A Conversation with Al Farb – Houston’s favorite gay radio producer and host. Click play in the box below to hear the full conversation with Al Farb, Anthony Ramirez, and Wendy Taylor.
(DALLAS) – For years he’s easily been one of the most recognizable people in Houston’s LGBTQIA community, thanks in part to his time spent at the New 93Q as New Morning Q talk show producer and co-anchor. Starting off at the radio station at the ripe old age of 13, Farb got his very first on-air interview with none other than Donny Osmond, and his life, from that moment on, was forever changed. In the time since, he went back to school and worked in sports radio before eventually landing back at the place he first fell in love with radio, the New 93Q. But back in the Spring, Al Farb made his move to Dallas’s New Country 96.3 KSCS, where he’s taken over the roles as assistant program director, music director, and afternoon on-air host from 3PM to 7PM.
Still, there’s more to Farb than just what takes place behind his studio mic. Born to a well-known Houston family, Al grew up immersed in Houston’s boundless culture. And in discovering the wonders the city had to offer him, as well as those that radio did, Farb came out to joint Houston’s LGBTQIA community in his adulthood, where his fame only grew further. Going on to be a guest judge for Dessie’s Drag Race, working with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, hosting About Magazine’s FACE Awards, and meeting every country music star from Hunter Hayes to Reba McEntire to George Strait, Al, at the very young age of 31, has lived a full, well-rounded life.
As mentioned above, Al’s life has taken him to Dallas — or North Woodlands, as Houstonians might refer to it — and he’s there to show country music fans and Dallas’s LGBTQIA community everything that he has to offer. In the SoundCloud interview above for About Magazine’s Pride Edition, Al sat down with his friends (former American Idol contestant and renowned musician) Wendy Taylor and (About Magazine editor-in-chief and Less Than Butterflies author) Anthony Ramirez discuss what his life has been like since the transition to Dallas and into his new job. But the conversation wasn’t limited to just that. In the interview, Al gives his thoughts on how LGBTQIA people fit into the country music world, his former faux-feud with Ramirez and About Magazine, whether or not politics play a part in the world of music, and, of course, Houston drag royalty and friend, Kara Dion. Below is a transcript of the conversation.
You can follow Al on social media here:
Transcript of the Conversation:
Wendy Taylor: Oh, no. We’re being recorded.
Anthony Ramirez: Yeah.
Wendy Taylor: It’s official.
Al Farb: On the record.
AR: Everything that you say to me is on the record.
AF: Yeah, I learned that the hard way.
AR: What did I do to you?
AF: Your text messages [screenshots] that you post.
AR: Oh. That doesn’t count.
WT: So, if I’m co-interviewing, do I have to get off Facebook and pay attention?
AR: Yeah, you do.
AR: So, Al Farb, I want you to project your voice — so — cause I want it to be —
[Al shifts nearer to the recorder]
AR: Okay — not — that’s too much.
AR: [To another diner] Don’t look at us. That bitch just gave me side-eye. Okay, well that’s the end of the interview. Thank you for talking with us.
AR: So, tell us about your new job.
AF: Well, if you — as you, uh, would’ve learned through the other interview, but it was never published.
AR: Well, see … you knew there was an issue with that. [Pause]. I deleted the recording on accident.
WT: On “accident”?
AR: No, it really way. Because I have so many of these in my phone that they start taking up space. And I didn’t name Al’s. It was just a date. And usually when I do that it’s like–
WT: You didn’t even give him a name?
WT: That’s shady.
AF: All right, I am the, uh, assistant program director, music director, and afternoon on-air host at New Country 96.3 KSCS. [Pause]. That’s my job.
AR: Tell us about it.
AF: Well … that’s … what it is.
AR: Like the other day when I asked you, and you explained to me what you do —
AF: Yes, so.
AR: Because no one knows.
AF: No one knows?
AR: You’re just a disembodied voice — I mean people know — I mean, not here, but back there [in Houston] knew it was you. But, like, no one knows what else goes on other than the radio hosting.
