I know. Terrible headline. But we’re still going to ride the coat-tails of the 20th anniversary since Tony Martin and Mick Molloy broadcasted their first episode of Martin/Molloy back in April, 1995.
If you own the three ARIA Award winning albums The Brown Album, Poop Chute and Eat Your Peas, you will find in the credits on the sleeve one Vicki Marr amongst the list of ‘thank yous’ and other name dropping. Actually, just on Poop Chute and Eat Your Peas as Marr didn’t join the team until later on. But all three are good to look at and re-listen to again. For the 200th time.
With the famous sketches of Blast FM, Patrick Stewart using a McDonald’s drive-thru at warp speed, the odour of Crichton Browne, Blimpy the Lactose Intolerant Cat, those wacky NZ radio announcers Tum & Phul and MANY others, these creations wouldn’t be able to be heard today without the effort of Marr.
So dust off your albums and get nostalgic as Marr takes us back into some rich radio history. If you’re into your audio production, this is a really cool insight. Keep Poop Chute close to your chest – it nearly didn’t see the light of day!
Tell me a brief history on your career in radio.
My first radio experience was volunteering at a public radio station in Adelaide (PBA FM). That was a great training ground. I managed to work for a couple of stations in Adelaide in paying gigs, mostly carting and commercial production.
I then moved to B105 in Brisbane where I was lucky enough to work for the B105 Morning crew. That is where I got my start with sketches. I was privileged to work with talent like Jamie Dunn, Ian Calder and Michael and Carol Gibson. It was a really fun and creatively fulfilling time (despite the couple of occasions I slept in for the breakfast shift and got woken up by Agro on the other end of the phone who put me to air half asleep).
I moved to Melbourne in the mid 90’s and was working on the Fox breakfast show. Scott Muller was producer for Martin Molloy at the time and was moving into a programming role so I was fortunate enough to get the Martin Molloy gig. After the show ended I travelled and worked in the UK for a bit, then came back to Melbourne and was part of the production team when Nova 100 launched which was a real buzz. I moved to Sydney in 2006 and worked for DMG plus did some freelance for a while. I then managed to get a gig with ARN and have been with them for 5 years now – who in a very exciting period of growth and change for the network with the launch of Kiis and iHeart radio
Do you have any inspirations on radio sketch comedy? (Eg Doug Mulray, Andrew Denton)
It’s funny but I didn’t really know what I was doing with sketches – I lucked into producing them and learned as I went along. The B105 Morning Crew and Tony Martin and Mick Molloy taught me everything I knew and were my biggest influences.
How did you get the gig working on Martin/Molloy?
I was working for FOX in breakfast production when Scott Muller, who was the original Martin Molloy producer, moved into a programming role. I think I was just in the right place at the right time really.
Were you the sole audio producer throughout the time of the show or did you share the role?
In my time I did the bulk of the radio stuff. The guys had some industry mates that they would get to do things for them occasionally as well.
As it was the mid 1990s, audio technology was slowly transitioning to computers. What type of system did you have to work with?
Oh my Goodness! I can’t even believe we did what we did with that gear at the time. It was so crap! We had what was called “studio frame” (probably not even the correct name). Anyway, we could only use 8 tracks at a time for mixing so that was always a challenge. Plus it crashed every second day! Also – no plug ins! We used outboard gear. I was particularly fond of the Eventide…something or other (can you tell I’m not very technical?) You could do a lot with the Eventide though.
Imagine if that show was done today with Pro tools and all the associated plug ins!
How long did it take to create a heavily produced sketch?
The process was… the guys would take turns to write one sketch per day. They put a lot of hours into the writing of the show. Then around midday we would record the voice tracks. It would vary as to how long the sketches would take to build, but for the mega ones, three minutes or so of audio could take a good few hours to put together.
My longest build was for a sketch called “Martinade” It was a take-off of sports drinks ads at the time and had a lot of different voices, music, elements all chopped together in very short edits. I probably could have chucked it together more quickly but loved the challenge of this particular sketch and was trying to do it justice. Also – as mentioned – it’s not as if we had a pro tools system or anything that advanced to work with. Tony wrote the sketch and he was great about me not having it ready for that day’s show. He told me to take another day on it and put it in the next day which we did. I was happy with the end result!
What was the thought process like to create a sketch? Did you have to think like Tony/Mick on what they would do, or was it all laid out in script?
Mick and Tony would always let me know their ideas for the sound of the sketch so I always had clear direction from them. I also was able to have my own input so that was a good balance. There were also plenty of ‘WTF?’ moments where I would have no clue how we would get the audio to replicate the vision in their heads but we always got there in the end It forced me to have to think outside the box which is always more satisfying.
