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In The Flesh

Media: February 2023 • Waking Up with Q101’s Brian and Justin

| January 31, 2023

Q101’s Brian and Justin

Brian Haddad and Justin Nettlebeck have been doing mornings at Q-101 for the last four years, but there have been a few changes in the last few months.

First, long-time co-host Ali Mattacola left the show in November. As of this writing, they are still looking for the right person to fill that slot. But then, in December, there was an even bigger change. Brian became a dad for the first time. (Although, as he pointed out to me: “Haven’t been tested yet, officially, Rick.”)

But clearly, it has had an impact. I know it for a fact because it took me a few weeks to corral him on the phone. He’s still making the adjustment. “I really thought it would change a lot as far as prepping the show,” he says, “But as far as coming in and getting out of here in time, I’m doing what I always do. The time I’m with her at home, though, has changed a lot. That’s where the biggest change has happened. It’s changed my perspective on life, that time is the most important thing ever. You have to remember that I was a bachelor my whole life—just got married five years ago, became a dad later in life, so I have to change my ways, but to be totally honest, I haven’t quite gotten there yet.”

Brian and Justin are enjoying their time on the air, which is obvious when you tune in to the show. The show is on the cusp of their big yearly anniversary event, “Ahoy! With Brian and Justin”. In past years they’ve drawn names like Weezer and The Black Keys, and this year is no different. “The bands are Bush and Silversun Pickups,” Brian says, “and it sold out quickly, so we’re really stoked about that. It’s at the new venue, the Salt Shed, but this one sold out even faster.”

But for all their popularity with the station’s core listenership, Brian and Justin have flown a bit below the radar in Chicago.  I asked Justin to explain the mission statement of the morning show to people who don’t usually tune in. “We believe in funny first. Funny. Real. Chicago. In that order. That’s what we’re striving for every day.”

Their roles are pretty well defined. “I’m the generator,” Brian explains, “and Justin is a professional reactor.”  Justin agreed with that assessment but added, “I’m the executive producer of the show, so a lot of the content begins with me, but we are always looking for content from each other, and we sell it like they sell an SNL bit. Brian or I might think we have something, but it’s not until the other one says, yes, that’s it, that we go with it.”

Brian has been part of the Chicago landscape for many years. If his name doesn’t sound familiar to you, that’s because he was known as something else during those previous runs. “I started out doing nights at 103.5 FM, back in the days of Mancow. Then I did afternoons for about six and half years at Q-101. I was known as Sludge then.”

I’ve always wondered where that name came from. “I wish there was a great story,” Brian says, “but there really isn’t. I was joining a station with names like Mancow, Turd, Freak, and Al Roker Jr. The name Sludge just kind of came out. The first time I went on the air, I said Sludge instead of Sausage King of Chicago, and that’s it. I had no idea that name was going to follow me for 20 years, but it did.”

Brian and Justin didn’t know each other at all before they started doing the show together. “I was with the Free Beer boys (Free Beer & Hot Wings in Grand Rapids, Michigan) for a couple of years,” Justin explains, “and Chicago called, asking if I wanted to come here to start up a show with a bunch of strangers. I said yes, and I’ve been here ever since. I was the very first one here. Brian showed up the day before we went on the air.” “I had been working another job,” Brian adds. “And didn’t quit until right before we started. A little gap time would have been nice, but I jumped right in.”

And there have been a few memorable highlights in the four years since.  “The first thing that comes to mind is Smashing Pumpkins at the Metro,” Justin says. “The only way to get in was to win tickets through us. We gave out tickets every thirty minutes on Q-101, and it was phenomenal. We also did a 36-hour radiothon that raised close to $40 thousand [dollars].”

As the interview was ending, Justin asked me if it was OK to turn the tables and ask me a few questions. Of course, I said yes. I figured he wanted to mine my many years of experience to get career advice and insight. Not exactly. His questions were as follows…

“Do you think you could pick out your nipples in a lineup?” “Which animal would be the best kisser?” “Are you more likely to go to the hospital for something getting stuck up there, or are you more likely to go to prison for lighting fires to cemeteries?” My answers were No, Dog, Hospital. I wouldn’t do well in prison.

Brian and Justin can be heard every morning on Q-101 FM.

-Rick Kaempfer

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