AF: Yeah. Okay. So, we have a unique situation in Dallas where the company that I work for owns both of the big country stations here in town. So, my boss, Mac, is the program director for both country stations; and then I help him with everything behind the scenes on KSCS. There’s somebody like me on our other station, the Wolf, um [clears throat], so we —
WT: Sorry. His name is the Wolf?
AF: No! The station is called the Wolf.
WT: [Laughs] Okay.
AF: The station is the Wolf.
AR: [Sarcastically] Oh, because our radio DJs have much better names … Special K.
AF: Anyway, so part of my music director responsibility is starting, you know, having relationships and, um, keeping up to date with all of our label reps in Nashville through all of the various record labels, and finding out what they’re doing, what their artists are doing. If we need to do an event with them, I’ll set that up with the rep, who will then go to their management and so on and so forth. And then we’ll look at all of our research that is done through all of our, um — with all of our music that we play, our current songs, and then make decisions on where to move songs to schedule them for the rest of the week. And then I schedule all of the songs every day.
WT: So … you make playlists every day.
AF: I make playlists every day, basically. Yeah.
AF: And then … yeah. I mean, it’s true. I mean we have a —
WT: It’s cool, though.
AF: We schedule music a lot differently than you might on your personal iPod or whatever, because we’re playing for massive amounts of people. But, yeah. It is cool to make those decisions and have that — it’s like every day I start with a blank canvas, and you know, you’re painting your way through the day. It’s cool. And then, at the end of the day, I’ll go into the studio and host the afternoon drive home show on KSCS from 3 to 7. And, um, while people are stuck in traffic, they’re listening to the music that I program and me talk about it. It’s cool.
WT: Uh-huh. How do we listen to you in Houston?
AR: There ya’ go.
WT: How do you feel about the statement my friend Cedric Josey made, saying that “country music is basically just farm emo.”
AR: [Completely unfazed by anything].
AF: “Farm emo”?
AR: Yes, do tell.
AF: Well, historically, country music has a bad rep. But if you, um, really dive in and listen to the songs and listen to the music, that is not the case, at all. Of course there are some very honky-tonk sounding songs that, uh, you know, that are a part of the stereotype. But just like all genres and everything, there are those that stand out. And there’s actually a lot of really good song that have a really positive message.
AR: So, what’s it like now that you’re not doing a morning talk show vs. what you are doing now?
AF: Yeah, that was probably one of the hardest transitions. Well, as far as — it’s easy not to wake up so early. But, on the air, you know, we only have a certain amount of time to talk. And where I was used to having longer than I have now to talk, that was one of my biggest challenges, you know, transitioning from having longer talk breaks to just really quick information. So, editing the way that I talk, you know word economy and stuff like that, is — was difficult. And it was harder than I thought it was going to be to transition from waking up early and then having normal hours. It’s taken me — you know, I think I’m finally over it now, but your body and your whole everything just shifts in that direction. So, it’s harder than you might think.
AR: Well, you get to sleep later now, too. Right?
AF: Well, that was the thing is that I wasn’t sleeping.
WT: Well, welcome to the normal world.
AR: [To Wendy] What the fuck do you know about it?
AF: You’re not in the normal world.
AR: You slept ‘til 5 on Sunday.
WT: [Through a mouthful of chips] I didn’t say I was in the, um — [unintelligible] — but I was up at 6 o’clock this morning, because I went to bed at 9 PM.
AR: I was probably up at 6 o’clock this morning.
WT: But you hadn’t gone to bed yet — well … you hadn’t gone to sleep yet.
AR: Anyway, this isn’t about me. [Pause] For once.
AF: For once.
AR: So, what are the things you miss most about Houston? Don’t say Kara Dion. She’s trash.
AR: I’m just kidding. [To Kara who is not there] Happy belated birthday!
AF: Um … I miss … a lot of things. I miss the culture of Houston. Houston’s my hometown. I always feel — I will always feel a, um, a sense of pride for — and not the Pride that we’re celebrating this month — a sense of pride for belonging and, you know, for Houston. It’s my hometown. There’s so much heritage that not only I have there, but my family for many years. So, I miss that. I miss the food. I miss all of my friends and family.
