John Frost - Tips From a Corona Content King
"Name someone who's influenced your work- and you can't say John Frost". That very interview question was put to a radio imaging producer I know. Probably because an imaging producer listing John Frost as an influence would be like a ham sandwich listing the Earl of Sandwich as an influence. News flash sandwich - the Earl invented you. He eats things like you for breakfast. Likewise John invented funny and irreverent radio imaging in the mid eighties at Los Angeles rock station KROQ. That's right, invented it. Some people, John included, might say that he forever changed irreverent rock imaging, but I'm sticking with the 'i' word.
One of the best parts of John's KROQ legacy was that even if your boyhood dreams of being the next Van Halen or Guns & Roses didn't work out, you felt like you could be a rock star behind the scenes. That enticement was enough to inspire a generation of radio producers to do better, to really take ownership of what they were making. That's why he's so revered, and that's why you can safely assume that John has influenced pretty much every producer out there. And yes, just like the Earl of Sandwich and his hammy snack, the Earl of Frost could still eat us regular producers for breakfast, even today.
If my production work in the nineties had a DNA test the results would have come back as 90% John Frost and 10% Jack Daniels. My Program Director at the time would take yearly trips to LA and while he was there he'd record KROQ on a cassette. When he got back we'd sit in my studio on a Friday afternoon drinking bourbon and listening to John's production. I mean think about that, we were listening to promos like they were songs from our favourite album. It's amazing that imaging alone can provide such a great amount of entertainment, but that's the hallmark of John's work. Fast forward to today, and John is still inspiring and amazing us with his re-invention of radio imaging elements on his popular imaging service Frostbytes Online. Check it out here and listen to the Frostbytes demo below.
When John created Frostbytes back in 2001 it was the first online production service of it's kind and it's still going strong today. He kindly downed tools in his LA studio for a while so we could talk production, promos, and possible pornhub categories....
JF - Before I do your whole question thing, I wanna tell you who inspired me, and who does still to this day. Oh wow. Okay. I get influence from anything and anybody I hear that did a good sounding or well done thing. List at the moment: Eric Chase... I could learn so much. Miles Hlivko at KIIS / ALT 98-7 LA... The best in the world right now in my opinion. Malcolm Ryker. Fuuuuck. Ned Spindle. Fuuuuck. The very first person to blow my mind was named Tom Sandman at WBCN Boston in the 80s. In addition, there are countless little up and comers that have this shit down.
BR - John there's a rumour going around that you think radio imaging should be funny & entertaining as well as strategic. I thought we had to choose between the two? Or are you saying it's possible for art and science to co-exist in promos like the way several different types of mold co-exist in the dirty coffee cup I've had in my studio for three months?
JF - People like fun. Don't people like fun? I think people like fun. Radio is entertainment. We play the music to entertain, why shouldn't we entertain as much as possible? We have to say stuff... Why not make it funny the way we say it? Funny or interesting. That should be your goal. Why do you think people are beatmatching and beatmixing all them jingles? It's not funny, but it is fun. It's way more fun and interesting than not beatmixing stuff... Than just saying 'hey we play stuff.' 'hey we have a morning show.' be not fun, if you think there's a market for that. But I'm goin' with fun.
BR - One of the many things I admire about your work is that you are such a complete producer. You come up with the concept, you write it, you voice it, you produce it and there's also a chance that you made the fx and music in it too because you are capable of those as well. Was that a conscious goal of yours from the beginning, to become totally self sufficient? A complete production ecosystem?
JF - Nope. And it wasn't ego either. It was me alone and this needs to get done. I wish I could collab as well as some other producers. I just liked playing and learned how to do stuff. I'm not great at all of it... But it turns out that's okay too. Cheesy can be okay. Stupid can be okay. Rinky dink can be okay. Jimmy Kimmel taught me that. I don't think he meant to teach me that, but just watching and listening to stuff he'd put together, I first noticed 'that's not that well produced...' but then noticed that it was goddamn hilarious. The production value had little or no effect on whether the bit succeeded. That's something to think about. Kinda blows my mind. That means, be unapologetic with your piece. It is what it is and it’s here now and, if it is fun or funny or interesting and 'on message,' then it's a win.
BR - On the subject of Jimmy Kimmel, let's take a moment to listen to Jimmy, Kevin Ryder (from KROQ breakfast show 'Kevin & Bean') and Adam Carolla paying tribute to John on The Adam Carolla Show...
