John Masecar, Imaging Producer, Mix 99.9/CKFM, Toronto, Ontario

mix999-logoby Jerry Vigil

This month’s RAP Interview takes us to our friends up north where John Masecar has been cranking out the imaging production at Toronto’s top-rated Mix 99.9, CKFM. Deregulation has come to Canada, too, but it hasn’t rocked John’s world yet. With an AM and an FM under the roof, four writers and four producers handle the production in four ProTools equipped studios. But even with this much support, the work load is large enough to keep John in the studio for twelve-hour days. Join us for a visit with one of Canada’s hottest imaging producers and check out John’s inspiring demo on this month’s RAP Cassette.

JV: Tell us about your background in the business.
John: I got into radio in a bit of a backward way. Back in ’79, I enrolled in a university psychology program in St. Catherine’s, Ontario, which is 90 minutes away from Toronto. A year before that, I had known many people at the campus radio station and hung around with them. When I enrolled, I started volunteering at the campus station. Within about two months, I got really bored with the psychology program and a lot more interested in the radio part. So I dropped out of all my classes and resolved that the following semester I would get into a proper radio broadcasting program at a community college. I did that for a couple of years.

While I was in college, I scored a part-time gig on weekends at a small A/C formatted station doing swing announcing on the weekends. I started dabbling more and more in production in college and just got completely fascinated with the process. That part-time gig, in my second year of college, turned into a full-time gig. So I would go to school all day, drive for an hour to the radio station, do seven to midnight on the air, do two or three hours worth of homework, get a couple of hours sleep, and then start the whole thing all over again.

Once I graduated, I went to a full-time announcing gig at another A/C station in another small market. From there, I went to a swing announcing and production situation in a country station. From there, I went to CFNY in Toronto, and I was both writing and producing. That later became a full-time production position. I spent six years there then got a call to come here to Mix 99.9 in Toronto. I now do full-time production, and I’ve been here going on seven years now. The experiences have just gotten broader and broader, especially since Standard Broadcasting owns, in addition to Mix 99.9 and our sister station, CFRB-AM, Sound Source Radio Network, which is a syndication division.

JV:  You’ve bounced around the formats a little. What did that do to your style of production?
John: I haven’t worked every format, but I have worked in a soft adult format and in top 40 country music. This wasn’t new country; it was very definitely old country. I’ve also worked in an alternative format. CFNY was actually one of the pioneering alternative radio stations in North America. This is going back to the mid ’70s when they were doing the alternative thing. This is an adult rock format where I am now. I think that probably the most important thing I’ve learned from working those different formats is that you shouldn’t close your mind to any particular format. I know that, going through college, we all sort of held up CFNY as the Holy Grail because they were doing something very different. We were all excited listening to it and wanted to be a part of it. I did get there, and there were some really magical times. It was a lot of fun and a completely mind expanding experience, but it came time to move on.

Where I am now, I’m not a big fan of absolutely every act that we play on the station, but the station isn’t here to serve me. I’m here to serve the station. So, I think it’s really a bad thing to narrow your focus and say, “All I want to work in is a classic rock station," or "I only want to work in this type of format." I learned so much working at a country radio station. I had very little exposure to country music before I went there, and absolutely no appreciation of it. And I was feeling a little queasy about going into that situation, but I very quickly learned that there is a craft to country song writing that you can pull a great deal from producing for that format.

JV: What were you able to pull from the craft of writing country music?
John: Well, in country music, a lot of attention is paid to the emotion that goes into a song. They’re really reaching out to the listener and relating a life experience. Sometimes, it gets a little cheesy, and some of the lyrics can be a little out there. But for the most part, the country songs are designed to relate to the common person, and that’s our job as well, to relate to the everyday man or woman. We have to relay a message. We have to sell a product. We have to image our radio station. We have to be able to communicate. I thought that was a great thing about country music, that it did communicate, and it was a very clear message. They always managed to strike at the heart of the matter. Now of course, like any type of music, there’s good country music, and there’s bad country music. I’m not championing country music above all, but that was a very valuable lesson for me.

