Pete Gustin, the radio production and voice over pro whose voice you’ve probably heard in countless radio promos, trailers and more, is one of the hardest working guys in a business full of hard workers. In addition to having a velvet voice and a talent for what he does, Pete is legally blind. When macular degeneration threw him a curveball, radio opened up for him, and he’s been running with radio at full speed ever since. We took some time to talk to Pete about how his visual impairment has shaped his career and the radio imaging products he’s developed for Megatrax: Tirade and Tirade Tool Kit. Here’s what he had to say…
What inspired Tirade as a whole?
Pete Gustin: From the very first day I sat down in front of a DSE7000FX editing system back in 1995, I would scan through different imaging and music libraries my radio stations had access to and could never find exactly what I was looking for. So many of them claimed to be HUGE but in reality only offered up hundreds, if not thousands, of little half-second zips and noises that in the real world of imaging were pretty useless. The inspiration for the library was more out of necessity than anything else.
In this PPM world where listeners and PD’s alike are demanding massive amounts of new content to be put on the air, I needed a library that sounded good, was useful from front to back and most importantly….was FAST to work with. I created Tirade basically just to keep up with the demands of current radio. Every stager and FX and every little bit of the library is useful to help create amazing content in record time. Instead of sifting through 10,000 bleeps, Tirade offers a few thousand pieces you can just plunk into your DAW and get to work on.
Tirade as a whole offers up fully produced sweepers as well, and each of them sticks to my firm belief that if you’re gonna put something on the air, the listeners better damn well want to hear it. Each piece is either entertaining, informative or otherwise some sort of good ear candy. Airtime is valuable, and I refuse to waste any of it with mindless or space-filling imaging. The Tirade sweepers are meant to be really good content and not just filler or identifiers.
So basically, I made Tirade for me, it’s the exact tool I needed to get my work done and make great radio in this modern era. ….But I’m super excited to share it with the rest of the radio world.
And how did that lead to the Tirade Tool Kit?
PG: Tirade Tool Kit actually came first, and by first, I mean like 18 years earlier. As soon as I graduated from Boston University, I went to Guitar Center and bought myself all sorts of gear to start making cool noises for this idea I had, which was supposed to be the Tirade Imaging Library. I created five CD’s and sold them to maybe half a dozen stations before I got hired full time by WEEI and WRKO in Boston. That job became somewhat all-consuming, so I had to put Tirade on hold until three-and-a-half years ago when I left WEEI and WRKO to become a full-time voice actor. VO leaves a little bit more time in the day than does full-time imaging, but since I was used to doing full work days I decided to keep myself busy by getting back to my passion of creating my own imaging library. The Tool Kit was the first part of Tirade I designed, which was followed shortly thereafter by the format-specific offerings of Sports, Rock and News/Talk.
You’ve been public with the fact that you’re legally blind. Do you think you would have pursued a career in radio if you’d had perfect vision?
PG: Probably not. Not to say that I don’t love what I do, but it probably just would not have occurred to me.
My father and his father before him owned and operated car dealerships. My entire family is into cars – racing them, building them, buying and selling them. I found out at a very early age that because of my eyesight I would never be able to get a driver’s license, so the car business was out of the question early on for me. Because of that, I kept a very open mind as to what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
At age 11, I took part in a fund-raiser that was put together to raise money specifically for people with my eyesight disease. The event was hosted by a local Boston radio station, and I instantly fell in love with the medium. Seven years later, during my first week at Boston University, I reached out to the marketing director who had organized that event and asked if he could get me an internship in radio.
I can say quite safely that I never would have even been exposed to radio if I had not been born with this degenerative eyesight disorder, and it is for that reason that I can never get too mad with my “disability.” I can’t drive a car, I can’t read a single printed word and I can’t even recognize a family member who is more than four feet from my face, but this disease helped me to find my true passion in life, and I absolutely LOVE what I do.
Does your experience as a visually impaired radio pro affect the tools you create for others in any way?
PG: If I can create a library that even a blind guy can use……then ANYONE should be able to use it. I do find that more often than not fully sighted people tend to rely on their eyesight a little more than they need to. And hey, why not….their eyes are great. I didn’t waste a lot of time “looking for” anything on the screen though.
Are you a one-man show with producing the elements you release through Tirade and Tirade Tool Kit, or are there others involved?
PG: Tirade is a one-man show. This one man happens to work 14 hours a day, seven days a week, doing VO and production for radio stations, TV Networks, movie trailers, commercials and more….and I take a good chunk of every workday to create new sounds, sweepers and music for Tirade. I put my name right on the thing, so it’s important to me that I provide something I’m really proud of.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about Tirade?
The best compliment I’ve ever heard about Tirade is “I use it every day.” That’s all I ever set out to do; create a useful library that can help people to make great content faster than they’ve ever done it before.