R.A.P. Interview: Mark Driscoll

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R.A.P.: What microphones do you like to use now?
Mark: I prefer using the old Sennheiser shotgun that Ernie Anderson probably made famous. I have always loved the ribbon mikes like the RCA that you see on Letterman, and the old AM mike made so popular by KHJ and the AM stages of RKO, the RCA BK5. It kind of looked like a Shure SM7 with a big round ball at the end of it. All those mikes I like to keep around, however, in actual use today, I think that the shotgun phantom and the Neumann U87 are great. And if you're going to use a cardioid mike, then the SM7 is real good without the condom at the end -- just use a nylon screen. We're constantly testing mikes. We're testing one now that you see musicians use on stage. It's another Sennheiser. You see Michael Jackson and Madonna use them. I know a lot of news/talk stations use them, too. I really don't have any specifics on that mike yet.

R.A.P.: What are some of your thoughts on mike processing?
Mark: There's so much that goes into a microphone's processing, and the performer has to meet standards of processing. I think that anybody that goes out, picks up a Harmonizer, and thinks that is going to do the trick...well, sorry Charlie. That may work for somebody, but it may not work for you. In my chain, I think we probably use four or five compressors, and sometimes all at once -- three, generally. Sometimes a station may have a requirement where they really have a tight "smack" on their air sound, so we'll double the compression on it and adjust the EQ and such.

R.A.P.: Radio has changed a lot over the past twenty years. To what do you attribute these changes?
Mark: I think it was two things. Certainly, our culture was part of it. Then there's the expansion of communication in general. You've got satellites now. There's cable TV, and the advent of FM in the seventies which didn't really show its super impact until almost the eighties. That's when radio showed just how powerful a medium it could be. We have so many sources of information now, and so much information. And the speed at which this information is imparted is so fast that it's incredible. If you blink, you miss. A book called "The Media Lab" addresses that. So does "The Marketing Revolution." There were times when we didn't have a national newspaper like USA Today or a national news network like CNN. The way it has taken off is unbelievable.

Twenty year-olds today are so incredibly hungry, talented, and exposed to technology. And I think that hunger is not really satisfied. I lived in eras where technology lacked, but the other side was strong -- the teaching side. There were people around to teach me things which satisfied my hunger. I think there are fewer teachers like that today. I think a lot of people probably don't remember that answering machines for telephones didn't really debut until the early seventies. Computers were like...c'mon that's Univac! When you look back at what technology was available to us back then and compare that to what we have now, particularly in radio, it's just unbelievable. I think we're sitting in a pocket now that needs to be addressed. I'm talking about the need to mix the technology with the tutoring of our next and even existent era, the era that just hasn't pulled the trigger on its activity yet.

R.A.P.: Jingles used to be the primary component of a station's identification. Nowadays, many stations are simply using voice IDs to replace jingles. What are your thoughts on this?
Mark: An old buddy of mine, Buzz Bennett, had something to say about that a long, long time ago -- and it seems like yesterday that he said it. I had asked him why we never used jingles, and he said in the typical Buzz Bennett fashion of that time back in the early seventies, "Well, I never had a request for one." I thought, "That makes sense." Some people go for it, and some people don't. If you want to sound like a Coca Cola commercial, that's fine. If that's the style you want to use, that's just fine. But I think the human voice is certainly much more of an effective conduit to communicate and cut through to a very passive yet actively aware and very, very heavy user of the medium that we call radio.

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