VAM 046 | Interview with Steve Blum, Part 1

VAM 046 | Interview with Steve Blum, Part 1

Welcome to episode 46 of the Voice Acting Mastery podcast with yours truly, Crispin Freeman!

As always, you can listen to the podcast using the player above, or download the mp3 using the link at the bottom of this blog post. The podcast is also available via the iTunes Store online. Just follow this link to view the podcast in iTunes:

http://www.voiceactingmastery.com/podcast

This week I’m excited to share with you an interview I did with a voice actor who has been an inspiration to me and who I’m fortunate enough to call a friend, Mr. Steve Blum. Steve has worked extensively in Animation, Video Games and Anime, playing major characters in all three art forms. Whether he’s playing Wolverine in the Marvel Animated versions, voicing Spike Spiegel in the popular anime series Cowboy Bebop, or setting a Guinness Book world record playing more characters in video games than anyone on the planet, Steve is everywhere. I was eager to talk to Steve about his career and to get his advice on voice acting, because the story of how he broke in to the industry is so unique. I think you’ll really enjoy it!

If you’d like to learn more about Steve, please visit his website: www.SteveBlumVoices.com

Thanks for listening!

Download Voice Acting Mastery Episode #46 Here (MP3)

 

54 Responses to “VAM 046 | Interview with Steve Blum, Part 1”

  1. Ali Asif says:

    Dear Crispin Freeman,

    I am writing to you to ask you which is the best place in US right now where I can start my voice acting career? How do I make a good demo and where do I get an agent from? I am now more curious to know because I have just completed my Bachelor’s program and am about to achieve my graduation once I have obtained and completed my internship. I am applying for internships at Nickelodeon Studios, Cartoon Network, Disney and the Hub. Mostly having to do with voice-overs, animation and research. I pray to God that it all works out for me. It would do me great if you can help me in my most career defining moment Mr. Freeman. Looking forward to your reply.

    Thanking you,
    Ali Asif.

  2. Martin Giroux says:

    Hearing this interview makes me think about how I’m starting right now (I’m still amateur level and nowhere near pro level… yet). My first roles as an amateur voice actor were Zoanoids from the Guyver OVA and I specialise in creatures, demons and badguys for now at least! And now I have to wait 2 weeks for the 2nd part!? OMG the waiting!!! XD

    • Martin Giroux says:

      Oh yeah and I wanted to know… Can I include some of my voice clips that have been modified with effects for my demo or should I upload the voice in its original form, before the effects were added?

      I can imagine that once you have made a name for yourself you can add the monsters and creatures with special effects but for a beginner like me, would that be seen as a disguise of my real voice?

      Thanks you for your time!!

      • Crispin Freeman says:

        You don’t want to disguise your voice too much on your demo. Maybe only one spot that is processed. Casting directors need to know what you sound like without technical wizardry.

  3. Meg says:

    Hi Crispin -I’m so blessed and excited for this interview with Steve Blum ^_^ I really enjoyed with some anime like Durarara!! and definitely StraitJacket (which I watched it from yesterday) 🙂 I can’t wait to hear the next episode and I’m sorry that I didn’t come to the Katsucon from last few weeks because I really like to meet Steve Blum the first time and love to take a picture of me, you and Steve. I also love his work as well especially from Staritjacket when your role of Isaac and Steve’s role of leiot are cool rivals 😉 thanks again and have a Happy Spring Day, Crispin 🙂

  4. Eric Rivera says:

    I freakin’ love Steve Blum. A great inspiration. I’m still going crazy over his performance as Jake Martinez in Tiger & Bunny. Can’t wait for the next part.

    I think I know what Steve is talking about when he says he (physically) feels where a voice is coming from. I’ll have to experiment some more.

    Also, one of the things I’ve heard at my university is that a well trained actor will do something that works and he’ll know how and why it worked, as opposed to a not very good actor who will create a good performance and not know why it was good or how to do it again. Sounds like something Steve was struggling with or trying to learn when he started.

    Thank you for your time and wisdom.

  5. Kalyn McCabe says:

    Oh lordy, Steve Blum… talk about my childhood, why don’t cha.

    I absolutely loved him as Toonami’s Tom and the little plots with his ship out in space. I was only 10 or so when that started, and I just grew up with him.

    It’s very interesting how he just picked up from professionals how to act and physically move in the booth to feelings while recording. Very unconventional, yet very effective.

