24 Days Of Xmas – Day 17 : Imaging KFI…
I am so happy Staxx introduced me to John a few weeks back. John has been with iHeart since 2003, mostly spent working out of a small market in Northern California, and got connected to some good people who eventually led him to LA and KFI. I totally understand those good people, as I was just blown away when I heard John’s Soundcloud and his creative, unique approach to image KFI. Why John does what he does and how he gives KFI a unique Voice in the NT world…Learn more here! Enter John!
1. Which production system do you use and why?
I learned on Adobe Audition, and it’s the DAW I used for fifteen years, but when I came to LA, absolutely everyone in the building was using ProTools. I spent a few days eating, sleeping, and breathing ProTools, and that was enough to get me to the point I could produce things with it, and it’s only gotten more and more comfortable in the ensuing two years. I know this is a common response, but: the best DAW for you is the one you’re comfortable using. I would add that “the one everyone around you is using” is also a particularly good DAW, as that opens the door for easier opportunities to pick up tips from your contemporaries and swap sessions around. As someone who was pretty isolated in a smaller market for a long time, let me tell you: the best imaging you’ll ever do is the stuff you do after talking with other people who do it.
2. What are your favorite plugIns?
I’m going to disappoint a lot of audiophile producers here, so let me say up front that I have 100% heard the difference a really great effects chain can make in your production. I am not that producer though, and my job calls for different talents, I think. KFI is an AM station, and more than that, it’s a talk station, and both call for an emphasis on the message. With an AM stick in particular, all you have is your message, so you’re working with a different set of tools. As a News/Talk station, we are, more than other formats, typically serving a purpose other than just entertainment, so getting the message right is crucial.
3. How do you schedule your work?
Honestly, it always feels like I’m flying by the seat of my pants. I tend to schedule it on a priority system, so regularly updated things take a backseat when there’s something that needs to be addressed. Working in News/Talk is a little different, because you are also at the mercy of the news cycle. If something major happens, especially if it affects your listening area, you may need to respond to it. During the recent wildfires, the whole team at KFI went into serious do-work mode, and really prioritized getting information out to the people that needed it. I played a small part in that by creating imaging that assured listeners of the types of information they could find by listening, or visiting our website, etc. It also necessitated going into what I think of as “Stealth Mode,” in which any of my usually snarky and (hopefully) funny imaging gets pulled off the air, and we focus on information delivery. Stealth mode meaning the imaging and personality of the station takes a backseat to our ability to instantly deliver information when it’s needed.
4. What do you love about doing imaging for the News/Talk format? What do you love about imaging KFI?
Imaging News/Talk plays to my strengths. I think I’m a pretty solid writer, and as I said before, I think your message is the single most important thing you can get right with a talk format. KFI is different from any other talk station I’ve worked with or heard of. We try very hard not to take sides (as a station) in a political climate that is basically 100% focused on taking sides: everything this guy does is great because he plays for your team, but everything that guy does is terrible because he’s on the other team. We don’t find this productive. Our hosts have opinions, of course, but our news product is just as important as our talk product, if not sometimes moreso (see: wildfires). KFI also has a very specific attitude that was really interesting to try to crystallize into something I could integrate into my writing. It’s wry and snarky, without being alienating. Like a friend who gives you a hard time, but is just as likely to be self-deprecating, and completely reliable when the chips are down.
5. What is the best protools or production trick anybody should know?
I’m going to go with production trick: come up with a ritualized, organized system for keeping all your audio where you can find it. I’ll share a system a good friend and super positive influence suggested: save all your stuff in the following format: CALLS-YYMMDD-Name of Project. So if I was going to do a promo about not kicking anyone in the face on January 14th of next year, it’d be like KFI-180114-No Facekicking. Since I switched to this system, it’s made it so much easier to keep track of my sessions, and I go back to stuff all the time!
6. How do you get inspired and what do you use as source of creativity?
My inspiration and creative recharge is just talking to people that I like, about normal stuff. I can’t tell you how many times a joke from a conversation I had with a friend has made its way into a rejoin, or a sharp insight from a phone call with my dad has tied a promo together. I also don’t limit myself, and love to explore what seems like totally ridiculous ideas that almost certainly will never see the light of day. You never know when a goofy for-fun project will provide the answer to something else you’ve been working on, and the effect on your creativity that comes with working on something you are enjoying is invaluable.
7. Who were your radio production idols, who influenced your work as a producer recently?
KFI’s imaging voice is actually this super talented young man whose work continues to blow me away and inspire me to be better and funnier and more morally bankrupt. You should look up John Frost, if you have the chance, he has a future in this stuff for sure. Smaller market guys taught me most of what I know about imaging, and I was very lucky to be able to work with incredibly talented people in the market where I got started. My mentors Dave Mazzy and Matt Hobley taught me so much, and I’ll be grateful forever. More recently, people like Jon Manuel at KBIG, Miles at KIIS, Staxx at Z100, and Roger Keeler at KTCL have all given me both excellent examples of wonderful work, and actionable advice and influence. That list is far from exhaustive, and it’s really a credit to the awesome community of imaging producers that it was so difficult to choose just a few.
8. What have been the key advices in your career till now?
The best piece of advice I maybe ever got was to keep my individual voice. I was assured early on that the best work I would do was the stuff that felt truest to myself, and it has made all the difference.
An excerpt of John’s work:
KFI Local News
KFI Unity Thanksgiving
KFI Independence Dad Cluster
KFI Ween Zombs
Also check out John’s soundcloud for more awesomeness!: