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Voice Artist • Podcaster • Broadcaster
James Arnold Taylor
James Arnold Taylor
James Arnold Taylor
James Arnold Taylor
James Arnold Taylor
James Arnold Taylor

James Arnold Taylor

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James Arnold Taylor

The man of many voices, James Arnold Taylor has been heard in millions of households around the globe. He can be heard on countless TV programmes and films, and over the last 20+ years has played iconic characters such as Fred Flintstone, Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Flash, and many more. His popular podcast 'Talking to Myself' gives fans a great insight into voice acting and a close-up look at his extraordinary talent.

Star Wars Clone Wars, Final Fantasy X, The Flintstones, Ratchet and Clank, Young Justice, Jonny Test
The shortest kid in class, to voice acting in Hollywood

"I started as a stand-up comic when I was around 16 years old. I’ve always loved sound and creating imagery with it. Even as a little kid, I had tape recorders, and I was recording things. I was always the shortest kid in my class - I was a bit of a nerd - but I could do voices. So it was like this other world I got to live in and it kept me from getting bullied. Microphones were always my friend, because they helped me create the environment my voice could escape to.

I got into radio at 17, then I was a DJ and copy writer and production director for many years at various radio stations. Most voice actors have worked in radio in some capacity or another. That's where I honed my craft, learned how to work a microphone, and how to use the recording equipment. I actually started sweeping up at a local radio station. I just went in and asked “How do you get into radio?” I took whatever jobs I could get there to watch and learn. I watched all the DJ’s do their shows, and one night the overnight DJ didn’t make it in and they had me do his show! Within a few months I took over that shift and the rest of my radio career just flowed from there. It was like out of a movie, the kid got his shot at the big time and took it!

From there I got into writing and producing radio comedy for a national syndicator. I wrote, voiced and produced comedy 'bits' for  everybody from Howard Stern to Rick Deez for just over 12 years. They'd be Saturday Night Live-type sketches, and fake commercials and interactions with the DJ.  It was fun but basically the DJ’s would take the credits for it all. so you were anonymous… Actually voice-acting is similar in that sense, but even so it was always my goal to be a voice actor in Hollywood."

Disney, Coca-Cola and voice doubling

"My first voice work was for Disney, they were building 'California Adventure' the theme park, and they hired me to do voices in it. I was the voice on a radio playing in a 1950’s convertible that was converted into a Coca-Cola vending machine. It played this old-time radio announcement that aliens had landed on earth… I did all the voices, the radio announcer, the aliens, even the women and children in the background! It was a lot of fun and Disney realised I could do many voices, so they had me do even more for them.

After the work for Disney I still needed an agent so I would produce my friends voiceover demos out of my home studio that I'd built for all my radio work; and instead of charging them I would have them take my demos to their agents with the hope that one would eventually listen to my tapes and like what I was doing… Eventually one did.  I finally had an agent and began auditioning for major TV, radio and film projects in Hollywood.

Some of my first big work was doing promos for ABC Television for shows like Spin-City, The Drew Carey Show, Whose Line is it Anyway and more… I had also put a demo together called “60 Voices in 60 Seconds” and it got me a lot of attention as a voice-double, which is basically like a stunt person for famous people's voices, if sound was bad on a filming or they needed to change a line or take out the cussing for TV and airplane versions. Or, if there were toys and video games based on movies, it was cheaper for the studio to hire a voice-actor than to pay the actual celebrity.

My first big doubling jobs were for Michael J. Fox, for things like “Stuart Little” and “Atlantis the Lost Empire”.  Voice-doubling is different than impersonating someone, you have to really study not just their voice, but their acting beats and mannerisms.  You have to make everyone believe it’s actually the actor and not someone 'doing' their voice.  If I do my job right with voice-doubling no one, perhaps even the actor themselves, knows it’s me! I double regularly for people like Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor, Jay Baruchel, David Spade, Christopher Walken, Christopher Lloyd, Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy, Ian McKellen and more…"

