Do you really want it? Meet WBMX Imaging Legend Damon…

There is so many people in this (radio) world telling you, they go talent and really want X. A better gig, more money, more clients, more responsibility more…. Let me introduce you to a guy, who really wanted it: Damon Oaks. If you are stucked in routines or if you are not confident with your work environment, take Damon’s inspiring interview as personal motivation to challenge yourself every day or to get your butt out of the comfort zone and make an impact to the imaging world.

I got to know Damon a few months ago. He is the imaging guy for WBMX in Boston and a great Voice Over talent as well. His client list is impressive and he even has some clients overseas. Check out the entire interview, the screen caps, Damon’s audio and learn how Damon got hired by Greg Strassel (today Head of Programming for CBS) to image one of the biggest markets in the US.

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1. which production system do you use at your station and why?

I use a combination of Adobe Audition 3.0 and Sony Vegas Pro.  Coming up through small market radio, I wasn’t exposed to the magical wonders of Pro Tools. All my audio training and creative development was done on PC. An imaging guy, who I eventually replaced in Boston, told me, “hey, your piano is your piano…a masterpiece can come from anything.” I think that’s true. My advice to anyone would be to go with a system that makes sense to you. If you feel your being held back by a certain platform, then by all means explore what’s out there.

2. what are your favourite plugIns (including screenshots)?

For general production plug-ins, I’ve gone with the standard: WAVES.  A complete bundle (and your receipt will back that up!). For my voice over work, I’ve been playing with some new stuff that’s recently hit the market. My favorite at the moment is iZotope’s Nectar.  That is a candy shop of vocal treatment that can give you many different options, and it comes preloaded with many cool settings. People who record/process vocals for music would love this too. Another plugin I’m demo-ing at the moment is Wave Arts Dialog. It’s priced at about $250 USD, and I’m pretty sure this is coming home with me. It’s 8 audio processors linked together that includes a limiter, 10 band EQ, compressor, hum and buzz eliminator, low and high brick wall filters, a de-esser, and maybe most impressive, the “de-ploder”, which takes care of the plosives. Of course a Stedman pop screen can do the same thing, but I like the fact that they put it in there. All in all, an impressive plugin to clean up audio (if you have a noisy studio, grounding issues, buzzing, etc), and also many options to give it boost.

3. how do you schedule your work (priorities…..)?

Real simple; Who’s paying the most! LOL. At present time, that is the radio station I work for. After my work is done for them, I get my freelance work lined up and crank away. But if there’s mundane work vs. fun/creative work on your plate, my advice to you is to do the mundane stuff first, then reward yourself with the fun, creative work by having no distractions so that you can focus on it and fill in all the little nooks and crannies of detail that you probably would’ve ignored due to other pressing tasks on your mind.

4. what do you love about being the head of production @ your station ?

You can wear funny shirts or say things in weird voices and everybody just chalks it up to you “being the creative guy.” Seriously, try it out. I’m not at all a crazy dresser or do silly stunts in the hallways to get attention, but if I wanted you, I could, simply because I’m the “creative guy.” It’s like you’ve got a license to act like a moron and nobody can challenge you on it. Again, I don’t use that license, but it’s alright with me that it’s there. There’s also something cool about people saying, “how do you make all those things?” Maybe it’s them just placating me. Or maybe it’s a good sign of job security.

5. what is the best protools or production trick anybody should know?

Tricks can be time savers however, anyone reading this who says, “damn, I don’t know any tricks with protools or Vegas”, or whatever…don’t sweat it. First, if you hear it in your head…go through the  steps to print it that way. Learn it the long way first.  This way you’ll better understand why you’re getting the audio to react a certain way by going step by step. (Seriously, can I use the word “way” again in any other different way?) Bottom line is, I don’t think tricks are as important as they may seem, so be brilliant at the basics (thanks Steve Goldstein/Saga)…that would be understanding thoroughly what compression and EQ do. When that’s done, get on YouTube or talk to Andy and Oli about tricks. Oli’s ProTools-Waves trick with compressing music underneath VO is probably at the top of the list.

