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Allston via MTV

When people recognize Iann Robinson on the street, they want to either hug him or hurl rocks at him. "On Newbury Street, on a Friday or a Saturday night, when all the college kids are out, drunk and lit? I canít do that. Theyíre either like, ĎMy friend wants to kiss you!í or they want to start shit."

As MTVís most visually distinctive persona from 1999 to 2003, Robinson elicits more than the usual visceral reaction television personalities evoke. A neck-tattooed, peach-fuzz-bald drummer, formerly of the stoner-rock band Puny Human, the New York native was an outspoken emissary from the metalhead hoi polloi on MTV. He shot guns with Kid Rock, interviewed Britney Spears, seethed at the sight of Fred Durst. ("Heís the devil," he says today.) Horatio Sanz once impersonated Robinson on Saturday Night Live. Entertainment Weekly appointed him to the glossyís annual "It List" in 2002. And to this day, MTV still runs his episodes of Cribs. So although Robinson severed ties with the music conglomerate in 2003 and moved to Allston last August, he still gets noticed all the time. "Other [former] VJs that I met would say, ĎGive it six months and it dies out.í Itís been two years since Iíve been there, and it hasnít slowed down that much. Guess I made enough of an impact, either annoyed or entertained enough people, that they remember me."

On a Friday afternoon at Boston Beer Works, the 34-year-old transplant sits over chicken fingers and a soda ó no beer (he doesnít drink) ó in a black Harley-Davidson shirt and baggy shorts, gray-stubble on his head.

After getting spotted on the New York City public-access show Monkey Butt Sex, Robinson took the MTV gig with two thoughts in mind: one, the job paid well; two, he thought he could change the music channel for the better. "I didnít realize I was going to be wrestling a grizzly bear with a toothpick," he says, noting that the stationís biggest problem is its institutional "hypocrisy" and shameless corporatization, which Robinson thinks will change only with a "national disaster or a nuclear war." Heís also frank about how his tenure there ended.

"I made a lot of enemies that I didnít need to make," he says. "Rocking the boat is not something MTV likes."

So now Robinson, recently divorced, is here in Boston. To keep himself occupied, he has scribbled reviews for metal ízines like Metal Sludge and Decibel ó even published some in these pages ó and co-founded a small press called Isolation Disorder. Mostly, heís been living off the income from an Apple Macworld commercial he did in January and "a shitload of money MTV gave me as severance." Plus, last winter, Robinson filmed a Discovery Channel pilot in Ethiopia, for which he bunked with a Serba tribe for 22 days, shared a communal bath with "huge naked black guys," and drank cowís blood. ("If youíve ever gotten a bloody nose thatís run into your mouth, thatís what it tastes like.")

But Robinson isnít sure his future lies in television, and heís not returning to New York any time soon. "I hate New York with the fiery passion of 1000 suns," he opines. "Let me put it to you like this. Say I get a job at the post office ó Iím going to be a mail carrier and Iím done with TV. Say I do that. In New York, even people I know would be like, ĎWhy? Huh? But you were on MTV?í In Boston, my friends would be like, ĎThatís awesome, man. Great benefits, fuckiní moneyís good. Well done.í "

Issue Date: July 1 - 7, 2005
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