Mike Daly, Creative Services Director, Clear Channel Communications, KOGO/KSDO/KPOP, San Diego, California
by Jerry Vigil
This month’s RAP Interview checks in with another of this year’s RAP Awards winners. Mike Daly, a.k.a. “Flounder,” picked up the winning trophy and the 1st Runner-up award in the Best Promo category for Major Markets. Not a bad showing for market #15! Mike is one of radio’s hottest young imaging producers. He learned from one of the best, Eric Chase, who learned from one of the best, Joel Moss. Mike handles the imaging for San Diego’s talk monster, KOGO-AM, among other duties for the Clear Channel group. Many of his song parodies and bits have been heard around the world. Be sure to check out Mike’s demo on this month’s RAP Cassette for an entertaining sample of news/talk imaging in the 21st century.
JV: How did you get into radio?
Mike: I got into radio kind of by accident. My next-door neighbor back in Florida worked at W101, a Gannett station, and I was in between jobs after high school. I was joking around asking her if they were looking for any jocks, and they were. She stuck me on the weekend overnight shift on their big band nostalgia station. I was there for about four months before they changed the format and blew everybody out. Then I went over to Jacor’s talk station, WFLA. This was in January of 1991. I was hired as a part-time board-op on the weekends. I guess that’s where I really fell in love with the whole radio thing. I lived overseas when I was a kid, and I never really listened to radio back then. Everyone talks about these legendary jocks and these legendary call letters, but I really wasn’t aware of it all. We had BBC 1 and Armed Forces Radio and crap like that. So, I really got into it at WFLA. We had some killer talent there, and they were really loose with their weekend programming. It was pretty much do whatever you want. Gabe Hobbs was like the best PD you could ever work for. He’s really cool. He’s now the National Director for News/Talk.
We had so much fun back there. We weren’t worried about only making five and a quarter an hour, working seven days a week part-time, holding down a couple other jobs just to make car payments. We were just having too much fun. So I really got into that vein and started doing parody beds and stuff, working with this dude, Fingers Malone. We were both board-ops. It was like, “Fingers and Flounder.” That was my nickname, Flounder. And from there, I started working with Bubba the Love Sponge. He was doing nights at the Power Pig, and I started doing parody songs for him. I was a really bad singer, but he dug them. That was pretty cool, doing things for Lesbian Tuesday and Redneck Monday and all that stuff. I had a lot of fun and thought, “Man, people get paid for this? This is killer.” By that point I was full-time overnights at ‘FLA doing production and running the board. So I used to come in early for his show, like at seven, and just stay all night. When I got my regular production done, I’d work on beds or something for him. That was six days a week. Then on Saturday nights, we had the ‘FLA Lounge. It was like a late night comedy show, at least in theory. It wasn’t always funny, but we had fun.
Then I went to afternoons running the board from four to ten or something like that. We had Bob Lassiter, probably one of the best talk show hosts you’ll ever hear. He told me to just leave my mic open, and if I had something to say, say it. So, I started doing on-air stuff with him. Then Brian James was doing nights. He’s a big voice guy, and we have him now for the Padres. I kind of side-kicked with him a little bit, too, playing parodies and just keeping my mic open. Then we got the Devil Rays, and they wouldn’t let me turn my mic on during that.
I was getting tired of running the board, so I moved into just production. That’s when I started working with Eric Chase, another god. He’s probably the best in the country, I think. This was in ’96 or ’97. I worked with him and tried to learn as much as I could. Then we had this guy, Cigar Dave, come over, and I started working with him. He has a syndicated show called “Smoke This,” which is pretty cool. He has something like seventy or eighty stations now. So I went back to running the board for Cigar Dave for extra money on the side and started using the parody writing skills to write songs for him about cigars and little bits like that. That’s an on-going thing; I still work for him doing beds and such. He’s getting hooked up with Premier now, and I’m doing the demo and all that stuff. My plate’s full. So basically, I’ve been real lucky to work with the best in the business all the way around.
JV: When did you get to San Diego?
