R.A.P. Interview: Ray Avila

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JV: What are you using for production music?
Ray: We use Who Did That Music?, KPM, and Network for all three stations.

JV: Do you pick from all of those for the imaging for KFI?
Ray: Yeah. Depending on the mood and everything else, I will pick from the three production libraries we use. A lot of the sound effects and workparts I use come from Mindbenders from Who Did That Music?. That collection is probably one of the best collections of zips, bangs, and stuff that I’ve heard.

And I’m constantly videotaping things on TV to lift stuff from. I like to think that the promos and IDs that I’m producing have that MTV in-your-face type of style. It’s really obscure. I mean, you would not normally think this was a news/talk format. I’ve taken more of a CHR approach to producing promos for KFI.

JV: How do you know you have a good promo? When is it finished?
Ray: I test it with the guys here. I’ll sit them in a room and say, “Listen, what do you think of this?” It’s either a yes or a no. I use them as my bouncing board. If they’re on the floor laughing, I know I’ve done my job. And these guys will tell me what needs to be put in or what needs to be taken out. The working relationship between the guys here in production is very open.

JV: Many news/talk stations will use music clips from classic rock tunes to play underneath promos and IDs. Do you do that?
Ray: Yeah, but a lot of the stuff I use is from the younger more hip music. I’ll select from a lot of the alternative stuff. I really love the alternative music for our promos, and that’s what you’ll hear on the majority of my promos, anything from The Dance to The Grunge to anything else out there. I really like that edge on our promos.

JV: Do you listen to other stations in the market?
Ray: Yes, all the time. I love to see what other people are doing. There’s a lot of good imaging going on, especially at KROQ, and Star 98.7 is doing some great stuff.

JV: Would you say that John Frost has been a leader for the style of imaging in the market?
Ray: Yes. I consider John to be God of Production. He is the man. I think he has definitely revolutionized production, or imaging, at least, for modern rock formats. When I hear some of his stuff, I think, “How did he come up with that?” It’s just amazing.

JV: So it’s not so much how did he execute it, but rather, how did he come up with the idea.
Ray: Yeah, how did he come up with that? That blows me away. I wish I had more of that ability of being able to create, just to be able to sit down and create like he does.

JV: The part of the creative process that’s just coming up with the idea, the concept of the promo, is that something that happens to you on your way to work in the car? Do you turn the lights down in the studio and light a candle? How do you nurture this creativity?
Ray: A lot of it happens when I’m driving around town, going to and from places. Sometimes even on the train I’m writing. I’ll see a billboard that will catch me off guard, and I’ll think that’s kind of neat, write it down, and then elaborate on it. I constantly have a notepad with me.

JV: I guess it’s just a matter of keeping your mind open all the time to something that could possibly become a promo.
Ray: Oh, yeah. My wife tells me I cannot keep my mind off work for even a couple of hours. I’m always in what I consider “promo focus.” Anywhere I go, and even at home, I have pen and paper. I’ll be on the computer and will type up something for later. I have lots of stuff in my computer files that I go back to.

JV: To be able to crank out the creative stuff on a daily basis, I can see how you would have to constantly be in “promo focus,” always open to absorb new ideas.
Ray: Right. And that’s another thing about John that’s just amazing, he turns out promos that just blow me away, and he does that on a regular basis. The man is a genius. In my opinion, for production, if he’s not the best, he’s one of the best. He’s just amazing, and I’m very glad that I had the opportunity to intern with him and Raymond. They definitely showed me the basics and really gave me the big bug for production. I’ve never wanted to be on air, but I’ve always wanted to be behind the scenes, creating that commercial or promo. And I truly believe I’ve found my niche, at least for talk radio, with the stuff that I’m doing.

JV: What would you say your greatest talents are?
Ray: I suppose one of my biggest strengths is being able to visualize a promo in my head and put it all together with sound effects and everything before I produce it. My greatest talent is being able to be here in LA and stay level-headed. I take everything in stride around here.

JV: Do you have a studio at home?
Ray: Yes, I do. I’m working with a SAW system at home, too.

JV: Do you take work home?
Ray: Obviously. I get all the elements, my EDL list, drop it onto Zip, take it home, and work with some of the stuff there. I kind of refine the promo, take it back the next day, and maybe work on it some more at the station.

JV: Do you find time for any free-lance work?
Ray: Well, I’ve done a couple of things for a couple of our sister talk stations in Florida and Atlanta, but primarily it’s KFI stuff at home. I like to work mainly with KFI. That’s the primary station. With the stuff I’ve done outside, I always let the other PDs know that KFI has to come first.

JV: What advice would you give to news/talk producers to put some sparkle into their stations?
Ray: I would say to always gear toward the young audience. I think the younger sound is where the imaging is. We’re definitely trying to stay away from our competitors. You listen to KFI, and you know we’re KFI. We’ve definitely positioned ourselves to be a younger sounding news/talk station.

Keep everything fresh and have fun with it. That’s why we’re in this business, to have fun—at least for me that’s why. I try to have fun with everything I do. I keep doing what I’m doing, plugging away, being as creative as possible, and that much ahead of the next production person in LA.

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