Every person on the radio wants the listener to think they are his or her neighbor, well in the case of Alternative Rock DC-101’s afternoon drive-time personality, Roche — if you live in Germantown, he really is your neighbor
Greg Roche has been a rock-radio mainstay in the Washington, D.C. market for 17 years, all 17 with DC-101, which is a testament to his popularity in the area. Many listeners know Roche as the guy they grew up listening to on the radio. “There is nothing cooler and harder to hear then when guys say to me, ‘Dude, I was listening to you when I was doing homework in high school. And now I am 33…” and I am thinking ‘Oh God, I am old,’” said Roche, the afternoon drive-time host at DC-101. He can be heard from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm every weekday.
Surprisingly, for many of those years, he’s made his home with his wife and two boys in Germantown. Now, you might think that living the Rock DJ lifestyle and living in Germantown don’t exactly blend — well, you’d be wrong according to Roche.
“Germantown is pretty indicative of what life is like in the DMV, outside of the DC political/government/military bubble,” explains Roche. “Germantown, as a community, is what life is like in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs and it is actually pretty indicative of what the DC-101 listener is like, which might be surprising to some people.”
“The typical life of our listener,” he explains, “is not one of going out to the 9:30 Club, or go to the Anthem to see to shows. That is not the lifestyle of the DC-101 listener. I just found out yesterday who our ‘One Person’ is – basically when you are in the studio you are talking to one person, so the station gives you a picture of that person and rundown of their vital statistics. And that person is a 35-year-old white guy,” said Roche.
“And that guy is doing exactly what the typical suburban Germantown resident is doing,” said Roche. “They have a 9-to-5 job. They don’t go to shows at night because they’ve got kids, or if they are single, they have responsibilities in their lives. Maybe they are hitting up a show once every three months, but really it’s the lifestyle they are living. What do they do on weekends? What do they do for fun? What TV shows do they like? How do they get their music? What kind of music do they listen to when they get their music? Surprisingly, the Germantown zip code — the 20874 zip code — is consistently one of the top ten zip codes with the most DC-101 listeners.”
“It has been a godsend for me to live in Germantown. Before we moved here, I lived in D.C. When we moved to Germantown, I had just married my wife, and I was very concerned about the idea of a rock DJ living in the suburbs. I thought, ‘If I am not living the lifestyle how am I going to be the cool radio DJ guy and talk about the cool plug-in stuff that I know about because I am living that cool radio lifestyle?’
“It turns out that that might be counter-intuitive,” explains Roche. “It turns out that a guy, or female, driving home after a hard day at work isn’t going to connect with a guy on the radio who is talking like; ‘Last night, I was backstage at the Anthem, and I was talking with the guys from The Struts, and it was amazing.’ While that might be interesting, but if every time I crack open the mic and I am talking on the air about who I was hanging out with, or the new restaurant I was at, and who I was with the night before, it starts to feel a little pretentious at some point.”
“People want to hear that what they are dealing with, is exactly what I am dealing with in my life. My whole philosophy is that I am just a guy sitting next to you in the car while you drive home from work and the conversation may be; ‘I can’t wait for tonight because Game of Thrones is back on.’ Or ‘It is going to be slippery because there was an ice event. And there was a two-hour delay and my day got messed up because I had to get my kids to school.’ That is what people want to hear,” explains the father of two who can be seen walking his kids to school every morning. “They want to know a) that they are not alone; they are not on an island as they drive in their car by themselves. And, b) that it is going to be alright because the guy on the radio is chuckling about it, and now I can chuckle about it, and we can get through this together.”
“So moving to Germantown, and having to commute down I-270 every day connects me to my listeners more so than if I lived in D.C. and took Metro in every day. How many DC-101 listeners take the Metro? How many people who live in Germantown can Metro? It gives me a relatability that I don’t think I would have if I lived in the District, or even Bethesda, or Arlington,” said Roche.
“I started in August 2001. I am in my 17th year at DC-101,” he said. “The reason I got into the business was that I love music, but I have no musical aptitude at all. It was me trying to find a way to do something in the music business as a career that didn’t involve playing or writing music.” He began working the evening shift from 7:00 pm to midnight, and after five years he moved to the coveted afternoon drive-time slot and has been the friendly companion playing the best modern rock hits to de-stress frazzled commuters as they navigate DC traffic while headed home from work since 2006.
He said as a kid he enjoyed putting together mixtapes, and that would be his way into the music business. “That was the foundation. But when you talk to career professionals, DJ is not a real job,” he laughs. “Five years into my radio career people would still ask me, ‘What are you going to do when this is over?’ And I would have to say things like, ‘This is a grown-up job. This is what I do. This makes me money.’ So, I never thought of being a DJ as being a career. When somebody asks I just say, ‘I work in radio.”
Working in radio has allowed him to meet bands and famous artists, but he says the best part about being a DJ – other than actually being on the air – is the way folks react to finding out that he is a radio personality.
