R.A.P. Interview: Drake Donovan

JV: Where do you think your greatest talents lie?
Drake: One of the things that I thought made me good for imaging and production was my ability to recall movies lines, television lines, and sound lyrics to fit any situation. You know, back in the mid to late ‘90s everything had a drop, but some people just put drops in to use drops.  That’s not the way I like to use them. It’s like my high school drama director used to say. He would yell at me for keeping my hands in my pockets when I was on stage. He said, “That’s a move you want to keep in your arsenal, and you want to use it sparingly because it has great effect.” So I always think about that. I like to write around drops. The show Friends has such great reaction lines, and I wrote a drop for our Retro Café that went, “Dehydrated Japanese noodles under florescent lights… does it get any better than this?” And then the voiceover comes in, “…well, with all ‘80s it does!” The drop has to mean something and then the voiceover reacts to it. I think that’s important.

Another thing I feel is a good part of my talent makeup is my nostalgia imaging. At Star we’re very ‘80s-based. The ‘80s make up a good 50 to 60 percent of our total playlist, and we do Flashback Fridays, all ‘80s all day. We do Retro Café at noon, we do Flashback Weekends, and I try to inject not only some fun imaging to them to compliment the music, but I also throw in the nostalgia stuff. I was doing “I love the ‘80s” long before VH1. I do ‘80s timelines where I’ll take two stories for a particular year and try to supplement it with news audio or movie clips or something to represent what was going on at that time. I also do lot of fun imaging, making fun of the styles of the decade. Now we’re starting to get into the ‘90s and getting ready to do a Nothing But ‘90s Weekend, so I’m coming up with a lot of cool stuff from when I was in high school. Now I can go back to my own experience and pull some of that out.

Pittsburgh is such a rock town and we’re so far behind the curve as far as trends and styles and stuff. And we’re very rooted in the past. That’s a blessing and a curse. For people that come here from really progressive towns they’re like, “Man, this place is so yesterday,” but we thrive on that. We’re still hoping the Steelers win one for the thumb. We revere the Pirates and the Penguins of years past. Mario is going to give us one more year of hockey if they can ever get the lockout settled. So we’re very rooted in our past, and I think that plays a lot into the stuff that I’m able to do for our imaging. I’m such a student of history. I love the History Channel and I love things that came before me. I like to go back and revisit and image what that time was — and if I could time travel, you’d better believe I’d build a time machine out of a DeLorean.

JV: What’s down the road for you?
Drake: Marriage. Looking forward to that. I met a wonderful girl, of all places, through the radio station. I never expected that. I met her at a remote back in my on-air days. She’s a medical student and is going to be a doctor within a year and a half and supporting my semi-employed ass for hopefully the rest of my life. It’s fantastic because we’re such a great compliment. She is the science and math person and I’m the creative artistic type. So we’re the yin to each other’s yang. Here she is, she’s a medical student, and she thinks I’m a creative genius. I’ve got her snowed!

As for the career, I’m loving my present job with Infinity. This has been such a great place to work. I owe so much to the people that work here. Keith Clark who is our Vice President of Programming found a place for me. He saw this in me before I saw it. He gave me the shot at the imaging and the vote of confidence in adding Y108 to my workload. Keith has been a great champion and a great patron of my talents. There’s our Assistant Program Director, Johnny Hartwell, a great writing partner, a great motivator. I call him Johnny Palooza because everything he does he keeps at a tumult. He exudes a lot of energy and a lot of excitement, and it translates on the air to his broadcast, and it translates to the staff and to the promotions that we do. Ryan Mill, who is our Program Director for our rock station, who originally was the Creative Services Director for what was then B94 and the Point, was my mentor. When I was an intern, he had just gotten hired here and he asked me, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” And I said, “Ryan, I want to be you!” He was doing a little air shift mid-days and doing imaging for both stations, and that’s the guy I wanted to be ten years ago.

Everybody here is great to work with. Our Promotion Directors are wonderful as are my production counterparts at WRKZ. The imaging guy there is Kevyn Howard. And down at KDKA, Matt Anthony is another great imaging and voiceover talent. Pittsburgh may get knocked around because of our steel town image and the perceptions that people have of Pittsburgh from the outside. But I’ll tell you what, it’s a great imaging town. And I’ve been disappointed when I go to other markets, especially larger markets, and I listen to the radio stations hoping to gain some ideas. For instance, my fiancé went to medical school in Philadelphia for two years, and there was only one station that I really listened to because it was a hot AC. It had some great ideas and great imaging, and then they ended up flipping formats. It was just jingles with no real meat or fun to it, at least at the time. I don’t know if things have changed.

But I feel like in Pittsburgh we’re doing some really creative and fun stuff for our listeners, and not just within the Infinity group but with some of the other companies around town as well. In fact, I recently won the Achievement in Radio Award for Best Creative Services Director and was rather surprised because of the caliber of talent that was in the category. There were some past winners as well as my counterparts here within Infinity, all of them tremendous producers and imagers.

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