Greetings to everyone from Salon De Radio in Paris – Always great connecting with all of you and really looking forward to our last day tomorrow
Andy’s Fiver Friday #219 – Native Instruments Gifts, Beat Breakdown and the latest from Sam Wickens!
There’s a lot going on right now in the office as all of us are back on our normal schedules. So let’s quickly get into this week’s findings and have a great weekend!1.Plugin
My good friend Sakis made me aware of this new waves plugin OVox Vocal ReSynthesis which looks really promising!
Take a look at this video to see it in use:2.Inspiration
Cool breakdown of Dua Lipa’s hit single Don’t Start Now – really insightful with some cool tips and tricks, worth a watch!3.Music
Really cool vibey album by Mick Jenkins, especially digging “Carefree”!4.Web/Social/Whatever
Top Dawg’s annual holiday event with performances of their roster and loads of fun, toys and charity – good stuff!5.Imaging
Sam Wickens does it again! Seriously amazing work, he keeps getting better and better.
Recordings on a portable CASSETTE Player, Lego Commercials and Imaging New Zealand: Meet Andrew Biggs
Our benztown KiWi Chris Davis put me in Andrew’s direction and after listening to Andrew’s stuff on Soundcloud I wanted to get him on. Check out my wide ranging conversation with one of New Zealands most talented and creative Imagers, from PlugIns to writing to CASSETTES.. Enter Andrew!
- Andrew, can you give me a bit of background on yourself, your career, achievements, role at the station. I am sure a lot of the readers will know you or of you, but it puts a lot of the below in context, I assume.
I’ve had a fascination of radio from around about 10 years old. I used to record myself on a little portable cassette player, write my own music on the piano for my “playlist” and make up my own commercials for LEGO and Transformers or whatever else I was playing with at the time. My poor parents had to listen to these over and over again. Years later I wound up doing free work at a radio station, just making coffees and generally being a nuisance but I just loved the environment, the creativity and the technology. After college (secondary school) I was accepted into the New Zealand Broadcasting School, where I completed my qualification learning about all facets of radio, specializing in creative writing and announcing, of all things. From there I was offered an internship at a radio station in Queenstown, Resort Radio, which was the absolute time of my life. I did everything. It was a small station but because of the tourism aspect to Queenstown, we always had these huge events and lots of personalities on station all the time. My role was “do everything except for sales” essentially and I worked 12 hour days and loved every bit of it. I ended up having to teach myself production on this absolutely awful software called “Prosonix” and there were only 3 of us in the country at the time using it! I would spend hours making Imaging for the station after many months of trying to prove to the program director I was good enough to do it! After that, I was lucky enough to bump into a hero and mentor of mine, Grant Brodie, at a production conference. He was Imaging some of the country’s biggest radio stations and he spent some time doing training with me and teaching me ProTools. From there I was invited to come and work and learn from him in Auckland, eventually taking over from him for 3 months while he did some travelling overseas. I’ve never been thrown in a deeper end before in my life and I’ve no idea how I survived. Nevertheless I was offered a job across the road at MoreFM in Auckland afterwards. From there, I was put in charge of rebranding all the local stations from their individual names to the “MoreFM” brand, which was around 20+ stations across the country at the time. It was all brand new Imaging and the first time it had ever been done in New Zealand. I won two New Zealand Radio Awards for my Imaging during this time and my first New York International Silver Radio Award for my Imaging for MoreFM. After working for five years for MediaWorks, I left for an opportunity to work for Austereo in Perth doing breakfast Imaging and Production. It was completely different to the Imaging work I had been doing, but I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of that style in Australia and it taught me a lot. After nine months there, I was offered a position to work for DMG Radio in Melbourne, doing Imaging for what is now Smooth FM in Sydney and Melbourne. I was doing Imaging for both markets and local production for Melbourne. I loved working with the team there, met some incredible people and it was five years of some of the best work I’ve done in radio. I won another New York International Radio Award during this time as well. From there, I was offered a position to move to Dubai and work with a wonderful Programme Director, Steve Pulley. He ran the English Virgin Radio and Dubai 92 brands and they wanted a modern take on production. I was also given the opportunity to head the Production team over there as well, looking after Hindi, Filipino, English and Arabic radio station Imaging and managing all the different production and creative talents. Along with winning 2 more New York Radio Awards, I learned a lot from the different production styles and skills of the team, and we had such a great, creative working environment over there under Steve Pulley and later, Ross Flahive. I won Gold at the New York Radio Awards for my Dubai 92 Imaging and shortly after I finished up in Dubai after 5 years working and travelling in the amazing middle-east, around ten years of living abroad! I was ready to come back to New Zealand. I set up my own Radio Production company, eyesound, and have been given the amazing opportunity to work for NZME nationwide, looking after Imaging for their Coast and MIX brands, along with providing an additional production resource for their ZM and HITS brands. I also do a lot of their iHeartRadio online Imaging and just about anything they send me on any given week is exciting and fresh. I’m honoured to work for a bit of a radio legend in David Brice and the entire Coast team. Lorna Subritzky was my tutor in Broadcasting School, and Jason Reeves, who I worked with when I first got my opportunity in Auckland doing Imaging, has brought me almost full-circle! I’ve recently won another Silver in the New York Radio Awards for my Coast Imaging and it’s an incredibly fun station to be a part of, pushing the boundaries of a ‘modern’ take on the superstar music of the 70’s and 80’s.
- How do the tasks differ between the different stations / brands? What are the stylistic approaches and how difficult is it to change hats ,if you do?
I have two quite distinct roles working with the team at NZME. For Coast, I look after most of the writing and all of the Imaging for the station, along with David Brice. For ZM and HITS I provide an ‘overflow’ resource and I’m assigned work from their incredible Imaging Producer Alistair Cockburn. It’s mostly client-sponsored promotional material and trailers, but the format for both is quite a bit younger than Coast, so it’s a completely different sound. It’s also really important what I’m writing or producing matches the style of those stations and their producer, so I’m matching that ‘flavor’ as best as possible, rather than on Coast or Mix where I pretty much get free reign to do whatever I want, within reason! I have a lot of fun pushing the boundaries on Coast, I can’t recall ever being told I’ve gone too far on something, yet! I really want Coast to be a modern representation of that Classic format, a station you can be 30+ listening to and not feeling like you’re going to a funeral. I’ve worked on easy listening stations in the past and they can sound so dreary and dated in their imaging. I try to make Coast sound fresh, modern and positive. Switching between all these different formats and different approaches to production is reasonably easy. I try to schedule work for a specific brand on a particular day, or part of a day, so I’m not flipping between formats on a regular basis. I also try and ‘reset’ my ears between jobs by listening to classical music.
- What do your days look like? Is there a blueprint? A routine?
I start my day after the kindy run, so around 9.30am. As I work from home it’s pretty flexible, but I try and keep a strict routine. I usually get an email from David the day before with the voicing for the week, then the talent does the voicing in Auckland, they send the files to me at home and I put everything together and send it back, writing any scripts needed in the evenings. Additionally, ZM will send me scripts to write or produce during the week along with work from HITS or one-off pieces of production. I’ve covered work for their talk station Newstalk ZB before, along with other music brands or Imaging packages for one-off online iHeartRadio stations. It’s always something different and no week looks the same! The really great thing about working from home for NZME is it gives them the ability to send me work across the weekend as well, so they’re not always locked into a Friday deadline. I’ll often work on a Saturday or a Sunday so they have an additional production resource, outside of normal hours. I think it gives them a bit of an edge with turnaround as well for client material.
- What is your baby? Most fun project?
At the moment? It’s definitely Coast. I love the brand, the people and the music, which certainly helps and the team really is a who’s who of New Zealand Radio so I’m definitely trying to prove that I deserve to be part of it! They have an annual promotion called “Cash Call” which runs each year and I love reinventing the sound of that project each year. I always use an accapella version of Blondie’s “Call Me” but remix it each time. I have a blast coming up with new ways to make it sound different each year. I’ve been working on a new version for 2020 already and I think it might be the best yet!