On the other side of that—and I’ve always maintained this notion as far as producing in different types of formats—is that in almost every format, you can afford to be fairly aggressive in an approach to production. There’s no hard and fast rule that says because you’re working in a country format or a news/talk format that you have to be sort of staid and very somber about what you’re doing. Take news/talk radio for example. It’s changed in the last couple of years, but it used to drive me nuts that they had the ultimate vehicle for communication and expression in such a wonderfully democratic situation. And the best they could come up with for a stager was a cheesy repeating synth sounder. I thought, “Man, you have the opportunity to bring the world to your listeners, and that’s the best you can do?” Fortunately, that’s changed a little bit, but there’s no reason why you can’t get aggressive with production in other formats.

JV: You’re the Image Producer. Does the station also have a Production Director?
John: Yes. Peter Tokar is the Production Director here, and we have two very distinct roles. Peter does the bulk of the retail commercial production, and I do the bulk of the imaging and promo work and quite a chunk of programming production as well. And Peter’s just a great guy to work with and for. He handles a lot of the mundane sort of day to day business type things that, frankly, I just don’t have the patience for. I have the luxury of spending more time and more mind power doing what I’m doing without having to type this, fax that, and all that sort of thing.

JV: Increasingly in the U.S., stations are separating the commercial production from the promo production and getting people to do each. That’s obviously what’s happened at your station. Do you see this trend at other Canadian stations as well?
John: Yes, I see it happening in more and more stations in Canada.

JV: Is this part of the deregulation that has occurred in Canada, too?
John: I don’t know if it’s that so much as it is Program Directors becoming aware of the importance of having producers specialize in different areas. Let’s take the guy or girl who we think can image the station best, and have him in that role. And let’s take the guy or girl who can best serve the sales department and have them work on retail commercials and such. I think it’s more a function of specialization. As media in general becomes more and more specialized and more finely tuned, it just sort of makes sense.

JV: Regarding the deregulation that has occurred in Canada, is it pretty much as widespread as in the U.S.?
John: Yeah. It is very much. And it’s only been within the last year or two that our governing body, which is the CRTC, has deregulated the industry where multiple ownership has now been consented to. For the longest time, an owner could only posses one FM and one AM signal in any given market, like we have our FM and AM here. With deregulation, it’s becoming exactly like what has happened in the States, and that is that companies can own several FM and AM stations within the market place. I guess my biggest concern is similar to the concerns I see voiced in RAP constantly; and that is that taking on additional stations without taking on additional staff can be a pretty stressful thing for people who were hired to do a certain job. They may be really good at doing their job, but they are still only human and can only do so much in a given period of time without them suffering and without the quality suffering. I would hate to see a situation come up in this country where people are being stretched so far beyond the limit that they become disenchanted with the business. The quality of their work goes completely down the toilet, and, of course, it’s the stations that suffer. I don’t want to listen to bad production, and listeners are pretty savvy now. I don’t think they want to hear the lame stuff either. So, I think it’s important for owners who are getting into multiple situations that they hire the good people. Pay them what they’re worth, if not a little more. Foster their growth, encourage them, and give them the support that they need, and they’ll do a kick-ass job. We’re all here to do the job for the radio station. Nobody is here to subvert the whole notion of winning. We all want to win, and we all want to make a go of it. Just give us what we need and we’re with you all the way.

JV: In Canada, who are the major players in this game of seeing how many stations you can own?
John: In Canada, it is basically our company, which is Standard Broadcasting, then Rogers Broadcasting, Wic, and Shaw. Those are pretty much the four major players, and it’s going to be interesting over the next couple of years to see how it’s going to work.

