The HotAC Imaging Prod God! Enter WPLJ’s Dan Kelly!

New York City – The Big Apple! Home of the most famous radio stations in the world and also home of one of the best Imaging guys and VO talents in the world: Dan Kelly. You might remember Dan from my previous posts about the Melissa Etheridge Radio Show and maybe from the Imaging, I created for this project. Dan is the Voice Over and a really awesome guy. His turn around time is fanatstic and it is always fun to work with him. But today you will meet him in a different way: Dan is one of the best and most experienced imaging guys around. I talked to Dan about his Imaging career, production tricks and how he feels working for one of the greatest radio statons in the world WPLJ in NYC!

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Enter Dan.

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

ProTools, baby. Though, sadly I’m on 7.3.1. I don’t upgrade often because..well…it works. Mostly, anyway! Upgrading can be such a nightmare that I try to delay it as long as possible! Maybe one day I’ll move up to 9! We have an Orban Audicy still lying around, which I touch every once in a while just for old times sake. Audicy and I had some good times together, but in 2002 it was time to move on!

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

My EQ of choice is Renaissance EQ. (Waves)  It’s simple and does a nice job. I have a bunch of presets in there and I just love it. Nothing fancy but it’s good.

Also, Speakerphone has been an awesome toy. If you haven’t messed around with it, you must. It’ll amaze and astound you and anybody you show it to. The amount of work put into it is simply incredible. I can’t use it too much because some of the EQs are really thick and radio voice tracks don’t cut through great with them on, but I try when I can. If I have to turn off looping helicopter sound effects, I do it!

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

Wow that’s a great question. Every day is so different. Many times I’m doing something that needs to air right away or tomorrow, so it’s usually just time deadlines. It’s pretty rare I’m working on something several days out. I might write a few days out if I can, but producing usually winds up being the day before. And when Scott Shannon calls, I do my best to deliver whatever he desires! If I have a somewhat less crazy day, I just try to do the thing(s) I’ve been putting off the longest. Prioritizing is a hard thing, but I’m constantly working on it. There’s so much you can possibly do it can get overwhelming…so planning out exactly what needs to get done is critical. Then, try sticking to that priority list! It’s hard. J

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

I love that I work at one of the 2 radio stations I grew up listening to. Z100 and PLJ. It’s such an honor to work at PLJ. The history, the people who’ve worked here, the people who still work here….It’s just a little crazy sometimes to think I work here. After 9 years you’d think it would fade, but not really. I also love the fact that I’m entrusted to do my job, writing and producing….and keeping within the general guidelines, I’m allowed to do my thing. Which is generally to attempt to be as memorable or entertaining as possible as quickly as possible. While of course still working in those sponsor tags!  J

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

Well, it’s not anything brilliant, but I’m constantly stacking copies of the same audio on top of each other, on tracks that are EQed slightly different. That alone can give a nice sound to your v/o tracks…and often I’ll offset tracks from each other. Even a few hundredths or tenths of a second can give a cool effect to the v/o. You can also make your own delay by moving a copy of a track above and ahead maybe 1 second and bringing down the volume of that copy. Instant delay without any plug in required.  Just always be messing around and figuring out different ways to get cool, punchy voice tracks.

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

I don’t have any particular place I go to get inspired…I just hope I remember some good ideas I’ve seen/heard and can mold them into something that works for me. Sometimes listening to various cuts of production music can give me an idea. A bit backwards, but I definitely get inspired by great orchestral music or comedy beds. Actually another big source of creativity is our parody voice guy, Mike Kaminski. He’s absolutely incredible and gives a whole new world of creativity to my work….when I can think of a good way to use him of course. He can do so many impersonations it’s ridiculous. His William Shatner is hilarious. His Arnold Schwarzenegger is so real its insane. He does female voices, old man voices……Just thinking about his characters can inspire you. In case you hadn’t noticed, I think he’s pretty damn good.

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

I’d say Z100’s amazing Dave Foxx and my predecessor, Gene Wooten. I used to listen to their work a lot long before I worked here. Gene did such great solid, strong work for years. He’s a great producer….Really fun to listen to and unique. Dave Foxx is also an amazing producer and a great friggin guy. I called him when I worked at WPST for some reason (which I can’t remember)…and he was the nicest guy ever. We’ve kept in touch over the years and I’m always listening to his work and appreciating the hell out of it. He’s so smooth and slick. And an enormous ProTools guy. If I’m ever surprised I’ve been at PLJ for 9 years, I think about him being at Z100 for 24 !!! One of the very best ever.

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

-Learn as much as you can in school about audio. (Compression, EQ, edting, etc)

-Intern someplace where you can get experience doing what you want to do (if you want to do production, try to intern in a production dept. If you want to be a jock, try to work with a jock so you can learn hands on)….interning in promotions if you’re really into production may not be the best use of your internship.

-Don’t give up. It’s easy to throw your hands up and get frustrated when things don’t go your way, but you’ve got to stick with it and keep trying. Don’t expect an instant job offer. People have been paying their dues and working their way up for years. Work hard, be conscientious and show enthusiasm and you’ll be noticed and find success

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

Well, all the jobs I’ve had in radio have been great in different ways. Whether it was jock work or imaging, I’ve always agonized over making just the right demo tape. It can be painful to pick your favorite talk breaks or sweepers and promos. It’s like picking your favorite child. But always try to lead with your strongest work. Something that’s hopefully impressive, unique and entertaining. Whether you’re working in a small market or a major market, take the time to scrutinize your work the most you possibly can. Don’t be sloppy. Listeners might not notice, but your boss likely will. Be a perfectionist and stay persistent. Have a strong work ethic and a positive, helpful attitude and good things will happen for sure!!

Check out a few session pics by Dan.

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