Kelli's Hands Full With Mojo Production

by Jerry Vigil

You'll recall in last month's RAP Interview with Dave Foxx of Z100 in New York, we talked briefly about the new competition in town, Mojo Radio. Since we haven't chatted with M.J. Kelli since he was at Pirate Radio, we thought it would be fun to check in with the Mojo Production Director to find out what the Mojos are doing to make their mark in the city as they go up against those two monster stations, Z100 and Hot 97. We also received a montage of work from M.J. which you can hear on this month's Cassette, and we asked M.J. a couple of questions.

R.A.P.: You busted in to New York on April 1 with quite a task on your hands. What was the plan for the on-air production sound when Mojo Radio hit the airwaves?
M.J.: Scott [Shannon] and I sat down and analyzed the way the market sounded -- what the competition was doing and what types of sweepers, effects, and promos were being used. We decided we needed to cut our own little niche and try to provide a presentation that had not already been done in New York. We didn't go after the Pirate Radio image with the "Don't be a dickhead" stuff. However, some of the stuff we did was edgy. The harshest we ever really got was, "Lock up the sheep! Mojo Radio is here," and you heard the baa baa of sheep.

For the sign on, we aired a lot of strange sounding sweepers with unusual verbiage and some of the static weaving in and out that we used at Pirate. A guy comes on and says, "Hello...," and he's banging on the microphone. "Is anybody out there? Can you hear me? This is a radio check. I don't think this thing is plugged in!" We did that sort of thing as an attention getter. It gave the station a real strange aura. That lasted for a couple of weeks.

In terms of specific production techniques, we do some sampling but very scarcely. Rick Allen [Hot 97] is over there sampling his butt off. I like his stuff, and it works great with his station. But we needed something different. Rather than sampling the voice so much, I find the sampler to be great for sampling effects and making new effects. In one case though, I did a little Hot 97 parody of their long running "Top of the Empire State Building" ID that uses the sampler on the voice. In this case, I went sampler crazy.

My job is to crank up a unique style of production and give the station a different edge. Hopefully, you'll hear that edge on the tape I'm sending. This presentation is then coupled with Scott's morning show which is totally tweaked and different than when he was here before. Also, Gene Wooten, long time WPLJ Production Director, is now Creative Services Director and is doing a great job with the in-house parody songs for the morning show and handles all commercial production.

Scott and I still collaborate on the writing of the sweepers and IDs. We're producing an immense variety of sweepers just like we did at Pirate. We're using similar phrases and pounding the same message, but we've twisted them around to give them a fresh sound. I tend to write a lot of the promos myself. After going through boot camp with Scott at Pirate, I've come to the point where I can pretty much think like he wants me to think when it comes to promos.

R.A.P.: Any new modifications to the existing studio?
M.J.: I was able to pull some strings and get a couple of new devices right off the bat. We quickly got the Lexicon 480L and a new processor which I don't want to let the competition know I have. The studio was already equipped with the Otari MX-70 8-track and the Ultra-Harmonizer.

R.A.P.: As co-producer of the Techsonics Chainsaw package, how do you feel about it being used across the street at Z100?
M.J.: Well, you know what they say: you can't have your cake and eat it, too. If I'm going to be in business with Steve [Peppos] and Techsonics producing libraries, that's the risk I've got to take. By the way, I'd like to thank Dave Foxx for making Chainsaw sound so good. I was very happy with the amount of Chainsaw cuts that were on his demo on the June Cassette. This is one case where I'm sorry for helping make a station sound so good.

However, I've got my array of keyboards with me here in New York, plus I've purchased a couple of new keyboards, so I'm cranking out some new sounds for Mojo. Also, Steve and I are gearing up to send out a new package, and I've already started using a lot of those workparts and beds here. We expect the package to be ready for everyone else early in the fall.

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