JV: Well, it’s been pretty crazy for a lot of stations in the U.S..
John: That’s what I keep reading in RAP, and I would hate for it to get like that here because I think we’ve been pretty lucky in that Canadian radio has maintained a very unique sound. Boy, I’d hate for it to turn into a slaughter house.

JV: You bring up a good point about Canadian radio. Generally speaking, it seems to pay a lot of attention to the quality of the commercials and promos that go on the air by hiring several people to handle the writing and production. In previous interviews we’ve done with people at Canadian stations, it seems the stations often have more writers and producers on hand than most U.S. stations would have for an equal number of stations in the facility. As a result, the stations who do have these added individuals taking on the additional tasks end up getting the most from producers because they can stay focused.
John: Oh, yeah. And that’s a great point. All I do is sit in here and produce all day. With a few exceptions, I don’t voice anything. I mean, my most famous line to date is, “Now playing at a theater near you.” I do image production. Our retail producer does retail production. We have two writers for the FM station. There are two writers over at the AM station, and there are two more producers over there. Our imaging voice is Jim Conrad who lives in Vancouver. As far as other voice talent, we use our on-air staff to voice most things. When it comes down to character voices and auxiliary voices, we hit up the office staff, and there are many talented people among our office staff. And that’s always a nice surprise, to go to somebody in the music department and say, “Do you think you can do this voice?” “Well, let’s go give it a try,” and all of a sudden, you’ve discovered a new talent and somebody that you can then draw on again and again

JV: Two stations, four writers, four producers. Has it always been that way in Canadian radio, as far as you know?
John: It’s always been structured like that, but it hasn’t necessarily been populated like that. I mean, I have worked in situations where you’re producing for both AM and FM, and you have one or two writers that service both sides.

JV: In the small markets.
John: Yeah, definitely.

JV: Well, it sounds like the situation is better in all markets in Canada.
John: Yeah, but there are situations where you’re wearing a couple of different hats. When I was working at a country AM station, I would produce five days a week, and then I would do an air shift on the weekends. Now that doesn’t sound nearly as hectic as what a lot of folks are going through down there, but, yeah, it is a different situation. It’s a very different approach.

JV: Canadian radio has more restrictions on their commercials than U.S. stations, as far as content goes. Would that be the reason why Canadian stations have so many writers? Do you think there’s a connection between that and why your two stations have four writers, or is it that your stations just want to be sure that you’ve got enough writers to handle the business? I mean, is it about the money or about the rules and regulations?
John: Well, it’s probably a little bit of both. There’s quite a volume of work that comes through both of our stations. None of us are sitting idle; that’s for sure. That’s a good point about regulations. It is important for the writers to be very up on the regulations. For example, if somebody writes a promo here for an event that is sponsored by a brewery; and somewhere in that promo, the writer mentions the name of the brewery, that script has to be sent off to a regulatory board for approval. The regulatory board is concerned about the way that you’re presenting the name of the brewery. For example, we can’t portray the image that this brewery is sponsoring something that might encourage people to, for instance, drink and drive. We can’t be portraying the image that you should be performing dangerous stunts after consuming the sponsor’s product, and that sort of thing. So alcohol, food and drugs, products such as shampoo and things like that, anything that has to do with consumption all requires some form of approval. There’s been a bit of deregulation, though. They’re giving more responsibility to the stations to be their own watchdogs, but it is still heavily regulated that way. So, back to your original question, yeah, that’s partly the reason for the writers to be there. But as I said, there is a good chunk of volume that comes through here, and I just think that it’s a good idea to have all these people concentrating in all these different areas.

JV: How is Mix 99.9 rated in the market?
John: Overall, we’re about number three in the marketplace right now. There are certain day parts where we’re number one, and we just keep going up. We’re doing very well, and we are pretty focused. We know where we’re going, and we’ll get there.