My thought process when it comes to sketch production is to think in layers. I can usually see the pictures in my head like a movie. What environment is it taking place in? In a house the voice wouldn’t sound dry the way it does in a voice booth. What room tone should you use? Is the window open? If so, you need outdoor atmosphere bleeding through while it’s open and lose that atmosphere if it closes. Is the tv on? You need to effect the tv if it’s in another room.. it loses its top end etc, etc, etc. Basically the layers in my head usually go…the atmosphere/background, the sound on the voice depending on the situation it is in, the singular fx that would relate to that situation e.g. footsteps, dish, crashes, farts (there were a lot of farts!) … and music. Music is a major part of production as it can sometimes set the scene or emotion better than actual words.
Mick did a sketch where he thought he was a real ladies man walking down the street with a couple of Milo tins strapped to his feet. We had the Bee Gees “Staying Alive” playing underneath which gave it that jaunty, strutting feel. It worked so well that besides the voices, all it really needed was the sound of a couple of clomping Milo tins. Sometimes simple works better.
For sound effects the boys preferred to use ‘real’ sounding effects as opposed to cartoony sounds. I think this really enhances the sketches as you are (often) putting a ridiculous situation into a real sounding scenario.
What was it like to be contributing to winning ARIA Awards for the comedy albums release?
Scott Muller engineered the Brown Album and I did “Poop Chute” And “Eat Your Peas” (now there’s a sentence!).
We would work on weekends getting the audio together for them.
I had one heart attack moment on “Poop Chute” where the computer crashed and I thought we had lost everything! We had to stop work and hope that our techs could recover the data. I remember the long elevator ride down from the studios. My heart was going a million miles an hour I was so scared that it couldn’t be recovered. I remember getting stuck into the wine when I got home. Thank god the techs did end up recovering it. In all it was a real buzz being a part of everything though.
Favourite piece you have produced?
I think it would have to be the Martinade sketch as previously mentioned. It was a challenge for me and I was pleased with the result. I also loved Jim Waley’s “Crazy Lesbians Full of Beans” That was simple to produce but was a really catchy, random idea that Tony came up with. There are so many crazy hilarious things I’ve had to make though….Mick flying around the studio in electric underpants, the sound of Eden Gaha putting his hand up a cow’s arse, Humpy the Dog that can’t stop dry humping things, Blimpy the lactose intolerant Cat (a splatty cat diarrhoea effect), Pete Smith as an action toy (no small parts – voice over booth sold separately), farts, vomits, toilet sounds, belches……
Were there any sketches made that never made it to air?
Hmm –not that I can recall…there may have been but I can’t remember if there was.
Before the internet was the staple resource for today’s audio producers, what did you use for resources to put together any sketches and/or imaging?
We had the usual arsenal of SFX and music CDs as most production departments did. For some sounds through we had to do a bit of Foley work. There was a bit of toilet action in some of the production and it was hard to get those FX on a CD. I am guilty of pouring water onto the floor of the voice booth to simulate a dog weeing. We used so many fart sounds they were starting to get repetitive so Tony would have to do a fart recording session in the studio using his arm.
Any star-struck moments with guest stars?
A lot of the interviews were recorded in the studio and I would edit later. I had to record a Jimmy Barnes scream once. It was so loud that no matter how much I pulled the fader down I couldn’t get the VU meter out of the red. Paul Hester was a regular on the show and he was really lovely. Also, the legendary Pete Smith was just the nicest man. I was a bit shy so I didn’t really stalk any major international guests.
Mr Methane was …well…. there was no one like Mr Methane…..
What do you think when you hear Tinman – 18 Strings, as well as Boz Scaggs – Lowdown?
Well, Tinman especially is kind of ingrained into my brain! I don’t really think anything but it is sooooo familiar
How does it feel that Martin/Molloy is still a well-known and recognised radio show and is a hallmark of Australian radio broadcasting?
That’s really cool. I think I took it for granted at the time but looking back I can see how lucky I was to be there in that moment and working with such a brilliant team.
What do you miss about the most with your time working on the show?
I miss the creative challenges, pushing the boundaries. Tony and Mick were not only funny but also highly intelligent. They would spend hours crafting the sketches and the show. For one sketch Tony told me he spent 3 hours writing one paragraph. I miss the intelligent, well thought out humour. Plus the overall high standard of everything associated with the work. And the team! Along with Sancia Robinson and Peter Grace we were working with great people and Tony & Mick always made us feel part of their team.
Disclaimer: audio supplied is from this site’s archive collection from fans and forum members