Tackling the Imaging world or meet Chuck Matthews and his…

BOOOM…..Chuck tackles the Imaging World! I met him in 2009, when we were about to launch our classic hits library. He was the man, who created the launch package for it and is currently producing Classic Hits client KBGO/Big 95 WACO. The VO is Benztown talent and legendary KEarth morning host Gary Bryan. Check out Chuckers Vegas Presets, his awesome preamp and mic combos and listen to the best classic hits imaging demo on the planet.

During his career Chuck imaged 5 time Marconi winner classic hits WMJI/Cleveland, where he won two March of Dimes Achievement in Radio awards for spot and promo. Later he imaged Classic hits WTRG/Raleigh, assisted with WLCL/Atlanta’s launch, plus WRQN/Toledo and contract work for WOMC/Detroit. On the rock side, produced imaging at legendary WMMS/The Buzzard Cleveland. Which lead to producing imaging launches for Buzzard clones WVBZ/Greensboro NC (along with WMMS alum Cousin Deke) and WBZT/Greenville SC.  Cuck also produced rock WXKR/Toledo for a number of years. Currently he works as the Production Director for independent Rubber City Radio in Akron OH aka Rubber City USA, where whe oversees three stations. Rock WONE-FM, country WQMX and News/Sports/Oldies hybrid WAKR-AM. WAKR is over 70 years old and esteemed alum include Alan Freed, who is credited with coining the phrase “Rock and Roll”, Scott Muni, Charlie Greer and Art Fleming, the first host of “Jeopardy!”

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

I have used Adobe/Cool Edit since 2000. Prior to 2000, in Cleveland, I used an Otari analog eight track and later the Orban Audicy. I even go back to the days of splicing tape on a two-track! And the days of outboard processing gear. Up until 2004 I ran all of my mixes through a TC Finalizer Express. I’d put that up against the L2 any day. I also use Sony’s Vegas products, mostly for the plug ins. Love the Vegas ExpressFX Dynamics compressor. Vegas/Sound Forge also has a great Time Squeeze plug. Much better than Adobe’s. I got turned onto Vegas by Joel Moss and Ann Dewig (who dumped PT in favor of Adobe/Vegas). On the whole I can do pretty much anything with Adobe that one can do with PT. And like others who’ve been featured on this blog it comes down to what you are comfortable with.

Why haven’t I flipped to Pro Tools or a Mac? The Mac issue is simple. Cost. I can build a pc on par with any Mac for half the cost. With that said… I am considering a Mac Book with PT and/or Twisted Wave. Why? I want to learn. Mostly the reason for still being on Adobe to this day is most places I’ve worked since 2000 have all been on the Adobe/PC platform. More cost effective and easier learning curve for most involved. But I am leaning towards a Mac Book. Maybe mid/late 2012.

I know some out there are gear geeks like myself and may wonder what I am using for a mic etc. I’ve been a big fan of the Sennheiser 416 for years. Bought my first one in 2003 (selling a TLM 103). At home I have the 416 paired with an Avalon M5 and a DBX286 (gate/light comp) and then tweak with plugs for those clients that aren’t hip to doing post production. If a client says they want the audio raw I deliver it that way but more often than not they tell me to process the audio. That goes for some commercial clients as well. Especially cable companies. At work my mic chain is a Sennheiser 415T, T being T-powered. Have to use a T to P48 adaptor to use the mic. Pre is a Focusrite ISA One, purchased from the lovely and talented Ann DeWig. I run it to DBX286 as well. Again for light comp and gate. The home studio, while no whisper booth, does have custom acoustic tiles. Very quiet. The work studio however another story. Typical radio production studio with cork walls and bad carpet on them. Lots of windows and a Scott Studios automation box whirring away under the console. Horrendous design. The engineers should be shot. With that said… I do my best to get the best quality audio of out the room. I’ve purchased a Pocket Sound Booth which works with LDC mics and shotguns. Looked gimmicky but it works fairly well. I recommend it.