JV: With four producers running around, that explains why there are four production studios. Tell us about them. How are they equipped?
John: All four of our production studios have ProTools, but I’ve got the best toys. I have ProTools Core System III which is a triple 8-I/O interface. It’s a 16-channel system with, of course, the virtual unlimited tracks, as is customary with ProTools. It’s all running off a Power Mac 7100, and I have a good chunk of the TDM software plug-ins. The biggest package is Audio Suite from a company called Waves, and they have some great sounding reverb plug-ins, delay plug-ins, EQ, dynamic compression and expansion, and more. I have two TVM DSP Farm cards which means that I have quite a bit of DSP power. I’ve got an Eventide H-3000 Harmonizer with an extra chip in it, so I’ve got a good assortment of sounds in there. I have an old Yamaha Rev-7, a dbx-166 compressor, and a couple of DAT machines, a Sony and a Fostex.

Everybody else has ProTools Core System II. They’re just eight channel systems. I think there are a couple of Yamaha reverb units in the other rooms, and a couple of Alesis processors and such.

JV: Did you select ProTools as the system for the station?
John: Yeah, certainly within given parameters. I basically kicked and screamed as loud as I could, and they said, “Okay.” We auditioned several systems back in ’93, and the other ones paled by comparison. Now I’ve certainly looked at other systems, a lot of the PC based systems like SAW and Triple Dat and Spectral. Triple Dat is actually in one of our auxiliary studios, and it’s really good. It has a good amount of DSP and real time processing, but I’m completely stuck on ProTools. I’ve heard about other guys who have checked out ProTools or who buy ProTools and sort of go on that it’s designed for musicians and that it’s too much and it’s overkill. I don’t believe that at all. I think it has a minimal learning curve. Probably the biggest obstacle that I had when I first got ProTools was that the editing is so flexible that there’s at least three or four ways to do any one function. So, you have to settle on one way to begin with until you grow into the system, and then you learn what the other ways are all about. But overkill is not really a word that’s in my dictionary. I’m sold on ProTools completely. It’s a little more money than the other ones, but boy, you get what you pay for.

JV: What’s your approach when you produce a promo? Do they hand you a fact sheet and say, “We’re giving away some tickets to this and that this weekend. Do your thing.” Or does somebody write the promos for you?
John: We have a weekly promo meeting that involves me and our Creative Director, Pat Cugliari. He and I, the Promotions Director, the Program Director, and a couple of other folks get together once a week. We go over the upcoming promotional schedule and then just start jamming on ideas. It’s basically a free-for-all. We settle on a given concept for every promotion, and then Pat goes back and scripts out the full promos. In the time outside of the meeting, Pat and I are pretty much jamming on ideas and contributing to each other throughout the process. From there, Pat will take the promo scripts and fax them off to Jim Conrad, our voice-over in Vancouver.

JV: You mentioned Pat’s title as Creative Director. What are his responsibilities?
John: Well, that’s another difference between Canada and the States. What we call a Creative Director and what you call a Creative Director I think are a little bit different. Pat oversees all of the script and client liaison and so on.

JV: So he’s writing or overseeing scripts for commercials as well as promos?
John: Yes. Both our writers write both scripts and promos. So, he faxes the script off to Jim Conrad. A day later I get a DAT back and copies of the scripts, and I just start throwing voice tracks into ProTools. The concepts are pretty much fully formed, but the great thing about working with Pat and our other writer, Laurie Salisbury, is that they give Peter and I complete license to interpret; and in certain cases, re-interpret what they’ve come up with and contribute. They’re not so anal or possessive about their scripts that they’re going to dictate that we produce them verbatim. They want our ideas. They want us to contribute. So, between the writers and the producers, I think we come out with a pretty good product. And as far as promos go, as I said, we receive the concept on paper and the voice track. But that is just the starting point at which I begin to play and have fun and get into the voice manipulation and all the things that are going to make it more ear candy, more interesting, hopefully, and more attention getting. And I’m lucky to be working with these people because they’re great people to work with.

