R.A.P. Interview: Ray Sherman

R.A.P.: How many production studios do you have?
Ray: We have two studios. Our main studio is a 4-track room. We have a couple of the Otari 5050 2-tracks and the Otari MX5050 4-track. Our console is the Ramsa WR8616. For outboard gear we have an Orban reverb unit, an Orban equalizer, a Tascam cassette deck, an Orban compressor/limiter, and the Eventide H969 Harmonizer. We have ITC cart decks. We have a turntable which is rarely used, and we have a Technics CD player. The second studio is a basic 2-track room with a couple of Otari's.

I keep talking to them about entering the digital realm. I'd like to get into the world of Dyaxis and other systems like that, and I think it'll happen down the road.

R.A.P.: What are you using for production libraries?
Ray: We use the FirstCom music library and their Digifects library. We have the Sound Ideas 1000 Series library. I want to get the 2000 Series, and I think we'll be doing that real soon. I also have Brown Bag's Flashpoint. I like their stuff a lot. I think they're great.

One thing I've noticed is that every sound effect library lacks in some area. Take Sound Ideas, for example. If you need a good firecracker, you can find some good ones, but maybe not the kind you're looking for. Or, if you need a Harley-Davidson, no, there's no Harley-Davidson in there. I had to go outside and record the Harley on my own. But, you take that library, and you take another one like Digifects, and when you put the two together, you end up with a pretty good library.

I've got all the volumes of "TV's Greatest Hits." And for people who are looking for the Star Trek sound effects, you can get the original Star Trek sound effects on CD now. They come from Crescendo Records in Los Angeles. These are the original sound effects from the series. I'm talking about a six minute bridge sequence, communicators, phasers, etc.. When you're doing a Star Trek spoof, you need the real Star Trek sounds effects to make it happen. You can't just stick some other spacey sounds behind the spot and make it work. It sounds goofy. People who know Star Trek know those sounds.

R.A.P.: Who calls the shots on production libraries and equipment purchases for your department?
Ray: These are things I have to lobby for. I have to go to the General Manager, Dave Bevins, and say, "Dave, the lease is up on the music beds, and we need to do something. Can I renew it, or can I buy this?" Being a General Manager, he's one to keep the expense side down, but at the same time, he knows we need things." All you have to do is prove to him that it can pay for itself by the fact that you'll get people to make buys on commercials that you use it with. If you put it in those terms, then it's different because you're looking at it from the revenue side and not the expenditure side.

It's the same with equipment. I'd go to the engineer and say, "Hey, Mike, I'd really like a DAT machine. Can I get one?" He'd say, "What do you need it for?" I'd say, "Well, I could master my spots to DAT, and I wouldn't have to buy so much analog tape, or whatever." Now, whether I would get it or not is something else, but I can at least make my case. And this goes back to what I said about the owner of our company wanting to have the best equipment for his people to work with. I think they adequately supply us, and then some. So, it's not a real problem. If I really, really wanted something, and whined enough, I could probably get it, and the same goes for the production libraries.

R.A.P.: What are you doing in the way of free-lance work?
Ray: That's something I'd like to get into more as time goes on. I'm not sure if I'd like to do it in the form of being a hired gun as a voice talent for somebody as much as I'd like to have my own agency someday. I'm not really sure which way I want to go with that.

When I was in Chicago, I did some work with Kirk Johnson at Studio One. He was the one that taught me about telling a story. As a voice-over talent, you have to tell a story. When Gene Hackman is talking about United Airlines, and they're playing Rhapsody in Blue in the background, he's telling a story, and it gets your attention. It's the same with Burgess Meredith when he's selling Hondas.

Anyway, I would like to get into doing more voice-work. I do some around here, but it's not the big market stuff. I don't do any Budweiser commercials or anything like that.

R.A.P.: Are you the voice of the station?
Ray: I am the voice for the bulk of the work we do, but our hired gun is David Lee. He's got great pipes. He's the Production Director at QFM in Milwaukee. He's the guy that does the "97X" at the end of our promos. He does our positioning statements. I'd like to see us get some other voices on the air. I agree with Marc Chase in last month's interview; I think we should have more than one voice for the station. But, budget is a consideration there. My favorite guy that does voice-overs is the guy WEBN uses, John Wells out of Dallas.