    I’ll enjoy this interview.

    Lovely podcast as always.

  6. Meg says:

    Wow! I really like that episode 🙂 I really agree how Steve Blum told his very interesting story. It reminds me when I was little I was usually read some comics from my brother’s room and my old manga comic books; then I read some and pretending I was in the action. Like Steve, I never been through any if drama and/or theater classes, but I did some choirs when I was little girl. Thank you so much again , Crispin and have a happy Spring Day 🙂 I’m really sorry about my last message because I was very exciting to listen this podcast.

  7. Tori says:

    OMG, thanks so much for the interview! It was nice to hear the guy from ‘Toonami’ again, since most of my childhood was centered on it! His story in becoming a VA was pretty interesting and a little funny! Now I want to watch Cowboy Bebop! Interviews are my favorite part of VAM!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Thanks so much! Glad you enjoy the interviews!

      • Tori says:

        Recently I listened to that interview you did on ‘fancypantsgangsters’ and the last question involved developing the voice you have now (LOL, “I’m straight but I want to date you now!”). My question is about voice development. Do you develop the way your voice sounds mostly in your youth and it stays that way throughout your life, or could you change the tone and sound of your voice at any time in your life? Thanks!

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          You can develop your voice at any time in your life. Genetically, a woman’s voice tends to stabilize a little earlier in her life than a man’s voice, but that’s just your genetic potential. Developing your voice can happen anytime, but you may not see the full fruits of your labor until your voice has matured properly.

  8. Clarence Cross says:

    Hi Crispin! Ok so this year I will be going to college and I was planning to major in Theater Arts and double minor in Japanese and Radio, TV, & Film. I already know what I want to do, which is to get into the voice over business and in the future maybe do some on camera acting as well. Now, for the past few months, something has been telling me to switch Radio, TV, & Film to my major and have Theater Arts as my minor (with Japanese still being my 2nd minor). And now after thinking about it, I’ve really been considering it and I’m kinda leaning towards it. But I kinda feel like me having a minor in Theater will hold me back in the future from doing bigger live action roles as well as voice acting roles. And by holding back, I mean that the casting directors will kind of look down on that. So Crispin, should I stick to my original plan or go with my more recent plan? Oh and by the way I am currently in theater in school and have been for a few years and have been in several plays. And I live in the Dallas area.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I think it’s always wise to follow your inspiration. Just make sure you’re not taking action because of desperation.

      Just so you know, casting directors don’t care what degrees you have. They only care if you’re talented. You could major in economics and if you’ve developed your acting skills to a competitive level and can solve their casting problems, they’ll hire you. But if you’re spending all your time studying economics you may not have time to study acting. The reason to major in these subjects is not to put them on your resume, but to improve your artistry. You need to do whatever it takes to improve your artistry. Degrees mean nothing in the entertainment field.

  9. Melissa says:

    Ok, I know this isn’t a voice acting question, it’s about a director looking for voice actors.

    Or more like, ok…I’m working on a script for a “cartoon” the man that’s helping me write did ask, “Well, have you thought of who would voice these amazing charters?” And really, the friend name that came to mind was Freeman for the main guy. Eh, Crispin, Sorry, used to just typing your last name.

    Anyway, as the director with set voices in my head. Would I contact the VAs directly or though any agency? What would I do, to say, if I wanted to get you as my main lead? Forgetting the fact I personally would not be able to afford it, but it would be nice to know.

    Which my script writer does thinks the project has a high chance of getting animated through a studio. If that were to happen, would I end up not having anymore control of my project?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Depends on the type of project. Is this a union or non-union project? Is the production working under a SAG-AFTRA signatory? If so, you should probably contact actors via their agents. If you are not a signatory, then you’re free to contact actors directly. However, those actors who are union are not supposed to work on non-union projects. That’s the global rule one of being a member of SAG-AFTRA.

      As far as having control over your project, that completely depends on the type of deal you negotiate with a studio. When a person pitches a show to a network, if the network likes the pitch they may decide to have that person helm the show creatively, or they may offer to buy that person out and just use their idea with their own creative team. It’s up to you to negotiate the deal you’d like to have, preferably with an entertainment lawyer on your side helping you out.

