R.A.P. Interview: Paul Turner

R.A.P.: Your success with the voice-over business at twenty-six years of age is very unusual. You mentioned Joe Kelly earlier as one of your heroes. I don't know how old Joe Kelly was when he was rolling in the stations like you are, but one gets the feeling that he too was very successful at a young age. At the rate you're going, your name will rank up there with Joe's before too long.
Paul: Well, I would hope to think that would happen because Joe is obviously someone I look up to with very high standards. I think he's one of the best out there. Some of the other guys I really emulate are Charlie Van Dyke and Ernie Anderson, both of which are big TV guys which is an area I've had tremendous success with in the last year. But radio is still my first love and is still something that, no matter what happens with TV, I will always continue to be head first into. Guys like Joe Kelly, Mark Driscoll and Brian James -- who is a good friend and one of the better talents out there -- are all guys I really have looked up to. I think they do, in their own different ways, a very tremendous job.

R.A.P.: You've reached a point in your career where a lot of people would like to be when they're forty or even older. Do you think about what's ten years down the road for you?
Paul: Oh, sure. I think I'm lucky in the sense that I got a lot of the crap, so to speak, out of the way early by jumping into it early. I paid most of my dues early. Now, there's always dues to be paid for everyone in different areas of their career, but for me, the majority have been paid. At this point I'm trying to fine tune the area I'm heading into with the voice work. Now, with an agent, I'm able to do some more national commercials. I'm interested in doing movie trailers, TV work, and more radio work. There's always something out there you aspire to, and there's always a next level that you want to see. You see someone doing well and you want to do as well as them.

You're right, you know. A lot of people at forty would like to be doing the amount of stuff I'm doing. I feel very fortunate, and there's not a day goes by that I'm not very, very thankful for the opportunities and the people, and all the right people have come along at just the right time for me, everyone from the beginning to the present with Howard Stern. It's been nothing but a very pleasing experience, and ten years down the road I would like to be doing a lot more in each area -- TV, radio, film.

At this point, I'm really headstrong into the television area, doing the local affiliate news-type stuff. I would like to one day be involved with one of the major networks, if possible -- the Danny Dark, the Ernie Anderson type of gig. But, like I said, I'd never leave radio behind because radio is where it all began, and, to me, radio is more fun than it is work. I enjoy creating promos, and I do still produce. I said the large majority of work that I do is dry voice. That's for my outside clients. But I do produce for WXRK in New York and WYSP in Philly, and to me there's nothing more fun than coming in to work in the morning with an idea in your head about a promo or something you've seen on TV or in a movie, and to actually sit down and create this idea.

I have an assistant, a guy that I hired myself. His name is Corey Dissin. Corey is a young guy who goes to Temple University. He's advancing daily, and I'm allowing Corey to produce some of the stations that I have, the smaller ones that need the stuff produced. But, he's also helping me with a lot of WYSP and Infinity stuff, even though I pay him off my payroll. He's been a big help in a lot of areas. What I'm trying to get at is that radio to me is really a lot of fun, and creating promos is something that is very enjoyable for me. It's one of the things you can't believe is actually a job. It's like a major league ballplayer getting paid for playing baseball.

R.A.P.: How many television stations do you now do voice work for?
Paul: Right now I'm currently under contract with five TV stations in markets such as New Orleans, Detroit, Charlotte, and Atlanta; but there are several other TV stations that I do on a contract basis as a secondary voice for the station.

R.A.P.: Do the television stations generally pay more for the same kind of work in the same size market than the radio stations?
Paul: Absolutely. I've found that to be one of the more attractive points to television. But it really depends on the particulars of the situation. It depends on the size of the market, the company that owns the station -- as it does with all radio stations -- and how your agent negotiated the deal for you because you can be screwed in any situation. But, in general, yeah, TV does pay more than radio, and there's not as much work. With TV, you basically work four periods during the year really hard. That's during the sweeps, and then you have breaks. In radio, it's pretty consistent. You have your on-going work.

R.A.P.: So, hypothetically speaking, would you say the income from a television station and a radio station in similar sized markets might even out in the long run, though there would be less work done for the TV station?
Paul: In the long run, it's very possible, if you're on a retainer type basis with both. However, I still think TV would come out ahead in most cases. If you look at TV, the amount of revenue generated by a TV station is much higher in most cases and, therefore, they can justify paying more for a particular service, including voice work.

R.A.P.: There are a lot of people that don't have a deep voice like yours that are doing pretty well in the voice-over business. As these people surfaced over the past ten years, it wasn't unusual to hear people say that the deep, ballsy voice is fading away, becoming an extinct style. Yet, you take someone with a natural, ballsy voice like yours, and people still go after it, big time. Why do you think this is so?
Paul: Well, that's another really good question, and you're right. I've heard people talk about how the ballsy voice is fading away. Anyone who does voice-overs has probably heard that from time to time, and my response to that statement is that if the deep voiced guy is fading away, I haven't seen it. I haven't seen the fade yet, and I really don't think you're going to see that because there's a demand for that stereotypical announcer sound. There will always be a market for it just as there is always a market for the guy who doesn't necessarily have a deep voice -- the guy who can do character voices, the Billy Wests and the guys who have a tremendous talent in other areas, the voice actors, so to speak.

