In our ‘Inspire Me Interview Series’, we pick the brains of the best Voice Talent and Producers in The Imaging House worldwide community and learn what makes them tick. It’s not so much about call letters as it is about the journey.
“INSTEAD OF GETTING DISCOURAGED OR MAD, I JUST TOLD MYSELF NOT TO LISTEN TO THEM. THERE IS A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF POWER IN SUBJECTIVE HEARING.” – Steve Stone, Episode 02
The purpose of these in-depth interviews is to show you possibility. YOUR possibility. Don’t let bad days define you. Don’t let bad moments become monuments. And turn the impossible… into a challenge. At one or more times in their career, every person in these interviews has doubted their ability, thought they weren’t good enough, told they’d never make it, got knocked down, got back up, etc. These are their stories.
“I WAS OUTSIDE IN THE PARKING LOT YELLING AND TELLING THE WORLD I WAS NOW, AS OF THAT MOMENT, AN ACCENT VOICE ON KIIS-FM IN LOS FUCKING ANGELES.” – Steve Taylor, Episode 01
Welcome to Episode 03: Dave Foxx
K3: Hi Dave! Tell us what you’re doing these days.
Voiceover Artist/Imaging Consultant (depending on the day). I do voice work for about 40 stations in the US and another dozen in other countries.
K3: Let’s start with a career synopsis.
Deejay at KAYK/KFMC in Provo, Utah – Deejay at WPGC in Washington, DC (over the next 10 years add, Music Director, Assistant PD, Morning Show Host and de facto Production Director) – Deejay/Production Director at B104 in Baltimore Maryland (Now Z104.3) – Creative Services Director at Z100 in New York City.
K3: How did you feel hearing your first piece of production on the air?
It was a bit surreal, I guess. I was excited and worried at the same time. Excited my work was on the air, worried that my work sucked.
“In June of 2007, PINK! helped Z100 do a summer promotion, giving away her car. (OK, it was a trade from a local car dealer, but we did customize it to her specifications.) When she came in to cut lines with me, we had an absolute blast. I had just typed up some bullet points and we sat and talked about ideas together. We’d record a little and then talk some more, spending a lot of time laughing. She dropped a really funny line once, and as soon as I heard it, I knew it HAD to be in the first promo. This is it. (above)” -Dave Foxx
I deejayed a church dance once. I also did some sound design for a few of my mother’s plays. (She was an actress!) I particularly recall making a tornado effect on an old Wollensak tape recorder (at 1-7/8 inches per second! LOL) I had my mother, brother and little sister blowing on the cheap mic for about 5 minutes. The Wizard of Oz was a hit and the tornado sounded pretty awesome. Except when my sister started moaning in the background, “I’m blowing away! I’m blowing away!” Nobody noticed…I think. (She was only 5 or 6.)
K3: Did anyone ever doubt your creative ability?
I’m sure SOMEONE did, but I was so convinced that I was gonna make it big in the radio biz, I didn’t listen. I had one GM tell me I’d never work another day in radio when he fired me. I kind of discounted that when he hired me again about 15 minutes later. It was a “heat of the moment” kind of thing, I guess. The thing is, I never doubted my creative abilities. Even the one time I was legitimately fired from my college station, the GM said, “You’ll probably have an amazing career in radio…but it won’t be here.” Who knew? He was right. Ha!K3: Any career ‘failures’ you learned from?
I only realized that I had failed when I looked back at how long I hung on at WPGC while it was clearly swirling round the bowl. Once I drove up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to B104, I figured out that I left WPGC about 3 years after I should have. I was only in Baltimore long enough to rediscover how much fun radio should be. Working in a (mostly) drama free environment again was REALLY liberating.
K3: Has there been a moment in your career where you surprised yourself?
When I took the job in New York, it was to do middays on Z100. Steve Kingston hired me after I’d been in Baltimore for 6 months. I packed a bag and jumped on I-95, checked into the Meadowlands Hilton one night and showed up at Z100 the next morning. Scott Shannon had just gotten off the air and we exchanged greetings. (I had worked for him at WPGC a few years before.) THAT is when I found out that my new gig didn’t exist. While Steve (the Operations Manager) was busy hiring me, Scott (the Program Director) was busy renewing Susan Leigh-Taylor’s contract for a year. Steve, a little embarrassed, stuck me in a production studio (for the same money) until he could work something out. Well, it took a year to work something out. Susan had inked her contract the morning I arrived and there was no getting out of it. ONE YEAR later, Kingston cracked the door to my studio and said, “C’mon, X! We’re ready!” That’s when I surprised myself. I turned and said, “Not so fast. I’d rather stay here and do production.” I hadn’t thought about it. I didn’t even know Susan was going to bail. I just did it. This is my shocked face.
Kingston was a bit miffed and tried several times to talk me out of it, but there I stayed…for 29 more years.
“THE ESSENTIAL KEY TO CREATIVITY IS LIVING LIFE LIKE THE LISTENER… A REALLY GOOD MANAGER WILL NEVER LET HIS OR HER TEAM SIT AND MARINATE IN THE STUDIO ALL DAY.” –Dave Foxx
K3: What has been the biggest challenge of your career?