      • Zachary Caton says:

        Hi Crispin, big fan and aspiring voice actor. I was thinking the information on union and non union projects, actor exclusivity, and pros and cons of membership could be a good topic for a future podcast episode.
        It would be neat to hear a professional opinion on those matters so long as it doesn’t jeopardize anyone involved.

      • Melissa says:

        That, I do know of union and non-union projects. That’s why I hear so many non-union in anime since it’s normally cheaper on the studio. Though, I also do know Durarara was union because your real name was listed in the awful credits, along with Yuri, Steven, and a few others.

        Then again, Yuri voiced in Persona 4 and used a fake name, pretty sure it was non-union.

        I guess, since I do know your an union actor, need to figure out what to do to make it a union project. My goal is to make sure to gt you as my lead. I really want to hear you in a long-term project.

        You have this great voice and you voice some great charters, but then they come up and have such a short role and few lines. Like Shizuo for example, he’s such a great charter, but doesn’t get much screen time. I normally see you cast as the “badass” type, but I know you can do more than that.

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          In order to do a production union, you need to become a SAG-AFTRA signatory. I’m sure there is information about that on the SAG-AFTRA website at http://www.sagaftra.org

          I hope that helps. Thanks for thinking of me for your project. I appreciate it.

  10. Flor says:

    So awesome! What a treat to listen to you & Steve Blum chatting about acting! He sounds like a totally chill, good human.

    One of these days I’ll get to meet Steve and let him know it’s his “fault” I even got into voice acting! His work in Samurai Champloo was the first time I really noticed the acting and got me really curious about the whole business.

  11. James StarRunner says:

    Hehehe… I remember Steve telling the treehouse story on Rob Paulson’s Talkin’ Toons. All the time I hear the question, “How do you get into voice acting?” It’s so hard to answer when everyone has such a unique story. My own story is no exception.

    I grew up with a severe speech impediment. My own family couldn’t even understand me till I was six and even then, I had a rough time trying to communicate. Being super shy didn’t help either. I had to go to a special school on top of regular public school. It was rough, it was frustrating, and I never thought I would have the chance to live my dreams.

    When The Land Before Time movie came out, I wanted to be the next ‘Littlefoot’. I worked really hard, putting in several extra hours of speaking excersises and reading. A friend and I started doing an audio book with an old tape recorder. Nothing really came of it, but it still helped. Also did some puppet stuff at home and in elementary school. It was a lot easier to perform when I couldn’t see the crowd.

    I also have a performance background in a concert band at junior high and high school and played trumpet there for six years and also joined a community jazz band. After I graduated high school, I went back for an extra semester to get classes I wanted to take, but never had time to. One of which was a drama class, much to the astonishment of my parents and peers. I really wanted to break out of my shell. My classmates were really worried for me. Here was this nervous wreck who was so shy, bunnies seemed like Rambo in comparison. Oh, it was tough, but I worked hard. At the end of the semester, I ended up getting the lead male role for a play that was to be put on for the whole community. I ended up getting the juvenile actor of the year award from my school. Of course, I knew I still had lots to learn.

    I started reading web comics after and in one web comic comminity, someone mentioned that it would be cool to actually hear the characters come alive. The fans then rallied and put together a voice over project. I figured I’d just go for a small role to get my feet wet. I knew voice acting was a different beast than stage acting. I still had no idea how different it actually would be. I auditioned for a guy who only appeared in a few pages and did a dialog scene where he was talking with the protagonist. I did the protagonist in the audition as well so I didn’t seem like I was talking to air and sent it in. They didn’t think I fit the role I auditioned for… But they thought I’d make the perfect protagonist. Talk about a trail by fire! His emotions were up, down, and all around. He was also a skilled sword swinging adventurer and I was a 99lbs weakling. I got more comfortable with the role though and myself. After seven years I still have that role as the comic is still ongoing, but I’ve spread my wings and played several other roles in different projects since!

    I’ve semi-recently had a class with Deb Munro and she was the one who helped me get a great deal on my first condensor microphone (the MXL-990). I’m now helping many friends who are trying voice acting or trying to improve. I’m even making my own animated voice acting tutorial, which Deb was gracious enough to stand in as a special guest. Perhaps I could share it with you when everything is done.

    I do hope to take the next step soon and try to make a living out of voice acting. I feel like I need at least a few more classes though before I attempt to make any professional demo. Oh, speaking of classes, I no longer work on the weekends and can take a class from you assuming I can save enough money with my now lower income.