I feel -- and this is what my agent told me -- that you should make yourself as well-rounded as possible. Don't just be a deep voice guy. Grow in your acting ability, whether it's by taking an acting class or by studying the way people act on TV and watching their inflections. Be able to be as diverse as you can with your delivery. It's only going to benefit you. And, if that day ever comes that the deep voice guy does kind of fade away, you will still have somewhat of a background, another area to fall into. You're not a one-trick pony.

I'm not really scared by the thought that my style may fade away someday because there are so many trends. There are trends in clothing, and for some reason, styles and trends always seem to circle and come right back to the beginning. If you look back when radio and TV broadcasting first began, everybody had that big sounding voice, like the guy from Laugh In, Gary Moore. I'm not saying that style will ever come back. Hopefully not, but there does seem to be some kind of return to where they started with a trend. People burn out on any style. That's why you've got to have more than one. People will get really tired if all they hear is you jamming it down their throat that they're listening to Power 107 and the hottest hits in radio. People get tired of hearing that.

In fact, we do something here with Infinity to keep things fresh. Each quarter, we try to differ things a little bit, try to differ the sound. We'll go with me doing the hard-hitting stuff, and then next quarter we'll change off. We have a female in New York named Allison Steele who is a legendary jock at WXRK. She's been jocking for years. She's a more soft-sell woman, and we try to mix her in now and then just to give one particular style a rest. That's Tim Sabean's thought, and I happen to agree with it. I think it's very much the truth that people get tired of the deep voice -- people get tired of anything if given too much.

R.A.P.: How has your style of production changed over the past few years?
Paul: I think in the last year I've developed a very MTV-ish style of production -- quick edits, quick drops from movies, from Letterman, or whatever, that entertain people as well as tell them you're playing another twenty songs in a row. You want to be able to entertain them for those few seconds you've got their attention. So, I've gone into a style that I think is totally different from anything I've ever had.

R.A.P.: What production libraries are you using for the stuff you're producing at WYSP?
Paul: We're using several. One of the libraries I'm most happy with as of recent is from Toby Arnold and Associates. We use just about everything they have -- Attitude, Young Guns, ZX-1000, right down the line. In the past, the station has had licenses with Brown Bag. We still do with Money from Brown Bag, and I've got some small libraries like Shock Wave from Network Music that we did a buyout on. We also did a buyout on a small package from Airforce. For sound effects, we're using Hollywood Edge. We have four different ones including City Tracks, Premier Edition, and Cartoon Tracks which I think are good ways to color a promo. I'm very happy, especially with the new Toby Arnold music. For a rock station it's got some good guitar in it, and the voice seems to fit very well over most of it. That's what I like. I don't like production effects that are too busy -- horns and drums and everything going on at one time. I really enjoy the drone effect that a lot of the Toby Arnold stuff has -- you know, hard punctuator at the beginning, and after that it becomes more of a background as opposed to a foreground. It seems to let the voice have a certain presence over it.

R.A.P.: What kind of processing do you like to use on your voice when you're just laying voice tracks, let's say, for other stations? What kind of EQ and compression do you use?
Paul: I have gone through periods in the last three years where I've changed the way I do things. I've almost gone one hundred and eighty degrees in the opposite direction. I've always been a big fan of the Symetrix 528 compressor simply for one main reason -- because it has the EQ. You're able to EQ as well as compress. But, I used that a lot more in the past than I have in the last year or so. I've learned to back off on that and to become comfortable using less compression, especially when sending dry voice to my outside clients. I back way off on the compression, almost nothing at all, but I will still EQ a little bit through that Symetrix. And, we have a Pacific Recorders board in the studio, the BMX production console, which has on each track a little EQ above it. Sometimes I'll use a little more EQ from the console. I don't use a lot of rack equipment as far as voice effects stuff. I don't have an Eventide unit, but I do have a Yamaha SPX-1000.

R.A.P.: Many people with deep voices will cut some of the lows and add highs when EQ-ing. Do you do this?
Paul: Oh, that's absolutely what I do. I like a very crisp sound. I like something that cuts through the radio like a knife, especially with music. A bass voice tends to get lost easily in a lot of today's music and anything else that uses any kind of bass. A female voice, and even a male voice with higher tones, will really cut through and have an edge. I think you can have both. I think you can have balls, so to speak, a very bassey voice, and also cut through a piece of production. The way I do it is by doing exactly what you said. I like high-passing the voice, but high-passing is something I use as a highlighter as opposed to an overall sound because you can overuse that just like people used to overuse sampling. I do drop off the bass a lot in promos and various pieces of production to give the voice that presence, and we use a little reverb to add even more. And when I really want to highlight something, we'll just drop the bass out and completely high-pass filter it, which is something you try to use as sparingly as possible, though it's easy to get caught up in it and use it more often than necessary.

