So, finally, this has been in the making, at least on my agenda for a long time, not so much on Justin’s as his turn around was incredibly fast. This interview will blow your mind, Justin’s career path is crazy. Discover one of Canada’s most talented Imaging Guys and learn about Imaging, PlugIns, Sound Design and of course a lot about the Man HIMSELF. ENTER Justin!
1. Justin, give me a bit background on yourself, what is your career path, where did you start in radio and how?
– I grew up in a small fishing village on the East coast of Canada, in Newfoundland, called Too Good Arm. Population 100 people. My parents still live there, and I visit usually once or twice per year. I started in radio with the public broadcaster here in Canada – CBC Radio. The radio station was about an hour and 20 minute drive from my parents place. I started there on an internship – cutting street interviews, weather and audio editing – as well as some behind the scenes TV work with camera and lighting set up. I was still in high school at the time – Grade 11-12. Before that, myself and my brother started doing a WWF/WCW wrestling news show via Real Audio player. (Grade 11 or there about) This was first when the streaming technology sorta became available. I also remember getting my very first mp3 file during that time. I was like, WTF is this..mp3??!!! Uploading Real Audio files via 28 Mbps dial up was a son of a bitch, let me tell ya. haha. Phone lines were so horrid at the time, 56 Kbps download was unheard of in my area.
Since then, I have had stops all over Atlantic Canada, Toronto (twice)..and now Calgary. My work has been pretty much heard all over Canada and the US via various companies, as well from the sky via SXM. During my time in Halifax (Nova Scotia) is when free lance really took off for me (mid 2000’s I guess). Out of Halifax, I produced imaging for Virgin Radio Canada, as well as KISS 92 (Toronto) and various Cox Media stations in the US. From CHR, Country..rock..etc. Just recently, I picked up a Christian radio client – my first ever. While I’m a hard rock KoRn, Metallica, Deftones, SlipKnot kinda guy – I really appreciate the Christian radio music/format. It’s extremely well done. From places as small as Gander (Newfoundland-Canada)..to as big as New York City. How a guy from a small town of 100 people ever ended up catching the ears of those people is beyond me. I’ve had a lot of really great people in my corner. From business and personal life. Everyone has backed me, and cheered me on. I’ve been pretty lucky.
Right now during the day, I am National Imaging Director for Newcap Radio – my day, evening and off hours are packed with a lot of free lance as well. I won’t lie – it’s not easy all the time nor glamorous. Some days are very very long, and others are over at 3pm. One day, I plan on not working as much. My fiance is wondering when that day is coming. hahaha Currently, I reside in Calgary (Alberta-Canada) with my fiance Karla, dog Blaise and 3 cats. Yes, we’re a little animal crazy at the house.
2. How is it to image / work from home now? Challenges / Improvements etc
– Imaging day to day in radio is still a lot of fun to me, and I hope it never stops being fun. I still get a kick out of hearing a promo when it goes on the air – or when a neat little piece of sound design I created is used. I get that cool like nerdy feeling. haha. With more demand these days with free lance and my day job, I tend to enjoy working from home more often. There’s no commuting. You get up at 530 a.m with a coffee and start right in! Go till 5 pm (If you’d like, or longer..haha). Zero interruptions. It just allows me to get more done. I realize not a lot of companies are fans of having people work from home. I think that’s an outdated way of running a business in 2018. For me, I could care less if someone produced a piece of imaging in a cave, in the woods or on a boat 500 miles out into the ocean with a rusty nail. Does it sound great? Does it connect with the audience…written well..project is on time, etc? If yes, who really cares where it’s produced? I don’t. We have Skype, social media, face time, internet, etc. We have never been more connected to each other.
In my line of work, working from home allows me to focus a lot more. While socializing at the work place is great, it sometimes hinders getting all the work done, so I have to manage the time I spend talking about last nights hockey game. If I need to bounce ideas off people, I’ll call them – let them listen to what I am doing, etc. If I need to get air and clear my head, I’ll take my dog for a short walk around the block. Plus, I enjoy the comforts of my own space. Studio gear that’s tailored to the way I want it for my work flow. I really need to maximize every single minute I can get – or I fall behind, projects fall behind and PDs get angry. haha
Other challenges? Staying on top of the tech – what’s out there – who’s doing what, etc. I find Soundcloud is a great resource to find out what others are doing. Also, to a more detailed extent – podcast that have chats with other producers or sound design producers. All very valuable resources.
