R.A.P.: You mentioned that you have the AudioFile digital recorder. What gear is in the other studios?
Bill: We have 16-track, 8-track, and 4-track machines. Ninety-five percent of our work is done on the 4-track, again because speed is a major thing we're concerned with. Virtually all of the music beds get cut up on the AudioFile, at least eighty percent of them. Then they get transferred to 4-track, so you get two tracks for music and two tracks for voice.
In the mixdown process, we're all producers and voice talents. We each lay the voice tracks and mix them down. If we're doing the pre-sale spot, we lay that voice track, mix it down, then go to the next spot. If you had to stop and mix eight tracks every time, the redundancy of hundreds of markets facing you every day would make it impossible.
We keep it real simple. Our entire operation is very simple, from the order taking process all the way down the line.
R.A.P.: What's in the studios in the way of effects boxes and processing gear?
Bill: Obviously, we have the normal group of Yamahas, SPX 900's and 1000's. There are Eventide Harmonizers, and I have a varying number of things around from Lexicon including the 480L. Some of them we like and stay with. The Harmonizer, of course, year in and year out becomes a very usable tool. It's hard to replace one of those. That's probably one of the few pieces of gear that you just keep in the studio. I'm excited about some of the new units that are out that we're listening to. I love the Aphex processing equipment. They're very transparent. We try to keep things as unprocessed sounding as possible and yet still get the full sound. That's always a fight -- keeping the dynamic range, and yet still delivering a product that sits up there and pops out, too.
R.A.P.: What are the 8 and 16-track rooms used for?
Bill: To be totally honest, when we hire a new production man, almost invariably, each one will say, "Oh, I can't do this on 4-track. I've got to do it on 16-track or 8-track." So we always have one around for new employees. Then, usually after a couple of weeks when they see the work load stacked up there, they say, "It really is faster on 4-track." It's usually a decision they make on their own, but I don't ever want technology to be something that holds us back.
R.A.P.: When you hire new producers, do you look for a style of production and a voice that is already what you want, or do you mold new producers to the Bill Young sound?
Bill: A little bit of both. We're never always looking for the same thing. As we have grown and acquired different clients, different needs have developed. We go searching for people who can fill those needs. It would be wrong to say that we look for just one sound. In the most recent case, we were looking for one man and found two. They were both very different, but we liked them both. So we rearranged plans and hired two people just because that kind of talent presented itself to us.
I'm a real groupie when it comes to voice talents and production people. I copied a lot when I started in this business, and I really encourage young people to copy. I don't think there's anything wrong at all with doing that. When you start basic art, they have you re-doing simple little paintings by some master, and in the process you learn how he mixes paint and colors and what brushes he uses. My career began as one of the best copiers in the business. I'd hear something, and I'd have to go do it. Then, over a period of years I began saying, "Well, what if he had done this?" And all of a sudden, I was putting some of me in there too.
When looking for people, I want to hear some innovativeness. I want to hear someone trying something new, and yet I want to hear somebody that understands basics. I like good voices, but that is almost a curse in many cases because many good voices don't know how to use those voices. It's very unfortunate that, in radio, our programming styles demand a certain kind of delivery, and we don't necessarily teach people how to be good voice talents, how to be good interpreters. If you look at most of the successful voice talents that are out there -- the million dollar a year men -- not a lot of them came out of radio.
One of the best voice coaches in the country from Los Angeles did a seminar in our studios a year or so ago. The first thing she had us all do was take the headphones off. It was amazing to hear how different the voice talents sounded without the headphones on.
R.A.P.: You recently changed your logo from the familiar blue-gray Bill Young Productions to a bright red "Y" done in a paintbrush style. What was the purpose there?
Bill: Our company is more than Bill Young. I wish I had not named our company Bill Young Productions. It's probably the biggest mistake I ever made because the company is really not just Bill Young. It's as much Steve Kelley and the rest. So I wanted to move it more into a trademark kind of thing than a name. I think what we do would be good even if Bill Young weren't there.
I think the logo says a lot. It's kind of an artist's stroke. It's simple, and it's easy to see and recognize. Yet it has that artsy appeal that's kind of a statement that we're not doing exact science here.
R.A.P.: Before you left KILT, you had already established a "Bill Young" sound that didn't involve any other voices or producers other than yourself. Can you nail down what that Bill Young sound was that your clients wanted?
Bill: Actually, I had for many years, a major asthma problem, and to sit and read a sixty second commercial was virtually impossible for me. So I had to figure out a way to make it through a sixty second commercial. I discovered with multi-track that I could read with myself; I could bounce tracks. In doing that, I discovered that I could almost treat myself as two different voices. I could stack things in a way that would not just continue but actually enhance the delivery. It was purely by accident. I was trying to accomplish something else, but in so doing, I hit something that, at least at that point in time, was rather fresh sounding, and that was the ability to do two voice commercials which I still think are extremely exciting, and I know now are considered passé in many cases. Someone told me there are actually policies now against two voice commercials. God, what a waste. They are wonderful! There is no question that for sheer excitement, the two voice commercial has something that we've never been able to duplicate.
During my formative years, I was Program Director in Tyler, and I don't know if anybody remembers this, but there was this station that went on the air in Dallas. I was weaned on KLIF in Dallas, the Gordon McClendon sound, but then here comes this station called KBOX. Every production man who ever lives in the future should have the opportunity to study that radio station. It was what formed my entire opinion from that point on about the effect of production on the sound of a radio station. It became such a nationally copied radio station. Program Directors from all over the country were flying into Dallas and taping this station. Even the newscasts were highly, musically produced. Every single disc-jockey on that station was a production man first. So you had many versions of KBOX pop up around the country in varying degrees -- WNOE in New Orleans; KYA in San Francisco. I don't know that those stations would ever admit they copied KBOX, but they were certainly influenced by KBOX. And then you look at the staff members at that station. Johnny Borders was one of those people, and he went on to become Program Director at KLIF. The morning man was Dan Ingram who certainly went on to great success. But the sound.... Every promo was this two voice, driving sound.
My ability to stack voices gave me the ability, by myself, to become those two voices, and I could do it with a change of inflection, with a change of intensity and all the other colorations that are available. I could do those same two-voice commercials, and that's how I came up with the Bill Young sound, if there is one.