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

My favorite plug ins, my “go to” plugs; Vegas Dynamics compressor, Waves C1 comp/gate, REQ6, SSL compressor and Waves L1 and L2. I like the Doubler and Metaflanger, too.  I have a VO chain in a session in Adobe 1.5 (I don’t like 3.0s interface). I record my VO or take the station VO and insert into the session, mix down and all plugs get applied. I then will plot out my session and apply the REQ6 and L1 or L2 to the mixdown. I’m sure there’s an easier way to do it but this is how I’ve done it for years. Works for me. Also, instead of using the L2 I may use the Vegas Wave Hammer plug for the master. Turned onto the Wave Hammer by Joel Moss (WEBN). Great for tough music promo mixing. Levels everything out nicely.

3. how do you schedule your work (priorities…..)? full gig, freeelance, vo etc…?

I’m still working in a radio environment. And most stations allow you to do freelance VO as long as you take care of your regular work. I make sure I do the work for which I receive a salary first and foremost. Then in the lulls I do my freelance VO. I do all dry VO at work since I’m there for eight hours or so and want to be sure my freelance clients get their stuff turned around in a quick fashion. I don’t produce any freelance at work as it can take more time than cutting some liners. All produced freelance is done at home, imaging and commercials. I do a number of concert spots, christian and oldies tours… and of course producing Benztown client stations. At my present stations I produce the bulk of the commercial production… a little different than most of those profiled here on the Benz’s blog. Addtionally I image the news/sports/oldies hybrid WAKR. . Everything from music imaging to news and weather branding to promos for the Masters and high school sports. Very eclectic, very busy at times…but I’ve learned to work efficiently over the years without losing creativity or polish. When my colleague is sick or on vacation I’ll then pinch hit imaging rock WONE or sister country WQMX. I’ve got quite a bit of experience imaging rock stations and it’s fun to slide back into that seat for a day or so. Country I find to be a lot of fun and much like classic hits in presentation. Upbeat, fun and forward. Juggling commercial prod with the imaging load plus freelance can be hectic at times but it all works out.

4. what do you love about being the head of production @ Rubber City Radio?

At my present cluster there are two full time producers. Technically neither one is in charge. That role falls to the OM.

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

Best trick….. I’m stumped on that one. I guess since I’m an Adobe user it would be scripts, or presets, like the VO session template I created.

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

Used to be Radio & Production Magazine, then with CC it was the CC Imaging site with work shared by an incredible number of talented producers around the country. That’s how I got to know Ann Dewig, Joel Moss, Dave Foxx (first when we were both with AMFM/SFX), Vito Gorinas when he imaged WKLS… wow! Vito is the shit. So many I feel bad for not naming them all. Nowadays I get inspired by actually listening to old demos of others I have saved over the years. Or perhaps from someone’s new demo… or listening to a nearby station either OTA or on the web. Being that I handle so much commercial production my imaging network has grown smaller than past years and admittedly am not tied in like I once was. But I do manage to keep my brain, and fingers, in the mix so to speak.

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

So so many. I’ll name the primary biggies; Mitch Todd first and foremost. Mitch, now Director Creative at Sirius XM, was Creative Director at WMJI/Cleveland. I interned for Mitch and eventually was hired on. One word. Creative. He’s an incredibly talented producer AND voice talent. He should be on stations across America. But I’m sure the SXM gig keeps him busier than sh*t. Next would be another WMJI staffer, Michael “Doc” Thompson, now middays at WLW/Cincinnati and PM drive for WRVA/Richmond. Doc can do voice and produce but his best strength is being and Idea Man…..and his writing. Great writer. Then I’ll rattle ’em off; Joel Moss @ WEBN/Cincinnatti, the grand father of rock radio imaging. Another great writer/producer…key being writer first. And he’s deliciously twisted. I can listen to WEBN promos all day. Ann Dewig, Eric Chase, John Frost, Nick Daley and I’ll mention him again, Vito Gorinas when he imaging WKLS/ATL (and did KUPD/Phoenix freelance). Vito now I believe with CC’s Creative Group. Also Cousin Deke, Miles Hilvko (WMMS) and WTAM’s Bob Coates. .

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

Listen and learn. I did that from day one. I listened to those that had/have been doing it for a long time and learned from them. Also learned by listening to demos and stations. Picking apart the promo piece by piece. To this day I’ll bust out an old KROQ Calendar promo that Frost did circa ’95 that I got off a RAP cd. Incredible promo. Would stand up today. Long by PPM standards…but in some cases, screw PPM. Also, learn as much as you can about all facets of the BUSINESS. Radio is a business. You can be creative…but know it’s a business first and foremost and work within that parameter. When I first started out I was all about the creative and shunned the business side. Wasn’t wise. Learn about sales, promotions, for sure some web stuff. Even if it’s just a simple Content Management System. Let’s see…listen and learn,.. that’s two. One more? Be humble. I’ve had my piece of humble pie here and there. Learned a few things the hard way. One can fall from the top to the bottom fast in this business. Being humble can be tough. Radio is an ego business. Be humble, do the work and the accolades will follow.

