R.A.P. Interview: Steve Hunt

Steve Hunt, Group Production Director, Austereo Radio Network, Adelaide, South Australia

by Jerry Vigil

Over the past couple of years, we've heard some outstanding production on RAP Cassettes from "down under." A lot of what we've heard has come from several of the Austereo stations of Australia. This month, we visit with the Group Production Director for this highly produced chain of top rated stations.

R.A.P.: Tell us where you started in radio and how you wound up at SA-FM.
Steve: I started in radio on the tenth of "Rock-tober" in 1975 at a station in Perth called 6PM which was the number one station at the time. I started in the carting area with aspirations of becoming a jock. But, once I actually got into radio, I felt I had a much greater interest in getting into the production area. I decided that jocking wasn't a life that I wanted to live. I showed a bit of flare for production and basically took it from there. So, I did carting for about six months, then our Production Manager decided to take four weeks holiday. I was moved into production to fill in while he was away. Unfortunately, he never came back from holidays. So, that's basically how I got into production. I was made Production Manager of 6PM when I was seventeen, and I worked for them for about eighteen months.

Then one of the television networks, Channel 9 in Perth, rang me and offered me a position as the senior audio guy over there. So, I went and worked in television. Within about six months, I had decided that I absolutely hated television because, in those days, they had no respect or care for the sound. It was all pictures, and the only time they ever noticed sound was either when it wasn't there or there was something grossly wrong with it. The rest of the time it was, "let the pictures do the talking."

I worked at Channel 9 for a year, then 6PM rang me and asked if I'd come back and be Production Manager again, which I did. About a year later, the company that owned 6PM was having problems with a agency production studio in Melbourne that we had just spent a lot of money on. They had invested about a hundred thousand dollars in a very nice studio. It was targeted directly to outside agencies as a production house for them to cut national campaigns and stuff like that. But it was only doing about eighty dollars a week in studio time. So, the powers that be who ran the company from the east coast decided to send me on a twelve-month loan basis from Perth over to the production studio they just built in Melbourne. By the end of the twelve month period we were doing between a thousand and fifteen hundred dollars a week in agency studio time. We turned that around, and it became quite a renowned production house.

R.A.P.: How was this production house equipped?
Steve: We had two 24-track music studios in the same building. They were basically jingle and album cutting studios. I got to work on a couple of albums, not as the major engineer, but in an assistant's capacity. I was only about nineteen at this stage. I learned a lot about music production then and actually got to engineer a few singles myself later on. This experience was fantastic because I got to learn about different mike techniques and different sorts of microphones -- the sort of microphones you use to record strings versus the mikes you might use to mike drums. I also learned about acoustics and got a much more in depth training on compressor/limiters and other outboard gear. I learned more in that twelve months than I think I learned in the three years prior.

R.A.P.: Was it back to Perth after this?
Steve: Yes. My twelve months were up, and the station in Perth was screaming to have me back. I was at 6PM for another year or so.

Then, a job came up at 2UW in Sydney. The station, at the time, was number two in the Sydney book. I had always wanted to work in the Sydney market, and I felt, "Hey, if I'm ever going to have a go at Sydney, now would be a good time." I had plans to go to Europe and travel with a mate of mine for six months when this job came up, but I sent the station a demo tape anyway. The Program Director, Ronnie Sparks, rang me up and said, "I think you're too good for the job, but would you like to come over here and work for us?" That was one of the nicest compliments I ever got. I was just flabbergasted. I thought, "Sydney thinks I can make it over there and make it easily!" So, I packed a bag, and I was on a plane. Europe had to wait. In hindsight, it was a great career move. From the moment I got to Sydney, things pretty much started to happen for me. I've sometimes sat back and wondered what I'd be doing now if I had decided to wait until I got back from Europe. The opportunity might not have arisen. This is a pretty hard business to crack, and when a great opportunity comes up, sometimes it's best to grab it and grab it hard; then run hard with it and do your best. If you put in and are surrounded by good people and happen to have a bit of luck on your side, your career can really take off.

R.A.P.: What happened after 2UW?
Steve: I was at 2UW for about fourteen months. There's a little story behind what happened next. This goes back to when I was working at 6PM in Perth. At that time, all the big international acts touring Australia would come through Perth first, and they'd work their way across to the east coast. At the time, one of the big promoters had an ex-jock/Program Director by the name of Trevor Smith working for them, doing all their promo spots for their big acts that would be coming to town. At that stage it was acts like Fleetwood Mac, Peter Frampton, The Eagles, and The Doobie Brothers. Trevor, being involved with the promoter, would cut all of his national promo spots with me in Perth. We worked very well together, and he was very happy with the standard of stuff I used to put out for him and his promotion company.

When I went to Sydney, I didn't see Trevor for nearly a couple of years. Then I ran into him at a rock concert. He was pleased to see me and said, "What are you doing in town? Are you on holidays?" I said, "No. I live here now, and I'm actually working for your opposition up the road!" At the time, he was the Program Director for a new FM station called 2-Triple-M in Sydney. I think they were number three or four in the market. FM in Australia was quite new at the time. Anyway, two weeks later I was the Production Manager at 2-Triple-M FM.

I spent from about 1983 to 1988 at 2-Triple-M FM. About six months after I joined the station, we went number one. We were probably the great radio station in Australia. Everyone aspired to work at 2-Triple-M FM in Sydney.

We had a breakfast guy called Doug Mulray and a very, very strong lineup across the day. Doug Mulray is the most brilliant jock I've ever worked with. He basically has been the king of breakfast radio in Australia for the last eight years. I used to produce a lot of his comedy for him, and I used to produce all the station promos. We had two studios at Triple-M. I worked in the 16-track studio, and we had an 8-track studio that knocked out the direct commercials, agency tags, donuts, and stuff like that.