10 Questions with ... Chris "Monte" Belmonte
January 17, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Promotions/morning show producer at WXRV/Boston. Eight-and-a-half years at WRSI -- from glorified intern through to where I'm at now.
1. How did you become interested in radio?
Listening to Oldies 103 in Boston, in the back of my parents' powder blue Chevy Impala. Then falling for Howard Stern. Listening to Opie & Anthony and Nick Carter in Boston during the height of their battle was also fun. I was a theology major in college who had no career goals, but loved music. The woman who is now my mother-in-law said, "You should work in radio." So I called Joanne Doody, who was the PD at WXRV then because I liked what they were playing ... and she gave me an internship. During the 2000 Presidential election, I started impersonating Al Gore off the air while I was pulling CDs for the morning show host Keith Andrews. He put me on the air as "Intern Al Gore." The rest is history.
2. Who are your mentors?
Joanne and Dana Marshall at WXRV got me going. I still worship at the alter of Stern and Ira Glass. But my true mentor is Sean O'Mealy. He is the Emperor Palpatine to my Darth Vader. The success of The River is almost entirely due to the genius of Sean. He truly has taught me everything I know -- how to be a jock, how to artfully program a diverse station, how to sell radio, how to write great ads. Are you reading this, Sean? I want a raise. He's the GM now.
3. How would you describe the music on the station?
Think of your favorite restaurant. You love the atmosphere. You love the staff. The menu is adventurous and yet just familiar enough to keep you wanting to come back. Our station wants to be that restaurant. Our music needs to fit that menu. We can make Wilco and Billie Holiday fit together on that menu with a side of Manu Chao. But your main course this evening is The Beatles.
4. Now that the station is part of Saga, what benefits have they brought to the table?
Saga is great. They understand that there is a method to our madness and they have let that madness continue in the same vein that it was pre-Saga. Steve Goldstein may have never heard of half of our artists, but he and Ed Christian trust our judgment enough to know that there is reason behind all of our decisions. They understand that Northampton is a unique town and we are a unique station that fits this town and the greater Pioneer Valley. Plus, under Saga we have better pay and benefits and equipment. Did I already say I wanted a raise?
5. If you could add any one full-time position to your budget with no questions asked, what would it be?
Internet PD ... someone who could put as much time and effort into the "Internets" as we put into the on-air product.
6. What is your biggest challenge at the station?
We run the station lean and mean, personnel-wise, so we all wear a multitude of hats. But we are always bursting at the seams with great ideas that we try to implement. It's challenging to not have enough people or hours in a day to make them all happen. Maybe the full-time position we'd add would be Dream Weaver -- someone to execute all of our ideas in reality.
7. What stations do you like to keep track of?
WXPN/Philadelphia, WFUV/New York, WMVY/Cape Cod, KGSR/Austin, NPR Music. This is such a highly educated area with five major colleges in a 30-mile radius that we operate and present ourselves more like a non-comm than a traditional Triple A.
8. What do you like best about working at a Triple A station?
I like working for a station that is given the freedom to put our finger on the pulse of what is appealing to people in our area, while at the same time having the opportunity to act as tastemakers. And we are able to take risks with that tastemaking. One of the songs that we got the most feedback on this year was Ana Tijoux's "1977." That song is basically Spanish hip-hop, but I was getting e-mails and calls every day about that song for weeks. Hard to get away with that sort of thing on a Classic Rock station.
9. What has been your biggest career highlight?
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow was the morning show host on the River for the first two years I was here. Dressing up in a gorilla costume and giving out Indigo Girls tickets as "The Indigorilla" -- an erudite British-accented gorilla who was popping up around the Valley and being literally chased down by listeners live on her show ... that was fun.
But it has also been tremendously gratifying to create ridiculous publicity stunts that have raised a lot of money for local organizations. I just pushed an empty shopping cart 26 miles to raise money for a Food Bank. I camp out in the middle of downtown in the winter to raise money for a cancer organization. That community involvement is as important an element to the station as the music. Although, our 'Breakfast with Wilco' broadcast during their Solid Sound Festival was pretty great. Again, why choose one?
10. If you wanted to completely change careers today, what would you do?
I would open a vineyard and drink wine for a living.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
You assume I have spare time ... I like spending time with my wife and two kids. It's exciting to have young and impressionable minds at your disposal who still think it is amazing that Daddy knows that there is a planet in the solar system that is named after part of your bum.
Last non-industry job:
Landscaper for a millionaire
First record ever purchased:
Monkees "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones"
Umm ... also the Monkees with Weird Al opening!
Favorite band of all-time:
Why pick one? Everyone always asks my kids what their favorite color is. I enjoy having access to all the colors of the rainbow. Alright, it's U2.