9. what is the specifics about an oldies / classic hits in todays imaging world?

I’m in tough spot, that I put on myself. I LOVE oldies/classic hits radio. I love the format it was moreso than the format it’s become. That’s me being a programmer and doing imaging. Depends on the hat I’m wearing. I’ve been involved with oldies radio, which I’ll call it so I don’t have to write it two ways…since ’94. I hosted, wrote and produced a two hour oldies radio program for the old Primestar Satellite (cable radio) in the 90s. Have been on air, imaging, MD, PD. Oldies radio then was more R&B/Pop….Motown, Stax, Philly, British Invasion, etc etc. I love the 60s… not a fan of the 70s. But today there’s 70s rock and even some 80s rock/pop. I have to say….The Carpenters, Bread, Herb Alpert and Barry Manilow? Make me wanna throw up. Ok, that’s outta the way. I digress…..It’s progressing of course due to the demos the stations need to attract. Oldies radio or classic hits needs to be fun and forward. Simple. I haven’t worked at oldies powerhouse WMJI/Cleveland since 2000. But being back in the area, Akron’s only 30mins south of CLE, WMJI booms all over. So I listen a bit to what they do, and they do it well (kudos to Bill Connors who does the imaging). WMJI hasn’t dropped below #3 P25-54 since 1998. More often than not they’re #1, including since PPM started. In Akron we’re not a PPM market. But I still produce as if we are. And since the AM requires hard times for promos, ie 60, 30, 15, 10s, due to automation and satellite syncing I’m forced to keep within those parameters. Sometimes it’s easy… sometimes not. I never produce a 60. Way too long for my ears. Really… before PPM ever existed I self edited. Never liked anything over 45sec for a promo and this goes back to early 2000s.  Ok… where was I … With PPM content is king, less is more actually applies to imaging. No need for full long hooks If a library format use the well known bed part of a song or the “bridge” if you will. For oldies/classic hits most of the songs are 45 years old. Everyone knows them. No need for the hook anymore. More teasing, in less words. Sweeps or promos produced in a way that if you automation system allows, ie NexGen, to have a song start underneath the end of the imaging piece for forward motion. Now… I still believe,regardless of PPM, that if a promo is entertaining time isn’t an issue. If it’s a 45sec promo but feels like 30sec. let it be. I don’t believe in forsaking creativity for brevity. That’s me with my PD and Imaging hat on. Now, if you can be creative and brief, kudos. My imaging style is more HAC for CH/Oldies….and I like to use portions of songs in the imaging to assist in the sell. I tend to go the shorter route based on flow.

10. explain about the advantages being a VO artist as well, when it comes to direction (other voice overs and imaging)

Direction. I love being directed when it comes to some VO. I do a lot of spot work and of late some product narration work. Very very different from radio promo VO. In regards to radio, I’ve been trying to tone down the “big voice radio read” for a more natural one… yet, honestly my voice is in the lower register. So no matter what there’ll be some rumble. Some formats/clients like the “big read”, like sports stations. And it comes down to the copy. Most copy is straight forward but from time to time there’ll be direction or you can just interpret the tone and go from there. The VO talents I’ve produced have rarely needed direction from me. One, they’re pros. Two, I think the copy again dictates to them the read. Now when I write copy I put in stage cues if needed for certain reads, like if a serious read I might put “dramatic music under” to set the tone for them or if he/she is reading phrases I’ll put (SFX) or (HOOK) cues to give them a mental picture. Sometimes even the names of the hooks so they can hear it in their head. But I will rarely tell a VO talent how I want something read. The VO talent I work with I tend to write for their cadence. Like John Wells. When I wrote for JW I could hear him in my head and knew his abilities. Same for Jeff Laurence, Ann DeWig or George Robinson. You get to know the talent, their strengths, cadence, etc and write accordingly.

Thanks to Chuck for his interview, audio and screenshots

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