Character Acting

"I see myself and other voice-actors as simply character actors, I try not to over emphasis the 'voice' part because for some reason most people in Hollywood think then you’re not a 'real' actor, you’re just a guy that does funny voices for kids' stuff, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Voice-acting is a true skill and there is an art to doing it right. The proof is in the fact that though many people want to do it, there’s still only a very small group in Hollywood that does most of it. I am very lucky to be in that group and take it as a great honor to be a part of these amazing performers… I guess I fooled them into believing I can do it… [laughs]

The biggest jobs that have come my way are from video games and animated TV Shows, in some of the biggest franchises in the world like Star Wars, Back to the Future, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as DC and Marvel. My first real big job that got worldwide attention was voicing a character by the name of Tidus, in Final Fantasy X, which was the first of the series to feature voices, so it truly made a big splash. I still get letters from fans regularly thanking me for my performance, which was 18 years ago. Most of my work really took off back then."

Iconic Characters

"I first portrayed the most famous character I voice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, back then in 2001, for the video games and the 'Clone Wars' Micro-Series, which is different from the now Emmy-winning 'Star Wars the Clone Wars' most people know. Obi-Wan is an amazing honor to get to voice, and I pinch myself daily that I have been so blessed to provide his voice, and it afforded me the chance to host the biggest Star Wars Events on the planet, Disney’s Star Wars Weekends and Star Wars Celebration. The Jedi Knight also allowed me to introduce the world to my one man stage show, 'Talking to Myself' which takes you behind the scenes of my life as a voice-actor in Hollywood and tells the story of how I lost my voice to toxic-mold poisoning back in 2005 which almost devastated my career - long story, but the short version is after a lot of hard work and rehabilitation I have my voice back stronger than ever.

The other characters that most might know me as are Fred Flintstone the iconic caveman, Ratchet from the 'Ratchet & Clank' video game series and the feature film. 'Johnny Test' from the Cartoon of the same name, Leonardo the Ninja Turtle in the 2007 feature film “TMNT”, LEGO Spider-Man, LEGO Flash, LEGO Silver Surfer, LEGO Professor X, Magneto, Green Arrow, to name a few.  I’ve literally been hundreds of characters in my career and I truly consider myself the luckiest actor in the world to have such a wide range of characters.  I also have been the voice of Fox TV’s Animation Domination for shows like, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers and many, many more through the years."

 

Capturing my Voice

"I truly love any chance I have to be on a microphone performing. I’ve had many home studios through the years. Back in the early 90’s my studio consisted of huge mixing boards and outboard gear, like compression, EQ, sonic maximizers, DAT and ADAT recorders, and before that multi-track reel to reel tape machines. I loved it all, but I will say that nowadays the simplicity of everything being in the computer through Pro Tools is a lot easier to manage and create with. The first DAW I worked in was called Sonic Solutions and I remember being astounded by what it could do all within the computer… Now my gear is pretty paired down. I use a Universal Audio LA-610 Mk II Pre-Amp, and feed it into my Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt, which goes directly to my little 'trashcan' Mac Pro.

So really the microphones are the fun gear these days. I’ve got quite a few but honestly, the one I’m talking into right now and is set up at my mixing desk for my weekly podcast - called 'Talking to Myself' like my stage show - is the Aston Origin. I truly love the look, and sound of it. The way I found it was that I was about to start recording a show on my YouTube channel called 'Clone Wars Conversations'. It's a show where I interview my castmates from the TV show 'Clone Wars'.  At the end of each episode, I was doing a feature where we would be 'in the studio' recording a scene from a famous film or show in our characters' voices. I built the set with a specific look and feel and wanted a microphone that reflected a very unique and 'cool' look. I called Anthony Giraldi at Sweetwater.com out here in the States where I get all my gear and he said "You've got to check out this mic. Have you heard of Aston microphones?” I looked it up and right off the bat, I thought that it was the most awesome looking microphone I've ever seen.

