Production 512: Whomp! There It Is!

Prod512 Logo 2016By Dave Foxx

Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? That was the title of a speech by Edward Lorenz in 1972 before the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Serious scientists who study Chaos Theory, and Ashton Kutcher fans know this as The Butterfly Effect. It’s a pretty simple premise: one microscopic change in the current physical world can dramatically change the future physical world, sometimes in very unexpected ways. Scientists are still arguing the point and critics gave Ashton’s movie fairly decent reviews. The reason I bring it up is a conversation I had this week with an old friend, Matt Bosso, a really talented producer who is working part-time on the air at Kiss108 and 101.7 The Bull, both in Boston. Matt happens to hang out (a lot) with two other friends of mine up there, TJ and Loren of The TJ Show on 103.3 AMP Radio/Boston, and he got in touch to say thanks for the memories. (Boston is a rockin’ town!)

As we got deeper into the conversation, Matt started talking the about events that persuaded him to follow a career in broadcasting. Specifically, he recalled hearing a song being introduced on Z100 when he was a kid. The deejay talked about a hot new song that was going to be a huge smash. The song, Whomp! There It Is by Tag Team turned out to be his favorite song for a long time. That one break nudged him into radio. Matt went on to say that he felt blessed to grow up in the New York area, where he was constantly exposed to great radio, pushing his drive for excellence, which is very apparent in his work today.

So, what was your “Butterfly” moment? When did you first feel the tug of radio? For me, it was when I was a Junior at Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, Texas. I was listening to KFJZ/Fort Worth, WAY before they were a Spanish speaking Christian station, when a jock named Mark Stevens interviewed my musical idol, Jimi Hendrix. Jimi had just finished a show at the Will Rogers Auditorium, which I had missed because I was grounded. (I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember what for, but it has escaped me.) As I sat in my room listening to the interview, I thought, “THAT’S what I want to do! Be a deejay so I can meet all the cool musicians, the way Markie Baby does!” Well, that’s what they called him! The seed was planted. I didn’t really pursue it until I got to University, but I was definitely headed down this path.

Over the next few years, before I actually went on the air, I was exposed to some incredibly creative and sophisticated professionals in radio, television and motion pictures. One name you will undoubtedly know is a guy I met on the slopes of the ski resort Sundance, where they have the film festival every year. We shared a lift-chair one late fall day as many solo skiers do, and he persuaded me to try a new run, down the back-side of Navajo. By the time I realized it was a triple black-diamond, there was no stepping back up the slope. I traversed the entire run, back and forth, after he had simply pointed his skis straight down and rocketed away. Twenty minutes later, I got to the bottom and there he was. He had gotten concerned and waited for me to show up. It wasn’t until I skied up to him that he lifted his goggles and I saw those amazing eyes for the first time. It was Robert Redford. (One of his first major movies was Downhill Racer, in which he did ALL of the skiing. Look it up.)

We didn’t become best of friends or anything, but he did invite me to visit the set of his current project, Jeremiah Johnson. If you haven’t seen it, there’s a scene in which his cabin is burned to the ground. I was standing on the plateau above Utah Valley where they shot that day, next to Sidney Pollack, the Director and Robert Redford, behind the camera when they torched the cabin. A few hours later, I watched Mister Redford walk through the wreckage in his mountain-man leathers as Jeremiah while the cameras were rolling. I cannot begin to tell you how much I learned that day about the layers upon layers of visuals and sound that go into making a big budget movie like that. The attention to detail was simply amazing. If you ever have the chance to be on set for a few hours while a big movie is being shot, jump at it. Your production skills will be forever changed. Let me be clear, Robert Redford would never remember me now, but what an incredible impact that day had on me and my production design. 

Unlike Matt Bosso getting to hear really solid, professional radio all the time, I got my education in spurts. I designed the lighting for a resident theater, winning a couple of awards. I worked part time in a recording studio in the basement of an old Catholic church in Salt Lake City, where Ray Charles, Carol King and Cat Stevens made musical magic. Much later, after I had started on the air at WPGC/Washington, I helped produce a demo album for a Rock-A-Billy band in suburban Maryland. I even worked for a time with a police department to clean up surveillance tapes in an arson/murder investigation. All of these experiences had influence on my production career, mostly good, some not so much. I had to record a club appearance of that suburban Maryland band at a bar that had chicken-wire up around the stage to prevent patrons from throwing (mostly) empty beer bottles at the singer. That was just plain bizarre.

I know, it’s kind of a weird resume for someone working in radio, but my time as a young deejay was exposed to some amazing radio. I was a subscriber to Airchexx. (No, it’s not a cereal!) It was a service that provided monthly cassettes of telescoped air checks from markets all over the US and Canada. I got to hear legendary jocks like Don Imus (back in the day), Larry Lujack and “Shotgun” Tom Kelly. Hearing the amazing WABC Music Radio/New York or CKLW/Detroit was an incredible rush. And it was ALL so very inspirational. Sadly, the company that made Airchexx changed their business model a long time ago. (It might not even be the same company.) Today they provide “classic” air checks, but… here’s the thing boys and girls, you have something much better.

Firstly, there is the Soundstage on the RAP website that features some great production pieces from other subscribers. This is the time of year when the best of the best are featured in the RAP Awards, so it’s doubly rewarding to cruise through and get inspiration.

If you’re more interested in hearing great production “in context,” most radio stations now provide some kind of streaming service, usually with an app for your mobile device or through their website. You can hear The TJ Show on 103.3 AMP’s website. When you click on “Listen Live,” you’re connected to www.radio.com, a popular choice for a lot of stations. Or go to www.iheartradio.com to check out hundreds and hundreds of stations, from iHeartMedia and several other companies. You can jump from Kiss108/Boston to KIIS-FM/Los Angeles to Z100/New York and listen all day long. You can also listen to streams from both of the latter stations on Sirius/XM on channels 11 and 12, respectively.

So, no matter what moment in your life got you hooked on the radio bug and whatever your odd experiences in this and related industries, you can be like Matt Bosso! Expose yourself to great radio all the time, without living in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. You can sit in your local Starbucks in Llano, Texas and be inspired. You can be chillin’ in your kitchen in Mountain Home, Idaho and hear amazing radio being churned out every day. As long as there is Wi-Fi, you are connected to the world’s best producers 24/7. Take advantage of it! Just hearing production from Darrin Marshall or Joe Rosati will fill you with incredible new ideas. Steve Dubz will change the way you think about audio integration. Dave Konsky will always surprise you with his innovative blends, and Azeem Haq will make you want to dance with his masterful mixes.

The funny thing is, what started this whole line of thought with Matt was him dropping into a record store in Boston and finding a cassette of Tag Team doing Whomp! There It Is! Yes, he bought it. No, he doesn’t have anything to play it on. It was just a nice reminder of what started him down this road.

Dave welcomes your correspondence at Dave@DaveFoxx.com.

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