Q It Up: Who Were Your Mentors? What person or people most influenced your skills? This doesn’t necessarily have to be someone you knew personally or worked with. Maybe it’s just someone whose work influenced you, simply by hearing and studying it. And what is one or more of the biggest things you learned from this person or persons that has helped shape your style and skillset?
Steve Mitchell: Stan Freberg. I heard his song parodies and later his commercials, which really got me interested in doing production more than being "on the air". Then the Chicago Radio Syndicate came along. After hearing Dick, Burt and Jane, needless to say, I was HOOKED. I didn't try to copy their style, but tailored their writing and cadence into mine.
For me, it was a mixture of early Z100 (‘80s, ‘90s) and definitely Radio Veronica (Netherlands) in the 1990s, especially Robert Jensen who was PD and doing imaging from ’94 tot ‘00. We worked together a lot when I came into this business and still do.
I also listened to a lot of ReelWorld, especially the demos that came out between 1996-2006 -- a very unique and fresh style.
AND last but not least, NRJ France, between 1996 and 2001 was absolutely amazing. They had a time when they had screaming vocals go over songs from the Chemical Brothers, added some of those typical old school quotes and drops, and turned that into 20-30 sec jingles, which most of the time, ended with a huge bang or 10 sec down filter. Unbelievable fireworks on the air! Everything beat matched and sounded bigger than anything I’ve ever heard since. I still think the French have a great ear for production.
Todd Broady: There are 2 people who influenced my skills. First, Dan Berggren, retired Communications Professor at SUNY Fredonia. He formed my knowledge of radio and deepened my love of it. He is a true audiophile that really made me look at what I was producing but knew enough to keep his hands off and let me do it even if it sucked. He was always there for advice, and to this day I consider him a mentor as well as a friend.
And 2nd, Jim Pastrick. I was a production intern under Jim at WNYS HOT 104 in Buffalo. Jim formed my view of commercial radio and how PROduction should be done. I would sit in the Production Studio with Jim and watch him work the Otari 4-track… slip queue a record and listen to his inflection on commercials. Then as soon as he left, I’d jump in the chair and try to duplicate what he did. Notice I said try!
It was a truly amazing time, and I know I would not be where I am today without these two mentors in my life. And I’m very thankful that I can call them friends as well.
Gary Michaels, WASK, WKOA, WKHY, WXXB, ESPN, Lafayette, IN: There's always too many people to mention and thank, but I most gratefully attribute my career to Prof. LeRoy Bannerman of Indiana University. In 1980, he offered an 'experimental' course in advanced multi-track production to 20 hand-picked students, and I made the cut. Intense 6 weeks of engineering followed by 6 weeks of mic dynamics, effects, voice technique and multi-track tricks, and then a final 6 weeks of grueling daily production projects, from simple 30 second commercials to hour-long documentaries. I learned more in that one class than all my other courses combined. Only 9 students finished the class, and I finished with the highest grade - a B+. My hands-on knowledge from that one class has made all the difference in where I am today thanks to a professor who had passion and loved audio production.
Chuck Taylor, KHYI 95.3 The Range, Dallas, TX: Probably one of the biggest influences on my production style is Gene Wooten, who was Production/Creative Services Director at WPLJ from 1985-2002. I never physically met Gene, but early in my career, I worked at KBYB in El Dorado, AR as Program Director and our GM Craig Dale knew Gene.
We had a great summer promotion that I had come up with, the biggest thing the little town of El Dorado had ever seen at that point. Craig said we needed Gene to produce the spots, so we got on the phone and Gene got what we were going for. The production he put together made the contest sound bigger than life, and he did that by creating images with sound. I always strive to make that a part of my production. We only have so long to get their attention or to create a feeling or a mood, and you can do that with sound effects and ambiance far more effectively than just slapping a music bed underneath a dry read.
Ben LuMaye, BenLuMayeCreative: I have had many mentors and influences throughout my career. If I had to pick one, it would be Nick Michaels. Nick is was of the most creative and passionate forces in the broadcast universe. He taught me the importance of writing, great writing, compelling writing... It's the writing that makes an emotional connection with the listener. He taught me that in an over communicated world, a whisper becomes a scream. He taught me how to respect the listener and value their time, and that they are way smarter than we give them credit for. Never talk down to them. Never tell them what to do. Always put them first. Thanks Nick!
CJ Goodearl, www.cjvoices.com: Jeff Laurence, for showing that you can actually get paid for VO, and for scouting out the best BBQ joints for lunch! Zak Miller, same, but change the second part to cold beer.
Love you guys! They continue to kick ass, and that kicks me in the ass.
For commercial copywriting, production, sense of fun, it all goes back to Stan Freberg. We should all bow down to Stan THE MAN.
