Behind The Mic: Brian Haddad
Brian Haddad not only has a great personality, he IS a great personality! With a stellar attitude at all times and having worked at legendary radio stations, Brian is a hall of famer that you can’t deny.
1) What do you love about your job? Working at a heritage sports/talk station like WIP, in a city with fans that truly bleed for their teams has great advantages for the Creative Director. I basically get marching orders to make fun of other cities’ teams and fan bases, and of course, our own when appropriate. I shape it to the way the city feels, good or bad, based on current events of the day or week. How is that not fun! A lot of work to keep everything relevant, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. As far as voice overs, I just love that every time you get a script, it’s truly an acting role. I really enjoy diving into the specs the client is looking for, and rehearsing to “get there”. Every VO is truly a different challenge, and that makes every day exciting.
2) Who are your VO idols/mentors? Who influenced your work as a VO artist? I think everybody puts Don LaFontaine on their list, because he was IT. One of the first voices I remember loving was Arthur Penhallow, or “Arthur P” on WRIF in Detroit. He was the afternoon host, and just had a big, vibrant voice, and he was funny. I would imitate him to my friends when I was in high school. I also loved Spaceghost, George Lowe. I was really affected when I heard Keith Eubanks. The non-big voice, filtered was really cool, and I believe he was the first to do that. This might sound crazy, but I was also influenced by people like WWE wrestler Randy “The Macho Man” Savage. Wrestlers often times combined hilarious acting with unique voices. Loved Macho Man! On the other end of the spectrum, it’s captivating to listen to David Attenborough on the Planet Earth series. Same goes for Rod Serling. I’ll throw one more in. Pete Stacker. He was the deep voice on those Bud Light “Real Man of Genius” commercials, and he was in the video game Halo. I met him a few times, and he gave me very helpful tips on improving my skillset.
3) Can you offer 3 helpful tips for newbies trying to make it in the voice-over industry? Be yourself. I know, that sounds cliché, especially since I think many of us get interested in this game by imitating people. “In a world…”. But eventually, you’ll have to develop something unique about YOU. Take an improv or acting class. It’s all about the acting, and if you want to be on the radio side, work on your writing skills as well. Invest in quality equipment. The better mic can actually get you more work.
4) If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career? When I was young I wanted to be Neil Armstrong, Michael Jordan, and Eddie Van Halen. In the fantasy VO world, I guess I’m kinda all of them now!
5) Describe the role of a Creative Director at a radio station and the marketing/branding control you have. Simply put, you shape the sound and vibe of the station. Doesn’t really matter what format, even sports/talk. Every second counts. I meet daily with our Program Director, Spike Eskin, to discuss what we’ll need for that day. Obviously, some days are busier than others. Once I know what we’re looking for. I’ll write copy, and send it back to him for approval. Then either I’m voicing it or our voice guy, Vic Caroli. It all starts with the writing when branding anything. You have to get that in line with the mission you’re trying to accomplish. So essentially, it’s a team effort with branding the station. And there are a lot of elements to brand: Our 25 year morning man Angelo Cataldi, the other hosts, Eagles play by play, and Phillies play by play. Plus this year the NFL Draft in Philly. We’ll use even 5 seconds out of a break to make sure the audience knows something about us.
6) Can you let our readers in on how you balance working at a radio station and working as a freelance artist? Basically do you ever sleep and how do you do it all so well?! I’ve heard of this sleep thing you speak of. I can’t wait to try it. Sometimes it can feel chaotic, but I embrace that. Yeah, I’m weird. It’s almost like a sport. Get out of the gate strong, and look for points in the day when you can take a 5-minute mental break. I’m constantly looking at the clock, making sure I take short breaks to recharge my mind and voice.
7) How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? I think I said it earlier, but I look at each audition like an acting role. Once I see what the client is looking for, I’ll usually go on YouTube to comparison shop and get motivation. I’ll practice a few various reads. When I feel I’m ready I do it. Maybe I’ll give them a few takes. The main point, take time with it, otherwise, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
8) Which production system do you use and why? I’ve been using Vegas and Sound Forge for over 10 years now. I’m probably in the minority there, but really, they all do just about the same thing. It’s kind of funny to see arguments over which is better. Just use whatever you’re comfortable with.
9) What gear do you use? I use the Sennheiser MKH 416, and I love it. Works well with my voice. In the home studio I send that through a TC Gold Channel. Don’t have a booth, but the expander is so amazing on the Gold Channel, I don’t see a need.
10) What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know? If you don’t have a vocal booth, get inside your car. It works!
11) I’m sure all of the readers are very interested to know (including us), where the nickname “Sludge” derives from…if you don’t mind us asking. I started using “Sludge” when I joined Rock 103.5 WRCX Chicago for late nights. Dave Richards was the PD, and he’s basically the Theo Epstein of radio. However good you are, he’ll make you better. He was there at the beginning of “Sludge”. I think I’ll keep that between me and him. I will say, I was almost “Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago”, instead of “Sludge”.
12) Your Instagram is effing hilarious. HOW do you come up with this stuff?! Were you always the funny guy at school? Why thank you! Follow me @BrianJHaddad I actually was the guy in my group of friends that everyone looked to for a laugh. I’m pretty sure I honed my skills by having 3 older brothers, so I was always looking for attention. There is so much that’s funny to me in everyday life, right? In the official sense, it’s just an extension of branding. Unofficially, I mock just about everything, so thank god social media finally came along. Before that, I was having to call my friends and deliver the content by voice!
13) You’re a big sports guy. What’s your favorite sport to go watch? I’ve been at a Bears/Packers game where it was -7 with -50 wind chill. THAT was livin’. Almost nothing compares to playoff Hockey, because the pace is so fast, it looks like collisions will occur any second. Speaking of which, everyone should go to one NASCAR race. One of my favorite things to do was go to a Cubs game on the rooftops. But the view from those rooftops is kinda blocked now. Sad. Going to see a Michigan football game at the Big House, pretty awesome. I’m a big fight fan. Even though you can see UFC or boxing matches better on TV, it’s still intense to be in the room when 2 guys are trying hurt each other. I guess that’s why Jerry Springer did so well back in the day.
14) If you could go back to any decade and hang out which one would you go back to and why? I wish I could go back to the 80’s, and take my guitar to LA, and see what happens. Maybe I could have been in Guns N’ Roses, kinda like Hot Tub Time Machine! Not to mention, as a proud Gen X’er, I’m starting to think things were cooler before we had smart phones. Cue: “GET OUT OF MY YARD!” drop. I embrace all new tech, and love it. However, I work with many millennials, and they seem fascinated about the stories I tell pre-smart phone involving concerts or actually going to bars to meet women that you did NOT set up in advance with an APP. Insanity! But I should save that debate for a podcast. BTW, please subscribe to The Brian Haddad Podcast!
15) If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be? I’m a huge American history buff, so I was gonna say George Washington. But then I thought Lee Harvey Oswald, to ply him with mashed potatoes to get the real story out of him. At the end of the day, Leonidas, so when I brought out the food, he’d yell, “THIS….IS…..DINNER!!!!!”
16) What’s your guilty pleasure? No question, it’s the MTV Challenge shows. I’m embarrassed how much I love it. Johnny Bananas, CT, Cara Maria. Yup, I know their history.