Now Playing: the sound of rotten eggs all over my face...
A few weeks back, I came to a truly frightening conclusion. I was thinking about my days at SUNY Albany and WCDB (the on-campus radio station), hosting shows, doing production work, and all that. I started thinking about the producers I always looked up to during that time, like Prince Paul and Hank Shocklee, and how I wanted to create work that was as creative and engaging as theirs was. I was a cocky bastard back in the day that liked to play humble. Truth be told, if I was half as humble as I pretended to be, my voice wouldn?t be the one heard on all the promotional spots. With all of the wonderfully charismatic personalities at that station, you?d think I would?ve dragged more of them into the production studio to do voiceover work, or go the next step and train them in the ways of the studio so that they could bring their own ideas to fruition. But no?I had to be the self-appointed VOICE of the station, just because I was one of the few who knew how to splice audio tape together with a razor blade (this was before the station was equipped with a digital workshop).
Last month, I was hanging out with two friends of mine, twin brothers that also went to SUNY Albany. I used to work alongside one of them at WCDB: his name is Marvin. He still bears the nickname ?Martian? from those days. He was telling me that some people still talk about the work I did when I was there. I?ve spent the better part of my life since graduation trying to distance myself from the person I was at school, let alone this cache of sonic masturbation I burdened the airwaves with. The digital workstation was installed shortly after I graduated college (serves me right). Considering that the kids have so much more to work with today than when I was at the station, I hope and pray that a new generation of promos have rendered my own obsolete and hopelessly bloated. If for some reason my work is still being played from time to time, it is best that three months pass between airings of my voice. I still hold fast to the belief that when the last promo that features my voice is removed from the airwaves and locked away in a vault (or possibly erased or torched), it is then and only then that ?CDB will truly be free.
I remember telling Marvin that what I did was, in retrospect, nothing special. If anything, it was a fusing of the production styles of those at the station who did it better and taught me what I knew: Joe Schepis and Mark E. Phillips. Schepis was the witty cat, mad clever and technical. His work had polish, always sounded really clean and professional whenever it aired. Schepis will always be a genius in my eyes and the pinnacle of audio class. Mark, on the other hand, was just plain crazy. I can remember opening the station at six in the morning to start my wake-up show an hour later, and he would be in the production studio from the night before, still splicing tape and stuff. Mark was HARDCORE. Creativity dripped from his fingernails and bounced off the walls like those super bouncing balls you buy for a quarter in candy dispensing machines. Phillips was responsible for some of the most memorable promos in ?CDB history, joints that stood the test of time, like this ongoing superhero series featuring a character called Captain Dude Boy or the infamous "Station of Sin" spot.
All I did was build upon their foundation, taking a little from both and putting my own spin on it. I really can?t listen to a lot of my work anymore without wincing. My favorite stuff from that era is the work I did with other people, the work that features their voices, their personality. There was a spot a number of us did for Listener Appreciation Week. I produced it with this cat named Chris Radtke (he was another head with a bunch of crazy ideas...we had a number of those at the station). We had at least half the alternative rock department jammed in the studio making noise, saying phrases on cue, cheering and stuff?it was great. Every time somebody came into the studio and asked, ?What?s going on?? they got dragged into our experiment. One of the alt-rock DJs, Toby Semroc, did the main voiceover. Somehow we were able to get this really frenzied, over-the-top performance out of him. It was perfect. I smile every time I hear it.
That was a good day in the production studio, a real team effort. Most of the time I decided to go solo and turn it into an ?all about me? affair (mainly because I wanted the spotlight all to myself and I had a tendency not to trust other people). I know now that such behavior was to my own detriment as well as that of the station. Remember how I said I was cocky pretending to be humble? Think about the fact that I love Prince Paul?s work, and was a big fan back in my ?CDB days. Think about the fact that Paul tends to be in the background with anything he produces. He lets other voices shine while he quietly orchestrates the elements where you can?t see him, living vicariously through those that you do see and/or hear. He does what a producer is supposed to do: stay the hell outta the way. You could say the same for Madlib, other producer that I admire. Sure, he?ll get on the mic every now and then, but he?s mostly a behind-the-scenes cat, just working on his music. He?s quite the recluse, doesn?t like to tour (though he knows it?s necessary), he doesn?t like to do many interviews, either. He just wants to make music, and does so in a quiet (yet constant) fashion.
Here?s my point: I claimed to be humble. I claimed to want to be like Prince Paul. But what was I actually doing? I was plastering my voice all over every cart I produced, so you would know beyond a doubt it was me. This begs the question: was I Prince Paul?or was I Puff Daddy? Doesn?t matter whether it?s your album or not, present-day Diddy?s gonna talk all over your joint. Diddy?s gonna be all up in your video. How is that any different from what I was doing back in the day? What?s so sad about all this is if you were to tell me that back then, I would?ve tried to kill you. Or at least threaten to do so. Anything involving Sean Combs gave me ulcers back in the day.
And yet, there I was, saying look at me. Or better yet, ?I?m ready for my close-up, Mr. Hype Williams.? Hindsight?s not only 20/20, it?s also REALLY UNFORGIVING.