JV: What about housing?
Andrew: Everything goes by square foot here, and the high density of population here means that everything is really, really built up. I’m one of the few who actually has a house on a piece of land. Most people live in a box in the sky. The average price for a condominium — let’s say maybe 2,000 square footage — you’d be looking at about a million Singapore dollars. So it’s comparable to all the major cities in the world. It’s like New York. It’s London. It’s Sidney in terms of pricing.
JV: Congratulations on your RAP Awards trophy, by the way. It’s a PSA for the MILK Compassion Fund. Tell us a little bit about the fund, and then tell us about the creative process on that piece.
Andrew: Thank you very much. MILK the charity, “Mainly I Love Kids.” Every year, all of the stations within MediaCorp adopt a charity. Once every two years that is rotated, and this was our second year of having MILK on board. Mainly I Love Kids is helping children from all walks of life, mainly those from disadvantaged homes, and the Compassion Fund they had recently set up as a way for people to be able to donate to help kids who were having troubles at home financially.
As far as the creative process goes, “M.I.L.K./David” was actually part of a series. The wife of a major politician here also runs the charity, so she and a few of the other office staff all came in to read their little scripts. David was actually the first cab off the rank; they wanted to have a little kid on board. He came in with his little script all ready to read and everything, but as soon as he walked in the door, this little kid was just jumping off the walls. He couldn’t contain himself. He was doing everything he could to make all of the faders on the mixer light up like a Christmas tree, and he was just as chatty as heck. He wanted to play with all of the computers. I think within about ten seconds I realized I was going to get most of the material from that and not from the little speech that they had him prepare. So I just hit record and let it run.
After that, it came time to edit it down. As a lot of your readers will know, when a promo starts writing itself, you really just sit back and let it happen. This was one of those cases. It was actually surprisingly an emotional experience for me as I was putting it together, and the rhythm of it just started to materialize. I started to actually get a little teary myself. I thought, if I’m the one producing it and have that objective point of view on the whole matter, and I’m starting to get emotionally affected… I knew I was on to something, and I knew at least the message would get across.
As far as the scripting for my part of the voicing went, that was actually one take, on the fly. I actually didn’t write anything down as a script. After what I’d cut up and edited and put in place of David already, it was just a case of hitting record. And I do this from time to time with a lot of work that I do. You’re really needing to communicate person to person, and when you script it out there’s always going to be something that pops up that stilts the message. So from time to time, I’ll just hit record. I’ll just say what I need to say and then go back and edit it if necessary. Fortunately, this one didn’t require any editing. Like I said before, it just really wrote itself.
JV: What resources do you use to ignite some of the ideas you use in your work? How do you get the creative juices flowing?
Andrew: Well, apart from being an avid Radio And Production Magazine reader [thanks!], the ideas just come from everywhere. I think you cannot close yourself off to any source, and I mean any source. So often we’ll troll around other radio stations online to see what’s going on, and I do that. And that’s a fantastic thing. My clock radio has Internet radio, so now I can listen to anything, and that’s a fantastic way just to hear different things. But I don’t think that always really works, and one should always endeavor to never take other people’s ideas as much as possible. That’s where you really have to start looking around.
I don’t think it’s just pop culture that provides a lot of inspiration, and I don’t think it’s just interpersonal relationships or the news headlines that provide all of the inspirations. There are so many strange and unthought-of sources. I’m not sure if it’s just simply my personality, but I think if you can’t find inspiration out of a packet of frozen peas in the supermarket or from a butterfly that’s sitting on a leaf in front of you, then you just need to look really, really long and hard. What I find in terms of inspiration is normally it comes to you if you just keep your eyes and your ears open.
JV: What are some of the more memorable moments you’ve had there in your 13 years in Singapore radio?
Andrew: There are a few. One big one for me was the launch of a station which took off in 2005 called Lush. It’s very rare that you get the chance to have a blank canvas to create a radio station, and it’s also very rare when you have a boss who trusts you and when you have a group of senior management and a board of directors who are too busy with other things to really bother with what you’re doing. So we were able to fly under the radar with that. Back at the time, it was the first FM station in the world, to our recollection, that was playing the Chill format — new jazz, a dash of electro, essentially chill out music — and the imaging for that was a lot of fun.
Back in the days at community radio, for some reason I just loved finding old nonsense that was lying around, because everything, of course, was donation, so most of the records and CDs that we had all came out of secondhand sales, people’s garages, and even some of the older defunct commercial stations would just unload stock on us. So we had all of these old carts and reel-to-reel tapes. I amassed this huge collection which I transferred digitally. I’ve got LPs of Mohammed Ali and Jimmy Carter preaching the evils of drugs. I’ve got some series from the 1950s, a woman called Katie telling you how to cook up a really nice rabbit and how the price of bread in the year 2000 will be $10 and all this sort of stuff, a lot of weird and quirky things which I was able to then throw into the mix along with some liners and promos that really hit our core audience.
The target was very high net worth, so with the format that we created, before we even launched in fact, based on the test transmissions alone, we had Mercedes-Benz, United Overseas Bank, a lot of the phone companies. Everyone had come on board. The test transmissions aspect was a big thing for me. It was eight full hours of production bordering on the surreal for the most part. I had the engineers down in the basement calling me up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning a couple of times saying, “I think there’s something wrong with your test transmission,” and I’m assuring them that, no, it was all perfectly intentional. I was just messing around with phasing and levels and things like that. That was quite a trip to have that going, and the buzz was enormous. It was amusing.
JV: Now when you say eight hours of production, do you mean eight hours of finished audio?
Andrew: Yes. Eight hours of finished audio. And the inspiration, obviously, is from those legendary Virgin test transmissions where I don’t think 15 seconds go by that something new isn’t happening. Of course the tone wasn’t heritage rock. The tone was kind of kitsch, chic, urban living so to speak. It was certainly a little more out there than what our audience was ready for, but they lapped it up, so that was fun.