R.A.P. Interview: Adam Burgess

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JV: You mentioned Pro Tools. Tell us about the studio and some of your favorite toys.
Adam: The studio here is running Pro Tools 7.3 off a Digi 002. Plug-ins-wise we have the Waves bundle, which is I guess the industry standard really. It’s fantastic. And on top of that, EQ/compression-wise, I really like the Focusrite stuff. I’ve got those as a kind of supplement to the Waves bundle, and Serato for beat matching and beat manipulation and stuff like that. I also have a studio at home that is a little different. For finalizing stuff at home I really like the TC stuff — TC Finalizer.

JV: What resources do you have on hand to work with, from your voice talent bank to your production libraries and online services?
Adam: On hand we have two daytime voices, one of whom is Dave Bethell. He is our male voice for the network. And Emma Vane is the female voice of the network. We have daily sessions with Dave, which can be anything from half an hour to two and a half hours long. He gets 40 pages sometimes. He’s doing a lot of radio stations, and it’s very time consuming and very tiring for him. But he’s brilliant, and he’s a great voice.

Emma does sessions once a week. Dave is the main voice, and Emma is the kind of the shade to his — the light and shade if you know what I mean — a backing voice that adds that bit of color.

For effects packages, there’s a guy called Ben Neidle who has produced an effects package called ID One, which is just brilliant. He is the old head of production for XFM in London. He kind of went off to start his own little production company and produced this sound effects package, and it’s mind blowing. I think it’s brilliant. It’s way up there with the likes of Chase Cuts and Killerhertz. So we got him to do some custom sounds for the re-brand, plus we have his library. I think there are 200 plus cuts, which include effects, drones, beds, all that kind of stuff.

That’s it. I know a few of the London stations have companies that sign up to services like Frostbytes and Chase Cuts, but the One Network doesn’t use any of that. It’s just that effects package, those voices, and that’s it.

JV: What is your approach to producing to a promo? Where do you start and when do you know it’s finished?
Adam: That’s a tough one because it’s quite organic. There’s no list that I’ll go through. I mean, the relevant pieces of information have to be in there, and then it’s just whatever feels good. My approach probably varies from promo to promo. If it’s a music based promo, then I’ll probably start with the music tracks first. If it’s for our Late Night Love show, then it’s more speech based, so you would concentrate on getting the information and the script and everything like that kind of settled first.

And then because it’s all so subjective, it’s just what feels right. Ideally I like to give myself 24 hours after I think I’ve finished something to go back to it and go, “Oh yeah that’s cool. I can deal with that. I can send that out to the radio stations.” Or I can listen to it a day later and go, “Ooh, why did I do that? I need to remix that again…,” or something.

JV: Are you typically given that kind of time to turn around a promo?
Adam: Sometimes. It varies. A lot of times you’ll get a rush job and that’s a bit of pain, but so be it.

JV: What amount of work would you say that you’re personally turning out in the course of a week?
Adam: I don’t think I could put a number on it. Some weeks it goes pretty quiet, which is quite nice because you can spend a little bit more time on some of the other projects that you are working on and give them a little bit more TLC. Other times it’s just all hands to the deck and you just got to produce your little heart out. Summer is usually quite busy. Around Christmas and the lead up to Christmas can be quite busy. And then it can Peter out for a few weeks and go a little bit quiet. The build up to Christmas can get busy when you start having guys either here or at local sites starting to take their holiday. Then you need to look after a little bit more work for them or take on more work from someone else. It gets a little bit frantic then, but that’s not too often.

JV: Have you had a chance to listen to North American radio at all? And if so, what was your impression of the imaging you heard compared to what you hear there in the UK?
Adam: I managed to listen to a little bit of radio when I was in LA last August. I went up there to the Dan O’Day production seminar and was very interested to see what KISS LA had to offer, what they were up to. I guess the other obvious one is Z100. I try to listen to a little bit of that streaming online. The imaging I generally hear, and certainly from something like Z100, is very big, and it sounds brilliant, which was quite different to what I felt that I heard from my snapshot of listening to radio in LA. I felt that was very fast paced and quick, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I was expecting a lot more kind of beat matching and that sort of intricate stuff going on. I didn’t really feel like that’s what I got from listening. There was great positive flow on the production, and technically it sounded really nice, but construction-wise, it wasn’t what I was expecting to hear. I’m in no way saying what I heard was bad or anything like that at all. It was really good. But it wasn’t quite what I was expecting that was all.

