R.A.P.: Would you say the attitude of Pirate Radio in LA and that of the Power Pig are synonymous with each other?
Brian: I honestly don't think so. I had a chance to listen to Pirate for a while when I was in San Francisco and had to drive to LA a few times. I don't want to take anything away from anybody, but it's not the same. They're not nearly as aggressive as we are. I'll send you some of our sweepers for The Cassette. We raise a lot of eyebrows.
R.A.P.: You won last year's Firsty Award for major market promo with the "Earthquake" promo for X100. You have quite a set of pipes. What kind of processing, outside of EQ and compression, did you use on your voice in that promo?
Brian: The only place in that promo where my voice was really processed was when I actually said, "earthquake." I used the H3000 Harmonizer and dropped the voice a notch with that. It gives you that great separation and the big rumble that's in there. Other than that, I've discovered the attributes of the Symetrix mike processor, and I'm a happy guy. The Symetrix and I must be compatible because it brings out all the right tones. It's a nice piece of gear.
R.A.P.: What are your thoughts on the new hard disk recording systems that are coming out? Do you think they'll replace analog multi-tracks anytime soon?
Brian: I've seen demonstrations. I had a chance to go to the NAB engineering thing last year and saw some demonstrations there. Plus, I had the privilege of being in New York with Rick Allen when he got his system from New England Digital. I think the whole concept is a great idea, but I just don't find them very "radio ready." We're all creatures of habit, and until they make the system with the rewind button, the play and record buttons, and things that work in that direction, I think they'll have a hard time getting in the door. Everything I've seen has just been too computer-oriented. We need to go in our rooms and pound out a promo or a spot in short order, and I haven't seen a system that can do that yet.
I would like to see somebody make some serious efforts to put some of these hard disk systems in the hands of the producers. It's going to take some of those companies having the will to go, "OK Brian, here's my digital system. I'm going to put it in your room and let you use it. Put it through its paces and help us develop something that will become radio ready, if it's not already." When they do that, they'll start getting some endorsements from people around the country saying, "I use this. This thing is great!" Then you'll start seeing sales.
R.A.P.: There are a lot of people out there making production libraries for us. What is your assessment of what's out there and what would you like to see in the way of future production libraries?
Brian: I think a lot of places fall short of what I like to see in a production library. You get a library that has music beds on it, you pick a cut, and the cut has a melody. I get the impression of this guy sitting down and writing a 30 or 60 second song, as opposed to something that is going to be hot, yet not pull the listener away from what's being said. You don't want the listener to be pulled away from the copy and start humming a melody that's in the background. I'd like to see a lot of hot, rhythmic beds geared to particular formats. I mean, if you're leaning urban, you want hot, bass-thumpin' beds in there. If you're rock-40 you want a little guitar going in the background. I think where a lot of places fall short is that they're writing mini-songs as opposed to legitimate beds. In a 30 second promo, if I want to switch the music five times in that promo, I don't want people to be humming along with a melody and have to switch. If I could make a suggestion to the people that produce libraries, I'd tell them to just do hot rhythmic beds and not try to blow me away with some melody.
On the subject of libraries -- and I advise a lot of people to do this -- never ever buy a library based on the demo. I've been burned a couple of times. When you hear a demo and think it's just right for your station, you might buy it and suddenly discover that you didn't get what you thought you bought. If you're an urban station and you get this library just laden with heavy guitar riffs, your first reaction is, "this wasn't on the demo!" Then you feel bad because all of a sudden you've got this library, you can only use about ten cuts on it, and you've just spent five thousand dollars for it. Most of the companies today will work with you. I haven't run into one yet that won't let me hear the entire library.
R.A.P.: If you had every radio salesperson listening to you, what would you want to tell them about being a Production Director?
Brian: (chuckle) It's kind of neat. In my present position, I can now honestly say that I have nothing to do with salespeople, and I love that! On the other hand, for those people that have to deal with them, I'd say this: I really wish salespeople would realize that it takes time to put together a good spot. This masterpiece you want to sell your client with is going to take more than fifteen minutes in the studio. Give the producers ample time, ample information about your client, and all the information they need to produce that spot. Just do that, and you and your Production Director will get along much, much better.
R.A.P.: If you had every radio programmer listening, what would you say to them on behalf of producers?
Brian: I'm going to have to plead ignorant on that one. I have worked for some really outstanding Program Directors. When I was in Indianapolis, I worked for a lady named Mary June Rose who took WIBC to its highest level ever, and she gave me creative freedom in my department. I went to Pittsburgh and worked for Jim Richards. I went to San Francisco and worked for Bill Richards, and then came here to work for Marc Chase. I have never been in a position where I felt they were doing something unfair to me or asking something unrealistic. The only complaint I ever have, and radio seems like it is this way all the way around, is that I hate last minute things. I went in this morning and cut a promo for an event that's supposed to go on tomorrow, and they came in ten minutes after I cut it. The first words out of their lips were, "You haven't cut the promo for this yet, have you?" Everybody's heard that one. I really hate to cut something and then have it be a waste. But honestly, as far as Program Directors go, I have to plead ignorant there. I've worked for some great people.
R.A.P.: I know you're doing voice work for other stations. Do you have your own official business for this?
Brian: Yes. When I got here, I went and did the necessary paperwork to make it official. Brian James Productions does exist. I started out planning on doing sweeper packages, and what I've ended up doing the most of is just voice over work like the work I do for San Diego, St. Louis, and San Francisco. It's all just dry tracks and they have some very talented Production Directors there to take care of them. I love doing it that way because laying down voice tracks isn't very time consuming compared to actually producing a full blown promo. One thing that has really helped me is the high profile of the Power Pig. It has put my work in places that normally wouldn't hear it. I'm real happy with the freelance business. Another nice thing is that it helps keep me from getting into a rut because of the large variety of stations and formats I do work for.
R.A.P.: How about a tip from Brian James for the rest of us?
Brian: Everybody is always their own worst critic. There's one thing I think is most important: If you're ever producing something and you have the slightest question about whether you've put this in the right place or put that in the right place or breathed in the wrong place, if there's any kind of question in your mind about that promo, redo it. Fix it. Make it as absolutely close to perfect as you possibly can. For the guys in the small markets, you never know when that little bit of perfection is going to bop you right up to your next big job. Like I said, by being your own worst critic, you'll always find a lot of little things wrong. Go back and fix them. The work will sound better, and you never know who's going to be listening.
Our thanks to Brian for this month's interview and all the best to him in the future. If you have someone in mind you'd like to see as the subject of a future interview, drop us a line with the suggestion.