WT: I love how friends and family came after food.
WT: That’s appropriate.
AR: Let’s not act like we wouldn’t say it the same way.
AF: And the sense of community that Houston has. I’m still a couple months into living here in Dallas, so I don’t want to speak — I can’t speak on the Dallas community. But, you know, Houston has a great LGBT community, and I felt very much a part of that. And I miss being in it, you know, on a day-to-day basis.
AR: What’s been your experience so far with LGBTQIA community.
AF: Um, I’ve had very little experience because I’ve been really focusing on my job and, you know, there’s a lot of stuff we have on the weekends — concerts and what not. There’s a lot more concerts here in Dallas because the rodeo takes up a lot of that in Houston. Whereas it’s all kind of, we do it all in a month, they spread it out all over the year. So, um, for me it’s getting to know the city and driving around the Metroplex and getting to know all that stuff. So, I haven’t really had that much personal free time to go and explore the bars and the scene here. But I can definitely tell that it’s very different.
WT: Yeah. Do they have something here like we have in Houston? Like the Montrose Center?
AF: Yes. It’s what y’all [About Magazine] donated to — the Resource Center.
AR: So, let’s just divert to a little bit more of a lighthearted topic. You and I have had a feud for a very long time.
AF: Oh, geez.
WT: For a very long time.
AR: It feels like it. It’s been since like —
AR: January. Whatever. Do you want to tell everyone … how you scorned me?
AF: How I what?
AR: How you scorned me. Done me wrong.
AF: I don’t even remember.
AR: [Slams his hands down on the table] I really thought this could be over as of today.
AF: So, while I was hosting the, um, season — what was it? — 12 finale —
AR: No one cares about that part.
AF: — of Dessie’s Drag Race.
AR: The drag queens are out of control in Houston right now. [Laughs]
AF: I fights.
WT: I fights.
AR: I’m sorry —
WT: “I only got eight nails …”
AF: It’s pretty funny.
WT: It’s really funny.
AF: Anyway, so while I was co-hosting, or judging, or whatever I was doing — I was a guest celebrity judge for the season 12 finale of Dessie’s Drag Race at Rich’s, every Monday night.
WT: [Laughs at the word ‘celebrity’]
AR: I’m not even the one who made a joke about you not being famous, I just want to say.
WT: I just think — nevermind. [Pause] Go ahead.
AF: I didn’t say that. They promoted it.
AR: Well … you quoted it … so …
WT: Yeah. You did.
AR: No, you’re very famous.
AF: [Gives Anthony a ‘go-to-hell’ look].
AR: You are! I’m not making fun of you! Jesus. [Pause] So, you did what now?
AF: So, I was doing like I usually do … I judge. And, um —
AF: #iJudge #iFights
AF: Um … so, at the end of the evening, I was making a beeline to the patio bar, because that’s where my friends were, because they had texted me that that is where they were. And, apparently, for the very first time in history, somebody didn’t recognize Anthony Ramirez. Not that — not that he’s a celebrity or a well-known person. It’s just that he’s just … quite hard to miss.
AR: He means … fat.
AF: I didn’t say that.
AR: But what he really means is slutty.
AF: So, I, um, mistakenly did not see him.
AR: And thank you, by the way.
AF: And therefore Anthony took great offense.
AR: I did. I stormed out of Rich’s and went to Guava and hung out with Morena [Roas]. And I said, “This motherfucker …”
AF: ‘Cause at that point, I’d only really met you in person one other time.
AR: Yeah. And it was circumstantial because —
AF: I thought you were going to make a circumcision joke.
AR: … no. [Pause] So, I feel like we’ve come to a nice place. Not … here [the restaurant] … like literally … but in our spiritual journey —
AR: — where we can put the feud behind.
WT: Well … I am … very disappointed. [Laughs]
WT: This has been my favorite thing of the whole year.
AF: I think there will always be a feud, but unofficially.
AR: Mostly for readership.
AF : [Laughs] “Mostly for readership.”
AR: [To Wendy] Well, you could have a feud with someone.