- Gearhead: your dream studio would have…
Production has changed so much (and the associated costs!) so I’m fortunate to work in a home studio that I’ve built myself, so it’s pretty much my dream set-up! I’m 100% mobile so I can work from anywhere with my custom built Macbook. ProTools has never been more stable and easy to use, although, I really would like to invest in a proper voice booth. I guess my “dream” studio would be a custom built studio as part of a new home or something like that. I haven’t given it too much thought because I believe the best asset I can bring to modern production is the ability to be mobile, work from anywhere and be flexible and not tied to a desk or a specific location.
- What DAW do you guys use?
I use a custom built 2018 Macbook Pro, 2.2GHz 6-Core Intel i7 with 16gb Ram running the latest version of ProTools, Waves bundle and a few other little plugins.
- What are your favorite plugins?
I chop and change all the time but my favorite one currently is Crystallizer by Soundtoys.
- What are new learnings? Ideas you work on? Inspirations?
I use a lot of film and television trailers as inspiration for my audio work on Coast because the two demographics often intersect. Film work by James Gunn and Television shows like American Idol that will often use those huge hits from the 70s and 80s as inspiration for a modern twist, so I try to apply the same rules and style for Coast, where appropriate. I try and take ideas from the actual music I’m working with on the station as well, so when you hear a particular song you think of it as a “Coast” song first, before another station, for example.
- Any new tools you discovered lately?
I’ve been trying out different ways to monitor final mixes of certain Imaging to give them a different feel, using different types of headphones. One thing I’ve been experimenting with is using high-end noise-cancelling headphones to mix sweepers. You get a completely different sound to Imaging with headphones on, so the most recent Imaging package I did for Coast I did entirely by recording the voice and mixing with headphones and not my studio monitors. It ended up producing this really warm, deep sound to all the sweepers. Perhaps a little too much at times, so it was trial and error, but the result on-air is this smooth, thick sounding audio mix when listened to on regular speakers or in the car.
- Your favorite piece of imaging / production ever?
This is a really stupid one, but I did a commercial a long time ago, written by a very good friend of mine Richard Thorburn. He’s an absolute genius writer and it was for a roofing company. It talked about all the team of people that did really specific jobs in the company and the owner, Phil, turns up at the end with his “Philometer’ to measure everything is done right. I spent, literally, hours creating a very specific sound effect for the ‘Philometer’ and agonising over the placement of it in the 30sec commercial so it played as a comedy beat and timing everything to the music. It’s one of those things that nobody will ever notice but it just made us laugh so much, it was a great line in the script and that’s the kinda stuff I really enjoy where the production gets to add a lot of value to a really simple concept or line to create an idea in someone’s mind that’s bigger than what was on the script.
- What would be your career advice for a youngster or your twenty year old self?
If you’re wanting to get into audio production, learn an instrument. Learn lots of them! Especially learn to write and compose music because it really helps in Production. ProTools is just a giant music score, except you’re balancing effects and voice, versus cellos and drums. If you think of Production as a musical score, I think it really helps on the creative side of it.
- Who have been mentors of yours and how did they support you?
I mentioned him earlier, but Grant Brodie has been a huge inspiration for me, his work for The Edge in New Zealand is iconic locally. Chris Davis is both an incredibly good friend and a mentor of mine as well, from the way his production sounds to the way he operates from his home studio, he’s an incredibly talented guy and someone I’ll randomly call to work his brain for an idea or run something past him to see what he thinks. There’s a bunch of other people I liberally steal ideas from like Travis Evans, a producer I’ve worked with in Australia, Vinay Rao in Dubai, for Virgin Radio, who just has such a different style and ear for sound that’s very creative for the region.
- The best tech purchase under a hundred dollars?
I’m obsessively particular about the mouse I use in my studio, I’ve been using a very old microsoft one for over a decade and I was very attached to it. Way back when I was first starting out in radio, I brought this thing for $99 and it seemed like the biggest expense of my life at the time. It became my “ProTools” mouse and its been to every job, every studio, every country I’ve worked in. Sadly it past its used-by date a couple of years ago so I’ve had to upgrade, but I got a solid 10 years out of the thing!
- If you had to pick five plugins….