JV: How do you know when you have the right tweak on a voice track? How do you know when that “ear candy” tastes good?
John: That is the toughest thing, and it took the longest time to get to that point where you do know that something is necessarily finished. I guess like most people, when they started doing production, it’s like let’s see how much I can cram into this thing before it’s finished. Then it gets on the air, and it sounds like you’ve crammed everything into it. That’s impressive I guess from a sonic standpoint, but boy, I didn’t understand what the hell was going on there. It’s taken a long time to learn that pacing, where to put the silence, where it needs the extra bold, and where to hold back. It’s almost a nebulous thing now, but you just sort of know. You get to a point, and you go, “Yeah. It’s finished.” Similarly, you also know when you’ve gone too far, and you have to pull it back a bit. You also know when you haven’t done quite enough. You just sort of get a sense. Okay. It’s done. I don’t know how better to explain that.

JV: About how many promos are you producing a week?
John: In the space of a week, it’s probably like a dozen, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s not all I do. I’m obviously producing image liners and all those other elements that go into imaging. We’re doing maintenance updates on promos because we like to be as immediate as possible. We’re doing corrections. If for some reason, a client has changed something, a date has changed, or something to that effect, you’re always going back and sort of fixing those things up. In addition, we like to be topical if something has just happened in the news or in the entertainment world. We want to try to get on top of it and stick something on the air. I’ll give you a good example. A couple of years ago—and I don’t know how much coverage it got down there—we were in a situation where Quebec, which is our French speaking province here in Canada, held a referendum in their province where they were actually very serious about separating from the rest of Canada. They were going to leave, and that’s one-twelfth of our country. So, it all came down to a vote, which was supposed to happen on a Monday. Our Program Director came in on Thursday evening and said, “We want to put together a special piece of production to run on the air tomorrow morning. We want it to pull on the heart strings to get people to say, ‘Canada, we have to stay together.’” It was a piece of production that involved mixing in a lot of music hooks that had to do with the theme of togetherness. In addition to doing that, I wanted to include a lot of voice clips because it was a very emotionally charged issue on both the English and the French speaking sides. So, I sat down with the TV for a couple of hours, flipped through the Canadian news networks, pulled a lot of voice stuff off of there, incorporated it into the final mix, and came up with something that we could put on the air in the morning show the next day. That alone probably took between six and eight hours, and that’s six or eight hours that is removed from the normal workday. So when I say we’re doing a dozen promos in a week, that may not sound like a lot to some people, but there are always other things coming up. It’s not like we’re sitting back with our feet up.

JV: What kind of hours do you normally put in?
John: I generally start between five and six in the morning, and I go probably until about six in the evening, maybe seven.

JV: Twelve hour days. Don’t you think that’s working a little too hard?
John: My wife would say so. Yeah.

JV: But, after all these years, you still love those hours, don’t you?
John: Yeah. I do. I’m a real morning person too. I just have more energy in the morning, and I just find the ideas come faster in the morning. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, I do a fair bit of work for our syndication division, The Sound Source Radio Network. So, I spend a good bit of time doing Sound Source work. So, it makes for a long day, but if I didn’t like what I was doing, I certainly wouldn’t spend the time doing it.

JV: Tell us a bit more about Sound Source.
John: Sound Source syndicates many different programs from world album premier specials to countdown shows. I think there’s at least three countdown shows that are syndicated through Sound Source across Canada to daily financial features and computer features and comedy features. The Sound Source work has become a daily thing, probably between two and three hours a day.