WT: No, it’s more fun to watch y’all do it.
AF: I think you should have a feud with Kara Dion.
WT: [Unintelligible through all the chips in her mouth]
AR: I think you should have a feud with Brenda Rich.
AF: There you go. And so it begins.
AR: Have you had any feuds in Dallas?
AF: [No response]
AR: Okay, so seriously. You have said before that you were very open with your sexuality at work when you were with 93Q. It was totally cool. Totally chill. Have you gotten there here yet?
AF: Oh, yeah.
AR: I mean, I feel like if they didn’t know you were gay before, your excitement for Shania Twain [in concert] gave it away.
AF: Oh, yeah. And Hunter Hayes. He’s playing the State Fair in September.
WT: Isn’t he like 12?
AF: No, he’s like 24. He’s older than Anthony.
WT: That’s 12 times 2.
AF: Which is older than Anthony. [Pause] Although —
AR: I’m 24!
AF: But Anthony wasn’t blessed with his looks. Some sort of Otter-Mexican combo.
WT: An ot-ter?
AR: That’s so — otters are so cute! I would love [to be] a Mexican otter
[Anthony thinks Al is talking about otters as in the animal, and not otters as in the tribe of gay men … he finds both very cute and flattering]
AF: You are a Mexican Otter.
AR: Thank you! [Pause] So, I had a point to asking that question. Goddamnit.
AF: Very open with sexuality …
AR: Right — um — so, how are you going to — okay, I feel like at some point, you are going to have to kind of get yourself out in this community.
AF: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I’m already — I’m very excited to know that About [Magazine] is coming up here to Dallas and is going to start getting entrenched in the community. So, I feel like I can get on the ground floor with the magazine to help host events or do whatever I can to promote the events with not only myself, but with the radio station that I work for to get behind and be supportive.
AR: Oh, how do you feel about representation of LGBTQIA people in the country music scene?
AF: Oh, there’s a lot of representation. One of the biggest writers of this time or generation or whatever you want to call it, Shane McAnally, is openly gay. And he’s one of the most successful writers of this current time, whatever you wanna call it. And his Dad is Mac McAnally, who is also a writer. He’s been in the business a long time. He’s worked with Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, and all of those artists. And he’s [Shane] very well-accepted. A colleague of mine now in Houston is the program director for the Bull, which is a country station there. And he has been out for a very long time. He’s married. He and his husband Kevin are very well accepted throughout the industry. And he’s a big reason that I was — that I felt comfortable to come out, once I learned that he was accepted and that everybody was fine with him. That helped me along the way to come out fully and know that I would be accepted. You know, there are artists, Ty Herndon, Billy Gilman, who have come out. Honestly, I don’t think it has anything to do with their success or not. There are a lot of pro-LGBT country artists. Cam, who just announced that she’s going to open for Sam Smith on her tour. And she wore a — I think it was a Pride t-shirt at her show in Houston.
AR: Well, you have artists like Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, who have all spoken out about this — Jennifer Nettles.
WT: Carrie Underwood.
AR: They’ve all spoken out in favor [of LGBTQIA rights]. I think historically, though, country music had associations with right-sided politics. But, now I think —
AF: Everybody loves country music. I know that’s a broad, general music. I know everybody doesn’t love country music. It’s a genre of choice. But what I mean by everybody is people of every walk of life. It doesn’t matter — just because you listen to country music doesn’t mean you are one way politically or not, or one way with sexual orientation or not. It isn’t true. I can give you a handful of LGBT people. I can give you a handful of people who are liberal, who are everything that aren’t what the stereotype is who will spend a lot of money at a country concert to sit front row and do all the VIP stuff. And it’s great. I mean … that’s what music is. It brings people together. It should not be identified as a political party, a sexual orientation, or anything. At the Shania Twain concert, which you attended with me here in Dallas —
AR: I do not recall.
AF: Well, that’s your fault. And I attended the one in Houston. And there were a ton of —
AF: — of LGBTQIA+ people. There were a ton of African-Americans, a ton of Hispanics — just people. It’s a melting pot. It’s how all concerts are, and how all musical gatherings should be.
