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Words with Marc Silk: The Voice of Roller Rally

Though you might not have heard of Roller Rally voiceover artist, Marc Silk, you will have almost certainly heard his work. The voice of children’s TV hero, Johnny Bravo, Bob the Builder in the US and the narrator of Pingu, Marc also found the time to lend his voice to Star Wars: Episode 1. We caught up with the man with many voices to find out where it all went right.

“I was on a media course at school and had to present a mock radio show,” explains Marc. “I was terrified! I was the quiet student that wanted to be creative behind the scenes but it made me try something out of my comfort zone, and I loved it!”

The mock-up show was a hit, mixing together Marc’s unusual mix of heroes, interests and influences. The segment even drew attention from the mainstream media, with the likes of Radio 4 building a feature on it. “It ended up with a bit of a cult following,” laughs Marc.

With an obvious talent for radio already apparent  it wasn’t long before another ability began to manifest itself. “I started as a producer in radio,” explains Marc. “I needed voices, but there was no one else around, so I did them myself!

“When I first started out, I saved up and sold things to help me pay for a good microphone and basic recording kit so I could develop performance and production skills at home,” he says.”The experience in radio was great. This lead to me being recommended to Children’s ITV. During the first afternoon of presenting live continuity on CITV, I got a call from a producer at Disney. He liked what I was doing and offered me a job. It was a good day!”

Is the career path of a voiceover artist a difficult one? “Everyone’s story is different” he says. “It can be tough to get started in any career. The best way to get into a creative industry is to be creative.”

“Working with George Lucas was a genuine honour. He was a pleasure to work with, he even offered me a crisp!”

With an impressive CV behind him, a standout for any fanboy or girl is his role in Star Wars. Playing Aks Moe in Episode 1, what was it like to work with George Lucas? “I am a big Star Wars Fan,” he explains. “Working with George Lucas was a genuine honour. He was a pleasure to work with, he even offered me a crisp! We recorded at Abbey Road Studios, which was another dream come true.”

Are there any other figures in the industry that you look up to? “For me, it all started with Mel Blanc,” explains Marc. “He was the guy that performed virtually all of Warner Bros characters in the 1940′s and 50′s. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Pie – all Mel Blanc! He was also Barney Rubble in the Flintstones. I loved his range of voices.

“There’s also a stack of people that have influenced me. Jim Henson, Kenny Everett, Daws Butler and my Mom and Dad come high on the list. I was once lucky enough to meet Don Messick; the original voice of Scooby Doo. It was real treat for me to perform as Scooby and Shaggy in a recent TV production.”

What makes a good voiceover artist? “Be a good listener,” he explains. “Take direction well. Offer something unique. Be versatile. Be curious. Get on with people. Have fun!

“Every production is different,” he says. “I’m often shown a picture of the character and given its various characteristics. “He’s a loveable, huggable, bashful, slightly naughty Slug, with a heart of gold that has crush on another character. He also needs to sound slimy / wet. What do you think?!” That was the description for Slugsy in ‘Fifi and the Flowertots’.

“On another production I could arrive, and be told “deep New York Brooklyn gangster”. I play with a bunch of ideas in the studio on mic, and we develop it from there.”

What’s the most enjoyable part of the job? “I enjoy the variety,” he says. “Today I have recorded character lines for a new game, a bunch of radio commercials, Alfred Hitchcock style lines for a film promotion, and travelled to Manchester for tomorrow’s recording of a new Cbeebies show. I also love the enormous fun that is to be had during recording sessions. It’s good to enjoy your day! Every day is different.”

Playing a game that features your own character voices can be an unusual experience. It brings a whole new meaning to playing with yourself!

Having recently completed work on the Roller Rally 5-level update, is Marc a big gamer himself? “I was a big gamer when I was at school,” he says. “I had a BBC micro! My favourites were its rip-offs of arcade classics; Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders. I also went through a stack of consoles, starting in 1983 with the Phillips Videopac G7000! (Look it up – it was a monster!) I have very fond memories of playing its Golf game with my Dad. Playing a game that features your own character voices can be an unusual experience. It brings a whole new meaning to playing with yourself!

What’s next for Marc Silk? “I would love to work with Pixar, and again with Aardman (Animation). It’s the dream team. Creating an animated comedy is also on the “would like to do” list. I already have material recorded. The next step is working with the good guys to get it on the telly. All suggestions are welcome!

To find out more about Marc Silk, head on over to marcsilk.com or follow Marc on Twitter, @marcsilk.