JV: Do you remember how the concept for that Eccentrics spot came about?
Steve: That’s an interesting story actually. They told me this guy was eccentric. He’s a multi-millionaire who owned a chain of bookstores and sold them out to a big national chain and then opened this smaller store, Eccentrics. It has just about everything you can imagine – they’ve got books, CDs… well the commercial lists it all. They said the guy was eccentric and the best way to deal with the spot was to just go down there and see the place. So I took a legal pad down there and walked around in the store, writing down everything that I saw. They told me the guy was weird and to make the commercial over the top. So I did. My original idea was to make it a polka. But after I got started with it I thought, “No, this doesn’t work right.” Dave Zimmer has set me up with the equipment to create jingles and to record music right here in the production room — we’ve got a full music production facility here. So I recorded that punk music bit and then sat down with the tablet of paper and started singing. Then I’d stop and re-arrange the clips a little bit and so on. That one basically wrote itself.

JV: The other winner you had this year was a promo for ESPN. It was called “Balls” and started out with just a lot of sound effects of different balls in the beginning. How did that concept come about?
Steve: I was working on another project, actually a promo for our ESPN station, and came across the sports sound effects. I was looking at the list and I said, “You know what? It would be kind of neat to put all of these in one promo and not say anything until the very end.” So that’s how that one came about. I found the basketball dribbling sound effect, and it was rhythmic, and right there the light bulb came on over my head. I said, “Oh, yeah. Start that ball bouncing and then just add some other sports sound effects in a rhythmic pattern!”

JV: Do you find “rhythm” to be a big part of most commercials that you create?
Steve: A lot of them. I’ve had the sellers say, “Steve, we’re going to have to talk on this one instead of singing okay.” My first instinct is to make everything musical, and to me it just makes sense. You’re listening to the radio for the music. When you go to the spot break, why not have some more entertaining music instead of an announcer yelling a bunch of numbers at you?

JV: More music but this time with a message embedded.
Steve: Right. Like the Freeman Urgent Care spots I did. I developed a whole campaign for them. We started off with those goofy little bouncy 2/4 rhythms and the goofy voice and they loved it. We ran that for a while and they said, “You know what? We’re going to have to change it up. Do you have anything else in mind?” I said, “Well, I’ve always had a hankering to do an Elvis spot.” So then we did a bunch that were real rock-a-billy sounding and they loved those. They’ve been extremely effective for them. [Elvis spot featured on April 2006 RAP CD.]

JV: I’m guessing these musical or jingle type spots have worked better for your clients than other types?
Steve: Yes. I’ve found that if I can stick something in their head that won’t go away, whether they like it or not, it’s going to work. I’ve had some people say that the Freeman Urgent Care spot is absolutely annoying to them, but they can recite the words. So I believe it’s working. I love to create the jingles because I think if you can stick it in somebody’s head to where it just won’t go away, then you’re delivering the message whether they like it or not.

JV: Sounds like something Roy Williams would agree with.
Steve: Yes. That was something I was enlightened to when I first came here to Zimmer. I’d never heard of Roy Williams until I got here, and they provided me with the books of his stuff — an unbelievable influence that had on me. The first one I read was the Secret Formulas, and I loved it so much I read it four times before I gave it back. It has a lot of great insight on Broca’s area of the brain and all that stuff I never even thought about. But yeah, if you can tickle Broca’s area and at the same time put something in there, it’ll just stick in your head.

JV: Tell us about your studios.
Steve: It’s all very nice stuff here. We have a Wheatstone board. We use Adobe Audition 2.0, which, when it came out, I could not believe how much cooler it is than 1.5. The mixer window alone is just fantastic. I crawl inside that program I love it so much. We use Scott Studio 32 in all the studios. We’ve got two production rooms and they’re identical, and six air studios that are all identical. That’s one thing that I really like about Zimmer; their equipment is all top notch and it’s all identical, so you can walk into any of the rooms and know all the equipment.

When I first came here I told them I had the abilities to make jingles, but I didn’t have the equipment. They said, “Well, what do you need?” So they bought a Korg Triton which is a very nice synthesizer and sequencer, which enabled me to program all the drums and horns and whatnot. They also provided an outboard Soundcraft mixer and some small diaphragm condenser microphones for miking acoustic instruments and such. They set me up with everything I needed, tube compressors and Lexicon reverb, everything to make these jingles, and it’s paid off. We’ve got quite a few jingles on the air here in this market. As a matter of fact, I made one for Shake’s Frozen Custard that went regional. It’s playing in seven markets now. So were trying to branch out a little bit.