AR: Okay, I want to expound upon that a bit, actually. Because I do agree — and this isn’t about me — but I think that music should have a place where it is separate of all of those things. But now, especially politically and the way that climate is — I think that it’s more important now than ever for people who are in a position to have a voice and who have a soapbox to preach off of to use it combat hatefulness and discrimination. I think it is important for artists who have come out in support of gay rights. So … yes … it doesn’t need to have a direct correlation to a political party.
AR: But isn’t it important that people are using their platform to do the right thing?
AF: I do — I mean, I really don’t want to get into politics. But I — on that level — I do think that unless you have — it just gets really dirty when you get into politics. And musicians who have historically, one way or the other … it has not gone well for them. Because you’re always going to be wrong to somebody. So, obviously gay rights is a human right. That goes without saying. And everyone should be in support of that. But when you get behind a political party or a political candidate, it is really, really hard to come out on the right side of that, because you’re never going to be right. And, as a musician — and me, and I’m speaking as an entertainer, someone who is in that similar field, presenting those songs — I don’t care to have a public political voice. It’s not my job. I don’t want to get involved with that. Because, like I said, you’re going to come out on the wrong side of it. And, for me, it would affect ratings. For them, it would affect their music sales or concert ticket sales.
[Side note that Wendy Taylor, a professional singer, is the loudest and most die-hard liberal in the entire world and who lets everyone she comes into contact with know it]
AF: Because, as I said earlier, music is for all. And with that, you should entertain all, whoever they support politically.
AR: As much as I want to go deeper into that, I’m not going to. But I feel like we should circle back to this conversation another day. So, I’m gonna jump to this: You are contracted for a couple of years with this station. I know that it’s kind of early to tell, because you did just get here, but do you feel like you’ll be calling Dallas your home for a while?
AF: I hope so.
AR: You hear that, Houston? He don’t wanna come back.
AF: No, that’s not what I said. The station, as I arrived, was already rising up in the ranks. We are overall doing very well ratings-wise. So, I hope to be an actual contributor to that success. I don’t feel that I am yet, because I just got here. But I hope that that success will continue and that I will be able to grow myself and with the company. And, you know, as I said when I interviewed with for this position — and I brought this up last time we interviewed, but you deleted that interview —
AR: It was an accident.
AF: I’d said that if there were any job that I was going to be looking at to leave here, it’d be to Houston. You know, Houston’s my home and I do hope to return one day. But, I don’t know if my job here will be done in two years. So, to answer your question, I hope to stay here for as long as they’ll have me.
AR: I guess my next question is — and this is one that a lot of people wanted me to ask you — where is the Farb Family Fortune buried?
AR: No? No comment? [Pause] So, do you have any events coming up? Are there any concerts you’re going to that you want to plug? — oh, by the way! I want you to get me into Sam Smith.
AR: Oh! Do you have a message for Kara Dion? She heard that she was replaced.
AF & WT: “Mess!”
AF: She is not replaced. She will never be replaced.
AR: Snapchat said otherwise. She saw it with her own two eyes.
WT: Yeah, I saw it, too. I saw it, too.
AR: Okay, well, it’s been wonderful, Al. It’s been so great for you to let us have the honor of watching you put food in your bobblehead.
AF: [Laughs] Wendy is my favorite person at the table.
WT: That’s right.
AR: He is lying. He is in love with me.
WT: Hey, Anthony.
WT: Who’s your favorite person at the table?
AR: … Me. Always me.
WT: [Laughs hysterically]
AF: The correct answer to that is Jesus. Because he is always watching us and he is always with you.
AR: “I can do all things –”
AF: “… through Christ –”
AR: “–through Vodka, who strengthens me.” [Pause] That’s my inspirational quote of the day.
AF: And on that note, I need the check.
AR: And on that note, we want to thank you again [for buying lunch]. And thank you, Wendy Taylor, for joining us.
WT: Oh, like I had a choice.
AR: You did. You didn’t have to come with me.
WT: I did.
AR: Oh, she wanted to meet Lupe [Valdez]. That’s going to be a much better interview.