R.A.P. Interview: Dennis Daniel

R.A.P. Give us a bit of the Dennis Daniel philosophy for Production Directors.
Dennis: My situation here is very different than that of most Production Directors I know. The disc-jockeys here hardly cut any commercials. Most Production Directors, that I know of, are the kind that write commercials, give them to the disc-jockeys, and the jocks cut them. Here, I do the bulk of the work because of the fact that I do some 200 impressions and voices. I believe that when you have a disc-jockey do something, they will sit down, read it, and not put their heart and soul into it. They'll just read the copy. It's just a job. They're not going to be able to sell the client's product if they can't sound convincing. I also believe that when you have a disc-jockey do something, you're almost degrading the client in a way because the disc-jockey is known to the audience to be somebody that sells the music and sells the station. When you have them selling shoes, is just doesn't work. I think the listeners can key in and say, "Well that's just the disc-jockey reading something, that's not him." To the listener, a disc-jockey is a real person. He's not a spokesman for something, unless of course the disc-jockey is paid to be a spokesman, paid to say, "Hi, this is Dennis Daniel and I use this product and I believe in it."

So I do most of the stuff, and I believe it's helpful to the radio station because you hear my voice and my assistant Chris's voice, and we do the selling of the stuff on the station. You don't associate our voices with anything but that.

Another thing I believe in is an intern program. I believe they are essential at any radio station, and the intern should not be treated as a gopher who just does filing. They should be given hands on experience. In colleges today, they are so far behind the reality of what's going on in radio that I don't believe kids are learning what's really going on. So when a kid comes to me from college, and he's excited, fresh, and ready to rock and roll, I take that talent and I use it! I teach them my style of writing and producing and where my head comes from.

My basic logic is this: Everything in life that you take in and absorb, can be reused. You can look at any situation in life and make a commercial out of it. You can walk in the park, see two old men feeding the pigeons, and make a commercial out of it. (Dennis shifts to old man voice) "Hey, Harry, how long have we been here feeding these pigeons?" (Other man:) "Well, I don't know, but I'd rather be at the sale at Car Tunes.... " The possibilities are endless. There is no chance in the world of drying up, and you jot down every single thought you have. You write down, "Two men feeding pigeons," and you can apply it to any client.

So I try to teach the interns how to write and how to think as theatre of the mind, and what happens is sometimes they write brilliant stuff. Then I have the pleasure of bringing to life what they've written, and they get the opportunity to hear their stuff on the radio. I really believe in using young talent because if somebody hadn't done if for me, I wouldn't be where I am. That is a very important part of what I do here; I work with the interns.

R.A.P. What would you say to other stations about creative freedom?
Dennis: I can't stress enough, how important it is to have creative freedom. If you are stifled creatively, you will never blossom. Believe me, I do my share of bullshit work. Half the work I do here is just straight reads, voiceovers, donuts, and tags from other agencies that I just do as a straight announcer. That's par for the course; that's part of the job, too. But for every ten straight reads that I do, I've got one "Salty Dog," and the one "Salty Dog" makes the ten reads worthwhile. They let me say the orifice theatre" or sing about a "nurse with a nice behind." They let me get away with things because our demographic is young and hip, and they can handle it. It gives me tremendous satisfaction because I can be daring. I'm challenged. I'm not always doing the same damned thing! Everyday brings a new opportunity to do something new, different, and exciting in this market, in this situation that I'm in.

R.A.P. With your obvious talents in commercial writing and production, are you using your spare time to do much free-lancing?
Dennis: I'll be honest with you. When I leave here at six o'clock, I'm in another world entirely. I do my writing. I've been commissioned to do two books about horror films. I'm often a guest lecturer about horror films. I appear at a lot of horror conventions. Horror films are another entire world that I love. I'm a very big movie buff, and I'm constantly watching video tapes and stuff like that as well. I do movie reviews for the station, too. So, as much as I love production and creating this stuff, it's a job. I love it, but it's not everything to me. The reason it's not is because, basically speaking, it's all bullshit in the end. That's what commercials are. They're just interesting ways of attracting attention to get somebody to buy something. I don't want to think that that's what my life is. I get more of a kick out of just creating an original idea and getting it on the air. I don't care what client it's for. What matters more to me is that it's creative, it's fun, that the audience enjoys it, and that it works for the client. I do care that it works for the client. I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it would work for him; but for me, it's the creativity, the fun, and the entertainment value that counts.

R.A.P. An abundance of such creative stuff on the air must have an effect on the station's image. What tangible results have there been.
Dennis: When they do research for the radio station, often the commentary is, "love your commercials." Who says that!? Who says, "we love your commercials!?" That makes good programming sense if you can get the audience to love your commercials. Do you realize that radio is the only medium in entertainment, that knocks the very thing that brings the revenue into it? Commercial free! Commercial free! No commercials! We're commercial free! We're saying to you, "Commercials suck!" Do you ever see television go, "Commercial Free"? So if you can make your commercials entertaining, if you can make the listener say, "I know, in the 4 spot cluster that's coming up, there's gonna be one spot in there that's gonna blow my mind or make me laugh," you've got 'em.

R.A.P. That's good information for programmers. What else would you say to programmers looking to get a more creative sound in their stopsets?
Dennis: The first thing I would say is get a good internship program going because that is where all the young talent is. Secondly, when you find somebody that's creative, give him every opportunity to let it all hang out. Give him a chance to blossom and grow. Give him a chance to do something other than commercials. Let him do some comedy. Let him just go in the studio and produce something, then sit down with him, listen to it, and give him
some advice. Try to get talent that's around, to do some free work for you. There's always comedy shops, comedians, and repertory theatres around in every community, and these are people that act and perform. They can help you, and they would relish the opportunity to be on the radio.

R.A.P. What would you like to be doing a few years down the road?
Dennis: WBAB is part of Noble Broadcasting. I would like to become Noble Broadcasting's Production Advisor. I'd like to teach these theories and these things that I do to other Production Directors at the other radio stations in Noble. That would be an interesting thing for me, but as I said before, production isn't everything with. me. I'm involved in many other projects. As I said, I'm writing two books. I do a lot of writing for magazines, and also, I do some standup comedy now and again. I'm working on a television program right now with Steve Morrison called, "And She Wept". It's just a bunch of comedy vignettes, and right now we're in the process of trying to sell that to Lifetime Cable. All things considered, I'm one happy human being.

We'd like to thank Dennis once again for taking time out of his obviously busy day to do the interview with us. We hope to touch base with Dennis again in the future and get some specific tips on the creative process he commands so well.

As for the "R.A.P. Interview" itself, we're excited to say that we're giving the east coast a break, after several interviews there, to board that renegade boat floating somewhere off the west coast. Join us next month as we RAP with Brian Wilson, the new Production Director at Pirate Radio in Los Angeles, and get the scoop on Scott Shannon's "Production Department of the 90's!

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