What up good people!? It’s your boy, Trav Dave and I’m back to share another great interview with you all. This one here is with a dude that has inspired me and tons of other people to join the podcast game. This man is one of the producers of TaxSeason and The Combat Jack Show, which has been the standard in podcasting for a while in the hip hop community. They have been bringing classic interviews and in-depth stories that have been purely for the culture. One time for my guy – Jonathan Mena.
Q: Growing up in Jamaica Queens, were you a hip-hop head or just a casual fan of the music. And who were you listening to the most?
A: I grew really close to Colosseum by Jamaica Ave. I remember my pops not wanting to buy us retail music because they only had 12-15 songs and cost a lot. So we would go on the Colosseum block and buy mixtapes that had 50 songs on both sides. Because my dad was so cheap we got put on to hip hop at an early age.
Q: A lot people might not know, but you have actually been in the podcast game for a while. You used to edit a German podcast back in the day. When and how did that opportunity happen for you? And what was that experience like?
A: I had a college gig editing German lectures that we would post on iTunes University. I don’t speak a word of German so the professor would give me instructions on where to stop and start in English as she recorded her class. This was 10-11 years ago when ipod minis with the color screens first hit the streets. Back then I thought podcasting would never be popular. I was really wrong.
Q: While doing my research on you, I found out that it was almost fate how you ended up on The Combat Jack Show. Can you tell us a little bit about that story?
A: From time to time I would edit an episode here and there for the Combat Jack Show, but nothing consistent. I was like the backup of the backup so to speak. So one Sunday morning I’m up extremely early and Combat Jack CC’d me on an email. He needed the Lord Jamar episode they recorded edited down quickly. I knew that email wasn’t for me but I hit him back anyway and told him I’ll do it. That’s probably the fastest episode I have ever turned around.
A week later Combat asked me if I would meet him for coffee to discuss coming on the show as a producer. I immediately hit him back that I would take the gig, I was a real fan of the show. Weeks go by and I never heard back from him. I thought maybe he changed his mind. Then one day out the blue I get an email from Combat asking if I can come to the studio because he was interviewing Russell Simmons. He introduced me to the team as the new producer and I haven’t left since.
Q: As a producer of one, if not the best, hip-hop podcast show, what exactly is does your role on this particular show entail?
A: My goal as a producer is for the talent to only worry about getting in front of that mic and creating magic. Everything else is my job. From booking the studio, writing questions, editing, shooting pics or whatever else is needed I take care of it. I’m not too big to go on a beer run if a guests is asking because at the end of the day all I want is to create great content. I think that’s why we are successful because we understand that this is a team effort and we all have the same goals.
Q: You also work on the Tax Season podcast, what did you see in Taxstone that made you want to work with him?
A: I started following Tax on twitter a few months before he made his appearance on Brilliant Idiots. I thought he was hilarious on Twitter but that doesn’t always transfer to podcasting. But once I heard him on Idiots I knew that kid was going to be a star. I called Chris Morrow and told him Tax needs a show on the network and I wanted to produce it. Tax isn’t an altar boy, so at first people were hesitant to give him a shot but I knew he was talented and there was nothing like him on air. Plus I saw he had a strong work ethic and he thinks like a producer so that was a great benefit to the team. We dropped our first episode a year ago and we are 4 million plays deep. Not bad for two kids who a lot of people thought wouldn’t amount to much.
Q: Combat Jack and Tax Season are completely different shows but both embody all of what New York is about. What’s the difference between working on the Combat Jack Show and working on the Tax Season Show?
A: What I love about both shows is that the goal is to create the best show and not the best click-bait. When we say we are here for the culture we really mean that shit. We aren’t looking to take away but add to the culture because it has been so good to us. Interview styles between the two are the mains differences. Combat is like Muhammed Ali and Tax is Mike Tyson and your ass might get knocked out in the first 60 seconds of the fight.
Q: Podcasts are popping up everyday now. It’s almost the future of journalism in the music business. What are your feelings about the growing competition or do you guys even worry about what other shows are doing in your market?
A: Competition creates better content so I’m all for it and never shy away. I listen to everything and keep tabs on all the major players and the up and coming stars. We definitely keep our eyes and ears in the streets. We don’t promote it but we also help out a lot of podcasts that aren’t on the network. We learned a lesson with what happened with the blogs. The market got over saturated and blogs started beefing which was stupid. I feel like if I can help you out and you win it’s a win for all of us.
Q: Loud Speakers Network is growing at such a fast pace, how do you keep the guest and content fresh to keep your listeners engaged for the Combat Jack Show and Tax Season Show?
A: The key is to keep the listener on their toes. We never want them to get too comfortable with the type of show we are doing. I mean we interviewed Tony Lewis who has an amazing and inspirational story one week and the following week we recorded a show in a chicken spot in East New York. We are always going to keep you guessing.
Q: Word on the streets is that Dallas Penn and Premium Pete are doing a sneaker podcast? Can you give us any insight on this or is it still top secret developments?
A: Dallas and Pete will always be the homies. They’re working on their respective projects so you will be seeing and hearing a lot from them soon.
Q: If someone has never listened to The Combat Jack or Tax Season podcasts, what 3 episodes from each would you recommend?
A: For Combat I would say Chuck D, the second Dame Dash episode and the No Malice episode which we recorded last month. For Tax it would have to be the Styles P, Pee Wee Kirkland and the Joe Budden episodes.
Q: Our mutual friend, Mister Morris said that you grew up listening to Guatemalan radio and that’s what secretly influenced you. Is this true, and if so please explain how it was an influence on who you are today?
A: A better question is what did Mister Morris do that made the judge order him to wear an ankle bracelet and as a latino man why does he support Donald Trump?
Q: What’s next for Jonathan Mena in the coming years?
A: I have some shows in pre-development right now that will be very different from what we are currently producing. A lot of new podcasts are coming out with the same format and we plan to go in a different direction the next couple of months.