R.A.P.: What are your favorite promos to produce?
John: My favorite promos are ones with very few copy facts like, "Get the new KROQ sticker at all Tower Records locations." If that's all I've got to communicate, and they're going to give me forty seconds to do it, watch out! It's going to get weird.

R.A.P.: What about IDs and drops? You don't have forty seconds to get weird there.
John: It's a lot of experimenting and goofing around. We have something that we call KROQ anti-jingles because they're just nontypical as far as the word "jingle" goes. We take some music beds, some drum loops, or some samples--whatever we think sounds really cool and rocking and forward moving--and we add to it drops from movies, drops from the station, drops from TV, drops from whatever we can find that seems to be communicating something about music, about lifestyle or whatever. That's going to be twenty seconds long, but they're good bridges in the middle of a music sweep. They don't seem to stop the music because there is music going on in them. It's just a lot of experimenting around.

We have a forty-minute nonstop sweep every hour. We have a "forty minute" jingle out of our second stop set every hour, and those are all sung. I sang them. I once stole music from different unknown songs that I liked the music for or could envision doing a jingle to, and I ended up singing them. I've got a reggae jingle in there. I've got lots of thrash-type rock jingles in there. I've got all kinds of things, but the reason we decided to sing those is because we didn't want them to sound like any of our other jingles. And now people sing them at club nights and things. When we're out at nightclubs, if there is a song playing that we used in one of the jingles, they'll sing the forty-minute jingle on the dance floor...really loud.

It's experimenting around and trying to do something like nothing else on your radio station right now. That's where most creativity comes from. I mean, start a promo out like you've never started a promo before. Don't start with call letters. What if you started out with "Once upon a time there was a puppy named Dave" and go from there and make a whole story about the puppy and then relate it to your sticker somehow or whatever you're doing. Something different. There's a great "blanding" going on in radio across the nation, and that's why this job is so important.

R.A.P.: Where are the listeners' heads these days? What do they want from a radio station like KROQ?
John: That varies, I'm sure, format to format. Our demo is mostly eighteen to twenty-four or eighteen to thirty-four. The kids in that age have bullshit detectors, pardon my French, going one hundred miles an hour. If you're doing something lame, they'll know it. You can try to cover it up. You can try to hide it. If you're doing a lame contest where you're just giving away gift certificates for a breakfast sandwich or something, if it sounds small time to you, if you've got a gag reflex going, then don't even do it because kids can sense lame.

Kids don't like to be told things are cool. "Cool" is probably the worst word you can use right now when you're trying to sell something to kids, and they hear it in advertising all the time! I don't know what the hip word is now. There's probably a variety of hip words that I would say. You've just got to be a little more honest. You've got to be direct or goofing around, not taking yourself too seriously, because that all looks really hypy and lame. There are a variety of examples you can get into of any of those things, but I think the kids just want to listen to music and don't want to hear a lot of the other stuff. Everything comes up in your research. Everybody knows what their listeners want; they just deny it.

R.A.P.: What do you do when you want to stimulate those creative juices?
John: I go through, as I imagine anybody does, ruts where you are just not as creative. You know, the ideas are just not popping in like they were yesterday. Sometimes it gets really depressing when the rut goes for more than a few days. The way to break out of a rut is to sit down with the intent of doing something different from anything you've done. Try something new because a lot of times you'll discover something new that ends up sounding pretty good. If not, that's fine, too. Try it again tomorrow. Getting out of ruts is one of my passions.

I don't know how I get inspired. It's either there or it's not. I'm kind of a recluse who doesn't like to leave the house, and I'm addicted to video games. But other than that....

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  • The R.A.P. Cassette - June 1996

    Commercial demo from interview subject, Dick Orkin; plus commercials, promos and more from Geoff Bowser @ SAFM Adelaide, Jay Greener @ WCFL Chicago, Tuna Jon...