Never leave home without the Moogerfooger! That’s my baby. Q10 is such an easy equaliser, I’d also pick the L1, Soundtoys Crystallizer and a decent reverb.
- Radio in 5 years? What will be different, new, more of, less?
Radio is going through a bit of a renaissance right now, as far as I can tell. I hear radio stations playing in shops again and people are talking about stuff that is happening on-air. They’ve figured out what a lot of television hasn’t which is that local content and GOOD content trumps everything. Radio always does local well and it’s cost-effective. I think in five years you’ll begin to see an investment back into local regional markets again as television revenue will continue to decline up against streaming content. Radio will take over a lot of that local advertising revenue again, hopefully. I think radio as a business will continue to be light and adaptable and I think the idea that writers or producers have to sit in an office for 8 or 9 hours a day will become less and less and working from home or opportunities for flexible working conditions will become more standard and in my experience, yield vastly better return on both investment and creativity.
- Best advice you have ever gotten
A mentor and good friend once told me the key to not getting ‘stuck’ in a creative rut is to always have 3 tricks you can execute quickly and easily to just get the job done. Then the next time, reverse the order of those same 3 tricks, then mix it up again and so on. Using those ‘three tricks’ in different ways gives you plenty of scope to make basic projects sound interesting, without getting bogged down all the time reinventing the wheel. It’s been such great advice that I always pass it along. It’s a great way of getting great audio made consistently, whilst still being able to manage time efficiently in the studio for other more creatively heavy projects.
For an excerpt of Andrew’s work check out his soundcloud!:
First week back on track, hope all of you had some good time off and are up to a fresh start into 2020! Here are this week’s findings:1.Plugin
Just stumbled upon this, if you bought any Valhalla plugin, this one comes for free!
Check out the possibilities it offers:2.Inspiration
One of the best managers out there at the moment! Jürgen Klopp on Leadership, great watch
HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!
First Fiver Friday of 2020. Let’s see, if this year will fly by like the last did :)…I am looking forward to great conversations, productions, conferences, blog posts, making new friend and of course creating the best radio imaging there is!
Oli’s favorite plugIn
The last installment of Fiver Friday for this decade – thanks to all readers, viewers, commenters for the support along the way
Guys, Girls, Imaging family, friends, allies, Benztown clients and blog interviewees, colleagues… you get it!
Merry Christmas and thanks for all your support this year, thanks for everyone who took the time to connect, chat, has written guest posts, created awesome work, got up and made hits station sound awesome..I appreciate all of you and all your input.
This blog would not be without you and it is unbelievable we do this for 10 years here !!!!!
Merry Christmas from all of us here at Benztown and to a great 2020!!!!
Everyone at the office is busy finishing up the year, it’s been a great ride! Have a look at what i found for you guys this week :)..and if we dont speak!!! MERRY XMAS!1.Plugin
Jack Antonoff meets Lana Del Rey for producing “Norman Fuckin Rockwell” – this looks really cool tbh!3.Music
Some UK Hip Hop Vibes this week! Hero of GRIME music!!4.Web/Social/Whatever
The last episode of Star Wars has just come to cinemas, enjoy the ride guys!5.Imaging
The latest from Denzil Lacey! Cool stuff, has come a long way since our interview in 2016!
Happy Holidays, IMAGING COMMUNITY!!
If you could help with below we would greatly appreciate it!
This week, Benztown launched the 6th annual #Cans4Cans, a social media-driven food drive to support the Los Angeles Food Bank. The concept is simple – post a photo of yourself wearing headphones to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #cans4cans, and Benztown will donate 1 can of food on your behalf.
We would sincerely appreciate your participation in support of our cause, and if you would ask your friends/followers to participate as well, we’d be so grateful. For more info, please see the attached press release, or click here. Thank you!
Andy’s Fiver Friday #214 – Free Drum Sampler, Holiday FX by Bryan Apple and the BENZTOWN MEGA MIX 2019!
1 more week to go until all of us get our well deserved time off! Today is the christmas party here at the office, so let’s quickly get into this week’s findings
Andy’s Fiver Friday #213 – Free Flanger Plugin, The Sound of Dread and Scott Phillips for Radio 1 in the UAE!
