Many radio listeners in Kamloops are familiar with the name and voice of Nikki Omen. He is the midday Host of The Nikki Omen Show on 98.3 CIFM.
Known for his funny, unscripted connection with his audience, his flair for the outrageous (which has sometimes ruffled some feathers,) and his vast knowledge of music, Omen claims his journey to becoming a host in Kamloops was a long one.
"I was probably around the age of seven or eight and I knew what I wanted to do," he says. "I wanted to be a successful musician or a DJ at a rock radio station. Since the whole rock star thing didn’t all the way work out, I settled for the latter, and it’s worked out pretty well."
When Omen was a little kid growing up in Vancouver, he used to spend hours listening to the radio. He was raised on rock radio for the most part, and he spent hours listening to the DJs talk about all this music he was into.
“I just couldn’t get enough. I was hooked,” says Omen. “I was fascinated with the music and how my favourite personalities were so knowledgeable and funny. It sounded like they were all genuinely having fun. I thought to myself, ‘I gotta figure out how to do that! That would be the coolest job. Getting to play rock n’ roll, interview rock stars, and joke around all day, and get paid for it? Hell, I’d pretty much do that for free!’”
In 2003-04, Omen was holding onto both of his dreams: one of being on the radio, the other of being in a band. He graduated from high school, started a band, and applied to the broadcasting program at BCIT, which required a huge auditioning process but he got in on his first try.
In 2005, he graduated from the school’s broadcast and media communications program, and kept playing in bands. He and his band mates opened up for the likes of Our Lady Peace, Thornley and Bif Naked.
Omen got a break in 2007 while working at a Vancouver radio station. He met Brother Jake Edwards, the morning man at Rock 101.
“He was a legend in the business,” says Omen. “I was always in awe of his talent and charisma. Jake was always cool to me and we’d BS about music and joke around in the halls. We kinda became work pals.”
When Jake’s producer/sidekick decided to leave his show in 2011, Jake gave Omen “the biggest life-changing shot.”
“He asked me to be on the show with him, Rock Girl Alece, and Mike Reno, lead singer of Loverboy.
“It was honestly one of the most fun periods of my life," recalls Omen. "It was like partying with your friends from six to ten in the morning every day.”
Management at the station decided to end the show in 2013, and Omen lasted at Rock 101 about another year as producer of the new Willy in the Morning show, until a big corporate restructuring went down. He lost his job along with another 100 people under the Corus Entertainment Company umbrella.
“For the next couple months, I applied at every radio job in Vancouver that was available, but I didn’t get hired for one,” recalls Omen.
To keep busy, he started cooking in an upscale restaurant in the city’s downtown.
A gig doing mornings in Fort St. John followed. The two years spent up north were not comfortable for Omen. He was desperate to leave and looked for jobs regularly. He was rejected probably 20 times. He had some decent interviews with a couple of radio station program directors, but they always went with the other guy.
“I was starting to feel pretty discouraged at this point, but then in September of 2016 I finally got some good news (from 98.3 CIFM). ... I guess the in-person interview went well. I was on my way to Kamloops a couple of weeks later.”
When Omen is not working he is still playing music. He joined a band earlier this year called Half Step Down that plays mainly ‘90s rock tunes. The band is going to start playing shows on a more regular basis next year.
Fun, inspirational fact about Omen? When he was around 12 years old, he had a lisp and a bad stutter.
“When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say a singer or a radio host. People would laugh at me and say, ‘There’s no way someone with a speech impediment will ever get hired to be on the radio!’ But guess what? I worked my ass off and proved them all wrong.”
Talking Trades is a regular KamloopsMatters column by Shannon Ainslie. Ainslie has worked in the trades for many years and loves to blog on the side. You can follow her at kamloopscoffeetalk.wordpress.com or on Twitter (@ainslie_shannon).