10 Questions with ... Brian Haddad aka "Sludge"
January 13, 2015
1. When last All Access talked to you, it was for the Alternative 10 Questions and you said you didn't intend to get into radio at the start, but got into it when a friend was on the radio station staff at Bowling Green State U. You said then that you always thought it would end and you'd end up going to law school, but that never happened. So, when did it really sink in that this would be your career? Was there a moment when you finally admitted to yourself that you'd be a radio/production/voice guy for life (or has that not happened yet)?
Wow. When you recall the story like that, it sounds like a Lifetime movie. Add up 8 markets and 20 years, and this BETTER be a career. At the beginning of every show, I still get the same adrenaline rush that I felt during my first college radio show at BGSU. When I write, voice, and produce something, and I see people laugh or react to it, or get responses to the piece on social media, I get a great feeling of accomplishment. I tend to work and think â€œin the momentâ€. So, this is what I do.
But I have other things I want to accomplish. Iâ€™d love to write a screenplay, and a hit song. If I can get my cardio up, I may try out for the Sixers next season. They could use my devastating turnaround J.
2. Okay, before we go any further, who came up with "Sludge" and why?
I canâ€™t tell you that, or it would lose its allure, no? I will tell you that seconds before I clicked the mic at WRCX Chicago for the first time, I was still debating whether to be Sludge, or Abe Froman.
3. Your background was in rock and alternative radio, both on the air and in production, and now you're not just at a sports station but at one of the most successful and well-known sports stations in the country. What was the transition from music to sports radio like, especially as a host?
Prior to joining WIP, I had been doing morning radio for about 7 years. So I was essentially doing talk/content radio. But fully committing to the talk format was wonderfully challenging. It forced me to look at preparation from a different view. A good portion of it is homework, taking game notes, statistical analysis, and historical education. Then, I still prep like a rock/talk morning show, to be compelling and entertaining. I felt like I was at sports/talk grad school the first year in Philly. Getting comfortable with yourself is key. Iâ€™m on the air 4 hours alone, for the most part. A few of my early shows here would probably sound brutal to me now. Iâ€™m incredibly thankful Andy Bloom gave me the opportunity to jump onto the legendary WIP, in arguably the toughest sports town in America, and give me the chance to grow into the confident talk show host I am now. 18 hour days, 7-day work weeks got me here. Still growing, of course.
4. As Creative Director of a heritage station like WIP, what approach do you take regarding the station's heritage -- do you have carte blanche to shake things up and try new things, do you have to hew to the station's historical sound, or is it a combination thereof?
Carte blanche, surely. I am very proud of the â€œsoundâ€ Iâ€™ve created for WIP. When I arrived, the station had just moved to FM. So sonically, it was ready for a huge leap. We also added a new station voice at that time, Vic Caroli, who is a joy to work with, not only for his amazing voice, but his acting range. Andy, as you know has also led some of the biggest rock station in America, wanted to update everything, and we worked together to create a sound thatâ€™s not â€œrockâ€ or â€œsportsâ€, but hopefully, something unique. Always attempting to be engaging and dramatic, and funny when necessary. Typically, I write my ideas for each weekâ€™s new imaging. I give it to Andy and our PD, Spike Eskin, who is also a guy with great rock station background before his sports/talk career. The three of us hash it out, edit, and rewrite â€˜til we think itâ€™s the best it can be. Then I do an ISDN session with Vic if heâ€™s voicing it, or I voice it, and produce. The process continues with Andy and Spike editing from there, before it hits the air. Iâ€™m SO thankful to have managers that truly care and put a great deal of time into the branding of the radio station. Andy came up with our â€œDramaâ€¦ guaranteedâ€ slogan, and itâ€™s awesome to hear listeners respond to the imaging on the air and through social media.
5. Philadelphia has had the reputation of being resistant to outsiders in sports media, even though some of the more successful hosts and commentators were imports. Did you find that to be the case when you first filled in at WIP? Do you think the reputation is true, or is Philly more open to newcomers than the image would suggest?
Itâ€™s funny, because my first few MINTUES in Philadelphia, Iâ€™m walking down the street and this HUGE menacing guy asks me for directions to some place. I tell him, â€œDude, Iâ€™ve been in town for like, 5 minutesâ€. All of the sudden he smiles and says, â€œAwww man, welcome to Philly!â€, and gives me a bro hug. That being said, this is an insanely passionate fan base, and you have to EARN their loyalty. That was part of the attraction for me. If Iâ€™m going to make this change with my career, I donâ€™t want to waste time. I wanted to put myself on the firing line right away. Iâ€™ll put it like this. Going on the air the first time at WIP, was kind of like meeting the father of a girl on a first date. You think you can smooth talk him, but he sees right through you. If you are honest, heâ€™ll respect you. And thatâ€™s what Iâ€™ve done from day one. I didnâ€™t pretend to be a huge Eagles fan, because I hadnâ€™t gone through the epic highs and lows that they had, and they would have seen right through me. I love their passion, and feed off it. I say things now, and people will respond, â€œMan, you ARE a Philadelphian now.â€
6. Who in your career have been the most important influences, mentors, or inspirations?
Dave Richards is the Zen Master. Heâ€™s the Phil Jackson of radio. Not enough room here to talk about how much influence he had on my career, and life. Back at the beginning at WIOT, I feel blessed to have started my career at such a place. A breeding ground those who would become huge industry leaders. I imagine it was similar to working at Google today, same attitude. I was Keith Hastingsâ€™ intern. Mark Benson gave me my first on-air shot during college. And the late Jim Lyle guided me and channeled my outrageous urge to take over the world. At my current situation, Andy Bloom, Spike Eskin, and before he moved up to CBS Corporate, Jeff Sottolano, push me daily to achieve greatness. Finally, my parents and brothers, for instilling a hard work ethic, and that â€œimpossibleâ€ is a bad word.
7. You've done voice work for video games -- what is that process like? Is gaming work different from voice work for other media?
Itâ€™s the best! To hear myself on a video game upped my street cred significantly with friends. Iâ€™ve been part of the Saintâ€™s Row and Project Gotham Racing franchises, among others. They are very long sessions. I voiced them through ISDN with the writers and producers, and I believe one of the sessions ran over 6 hours. The interesting part is acting out all the scenarios that occur in the game. You might read for 50 different possibilities of one scene. You have to kind of put yourself inside the game to voice act according to the action. Itâ€™s just one more type of voice acting, and I love it.
8. Of what are you most proud?
Iâ€™m proud of the community service Iâ€™ve done through my radio shows. In Chicago, I did a lot with the ALS Foundation. In Richmond, my yearly food drive broadcast brought in over 100,000 pounds of food for those in need, getting us a commendation from the Governor! I have great respect for our military, and did some things for the Wounded Warrior Project. And here in Philly with the Eagles Radiothon, a great charity that helps rebuild playgrounds and gets glasses for kids who need them.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _____________.
â€¦watching at least 5 minutes of the movie â€œSwingersâ€. For some reason, I have to watch at least a few minutes a day. Maybe because Iâ€™m money and I donâ€™t even know it.
10. What's the best advice you ever got? The worst?
Best: When on a first date, you find out what she wants, then order for the both of you. It's a classy move. "Now, the lady will have the linguini and white clam sauce, and a Coke with no ice."
Worst: In 1999. Hold on to that AOL stock.