Mike: Last August. I saw the opening in one of the magazines and figured, what the hell, give it a shot. Glad I did now. It’s a great town. I talked to Gabe about it, and I guess he thought I was ready. By then, he’d already moved on to become the national guy over all the news/talks, including KOGO, so he made a couple of phone calls and found out about it. I sent the guy my demo, and the rest is history.
JV: How many stations are you involved with, and what are your responsibilities?
Mike: There are three stations: KOGO, which is the News/Talk, KSDO which we just turned into sort of a Hot Talk, and KPOP, which is like a Big Band type of station, but I don’t do too much with that. My assistant, Brian Main, handles KPOP, and I handle the other two. Plus I’m still doing some stuff for “Smoke This.” And we share stuff, too. For example, I handle the News/Talk station in Santa Barbara, one in Portland, and one in Charleston. And we send stuff back and forth over the Internet. We have our own website for inter-company use where we can post our promos and post mix-outs of them.
JV: You post mix-outs of promos for other Clear Channel stations to use?
Mike: Yes. For example, our main voice is Nick Michaels. So you do a Rush Limbaugh promo, and you’ll put your version up there, then one without the call letters, and then one with no Nick at all in case you have a different voice for your station. So, we share stuff around the country constantly. I’ll send it out to Jim Cook in Atlanta. He’ll post it up there for me, and he’ll use it there. The guy in Salt Lake or whoever needs it will go up to the site and grab it. It’s pretty cool. We’ve got a pretty good system going now. Also, we have the Prophet system, and once you load the promo in Prophet, you can just hit “transmit” and send it off to whatever market you’re hooked up with. It’s making the world a smaller place for us.
JV: Are all the stations connected through the Prophet system?
Mike: In one way or another. Not every single one of them. You have to call up Prophet, and they’ll set the paths for you. But if I send it to Atlanta, he’s hooked up with stations I’m not, so he can send it out or put it up on the site, and individual stations can go to the site and grab it.
JV: Is the Prophet system itself connected to the Internet?
Mike: I think it’s more of an intranet, like a wide area network deal. When we first got it, everyone was like, “Oh, we’re going to lose our jobs. Jocks are going to lose their jobs. This is going to suck for everybody.” But it’s really turned out to be a very handy system. And we save money on ISDN sessions and Fedexing things overnight. We keep everything within the company. We’re set up to these main hub markets. Then you have little spoke markets off that where a jock in Tampa can handle something in Louisville or Sarasota or wherever. For example, I can do stuff from here for various stations on the West Coast, whether it’s production or jocks voice-tracking a show from a couple hundred miles away.
JV: Well, you’ve been like “Mr. Parody Man” for the past decade. Are you a musician?
Mike: I play a little guitar. Mostly, I write the lyrics. Now I just pay someone to sing them for me. I used to send a lot of stuff out to Satellite Comedy Network in New York.
JV: Where do you go or what do you do to get the creative juices flowing?
Mike: You just look at things from a different angle. I don’t know if you actually get it from anywhere. It’s sort of already in you, I guess. And it helped working with some really creative people like Eric Chase and seeing how they do things, working with Bubba and seeing the way he or some of the other guys on the show would come up with things.
It’s a lot easier if somebody gives you an idea like, “I need a lesbian theme song for Lesbian Tuesday.” You just start going through the music library. Cigar Dave might need a cigar song. He likes Frank Sinatra stuff, so I’ll go through my KPOP library in Prophet and listen to songs and listen to the hooks and just see what comes out. Most recently we did “Cheek to cheek, lighting up with the General once a week,” or something like that. A little on the cheesy side, but you get the idea. Someone sort of plants the idea, and you just go out and figure out how you’re going to present it in a funny way and see what seems to fit. I don’t know if there’s any set formula. It just happens. It seems right, it sounds right, so you do it. You cross your fingers.
JV: Do you have any other responsibilities for the stations other than the imaging for the two stations you mentioned?
Mike: No, not really. I just send them promos and keep their local stuff up to date. In Charleston right now, we’re changing the voice on WSC. So, from top to bottom, everything’s got to be changed—new IDs, new promos, new little liners and all that.
JV: Sounds like a pretty hectic schedule.
Mike: Yeah, it can be. You go through phases. I’ll get that project done, and I’ll slide for a couple of weeks and concentrate on KOGO. Then something else will pop up.
JV: KOGO is a monster station in the market. Tell us a bit about the on-air lineup.
Mike: It’s a typical Clear Channel cookie cutter thing. We have a morning news magazine with Paul Harvey, local news and various segments—the Rush Limbaugh moment, the Dr. Laura moment, all that. Then it’s Rush Limbaugh from nine until noon, “The Rest of the Story” is at noon, and then it’s into Dr. Laura from noon until three. Then Roger Hedgecock, who’s like a legend in this town, comes on. He’s huge. He was the Mayor some fifteen years ago, and now he’s the talk show host here in town. He’s kicking ass. People in this town seem to love him. It’s a real conservative town. Then after him, it’s Michael Reagan. We did have a night guy, Rick Roberts, but he’s across the street now just because we’ve got the Padres—there’s no sense keeping a guy around at night because most of the time he’s going to be booted because of the games. So, unfortunately, we lost him. He’s a killer talent. Then overnight it’s Mike Siegel.
JV: Let’s talk about the promo you did that won Best Promo, Major Markets. “KOGO Is In Love With You” is the title of the promo, and this one is not a parody. It’s simply a good script, well-performed and well-produced.
Mike: Yeah. That was with Nick Michaels, and he’s probably one of the best voice talents out there—the most believable. He’s just incredible. I always look forward to the sessions with him every week. You always get something out of it. It’s not just another guy reading what you put in front of him. He’ll bring something to the table. Both that promo and the one that won 1st Runner-up, “More Than News,” were definitely collaborative efforts with Nick. I don’t even remember how “KOGO Is In Love With You” came up exactly. It was just during a session. I might have written one thing, and it came out another way. You just start building on it, and before you know it, you’ve got something like that. The guy’s really twisted and goes more for trying to tickle the listener’s brain rather than trying to throw a bunch of facts, spieling slogans at him. I hate that stuff. It’s like the worst you can do. We’re trying to get away from some of that, and he’s amazing to work with. The guy is so talented.
That other promo, “More Than News” is the one where the little surfer dude is like, “…I don’t really do anything with the news. I just drive around in the van and pick up chicks.” I did one like that back in Tampa with our engineer. It was along the lines of, “People make this station work, people like engineer Paul Sliwa.” And Paul goes, “I don’t do nothing with the damn news. I just fix s#&t!” I just adapted it for use here. And we used to use Paul Sliwa for all kinds of stuff because he’s such a character—real thick Boston accent, a blue-collar type of guy. He’s a kick-ass engineer, too. He’s the computer guy there now, and they still use him for stuff.
JV: Where is Nick based out of?
Mike: Nick works out of Miami. He’s a big voice. He does CNN, and he does almost all of our news/talk stations. I also have David Lee. He’s like my top of the hour, big booming, straight ahead announcer guy. We also have Brian James for the Padres.
I can only use Brian on the Padres because he’s already on Extra Sports here. They let me use him for the Padres because he sounded just kick ass on the Devil Rays in Tampa, and I wanted to use him here, too. Nick’s used mainly for image stuff and the promos. David Lee does the newsy type serious stuff, and I’ve got Dan Taylor who does KPOP and some of the promos on KOGO. Now I’ve got him on KTMS and WSC also, so I’m starting to use him more for that stuff. Then for KSDO, which is our new Hot Talk, I’m using J.P. Shayne who has sort of a rock and roll sound, which sounds good on a Hot Talk. And he’s fun to work with, too.
JV: Which of these guys do you brainstorm with the most?
Mike: Nick’s the main one I work with on copy. We e-mail stuff back and forth during the week. He doesn’t like the way radio sounds right now, and frankly, neither do I. For example, saying we’re the news leader, we’re this, we’re that—just being real cocky and egotistical. I mean, there are so many other sources for information these days that the listeners don’t want to hear that from a radio station. If you do it, you’re going to lose people real quick. So, we’re trying to get away from that, and we’re trying to give it a different twist.
