Many of us are screaming “I want my MuchMusic back” at our televisions because, let’s be real, the station has changed immensely in the last decade. Some may argue that it’s just rolling with the times and reflecting what “the people” want to see. It’s hard to compete with the immediacy of the internet and its ample content accessible through Youtube, celebrity gossip blogs, official Twitter accounts, unofficial parody accounts, obscure subreddits, Tumblr reblogs, behind-the-scenes Vines and popular city blogs (wink).
It’s clear we like to reminisce about the past, when times seemed simpler and we’d groove along with the Electric Circus go-go dancers. We’ll never forget the days leading up to a Much Intimate and Interactive (which we may or may not have waited outside the studio for a glimpse of Aqua). Or the holiday gift that we couldn’t wait for--Ed the Sock’s yearly rendition of Fromage, the Razzies of the music video world.
It wasn’t a better time because a diverse range of music videos were seeing airtime, but because of all the original Canadian programming we’d get. And it was good! Often times silly, always well researched and truly entertaining, we’d receive content by young, intelligent Torontonians for music fans of all genres. Since we like living in the past (we’re seeing someone about that, we promise), let’s take a trip down memory lane to remind ourselves of some of the best VJs to grace 299 Queen Street West and find out what they’re up to now.
1. Ed the Sock (@edthesock)
Originating in a Hanes factory but being thrown out for having a defect (his thread count was too low), Ed miraculously found his way into the MuchMusic headquarters in the early 90s. Perhaps it was his sad orphan upbringing that made him so bitter, but he was able to channel that anger and turn it into some of the funniest programming Much has ever seen. Ed's Big Wham Bam was screened late night due to its risqué language and content. Fromage, his annual round-up of the worst music videos making the rounds that year was also a very popular hit.
After Fromage went into a hiatus Ed decided to look into his family roots. He found out he had a twin brother (fraternal), who at his high point was a successful winter sock but eventually disappeared into the dryer, never to be seen again. This was the beginning of a downward spiral for Ed, which only worsened when he found out he was voiced by producer Steven Kerzner. He suffered an existential crisis for a bit but picked himself up and returned to the screen. Fromage made a comeback in 2013 which aired online and then he went to CHCH-TV Hamilton with This Movie Sucks! a show where he and his co-host would make fun of bad films. Staying true to his pop culture upbringing, I hate Hollywood premiered in 2012 where he expanded in making fun of celebrity news and gossip. The last we heard he was making cameos in local shows and spends his summers up north (it’s hot out here for a wool sock).
2. Sook-Yin Lee (@sookyinlee)
Sook-Yin had a storied upbringing rivaling an equally interesting career. Growing up to Chinese immigrant parents in a Vancouver suburb, she experienced a tough childhood and ran away from home when she was just fifteen. With a background in music and performing arts (she was in alt-rock band Bob’s Your Uncle while she was living on the west coast), she came to MuchMusic in 1995 where she would become one of the station’s most controversial VJs. Hosting their alternative music show The Wedge, she’d interview artists ranging in diversity from Slipknot to Radiohead.
Saying goodbye to MuchMusic in 2001 with one of the most memorable farewells in Canadian television’s history (she mooned the audience), Sook-Yin went on to pursue a career in acting. That same year she played a role in the Hedwig and the Anrgy Inch film and in 2006 famously starred in the sexually explicit film Shortbus. She’s also worked behind-the-scenes, having directed a segment from the 2008 film Toronto Stories.
She played Olivia Chow in the 2013 Jack Layton CBC biopic and subsequently won a Canadian Screen award for her performance last year.
You can hear her host the CBC radio show, Definitely Not the Opera and watch her newly released video from her band Jooj here.
3. Bradford How (@BradfordHow)
Winning the nation-wide VJ search contest, the quirky Bradford How became a host on the channel in the year 2000. Known for his hyper energy and crazy antics, he seemed more like a comedian than a VJ (we mean that in the best sense possible). In 2003 Bradford left Much to pursue other hosting and acting gigs mainly in the U.S, joining VH1 in 2004. He’s also had a stint as a host on Nick at Nite.
Currently, he’s a spokesperson for multiple companies including Konika Minolta and Lightlife. He’s since lost the wild hair and looks really quite…handsome. Though we’ll always remember the wacky Bradford and would love to see him on this side of the border once again.
4. Rick Campanelli a.k.a. Rick the Temp (@RCampanelliETC)
Rick was MuchMusic’s golden child and has become our version of Dick Clark…or Ryan Seacrest if you will. He started off as a temp, winning the Muchtemp contest in 1996. What was supposed to be a summer contract to learn about the inner workings of TV production, became an 8-year tenure for the station. He’s hosted everything from the top 20 countdown to multiple special presentations of Intimate and Interactive (Britney Spears’ interview being one of the best).
After his long period at MuchMusic, he’s had an even longer one at ET Canada having started at the program from its inception in 2005. While there, he’s also been a part of other cool projects like the Canadian version of “Deal or no Deal” and hosting the New Years Eve parties ET puts on. Always friendly and putting celebrities at ease, Rick has a reputation for his down-to-earth, inviting nature so we wouldn’t be surprised if we see him on television hosting some of the biggest Canadian events for decades to come.
5. Tony “Master T” Young (@masterttv)
Master T had a huge role in making MuchMusic what it was during its glory day. Starting out as a cameraman, he was responsible for some early memorable spots MuchMusic featured. Master T played a spy whose briefcase which carried the heart and soul of the station kept getting stolen by a thief (his fellow cameraman Gord McWatters). He always bravely managed to get it back however. He also convinced CityTV founder Moses Znaimer to move the Much headquarters from the east end to 299 Queen Street West via a rap video he produced.
