Ten Questions with Matt Nikolic
Matt Nikolic is one of the most respected radio imaging producers in the biz. He’s also one of the best radio imaging producers in the world.
After years of creating the ‘sound’ of Fox FM in Melbourne and more recently the Hit Network, Matt has recently been named PodcastOne Audio Imaging and Production Manager.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise with Nikolic having worked on the true crime podcast Trials of the Vampire with investigative journalist Adam Shand, who’s a big fan.
“Simply the best editor/mixer I have worked with across TV, radio and podcasting or any kind of casting for that matter. Oh, and he writes music too”.
And Matt has taken some time to answer Ten Questions from Radio Today.
What led you down the radio path to audio producing?
I have always been into music, and at high school, I had the crazy idea that I wanted to become a superstar record producer.
I went to audio school and started recording and mixing bands, got asked to help out at FoxFM for a two week fill in as carting kid, then just never ended up leaving because there was too much to do.
I never really planned on being in radio but once I was there I realised how much fun it could be and how much I was going to learn.
Is there a certain thrill that comes out of something like image producing and setting the ‘tone’ of the station?
Yes, it’s very satisfying on those rare occasions when the whole station sounds as you want it to sound.
The thrill comes when you do something you really like and people are also into it. I remember Brian Ford getting on the station PA just before we played the first Fox summer jingle and telling the staff to listen out, followed by a round of applause, it was very exciting!
Shout out time, has there been any one person who inspired or inspires you?
When I first started Ray Peters was imaging the Hot20 at Fox and doing crazy stuff I never knew was possible or could have dreamed of.
I spent a heap of time in his studio watching, learning and being immersed in all the madness. Then I started trying to do my own, trying to meet the standard.
The best moment was a few years later at Triple M Brisbane when I made a super weird and dark intro for the night show then took it to his studio to get some feedback before I put it to air. He turned it up and listened to it, pressed stop, then turned to me and said “Are you alright man?!”. Haha craziness level unlocked.
You’ve branched out into other areas of audio production; the evolution of the job?
I am not really good with doing the same thing every day, which is why I spent my life trying to avoid daily jobs like “these songs next” sweepers and breakfast promos.
I love a fresh challenge so I also like to get out of the normal radio promo gear when I can. Things like jingles, audio for events, audio for videos etc are all good for spicing things up and using a different part of the brain.
You’ve just recently stepped down from Imaging producing for SCA, and moved across to PodcastOne: why was that?
I spent about three months making The Trials of the Vampire podcast at night after work. It was kind of like making a five hour movie with no pictures and I really enjoyed the scoring element.
It reminded me of how nice it is to not be trying to fit a million ideas into to 30 seconds and giving things room to breathe. The podcast space is really exciting at the moment and I’m glad to be with a great team that is making things happen.
You’re also a bit of a photographer (understatement) is that another way to channel that creative side of the brain?
Yes, there are a lot of parallels between photography and audio: taking a raw image/sound and tweaking until it’s perfect, telling a story with a group of images/sounds.
It’s basically just another way to calm my OCD.
You get to invite 5 people to a dinner party, who would be on the guest list and why?
Daft Punk for some deep tune chat (I know they are two people but technically they’re robots so can we allow it?!).
Barry Bissell for general hilarity and radio stories.
Electronic music producer BT for some super nerdy tech chat.
Keith Richards for some old school party stories.
My dad for cocktail inspiration.
Any advice for young audio producers?
Keep the work varied. Always take on a project you’re not sure you can complete because you will find a way and learn something.
Smash out hundreds of things before you call yourself ready because it’s the only way to actually be ready. Get your work out there – send demos to people, take the feedback on board graciously, send things back to show you learned.
Listen to tunes outside of what the station plays for inspiration. Don’t stress out, you’re not saving babies!
What have you learned on the journey?
Always be open to a new challenge – it may open the door to a method you hadn’t considered, or at the very least you will learn something.
Back yourself in. If possible avoid projects that seem even mildly half-assed, low care factor, or not thought through. Avoid unnecessary meetings, for me they are generally the biggest creativity killer.
And more importantly, what’s next for Uncle Blacko?
Exploring the best ways to make quality on-demand audio and telling some great stories!