CSI’s Eric Szmanada Enters the Startup World with eRockster.com

If actor Eric Szmanda seems awfully comfortable in his role as a nerdy lab tech on CBS’s hit crime drama CSI, that might just be because of his real-life obsession with technology. Whether programming his own online radio station or jamming out with friends in a game of Guitar Hero, he’s never shied from his geeky side. You might even run across his naked avatar in Second Life. We recently sat down with Eric to find out more about Eric’s favorite gadgets from the show, his mishaps in gaming, and his online radio project, Erockster.

Digital Trends (DT): Your character on CSI is a little bit of a geek. How close would you say that is to you in real life?

I think there’s a lot of similarity between me and my character, just because I didn’t really have much to go on when I auditioned for the role. The whole geeky kind of crazy hair, clothes and stuff, is something that I kind of brought. I had a lot of fun the first three years just playing around with the telescopes, gas chromatograph, mass spectrometer, centrifuge, test tubes. I’ve always loved that kind of stuff.

(DT): Is that all legit equipment, or props?

That’s all product placement, believe it or not. A lot of companies want to have their stuff featured on our show. It’s good for us, because we get the most current, state-of-the-art technology to feature.

Eric Szmanada(DT): How accurate is the technology used on the show compared to what they’re actually using in labs?

We have experts who come from the field working on our show as advisors. They make sure that things we do can really be done. There are creative liberties taken at times, because you can’t whip out DNA results within a half an hour or 15 minutes like we do on our show. But we pride ourselves on the science of the show, and you can rest assured that all of those techniques that we use are real and are really applied in real forensics labs.

(DT): If you could take anything home from the set, any gadget or piece of gear, what would you most like to take back home and have for yourself?

There’s this lighting rig that they have in autopsy room. They look like huge flowers or something, and they have like a special hue to them, which I suppose is good for looking into dead bodies. But they also have cameras built into them, and monitors. I want one, either for over my dining room table or for my bedroom.

(DT): What’s your latest tech purchase?

I just got a new TV, and I’m going to get Apple TV sometime this week, and when I get it set up, I’m going to play around with it all weekend. That’s something really exciting that I hope catches on with people. Pay attention to the content that’s generated outside of the studio system, because I guarantee it’s going to be a lot better than the crap that you see that gets pumped through the traditional outlets.

(DT): I’ve heard you play Second Life?

I have been on Second Life, a little bit. The first time I went on there, it was fun, but I really didn’t know what I was doing. I wanted to change my outfit one day, and I took my clothes off and I couldn’t get them back on. They’re still off right now. I’m embarrassed because I look like a eunuch, walking around naked. I tried to ask somebody, “How do I get my clothes back on?” but they just walked away.

(DT): Do you play any other games?

I do like playing old-fashioned board games. And I like simple, Tetris-like games. I have an Xbox, and a PlayStation, but the only games that ever really get played on it are Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

(DT): What is Erockster, in a nutshell?

Erockster is an online radio station and social networking site dedicated to quality music. Our whole concept is that we don’t really have a concept. We can play anything we want, as long as it’s good. If you listen to pop radio, it’s like a guy who thinks there’s only 10 musicians putting new music out. But on our station, we go all over the spectrum. It’s also available as an HD radio station. Our station is offered as a side channel to the alternative station in a few different markets, including Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. Pretty soon it will be in New York, and they’ll be adding more as we get more and more heat going.

(DT): How did you get started with it?

I was approached last fall by an old colleague of mine, who I used to work in the music industry with. He’s an executive at a big record company, and he asked me whether I was interested in being a radio DJ, or having my own radio show. So I was like, “Hell yea!” My business partner and I got together and came up with our dream scenario. We submitted it to him at a cool $4.5 million the first year. He was like, “You know, I love the ideas, but that budget is kind of crazy. Let’s see if we can’t scale that down into something closer to six figures. You can use all the resources of our company. We’ll supply you with an office, and studios, and gear, the actual broadcasting cost, and you guys just program it with the music you like. We’ll give you a Web site, and it can be a destination for music lovers.”

(DT): What do you have planned for the future of the station?

There are a bunch of new features that are going to be coming as we start increasing the technology on the site. We’re trying to increase our on-demand library and build a whole media player that features all of our original content. And offering music videos full screen, high resolution. And being able to listen to music on-demand. We’ve been interviewing bands and recording live shows and stuff. All of that is going to be available on the site within the next couple of weeks.

(DT): How do you usually listen to your music?

I have an HD radio in my trailer at work, for CSI, so whenever I’m at work I listen to the Erockster HD station. When I’m at home or in the office, I’m always listening to the online station. I use a little gadget, it’s called Ear Tunes, to get it to play on my home stereo system. They also have these little devices called i2i, they’re like little streaming devices that allow you to plug into your computer and plug the other part into your sound system, and you can wirelessly transmit like 50 feet.

(DT): Do you ever Google yourself to see what people are saying about you?

I would be a liar if I said that I never checked it out, but I definitely avoid it. I imagine that there are some people that always check it every day, but I let my friends or my mom weed things out for me. My mom does a pretty good job of searching that stuff.

(DT): Is there anything else you wanted to mention?

I’m a big supporter of the site U.S. Campaign for Burma. They got an all-star cast, in terms of actors and talent, to participate in these informational videos about the crisis in Burma. I did one with my costar Jorga Fox, which you can see on YouTube.

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