Through his hard work and dedication to the station he became a VJ in 1990 and stayed on for eleven years. Hosting Rap City and Da Mix he was providing a gap in urban music that was needed at the time. Known for his intelligent questions and good-natured demeanor, it was easy for celebrities to open up to Master T. Spice Girl Mel B got really close to him one time.
Since leaving MuchMusic, he has produced his own series of reggae and hip hop compilations. He’s also featured in the #GivebacktoMoses video which explains the public’s frustrations with the stations’ current programming and how it could go back to its glory days were it returned to Moses Znaimer.
If you want to see Master T and all the amazing things he’s amassed over the years as a VJ then maybe you and some friends can pitch in for the “Master T Memoribillia tour” or a dance party featuring the incomparable man.
6. Rachel Perry (@theperrytrain)
Specifically known as a pop culture guru, Rachel was one of the original success stories to have made it big south of the border. She had this laid back attitude and a killer yet self-deprecating sense of humor. Basically, she was the girl all the guys wanted to date and all the girls wanted to be. She went on to make a name of herself in the States as the host of VH1’s All-Access Pass. Incidentally, her and Bradford How would sometimes host VH1 shows together while they were both working there.
She’s also worked on Playboy TV as host of The Stash. Currently, she is the host of VH1 Radio Network's Weekly Rewind radio program, a syndicated radio show. Until 2014, she hosted The Morning After a satirical show in the vein of E!’s The Soup. If you’re craving some Rachel, it won’t be difficult to find her in something currently airing.
7. Jennifer Hollett (@jenniferhollet)
Jennifer was the relatable girl next door with a modern feel. It wasn’t only her edgy hairstyles that made her stand apart, she also hosted MuchonDemand, the show where viewers could request the videos they wanted to see, giving her the techy persona she was known for.
She started off in the industry by working at Sony on the label’s artists’ websites, so she already knew a thing or two about the tech world. She’s used that media savvy to leap into her new career as an NDP candidate in the University-Rosedale riding. If she continues on this path, we may be able to one day say that our prime minister was a former MuchMusic VJ, what could possibly be cooler than that? Oh and did we mention she was also part of a terrible all girl breakdancing crew called SheBang.
8. Juliette Powell (@juliettepowell)
Juliette was the stunning former Miss Canada winner who wasn’t just comprised of beauty but brains as well. Beginning her stint as a VJ at MuchMusic’s sister station-- MusiquePlus in Montréal, she transferred to Toronto in 1996. She transitioned as the host of Electric Circus and the unique French Kiss, which showcased Québécois singers outside of their province. While many of the VJs had hosted EC, Juliette is the most memorable of the bunch, she seemed to fit right into the setting while enjoying the unique crowd, music and energy the show created.
She did a complete 180 degree turn with her career in 1999 as she began working for Cablepulse 24 as a business reporter. She also founded a media and consulting company. Ever the entrepreneur, she penned a book in 2008 detailing how to run a business using social networking. Her main roles are that of consultant and public speaker now. With all these glowsticks we have left over from our rave days, we’d like to consult with her on how to effectively bring back Electric Circus for today’s market.
9. George Stroumboulopoulos (@strombo)
If you don't know where George is now we'd say you've been living in Nunavut, but they have televisions in the territories too, so it still wouldn't be an excuse. Since most people would be questioning his lack of inclusion in this article, we'll briefly go over his successes since MuchMusic (he is one of our favourites after all).
Hosting on air for only 4 years 2000-2004, George was heralded as the next big thing. He was the anti-star, donning a punk aesthetic and attitude, but underneath that tough looking exterior was a caring guy, who genuinely wanted the best for the music industry as well as the station. During his time at Much he hosted various alt-music shows including The Punk Show, The NewMusic, MuchLOUD, and MuchNews.
His interview show George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight/The Hour concluded in 2014 after a ten year run. It covered everything from pop culture, politics, human rights issues, the environment, sports and more, winning eight Gemini awards.
Stroumboulopoulos is now serving as the main host of Hockey Night in Canada (apparently he's a fan of the Montreal Canadiens).
Bonus: Nardwuar the Human Serviette (@nardwuar)
He's not a MuchMusic VJ and he still makes occasional appearances on the station (though very rarely now that Much tends to avoid music like the plague). Regardless, Nardwuar will live on in history as one of the quirkiest and most well researched interviewers there ever was.
Hailing from B.C., Nardwuar was born John Ruskin but legally changed his name to a seemingly random sound and distinctly anthropomorphized Canadian towelette. He's known for his sometimes confusing interviews with celebrities. Much of the time they don't know what's going on because he's either A) asking random questions that don't have to do with anything or B) asks about the most minute details they didn't think anyone else had any clue of.
Genuinely interested in his guests and bestowing gifts on them often (usually old, out-of-print records of artists they love), Nardwuar occasionally antagonizes his interviewees (when they're crappy human beings and deserve it).
Some of his best interviews include Pharell literally exclaiming that it's the best interview he's ever done and Drake basically saying the same thing. We can't forget the multiple Snoop Dogg (Lion?) interviews he's filmed either. The two make an adorable pair (I see a sitcom in the making). He can hold his own in a room with most of the Wu Tang Clan and can make Riff Raff look like the normal one, making him truly special.
What's Nardwuar up to now? He has a show on Vancouver-based student radio station CiTR and giving talks at colleges' media programs, inspiring students with his success. He's probably the most awesome interviewer there ever was, others can just stop now because the man can't be topped.
Doot doola doot doo...
Who were your favourite VJs and what are they up to now? Let us know in the comments below!