10 Questions with ... Russ Mottla
June 24, 2014
1. You've had a long and successful run in radio as both an on-air talent and programmer. What initially got you interested in radio at the beginning?
Like everyone of my era, my interest ignited while listening to the boss jocks on AM Top 40 radio. In my case, it was WRKO in Boston and WHYN in Springfield, MA. Then it was WBCN and WCOZ as I matriculated through the college of rock and roll knowledge.
2. What radio stations and personalities did you listen to when you were growing up?
Dale Doorman on WRKO, Joe B and Harvey Warfield on WAAF and, of course, Charles Lacquadera, Ken Shelton and Mark Parenteau on WBCN. As I programmed Rock radio, my benchmark was to make stations that were as creative and fun to listen to as WBCN with the energy of Top 40.
3. You've worked for some great Rock radio stations like WAAF and WIYY to name a few. What are some of the highlights from your days in Rock radio?
Just being lucky enough to work in a profession that I really love for all these years has been such a blessing. The people I met along the way, at every station, were and still are amazing and in one way or another, have become a part of who I am and what I do today. I was lucky enough to come up in a time where the talent level and entertainment value was through the roof and the business was on fire! I was in the mines at the height of the gold rush, before the corporate dudes came in with all their big heavy machinery!
4. Before we talk about the new syndicated show Rock All Night, tell us about the Envisage Radio Group. When did you start this and what is your goal with this new company?
We started a little over a year ago building studios and working out what the initial show was going to sound like. To continue the mining analogy, now that the big guys are in control with all their fancy equipment, they need quality suppliers to help feed their businesses and nobody is willing to rob their morning shows to create a killer night show, but we can! We started Envisage with the mission of supplying quality people and programs to the industry, specifically Rock and Alternative radio. We hire the best and most creative people and hopefully bring things that are so special that it benefits the stations ratings and bottom line. We're always looking for the new "best and brightest." (Whispers, "E-mail us if that's you: email@example.com")
5. Now let's talk about your first product from Envisage Radio Group. What was the origin and concept of Rock All Night?
It's the old "hit it where they ain't strategy. And "they" ain't in the 7 to midnight daypart in any meaningful way in radio today. So that's where we're playing for now. We're packaging a live show, that sounds like their station does in the other hours of the day and loaded it with a high-quality ensemble cast. All syndication out there right now forces stations way outside their format. We don't have to do that because our difference is in the high quality of the talent, not musical differentiation. We want to provide programming that sounds like a better version of what stations currently program from 7p-mid.
6. Tell us the players involved with Rock All Night on and off the air?
Mikey Esparza is a legendary San Diego morning guy from "The Mikey Show" on Rock 105. He also did nights in Dallas and San Jose. Scorch is a former WWF wrestler whose voice and presentation are so unique they can't be duplicated. He jumps out of the radio, rips your face off and can't be un-heard -- very memorable! I bring up the rear as someone who's a legend in his own mind. We also brought Steve Hoffman on board as programming consultant because he's programmed some great properties in both Rock and Alternative and we have a relationship that goes back to our common mentor, Cynde Slater! We also have John Reilly as the voice and image-master of this show and my twin brother Rich sits in the corner office trying to herd the cats and keep everyone on their meds. Our marketing is handled by Maria Musaitef who, like the rest of us, knows her way around the rock world from her days at Album Network and beyond.
7. For those who haven't heard the show, give us some highlights of special features and music you feature on the show on a nightly basis?
We're three guys talking about whatever happened today of note or whatever just interests us at the moment. Entertainment, internet, sports, technology, lifestyle ... stuff guys are interested in. We bust each others' chops and generally have more fun than anyone else on the radio at that time. We do a thing called the Sixty-Second Shred at the bottom of every hour which is music and lifestyle news in a sorta funny package. Are You Smarter Than A Jukebox is Name That Tune, but the tunes are those guilty-pleasure pop songs from the '70s and '80s ... very fun. "What He Said" is where we play quotes from Ozzy and have to figure out what he just said. There's more of course because we're a never ending stream of ideas, crazy ideas but what the hell, it leads us to good stuff once in a while and keeps the show evolving.
8. How is the music chosen on Rock All Night? How much input do you all have with the music?
Right now we're operating off a safe list of music that we constantly adjust based on monitors of our indicator stations. We also listen to input from our stations, too.
9. Having worked at major Rock stations in the past, what's your take on current Rock music? Is it as good now as it was 10 years ago or even in the '80s and '90s?
Current rock is good. It's always been good, but let's face facts: Current Rock hasn't been a stand-alone format that runs deep into our culture since the mid-'70s. Rock stations in the modern era do best when they bring other formats and artists to the party. Back when 98 Rock was so successful, we always brought Alternative and Pop listeners to the station. The songs 98 Rock listeners remember today from back in the day aren't necessarily the top rock tracks we played. When Rock radio gets too inside its own head musically, the numbers naturally contract. Play some music you're uncomfortable with ... be bold and play crossover tunes. Daypart Pharell Williams. (Okay, maybe that's a bit extreme!) If the core isn't complaining about some of the music, I would be unhappy. Lead the audience.
10. I know you are just getting the show up and running, but how much does Rock All Night use social media to interact with its listeners?
We call Facebook "the portal" to Rock All Night. We've chosen that one platform because it does so much and reaches so many. We're on it all day and all night and constantly interact with listeners using Facebook while on the air. That being said, we also tweet and have an Instagram account as well to add some behind the scenes stuff! We still think of phones as pretty good technology though too.
What are some of your other hobbies and interests outside of radio and music?
I'm a politics and news junkie and a new hobby has become the diet and cholesterol game -- it's really fun and involves blood tests!
You're stuck on a deserted island and you only have five CDs with you.
CDs? what are those? I don't even have any. I'd bring my iPod loaded with American standards (especially from my goomba's like Deano, Frank, Jerry Vale, etc), Classic Rock and some Country.