The Invisible Mythbuster- Mahmoud Taji Interviews Robert Lee Narrator For Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters (Part 2)

April 30, 2009  |  Articles

Hello folks, Thanks for hanging in there… here is the second part of the Interview with Mr. Robert Lee. If you missed the first part of the interview you can find it here.

robert-lee

This interview was made possible by the Kindness of Mr. Lee giving me some of his much sought after time. When I first contacted him he mentioned that he had actually read a post or two on my humble blog and was guided to it via the power of Google Alerts… What follows is the second part and conclusion of my interview with the voice of the Invisible Mythbuster:

Mahmoud Taji:

Do You have a home studio?  if so what equipment do you use? Do you work at all through the Internet?

Robert Lee:
I do have a very dicey home studio.  Rode NT3, voice processor and mixer into the computer.  But it’s not a pro setup.  While it seems everyone and their dog has a home studio in the US, that’s not the case here – or, it’s not the case for the majority of voice work done at national or capital city level here.  Yes, some voices have a little booth at home and an ISDN connection, but that’s for regular tv promo work and the like.  Usually put in by the station, I understand.  What irritates me is that some clients ask to do stuff at home – meaning they don’t have a budget for a studio or are trying to save money – so the voice talent is asked to absorb this cost.  I’ll bet they’re not working for nothing!
I do the vast majority of my work in Sydney studios.  And any client who wants a decent production obviously does the same.

I’ve been on one of the big voice sites and possibly listed elsewhere, but it’s usually such a shit fight to get a $50 gig – if you’re lucky.  These voiceover aggregators have little interest in supporting decent voiceover fees, and as such I believe they’re doing voices a disservice – driving down prices by exploiting the level of competition (supply).  Sure, who doesn’t like having a go at a new track – at the very least, it’s practice!  But imagine, one hour after a job gets posted, you see that over 100 voice talents have submitted auditions.  It’s crazy!  The client will never get through them all.  This competitive system drives prices down, diminishes the role of voice in production to some extent and possibly leads to mediocrity.  Having said that, there are many talented voices doing well at internet-sourced work.  And the industry in voiceover training has certainly blossomed, and training is a good thing to do for those trying to get into the industry, so it’s okay for some – but not the vast majority, from what I can see.

M T:
I read somewhere that you had some difficulty getting work in Australia in the past because of your north American accent.( Although I know you recently did the MTV music awards for Australia) .. have you tried to learn the Aussie accent or is it just not that genuine when you voice it?
R L:
That’s not true – that I’ve had some difficulty getting work in Australia.  I’ve been very fortunate to have worked consistently for over twenty five years doing local, national and international stuff.   But this is the result of agency and media clients, studios and others wanting to use a North American accent for what it brings creatively to an idea or script.  And there’s been plenty of that opportunity – so much so, that there are quite a few American voices at work in Australia.

At the same time, sure, I’m not in the running for the bulk of voicework here, as it rightly doesn’t require my speech impediment.  But there are overseas ads produced here in Australia – the season reversal, the locations, the talent, production expertise, costs.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have done a few of these, as well as recorded via ISDN to US studios from Sydney commercial studios.  So, while I’m not Johnny-on-the-spot for US work, things trickle my way.

As for the Australian accent, certainly, I use the colloquialisms, but just can’t manage the accent.

M T:
I also read in the Mythbusters wiki that the Discovery channel allows British Voice over artists Robin Banks, Daisy Beaumont and Rufus Hound to voice your part when the show airs in the UK (makes sense that they would need 3 people to try to do what you do) … is that weird for you since you are originally a Briton? Actually… having said that what do you see yourself as? British, American or Accent impaired Aussie?

R L:
I’ll just say this: I was born in England, but that’s it.  I have no English accent – haven’t for 45 years.  I don’t have an Australian accent.  I have an American accent, so my sister says.  It’s my currency.  In a voice sense, I see myself as an American.

As for what voices Discovery use in various parts of the world and why, I can’t say. I’m not sure where my version is heard beyond Asia and North America.

