Chris Neary is a producer for On the Media.
OTM's Jen Munson, The Human De-f**kalizer
What it's like to take obscenties out of Lou Reed songs.
Friday, October 21, 2011 - 04:04 PM
[THIS BLOG POST IS FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY]
Last week, we ran a piece about bleeping out obscenities on TV. We didn't have time to include the perspective of an OTM staff member who has extensive experience in removing obscenties from radio songs. So, at the risk of pulling back the curtain too much here at OTM, I'd like to introduce Jen Munson (the show's technical director) to the blog. Jen mixes individual segments of the show as well as mixing the final product. What is mixing, exactly? It's complicated, but I like to think of the difference between a mixed show and an unmixed show as the difference between the food you make at home and the food you get in a (good) restaurant. The two meals might have the same ingredients -- but it just somehow tastes better at the restaurant. Jen makes our show restaurant quality.
But long before she took to improving public radio shows she worked in the music business. Jen used to take obscenities out of pop songs. She was, in fact, a pre-eminent de-f**kalizer. I talked with Jen about how she got into that line of work.
Jen Munson: I started out in the music industry in classical music as an engineer. In classical music you're using hundreds of little takes and you're editing together an entire piece of music from someone playing it over and over again. What you hear in classical music recordings is usually not one solid performance. It's taken from many, many takes and retakes. And that skill came in very handy when I started creating 'clean' radio versions of songs. I knew how to take out a small piece of a song.
Chris Neary: When did people start to recognize your skills in de-fu**alizing?
JM: I started to get a reputation as being a really good editor. Pop songs are so, so much easier to edit than classical music. So people would start sending me songs to take curses out of. There are lots of different ways of fixing curses. It can be really creative and fun.
CN: So let's say the word shit is in a song. How would you get rid of it?
CN: It's interesting, because the artist could do a version of the song where they didn't curse -- but they'd rather have the edit in the final product. They want to have a nod that there is cursing in the song.
JM: Well I did a radio edit for Lou Reed...
JM: The title of the song was 'Sex With Your Parents (Motherf**ker)' And every time he said "motherf**ker" he wanted use a long solid bleep. Not trying to disguise it at all -- because he was really offended at being censored. Unlike most people he wanted to call attention to the fact that he was being censored.
CN: Who else have you worked with?
JM: A lot of rap artists. Busta Rhymes. He's really, really fast -- so you just have to make a really small change to hide it. That was a lot of just flipping the word around with that. Some people wanted to throw in sound effects - there's like a car crashes or record scratches you can use. Some artists are nice and just come up with alternate lyrics you just need to put in.
CN: Who else have you worked with?
JM: Alicia Keys. And Missy Elliott. (Check out Jen's handiwork making this Missy Elliott song ((more)) family friendly).
CN: So you started to developed a reputation, right?
CN: You're no longer a pre-eminent de-f**kalizer. Do you miss it?
JM: Not really. To this day, even with a small child, I have a really bad potty-mouth. When I was working in the classical industry, I did not curse this much. I have offended lots of people, so it's still just part of my core.