BR - Because this blog aims to be a practical guide to creating funny imaging and radio content I try to explain little joke writing tricks here and there. I've covered 'words with multiple meanings', 'self-contradictory statements' and a few others. With that in mind John, I'd love to take a moment and dissect the way you work - do you have any writing processes that you can share? Or do you create comedy on a more instinctual level by letting the topic roll around in that genius head of yours, going in and voicing it, hearing the seed of the joke in what you've voiced then improving on that joke by re-recording it again to amplify it and so on until you've got the best possible version?
JF - I've done it both those ways... Probably because I'm really not super organized. Sometimes i can write and rewrite a pretty solid complete script... And other times the script sucks until i get in there and jizz all over it... With my brain and my boredom and my need to spiff it up. Then if it still sucks, I hate myself and curse and I blow it up and do it over again from scratch.
BR - Lately I've heard you talking about 'bunching' and 'spacing'. Are those new categories on Pornhub or something else entirely?
JF -That was just me trying to put a name to jostling around dialogue or voiceover. When you are doing almost all the voices yourself, you sometimes can only hear yourself... Talking to obviously also yourself. One way to differentiate the voices even further would be if they talked over each other at times. And most conversations... (I challenge you to go listen to two people soon) ... Most conversations are not perfectly spaced. There are times when both speakers get excited about something at the same time, causing them to both speak at once, and faster, and a little louder. Other times, people pause as they reflect on what was just said, or are thinking of what to say next. So I also try to 'bunch' dialog in a cadence that feels natural... Leaving holes where I want them, and frantic overdubs where I hear 'em. That's bunching and spacing.
BR - There's this thing I say when people ask me why I persist in making funny stuff for the radio. It goes something like this- 'I want my station to be like the little fun group at a party that everyone else naturally gravitates to and wants to be around.' In your view, how exactly does a station benefit from using funny imaging? Why not just leave the funny to the breakfast show and be no-nonsense for the rest of the day? Maybe I can even steal a new analogy from you, the party one is getting kinda old.
JF - All we are ever trying to do is have them identify with us... Relate to us on some human level. We want them to 'get' us, and they want us to 'get' them. Your best friends are people you can relate to.
So, how do you relate to a human? Let's pretend we're an alien from space, on earth, trying to relate to a human. What do you do? You think and talk like them. You mirror them. They hate something? You do too. They think something's funny or sad? You do too. So we can make them laugh or cry or mad or happy or dance. All human emotional states that (most) humans will relate to. Why did every Jerry Seinfeld joke start with 'D\idja ever notice...' and you were always like 'pfffffff totally!!!!!!!' Why do restaurants have pictures of their food sometimes? Because otherwise, it's just words. Why does every woman on tinder want a guy with a 'great sense of humor?' It's disarming and puts them at ease. When you go to watch tv or Netflix... What do you watch? What human relatable emotion are they giving you? Funny, scary, sad, mad. Pick one.
BR - You once hinted in an interview that by the time you left KROQ you felt as though you might be creatively 'out of gas', but you soon discovered that you had ten billion other ideas in the tank when you started Frostbytes Online. If you could give people just one tip on how to get the ideas flowing when they're feeling uninspired and there's a blank screen staring back at them, what would it be?
JF - Shit, bro. There is not one answer. You'd better fuck up that brain. Change something.That's what I did leaving KROQ. Go down a rabbit hole on youtube. Hit up twitter. Shit. Look up funny or die.... Reddit memes. You already have the topic - top of the hour ID, traffic intro or contest), so what's a bass-ackward way of telling it? You'll find it everywhere and nowhere: in everything and in nothing. Fuck up that brain with some shit. Phone an ex. Punch a mime. Call Miles Hlivko. It's out there.
BR - With the world plunging into corona chaos, how are you reflecting that in your work? Do you even go there or is it a case of being too big to ignore?
JF - I have done countless coronavirus things. Its dominating the international consciousness. My corona stuff is by far the top stuff downloaded and aired on Frostbytes over the last month or two. Soooo much stuff. Almost all are funny things. Some super not politically correct, some more subtle. Now I’m all in self-isolation/bored in the house bits... which is like part two of this saga.
BR - Speaking of all that coronavirus stuff, thank you for sharing some of it in the link below. Guys, don't hesitate, just click it. You do not want to miss this exclusive peak at some very very funny content that John has kindly provided for this blog...
On behalf of all of us I want to thank John for sharing his thoughts and his amazing work. For more imaging inspo and access to the most entertaining imaging service on the planet check out Frostbytesonline
But wait there's more! Before I go I've got something else to infect your speakers - more coronavirus imaging examples, this time by yours truly Ben Ryan...
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