As for what I could improve? That’s an easy one. Production of sound design – music beds, elements, indents, etc. Trying to find more audio production work that really challenges my mind and creativity. Sometimes day to day radio work can start to feel monotonous and comfortable. If you get too comfortable you can miss out on opportunities to make something great. Naturally, everyone’s work load is different. Getting time to create quality work is key. I think the industry as a whole is lacking in that area. It’s where radio needs to improve. Giving creative people proper time to create a better product. Respect the process.
3. What makes you sound special? What techniques and Imaging tricks do you use the most?
Ha. I don’t know if I would consider myself special. I’ve spent a lot of spare time just nerding out, playing around with various sounds and techniques. What might make my work different from others? Maybe I use a lot of distortion in voice. GTR Plug-Ins and basically any guitar plug-in on voice over is what I tend to use a lot. Creates sort of a dirty crunchy edgy sound. Nasty for AC, but it works for CHR, Rock, etc. For my sound design, I totally approach things from a “would I find this useful” standpoint. I’m not a musical dude. I don’t play instruments. I just sit back and I mess with endless midi programs. After much experimenting, I come up with something that I like, and what I can use.
4. VO Treatment, how does your regular VO chain look?
Hmm, again….it’s back to to distorting plug ins. Various guitar racks, EQs..etc. Sometimes I will place effects and eq directly on a track. Sometimes I’ll bus it to another track. Just depends on my mood. I have a basic Pro Tools template that I use….. basic L2 on the master, simple Q10 plug in….usual reverb, etc – however, it’s just that – very basic. I am always building on it, and it’s different every session. I start with a simple template, then build in all the other plug ins/tracks that may work for that particular session.
5. What production system do you use and why?
I’ve been a Pro Tools guy for a long long time, and it’s what I am comfortable with. Programs like Audition 6 would really limit me. That’s my personal opinion. I can’t create what I want in it – zero midi tracks and sometimes outside plug ins can run very clunky within the program…as well as zero grid mode. Eventually, I’d like to branch out into other DAWS, like Logic and such. They seem much more music production friendly. I just started using UAD plug ins recently. Went ahead and bought myself an Apollo 8 DUO. Impressive hardware and impressive plug ins. I just needed to evolve a little more, and grow my sound. It does not benefit anyone (including myself) if I stay in my comfort zone. Your brain turns to mush.
6. What is your most favorite PlugINs/virtual instruments?
That’s a loaded question. haha. These are in no particular order.
– Anything from Native Instruments.
– Sugar Bytes Effectrix
– IZotope Beat Tweaker
– Q10 (Waves)
– Anything Sound Toys
– Sound Morph Timeflux
– Spectrasonics Omnisphere (if I really wanna mess sounds up..haha)
– REQ 4 (Waves)
– RVox (Waves)
– GTR Tool Rack (Waves)
– Butch Vig Vocals (Waves) – SansAMP
7. New findings? Things you play around the most these days?
Overall, I just find myself getting lost more and more into the sound design world and music via virtual instruments. It’s just a different level I can add to my radio production. I will be the very first to admit, I mostly have no clue what I am doing – but I really enjoy it, and it works my brain. In the future, I’d like to dive more into Moog Music. It could become an expensive habit – but well, it looks like a lot of fun. I need to find more time to create unique material, and less time doing summer back yard party promos brought to you by a client…haha. I know those pay the bills, but it does absolutely nothing for improving on my skills.
8. Your advice for a young person starting in radio imaging?
Be humble. Never think you’re greater than anyone else. Keep learning, and keep evolving. I really don’t understand ego in radio imaging or radio in general. Maybe if you’re a massive morning team that get huge numbers. However, if you’re a radio imaging producer, PD, etc. You’re not a rock star, nor an athlete. The every day person has no idea who you are, nor do they care. haha. Get over it. Leave ego at the door.
Treat people as you like to be treated, and never act as if someone is below you. It’s just silly. One day, that person could be your boss, the PD you work for, etc.
Getting out of your comfort zone is a big thing as well. Learn a different writing style, try producing on a different DAW. For a company that you work for, make yourself impossible to replace by working hard and approaching promos and imaging in a cool/unique way. Make your production/writing so cutting edge and so different, you become as important as the music on the radio station.
9. Off Hours – when you’re not doing audio stuff.
– I try to get back to Newfoundland to salmon fish, usually every summer. I enjoy time away from cities and Pro Tools. Nothing better than the salt water hitting your face, or watching Arctic ice floes around the bays back home in Newfoundland in the summer. You can’t beat it. My fiance and I also foster animals..cats/dogs. It’s great to help out animals in need. On a Friday night, you might find a dog/cat in my lap as we watch a weeks worth of PVRd programing.
For further information check out Justin’s Core Image Studio as well as his demo on benztownradio: