R.A.P. Interview: George Robinson

R.A.P.: You've been in radio for about 12 years. How would you say your style of production has changed over the years, or has it changed?
George: Oh, yeah. It's changed, and it will continue to change. It's an ongoing change, and the day that you think there's no room for change is the day that you're dead. You have to constantly, constantly look for new ways, look for new ideas. And it's not so much that you're constantly struggling and digging in the dirt, looking for new ways of delivery or new ways of expressing an idea or new ways of creating new sounds, but you have to evolve because the world is evolving around you. And if you don't, you're still going to be putting your fader up to get the slapback echo off the record head, thinking that's a cool effect. You know what I'm saying?

Fortunately, my wife Suzanne is a writer/producer as well. She's quite a talented lady. The beauty of being married to such a wonderful woman is that we can bounce ideas off of each other. She moved here and worked at Channel 2 here in Atlanta for a couple of years when she decided she was not going to let me get away, bless her heart. She moved up here from Jacksonville where she was working with a film company. About a year and a half ago, she decided to stay at home and be a free-lance writer. She writes narrations and industrials, primarily. In fact, she just won a Houston Award, I think it was second place, for an industrial film. The first place Houston Award went to a film that starred Cathy Lee Turner. So she felt if she was going to be beat by somebody....

She's quite a character. She's a reservoir of creativity. She worked with an agency in Jacksonville that handled the Big Ape. So, it was tough. There I was working for Rock 105, and she was working for this good-sized agency that was handling the Ape, which was a big competitor. So Mark Schwartz would give her T-shirts with the Big Ape on them and say, "Here, Suzanne, when you're going to sleep over at George's house, wear this to bed." But it didn't bother me. We have such a good understanding. We could even share each other's ideas, and I wouldn't go into work the next day and spill my guts and say, "Hey, do you know what they're doing?" Nor would she.

She kind of helped me out, too. I started as a voice talent, and that's how I met her. She introduced me to this guy named Paul Siner who worked at the agency with her, and I thought, "This guy's just some old agency guy. No big deal." So I go in and I audition for an on-camera part, and I get it. Then, on the day before the shoot she tells me who this guy really is. Paul Siner came from Chicago. He developed Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Fly the Friendly Skies. I find this stuff out before I'm supposed to do this part. I was a little intimidated, you might say, but it turned out well. He's quite an eccentric fellow. The last time we heard from him was about a year and a half ago. Suzanne told me when she was in college that this guy was in her textbooks. He's an older gentleman, kind of quiet, and very eccentric. He'd go to Hong Kong to have his shirts made. We hadn't heard from him in years, then one night out of the blue the phone rang. I picked it up and this guy was asking for Suzanne. I couldn't quite understand him, and I said, "Hey, I don't know who the hell this is, but it sounds like he's Spanish or something." It was Paul, and he was calling from Egypt. Again, he's quite an eccentric fellow.

R.A.P.: You're doing voice-over work for TBS, and you mentioned you do voice work for a couple of other stations. Are you a "voice for hire" for promos, IDs and such?
George: Yeah, absolutely. I'm kind of proud of my quick turnaround time. When I come home in the afternoon, if there's a fax waiting for me that needs to be voiced, I can voice it and send it so they'll have it the next day. Also, I have quite an extensive production library of sound effects that I've digitally recorded myself. Let's say there was a particular sound effect that someone was having a hard time finding. I can usually put together custom sound effects.

I also write and produce promos on a free-lance basis. I also do character voices. As a matter of fact, I worked for an animation company that was based out of Jacksonville. They were a robotics company, and I did a lot of character voices for Chucky Cheese type places and the New York State Fair. I can adapt to many styles and formats, and I'm very open to direction. You have to be. You can't think that your ideas are chiseled in granite. Every programmer and every production guy has their own ideas about a particular sound they're looking for. So, I try to market myself as someone who is A) very reasonable in price, and B) very approachable.

R.A.P.: How long have you had the home studio?
George: We just bought this house, so I just had the studio designed and built. Where we lived before, I had a studio essentially in the bonus room over the garage. We decided we'd better get out of that house and look for something else, especially when interest rates were what they were. It took about a year, but we found a place that had plenty of room on the upper two levels and down in the basement. We have about sixteen hundred square feet of basement. So I had a contractor come in, and we had about a quarter of it turned into the room within a room. We have a sound room and the studio, and they just finished it about three weeks ago. There's still wires all over the floor, but I'm going on vacation Thursday. So, I'll have about a week and a half over the holidays to hide wires and get everything up to par to start '94 off, hopefully, with a bang.

R.A.P.: Now that you've built a nice studio in your home, what tips can you offer someone about to do the same?
George: You need to draw it on paper. You need to sit back and picture it in your mind. You need to kind of picture yourself actually working in the environment because you may think you see certain equipment in certain positions, but until you actually get in there and start doing it, you don't know. You're going to realize, "Oh my God, this isn't going to work here!" So, you really need to sit down and visualize what you want to do and see yourself doing it so you can then start placing things where you think they need to be. Then you also have to visualize what the future can bring. You have to be constantly looking to evolve.

Another very important thing to do is to pay for all this stuff up front, if you can. That's what I've done. I learned that lesson from seeing other friends of mine who would go out and buy, on credit, everything they thought they needed, and it's just a crying shame to see them lose it all about six to eight months later. Buy it as you need it. Don't buy it as you want it. I'm a real believer in paying cash for it. Save your money. Invest it. And then, if you want a certain piece of gear and you feel you can use it to help you increase your productivity, increase your value, and increase your potential for earnings, then at that time make the move. I know this guy who'll go and buy a Lexicon Opus because he thinks he needs it. Well, for crying out loud, that's a $150,000/$200,000 piece of gear! I don't know how he pays for it, but it's real important that you be practical. But, you also have to see yourself. I don't ever see myself as having anything like that. I don't think it's necessary. I can do a heck of a lot with what I have right here. But, I'm never satisfied, so there's always room for growth. Take it a step at a time and spend time with your family.

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