WYWU Road Report: Throwing It In Reverse

I hadn’t rambled enough about the first official road trip with the van and thought I’d bring everyone up to speed on the “how and why.” I’ve outfitted a 1978 Chevy Good Times Machine camper van with a podcasting rig and hit the road. For season one we attended major pro audio trade shows and conventions to meet with industry veterans and leaders. We harvested some great interviews about career and personal development from all corners of the professional audio industry.

After finally returning from the AES and NAB events at the Javits Center in New York City, the new WYWU episodes are cranking out my anticipated speed of “less than slow” and we’re getting them through the editing process as quickly as… well, at my pace. Follow us on your favorite social media and I’ll let you know when the new episodes are finally live.

For the first outing I conned my guitar prodigy son and aspiring photographer, Garrison, into joining me for a thrown-together scramble towards 2019 Summer NAMM in Nashville.

Thrown-together as in I didn’t own a proper mobile podcasting rig the week before.

With an unexpected urgency to set the podcasting plan in motion, I roped in my buddy Steve Milner from DcSoundOp.com and unloaded the random qualifications I felt the perfect system would offer. Steve is a great guy and often featured on PSW with interviews and product reviews. I absolutely trust his judgment and respect his opinion. He gave me three recommendations for a portable recorder and of the three I grabbed the Zoom H6 with complete confidence.

Randomly Reminiscing

It honestly wasn’t until we had returned from this trip that I remembered a conversation from 1997 in the parking lot behind the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe, Arizona. I told some of the folks from class I was going to build a studio in my conversion van. It took 21 years, and seven different vans, to finally even remember that conversation. Live sound paid the bills, but there’s just something about the studio…

Back then, I was thinking about nothing except recording live albums. I’m not sure how logical that particular prophesy might have seemed at the time, considering the size of most studio gear in the 90s. And although this Analog Man had to change some ways to make it all work in a digital world, there are no legitimate complaints.

For the record, I fully endorse the Zoom H6 portable six-track digital recorder for anyone considering podcasting. If you’re working in a controlled environment there are probably more appropriate choices, but for field work like we do on WYWU, it is perfect. (Perfect in the sense that illuminated buttons would make it more perfect.)

Into The Podcasting Fray

So with less than a week to go before Summer NAMM, I basically ripped open my wallet and made an investment in myself that I wasn’t sure I was prepared for. I knew the questions I wanted answered and some of the people I wanted to ask. My plan for all this came down to three requirements: a creative and profitable venture I could sustain indefinitely, operate within my current budget for one year and create something I would gladly listen to repeatedly.

That’s something you’re going to need to understand quickly if you’re shooting for a career in the studio: Whatever project you sign on for is going to be in your ears for a while, over and over. One specific project made me hate myself for even being there. I told them to keep my name off everything. I finished it to their satisfaction, but hated every moment with the client. And so ended my push towards working in someone else’s studio and began the quest for my own. Every interview I capture is just a conversation that I want to hear again anyway. Perfect.

Fully Committed

It didn’t take long to identify the single most daunting consideration before pulling the trigger on a new podcast: “I’m not good enough for this.” Yep. That inner dragon was all over this decision.

I needed the podcast more than my audience did. I needed to take the skills accumulated over the course of my life, pick the ones I’m willing to do daily and find somewhere to focus them. For anyone with an entry-level home studio needing your own in-house product, podcasting is the next big thing and only seemed logical to me. (My “Mostly Useful Links” box in the upper left has all of my podcasting gear choices.)

For the Summer NAMM run we made an “all-in” decision. Buy the needed gear, gas up the “not-completely-road-ready” forty-year old van, rent a cheap hotel room online, fling ourselves through the front doors of NAMM and grab anyone willing to talk. That was the extent of the plan. And we have WAY more pictures of guitars than guests for some reason…

I spent many, many years running around the country mixing and recording, but was rarely able to take the family along. Having my son out with me made a good experience better. We bumped into Mark Frink and claimed our first victim while Garrison drifted into the holy epicenter of all things guitars. Mark recommended the Whisper Room booth on the show floor and WYWU’s first official episode was captured.

Shortly afterward, Sean Giovani from The Record Shop studios in Nashville began his TEC Tracks session. Immediately afterwards I dragged him into a nearby Whisper Room and recorded a second incredible interview.

We still have more episodes from that trip to publish, now that we’ve secured a copy of iZotope’s RX software to clean up the noise. I record face to face and wherever I can. RX is helping solve the background noise issue that I just decided to accept for the sake of capturing content. Check out the upcoming interview with Bob Clearmountain and know it was recorded in the second loudest part of AES. The Lennon Bus wins for loudest, with a live band fifty-feet away.

My intention is to update the road report for every trip and to shamelessly promote WYWU on our social media channel. Follow us, and try to keep us.

WYWU Road Report: Down By The River In A Van

This article originally appeared on ProSoundWeb.

So I recently found myself, literally, down by the river in a van. I spent a few days across the Hudson from New York City for the 147th Annual AES Convention, taking the opportunity for a road trip to work out the bugs in a rolling podcast studio.

I went back and forth between AES and NAB events to sit in on a few sessions and see what the word is on podcasting with a few choice educational sessions.

This trip was also about capturing some epic face-to-face interviews with folks from all sides of the industry for the WYWU podcast, which officially launched in July at Summer NAMM 2019.

