There is no reasonableexplanation for why Earl Root remains on the airwaves. After all, the host of KFAI's The Root of All Evil once produced a five-hour broadcast entitled "The All-Fuck Show." At the time, Root believed his Sunday morning metal marathon, broadcast from 1:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., was doomed. The previous week, he'd played a tune entitled "Four F Club," by the Mentors. "Find 'em, feel 'em, fuck 'em, forget 'em," Root explains. An unsuspecting listener did not appreciate the sentiment. "Someone just absolutely had a shit fit about it," he says.
KFAI's board of directors did not look kindly on the Mentors' sexual manifesto either. "I thought for sure I was gonna get taken off," Root recalls. "I got so angry at the board at the time, and so I did 'The All-Fuck Show.' Every single song or band had the word fuck in it. So here I'm going, 'That was the Fucking Shit Biscuits with "Take Heroin and Kill Your Mom." That was the Fuckups with "Fuck Shit Up." And that was the Useless Pieces of Shit with "Fuck All Day, Fuck All Night."'"
Despite Root's deliberate act of insubordination, the expected death sentence never arrived. Apparently, the previous week's aggrieved listener had found a new diversion for the post-midnight hours. "I did the Mentors the week before and everybody was all pissed off," Root notes incredulously, "and I do 'The All-Fuck Show' and it just goes by without a blink."
"The All-Fuck Show" was not the only time during the past 16 years that Root of All Evil has run roughshod over Federal Communications Commission decency standards. There was also the in-studio interview with death-metal outfit Vile that descended into a discussion of porn icon Ron Jeremy's purported ability to fellate himself. As well as the "Sure as a Whore" show, which featured the finest in metal misogyny. In recent months, Root has played tracks from veteran black-metal band Scepter's new album: Fucking Metal Motherfuckers. "I try to say it really fast," he notes.
This Sunday, Root's unlikely radio reign will be duly celebrated: First Avenue is hosting the Root of All Evil "Six-Six-Sixteenth Anniversary Party," a 12-hour, 18-band metalfest that will take over both the Mainroom and the 7th St. Entry. The showcase is the brainchild of First Avenue manager Steve McClellan, a longtime Root acquaintance. "He always said, 'Earl, of all the people in the metal community, I dislike you the least,'" Root laughs.
Over the years, Root of All Evil has mushroomed from a humble radio show into a mini-metal empire. Root Cellar Records, a St. Paul emporium that caters equally to fetishists of vinyl and metal, opened on Snelling Avenue in 1993. Five years later, Root launched the Root of All Evil record label, which now distributes the music of roughly a dozen bands. The 41-year-old St. Louis Park native has also helped induce tinnitus in area metal fans with his own guitar work, playing in the late, local metal outfits Deranged and Disturbed, and more recently in God-Awful and Aesma Daeva. In short, without Earl Root, there might not even be a metal scene in the Twin Cities--a fact that makes him either a saint or a scourge, depending on your tolerance for songs celebrating Satan and statutory rape.
Bill Lindsey, frontman of the veteran gore-metal band Impaler, recalls Root showing up at gigs back in the early '80s, when the only outlet for metal bands was Wilebski's, a long-defunct St. Paul watering hole that usually featured blues artists. "I just remember Earl being in the front and banging his head," says Lindsey. More than a decade later, Impaler was the first band signed to the Root of All Evil label. Over the years, Lindsey and his bandmates have been occasional Sunday morning visitors to KFAI. "It's just always a good metal time when you go there," he notes. "Earl's a good host. He makes everyone feel welcome."
And this is the metal impresario's dirty secret: By all accounts, he's basically a sweet-natured guy with a ridiculous pair of muttonchops who just happens to possess an insatiable enthusiasm for metal. Root's been with the same woman for 20 years (married for six), treats his employees like family, and receives accolades from the bands that have signed with Root of All Evil. He's largely given up the drugs and drinking that are often as
integral a part of the metal scene as Karo syrup and leather, confining himself to the occasional post-grass-cutting beer. "It just takes away your desire to do anything and it takes away your ambition," Root says. "There's no possible way I could accomplish what I'm trying to accomplish now if I was loaded."
Even Root's on-air antics have ebbed over the years. "I've calmed down quite a bit," he concedes. "There's no reason to push buttons that hard in this genre. If I'm gonna push buttons, I'd rather do it with the music itself."
On a recent Sunday morning, Root is manning the KFAI studios on Riverside Avenue. He's dressed in his standard uniform of black jeans and black T-shirt, this one emblazoned with the name of the death-metal band Obituary. Root's roughly six feet tall and has a slight middle-aged paunch. His normally pasty skin is flush from a long day in the sun at Ozzfest. Root's most distinguishing physical feature, however, is his muttonchops--which extend all the way to his chin. They are perhaps more accurately described as a reverse goatee.