2 more weeks to go here in the office until all of us get our well deserved time off around christmas! Let’s quickly get into this weeks findings for another edition of Fiver Friday!1.Plugin
Check out this free chorus/flanger plugin by Imaginando: DLYM2.Inspiration
Birthplace of Dreams featuring one of the best defenders in the world, Virgil van Dijk!3.Music
Check out your year in music with Spotify Wrapped! Overall listening time, most listened artists, genres and more
Yesterday I read a really great article about data driven marketing and thought about it in terms of how to break this down for what we do:
ON AIR MARKETING (of course with some nice bings and bangs, stutters, vocoders…:)
Here is 5 ideas you should think about when creating magic.
I break them down into 2 steps:
What does your data tell you about how your listeners behavior?
Why do they do that?
2. CONNECT THE DATA to actions
What’s frustrating or annoying about that? Can we name the enemy standing in the way?
How can we help?
What do we name this new reality? How do we tell people about it?
Let me know what you think?
Since it’s Black (Fiver) Friday, we collected the 5 best plugin sales and offers from all major plugin suppliers for you. We wish you happy shopping and a happy thanksgiving in case you’re from the US!
Soundtoys Black Friday sale is up until 4th of december and features 50% off the whole bundle and up top 80% of single plugins! Since these plugins are top notch, you should definitely look into these offers.
iZotope gives you up to 60% off, including Ozone 8/9. If you already own an iZotope plugin, login to your account to check for special loyalty offers! Apart from that, you can get Ozone 8 Standard Version on Plugin Boutique for ~ 50$ which is basically a steal!
Here we go again, it’s time for another fiver friday – check out this week’s findings!1.Plugin
Super creative and awesome ad – check out the 12 Days of UAD to start of the holiday plugin season!2.Inspiration
Apple delivers again, definitely got its price but this looks awesome for anything related to creative work!3.Music
Some sweet indie music from german band Milky Chance
Andy’s Fiver Friday #210 – Free Drum Set, How Streaming Changed Music And The Latest from Mikel Vilchez
Everyone’s busy here at the office since Christmas is approaching fast, so let’s quickly get into this weeks findings!1.Plugin
Can’t quite believe this is actually free, but the demo doesn’t expire and features free kits!
You can get your free download here!2.Inspiration
Kevin Gates on Self-Improvement – solid life advice right here!3.Music
Latest from Frank Ocean, some cool mellow vibeeees…4.Web/Social/Whatever
Quite interesting to see how streaming actually changed the way songs are structured and arranged, with songs getting shorter and shorter…5.Imaging
One of the best in the game and a good friend with some new mind blowing stuff! Jake, you rock!!!! Check his latest!
4. What has been a project you are most proud of?While I was making imaging for THE EDGE in Sydney I put together an image package using Dave Foxx’s (Z100) voice. He asked to hear what I’d done so I sent him some examples. It was some of my favorite imaging I’ve worked on over the years and I was really proud of it. Very rhythmic and lots of flow. I had complete creative control. Dave loved what I did and asked for mixouts so he could use bits and pieces of it on Z100 in New York. There was no payment involved, but it’s without doubt one of the most satisfying things I’ve done in radio. To get positive feedback from one of the industry greats like Dave Foxx was amazing.
5. What DAW do you use?I use Pro Tools at home and also in the studio. At home I work off a MacBook, using a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 for an audio interface and some JBL monitors. The MacBook is handy because I can go and sit outside in the sun if I want and mix using headphones. At the radio station we have Pro Tools HD 12, so there’s a lot more grunt there if I need some extra power. 6. What are your favorite plugins? I use all sorts of plugins for creating vocal fx. Metaflanger is a good one, as is Lo-Fi. The AIR suite of plugins are great as well. For mastering I like the Renaissance RCompressor, C4 Multiband and L2 Multimaximizer.
