‘Maximum Distortion,’ Utah’s only heavy metal radio show, will end after 19 years on the air

Hosts Forgach and Cody D. talk about their friendship, on and off the air, and the metal music they have championed for two decades.

Cody Dangel and John Forgach sit in a studio at 10 p.m. on a recent Wednesday night, playing their role for the second-to-last time as, in their words, “the bad boys of KRCL.”

“That’s the role we’re supposed to be doing. Is that right?” Forgach, known to listeners by his last name, asks his co-host, who is known as Cody D. on air.

“What do you mean ‘supposed to’?” Dangel counters. “Is that what is expected of us?”

“Yeah, we throw rules right out the window,” Forgach responds, as they continue the introduction to the 993rd episode of “Maximum Distortion,” a heavy metal music show at nonprofit radio station KRCL 90.9 FM on Wednesdays from 10 p.m. to midnight.

In the first hour, the hosts play music from such bands as Grip Inc. and Cannibal Corpse. They don’t have a routine, exactly, because they don’t plan their episodes that much, as they put it. The banter and the transitions between the musical selections are familiar, seamless — the way something is after you’ve done it long enough.

And it’s almost over. This Wednesday, Forgach and Cody D. will host their final episode of “Maximum Distortion.” The show will come to an end after 19 years.

The show is ending because Forgach and his family are moving to the Oregon coast. (On the air, though, Forgach maintains that his family has been chosen to live on Mars, as part of an astronaut training program.)

“Rude Awakening,” a punk and ska music show hosted by Liz Schulte that had been playing in the Wednesday 7-10 p.m. time slot, will be moving to the slot previously filled by “Maximum Distortion,” according to Gavin Dahl, KRCL’s executive director. The 7-10 p.m. slot will be filled by a former DJ, Ma Black, with a new show called “Nova FM.” That show will highlight multilingual artists from Latin America, starting July 10, Dahl said.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) John Forgach, left, and Cody Dangel — known on the air collectively as Forgach and Cody D. — are hosts of KRCL's heavy metal radio show "Maximum Distortion." They posed for a photo at KRCL's studio in Salt Lake City, on Wednesday, June 19, 2024.

Two friends and the music

Forgach and Dangel — who bonded through a love of Steely Dan and heavy metal, and a dislike of reading — met in 1999 at FedEx where they both worked. Dangel started in July 1999 and they met four months later.

“When I get to know somebody, it usually ends up at music,” Forgach said. “I figured out that he knew a couple key bands that I was into at the time. That kind of solidified us as friends ever since.”

Around that time, Forgach was also writing for SLUG Magazine. The magazine’s owner at the time, Gianni Ellefson, also did a short stint as KRCL’s music director. Forgach said Ellefson was looking to start new shows at the station, and approached him to start one centered on metal.

“Then I just brought Cody along, because that was the obvious choice,” Forgach said.

“John hung up the phone with Gianni and then he picked up the phone and called me,” Dangel said. “Both of us have been fans of radio since we were little kids, so the thought of actually being able to do it, it never was even in my realm of possibility.”

Neither of them had any experience in radio, but they both had a passion for heavy metal. At the time, Forgach said, the station didn’t want a two-person show. The friends worked it out — the time slot then was from 1 to 3:30 a.m., and Dangel would sneak into the studio around 2:30 a.m.

In the show’s early days, Forgach said, the music was all on physical media. Sometimes record labels would send CDs, but most of the music played came from Forgach’s own collection, compiled from the thousands of discs he received to review for SLUG.

Dangel, deemed the “local music specialist,” would try to find as many local bands as he could. It was difficult sometimes, he said, because bands didn’t see the show as legit. He recalled times when he met bands in parking lots to exchange CD’s.

These days, everything is digital, and a bit easier to work with.

Dangel said the heyday of their show — and of Utah’s heavy metal scene — came when Club Vegas was still open on 400 West (in the building where Bewilder Brewing is now located). Through MySpace, Dangel said he sent hundreds of emails to local bands, and a lot of them performed at Club Vegas.

