by Andy Capp
I suppose it's a sign of aging. I'll be having a perfectly normal conversation with the gang in the break room when suddenly, without warning, I'll open my mouth and my first Program Director spills out.
Phrases like, "These part-timers have it easy! I started out working eighty-seven hours a weekend!" "I expect a piece of tape under and over every cart label!" and "Why do I always have to make the new pot of coffee?!" spew from my lips as if I was possessed (actually, that last line is mine, but I am tired of arriving to an empty pot in the break room...).
It was bound to happen. My father's voice has been taking me over at home for some time now. During these Sybil-like transformations, statements like, "I love you, son," become, "Why don't you get out of radio and get a real job?!" That one's really odd, because my boys are only four and five.
Another sign of aging, other than the hair growing out of my ears, is a general confusion about new technology. This surprises me because I thought I was hip. I mean, I was a wizard of early video games. From Asteroids to PacMan to Zenon, I must have played them all. Then, like Elton John in "Tommy," I met my match. It started when my kids showed me new tricks and levels on "Super Mario." They've now moved on to games that blaze by so fast that they blur my vision and make me long for Pong.
It was the age thing that initially made me approach digital workstations with equal parts excitement and fear. The prospect of what seemed to amount to cut and paste word processing for audio made me giddy, while the thought that I'd never catch on gave me the flop sweats. As it turned out, I was wrong on both counts. My current DAW does much, much more slice and dice, and the controls are now as second nature to me as griping about sales reps.
So the old codger has resigned himself to a life of multiple personalities and computers; all's right with the world, right? Well, kind of...hey, I'm aging! I gotta complain about something!
Lately I've been noticing a disturbing trend. Perhaps it's a mid-life crisis or a feeble attempt to restore my youth, but I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about and tinkering with computers. I not only spend hours on Session 8 at work, but I also spend free time poring over every ad, catalog, and brochure about recording software that I can get my hands on, obsessed with getting some sort of hard drive recording/editing system in my home studio.
No, I'm not about to indict computers. I am, however, going to indict the old fart who's so wrapped up in the latest technology that he's forgotten what's really important in production--the stuff he puts in the computer.
Workstations, samplers, processors--they're all great tools. The problem is, it's easy to forget that they are only tools. It would be great if patch number 87 on the Eventide was called "Joel Moss" and dialing it up would make every promo incredibly clever and well-produced, but it doesn't work that way.
Really good production comes from sharp writing and strong vocal interpretation of those words. All the latest technical doo dads deliver more creative possibilities, and it's important to learn how to use them. But it's the innovative, intelligent use of these audio gymnastics that puts the "Pro" in Production, and that comes from the person, not the machine.
Time for the old dog to re-learn some old tricks. I'm gonna quit worrying about which software will time compress a :67 spot to :59.5, and worry more about why my writing and delivery has gotten so sloppy that the spot was :67 in the first place. I'm gonna work on making it right before it goes into the hard drive--less fixing it in the mix. I'm also gonna have my Fiber-all now and take a nap, so you kids go mow the lawn and no dead air or you're history!