R.A.P. Interview: Mark Driscoll

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R.A.P.: Do you ever get behind the controls of the workstation and do your own production anymore?
Mark: I credit Chris with a tremendous workload. However, I may get squeamish or hurried, or sometimes he may be in a situation or quandary where I know I can get through it real quick. So, I'll pick up the knife and go for it again. It's like riding a bicycle; I don't think you ever really forget how to do it.

R.A.P.: Was it difficult for you to adjust to having someone else produce your work?
Mark: When I was a young disk jockey, I worked for huge radio stations where I got used to working with an engineer or "hands." I got used to this at a very young age, so it seems very natural to me. I know there are some people who just absolutely cannot perform, whether it be perform behind the mike or operate machinery, if there's somebody else in the room. They just can't do it. I'm almost at the point where I can't do it if there's not anybody around because I want the immediate feedback. I want to see somebody's eyes move or not move. I want to sense that feedback. As Marice Tobias says, "The skin is the most sensitive organ of our body." You can tell when something is going wrong or when something is really exciting by a person's perspiration or goose bumps and other things that the skin does. An old programmer I knew used to say he could always tell a hit if he got goose bumps on his right arm. If he got them on the left arm, he never played the record. I always used to think that was pretty funny, but now I kind of get it.

R.A.P.: What advice do you have for people who are young in the voice-over business and who want to improve their skills?
Mark: I remember when I was probably in my first or second year of radio. This guy, who was my boss, says to me, "Boy, you have a great voice." Well, I wasn't even trying, and I thought, "Wait until he hears this!" And, of course, that was the mistake. I think you have to really be comfortable with the tools that the good Lord gave you and trust them.

Here's another thing -- we discussed this in a group session this past weekend with Marice Tobias. Entertainers, TV actors, radio people, and entertainment people in general are rather flamboyant, with volume and very voluntary communicative skills. The unfortunate thing is that so many of them sit around and think that they are boring. Well, they're far from boring, and I think that's another thing that goes into the booth. If you go into an agency to do a read -- and I'm certainly speaking in general terms -- the radio person tends to walk in, take the copy, immediately make that voice adjustment, and starts punching those words and growling through the thing or whatever. The natural thing to do is just be yourself, which is not to say that you don't work out and practice. I used to read in the bathroom because I liked the echo. Now the bathrooms are so well insulated that they're terrible, so I had to buy an echo chamber. (laughs) I'm just kidding.

Be yourself. Understand what you're reading because if we're speaking for a living, we're selling something, whether it's emotion or a product or whatever. I think it's very, very important to be yourself and not become some artificial extension. I know that's hard to understand for some young people because they may have somebody they look up to and say, "Hey, I want to sound like that."

R.A.P.: Do you see more females getting into the voice-over business?
Mark: Men have dominated this industry for so long, and even though we do have something in our Constitution called Freedom of Speech, women have been somewhat threatened not to exercise that right to be free with themselves. Therefore, you have men doing lipstick commercials. But now we're starting to see more and more females doing very well in all areas of the business, but specifically in voice-over. It's great to hear special talent in a female. An unfortunate thing is that so many women grew up listening to this male-dominant business. There was a period -- and as a programmer, I remember it very well -- where most of the women you would interview many years ago were women that talked like men because they grew up listening to so-and-so or this guy or that guy, and they had that male cadence and that sort of choppy sound. Excuse me for saying this; I know this is a sensitive area, but you had a lot of bull dykes on the air. Or, it would be the other way around, and it would be "Bambi Bimbette" overdoing the femininity and misunderstanding the difference between sensual and sexual. It comes back down to being yourself.

R.A.P.: Over the past several years, a lot of country, news/talk, and even A/C formatted stations have brought in "CHR" style production people. What are your thoughts on this trend?
Mark: Well, I'm not certain that those labels of CHR or Top-40 or whatever you want to call it are realistic these days, but for the sake of ease of identifying it, I think that the Top-40 or CHR people, particularly in the production end, are trained more in the tight, glitzy, fast precision, very, very focused domain. The other formats you mentioned appealed to a different type of thirty-five year old or fifty-two year old back then than they do now. I think that being very, very precise and tight and clever, and bringing in different dynamics to the production scheme of things - or the talent scheme of things for that matter -- is very, very important.

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