M T:
Do you have any side projects other than Mythbusters? I know you do some work for Carlton Dry and Pimp My Kettle (for MTV Australia) is there anything else that you work on?

R L:
Until recently, I was a sidekick on a community radio show called Nige’s Nuthouse.  Great fun, a certain freedom never afforded someone in commercial radio.  The Carlton Dry and Fantastic Noodles (Pimp My Kettle) are just a couple of very interesting jobs, as they were online-based promotions.  Social media, web-based campaigns, etc. are a foray into new, exciting territory for ad agencies – as long as they get it right!

I’m also hoping to collaborate with a writer friend on some comedy ideas.

M T:
What casting agency do you work with?

R L:
I’m lucky enough to have EM Voices as my Australian agents.  Jonathon, Alex, Jane and Isobel are great.  I don’t ‘belong’ to any other casting agency, although, as a marketer in my other job, I’ll consider any opportunity that doesn’t devalue the work of voice artists.

M T:
Do you have any hobbies? Interests? I believe you have an active interest in genealogy since you might have tracked down Jamie’s possible dad (“I also like wearing my Mythbusters t-shirt. Oh, and I believe Jamie to be Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter’s love child.” )  I gotta tell you I nearly peed my pants laughing at that!

R L:
Yes, well, I don’t know who would be more offended… Jamie or Jeff.   (I met Jeff years ago in Sydney, so was well aware of him – as I was the Doobie Brothers!).  Another example of how your words stay out there in the ether much longer than they should!  Always be careful what you say online, kids!  By the way, I also like wearing my Molson Canadian t-shirt my brother in law gave me decades ago, too.  And pants.  Love wearing pants.  Especially to voice jobs.  Makes me look just that little more professional.  LOL!  (note from taji… pants are good!)

M T:
And Finally
( and I thank you for your perseverance with me) what do you think of the voice over industry today? What advice do you have for the aspiring VO talent out there and what would you like to say (if anything) in conclusion?
R L:
For up-and-coming voice talent… practice, practice, practice. Read out loud from anything printed, if you can’t get scripts.  Read press ads in various styles, articles, columns.  Know your style and exploit it.  But be versatile at the same time.  And listen.  Emulate, but don’t parrot.
I think that’s a difference today compared to the past.  Most voices I started out with were versatile.  They could do many different styles of reads – not just one.  Today, there’s so much more talent about, clients can find exactly the style they want, rather than getting a good voice artist in and saying ‘do it in this style’, if you know what I mean.  Not that there’s anything wrong with either method of casting!

But at the same time, clients want to know that the voiceover is competent enough to be able to get the job done.  Style or sound takes you so far, but being a pro means you crack the read and you get out within time.  (It’s a false economy where a client tries to save money on a voice, only to spend twice as long or more in the studio producing them and then the track.)

It’s a tough gig, marketing yourself as a voice.  Your best bet is your own site, easy to access demo reels, and good marketing of the site itself in the first instance.  And stay away from the crowds – you’ll hardly get noticed.
Cheers!

Mr. Robert Lee I thank you for putting up with me and my incessant questions (as well as my nestled questions that are far more than the 13 that I originally sent you).

Listen to Mr. Lee on the Seventh Season of Mythbusters airing now on the Discovery Channel.

End of  interview

Visit Mr. Lee’s website Here

Copyright © Mahmoud Taji 2009. You may not repost or reprint this Interview without Permission of the Author



6 Comments


  1. Standing ovation!!! applauds applauds applauds

  2. Mahmoud,

    Great interview – Robert is interesting no doubt – but a large part is the relaxed way you build rapport as you asked the questions.

    Thanks for this – and for your blog (it’s always an insightful read).

    Oh, by the way, there is still snow in my front yard 🙂

    dD

  3. Hi, nice post. I have been thinking about this topic,so thanks for sharing. I will certainly be subscribing to your site.

  4. Great finish, like a fine bottle of un-oaked Chardonnay! Thanks again Taj!

  5. Bravo! “Emulate, but don’t parrot.” should be a t-shirt!
    PEACE.
    -Anthony

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