics Anonymous gave him principles to live by, and he said with sheer gratitude that it gave him a program to follow and friends to share it with. “If it wouldn’t have gone that way, I don’t know man…” he kind of got quiet suddenly. At that point in time, I asked him why he felt comfortable breaking his anonymity on public platforms and in publications. I thought the point of Alcoholics Anonymous was to remain, well, anonymous. To which he responded with the following;
“I think when you are in a position like me, when you are in the public eye and you can be somewhat of a role model, you want to be as transparent as possible because then if someone is thinking about it, they can get the help they need through your example.”
Six months after he got sober, Jason joined a band called “Slaves on Dope” and finally started to pursue a career in the industry he loved so much. They toured Canada for eight years and when they had done everything they felt possible within Canadian borders, they packed up their mini-van Jason’s father had given them and moved to Los Angeles. “Moving to Los Angeles for Slaves on Dope after eight years of playing in Canada was the best decision we ever made because it opened up all these doors to us. We had four or five major offers after a couple of months.” Sooner rather than later, Slaves on Dope were signed with Ozzy and Sharon Osborne’s label, Divine Records, and they toured with the likes of Pantera and Black Sabbath and attended music festivals such as Ozfest. They also released their full length album, “Inches from the Mainline,” in 2000. In 2004, Jason’s son was born and he took a leave of absence from Slaves on Dope. “I took a hiatus from Slaves on Dope from 2003, for five years. My guitar player and I didn’t talk for a while. I said to myself if I’m going to be a dad I’m going to be the best dad in the world.” For Jason that meant getting a local job and being around his family. “So, I went to work at Sunglasses Hut in Angrignon Mall and, honestly,” he said with appreciation, “I was so proud of myself for being able to go from one extreme to another.” Eventually, Jason got back together with his guitarist, Kevin Jardine, and they continue to make music together to this day. “We played at Heavy MTL last year and we are working on another album right now.” When I asked Jason about the other members he told me that over the years they changed a couple of times but that his guitarist never left his side. “Happily,” Jason said, “Kevin is my life partner; he is the person I have consistently had around the longest in my life. He is family to me”.
Jason started working at CHOM977 approximately five years ago where originally he was part-time, doing overnights. “I started working overnights, three nights a week, and I was still working at my father’s trucking company full-time. After three months they offered me a full-time position doing overnights from midnight until 6am. I was waking up at 12 and going to the trucking company for 12:30, then working 6pm.” A year into his career at CHOM, Jason got his evening timeslot from 7pm until midnight and it will officially be five years he’s at the station in October. When I asked Jason what his favorite moments at CHOM and CJAD were working as a DJ, he told me it was all about the interviews he got to do. “Peter Gabriel was one of my favourite interviews, I was pretty young at CHOM when I did it. Dave Grohl, New Order and Simple Minds are some other people I’ve done interviews with.” Jason emphasized, “When you start talking to someone and they accept you as part of their peers, there’s something really nice about that. Some of the best interviewers I’ve seen are Tom Snyder, Charlie Rose and George Stroumboulopoulos. When George was on MuchMusic he was really, really good, he listens and he comes prepared. He doesn’t ask too many questions and doesn’t try to provoke negative things out of someone.” He paused and smiled coyly; “another one I watch a lot of is Oprah. I really look at a successful interview as a good collaboration between two people. It’s being a good listener, researcher, learning to develop excellent banter. It’s really an art in itself. Where I really learned a lot about that was at CJAD with my show ‘on the record’. I try to emulate the greats and to talk to my guests as peers. Last week, I talked to Sean Lennon, like that’s John Lennon’s son. Like, HOW cool is that? I’m extremely lucky.”
To stay fit mentally and physically, Jason eats well by being vegan-ish (as he explained to me that’s what Oprah calls it), and rides his bike as much as possible. He recently purchased a new bike and he is quite excited to ride it. He also keeps up with his step work and helps others who need it as much as he can. “Every day, the 12 steps give you a recipe for success in life. You can apply the 12 steps to anything and it’s really all about giving back. Having this shift on the radio really f*cks me up for meetings but my sponsor sends me a meditation every morning. I find it’s important for me to talk about the use of the program because I can help others too.” Some causes that Jason supports are the Burgundy Lions’ G.O.A.L. fundraiser, the 24 Hours of Tremblant, the Mission Old Brewery, the Montreal Children’s Hospital and he also tries to give local up-and-coming bands a shot on CHOM. “If I know they are a new band, I try to push for them to be on the air.” Jason also humbly mentioned that while being a DJ at CHOM is great, he knows that if people didn’t fundamentally like his show he would no longer have it.
There is no questioning Jason Rockman’s desire to be the best he can in everything he does. I have seen the man work with my own eyes, and he gives it his all. He is not only an excellent producer, researcher and disk jockey, but he is an excellent mentor for anyone looking to get ahead in this industry. When I asked Jason how he was going to continue living his notable life, he told me: “by making my listeners happy and putting on a good show week after week, day after day, no matter what. Helping people is also really important to me. That’s what life’s all about. If you don’t do that then you aren’t getting what you can get completely out of life. At the end of the day, just being myself, because with me, what you see is what you get. I’m just trying to do my best and help those that need helping with whatever tools I can.”
Jason’s final thoughts: “Really, I’m just excited for the summer and to take part in the best festivals the city of Montreal has to offer.”
You can catch Jason on CHOM 97.7 FM radio from 7pm until midnight weekdays, CJAD800 AM on Saturday from 7pm until 9pm, and again on Sunday from 1pm until 3pm. You may also find him running around Montreal Comic-con interviewing a host of interesting individuals as well as on the CTV news network as a guest panelist for Todd van der Heyden’s Fame Factor segment. Finally, stay tuned for Slaves on Dope’s new album “HORSE” due out early 2015.
#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)