6. how do you get inspired and what do you use as scource of creativity?

My inspiration comes from listening to the work of the leaders out there. Streaming allows us to hear production work from Amarillo to Amsterdam. Hold yourself up to the best, and then say, “what’s it gonna take from me to get in the ring with these guys/girls.” Be competitive. Creativity usually comes when you least expect it. Shower, driving, dreaming, etc. We work in a world of audio, and audio is all around us. Spending a day with a microphone on the street can bring a flood of ideas. Anytime a celebrity says something stupid in an interview (that’s audible), set the alarm to go off thinking “I need to use this somehow”. In the end though, really good creative work always starts with the writing. A start, a middle, a payoff. Listeners don’t care that we’re crafty with sound effects, they want validation for listening.

7. who were your radio production idols, who influenced your work as a producer?

The big 3 in my opinion (and for my era growing up) were John Frost at KROQ, Eric Chase at WFLZ, and Jeff Thomas (KIIS and Killer Hertz).  The creativity that Frost laid down in the past 20-30 years just took it to another level. The dood is sick, and he’s unapologetic for it. I throw Will Morgan in this class as well, also a big influence on me. Eric Chase was the first one that I ever heard blend his multi-musical instrument talents into his production work. Need a certain bed for this promo that matches the music of the artist to a TEE? “OH, I’ll just make one!” He also did things with audio that made my ears go “what the hell was that?”, and it was always in crystal clear audio. Jeff Thomas gets a mention because he just made everyone’s production sound incredible with his sound effects. His Killer Hertz libraries quickly made drink coasters out of other packages, and set the bar for future sound effect producers.

8. what would be your 3 key advices for a youngster?

(1) Create and produce stuff that makes you laugh or that generates an emotional response from you.  If you’re not passionate about it, or impressed with how it sounds, chances are nobody else will either.

(2) Spend the time on making incredible pieces. I found that a few home runs tend to bring you more recognition than many singles and doubles. Not to say consistency doesn’t matter, it does. But Dangerfield’s “No respect” bit, or Carlin’s “7 dirty words” joke will always define their careers…because they were home runs.

(3)  When you make your PD/GM nervous, chances are you’re doing something right. Follow through with your idea if it matches up with what I mentioned in (1).

9. what where the most important decisions you did to get the gig of your life?

I tend to think I got lucky getting my Imaging Director gig for WBMX in Boston, but looking back, maybe it had something to do with just wanting it. I was hired by Greg Strassel, now the President of Programming for CBS.  I was a 24 year old kid working out in Springfield, MA making 28K a year. I knew I was better than that and started looking for jobs. I saw a post in R&R for an Imaging Director in Boston, and I knew right then that if I didn’t pounce on this, someone else would.  I got the resume and demo tape together as fast as I could and personally drove it out 110 miles to the WBMX studios the next day. I asked the receptionist if I could “hand these documents to Greg Strassell personally, since it was a personal matter involving both parties.” And hey, it was! This was my future we’re talking about! And little did he know that he was about to meet the next imaging director for WBMX for the next 10+ years. Over the course of the interview process that happened over the next couple weeks, I kept asking him to send me things to produce. I’d send him copy that I’d written for BMX. I kept showing him at every hitch and turn that I didn’t just want this gig…I was put on this planet for this gig. Turns out I was up against this proven guy from Baltimore. At the time, he was more polished than I. One day I got the call and I’ll remember it to this day. You literally feel like somebody just touched you with a magic wand or something. It’s the only time where I actually enjoyed moving. Gregg eventually told me that I “out passioned” him for the gig, and that “polishing talent” is something he’s very capable of doing. It goes with anything in life…and the cliche’s are endless. If you want it…go get it. And if you don’t get it, you’re a lot stronger than when you started, and the next opportunity is always around the corner.

Thanks to Damon for his interview, Audio and Screenshots.

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