JV: What production libraries do you like to use to image the station with?
John: I’ve gotten more into picking and choosing from smaller libraries. I’m taking a cue from Eric Chase because he brought this up a couple of issues ago [January 1998 RAP Interview]. Up until probably three years ago, we had been into the larger libraries, the TM Century stuff, and some of the other bigger ones. As I made the point before, things are getting so specialized that it’s completely useless to buy a big “do everything” kind of library because the amount of waste is just incredible. We’re paring down our approach to production libraries. I have some stuff from AV Deli, Joe Kelly’s company in Chicago. I have the Killer Hertz disk from Jeff Thomas, which is very cool. I have a nine-disk set from a company in New York called Video Helper that I discovered through a demo disk. They do music primarily for picture, but there is some great stuff in there. It really expands the range from hard core beats and dance to full blown drama. And it’s well produced. They use real instruments and it sounds great. We had been using some Brown Bag stuff up until just recently. Unfortunately, it’s just not in the budget anymore, although it’s great stuff. And it was great dealing with Michael Lee. He is just the best person to deal with, and we had some wonderful conversations about the business and about production and such. But it just got a little bit out of our range, unfortunately. As far as sound effects, I’m using the Hollywood Edge stuff, the Premier Library, and I have that on CD-ROM. We also have the Sound Ideas sound effects library. So, we’re well equipped.

JV: Are you still using carts, or have you gone digital for the on-air delivery?
John: We’ve gone to a DCS system, Digital Commercial System. It’s been good for the most part. I guess, like any system, it chooses to crash at five o’clock on a Friday afternoon, but that hasn’t happened that much. I guess the biggest obstacle that we’ve had to overcome or the biggest habit that we’ve had to get everybody into is that you can’t use DCS as your personal archiving system. You can’t be storing 15 or 20 hours worth of interviews on the system. You can’t have that stuff sitting in the system because sooner or later the disks will get fragmented. Although they’re sort of guaranteed not to fragment, I don’t believe that for a minute. Every disk fragments at some point. When you look at the time remaining, and it’s getting pretty close to the ten percent mark, you just have to start blowing stuff off the disk. So that’s probably been the biggest headache, that folks have been using it as their sort of personal archiving system, and that’s not really what it’s designed for. It’s here to deliver the goods. And as far as that goes, it’s fine. It’s a great system.

JV: Are you or the station using the Internet for anything? Does the station have a Web site?
John: I personally don’t do a lot of the surfing sort of thing, which is a function of time more than anything. When I first got on, I was like everyone else. I was surfing all night. But now I just primarily use it for research when I’m writing shows. And it’s a great tool for that. And, of course, I use e-mail, news groups, and things like that. I don’t do any Web design. I don’t do HTML or anything like that. Although, it’s an area that I’d like to explore a bit more. And of course, there’s audio delivery on the Internet. I’d like to explore a bit more of that. Right now, we have our computer guru who does all the computer work for Standard Broadcasting. He’s working on all of our corporate Web Sites and getting that whole thing together. A lot of the stations in our chain already have their own Web sites, some really killer ones, too.

JV: Who were some of your mentors, production people you’ve somewhat styled your work after?
John: Everybody brings up the same names, but for good reason. I’m listening to Jeff Thomas and, of course, John Frost. The greatest thing I love about listening to John’s work is that it spans the whole range. He’s doing the really killer sort of fast edits with lots of stuff going on. But he’s got the craft of writing too which I think unfortunately a lot of places are missing. It’s one thing to do the really fast cuts and such, but the writing is so much an important part of it. And John’s stuff just cracks me up all the time. I thoroughly enjoy listening to it. And there’s Brian Kelsey. He was three or four issues ago [November 1997 RAP Interview]. He has just killer stuff to listen to and is just absolutely wonderful. Eric Chase I mentioned. Lynn Naymark who is down in San Diego is somebody that is probably one of the first people that I looked up to and thought, “Gee. I would like to try to do that kind of thing.” Lynn was actually here for quite a few years. He has the same sort of approach as John. He can do the whole range, and he’s a great writer. He does great voices, too. But we’re into the Canadian/American thing here again because there are guys up here whose names probably don’t filter down there. We have some great talents here. At our station in Vancouver, the Production Director there is Mark Lacock. He’s great. He’s wonderful to listen to. There’s Ross McIntyre. I’ve enjoyed listening to his stuff. Jim McCourtie, who is here in Toronto, is another killer talent. I love listening to all their work and sort of aspiring to and hoping that I can sort of move up to that level. It’s great to have those things to aspire to and work towards, and it’s just plain fun to listen to.

JV: What tips would you pass on to other producers wanting to sharpen their chops and climb the ranks to the majors?
John: Work your ass off. Aside from that, I’ve always felt that it’s important for me to expand my frame of reference, to take in all these different kinds of sounds that are going on. I think it’s too easy for so many of us who sit in these rooms surrounded by the blinking lights and the loud sounds day after day to think that there is nothing outside of our world; when, in fact, there is everything outside of our world. I think it’s important to listen to types of music that you would not normally listen to. I think it’s important to, if you’ve never spent the time listening to a talk radio station, tune one in and see what’s going on. Don’t confine yourself to the world of Seinfeld or Mad About You, pull a couple of hundred drops off there, and think that that’s the gig because it’s not. There are so many other areas to draw from.

I guess the earliest one that I go back to is the Firesign Theater. I hope a lot of readers recognize that name because they were so influential in their approach to, not just recorded comedy, but sound. Their use of sound was just astounding because they operated on more than one level. They knew that people were capable of taking in more information than just one spoken voice in a linear fashion. A great example is the album, How Can You Be In Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All, which was a vinyl release. Each side is an entire concept piece. It doesn’t stop. It just goes on and on. The first side starts out with a character driving in his car. While the guy’s driving along and talking to himself, you hear voices panning through the stereo spectrum and fading in and out on either side. When you listen more closely to what those voices are, the voices are actually speaking the highway signs at the side of the road. This guy’s driving along, talking to himself, and you’re hearing on the one side a voice going, “Antelope Freeway—One Mile.” “Antelope Freeway—One/Half Mile.” The other side is a voice reading the billboards that this guy is passing by like, “If you lived here right now, you’d be home by now.” At the same time, the guy’s listening to his radio, and there’s an entirely different sketch happening on his radio. If you go back and listen to what’s happening on the radio, it’s like a whole little world in itself. And the guy ends up going to a car dealership based on a commercial that he hears on his car radio. He goes to Ralph Spoil Sport Motors, and Ralph gets him into this car. They start playing around with the temperature controls in the car. They set it for maximum heat, and the next thing you know, they’re in a desert. And it just carries on. It’s so deep and works on so many different levels. If there’s a television set in the background, listen to the television set because I guarantee there’s something else going on there.

I’ve rambled on a bit, but try and produce things on different levels. In everyday life, if you’re outside standing on a busy street corner in a city, you’re not just listening to one thing happening at a time. You’re only focusing on one thing at a time, but everything is happening around you; and that’s life. And if you can incorporate life into what you’re doing, I think it’s going to be a whole lot more interesting. Even if you’re spending a good chunk of time creating an effect, and you stick it low in the mix, it’s not necessarily going to be perceived as the primary effect in that mix, but it’s going to add to the feel. It’s all just part of that bigger picture.

There are other areas personally that I drew influence from. People like Brian Eno as far as manipulating sound and making things sound different than what they originally did. Listen to Keith Richards’ guitar playing. Listen to a Stones album or one of Keith’s solo albums, and listen to what he is doing. He knows exactly where the groove is at all times. He knows where the spaces go, and he knows where the notes go. I think that’s really important in production, too. Know where the spaces and notes go. It all falls into that wonderful area.

So, again, work your ass off. Be into what you’re doing. I’ve always considered myself so lucky to have learned a strong work ethic from my father. By the same token, stand up for yourself in your work situation because nobody else is going to do it for you. You can be working until all hours of the night, but if you don’t stand up for yourself and say, “Hey, this is what I’m doing,” then you’re dead. You’re going to get killed. Above all, have fun. Even though I’ve waxed philosophical, when it’s all said and done, it is only rock and roll, so to speak. We’re all here to do the job. But the job is fun, so have fun doing it.


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