Take for instance that “whassup” video that’s been going around, the Budweiser frogs, all that stuff. None of those ever mention Budweiser. They don’t mention the hops, the barley and how refreshing they are, but everyone knows it’s a Budweiser commercial. That’s the best way to describe what I’m trying to do with the talk stations, what Nick’s trying to do—just add a different, clever kind of image that no one else is doing.
Working with Eric Chase and Nick Michaels is great. They’re both just like the best at what they do. I’m really lucky to get to work with them. And I’m still learning. There are a lot of other people out there better than me. I’m just lucky to work with people like these guys.
JV: How many promos and parodies of this caliber would you say you are producing in the course of a week?
Mike: Like the ones I did for the RAP Awards? I try to knock out at least one promo like that a week if I can, maybe two. Sometimes I’ll hear something Eric did, and I’ll try to adapt it or twist it around for use here. As far as parody songs, I miss doing that stuff. I just don’t have the time. Cigar Dave wants me to do one a month, which I’ve been slacking on, but I’ll probably get back on that.
Everything goes through phases here. You get stuck doing certain things. We just had all the Padre stuff to do, and that takes a week to go through and get everything down right. They just restarted KSDO and turned that to a Hot Talk two weeks ago. My next big project is redoing WSC in Charleston. That’ll take a while, and it has to be done by June 1st.
JV: What DAW are you working on?
Mike: Spectral. It works for what I’m doing, but I’m looking forward to when we get the new building because I’m getting a ProTools system, and that will let me do so much more. Spectral is cool for what I’m doing—I don’t want to slam it too hard—but it can be a pain.
When I first got here they had an Audicy in here, which was an updated DSE7000. I just couldn’t get into that, and I know a lot of guys out there love it. My commercial production guys here love it. They’re all over it. Jim Cook in Atlanta uses it. But I just never really got into it. So Rock 105 had this Spectral setting over there, and I talked them into trading with me. You can do some stuff on it, but if I had ProTools, I could have so much more fun. I initially learned on a DM80, which is even more of a dinosaur than the Spectral. I’m really itching to get that ProTools system. Just hearing the stuff that Eric does…it just smokes. You can even make your own sound effects. In fact, when I left, I snagged a whole CD worth of his sound effects that he’s made, and they’re incredible. He could put out his own Killerhertz CD like Jeff Thomas did.
JV: Speaking of libraries, which ones do you like to use?
Mike: I found a good production library. It’s Brown Bag’s Firepower,and I’m loving it. They’ve got some good stuff. They’ve been good for your newsy type stuff, real urgent sounding beds and occasional sound effects, but Firepower’s a killer. They give you two different beds on every CD with mix out versions. So you get a full mix and one with just the bass line, one with just drums. Then you can mix things up and use them however you want in your promos. You get movie drops, sound effects and all kinds of stuff. It’s a barter deal and you get a new CD every two weeks.
Now, the problem is, if I do something here using Firepower, and I want to send it out to, say, Charleston, I can’t do it because they don’t have the library. I think their competition has Firepower, so I can’t use the stuff. Then I have to dig something else up, or just not use a production library at all, or just use Eric’s stuff.
JV: How would you advise someone who wants to crank out some good parodies to get started?
Mike: Just go do it. Just go through some songs. Make friends with the local karaoke shop. We’ve got this place in Tampa, Laser Tech Karaoke, and they give us whatever we want for free. We just give them an occasional mention or bring them cigars from Cigar Dave, and the guys can give them whatever they want. Just listen to stuff, and if an idea comes, just start writing. Just throw it down on paper. There’s a lot of stuff I listen to now, and I’m embarrassed by it. But it was a matter of experimentation.
JV: And you mentioned you hire singers these days?