Over the years, Forgach said they have stayed away from the mainstream metal and tried to focus more on the underground stuff. They also play a lot of the unsigned bands, as well as bands from tiny labels.

“It seems like either people like the music or they hate the music. Supposedly, some people stick around because we can be moderately funny at times. It’s loose. It’s a real loose show,” Forgach said.

“For him to say it’s loose — like one break, we might talk about hockey. The next minute, we might be talking about chemistry. The next break, we might be talking about some pop-culture thing,” Dangel said. “It’s just kind of free-flowing and [we] try to make it fun.

In episode 993, the penultimate show, for example, Forgach had Dangel go through a bracket of the top “dad rock” bands — a list Forgach found on Fathers Day. They went through the dad rock winners in each of the states they both lived in. Utah’s winner was Van Halen, Dangel’s favorite band.

Mischief and music have long been a staple in every episode of “Maximum Distortion.”

“Remember when we did an entire show about how people can be murdered? But then I asked you if you would be available to me to move a body if I ever needed it of you,” Forgach said on the show. “In 45 seconds, you finally said ‘yes.’ Remember that?”

“I don’t recall the exact conversation,” Dangel replied, with a tilt of his head.

“You agreed that you would help me move a body should the need ever arise, so then the entire episode that was based around murder,” Forgach said. “If you looked at the whole thing, it was about friendship, actually. Because you would be there for me. Or you said you would be there for me.”

“I say a lot of things,” Dangel said in a deadpan.

(Justin Meads) Justin Meads wears a "Maximum Distortion" T-shirt in front of Rome's Trevi Fountain. Meads, considered a "super fan" of the KRCL show, said he has listened from wherever he's living.

Fans from far and wide

“Sometimes I feel a little bad for Cody,” said Justin Meads, who Forgach and Cody D qualify as one of the show’s “superfans.” “John likes to give him a hard time. … It’s definitely part of what keeps bringing me back: is the banter between the two of them.”

Meads said he has always liked heavy metal and punk rock music. He grew up in Salt Lake City, but he and his wife, Laura McAnany, are “corporate nomads” and they have moved around for years. They came back to Salt Lake City in 2008, and Meads, who used to listen to a punk show from Brad Collins, wanted to check out what was playing on KRCL. That’s how he discovered “Maximum Distortion.”

Meads said he isn’t a night person, though, so he bought a USB antenna to plug into his computer and he recorded the show every week to listen during the day. For the last five to eight years, Forgach said, Meads has sent him all those recordings.

After three years in Salt Lake City, McAnany got transferred to Belgium. With the time zone change, the show was now on first thing in the morning. Over the years, the couple has donated to the Radiothons at the station, and have collected T-shirts from it.

Whenever Meads and McAnany went on vacation in Europe, they would wear their “Maximum Distortion” shirts and take pictures to represent the show. They have taken pictures in front of such iconic places as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Trevi Fountain in Rome — as well as Athens, Austria, London, Budapest, Luxembourg and Naples.

Meads said the hosts have been the best part of the show, and one of the things he will miss the most. He said he would also miss the way Forgach has been able to find “random heavy metal from all over the world” and the amount of research he put into each episode.

“Every week, I look forward to the day where I can spend more time just listening to that week’s show,” Meads said. One of Meads’ all-time favorite segments, he said, is when the hosts would focus on a specific decade, like “Best Metal of the 60s.”

For 19 years, “Maximum Distortion” has acted as a weekly friendship appointment for Forgach and Dangel.

“We’re almost two decades older than we were when we started,” Forgach said. “We’ve done the show almost out of a sense of duty, because we felt like, ‘Well, if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it?’”

Forgach and Dangel say they haven’t decided what they’ll do in the future, but there might be a possibility of a recorded show.

“We haven’t put the last nail in the coffin,” Forgach said.