I’ve been tracking down unsuspecting experts and asking for insights into career development for moving the next generation of professionals into place. We hit the jackpot and found great interviews at both AES and NAB including Bob Clearmountain, John Storyk, Gabe Herman and almost a dozen more. All the conversations were recorded in-person and on location, so expect to hear the sounds of the venue in the background.

Along the way I dropped in on Church Sound University’s debut live training event at Heritage Fellowship in Reston, Virginia and talked with the CSU team. I also interviewed the crickets in the church parking lot at 4 am, but that’s another story.

The view of the Statue of Liberty from the campground

I’d honestly gotten tired of going to the trade shows. I’ve been going for years and it’s mostly walking around the same convention centers and having the same conversations. Now, visiting these shows in this alternative manner is giving me a fresh opportunity to use this time in a way that’s more useful and effective (at least to me). I’m onsite to interview industry experts and pick up some career advice for folks aspiring towards similar disciplines.

Now I’ll ramble about the van for a bit…

If you want to hit the New York City shows on the cheap next year, I’ll spill the beans. I was camping in New Jersey and riding the PATH trains under the Hudson River. I was the only one renting a campsite at Liberty Harbor and I never even set up a tent. I didn’t need anything except the parking space and bathrooms. The van sleeps fine and I woke up to a beautiful view of the yacht harbor each morning.

No, I’m not making this stuff up. And yes, it was a blast.

I’m also throwing my best shot at modifying this van along the way to be as utilitarian as possible with no drastic visual modifications to the interior. The patina is growing on me. The interior made the van just too amazing to pass up.

I know enough to be dangerous with a whole lot of different things. Making this van into something a bit more comfortable and user-friendly challenges most of those things. I was sure enough of my plan to drop cash and hit the road, but it’s going to take some work along the way to pull this plan off.

Since I first got into the publishing through blogging, I’m kinda going back to the beginning here. Podcasting isn’t much different than blogging, but it takes some specific tools like mics and gear for recording and editing. I’ve built a decent rig that fits in a backpack and edits in a short-body camper van. If you’re interested I’ll give you the story behind the podcasting recording and editing system I use to work from an old camper van in a future post. It’s a cheap and easy way into podcasting, so I expect this next part to be really interesting to some, and useless to others.

I make a few bucks as an Amazon affiliate, so these links help pay for more parts. I’m only linking to the components I’d personally recommend, not the junk. If you’re considering the mobile podcasting route I’ve saved you some research time. You’re welcome. Moving on…

The first round of van mods included those fancy LED battery charge indicators that, unbelievably, will drain the primary battery by themselves eventually. I’ve added a simple 12-volt auxiliary system since it was cheap enough to see if it actually works. Walmart’s largest marine battery is tucked under the seat with an isolator and trickle charger. I’ve wired in a bunch of 12-volt outlets for charging the billion stupid gadgets I use on the road. The simple auxiliary power system also runs my five-star professional-grade trucker’s oven and an electric cooler, which I left in the garage anyway.

To convert a classic van into a mobile podcasting studio/homeless shelter, I’ll be considering the changes it still needs while I’m making do which the stuff I already missed. Since I’m planning to keep this going for a while, I thought sharing the details of the journey might inspire conversations with the others in the PSW audience to share their stories of road-doggin’ it and maybe offer some advice or helpful tips.

That groovy table.

The original center table with the four fancy cup holders ties right in with rest of the interior is cool for the first three minutes inside, then I repeatedly talk myself out of flinging it out the window. The next modification is a table that serves as a podcasting desk without blocking much more door space or the kitchen. In a perfect world it ties in as an extension of the kitchen.

The kitchen.

This entire thing on the wall houses my water system and hides my survival goodies. I need to be able to get into all of it from the new desk and the front seats. I’ve already dropped an old camper sink and a pair of five-gallon jugs with a rechargeable electric pump. It all works pretty well unless you’re stuck somewhere with the front end up in the air. Then it’s there’s a puddle of crud on the other end of the sink almost immediately.

Storage.

I’m a minimalist-in-training and I already know there’s still too much stuff in here. What I noticed within days of launching this “podcasting studio in a van” challenge is what ends up on the floor. I figure that’s where everything that doesn’t have a place eventually lands. As expected, it’s been laundry, bedding, bags of trash and size 12 shoes. Well, if it’s on the floor it’s on the list for storage.

Finding a rear tire carrier will eventually give me back that half-acre of real estate under the sofa and hopefully solve a few of these storage issues.

The bed.

I’m approximately 74-inches tall and the current bed configuration is around 68-inches long, so we have a situation here too. In the fetal position it sleeps better as a sofa than a bed. But, since Geri (my wife, photographer, personal chef, best friend, soul-mate and favorite human in general) will be accompanying me in January for the NAMM Show in California, I have to make it better.

So that’s the plan: Podcasting from the road and finding some wisdom along the way while improving the utility of a fairly impractical road van. Stay tuned for the latest…

(All of the Working Your Way Up podcast episodes captured at 2019 AES, NAB, WFX and Church Sound University events are being posted here on PSW as soon as they’re produced. Sign up for the PSW Daily Newsletter on ProSoundWeb.com to keep up with new episodes as we post them. Also find us on Twitter @prosoundweb.)

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