7. What is your inspiration?Many people have inspired me over the years. My good friend, Daryl Missen who I worked with at B105 years ago is still a great inspiration to me. I still remember specific promos of his from 25 years ago that I was blown away by when I heard them the first time, just so clever. Also just a great guy all round. Another mate of mine, Sam Phelps, who at a time a few years ago when commercial radio in Australia was stale and boring, was trying really cool production techniques and finding different and original ways to cut stuff together. His fresh way of thinking has been a great motivator. An old mate of mine who sadly passed away a few years ago…. Vic Davies was half of a show called Club Veg. He’s the funniest man I’ve ever met. His comedy writing and production was the best I’ve ever heard. Even now if I’m stuck for a funny punchline for a comedy sketch or jingle, I just think “what would Vic have done with this?” He’s still getting me out of jams and making me laugh. And my longest serving boss, Charlie Fox. Probably the smartest radio mind I know, and one of the greatest guys I’ve known in this industry. Completely supportive, and always willing to let me try new things. Great for a laugh and endlessly caring. There aren’t many around like him. 8. Any new tools you have discovered lately? I found a plugin recently called Speakerphone. It mimics all kinds of telephones and speakers and stuff. It’s really fun to play with. Useful for commercial production! 9. Your favorite piece of imaging or production ever? Of my own, I think the launch piece I wrote and produced for STAR FM when the station started up in 2004. It was a real pisstake of Australian history. Lots if fun to write, cast and produce. It’s around 20 minutes long, so one of the longer things I’ve worked on. I listen to it now and the mix is a bit rough, but it still makes me smile. 10. What has been the best advice you have received? If you’re making a promo and it’s taking too long and just not working, and you’re getting frustrated…. the audience will probably feel the same way when they hear it, so scrap it and start again with a fresh head. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ Check out Dave’s soundcloud for an excerpt of his work! Benztown Imaging EDGE 961 EDGE Image Bits
Another week passed, another Fiver Friday! We’re in full christmas mode here so let’s quickly get into this week’s findings:1.Plugin
WavesFactory – Cassette – The latest from Waves Factory, this looks really cool and gives that vintage feel.
Worth a try for ~26$!2.Inspiration
A dive into how The Grandmaster directs movies, great watch!3.Music
Check out the new Gang Starr Album
Andy’s Fiver Friday #208 – The Official Benztown Podcast, ShaperBox 2 Review and the latest from Nick Karkazis!
We got a national holiday in Germany today, which means no work
Most of you guys already know the awesome plugins by CableGuys just like PanCake, FilterShaper or ShaperBox. Recently they released ShaperBox 2, an upgrade to their arguably sickest plugin and we were fortunate enough to receive a free login and download. The plugin is already in use by David Guetta, AnonXmous (Timbaland, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj), BT, Deniz Koyu and many more. So it’s really cool to be included! Therefore we decided to write a quick review and to let you guys know what we, here at Benztown, think about their latest addition to the plugin world – Enjoy!
The ShaperBox 2, just like ShaperBox 1, combines 5 of CableGuys effect plugins into one: TimerShaper 2, VolumeShaper 6, FilterShaper Core 2, PanShaper 3 and WidthShaper 2. It comes in 32 and 64 bit version as VST and AU for PC and MAC and works on all major DAWs. The only real downside is that there’s still no AAX Version available, therefore you have to use a plugin patchbay like BlueCats Patchwork to load it up in Pro Tools.
ShaperBox2 allows you to shape any sound the way you want, create sick musical, rhythmic effects and helps solve complex mix problems as it gives you full control over filtering, volume, panning, stereo width and even the flow of time. It’s an overall tool for sound design, beat transformation and even mixing as the possibilities are endless. To get a feeling for what’s possible we recommend checking out this video:
Interface & Workflow
Keep in mind that we’re only showing you basic functions and overall functionality, because there’s too much to explore and combine. There are many great tutorials to be found online, if you want to dig deeper.
Let’s keep it short this for once, here are this weeks findings!:1.Plugin
iZotope got a big sale going right now, from Tonal Balance to Ozone 9, all prices are reduced! Check it out:
Amazing how far technology has come… Definitely mind blowing with more to come!3.Music
Real Oldschool Flavouurrrrrr….4.Web/Social/Whatever
You can like or dislike the Apple Watch Series, but Apple’s commercial game is insane!5.Imaging
Cool soundcloud page for imaging freaks, great collection of everything imaging related!