Root rails about metal at a furious clip, bouncing from the merits of Demonicon's latest album ("It's just good classic technical death metal"); to the excruciating spectacle of The Osbournes television show ("I don't need to see this from the Godfather of Metal!"); to his utter lack of interest in the new Metallica album ("I'm not gonna waste an hour of my life."). It's an infectious spectacle, even for someone like me, whose knowledge of metal is pretty much limited to a Kiss cover band I witnessed a few years back. (Still, I know enough about metal geeks to predict that some will indignantly insist that Kiss don't qualify as metal.)
"It's six, six, six minutes after the big hour of one o'clock," Root greets his radio audience "It doesn't stop until six, six, six a.m." He then cues up the latest from Manowar, "The Dawn of Battle."
Root's God-Awful bandmate, Jim Odegard, arrives midway through the song. "What kind of ridiculous crap is this?" he asks. "Is this Manowar?" Odegard then explains that this kind of barb is actually the sincerest flattery. "If we refer to a band as retarded, stupid, or idiotic that means we like 'em," he says. Root and Odegard are soon performing air-guitar solos.
The calls start pouring in, mostly from drunken revelers who should've long ago called it a night. Lord Nebula phones in to request some Nuclear Assault. Nicole, in the first of five calls, wants to hear the Red Chord. Bubbalicious has a couple of requests: "Anything about vegetable masturbation or Jesus is a cunt" (which is apparently a reference to Cradle of Filth), and Barry White. Root fulfills the former request, but not the latter. The callers frequently emit the F-bomb over the airwaves.
As dawn creeps closer, the music morphs from new metal releases to grind metal to satanic metal to death metal--an evolution that's largely lost on my ears. Root plugs the forthcoming First Avenue show repeatedly. "It will be filmed for DVD so we want you drunk and dumb," he informs the audience. "It will be great."
Odegard departs around 5:00 a.m. and Root begins to tone the music down. He plays some songs that actually have discernible melodies. "People are usually pretty lit up when they're listening to my show," Root reasons. "By 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. they should've been in bed a long time ago, and they'll call up, 'Play some Slayer!' I'm going, 'Dude, it's 5:30, dude. I'm not playing Slayer right now. We're done. We did three-and-a-half hours of just bashing your skull in. Relax.'"
Up next on the KFAI program schedule is Songs of Praise, hosted by Ernestine Gates, whom Root affectionately calls "the Church Lady." "All right, gang, stick around," he finally commands at 6:01 a.m. "Songs of Praise, right here, right now." Somehow I doubt the crossover audience is very large.
Although Root has largely avoided offending KFAI's board of directors in recent years, he's still worried about the show's long-term existence. Earlier this year, the station wanted to push Root of All Evil back an hour in order to accommodate a program aimed at the Somali community. Ultimately, Root's time slot was left unchanged, but the dispute left a bitter taste in his mouth. "The whole thing ended without any ado except having a bunch of angry and pissed off programmers," he says. Root vows to continue hosting the show as long as KFAI will let him. "Over sixteen years, dude. It's been quite a trip. And I'm not planning on quitting anytime soon. Not unless I get booted off."