JV: How often do you have to go in and freshen up your promos and your IDs?
Adam: I guess it would depend on the burn factor. I mean if you’ve got a feature that’s running every day, Monday to Friday, then you’d want to refresh that every couple of weeks. It depends on how the production is scheduled. Some things like imaging packages could stay on air for six months, sometimes even a year. And that’s fine because it’s building that brand identity, so you don’t want to mess with it too quickly. I guess a good example of something that I’ve worked on recently would be this Late Night Love imaging package in which I’ve used a band called Massive Attack. They had a fairly big hit in the ‘90s called “Teardrop,” and it’s a beautifully emotive song with a lot of instrumental throughout. I started to use that as the theme to the show, and it’s just gone down so well. The presenter gets emails and phone calls actually saying, “What is this piece of music that you’re using?” It’s really kind of gelled itself in with the show and is part of the show now. So with something like that I guess you would change the voiceover over the top and update that kind of stuff, but you’d want to keep the song in there and keep the theme and the brand identity there for some time. If we were talking about daytime imaging packages, your generic IDs and sweepers, I think we would consciously try and update those probably once every three months.

JV: What are some of the bigger challenges you face on a regular basis there, besides Christmas?
Adam: I guess most recently the Hit 40 stuff was a big challenge. It was a very proud moment as well because it’s a chart show that I’ve listened to as a kid growing up. And it’s actually something that Ali had done a few years before me. I’d got to that stage where I was re-branding a national chart show, and wow, I was just over the moon with it. I was so proud.

There are some instances where the commercial radio sector will kind of try and challenge the BBC. I don’t know if you know much about the kind of rivalry or how UK radio works with that, but the BBC is…, I don’t want to say all powerful, but they’ve got fairly big budgets. They’ve got very good presenters and stuff. And every so often, commercial radio teams up together, and we’ll put on a show of some kind to try and rival that.

We did a Robbie Williams gig — he was live from Vienna — and I had to do the imaging for not only GCap but the old EMap group as well. We also did a show called the Vodafone Live Hour and Nokia Select, which are kind of live music shows, and those went out across the commercial radio network. I did the imaging packages for those. So every once in a while there’s some really big important stuff, and it’s such a thrill and a buzz to be working on that kind of stuff.

JV: Well you’ve worked for the network and you’ve also worked for individual stations. Which one do you like best, working for the individual station or the network?
Adam: Oh that’s tough. They both have their pros and cons. I love the fact that I’m working on such a larger network and have influence on so many stations. I feel incredibly proud to be able to do that. But at the same time it’s so great working at a local site where you know that you have complete control of one station; it’s your baby and you get to mold it with the Program Director as you see fit.

One thing I do miss from working at a local site would be getting in the car at the end of the day and completely listening to all of my output and going, “Oh, that didn’t work so well,” or “Maybe I should have done this with this promo.” Whereas sometimes you’ll send a piece of imaging or a trailer or a promo to a station on the other side of the country, and you’ll never actually get to hear how it fits on air with the rest of the output.

JV: What’s down the road for you? Are you one of these guys that just kind of takes it day by day and enjoys it as you go along, or have you set your sites on other networks or stations or your own production company in ten years or so?
Adam: I wish I knew what was down the road. I would love to have my own little production company in the next five to ten years. I mean I look at guys like Jeff Thomas and Eric Chase, and I think, “Wow, that’s living the dream. That’s brilliant.” I don’t know how feasible that is though. I’m very much enjoying what I’m doing at the moment, but you’ve got to go out and make your own luck. It’s like with this current job — it was just an email out of the blue because of someone that I’d met; I had done a bit of networking and talking to people. And so it’s kind of making your own luck and then letting it happen, just waiting to see what happens next.

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