“Saying ‘I work at DC-10’ is an instant icebreaker,” said Roche. “Bang, I have already broken down a barrier. People will talk to me about radio or music. We can always talk music, even if you don’t like rock music. It is something that we can talk about because everybody, inherently has an interest in music. It is a shared experience, the act of listening to music and listening to the radio. Everyone has heard someone speaking on the radio. It is instantly relatable.”
Indeed, being relatable is important, especially in a career in which being a person who unseen strangers can relate to on some level — in some ways it is essential. It is the reason why Roche’s voice has been heard on the radio in the D.C. market for almost two decades. It is also an important part of why he chose to live in Germantown.
“One of the most important things that I wanted to give my sons was the awareness of growing up in a city,” explained Roche. “I don’t want my kids to be sheltered. I want them to be safe, but I don’t want them to be sheltered. A lot of times, we talk the talk about wanting diversity, but we are afraid to walk the walk. For me, the thing that I like about Germantown is the diversity, and not just the racial diversity, which is fantastic. However, you can have a group of kids; a Latino kid, an Asian kid, an African American kid, a Caucasian kid, and an Indian kid; but if all their parents are making about the same amount of money every year — they are the same in many ways. The skin color doesn’t matter anymore; they’re all doing well.”
“It is the economic diversity, which some look at as a negative about Germantown, that I look at as a positive about Germantown. My kids are growing up being exposed economic diversity, and that will only help them when they get older. The thing that I have learned in my life is that relatability is really important. If you can relate to somebody, it goes a long way to breaking down barriers. It goes a long way to making it easier for you walk in that person’s shoes. We will be opening up Seneca Valley High School soon, and it will be the biggest school in the state. The great thing is you are not going to get just one type of person in there. You are not going to get one race. You might get students whose parents make $500,000 a year, and you might get students whose parents make $30,000 a year. If you get to know both of those students — then you can relate to those students, and they can relate to each other. If you can’t translate those skills to life skills, you are crazy. That is what I love about raising my kids in Germantown,” he said.
Beyond his daily 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm timeslot, he can also be heard on the “Sphere of Roche” podcast, which is available here. It is a wide-ranging discussion show often speaking of two topics that are near and dear to his heart — beer and soccer.
When it comes to soccer, he is a fierce DCUnited fan, and like all good fathers, he is raising his sons, who are 10 and 8, to play and love soccer. And that means, just like many of his listeners, his weekends are spent at the Maryland SoccerPlex watching his boys on the pitch.
“To me, the SoccerPlex is an underrated gem in the area. Before the boys started playing soccer, we took it for granted. It was just ‘Oh, they have a lot of soccer fields here.’ You don’t realize the magnitude of the SoccerPlex until you are there every Saturday —and we are there every Saturday now. It is fantastic. I love the fact that we have this awesome resource, that people will drive hundreds of miles to come to, literally, in our backyard.”
“You don’t realize about the SoccerPlex being here in Germantown, is how far people come to play at the SoccerPlex,” he said. “We’ll be at the ‘Plex watching the boys play and talk to people, and they’ve come down from New York City or up from North Carolina. It is surprising, and you start thinking to yourself, ‘this a mile-and-a-half from my house. I love it.’ If you think about the money that the SoccerPlex adds to Germantown and Montgomery County, it is awesome,” said Roche.
And that thought led him to his soccer/beer epiphany to one day open a craft brewery in the area.
“My pie-in-the-sky dream is to open up a brewery on Rt. 118 and have every dad, and every craft beer loving mom say, ‘Hey, there’s a brewery right there. Well, we have three hours between Braden’s games. Let’s swing by that place and grab a beer.’ To me it is a money-making machine, just getting those people every weekend. When you combine that weekend traffic and Germantown residents during the week, a brewery would be wildly successful. Germantown is ripe for a brewery. A really good brewery,” said Roche.
One of the benefits, or drawbacks, of being a voice on the radio is radio DJs are not always easily recognizable when they walk around the streets, and few folks would expect to find a “Rock DJ” in a suburban town. Even fewer would expect them showing up for a parent-teacher conference in elementary school.
“I always assume nobody knows that I am Roche from DC-101, and more importantly, I assume that nobody cares, but my kid is in second grade, and one day he came home and told me that his teacher is on Twitter and I should follow her. I was like; Ok, I am a good parent. I want to follow her to see my kid’s teacher is up to, so I follow her. My twitter handle is @Rocheonair. She got that notification saying that @Rocheonair had followed her. A few weeks later, we went to the parent-teacher conference, and she’s like, ‘I had no idea that you were that guy on the radio. That is so cool.’ As I said, it is a great ice-breaker. I don’t know if every teacher in school knows, but the second-grade teacher definitely knows.”
Welcome to Germantown Pulse’s new feature Germantown Vibe where we will profile some of the amazing folks who populate Germantown. Our most interesting neighbors with jobs, or hobbies that we’d love to have or are thankful we don’t. If you know somebody that lives in the Germantown area that would be a good candidate for a Germantown Vibe profile — an artist, a CEO, a unique character, or a neighbor with a cool job or hobby let us know by emailing Kevin O’Rourke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Greg Roche and DC-101.