R.A.P. Interview: Chadd Pierce

Chadd Pierce, Krash Creative, PierceVoice.com, Raleigh, NC

Chadd Pierce Hello webby Jerry Vigil

It’s been 14 years since RAP’s last chat with Chadd Pierce who caught my attention with a promo he submitted for the then, RAP CD. What sounded like something from a major market actually came from market #103, Fort Wayne, Indiana. The station was WBYR, his first station. There was no question his skills would treat him well, and they have. Chadd caught our attention again when he won our recent “Audio Adoption Contest” headed up by our longtime columnist, Trent Rentsch. We catch up with Chadd in this month’s interview, get some insights into the creation of his winning piece, get a peek inside Krash Creative, and more -- including some comments about Mac vs. PC in the studio, which spawned this month’s Q It Up question! Be sure to check out this month’s Soundstage for an instant replay of Chadd’s winning audio and more.

JV: What happened after WBYR? Where'd you go next?
Chadd: I stayed there until 2004. Then my operations manager took a job running KRXQ/Entercom in Sacramento. He called me to come out West to produce for him, and I was on the air a little bit as well. I spent my first 24 years of life in that Midwest hometown of Fort Wayne, and this was my first radio move. I knew that it might happen, so I was kind of ready, but you can never really be ready to move that far away. I mean, from Indiana to Northern California is kind of a trek. I spent a few years out in Sacramento getting KSEG, KRXQ and the since abandoned KWOD on track with their imaging. I did some on air too, remotes and appearances, the whole thing.

This is also where I officially started my voiceover career, which was initially contributing to Chicago's Q101 and their HD2 channel, and to a comedy service that Premiere had at the time that paid per bit. That was cool because I could actually get paid for what I was already doing and getting paid for, but there was a different value put on it outside of the radio station, especially when it wasn't something that could really be used for much.

I also taught myself Photoshop when I was in Sacramento. I got some video editing behind me, and I even made a couple of TV ads for the radio station. Anytime I get bored or feel like I plateau, it drives me up the wall, so I just kept adding skills. And these weren't complex TV commercials or anything like that, but they were all motion graphics and stuff I could do in Photoshop and put together in Adobe Premiere. So I wasn't really touting my skills in video because I didn't really have the appropriate tools, but it turned out that it helped the situation there, and then it helped impress Kelly when it came time to leave.

After a few years, I parted ways with Entercom and moved cross-country again, to join Kelly Bassett as a co-producer at Krash Creative, which at the time did mostly radio imaging. That was in 2007.

JV: How did you know Kelly?
Chadd: I actually didn't. I had never met him. I think I found them on All Access, and I had never heard of this company. Sight unseen he hired me, he and his partner Wayne at the time -- Wayne has since passed away. We spoke. I was looking for something else. So I reached out and took a leap of faith. It sounded good, so I picked up and moved again. I have a wife and pets, and all in one drive we again moved ourselves to the other side of the country, this time from California to Raleigh, North Carolina to work for Krash.

KRASH LOGO 2015 webJV: What is your job at Krash Creative?
Chadd: My role started with imaging and then I began tooling around more with video and graphics and writing and producing commercials. So today, the official role is I provide voiceover, writing, audio production and graphics.

JV: And what all does Krash Creative do now? They started with radio imaging, but they've grown obviously.
Chadd: Indeed. Now Krash Creative is a full-service ad agency and production house. We can even buy media. We came into it backwards, as a production house that turned into an agency, but for some reason that's really working well. Now we've expanded with a great video team. We have salespeople. We have Radio And Production’s own Trent Rentsch as our Creative Director. I mean come on! We just moved into a huge new office space. We have a big green screen studio. It's the real deal. We can pretty much do whatever a client needs and it's all scalable. We can handle big major clients or just little car dealerships -- we work with them all.

JV: That's great. I didn't know the company had grown so much.
Chadd: Yes. He brought in his wife, Theresa, who is extremely experienced in the marketing and sales aspects of a business from the internal side. It was so much by word of mouth over the years. It's amazing how much that and just Google searches helped us grow. And now that we're actively promoting ourselves, especially to the local scene for advertising, it's working out really well, and it looks like it's only going to get bigger over the next couple of years. It's poised to explode pretty big.

We've got some really talented people. One of our video guys has been with professional sports arenas. He's created graphics and video for Jumbotrons with the NFL. He worked with the Olympics at one point when it was in Canada. We have a great team and it's working out really well.

JV: Now that you're at an ad agency, looking back on radio, what are the pros and cons? Do you miss radio? Is this better than radio?
Chadd: Well, I've only had a limited experience in different situations with radio, but I've had two that were very different. In Fort Wayne, it was a local company with multiple stations all in the same town. They were in a couple of buildings, but it was still managed a different way than Entercom, which is this big corporation. The environment felt really corporate for me anyway. I don't thrive in that environment, so that was one of the pluses of getting out of there. These days, I set my own pace and I mange myself pretty successfully. And somehow, that led me to going from producing a few stations to about 40 stations. So that style of management that I was experiencing before, somehow the situations were limiting.

