R.A.P. Interview: Eric Chase

Eric-Chase-03

JV: There are several Eric Chases out there in our industry. There was one that worked at KGB in LA in ‘71. That wasn’t you, was it?
Eric: No. That was a guy who is now called Paul Christie, and that’s an interesting story. I don’t know if Paul’s ever told the story, but I’ve told it. This is very odd, that we were sort of karmatically linked in a way. There was a guy named Michael Spears, who passed away two or three years ago. Michael was a big programmer at the time. His name was Hal Martin, and he was the programmer of KNUS when I got there. When he hired me, my name at the time was Phil North, and that was who I was at ‘HBQ and other stations prior to that. Michael said, “You know, your name just doesn’t make it. It just doesn’t have anything, you know, distinctive about it. There’s this DJ at KFRC in San Francisco, he’s like the hottest DJ out there, and you guys sound a little bit alike. He’s kind of irreverent and so on.” He says, “I think I’ll make you Eric Chase.” And I said, “Okay.” What are you going to say?

Well, it was about three weeks later that Hal or Michael Spears winds up being the actual Program Director of KFRC in San Francisco, which was a huge station at the time. And of course, there was an Eric Chase now working for him there, too. I don’t know how Paul got his Eric Chase name, but his name is not really Eric Chase either. But he became a phenomenon. He worked at KFRC, and I think he also worked in LA at a couple of the stations.

I became sort of the Midwest or the South Eric Chase. I kind of got branded with that name in my radio career, and when I started my production company and doing voiceovers, I decided to keep the brand.

Then I realized there’s another very talented Eric Chase in Florida, who works for Glenn Beck and is the Chase Cuts guy, and he is very, very talented and huge. So I’m thinking, “Okay, how much business am I getting of his, and how much is he getting of mine?”

JV: Well, there are three of you for sure, and I believe there’s actually a fourth one doing imaging in Nevada!
Eric: Here’s the weird thing about the Paul Christie/Eric Chase guy. When I was at KNUS, we needed another jock, and I was going through a box of air checks -- they were on tape back then. I looked at this one tape, and it’s Eric Chase, KJR in Seattle. I thought, “I think this is the guy that I was named after.” So I gave it to the Program Director and said, “This guy is really good. You need to hire him. But of course, you’ll have to change his name,” and he said, “Well, yeah, that’s true.” So, Paul came to the station. They decided, well, we already have our Eric Chase, so you’re going to be Paul Christie. So he changed his name to Paul Christie and becomes a huge radio phenomenon. He is still on the air here at the oldies station, and he does a lot of voiceover. And we’re still good friends; we worked together for many years. He actually wound up being the Program Director of KRBE. When I sent you that tape in ‘89, Paul was the Program Director at the station. So he was responsible for me becoming Eric Chase, and I was responsible for him getting to be Paul Christie. I don’t know; he probably hates me for that. But Paul and I, we have a rich history. I used to do a lot of work producing his voice on stuff, because he had a very dynamic delivery, and I could direct him in some places he had never gone before.

But of course, when I got here, I was not at KRBE. I actually got hired at the original KILT-FM. When I finally left Pittsburgh and was able to get South again, a guy named Rick Candia was Captain Jack on KILT-AM back then, and I was on the FM side. We ended up working for Bill Young for about three and a half, four years, and that was an experience because Bill was a huge name, and he had created some wonderful radio stations, including the old KILT 610. Of course, he had his Bill Young Productions, which still exists, and Bill still lives around here, although I think he’s pretty retired now.

So something about Houston stuck with me, because it was a very dynamic city, and there was a lot going on. And I did enjoy my early radio days here, but radio sort of played out with me after a while. I just kind of got burned out on the whole thing, although sometimes I have inklings of going back on the air just for fun.

JV: You’re having a blast up and down the dial while you’re in radio, all the while honing your voice and production skills. At what point did you think, “Hey, I need to start doing some serious freelance work here”?
Eric: Well, I kind of did it all along, but I didn’t realize that it could be a whole job unto itself. I had done some work in 1979 with a guy named Herb Holland. Herb is a political consultant now in Austin, but back then, we were just young punks. We’re like 24, 25 years old. We approached TM Productions in Dallas, their syndicated side, about a concept that we had. It was early ‘79, and August of ‘79 would have been the 10th anniversary of Woodstock. We said, “We’d love to do a show…,” and our working title was “Woodstock: Ten Years Later,” which won out to be the title. I was doing a lot of production at the time on the side. I loved working on projects.

So we got a guy named Ed Shane to write the treatment, and Herb and I managed to get a $50,000 budget. We traveled all over the US and talked to all these people and did all these interviews. We got John Sebastian of Lovin’ Spoonful to be the actual host. We went in the studio, and it took about ten straight days of studio work, but we created a six-hour documentary on Woodstock. It wound up winning the documentary of the year for its content. It was syndicated on about 50 stations.

About three years ago, I took all those tapes and restored them from the original backup master tapes, took all the noise off of them, punched them up, and got them to actually sounding what I think is better than it was back then. When XM Satellite Radio signed on in its first year, they needed some programming stuff, so they ran our documentary, Woodstock: Ten Years Later, that we managed to get all the rights for, and then created a new documentary. It was a documentary of a documentary. It was 35 years later than the actual event, but it was looking at a perspective from 1979. So we figured out a way to sell that, and that has actually been aired nationally since about three years ago, on the 35th anniversary, I believe.

So those were the things that started telling me that, you know, there’s something more for me in terms of production. I knew what radio needed, and I was beginning to find out what the different markets needed. And always, I was just going for the highest standard I could, but it was very hard work. We had eight tracks that we could use, but in pairs of two, that means you really only had four tracks, because you were stereo, obviously. We had to build things in such a way that it would have flow, but it wouldn’t be like one edit after another. There was a lot of technical stuff that we worked out to get a high standard, and I’m very proud of some of those old shows.

We also did two shows for Billboard magazine at that time. Herb moved out of Houston, but we work all the time on political stuff. He’ll get a campaign together, and I’ll voice the candidate’s message and also do sound design. That’s one of those long ties over 30 years. One of the things about our business, on the freelance side, you always discover someone’s skills, and then they just go to you again and again: “This is the guy I go to; he can do stuff very fast,” or, “He has this kind of delivery.” I’ve built a career on keeping those relationships ongoing. You never know when they’ll come back around. But I’ve been involved in the production/voiceover side pretty much right parallel with radio, I’d say.

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