Mike: Now I do, yeah. If I write something for Cigar Dave, I have Eric sing it or this other guy at Parody Central, Mike Scott. His imitations are fantastic. I’d put him up with Rich Little. That’s just because I know him, but he’s really good. He can do a great Rush Limbaugh, and he actually fooled our PD a couple of times calling up as Rush and calling up as Bruce Williams, just messing with him. He’s got a website, parodycentral.net, and he has a couple of demos on there. I think he has some stuff with Bubba the Love Sponge in there, too, where he plays a crack whore. He does a woman, then it sounds like the phone’s being taken away from her. And it’s him again as her husband or boyfriend or something. His voices are really good. You just work with people like that, talented people. You recognize their talent and just stick with them.
JV: Do you have a studio at home, or is all your work done at the station?
Mike: It’s all here at the station. I have a notebook at home and a guitar, but I really don’t play my parodies. I listen to the song over and over, listen to the hook and just write it from there. I don’t really play my own music or anything.
JV: Do your parodies evolve from the hook of the song?
Mike: Yeah, that’s where the main idea is going to come from. I think the last parody-type dirty song I did was last year. Eminem had that song called “My Name Is,” and it kind of sounds like “my anus.” So I did a song about farting. I think I did that back in October or November. Coming to think of it, when I first got the Internet here in my studio, I was clicking on different stations and came across WQAM in Miami. I was listening to Neil Rogers, and he was actually playing my parody. He got it off SatCom, a satellite comedy network that I sold it to. It was cool just to click on at that moment and hear him playing it.
I got like a hundred and fifty bucks for it, and that’s another thing that drove me. I wasn’t making squat as a board-op. SatCom will pretty much buy anything because they really need bits bad. So I used to write stuff and send it off to them and make my car payment. It was a good service, though, because all affiliates are sending stuff in from different stations. You get tons of different voices and different talents.
JV: How has your style of production changed over the years?
Mike: I think it’s gotten a little tighter. I’m not sure. I have a style which is pretty much just the way I think I ought to sound. People seem to like it, so I stick with it. Again, there’s a lot of influence from Eric. He’s pretty much the one who taught me what imaging was, sitting there watching over his shoulder for a couple of hours at a time, watching him do stuff, watching how he writes. I try to be like him, not imitate him, but just try and think and be as clever as him.
Nick Michaels as well. The cool thing about Nick is that he’ll tell you if something sucks. A lot of voice guys will just read whatever you put in front of them. But Nick will say, “This is stupid. Let’s do it this way.” And you just kind of work back and forth. I suppose my style evolves because I’m always trying to improve. That’s the one good thing about being an under-achiever, never thinking your stuff is good enough. You always want to be better, so you’re always trying to improve, to get to that next level.
JV: Where do you see the news/talk format heading in the next five years or so?
Mike: You know, that’s so hard to say with the way the Internet is blowing up—Internet radio, satellite radio, and all that. I think there’s always going to be a need, and it will always be here. But who’s going to be the next Rush? He isn’t going to be around forever. Dr. Laura isn’t going to be around forever. You just wonder who is going to replace them.
JV: The style of imaging on news/talk stations has really loosened up in the past decade. Wasn’t WFLA one of the first stations to really stretch that envelope?
Mike: I think ‘FLA was Gabe’s first talk station. I think he came from Kentucky or Y100 or something, back when all those Jacor boys came down and did the Power Pig. So, that mentality was in the building, and that was one of the cool things about having another station in the building. They jelled with each other, and stuff rubbed off.
We had Brian James voicing and producing the Power Pig. At the same time, he was doing ‘FLA also. So I think that’s where a lot of it sort of came from. Eric came from Cincinnati, at WEBN where he worked for Joel Moss, who is another god in production. So I think it was more like a Jacor thing, that attitude, that no holds barred “the noise you can’t ignore” type of thing.
JV: What’s down the road for you?
Mike: I’m just playing it day to day. As far as I can tell right now, I’m staying with the format and staying with the company. I really dig the format. You can do so much more than you probably could with a CHR or a rock station. I’d still like to build something at home just to experiment and play around with stuff that I can’t do here. But as far as I can tell, everything is looking good and coming up roses for me right now.