    Anyways, I think I rambled enough. I hope I didn’t bore you. James out!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Thanks for sharing your story James. I’m sure others will find a lot the can identify with. I’m glad you’ve found acting has been able to help you grow not only artistically but personally as well. Hopefully we’ll be able to work together in class sometime in the future. Take care!

  12. Terance says:

    Steve Blum was definitely the voice of childhood for me on Toonami as he was for many others commenting here; that’s one reason why I was looking forward to his performance as Amon on “The Legend of Korra” last year. Boy did he ever deliver. Amon in my opinion is one of the coolest, most bad-ass villains ever. Speaking of bad-ass, have you ever noticed Crispin when it comes to people not liking the sound of their own voice it’s because it’s not as deep or cool sounding as they thought? It’s seems like no one wants to sound young or like a kid. It’s something I had to come to terms with even in the world of amateur voice acting. When I first recorded what I thought to be a deep sounding voice, what I heard played back was nowhere near as deep as I thought or believable for that matter. I know you said even you have been guilty of this when you auditioned for Justice League Heroes. I’m starting to understand more and more just what it means to find your character types and how important it is. Sorry for the long message, but this is something I’ve had on my mind recently.

    • James StarRunner says:

      Yeah, I used to want a deeper voice too. For me, I found it’s best if I settle for teens, young adults, or the younger brother types. Not sure if you played Tales of Symphonia, which Crispin is in. But if I was cast, I’d be Lloyd even if I wanted to play Regal (which Crispin played) or Kratos (which Cam Clarke played). It’s just how my voice is and I’ve learned to accept it.

      And yes, Amon was well done! Gave me goosebumps when I heard him!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Yes, Steve’s voice over work is always impressive.

      I’m glad you’re discovering your voice type. There’s really no point in trying to be something other than what you are. We need every voice type in voice acting, one just needs to understand how to cast oneself so one can take advantage of the voice they have.

  13. Michael says:

    I always wonder who Steve Blum was he seems like a very nice man. But I took notice of what he sounded like and he must of put a lot of force in his vocal chords to get that sound. Like the same sound when someone’s throat gets a little dry or when they yell a lot and I should know because I tend to yell when nobody’s listening to me. By amplifying your vocal chords for so many hour giver take will make the sound of your voice stressed out. But this was a great interview Mr. Freeman excellent work can’t wait for the next interview have a nice safe day.

  14. Steven Lowe says:

    Hello, Mr. Freeman. I would like to start off with giving my regards toward your VA Mastery podcasts. They have become a valuable source of information.

    I now have a relatively simple question: As a beginner in this sort of field, would it be wise to take your online class with no prior training? Would it be wise to have a general understanding of first-hand theatre experience before I attempt one of your sessions?

    Thank you for any reply you may give.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I’m glad you’re finding the podcast useful.

      As far as taking my online class with no prior acting experience, that’s totally up to you. What do you feel inspired to do? I teach people wherever they happen to be, whether they’re just starting out, or whether they’re more advanced in their acting training. You are more then welcome to take my online class with no prior acting training. In my class I share my techniques for creating believable vocal performances which I think apply to any kind of acting. However, if you’d feel more comfortable taking another acting class first, and then taking my online class, you’re welcome to do that as well.

      The choice is yours.

  15. Justin Greer says:

    Hello Chris

    A friend recommended your website to me and also said its how he is where he is in life now enjoying life in animation. I’ve had a passion for voice over acting and voice imitation since childhood. For the passed going on eight years now after high school I’ve had trouble trying to find a start or a school for the field of voice over due to the places where I’ve been living opportunity is very limited. I have many voice over inspirations such as Mel Blanc, Kevin Conroy, Frank Welker just to name a few. I’d just like to know if there are people in the field today voice acting came from your great work.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Hi there Justin. My name is actually Crispin, not Chris, but people often confuse those two names.

      If what you’re asking for is examples of students of mine who have been successful in the filed of voice over, you can head over to the Testimonials Section of the website to hear from both Kimlinh Tran and Amanda Miller, both of whom are having some wonderful success in the voice over careers.

      You should also listen to the interview I did with Kimlinh and Edward Bosco, two students of mine, in episodes 33, 34 & 35 of the podcast. Not only did Kimlinh and Edward work on the award winning game, Dust: An Elysian Tale, but many of my other students worked on that project as well.