I think that most folks would agree that Z100 is pretty much THE top job in CHR. (There are a few really big others in LA, Chicago and maybe Miami, but in my heart, Z100 is the best of the best.) I had to constantly remind myself to NOT act like I was God’s gift to radio. It was a process, but eventually I came to believe that it was just dumb luck that got me there. The first time Dan O’Day invited me to keynote one of his Radio Summits, he told me he wanted to hear all the secret ingredients to Z100’s imaging success. I subtitled my lecture, “How To Get My Gig,” and I meant it. I knew I wouldn’t be in that position forever (it just seemed that way, in retrospect I suppose) and I wanted to make sure whoever took over when I left would be completely up to speed and take good care of the station the way I had. Turns out, the guy who did (Staxx Williams) is perfect for the job and has taken VERY good care of my baby.
“In early 2011, we did the Z100 Pays Your Bills promotion for about the 8 or 9th time. It was almost an annual promotion for us. Clearly, I had to do something different, so I grabbed a couple pieces of production music and winged it. I LOVE this promo because it was just NAKED…almost.” – Dave Foxx
I’m laid back. I am so far laid back, people sometimes have to check to see if I’m breathing. I’ve found that being a manic freak-a-zoid in the prod room is less than helpful. I am constantly trying to look deeper into the process and layering meanings into sound effects and music tracks that most people will never consciously hear, but will add to the gravity of the piece. Pinging off the walls interferes with that kind of deeper thought. I also make sure that I create an atmosphere in my studio that keeps things mellow. I always use incandescent lighting, softer, muted colors so when people come crashing in for whatever silly problem they have, I can invite them to relax and explain in a rational tone what they need.
As a VO talent, I really dislike getting copy and being told it’s not due for a couple of days. I’d MUCH rather cut it, post it and forget it so I can get back to the Zen feeling. Just about every client has been surprised when I cut and post within a couple of minutes of getting the email. I know how much I hated having to wait for hours (or even days) to get a read from someone, so I make the effort to get it done quickly, and then I can get back to the droning sitar in my head. (Figuratively, at least.)
K3: The 10 million-dollar question: How do you get yourself out of a creative block/rut?
The solution I’ve found is surprisingly simple. Whenever I’m writing and feel like I’m chasing my tail, or producing and feeling like I’m getting bogged down in petty crap, I just stop. I do something else for awhile. Preferably something that takes some concentration. I like to fly my plane. Nothing concentrates your mind quite like the possibility of death. When I fly, I have ONE job…fly the damned airplane. I don’t think about office politics, my personal relationships or trying to come up with an original way to make a promo work. After a couple of hours of focussing on staying alive, I land the plane. As I fuel the plane, tie down the wings, stow my charts and give the cockpit a light cleaning, my mind slowly starts to refocus on whatever it is I was trying to do. Every stinkin’ time, I’ll hit on exactly the idea that will break the logjam and I am totally back on track.
Jeff Berlin, VO guy and producer extraordinaire, goes out and rides his bike (in traffic) when he’s stuck. Nancy Carroll, a writer friend of mine goes to her local gun range and shoots her 9mm Beretta for half an hour or more. It doesn’t have to be death-defying, but it must completely occupy the mind so you’re forcing it out of the ruts you’re stuck in. Once you come back to Earth, you’re totally in business. I’ve never seen it fail.
K3: Tell me about people you lean on to support you on the creativity challenged days.
Well, my wife is my rock. I depend on her a lot to ‘distract’ me a bit when I’m not feeling 100% in the creative arena. She’s always willing to listen, even when it’s about something she really doesn’t care about. I also have a couple of friends I know I can usually count on to go out and grab a beer and shoot some pool or some other, more reckless pursuit.
K3: What’s next for you creatively?
Easy question. Video. The entire concept of editing, creating and crafting video is fascinating to me. I produce a weekly video for Most Requested Live that highlights the top 5 requested songs each week. Whenever I feel the need to do something creative and there’s nothing on my calendar, I’ll sit down and create ins and outs for the video, each highlighting one of the affiliates for the show. Then, each week’s video will use one set of ins/outs for markets like Boston, Phoenix or San Luis Obispo. I really think every radio producer needs to do some basic video editing/crafting. It has really expanded my world view of production and NOT just in the video world. It’s really altered my views on audio production as well. Plus, it’s really FUN! Check it out!
K3: How does Dave Foxx inspire a creative team?
The essential key to creativity is living life like the listener. The spark of an idea happens when you cross-pollinate two ideas that most people would never connect. From that spark comes everything creative. A really good manager will never let his or her team sit and marinate in the studio all day. 4 or 5 hours in studio is enough. another 2 or 3 hours doing something the audience does contributes SO MUCH to the creative process. A good manager will get team members dinners, tickets to local sporting events, the theater (not just movies) and dozens of other things, all good ways to connect to the community. For that matter, grocery shopping, visiting the library or hospital, taking part in food drives, volunteering at soup kitchens or participating in a municipal 5k run are all huge ways to fill the creative well. When it comes time to write a cool scenario for a promo, or just produce that promo, the ideas will spark all over the place and creativity will flow down the hallways like a river. THAT’S how you do it.
“A month later, the winners were piling up quickly and instead of doing a “1 winner/1 promo” formula, I burned 7 winners in one shot and killed it dead.” – Dave Foxx
K3: Close the book of life and open it 10 years later- where are you?
Right here in my studio, reading scripts and writing like crazy. That’s what I hope I’ll be doing right up until I get planted under the petunias (or more likely sprinkled over them). This is the most fun a person can have with their clothes on…sometimes off.
Check out Dave’s demo and contact info on his website: https://www.davefoxx.com/
Or here, on his Imaging House profile: https://theimaginghouse.com/dave-foxx/