Behind the Mic: Dave Steele
Dave Steele had many different career opportunities, like an electrical engineer. That is what he spent all of his tuition money on. Or, a firefighter, for 8 years, he did that too; dealing with structure fires to auto extrication, even a first responder and training on R.I.T. (Rapid Intervention Teams). The other option was scuba search and recovery; he also did that for a sheriff’s department for 2 years. All great experiences, but throughout, he still loved the radio and entertainment business, and he has been doing it since 1985. Dave started in radio at 15 and by the time he was 22 he was a Program Director. He has been on the air in every day part and position since. The Voice Overs bug caught him back in the late 90’s and in 2000 officially started Steele Imaging, Ltd. His company provides cost effective voice imaging for all projects across a variety of media platforms. Dave knows the media industry moves fast, which is why his clients enjoy same day turnaround time.
What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)? I am currently the imaging voice for over 50 radio stations across the US/Canada and one random station in Sweden.
What are you up to presently (freelance/on-staff at a station)? I still do radio imaging VO work but I have also done TV narration and commercial work for local, regional and national spots.
What do you love about your job? The freedom it gives me to be with my kids and family.
How did you get started as a VO actor? I would just eat up hours and hours in radio station production rooms when I first started as an on-air talent. I got better, then people asked me to voice their stations.
What was your first gig? Any memorable ones since then? I started out doing freelance VO/Production work for Paul Orr at WYNK-FM in New Orleans. He was the first guy to ever say, “Yeah. Ill give you a shot.”
Who are your VO idols/mentors? Charlie Van Dyke, of course. As a part time weekend talent at 98.9 Magic FM KKMG-FM in Colorado Springs, Charlie had delivered the most memorable Top Of Hour ID I have ever (still to this day) hear. It was simple. Big. Magnificent. Powerful. Since the station’s transmitter was on Cheyenne Mountain the ID said, “Serving the Magic Kingdom from the Top of the Rockies, KKMG Pueblo, Colorado Springs. Magic-FM” – And if you know Charlie’s pipes… you know how bad ass that sounded.
If you weren’t doing voiceover, what else do you think you’d be doing for a career? I went to school for Electrical Engineering. So… back up plan. Boring. But a back up plan.
What did it feel like the first time you heard your voice on the radio/television? The first time? I was scared shitless. I was on the air at 15 years old.
How has new technology changed the way you work? Reel to Reel and splicing tape. That is how I learned. DO a VO, drop it in the mail. Buy more supplies, get more stamps, drop it in the mail. Now, digital, upload. Done. Much easier. The problem is, everyone with a 20 microphone, any sound card with a 3.5 mm jack and some recording software thinks that they can do this kind of work… problem is, many times, with better tech and lower price points, people will still go ultra cheap and dummy down the entire industry.
I don’t do road gear. I am not pushing records or pharmaceuticals, selling shower curtain rings or traveling with the circus. This is my job, in my office. Not a closet. Not a bathroom with towels and dirty clothes to dampen the acoustics. I keep regular hours. As for my equipment, I will only say Neumann Microphone, great audio card (because if you skimp on the quality of either… it’s crap in. crap out.). I use various software for recording, depending on the project and complexity.
Which production system do you use and why? Any favorite plugins? I don’t record music, play the guitar or try to lay down drum tracks. So, multi-track systems, while I do know how to use them, over complicate my process. I grew up learning DAW systems when they first came out. Windows was the most prevalent platform. As systems and software came and went, I have settled into the Sound Forge product line. Although I have Vegas, Pro-Tools, Audacity, Audition, Cubase, etc. The Sound Forge system does and have everything I need for VO.
How do you schedule/prioritize your work? How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? I don’t treat this like a hobby. A client sends me something, I cut it. I have studio hours and will be working like it’s a real job during those hours.
What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique everyone should know? Why would I share that? LOL. Why would any established VO talent share this kind of proprietary info that made him or her successful? It’s an over-saturated business, people are trying to break in all the time. Not to sound mean or insensitive, but processing chains, gear settings, etc. This kind of stuff is what give people their signature sound.
Do you have a different approach to reading radio imaging copy as opposed to TV/Radio commercial ads? Yes. All copy, radio, TV, narration, etc. sent to a VO talent has been written by someone who has a specific sound or vision in mind. The way you (the talent) interpret that may not be correct. Never assume you are awesome and your reads are above reproach. If needed, get input from the writer/producer/director to find out what they were envisioning when they wrote it.
If you could go back in time and hang out in any decade which one would you go back to and why? I had fun all throughout my life. Enjoyed my experiences and failures. I don’t look back. I am excited to see what happens next.
Favorite 2 pizza toppings? Anything. Everything.
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would it be? Mike Rowe.
Website (Steele Imaging): http://www.steeleimaging.com/
Thanks for the interview, Dave!