10 Questions with ... Gene Gates
May 16, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- The Gene & Julie Show
- KOSO/Modesto, CA (Hot AC)
- KPEK/Albuquerque, NM (Hot AC)
- KBFB/Dallas, TX (AC)
- KZLA/Los Angeles, CA (Country)
- KZQZ/San Francisco, CA (Top 40/Pop)
- WLTM/Atlanta, GA (AC)
- KIOI/San Francisco, CA (Hot AC)
- KVIL/Dallas, TX (Hot AC) - 2005-2013
- WRAL/Raleigh, NC (AC) - 2014-present
1) What Got You Interested In Radio?
One day my dad and I were driving down the road in Puyallup, Washington and we heard KTAC was doing a live broadcast. We were near the location so my dad pulled in. There were hundreds of people at the remote buying things, and there was a big stage with all the disk jockeys giving away stuff. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I've always loved radio. And the day I realized I could actually work in radio, it seemed too good to be true. I still feel the same way about radio and its ability to create excitement, plus it's the best possible medium in the world to sell things.
2) What has been the craziest thing that happened while you were on the air?
One morning at KBFB/Dallas we were laughing so hard during a break, that our traffic reporter lost his balance, fell off his chair, cracked his head open on a piece of equipment and knocked himself out cold.
The paramedics got confused while wheeling him out of the studio on a stretcher, and they accidentally wheeled him down the hall and straight into the Kidd Kraddick Show during a live break on KHKS. Kraddick came roaring into our control room with laughter, thinking it was a prank. Thankfully, our former traffic reporter is still alive, but he's probably happy we're on the air in Raleigh while he's safely on the air in Houston. Wearing a helmet.
3) What's some memorable advice you've been given?
Don Bleu made us laugh when he told us to greet every new PD with "THANK GOD you're here... that last guy was an asshole!" Kurt Johnson taught us the lesson of Kaizen... the Japanese philosophy of making small improvements daily. We live by that philosophy and strive to keep improving in all areas of our life.
4) Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
Story telling and teasing. Those skills are so awesome.
5) Please tell us about the thrill you had when you heard your show had won a Marconi Award?
We were stunned when we heard our name, and it felt like everything went into slow motion. Somehow we managed to get to the stage and who knows if we said anything intelligible. We sneaked away to call Julie's parents who were screaming their heads off from Seattle, and then we called our 11-year-old daughter Sophia who texted all her friends. We absolutely love this business and are honored to be recognized. We look at that Marconi every day and use it as motivation to work harder, push ourselves more and get better at what we do.
6) Tell us what music we would find on your phone or MP3 player right now and what is it you enjoy about that particular selection?
I love new music, so twenty one pilots' "Stressed Out" consumes me right now. I love the lyrics! I also love Phantom of the Opera, when I get in the moment I can cry along to that story. Nirvana and Amy Winehouse can move me too.
7) How often does your air-staff front and back-sell songs?
It depends on the reason you are talking about the music. If the music is newer or topical, it's great to reference it because the audience just had an experience listening to the song and it's valuable to be on the same page with them. If you are trying to make the listener feel something, then using the music to anchor their feeling and associating it with you is fantastic. Along the same lines, if you think you are tasting a highly-rated wine, your mind sends dopamine to your brain's pleasure centers so you get the reward before you even try the wine. It actually tastes better just because you think it will. You can apply that same correlation with the music and listener experience.
8) What was the biggest gaffe you've made on air?
In my first job at KCPL/Olympia, I hosted afternoon drive with both my PD and GM, so I always had to be on my best behavior. We were talking about NBA star Charles Barkley and how he was going to miss a game due to a back spasm caused by a bulging disc.
As my PD was telling the story on the air, he said that Charles Barkley had back spasms caused by a bulging, then there was a pause as he tried to say disc, but instead he said "dick" in a very pronounced way. There was a long period of silence as he tried to figure out what to do next. That's when I hit the floor laughing hysterically. The rest of us died laughing, while he died of horrible embarrassment. It remains one of my favorite moments in my career, and I cannot look at Charles Barkley the same way.
9) What is your favorite TV show?
"Chopped," "Naked and Afraid," "Game of Thrones," "Billions," "Ballers," "Bill Maher," "Vice," "Homeland," and "The Brink."
10) What advice would you give people new to the business?
Find someone who is successfully doing exactly what you aspire to do and learn as much as you can from them.
While working at our first gig in Modesto we were really intimidated by Los Angeles. It seemed so big league. However, we knew if we wanted to get better at our craft we should learn from the people who were good enough to be on the air in L.A. After some networking, we drove to L.A. to watch Haagan Higgins do a weekend shift at KZLA. We were mesmerized as we watched him. He was such a pro! It was a great experience and we learned so much from him.
At that time in our lives we were completely broke and were sharing one salary. Imagine our surprise a week later when we received a letter from Haagan with a check for $100. He wrote, "I know money is tight right now, so buy yourself an expensive dinner on me." We were blown away and we swore we would return the favor one day.
Flash forward five years, and we were hired to do mornings in Los Angeles on KZLA! We were pinching ourselves. In that moment we created the "Haagan Higgins Award." Every year we recognize a radio newcomer with the award and money for an expensive dinner. Recently, we were delighted to get an email from one of our former Haagan Higgins Award winners ... Jake wrote, "I have never forgotten the $100 you gave me when I was getting started and I look forward to paying it forward someday. In fact I think I have a good candidate now!" Even though Haagan passed away in 2009, we're happy his legacy of kindness and generosity carries on within the industry.
What's your favorite radio commercial?
Home Depot, they use radio really well. Super cool VO, great music bed, consistent messaging.
What is your favorite TV commercial?
Puppy Baby Monkey.