      Hopefully that gives you a sense of my students and their recent sucess.

      • Justin Greer says:

        Oh I’m sorry about that. I was typing too fast and didn’t check. I’ll be sure to check those out thanks a lot i appreciate it. Your workshops are only in Los Angeles? I’ll be moving there pretty soon so thats why i was asking because I’ve been living in TN for some time and never had luck finding any kind of voice over fields out here neither did I when i was living in the northern area of California.

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          I have a feeling you were again typing too fast and didn’t take the time to actually check out the Classes section of this website. If you had, you would have your answer to your question of whether or not I offer classes only in Los Angeles.

          • Justin Greer says:

            my computer was freezing at the time but i checked it out. I jus moved back to Los Angeles a week ago and will definitely be paying a visit real soon to your shops to learn more of this passion i have for voice over.

  16. Maxwell says:

    Fantastic interview. I completely agree with Steve when it comes to physically approaching the text rather than auditorily. Currently in the lessons I take over the phone, I have one hand holding the phone, while the other is holding the script in my tiny make-shift booth. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted because I was too constrained physically by these objects. It makes it very hard to play pretend in this fashion(while you’re in a tiny room with a microphone) so I updated by getting something place the phone down and put on speaker, while finding something to set my copy down on. That way, I now have at least some freedom to physically interpret the copy and improvise. It’s worked very well for me 🙂

  17. Kyle P says:

    Awesome interview Crispin. Steve is one of my all time favorite voice actors. Loved him as Tank Dempsey from Call of Duty, and Zabuza/Orochimaru from Naruto. I’m currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business management, but I am considering a minor in theater with emphasis on voice over. What particular courses would you suggest I take for acting/theater, assuming the university I’m transferring to offers them? Also, I used to work at a call center for nearly 6 years. Do you think it may have damaged my voice acting potential and would it be possible to remedy the problem somewhat?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I would recommend taking any classes you can on improvisational acting. That’s probably the single best thing to take to improve your voice acting skills besides normal acting class.

      As far as working at a call center, why would that have damaged your voice acting potential? I don’t see how they are related.

      • Kyle P says:

        I should have worded it differently. What I should have asked was would the 6 years time that I have spent in a call center potentially have a negative impact on my vocal quality? I’ve tried to perform different character voices, but my throat ends up bothering me after maybe 15-20 minutes, sometimes less.

        One off-topic question: Will you be at Chicago’s Anime Central in May? If so, maybe we could chat a little bit then.

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          It sounds like you feel that working in that call center did have a negative affect on your voice because you find that when you’re doing character voices, it hurts your throat.

          If your voice does not hurt when you use your normal speaking voice for long periods of time, then chances are it’s not because you worked in a call center, but rather it’s because when you try to do a “character” voice, you’re tightening your throat and hurting yourself.

          Characters aren’t made in the throat, they’re made through good acting. If a character is emotionally connected, chances are they won’t hurt your throat.

          Anime Central has not worked out any agreement with my agent, so I have not plans to attend. However, even if I did attend, I usually am so busy with my duties at a convention that I don’t have time to “chat”. This website is the best way to contact me regarding voice acting questions.

  18. Paul Passfeld says:

    Hi Crispin,

    First I would like to say that both you and Steve Blum are my favorite American voice actors and I love the work that both of you do. Some of my favorite performances of yours have been Gannayev-of-Dreams from Neverwinter Nights 2, Heat from Digital Devil Saga and Alex Row from Last Exile. As for Steve, my favorite roles of his are Grayson Hunt from Bulletstorm and Makoto Shishio from Rurouni Kenshin. So I really enjoyed this interview and I’m glad to finally be up to date on all of the voice acting mastery podcasts. I actually heard about this podcast from the panel that you did on voice acting at Katsucon. These podcasts have been incredibly interesting and fun to listen to. Your podcast has allowed me to learn a great deal about voice acting and the entertainment industry in general.

    Thank you for reading my post and I can’t wait to hear the next episode of voice acting mastery.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you appreciate both Steve’s work and mine. I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast.

  19. Sammy B says:

    What a fantastic episode, thank you for sharing this Crispin! Can’t believe its taken this long for me to find it 🙂 What a great story Steve Blum told and a great interview, thank you 🙂

  20. Antonia says:

    This is a really fantastic interview! Thank you Crispin!

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