KROQ’s Rich Rubin on Van Driving, ProTools and Kevin Weatherly

We really appreciate Rich Rubin taking time out of his busy schedule to tell our readers a little about VO & imaging – and his career in radio. To see his profile on Benztown’s VO roster, please click here.

What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)? In Denver: KTCL/Channel 93.3, KBPI 106.7, KRFX 103.5, KOA 850 & KHOW 630. In Sacramento: KWOD 106.5, KSEG 96.9, KRXQ 98.5. San Diego: 91X, Z90.3. Los Angeles: KROQ 106.7, KCBS 93.1. Name a product, there’s a good chance I voiced it 🙂 

What are you up to presently? Along with Kurt St. Thomas, I’m a part-time/fill-in DJ on KROQ 106.7. So when Sluggo or Nicole Alvarez or Kat Corbett or Stryker is on holiday or gets sick, I cover them. I voice commercials for KROQ, I’m in the stable of VO dudes for Pandora and do spots for Volkswagen, LA Kings, American Express, Capitol One, Mazda, Lexus, Toyota, Corner Bakery, Comcast, Jet Blue, Onavo, TX Dot, REI & I’m the voice of KICA (K98) in Clovis, NM

How did you get started as a VO actor? What was your first gig? I also do on-camera tv commercials. and a lot of times they want you to do a vo for their radio spots as well. So in the late 80’s i booked a tv spot for Hamburger Stand’s “Hero Burgers” and they also had me do the radio vo. In Denver when I was APD & doing mornings on KTCL, the Van’s Skatepark had me doing reads 2x a month. At that station all the DJs were required to read ad copy, pretty standard stuff. But sometimes I was too busy to read but our sales rep told me “Vans really wants your voice on the spot.” So I said something like “I’m sorry I don’t have time.” Then jokingly I said “tell them I’ll find time for $200.00.” An hour later the sales rep came back & said “OK Vans will pay you $200.00 per spot.” Then I realized that this might be something I could make some extra scratch at and I really liked doing them. So I googled a vo agent in Denver & found the amazing Kathleen Ham @ Donna Baldwin Talent. I auditioned & I’m STILL with her over 10 years later. 🙂

Have you ever had a voice coach? I’ve had VO coaches- TONS of them – but not a formal voice coach. I used to sing as a kid and learned how to control & save my voice early on. I’m also lucky in that I have strong pipes- I can really yell- all day long. Ask my friends who would like me more if I could shut-up for two seconds 🙂 IMO the best VO coach in the country is Elaine Clark in San Francisco.

Gary is a huge fan of Rich Rubin.

Who are your VO idols/mentors? Who influenced your work as a voice-over artist? My idols are now the guys that I compete with, at least commercially. I don’t win very much against these guys but I like the competition. John Corbett (The Applebees VO Guy) in my opinion is the best. He’s so natural. He’s so in demand that he’s now a “type.” I’ll get breakdowns saying “We’re looking for a John Corbett type.” Which means “don’t announce, just be natural” and he has locked up that kind of read. I also like Brad Bird. He directed Ratatouille, The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, a few Simpons episodes etc. He’s also an amazing vo actor. Christopher Meledandri who produced the Ice Age movies & Despicable Me is also someone I really respect.

What is your dream job? To be the lead VO in a Pixar film.

Where did you work before radio? Tended bar, did TV commercials, drove a van for KROQ.

What would be your 3 main tips for a youngster trying to start a VO career?

  1. Know what kind of voice you have. We all want to be LaFontaine but he simply had a set of pipes that allowed him to be the “In A World” guy. If you’re not that kind of voice, then don’t try for that kind of vo career.
  2. TAKE CLASSES FROM PEOPLE WHO WORK IN THE VO INDUSTRY. Ask people who you know book spots outside of the radio industry. Find out who runs good one-off classes, or “industry nights” or ongoing classes. There’s no rules to vo but there is good word of mouth and learning from people who know.
  3. You had better love it because even working vo actors have to audition and audition and audition…Then audition again. I’m on my 4th today.

About Your Work:

What is it like to work for Kevin Weatherly, one of the most influential programmers in radio? Working for Kevin Weatherly is a lesson in being succinct. He simply knows what he wants from his staff, says it once and off you go. When I was a KROQ Van Driver in the late 90’s I found myself sitting next to Kevin Weatherly @ Dalt’s- the bar/grill in the brown building overlooking Forrest Lawn where KROQ used to be. I was making fun of someone who had a shitkicker voice. Kevin Weatherly heard it, smiled and said “you have a great voice for radio.” I had no idea who he was as I had just started to work there. My buddy Jeb (“Nerf”, PD of KTCL in Denver) was with me and told me that I just got the best compliment ever from the guy you WANT that kind of compliment from. Influential in many ways is Kevin Weatherly. I have to mention KROQ OM Gene Sandbloom too. Gene is amazing in his work ethic and getting me to a “good on-air place” @ KROQ. Not possible without his guidance as well.

How do you schedule your work (priorities…..)? I’m lucky in that I’m mostly free in the day & I have a home & portable studio. I don’t have to schedule/prioritize much. Today for example I went into Abrams to audition for a lottery spot, then came back home to do 2 Pandora re-reads. As long as I know the time frame I have to record, It’s usually not a scheduling issue.

Which production system do you use and why? Pro-Tools. It’s what we had @ KWOD in Sacramento. I had to learn it so…yeah. I also like it. I’m not producing multi-tracks, just mono auditions and Pro-Tools works just fine on my MAC….from 2005…*gah* i’m going to have to get a new computer soon!

What are your favorite plugins (including screenshots)? Izotope Vinyl. That’s it. I’m not a big Plug-In guy as I don’t image stations anymore. 

What gear do you use (microphone, pre-amp, booth, …)? MBOX/Pro-Tools, an AMAZING Sennheiser MKH Condenser Mic & my 2005 MAC. My booth is a small closet. Honest! I’ve told people this and they look at me puzzled. Then I play them this national Ford spot that I recorded from this “studio” and then they understand.

What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique anybody should know? For some KROQ spots, I’ll use the “Bass Guitar” setting on the Pro-Tools audiosuite. But honestly if you need voice enhancements then you’re probably not 100% right for the gig. In my experience there are no tricks. Practice practice practice your copy. Take care of your voice. Have a point of view & break down copy before you step into your booth. Know the subtext of your copy. Who are you talking to? What do you want? What are you selling? It will always come down to what’s going INTO the mic and not what you can do to enhance that. The only technique I can think of is your slate. The slate can make a potential client listen more intently to your audition. You don’t have to go crazy but it doesn’t hurt to say your name is a genuine friendly yet still business-like tone before you start reading.

When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? See my answer above 🙂 I think that there are some amazing vo artists out there who are amazing because they have a formula that works. Whatever works for you so that by the time you start recording you know exactly how you want to come across. For gear/studio I found what works for me. Except for my mic my home studio was set up in ’05. But it works as I have never once gotten a complaint. It might be because it’s so simple and again, I’m just laying down mono vo tracks. It’s not fancy, there are no tricks. I have a formula that works for me and I stick to it.

On a side note, here’s a really cool archive of the old KROQ logos we found, thanks to logopedia.

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