Production 512: Shutting Out The Noise

Prod512 Logo 2016By Dave Foxx

When I was in my late teens, like many kids I was convinced that my Father’s ideas were very much out-of-date and had no application to the world I knew. I clearly remember thinking that he had no clue what my life was really like, the kinds of pressures I faced and the ‘modern’ social situations I had to live in every day. When I was 18, he got sick for the better part of a year. The doctors thought he had Hepatitis because he had jaundiced, so the whole family had to endure gamma globulin shots. I was in college by then at a school that was just far enough away that I couldn’t live at home, but managed to slide into the house most weekends, complete with a laundry bag and major appetite.

Dad was completely ambulatory and otherwise healthy, but restricted to the house with his sickly yellow color. Most of that summer, we’d go out in the back yard and just sit and talk. Invariably, whatever situation I was dealing with at school would be his chance to serve up some advice. I was always the good son and sat and listened intently. Inside, I kept thinking how almost nothing he said really applied to living MY life, but outside I was very attentive. I am so glad I did. Shortly after my 19th birthday, he died at age 45 from a heart attack, brought on by undiagnosed pancreatitis.

Over the next few years, as each good, bad and indifferent event washed over my life, I noticed that another bit of advice he had given me proved to be absolutely true. Right up until today, I’ll encounter situations that upset me, thrill me or just ring true and I’ll hear his voice in my head, reciting a piece of advice that had just been perfectly demonstrated. 

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when Jerry sent me the deadline for this column. I fell into a minor panic. 

I’m going to share a secret with you here. I don’t write this column by myself. I don’t write radio copy by myself. I’m definitely not writing my book by myself. When I am going to write anything, I look for a topic. That’s the easy part because topics pop up just about every time I open my email. Once I know my topic, I put the boys to work. The boys…live in my head, somewhere way in the back near the brainstem. I’ll let them work on it while I’m off watching the latest Blacklist episode or just sitting on the deck with a fine cigar and my iPad while I catch up on the latest news. Sometimes I’ll watch the latest installment of Fail Army on YouTube or maybe some cute pet videos on Facebook. Once I feel the urge, I’ll hop up and head into my studio and start writing. The boys always have an angle for me and I am off to the races.

Lately, since the election, the boys have been on strike because of all the noise. I am getting to a point where I don’t even want to open any of my social media accounts, they are so filled with absolute hatred and flame-throwing. The ‘tolerant’ left has become absolutely unhinged with their intolerance and the right is so very smug, it is beyond ugly. I’ve concluded that hate speech is ANY speech that doesn’t agree with the views of whoever is reacting.

All this noise inflames my brain to a point where I can’t think about anything else. The boys went into hiding as I sat there steaming about how stupid people are. For example: A few weeks ago now, a bunch of masked juvenile delinquents smashed and burned a college campus that was once known for being a haven for free speech because someone with whom they disagree politically was invited to speak. His topic? Freedom of speech and how it is not tolerated. He didn’t get to say one word about it, thus proving his point conclusively. They sure showed the world, didn’t they?

I absolutely know that the worst place to get news is social media. Anybody can say anything without an ounce of proof and it’ll get thousands upon thousands of likes or retweets, giving it a certain kind of gravitas of its own, even if that gravitas is based on a complete lie. Hours or even days later, the lie will be exposed for what it is and a new post will go up, but the likes and retweets for the truth are minimal.

I’m not interested in getting into a political rant; this isn’t the time or place. I am FAR more concerned about how all this gets in the way of creatively reaching out to my audience. This kind of political crap clogs up the pipes with incoherent noise. I NEEDED a plumber and my father answered the call.

His deep, rumbling voice came through a fog and said, “When someone, anyone, does something that really upsets you, sit down and write a letter. Don’t hold anything back. If you’re really angry, pour ALL of that anger into the letter. Get every ounce of burning hot hatred out on that page and speak from your heart the way you WISH you could in person. Then, sign it, seal it in an envelope and burn it.”

So I did. There’s a neat little heap of ash in my otherwise clean fireplace to show for it and the boys are once again in residence. I am no longer upset with all the fireworks in the news and on social media. I still don’t care for it, but I take a longer perspective now.

So my gift to you is my father’s advice. I would imagine that you are a lot like me when it comes to creativity. You HAVE to have a clear head. When you need to be sparking ideas, your pipes can’t be all clogged up with anger at something your boss said. Likewise, the hurt you’re feeling because of something your significant other said or did will stop you from making magic. Clear it all out. Maybe you don’t need to write a letter, although I found it very cathartic. Sometimes just finding a wide open space with nobody around and shouting out all your frustrations, anger and hurt can do the trick. If you DO write the letter, make sure you burn it. Otherwise, it will, without any question, come back to bite you.

One last thing before I completely shut politics out of this space for good. An observation: A lot of people have been offering suggestions as to why Hillary Clinton lost the election. The list of probable reasons is quite long, but I wanted to add one more possible thing.

When AMP went live in New York, they spent a LOT of time talking smack about Z100. We never said word one about them. Oh, we reacted in small, tactical ways, but I don’t think the word ‘amp’ crossed the lips of one person on the air. This is Marketing 101. NEVER talk about the competition. P. T. Barnum once said, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” He really didn’t care if they called him a scoundrel or worse because just having his name in the paper was publicity. Good or bad, publicity is publicity and having his name on peoples lips seemed to drive people into his shows and their money into his pocket.

Today, Z100’s ratings are as strong as ever. AMP is a New York radio afterthought. Sure, for months they were continuously trolling Z100 on the air, talking about how OLD we are and how out of touch with modern music we are…but ultimately, all that did was drive people to 100.3 to see just how old we are and to see how out of touch with modern music we are. There were certainly other important factors like a pretty weak line-up and an insistence on playing unfamiliar music, but saying Z100 every other break just about killed any chance they had of toppling Z100. Their audience kept checking to see how bad Z was and discovering that they liked what they were hearing at 100.3 MHz.

Some will undoubtedly point out that back in the day Scott Shannon and the Zoo Crew would make fun of PLJ. They made parody songs and called out some of the jocks on our would-be crosstown rival, but they didn’t dwell on it. If it came up more than once an hour, it was a lot. Most of the time Z100 was all about the hit music, fun contests and the occasional news tidbit.

So Hillary Clinton lost for a lot of reasons. Some believe it was the Russians. Some think it was the FBI. The list is seemingly endless. I think one important factor was her inability to stop talking about her opponent. Every speech seemed to begin and end with what a horrible racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobe he was. She was a walking, talking negative advertisement for the man. While it’s true that President Trump spent a lot of time talking about “crooked Hillary,” it was nothing on this scale. Just recently, some of the people running for the DNC Chair have said exactly the same thing. So…maybe.

For my sound this month, a really fun promo for a One Direction weekend. It was fun to build, fun to mix and even more fun to listen to. It dates back to March 23, 2012. No noise here…just fun!

Dave welcomes your correspondence at Dave@DaveFoxx.com.