Notes Off the Napkin: My Friend Trent

Notes-Off-the-Napkin-logo1By Andrew Frame

There is a monthly column in every issue of RAP called “And Make It Real Creative...” written by my friend and colleague Trent Rentsch.

This past summer, we were whining that neither of us have ever been interviewed by any Prominent Media Publications – which goes to show that no Prominent Publication is that desperate – and we should do something about it, a “twenty questions” kind of thing.

Caution: Like participating at a nude beach, being able to do something, doesn’t mean you should.

Some comparative background:

Trent can create music on a variety of instruments. I can whack a rock, off key.

Trent hails from the tundra of the Dakota’s. I am from the South American boondocks.

Trent works in a fancy-schmancy state-of-the-art Washington D.C. studio. I work in the unfinished back bedroom of a house with a leaky roof.

Trent has produced electronic music used by magician Jay Sankey. I have produced… four daughters.

Now, lest you think we have no similarities aside from being on the masthead of this publication, and gender, let me offer that we both walk to work each day. His commute involves the underground, lots of people, and having to wear appropriate attire (at the date of this writing it was a lovely gingham number). Mine involves stepping over a four-cat pileup in front of the lavatory, whilst in my jammies.

And, we both got a start in the media at a tender age. Mine was as the “guest kid” on the White Baron show on WCIX-TV in Miami; his was reciting the Kellogg’s Corn Flakes commercial on the stage of his Aunt’s piano recital at the age of three. He said,” I vividly remember as we drove away from the place thinking, “If I could just get an accordion, I could make a living with this.”

1. Star Trek or Star Wars:
TR:Doctor Who, actually. Had a high school obsession with Trek, to the point of co-creating a fan magazine that lasted 2 issues.

2. You’re on the desert island. Five books:
TR:Toliken’s Lord of the Rings; Stephen King’s The Gunslinger (although it would be difficult living without the rest of the series); Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman; The Expert at the Card Table by Erdnase; and Milbourne Christopher ‘s The Illustrated History of Magic.

3. And, five entrees (hey, we’re foodie castaways):
TR:My wife’s homemade pasta sauce over penne; Pizza Hut beef and mushroom thin crust; Sliders from Matchbox in DC; Chowder from Ivars in Seattle; Chex Party Mix. It’s not like I’d have to watch my girlish figure on a deserted island.

4. The thirty second resumé’:
TR:My first marriage and/or the fiancé of a college friend pulled me into the business. KVAA in Volga, South Dakota in ‘81. KELO Sioux Falls in the mid-80’s doing mid-days, music, and eventually Production Director. ‘94 saw my first column for Radio And Production. ‘96 passed as a producer, writer, and voice talent for Kidstar Interactive Media in Seattle, then later back to KELO. ‘97 through 2000 were my “other jobs besides radio” years, followed by a return to radio in Raleigh, then in the summer of ‘09 I moved to D.C. to be technical producer for The Fred Thompson Show. On my first day there, SiriusXM came knocking. I left two months later to produce for them.

5. If you could make one change in broadcasting:
TR:Return to long term strategy and growing the industry rather than treating it like a dying medium and using the “take the money and run” approach.

6. Have you ever licked to the center of the Tootsie Pop?
TR:Yes. Winchell’s Law... A Three!

7. Still holding onto any of your early work?
TR:Sure. If you have a cart machine handy, I’ll play ya a few. My first spot was for “The Feedlot,” a drive-in burger joint in Volga, SD.

8. Who did you/do you look up to, Creatively?
TR:J.R. Nelson, God rest his soul; Chuck Blore; Chuck Jones; Roy Cunningham; Tommie Lee (the gifted radio guy, not the goof-ball rock star); Neil Gaiman; Ben Folds; Burt Bacharach; Jay Sankey; Kenton Knepper; Jeff McBride. If you’re not familiar with the work of these people, you should be.

9. More cowbell... or less?
TR:I’ve got a fever...

10. Mentored or self-taught?
TR:I’ve had infrequent mentors, and have ended up trying to teach myself.

11. Does this milk taste funny to you?
TR:Hysterical... but nothing compared to the pickled herring somebody left out all night.

12. Why freelancing? Any regrets?
TR:My obsession to buy Christmas gifts. I regret that I’ve never taken the freelancing seriously, though.

13. Miss any “old school” gear?
TR:There’s nuthin’ like the smell of fresh Ampex tape in the morning.

14. Miss anything about working in terrestrial radio?
TR:Free station t-shirts. Trade at bars. And, of course, the fame and glor... BAWHAHAHAHA!!! Almost made it with a straight face!

15. All-time favorite commercial: (yours and/or someone else’s)
TR:Personally, it was a piece to pitch an on-line game for kids called “Castle Infinity,” which never aired. Of others, anything written and/or produced by Chuck Blore. Also, a British piece for a company called “Smoke Enders.” It had a twist ending that still makes me giggle.

16. Have you ever produced anything that you were 100% happy with?
TR:There have been near misses. I’m not objective. At least I don’t cut myself over my production.

17. What’s wrong/right with production these days?
TR:Too many words. Also, too many words. Plus, WAY too many words! Do we really expect listeners to retain information that must happen at break neck speed to fit time? On the other hand, the quality of the audio has improved drastically. One can even speed up the audio and maintain fairly good quality. Sadly, this means too many words...

18. If you could be brutally honest with a difficult client, what would you say?
TR:“No.”

19. What do you want to be when you grow up?
TR:Smarter & happier, with the voice of God, or Don Lafontaine. That may be redundant.

20. Current set up?
TR:Sterling Audio ST77 mic into a Symetrix pre, then to either my Mbox or my EZBus, depending on which PC I’m producing on. Pro Tools and Adobe Audition. For music, FL Studio, sometimes Reason. There are endless plug-ins, although I tend to use the same four. I also have a couple of Ibanez guitars, a Hofner bass knock-off, a Fender Squire Strat and a no name mandolin.

21. Is there one piece of gear you don’t own... and salivate over in the catalogs?
TR:There’s always a bigger fish.

22. Is it the man or the machine?
TR:I believe it’s the ghost in the machine.

23. Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
TR:This one goes to 11.

Thanks, Trent for holding your ADHD in check long enough to get through this. Tell the doctor the single-malt scotch therapy is working. What? Yes, that was twenty-three questions, not twenty. I’m a producer, not a math major.

Best wishes to everyone for a happy and safe New Year. Take care.

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