But there are elements that from time to time I miss, but not as much as I thought I would. I thought the on air part was my biggest concern, but I haven't really gotten much of an itch for that either. I get to work with great programmers across the country, providing production through Krash, and voiceover on my own through CESD. So I guess I've filled my days with enough radio to keep me entertained and that part of myself satisfied. And voiceovers really filled the need to perform. And those remote appearances and stuff I never liked anyway.

So it's been a really good experience. I don't want to say that I even left radio because that's what we're talking about right now. I left the building, and that's made for a lot less distractions, a lot less of the isms that come with working in a corporation like that, especially a larger sized one. I don't deal with a lot of the salespeople either. It's just been a big shift to a mostly creative environment.

JV: A lot of positives there. What do you like most about working at Krash?
Chadd: I guess what I really love at Krash is the ability to be creative and really embrace my inner creative monster, especially with radio imaging. I do some jingle type work too and other miscellaneous stuff. If you need an odd commercial, I'm your guy. I write pretty well. I produce like a son of a bitch, and I even studied voiceover under some of the best acting coaches out there. So when I sit down and do a radio promo, especially when I'm the voice, I enjoy the thrill of taking it to the level beyond the next level – that’s how I like to say it. That may sound like my shit doesn't stink, but it's really taken me a long time to say all that and be proud to be creative, and really embrace that I might be okay at it.

JV: Well your talent certainly showed up for Trent Rentsch’s Audio Orphan contest. You had two entries. Version 2 was the winner, and Version 1 came in third. Let's start with the winning entry. That one was like a full-blown rap. What do you recall about the creative process on that one?
Chadd: That one I based on the Geto Boys, "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster", and I used the instrumental on that. I'm glad that you asked what I “recall” because most times it just comes and it goes, and it's out of my life. I don't mentally retain too much about the process because you always have to clear the cache at the end of the day.

But what I did, I think in both of them, is I sampled Trent's music as opposed to using the music straight. I thought that would be a great way to get by the fact that this music bed wasn't that much of a beat to tap your toes to. So, I got by that by sampling it and doing some pitching and just making it sound like it was more of a sampled sound than a music bed. Then of course I used the beat to musically do it up. Then I sampled the didgeridoo. I didn't sit down to scratch a didgeridoo, but it happened. I just kind of sit down, listen to the stuff, and the first thought that comes to me I play around with. If that doesn't work, the second thought.

Both I think are kind of structured around the orphan thing. The other one was more drop-based. It really focused on the drop. On the second one that went to the hip-hop song, I just kind of sat down and started spitting out words, recording them as I went, assembling it as I go. When I’m working this way, sometimes I’ll go back and revise lyrics, but most times I do it all in one sitting, like these.

JV: How much time do you think you spent on them?
Chadd: I think maybe an hour on each. A lot of times I can come up with something like that in a half hour or 20 minutes because I'm producing it as I go. And when I'm done it's done, to a certain extent. I work really well when I produce and write it as I go, just seeing what works and what doesn't work.

JV: The sampling, did you do that with a keyboard?
Chadd: No. That's all just cutting in Pro Tools. I'm known for my duct tape, paper clipped way of doing things. It may not be the most efficient way to do it, or maybe there’s some preset or something. Trent, on the other hand, is way musical. He does the keyboard thing and MIDI stuff, and I admit, that's a world that I have not gotten into yet. So it's just a white guy with no rhythm pretending that he has some, with fake singing and rapping when I can get away with it, because you don't really have to sing when you do that.

JV: Tell us about your voiceover biz. You've been at it since Sacramento. How's that going?
Chadd: It's going pretty well. It's still a supplemental income. It's still a part-time thing because my day job is at Krash. But it really caught my attention when I got that first check from Q101. That did it for me. It never really occurred to me that I could successfully make a leap to just voiceover because the production had been so strong for me. I had a couple of people tell me, don't do voiceover because you're not good at it. But I've gone from wishing to do it to actually doing it. It's gotten to where I do national commercials and voice a bunch of Country and Classic Hit stations from Canada to Florida, and it's gone really well. I wasn't hired at Krash for my voiceover, but it's become a big part of my day there too. I've become good enough at it to where I can sort of rest on it a little bit. It's something that I can actually do with a little bit of educated skill, and the sound that I have is sort of that middle of the road, friendly, casual thing that's, right now, thankfully, pretty popular.