R.A.P.: Do you ever use outside voices for commercials?
Ray: Something we do here is share voice talent with other stations in our company. For instance, if a salesperson here has a client that wants something different, wants a voice that's not on every other spot on the station, we'll fax the copy to one of our guys at one of our other stations and get him to give us a few reads and shoot the tape back to us. It's an outside voice, it sounds good, and we'll get a buy. Why not share resources? A lot of companies may own seven stations, but they don't know what's going on at the other six. It's kind of a "we do our thing here, and they do theirs" situation. Well, we share ideas and talent. It's no different than going down the hall to get a voice track from the traffic girl for a spot.

And speaking of that, an interesting thing about using people who are not "professional" voice talents is that they do better in the role of playing a character as opposed to being an "announcer." You just say, "Theresa, I need a bitchy old lady. Her window just got busted by these neighbor kids, and she's upset." If you explain to them the frame of mind your character is in, nine out of ten times, they'll come through with something you can use that's actually very good.

R.A.P.: Here's an off-the-wall question: In the movie "Rain Man," Dustin Hoffman does a scene on the highway where he's imitating a station ID and saying, "97X, Bam! The future of rock and roll." Do you use that drop in any way, and was this your station being referred to?
Ray: Yes, we use the line. We do a program on Sunday nights. It's our place to play the new stuff you can't actually put in rotation because it's too unfamiliar. So, what do we call it? The Future of Rock and Roll, and, of course, we use the actual drop from the movie in our promos. And our outcue on that promo is, "Ray, Ray, Ray! Enough already!"

But that wasn't our station they were referring to in the movie. However, that station does exist. I think it's in Oxford, Ohio. It may be the college radio station there. I believe the call letters are WOXY.

R.A.P.: Is 97X consulted by anyone?
Ray: Yes. We're consulted by Tom Owens of WEBN. His Production Director, Joel Moss, is a great guy and very talented. I always enjoy hearing his stuff on the RAP Cassettes.

R.A.P.: What do you miss about working in the larger markets, if anything?
Ray: Well, the pay is probably better, but the security is probably less, although there's not necessarily great security in radio in a market this small. It seems like there are a lot of people in this market calling my Program Director for a job. But, other than the ego part of it, I don't think there's anything I miss about the large markets. It's neat to think you're talking to tens of thousands of people at one time when you're working in Chicago, but, at the same time, I'm a photographer on the side. It's a hobby, and if I have a picture published in one of my hobby magazines, I probably get more of an ego kick out of that than I do from being on the radio and talking to a bunch of people in the third largest market in the country. There are times I miss it, but, then again, I grew up in a small town and I have no problem living in one. I like the city, and I like being close to the city, but I also like being a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

R.A.P.: There are a lot of guys and gals in the small markets reading this who are striving to get to a larger market. What would you say to them about pursuing the larger markets, and what would you say about their expectations?
Ray: I'd say go for it. That's what I wanted to do, too. Everybody should chase that. If that's what you want, you should do it. If somebody here on the staff comes into the studio whining because they don't want to be here in this small market, they should go. As far as expectations go, when you get to a large market, there's the same bullshit going on. You think you're going to get out of the BS when you get to a big market, but you're wrong. There's still crap going on there, too. You think, "Gosh, when I get to the big market, it's going to be paradise -- none of this peon stuff." But it doesn't work that way. Now, some guys end up in a major market and find that that's their niche, and they get rich making three-hundred thousand dollars a year, and that's great. I'd like to do that, too; but, at the same time, I can drive to work in fifteen minutes without any traffic jams. I can go home to my nice house and grow my roses in my backyard and enjoy myself. I like this lifestyle.

I would tell anybody that is young and wants to work their way to the big market to definitely do that. Then, once you've reached that goal, you have to set new goals and find out what it is that really makes you happy and really makes you content to be in this business.

I remember when I first came out here. Those first few days on the air here I was going, "Geez, I don't know, man. There are a lot of corn stalks out there listening to me right now...." This is market 120 or whatever, but then again, we're a hundred and eighty miles from Chicago and a little over two-hundred miles from St. Louis, and Minneapolis is only a five or six hour drive. There's an interstate going through here, and I know there are a lot of people that know about 97X.

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