HOW to ROCK or meet benztown’s Dan Gustafson
Rock Imaging, a craft I always admired and a format I always loved to do! Why? Because it can be really creative from a writing standpoint (Side Note Andy: pioneers like John Frost and Sidey showed us how to push bounderies), you can go nuts on the audio side of things and of course there are guitars in it :)…Dan Gustafson oversees our Rock Format and is cranking out incredible and powerful work every week. Dan got introduced to us years back through a good friend, an incredible Voice Over talent and On-Air Personality – Tom Pagnotti. Tom passed away this week, which is really shocking and sad as none of us knewed he was even sick. I think he would be really happy, if he could see how great Dan is doing and how far we came together!
Enter Dan Gustafson.
Rock Imaging, how do you approach this format? How do you handle the various different styles in this formats from Triple A to Alternative?
Each piece needs to be compelling and have something unique about it. It needs to ooze the message and attitude of the station. It’s not about flashy production (although that’s fun when you can interject it!) it’s about using sounds and processing that support the message.
In terms of the different styles in the format, I try to think about that and produce some things that can go from Active Rock to Alternative and vice versa.
An in-depth conversation with the PD is a great way to start. If it’s some sort of hybrid where they play Active and Alternative, I want to know how they want to brand the station. Some may be playing Five Finger Death Punch and Avenged Sevenfold, but would rather have the imaging represent the vibe of Muse and Cage The Elephant.
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How important is writing? Are there any tricks to it or creatives techniques?
Writing is it. For me, the most important thing is don’t “tell” the listener how cool you are, write things that make them think, “Those guys are pretty cool.”
Audio Imaging tricks? Any new techniques you use?
Lately I’ve been using some really spaced out and ethereal sounding SoundToys EchoBoy reverbs, rendering them out on VO tracks and laying them underneath the regular VO. I drop a lot of the low end out on it as well. It’s pretty cool for intro lines in concert promos that lead up to the first hook or reveal of the piece.
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New plugIns or what is your favorite right now?
Chris Lord-Alge Vocals blew me away when I tried the demo. There’s loads of ways to tweak the sound and it just sounds huge. It’s in every session I do now.
I also really like Waves Morphoder for a Vocoder effect. I’ll render VO tracks out with it, and layer them underneath the original VO. It’s fun to use different pitches on different words as well to get a cool musical tone to it.
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How does a monster VO chain for Rock should look in your opinion?
Compression Is King! I render each VO track with FabFilter Pro-C Compressor with fast attack settings to fatten up the VO. Then I run it though the SoundToys Decapitator to add some distortion, it acts as an Aural Exciter. Then the aforementioned CLA Vocals plugin and finally the Massey L2007 Limiter. It’s all bussed out to the SoundToys EchoBoy plug in to add some more excitement.
I also use various EQ’s and Delay’s on different tracks to accentuate certain points in the copy and keep things moving.
Influences and creative food ? What do you use?
The writing of John Frost is amazing and always a great way to get your mind thinking in a new direction.
Your personal Facebook News Feed is another great way to score some ideas. Reading about all the things that make other people tick, laugh, scream etc. can be another great thought starter and give you a different perspective.
Finally, Christmas Imaging: how important is it for the Rock format and your clients? How do you approach it for ROCK?
It’s important for Rock if your client thinks it’s important for their station, and most do! Sarcasm is probably the most prevalent element of it. There are so many traditional aspects of Christmas that can be looked at from a twisted point of view that can produce some fun stuff.
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Benztown Rock Voice Over by Scott Matthews