R.A.P.: It's very easy, especially when you're new in the business, to want to crank up the bass in hopes of making your voice sound "deeper" or bassier.
Paul: Exactly. That's such a misconception. Doing that tends to give it a very muddy sound. You'll get some boom to it, but that's not really what you want. You've either got it or you don't have it when it comes to a bassey voice. And there's no way to simulate that aside from some kind of harmonizing with a pitch drop, and even that sounds very fake. I mean, you can do time compression and anything you want, but it just sounds very altered. The only way to have it is to have it.

However, you can enhance what you've got. Again, I'll use a baseball analogy: if you are a hitter and you're not doing something right, and you weren't born with the talent to hit, you can do other things to enhance your hitting. You can lift weights. You can use a lighter bat. You can step closer to the plate. All these things will eventually, when used together, make you a better hitter. In voice-over work, you can EQ, you can compress, and you can do this and that, and if you do everything right, sometimes it will help you a little bit. But, you've got to have something to work with to begin with.

R.A.P.: What's your production philosophy?
Paul: Production to me is very much like a window display in a store, and this is how I approach it for a particular radio station that I'm working and creating for. It's very much like a window display in Bloomingdale's. Every season they keep the same products inside the store. You always have the same things for sale and the same things to offer. But, as you walk by the store, every so often you notice that they change the window display, whether it be for Christmas, Halloween, whatever. You always see something new and exciting, but it never changes what's inside the store. I think production has that same value to it. You're always offering the audience the same product, especially in classic rock and roll. You have a base of music that you offer, and your job as the creative promo guy at the station is to change the window dressing as often as possible and keep it exciting because, let's face it, an audience can hear the same record over and over again, but if you present that record to them with production that sounds hot, fresh and exciting, each time they hear the record it'll take on a whole new feeling for the audience.

Like I said earlier, every quarter we sit down and purposely try to make it sound as different as possible. I mean, one quarter we used Bill Wendall from the Letterman show to introduce the jocks like he does David Letterman, with funny sayings about the city and funny sayings about the jock. That's with me mixed in, here and there. The next quarter it could be me doing a lot of MTV type of production. The next quarter it could be me doing more laid back, very adult sounding production with just guitar behind it, real acoustic unplugged kind of production.

Basically, when I go in to produce a promo, I first think of what it is attitude-wise that we're trying to say, whether it's in your face, whether it's subtle, whether it's painting a picture through characters. We have access to one of the great talents and that's Billy West in New York. He does a lot of voice-over work in the area of cartoon characters. Billy and I are good friends, and he has been very accessible for doing character voices in promos for me. That is a huge bank of talent right there that we have at our fingertips, and we use him to change the sound of our production. Whether we're using any of these types of production, the philosophy is to constantly keep things changing and to keep things new and exciting.

R.A.P.: Any tips you've learned along the way for the folks who want to get into the voice-over business? Something that would be helpful to someone who has their first station and is looking to add ten more?
Paul: Well, I think if you're at a radio station and you're interested in doing voice-work and production on the side, the most important thing I've found to be to my advantage is contacts, getting to know as many people as you possibly can. And there are no people who are too small or too insignificant along the way. You know the old saying, don't kick people on your way up because they'll kick you right in the butt on your way down. That's very true, and you've got to remember your roots. You've also got to be very outgoing. And you've got to promote yourself because if you don't promote yourself, there's no one else to do it for you. Promote yourself, whether it means you get an agent, or whether it means publicizing what you do yourself. People have to hear about you, especially in the beginning.

As you know, radio is a business, a very small, tightly knit community. And word of mouth is extremely vital in this business. To be honest with you, that is the biggest advertising tool that is available to us. And if you can do that in the beginning, get the word out, work night and day, you'll come out ahead in the end. Don't be afraid to work more than your standard eight hours your first few years in production. I've worked for Marc Chase and Chuck Beck and Tim Sabean, and all of these guys have taught me that a good Program Director can inspire a good work ethic. If you stay the extra hours to get a promo exactly right, you'll come out way ahead in the end because if you bust your butt in the beginning, it will certainly pay off in the end whether you want to be a producer who produces the stuff or whether you have the voice talent and you think you'd like to be a voice-over person. Don't ever think you're in too small a market because -- and it sounds so contrived to say this, but -- hard work really does pay off. That's a very stereotypical statement, but it really does. You bust your butt, and I can guarantee you that if you have a goal of being in a big market -- and that's not always everyone's goal -- if that's what you want to do, put your mind to it, meet the right people, make the right contacts, and you'll certainly get there.

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