Mystic teen interviews heavy-metal stars
Miles Schuman is 13 years old. He is a student at the Williams School in New London, who bursts with energy, speaking in a rush of enthusiasm. His boyish looks reflect his age, and he dresses like your average teen.
In other words: You'd never guess that he interviews heavy-metal musicians on his own Internet radio show.
He's chatted on his Blog Talk Radio program with Lita Ford and Guns N' Roses' guitarist Bumblefoot and Billy Idol guitarist-songwriter Steve Stevens.
Not bad for an eighth grader.
Schuman's been hosting the show called "The Shoe" for three years, starting when he lived in Maine. (His family moved to Mystic at the beginning of last year.)
Now, Schuman gets up to 5,000 listens for the weekly program.
So how exactly does an unassuming kid convince heavy-metal heroes to agree to an interview?
The big link happened when Schuman attended several Rock and Roll Fantasy Camps a few years back.
An acquaintance - his mother's cousin's business partner - happened to be Steve Leber, who managed Aerosmith and was a partner in those rock camps.
Miles, who plays bass, recalls Leber telling his mother, "I know your kids are into rock 'n' roll. You've got to go check this thing out."
Miles, at 10, was too young to go that first year. His brother, Alden, who is three years older and who plays guitar, did go. Miles, though, hung out a bit at that camp in Philadelphia and managed to meet Dickey Betts from the Allman Brothers and Rudy Sarzo, who has played bass with everyone from Quiet Riot to Whitesnake. Sarzo happened to be one of Miles' favorite bass players, and when Miles learned Sarzo had been in Ozzy Osbourne's band - Miles loves Osbourne - a friendship was born. Sarzo ended up being Schuman's first interview.
Schuman says that, for the first year of his show, he essentially interviewed "every Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp counselor that I met there."
He has done six Rock and Roll Fantasy Camps since 2011, in Las Vegas, the Bahamas and Los Angeles.
"Mostly, David (Fishof, who founded the camp) is looking at it as a cross-promotion kind of thing - a promotion for me as a musician and as a radio host and promotion for his camp, because I go out there and I interview all his people. I've done two specials now - the Alice Cooper special and the Gene Simmons special," he says.
In those specials, he played with Cooper and Simmons and had a brief conversation. He wasn't able to get an interview with Simmons but, Schuman says, "I have a video of me playing with Gene Simmons that's probably my favorite thing ever."
When trying to get a rocker to come onto his blog radio show, Schuman has the advantage of being able to refer to past subjects. When he approached Teddy "Zig Zag" Andreadis from Guns N' Roses, for instance, Schuman could say, "Teddy, I had Rudy on the show. Would you like to come on?"
Schuman has learned how to go through publicists and managers, and he figures he sends out three or four requests every week. He says he has a long enough list of past interviews to show those publicists and managers that he's no joke.
His love of the music makes for an effective calling card, too. While Schuman says he's explored pretty much all rock genres, he's got a special affection for heavy metal.
"It pumps me up," he says. "Kill Devil Hill, who's Rex Brown from Pantera's new band - I got their album before it came out. I got that at 5:30 in the morning. I listened to the first track, and it starts out soft and then it goes into (he approximates the heart-rattling beat of a metal song) the boom boom boom. That just woke me up, and that was my kickstart for the day."
He remembers, from a young age, hearing classic rock in the house. His father, Allan Schuman, is a huge Bob Dylan fan, and one of Miles' first concerts was a Dylan show. His mother, Kimberly Ross, was an indoor cycling instructor, and Miles says, "I'd come downstairs, and she'd be blasting Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones or something to warm people up."
While Miles is seeing his show take off, he'd like eventually to work as a musician, too, while still being a radio host.
Schuman has become friends with some of the rockers he's met at the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, like Robert Sarzo, Rudy's brother. He has been a guitarist with Hurricane and, more recently, joined Queensrÿche. He was Schuman's counselor at the rock camp and ended up an interview subject.
"Miles asks very interesting questions and does a lot of research on the interviewee beforehand," Sarzo says. "He seems very relaxed and experienced. He comes across being very polished as well."
They've stayed in touch, and Miles suggested to his mother than Robert might be able to give him music lessons via Skype. She asked, and Robert was game.
"Every week - sometimes twice a week - Robert and I would get on Skype. Ever since he joined Queensrÿche, it's been harder, but now we write songs together, and he mentors me," Schuman says.
In May of this year, Schuman traveled to Los Angeles and gave Robert a call. It turned out that Sarzo and his wife that night were going to the Golden Gods Awards, Revolver magazine's hard rock and metal awards show. Sarzo gave Schuman a website where he could get tickets, and he ended up attending the star-studded event, too.
Schuman recalls, "Robert Sarzo was on my left. My mother was on my right. Over here is Rob Zombie. Three or four rows up is my absolute idol, (radio host) Eddie Trunk. So I was just in heaven."
Last weekend, he went to L.A. to host red-carpet interviews for the Bass Player Live concert honoring Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath.
For now, he's back in Connecticut, studying and playing squash at Williams and working on his radio show, which he does at home, using a laptop computer, a mixer, an audio interface, a microphone and a program that Blog Talk Radio has given him.
As for what he talks about with his heavy-metal subjects, Schuman says, "A lot of it is promotion for them and the stuff they just have coming out. I have to get in what they're doing lately. If there was some controversy with them or related to them, I'll bring it up in a general way."
Indeed, that's what he did when he interviewed Geoff Tate from Queensrÿche, who Schuman describes as "probably the most controversial man in rock 'n' roll right now." In 2012, Tate reportedly assaulted two fellow bandmates before a concert in Brazil. They fired Tate, and a court case is pending. Tate is touring with his own version of Queensrÿche, even as the other version is doing the same.
"I had a great talk with him. He's honestly one of my favorite guys, but I had to get around in trying to get him to talk about some of the (in-the-news) things," he says.
He adds, "I like Geoff a lot, and I like the other guys a lot. I have to make that clear in every show I do about Queensrÿche."
Schuman interviewed, too, the guys who fired Tate as well as Ray Alder of Fates Warning, who was touring with Queensrÿche when the Tate blow-up happened.
"Ray has never really talked about what he witnessed the day of the attack and everything. (This) was the first time that Ray talked about it. He said, 'Yeah, I didn't really get to see much. I was in my dressing room. I came out and I saw everything was all over the place, and Mike had gotten punched by Geoff. Then, Geoff came into our dressing room after the show and was like, 'Want to go out for a drink?' and acted like nothing happened."
And Schuman clearly has fans among the musicians.
When Bumblefoot, who is lead guitarist for the current line-up of Guns N' Roses, was on, the show was approaching the conclusion of its half-hour run time. When Schuman was saying they were approaching the end, Bumblefoot jumped in.
"No, it's your show! We're going longer!" Schuman recalls him saying.
And they did, continuing for another half-hour.
Robert Sarzo praises Schuman's passion, drive and love of music.
"His family is so supportive of him, and he is extemely goal-oriented," he says. "Great things are happening for Miles now, and I can see this continuing in his future."