JV: Are you still working with voice coaches or acting coaches from time to time?
Chadd: Yes, especially since I’m doing all the different types of work. I do a whole bunch of radio imaging and then comes this national commercial that wants you to almost whisper and be the flattest you could be, or a TV promo that's a very pulled back you're not the star of the show kind of read. I think learning the differences and regularly making sure that I stay within the right boundaries for each project is important to keep it sharp.

JV: And you mentioned a talent agency you’re with, CESD…
Chadd: I have a few agents believe it or not. For commercials and really miscellaneous material, I have several agencies that send me auditions. But radio imaging is exclusively through Nate Zeitz at CESD, Cunningham-Escott-Slevin-Doherty Talent Agency.

ChaddStudioAtKrash web

JV: Tools of choice in the studio? Pro Tools obviously. What’s under the hood?
Chadd: Plugins galore when I'm producing. It's gotten so things don't look as impressive as they used to. It's all inside the box, software based. At home I have a 1971 Neumann U87. It goes into an Avalon 737 ST. I don't know what the ST means or even the 737, but it's a beautiful machine. It's a great preamp. I go from that straight to my MBox 2 and then Pro Tools. At home it's PC. At work it's on Mac. I use a different mic at Krash, which is an Audio-Technica 4033a into an MBox Pro for Pro Tools on Mac.

JV: I think you might be the first Pro Tools user I've interviewed that uses it on Mac at one place and on PC at another. What do you like or dislike about the two operating systems?
Chadd: Well, I like that you can drag and drop on a Mac. It seems to be a little bit more user-friendly. Windows can be kind of glitchy. But I use both successfully. These days we have to use so many programs to do what we do. I use Photoshop, and sometimes I use Premier for the visual stuff. So hopping programs is pretty normal for my day. I've just gotten so used to both interfaces that neither really plagues me with all that much trouble. But my PC can be a jerk. It doesn't like me and I don't know why. But I keep it in check. I slap it around and make sure it does its thing. The expensive toys in the room I think make it feel a little inadequate, and maybe that’s why that happens.

JV: I take it you have the PC at home? 
Chadd: Oh, yes. Macs are really expensive, so I couldn't afford it by myself. We're actually moving to PC at Krash too.

JV: Why? Economic reasons?
Chadd: It's not even an economical thing. It's what's catering to the professional. Mac is going the opposite direction, or at least in our opinion. Mac hardware is far less friendly to the professional editor than it used to be. It can be limited in what it can do, and you really have to spend some money to get something that's as powerful as you’re used to. But both ways are good. The economic thing certainly is a great bonus, but we're using so many Adobe products, which work so well with Windows and PCs. That's what our video guys work off of, for example.

It could be the upgradability of PCs. The parts with a Mac aren't as easy to swap out as they used to be. If I'm wrong and somebody corrects me, then they're right. Some IT person can correct that and that will be the right answer. I don't know as much as I would like to say I do.

JV: You've had a creative edge since we spotted you at WBYR. Where does that come from? How do you keep it burning?
Chadd: It's mostly environmental. There could be some of it that's genetic. I don't really have all that creative parents, but my mom's really emotionally intelligent and that's what I've gotten from her. That's one of the things that I think feeds the creative, just being able to understand yourself, how you see things and knowing that it's different in a good way from how other people see the same thing. And if you can give it to them in a language that they can understand but still comes from your perspective, then it's something that they always see, but it's now in this different position, this different light that they would never think about. I think that is what keeps people entertained.

So I try to keep myself entertained. I watch a lot of comedy. I listen to a lot of funny stuff. I'm a comedy addict. I just love movies and standup, and I love TV shows. I watch TV constantly, your edgier kind of stuff. Then I have to pull that back for some of the more mainstream things that I work on. I can't go too far like I did at the active rock stations, but I have some rhythm. And like I said, I just keep feeding myself with experiences, mainly entertainment experiences, and just assembling and absorbing all those techniques and different ways of looking at things to help me relax my own mind and look at things from a different direction, to try to come up with something that nobody expected.

JV: I think your production abilities have taken you a long way for a long time. What advice would you give somebody coming out of broadcast school wanting to do production, to get their chops up to your level as quickly as they could?
Chadd: I used to stay at the station late at night, by myself, in a room, learning the tools. This is how I work. The better I know the tools and the more time I spend learning the fastest way to get an idea out of my head and onto that machine, the better. I think that's a lot of it. People can hear it in their heads, but how do they get it out? How do they make it happen? And if you're learning a machine while you're trying to be creative, it's a difficult analytical versus creative mind thing that doesn't allow you to be as creative as you could. So I would first recommend learning the tools as much as you possibly can, so when you do have the idea, you can get it out in a way that really sounds like what it was in your head, or even better, because you know how to make that happen on the screen.

Chadd welcomes your comments and questions at studio@piercevoice.com. Visit www.Piercevoice.com for more from Chadd, and visit www.Krashcreative.com for more about Krash Creative. 

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