Work hard, make time for fun, and keep your sense of humor. Super-serve your clients. Words to live by!
Dave Calvert: For me it was Terry O’Malley, who was the Chairman and Creative Director of Vickers & Benson Advertising. He’s a member of the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends, for good reason - his ads are legendary. (He was the first Canadian to write a commercial that made it into the Clio Advertising Hall of Fame.)
Most importantly, he showed me that it’s possible to be a nice guy and work in advertising. He tries to live by these words: “Always do a favour. Never bear a grudge.” I wish I could be as magnanimous AND as talented as Mr. O’Malley.
Dave Cockram, Indie88, Toronto, ON: In my early days I went to a lot of different radio stations to see how they did it. I sat in with other producers or sent them stuff of mine to review.
To name a few of those producers, it would have been Dan Kirkness, Ryan Stockert, John Masecar, Trevor Shand and Mike Sherlock. When you first start out you have no experience and not much confidence, so you mainly just copy people -- which isn’t wrong. But I think that mentality hinders creative growth. You have to know the rules in order to break them, that’s true. The downside of this approach is that radio in general just ends up sounding the exact same and there’s no real progress. “Make it bigger, copy that EQ, more LASERS!”
It wasn’t well into my time at JACK FM when I tried doing the opposite of what everyone else was doing.
After producing artist liner montages and hokey game show spots for 10 years, you start asking yourself, “is this really all there is to prod?” The advice people should be getting is, “Do whatever you want… if it is good… we will put it on the air”.
While most radio stations relied heavily on stagers and FX, I really tried only cutting sounds that were relevant to Howard Cogan’s scripts. Often times just background sound effects and ambience. If it was summer and he was talking about Speedos on the beach, I just cut beach SFX. That’s it. I tried to physically place the voice talent at the location he was talking about. I wouldn’t cut any sound the script didn’t call for unless it absolutely needed something. I was often told my work sounded boring, however, it did differentiate us from the competition. You weren’t bombarded with explosions between every song.
I guess my long winded point here is the best advice I ever got was from Ryan Stockert. “There’s no wrong way to do it, it’s just about preference and what you think sounds the best”.
Corey Coldwell, Arctic Radio, Thompson, MB: Who has influenced me most? That's a pretty tough question to answer. I would say there have been multiple influences, going all the way back to when I was just a kid. The first influence for me without a doubt is the guy who first made me interested in radio... George Noory from Coast to Coast AM. He is the ultimate storyteller! Another great storyteller that has influenced me tremendously is Frank Zappa. Whether he is singing about yellow snow or wet t-shirt contests, his choice of wording is always enough to capture my attention... Plus, he's weird. Weird is good.
Back to the radio side of things, Jim Rome is another person who has influenced me. His hardworking, never give up attitude seems to be exactly what it takes to be successful in this industry. Last but certainly not least, is my former production teacher at SAIT, Richard Stroobant. Richard's insane attention to every single detail in a commercial production has made me a better writer, producer and perfectionist. Because Richard would never accept less than 110%, he has made it so I also will never accept less than 110%. The thing is, if you ask me again in a year I will have many more influences. That's just how art works.
Gary McClenaghan, Bell Media, Edmonton, AB: Well, personally, I’ve had a few people I listened to and kind of spoke to me through their work. John Frost is first and foremost my favorite producer, mostly because I felt his sense of humor best matched my own. A truly disturbed mind in sound design. Technically speaking, no one person developed my sound. It would have been more of a mix of many -- i.e. Eric Chase, Dave Foxx. The same as everyone else, I’m sure. Ultimately, whom I am producing makes the ultimate difference. Not every voice talent can be utilized the same way, so working with as many different voice talents as possible has been a huge way to develop my range of production.
Gord Williams: This is a brain twister. Who are my mentors? When it comes to audio recording I am self- taught for the most part. I can credit many videos from people like Ben Loftis of Harrison and some of their commissioned videos as well, to help me figure it out. But in the main, I heard a mysteriously developed sound and tried to emulate it.
I would also have to credit numerous articles in print, on the Internet, and other places when it comes to theory.
Mic positioning for vocal I learned by experimentation and quite often by going against the rules during the days when I thought my voice wasn't big enough. So I in a word ate the mic at many stations with less than satisfactory results. Partly because I was hyper critical of myself and partly because the sonic qualities of the production room, in another word, were poor.
Some broadcast equipment was "rescued from the Titanic" as we put it. I remember some of the reel-to-reel machines did not work for a long time in the on air studio because they could not find replacement amplifier tubes for them. We invented ways to play Christmas shows, commercial islands, and other elements with one deck instead of two.
I think this leads up to the biggest mentor was necessity. My Mom and probably yours because we all have at least met if not lived with the mother of invention.