Philip Webster from Risk Talks Voices

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Philip : “I look for a voice that’s different from a lot of the clones we hear on radio and television. And that’s not necessarily their fault. Some Advertising Agencies and Radio Stations just want someone to come in and go blah, blah, blah and not work on the performance. It’s not fair to the client and it’s not fair to the listener.

One of the things we work on with the Voice Artist is making sense of the script. So, before they even get into the booth we look at the script and talk it through, so they understand the product, or understand the gag, what are the hero lines, and basically who we’re talking to.

At Risk we do like to take the time with Voice Artists. Sometimes you can have a few people in the studio, like the writer, the agency producer, the accounts service person, even the client and it can be a bit daunting. Some people from the Advertising Agencies don’t appreciate that getting a great result can take time. I had someone say to one of our engineers recently when he was working with the actor, ‘you’ve got a lot of patience’. But the engineer was working with the actor to create something, not just a read. He wanted the little nuances to work…and that can take time.

We like to create a real situation when we work, so that the Voice Artists are not just standing in front of the microphone. We did a job a while back for an agency with a guy playing the devil and a young girl, playing an angel, so we had the devil in the broom cupboard and the angel up a ladder. It freed them up to ham it up.

I often get faced with a situation where the question is work with headphones, or don’t work with them? I often think it’s better for the Voice Artist if they don’t work with headphones. It can be really distracting listening to the sound of your own voice, unless your creating a character or working to a music track.

Sometimes we get someone in who doesn’t do a lot of voice work but has a really interesting voice for the right job. I had a terrific experience a couple of months back with a unique voice. He had the headphones on from the start. The agency wanted to take him in a particular direction and he just wasn’t getting it…and I asked him to take off the cans. As soon as he did, he got it first take. I think because he wasn’t listening to himself. I always keep the
talk-back mic open in the studio so that the actor can hear what’s going on in the control room and what’s being said about what’s working or not working. It’s important they are involved in the whole recording process.

We get a lot of demos from actors that are just clones of other voices or voice styles. We like to hear something that stands out. On a demo, I’d like to hear them talking about themselves first up, who they are and what their credentials are. Then maybe a couple of reads of what they think they’re really suited for, but not mixed with music and effects. Less is more. It just has to be fresh and new.

Sometimes the Advertising Agency will book the Voice Artist. They can find them through websites now and the voice artist will come in and they’re terrific and we’ll think, “wow where have they been?” and then again they can be totally wrong.

Voices are many and varied and sometimes we get a brief to cast someone and I’ll draw everyone into the process. Sometimes we try someone out and it doesn’t work. I just want to say to the actor, don’t worry if that happens because it’s my fault that I’ve cast someone who’s not right. Maybe the voice needs to be younger or older or browner of fatter, whatever, but if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean that you’re no good. The voice has to be right for the product message.

Voices have always been my passion. Way back in the 60’s it was mostly radio announcer voices we were recording but the feeling was we could break the mould. It didn’t take long for me to discover actors and create the voice artist.

In the early 60’s, I was really green and I was working with the wonderful Jim Berrinson who was and still is my mentor with his fabulous voice. I didn’t give him any direction at all, just the script and he said to me, “You’ve got me here because I’ve got a voice and you’ve got some words and you want them spoken, not read. How do you want them spoken? Do you want me to yell at you? Do you want me to talk to you? Am I close to the mic? Am I far away from the mic…and who am I talking to?”
‘Wow’ lesson number one.

It didn’t take long for me to learn how to work with the Actor or the Voice Artists to really make the script work, and I’ve had other great mentors over the years. When I was living and working in England in the mid 70’s the great, late Arthur Lowe took me under his wing and taught me a lot about the written word and how to give it color. Another fabulous voice I worked with then was Miriam Margolyes and was able to work with her again when she was in Melbourne recently for the MTC.

Magic moments can happen every time in a recording session. The name of our studio is Risk Sound because we’re prepared to take risks with voice over artists in every session, no matter whether that person is in the studio for the first time or the 500th time. Every new recording session is like a new adventure.”

If you want to make contact with Risk Sound and reveal your voice talents, just send a voice demo on an mp3 file to