With his long running success as a voice talent, his awe-inspiring ability to create wonderful character voices at the drop of a hat (he always wears one for just such an occasion) and his encyclopedic knowledge of all things animation, Rowell Gormon was a perfect and easy choice for MVO: The Voice-Over Guys. You’ll learn just how fascinating Rowell is (one clue: he’s worked with Jim Henson and The Muppets) in this Meet The Voice-Over Guys interview.
ROWELL, VOICE-OVER IS A PRETTY UNIQUE CAREER CHOICE – HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
Recorded sound has always fascinated me. As a nipper, I played records just about as much as I played with toys. Cartoons on TV captivated me, and for a time I thought I’d be an animator when I got older. Then I found out how much tedious work it was.
A few more career ideas came and went before I got my first tape recorder. Using voices I’d learned to imitate from the cartoons, and sound effects lifted from cartoon LPs, I discovered the fun of creating stories with sound. With my first part-time job in radio, I learned that I was a much better entertainer (with my voices and flair for comedy) than I’d ever be as a DJ, and eventually gravitated to the production side of things.
Though I was around during its final decade, I never discovered Radio (with a capital R) in the form of drama and comedy shows until my college days, when a couple of my instructors introduced me via recordings from the so-called “Golden Days”. I was hooked. A school-mate and I tried our hand at forming an audio production studio, in hopes of being the next Dick Orkin (inspired by “Chickenman”) or Stan Freberg (he of the satirical radio commercials and comedy records). We were a glorious failure, but we honed our own vocal and production skills over two years just the same. I put them to use later when I applied for work at radio stations…again, focusing on production rather than being an on-air personality.
Finally a fellow named Jack Shaw, who shared many of the same audio influences, helped me get my first full time job in broadcasting and taught me the ropes of copywriting and commercial production on an assembly-line scale. In just over a year, and a couple of Addy Awards later, I was recruited by a bigger station in a bigger market. I didn’t fully realize it then, but that was what solidified my status as a “Voice Actor”, as opposed to a DJ/Announcer. I parlayed those talents into another 15 years in that bigger market (and a National Addy in the process), and used them further when I went freelance in the 90s.
WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER, WERE THERE ANY VOICE-OVER TALENTS WHO INFLUENCED YOU OR WHO YOU ADMIRED? WHY/HOW?
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, Mel Blanc, Daws Butler, Paul Frees, Don Messick, and Stan Freberg taught me what could be done with shifts in voice, accents, inflection, and timing.
When I discovered Vintage Radio via those recordings in the college days, I received even more education in timing and the creation of characters (real and fanciful) from the work of Jim Jordan and the voice cast of Fibber McGee & Molly, the Fred Allen Show, the Jack Benny Program, and dramatics from the Radio performances of Vincent Price, Orson Welles, Howard Duff and others of lesser stardom who played in countless radio dramas and melodramas of the time. Consciously or not, these talented people showed me how to put everything…facial expression, gestures, body language…into just the voice.
WITH WHICH BRANDS WOULD PEOPLE MOST ASSOCIATE YOUR VOICE?
I don’t have a national brand identity. I suppose that’s partly due to my having done so many different types of voice projects over the course of my career.
WHERE WAS/IS THE MOST UNIQUE PLACE SOMEONE WOULD HEAR YOUR VOICE?
Well, there was that talking toy a few years ago: a robotic salsa-jive iguana named Muy Loco made by Trendmasters Toys. Ironically, the most unique place I’ve ever “worked” was on two movies with Jim Henson’s Muppets as an “Additional Puppeteer”…but they didn’t use our voices.
IF YOU HAD TO PICK YOUR FAVORITE KIND OF VOICE-OVER PROJECT, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
Creative Radio Commercials are still my absolute favorite. With the help of good copy, you can create everything and “see” the results almost instantly. Whether it’s a fanciful character voice, or just a voice with some character (what people now call “real-person”), I get a kick out of creating mental pictures and telling a story with sound.
WHAT ONE BOOK HAVE YOU READ THAT REALLY HELPED SHAPE YOUR LIFE, EITHER PERSONALLY OR PROFESSIONALLY? HOW?
Professionally, it would have to be two books, both discovered during my college years: The Great Radio Heroes and The Great Radio Comedians, both by Jim Harmon. Together they fueled my desire to track down, collect, and listen to as many surviving recordings of vintage Radio shows as I could get my hands on. Absorbing all those vocal styles, the timing, and creation of images through voice/sounds/music, gave me a wonderful base of knowledge and skill which I’ve been able to adapt to more modern forms of broadcast and multi-media. …and I’m still learning.