R.A.P. Interview: Chris Pottage

JV: So Power 92 was the first station you dealt with, then came two more. Is that correct?
Chris: Yes. And now there are four. Power 92 was the first, and I should also tell you that Power 92 only existed for about three weeks. It was probably the shortest lived name for a radio station ever. They kept the same format, but they flipped names for a whole bunch of reasons, to KISS 92. So KISS 92 was the first station that I was involved with. And then the other two that I was Production Director for were 680 News and CHFI, which, for a long, long time was the biggest radio station in Toronto, an AC station. They had huge numbers forever and a day. I think that lasted for about 13 or 14 years. It’s only recently that they’ve fallen out of the number one position. So, there's CHFI, 680 News, which was Canada’s first all news radio station, and then the new station that we added on two years ago, The Fan, which is an all sports talk station.

JV: Are you doing the imaging for all these stations now?
Chris: I do a little bit of imaging for all of them. Primarily I do imaging for what was KISS 92, which is now Jack FM. I produced all the launch imaging for Jack FM in Vancouver a year and a half ago. Vancouver shortly thereafter sort of bolted to the number one position in the market, and I think they were close to the bottom before that. They had massive numbers. It wasn’t long after that that I did all the launch production for Jack FM in Calgary, and they too went virtually to number one overnight. And then I launched Jack FM in Toronto and did that with about 30 hours notice. Now I was lucky because I could reuse a lot of what I’d done before, just re-edit and remix for us. So it became Jack FM, about a year ago now, and I’ve launched a couple of other Jack stations in Canada since then. It’s been six total.

JV: Jack FM has a unique style of imaging, which readers can check out on the RAP CD. Are you also writing the copy for Jack FM imaging?
Chris: No. The guy who is the main imaging force for Jack FM, from a writing perspective, is Greg Stevens. I’ve worked with Greg now for about seven years straight. He was with me at CISS Country and then the KISS Top 40, and now Jack FM. He’s the main imaging guy in fact, not only for Jack, but for all four stations in Toronto. He also does special projects across the country for Rogers. I think Greg’s title is National Imaging Director, and he’s one of the best I’ve ever worked with. Of all the stuff I’ve ever listened to, he’s as good as they get.

JV: What’s the general concept or approach that Greg takes, that the Program Director takes, through him to achieve what you do with those promos and other imaging elements?
Chris: Greg and I have a lot of latitude when we’re doing the imaging for Jack, which is my focus. But for all the radio stations, including CHFI, when Greg Stevens writes this stuff, he doesn’t tend to write things straight. Most of the copy will be straight, but he wants to have some kind of throw away in there, some kind of reality check, you know, pull back the curtain and see the real person standing there saying, “What, are you kidding me? That’s the prize?” or whatever it happens to be in Jack’s case. Jack FM is a very irreverent kind of radio station. You’re always going for the gag on Jack. For example, “It’s the Dock Rock Long Weekend on Jack FM! Yeah, Dock Rock. We tried to come up with a better idea, but all the smart people took Friday off.” Or stuff like, “Hang on, hang on. I got an idea.” And then a splitter would stop down, and then there would be literally two seconds of dead air, and then the voice would come back and say, “Sorry. That wasn’t me.”

Everything on that radio station is playful, and Greg is particularly sort of gifted at writing playful stuff for the radio station. Maybe one of the funnier promos was “The top 1,257 songs of all time, played in no particular order, commercial free, with occasional commercial interruptions.” It was an entire promo about the philosophy of Jack FM, that Jack FM is a radio station that plays whatever it wants. It doesn’t have a top 40, a top 100 or a top 1,000. It plays the greatest music, and that’s that. So, enter the idea of having a top 1,257 songs of all time, in no particular order. And I think we actually had eight versions of the same promo, and each one had this countdown starting at different times during the weekend, just to see if anybody actually ever got the joke. And a few people e-mailed or called and said, “When does the countdown start?” when in reality, of course, there is no countdown.

That’s the fun of Jack. CHFI is a little bit straighter, but still with a tiny bit of that Jack fun in there. It’s obviously an AC radio station, so it’s very family oriented, very family safe, and they wouldn’t say anything that would be disrespectful to parents or embarrass them around their kids, where Jack might walk that line a little bit more. The Fan, of course, is a sports talk radio station, so they can afford to push that line a fair bit more – “a station with balls.” They push that edge. And then there’s our all news radio station, 680 News. Their imaging, I think, is particularly sort of fun for an all talk news station. All talk news says to me, it’s going to be boring, it’s going to be conservative, it’s going to be dry with very basic generic intros to their programming, when in fact, a lot of their stuff has a fair bit of fun. One splitter was, “Of course it’s all true. We couldn’t make this kind of bleep up.” Or, “We’ll tell you where to get off. Excuse me! Traffic on the ones on 680 News.” There is just a bunch of those splitters, which I think sets that station apart from most news stations out there.

JV: How many producers and writers are on staff there for all four stations?
Chris: We’ve got six fulltime producers here, and we’ve got five fulltime creative writers who write nothing but commercial products. We have one fulltime imaging writer for the four stations, and now he’s added on a few more players on to his team so he can do more national stuff. Toronto is a great, great radio market. And I say that because there’s just great radio being done all over this city. There are some really extraordinarily gifted producers in this city. And what that means for everybody else is that everybody else will have to keep up. That’s the great thing about working in Toronto: because the competition is just so intense, everybody has to do the same thing. You couldn’t get away running your ship too lean in this city in production and creative, unless you want to get clobbered by your competition. There is just too much good stuff being done. So, we’re fortunate for that, to be sure. The people over at Corus do some great work, as does Standard Radio.

Our producers are Greg MacDonald, and he’s the main imaging guy for CHFI. Stan Matecki, he’s the main imaging guy for The Fan, or for Fan promos anyway. Stu Hammill is the main imaging guy for 680 News. Robert Brown is sort of my backup for Jack FM imaging. He does a fair bit of that as well. And Kyle Taylor does mainly commercials right now, but that’s only because we gave up the ghost on KISS Top 40. He’s a terrific CHR imaging guy. And the other guy who is doing a fair bit of imaging for The Fan right now is a guy named Ian Cunningham. Dylan Wowchuk is the full-time imaging producer of the CHFI Morning Show. He doesn’t report to me but I do spend a fair bit of time with him talking about how to best image the show. And every chance I get, I try to tell management how great these guys are because they save my butt on a regular basis.

JV: What’s one of the bigger promotions you’ve been involved with recently?
Chris: CHFI gave away $1 million about two weeks ago, $1 million [Canadian] to one listener, guaranteed.

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