June 24th’s New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony awarded exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Trophy-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!
NYF’s Open Mic features interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.
New York Festivals spent a few minutes with Kevin Howlett, Writer, Producer and Managing Director of Howlett Media Production Ltd., UK. Kevin’s documentary “The White Album” earned a New York Festivals Radio Awards Gold trophy.
The award-winning documentary tells the story of one of the most groundbreaking albums ever released, the double LP called The Beatles, forever known as ‘The White Album’, was 50 years old in November 2018. To mark the anniversary, The Beatles Channel on Sirius XM broadcast these two documentaries that went deep into the album’s creation. Written and produced by Beatles historian Kevin Howlett, the two programs include a wealth of previously unheard studio outtakes and demos recorded during 1968.
To learn more about Kevin’s inspiration behind the award-winning documentary “The White Album,” his creative process, his biggest creative influence and pointers for someone just starting out in the wonderful world of audio, keep reading!
New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning documentary “The White Album” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?
Kevin Howlett: Called simply The Beatles when it was released in November 1968, the double LP quickly became better known as ‘The White Album’. In 2017/2018, I was involved in the research and forensic listening to what was preserved on the many original tapes from the 1968 recording sessions. Following that, I wrote about the songs and recording processes for the 50th anniversary releases of November 2018. There have been many myths and legends concerning this album. I set out to reveal the history of its creation as accurately as possible. I featured the primary sources of previously unheard music and speech extracts from the session tapes and also comments from interviews with The Beatles themselves and the album’s producer George Martin. My script, read by actor and huge Beatles fan Martin Freeman, along with the comments of Giles Martin, who created a new 50th anniversary mix of the album, and those who fell under the spell of ‘The White Album’ (Cameron Crowe, Rick Rubin, journalist John Harris) set the album in the context of The Beatles’ career and the music scene of the time. Some myths were definitely exploded through what was revealed in the documentaries.
Kevin Howlett: I am mostly a one man band when producing radio shows. Apart from archive interviews with Paul, George and Ringo, I conducted all the interviews in the series. I then edited the speech inserts and wrote the scripts for the two parts. I also made all the cunning music edits, which allowed the listener, for example, to hear a backing track cross seamlessly into the released version and then sometimes back again to the earlier version. I love music editing in ProTools. All interviewees were ‘fine-edited’. They were ‘de-ummed’, but in a way that still made them sound entirely natural as they spoke.
When all the audio elements were placed exactly in position for the shows, sound wizard Brian Thompson made sure everything was eq’d and limited for utmost clarity and balance. Brian and I have worked together on music documentaries since the 1980s – when it was still the tape era! He applies the impeccable sheen to the sound.
My aim with radio documentaries is to create memorable moments, convey information in the most succinct and engaging ways possible and always keep the listener entertained. Having heard the shows, I want the listener to enjoy the music even more than they did before hearing the programs!
New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?
Kevin Howlett: When I was eleven years old, I heard for the first time the British maverick DJ Kenny Everett. It was obvious that he put an enormous amount of work into his programs to create jingles, character voices and, what he described as, ‘fun and jollity’. It’s a well-worn phrase now, but Kenny produced music radio that was so imaginative that it really was ‘the theatre of the mind’. It was also clear that he loved music and presented it with a great respect for the work of the artists who made it. I always strive to use music in a sensitive way in radio programs. I’m really annoyed by people presenting music on the radio, who trample all over it. So Kenny was a big inspiration. The Beatles loved his work too.
As a teenager In the UK, there were a few hugely influential ‘into the music’ DJs on the national BBC pop station Radio 1, who I trusted to guide me to the great stuff. It was a privilege and delight later to work with those eloquent and knowledgeable broadcasters – Paul Gambaccini, Bob Harris, John Peel and Johnnie Walker – and also with enlightened BBC executives, who had been pioneering program makers, Johnny Beerling and Stuart Grundy.
New York Festivals: What are the top 3 pointers you’d give someone just starting out in world of audio?
Kevin Howlett: First, make sure this medium is your absolute passion. Don’t do it because you think it might be a glamorous job.
Second, respect audio. This is the most intimate form of communication; much more so than TV. Remember that a listener has a close one-to-one relationship with what they hear on radio or in a podcast.
Third, ensure that what you are producing will be an uplifting experience. Don’t go low, aim high!
For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE