Wired for Sound: ’92 Alumnus Taglianetti Produces Radio Show

Caitlin Barbour, Editor-in-Chief

From a young age, Class of ‘92 alumnus and Multimedia Production Manager at Hawai’i Public Radio (HPR) Jason Taglianetti has been interested in sound and recording. This interest has led him to pursue work as a sound engineer in theatre and radio, as well as pursue music, playing guitar, bass and, most recently, drums. Throughout the years, his interest has led him to use sound as a storytelling medium, helping to evoke emotion within an audience, while also changing his own perspective of the world.

    “I don’t really use my eyes a whole lot when I’m in the world. I tend to focus more on the sound of things, which I think is an interesting way to experience the world. It means that I can close my eyes and I can see the pictures, or I can make pictures in my head, of what the sound is telling me is going on,” said Taglianetti.

    From the age of 10, Taglianetti’s interest in sound began to grow into what would eventually become a lifelong passion. His curiosity originally led him to play with tape recorders and microphones he found around the house, attempting to figure out how they worked. “My parents had this stereo that came apart and you had to, you know, put it together again. And I kinda figured out how the pieces went together and I remember unplugging the record player from the main stereo, plugging it into a different thing so I could record off of the records. That’s kinda where it started, just started playing around with that,” said Taglianetti.

    After graduating from MHS, he decided to move to Seattle in 1995. Taglianetti attended the Art Institute of Seattle  and studied to be a sound engineer, before moving back to Hawai’i in 1998. “We were micing up guitar amps and the guitar player was the guitar player from Soundgarden, (Kim Thayil), and he was in the room just noodling, playing around, just jamming and the whole class was in the control room listening to him. And one by one we each got a chance to go into the room, put the mic where we thought we wanted it to be, and then we’d come back into the control room to listen to it and the teacher would give us feedback. And it was kinda in that moment when I’m looking through the glass at this amazing, legendary guitar player and I’m going, ‘This is so cool, this is what I want to be, this is what it is, this is what I want to do,’” said Taglianetti.

    While living in Seattle, Taglianetti had the opportunity to meet artists from famous rock bands around at the time. He was able to experience the unique music scene there, affirming his decision to pursue a career working with sound. “There was a night where I walked into a nightclub and there were members of famous bands playing but they weren’t playing with their famous bands, they were just kinda jamming. So I’ve seen Krist Novoselic play from Nirvana, I’ve seen Dave Grohl play, I got to hear Chris Cornell sing with a band that wasn’t Soundgarden; it was kinda a neat music scene,” said Taglianetti.

    Growing up backstage,  Taglianetti’s parents were actively involved in theatre; his mother was a stage manager, costumer, makeup artist and performer. After returning home from Seattle, he started his professional sound career in theatre at Army Community Theatre at Fort Shafter, after his mother opened the door. “There was a day when someone had called my mom to complain about the sound at some theatre that my mom’s company was doing a show at, but it wasn’t the show that my mom’s company was doing. But this person called to complain about the sound and my mom took the complaint and then she called the lady who runs that theatre and said, ‘My son’s a sound engineer. Would it be okay if he helped you out? I know you guys are having problems.’ And so the lady said, ‘Yeah, sure. Send him over.’ So then my mom said, ‘Go to this theatre tonight, go talk to this lady,’ and I talked to her and she sat me down in the back row of the theatre. I listened to the show and I came back later and told her what the problems were and how to fix them, and she was like, ‘Great do you want to do the next show, ‘cause I need someone to do the next show?’” said Taglianetti.

    Taglianetti continued to work in theatres around the island before making the transition into radio at HPR. Originally hired as a soundboard operator, his current position as the Multimedia Production Manager entails various tasks, including those associated with being the main sound engineer, among other things. “I had a very strong foundation of running a soundboard and in hitting cues, and being able to hit marks whenever I needed to. So for example, if I needed to play a sound effect and I needed it to start at the beginning of a word or the end of the word, I could hit both of those marks depending on what the director wanted. It’s like the difference of pressing play on the ‘g’ of go or the ‘o’ of go — it’s like that level of precision. So I was able to do that, at the same time a friend had called me up and said, ‘I’m doing this radio play and I need someone to do live sound effects — folding sound effects’ — like shoes and plates and forks and what not,” said Taglianetti. “And it turned out to be at Hawai’i Public Radio. We did 18 episodes of that show, and it was during one of those tapings where my friend, Jeff Illardi, was the producer and he said, ‘There’s a job opening here as a board op, you should apply.’”

    Taglianetti started his own show called Applause in a Small Room, based on an idea he had originally been playing around with for about 10 years, while working at the radio station. Featuring all genres of music, from classical piano to bluegrass to rock, the show focuses on recording local or visiting artists and their live performances. “The premise of the show is that it’s really about capturing the live performance with the audience because there’s nothing like a live performance. There’s something magical when an audience and a performer get together. You know, the performer walks this tightrope that they could fall at any moment, and they never really do, but they could, you know. And that’s where the magic lies because then if they make a mistake they have to recover from that mistake, and they have to do it quickly, and it’s in those, I call them ‘happy accidents,’ where you find you make a strange mistake that you’d never have made any other way and it ends up being wonderful. So that’s basically the premise of the show: to capture these live performances that people are doing because they’re so amazing as well ‘cause they’re amazing performers and they need to be heard,” said Taglianetti.

    Besides recording music, Taglianetti also plays music himself as a part of a cover band called Jeff Said No. The group plays songs from around the 60s to the 80s, drawing from rock artists like the Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. “When I started working at Hawaii Public Radio there was a guy named Jeff Illardi who was working there also and he’s the one who kinda got me into the radio station and he happened to have this band, and I happened to be getting back to playing music again and I hadn’t played an instrument in like ten years at that point. I just picked up bass like, ‘Why not? Let’s see where it goes.’ And within a week Jeff said, ‘I heard you played bass,’ and I was like, ‘Well, I bought a bass, I don’t play it yet.’ He was like, ‘Well come jam with us, my band. Our bass player can’t make the practices so why don’t you come practice with us and you can learn how to play bass while you practice with us.’ So every Tuesday night I sat in with them and learned how to play bass; while we played they showed me their songs and then I figured out how to do it,” said Taglianetti.

    Taglianetti continues to work on various projects in radio, theatre and music. He recently finished working on Manoa Valley Theatre’s Avenue Q, whose shows ran through January and early February. Next he is set to focus on creating a series of concerts for HPR this summer.