I bought two of them. I set them up in the studio and even did a little unboxing of them for my YouTube channel. I was so excited when I got them and used them on the show. Every time I had one of my castmates in they would ask me about them. However, the thing I was most impressed about the Origin is it’s sound. I’ve got Neumanns, I've got Sennheisers, Audio Technicas, and one of my other favorites, a Gefell, and the Origin fits right in with all these high end (and high priced) mics. I loved that the Origin was so transparent. I felt this was capturing what I was doing vocally. For singers that is so important but for voice actors, it's crucial. When you're doing a voice, you want to hear that depth. If I do Fred Flintstone I've got to create depth with my voice that I, as a 5' 4", 120-pound guy, doesn't necessarily have naturally. But I pull it from different places in my voice and the microphone captures that; and that was so impressive to me. It also caught all the mids of my voice - and sounded great with every guest I had on the show as well."

It’s all just me in a little padded room talking to myself...

"I’ve been told by engineers in sessions that it can be a little tricky to find the right mic to capture all of my voice's range properly, I think mainly because, again, people don’t expect me to have a big low end, and they also want to get the highs… The Origin has been great because it really captures all the highs, mids and lows. That's why I love it for my podcast, which features me doing all the voices, and many varied ranges of characters… I wanted a mic that could handle all the instant changes I do as I don’t edit - it’s all live. Some voices are big guys and some are squeaky little guys and even a girl's voice so it’s important to give the illusion that all these people are in the studio with me on their own mics. The truth is it’s all just me in a little padded room talking to myself… I’ve proclaimed The Aston Origin, the 'Official' microphone of the JATcast, which is what I call the show.

I would add that the Aston Swiftshield is an absolute necessity for my work and I love how it fits around the mic, you don’t have to move it around to find the 'sweet spot' it goes where the mic goes which saves time and avoids mistakes - plus it looks awesome!"

The Origin for everything!

"I use the Origin for recording sound effects on my podcast as well. A lot of the sound effects within the show are just my own voice. After I record the dialogue, I'll go back and put sounds and music in. I find that I'm using the Origin for all of that, whereas in the past I might set up a Sennheiser 416 or something. But now, I’m using the Origin for everything, and it's really great.

So much of my work is done from my home studio so people are hearing my Astons on more than just my podcast, and that’s exciting because it shows how it is on par with microphones that have been around for decades.

I’m really excited to try out the new Stealth mic! There are just so many fascinating elements of it, for gearheads like me that’s exciting!  A lot of times engineers will go "keep it classic, keep this mic, don't mess with anything”. But now there are new technologies and new sounds to be made, and new ways of recording. So I think it's a great time for something like the Stealth to come out because it allows all this new experimentation that's going on in the world of sound, not just in music, but in voice and the spoken word. It really opens up doors, I think in ways that people are accepting of now, where they weren't so much in the past, since studios can be pretty much anywhere now, from someones garage, to their walk in closet, to just their living room. The way we record sound now really has no limits. I can't wait to kind of see that first hand."

Outtakes and Credits

Q. Who are your favourite voiceover and music artists?
A. Mel Blanc and Don Messick from the old days, but current legends in voice-acting are two people I am humbled to call friends, Jim Cummings and Frank Welker. If people don't know their names, they should look them up. Frank and Jim have been in more of the top blockbusters in movie history than any other named actors, including Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks.

You’d never know it because they're voice actors and they don’t get a lot of credit but you know their voices and the sounds they create. Frank Welker is Scooby Doo, and Freddie. He's the voice of so many different sounds and monsters and creatures in movies. Jim Cummings is Winnie the Pooh and Tigger to and they're just wonderful, amazing talents.

As far as music goes I've got quite an eclectic range… My iPod will consist of a mix of everything from Jeff Goldblum’s jazz piano, Keith Urban, Fall Out Boy, Annie Lennox, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles (obviously), Jeff Lynne (a.k.a. ELO), Jason Mraz, Jars of Clay, Brandon Heath… I’m even really digging the soundtrack to 'The Greatest Showman' - such a big sound on some of those tracks, I love Classic R&B like Donny Hathaway, Nina Simone, or Jazz like Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck… But we’re big 80’s fans here at the Taylor house too, so lots of Tears for Fears, Van Halen, Def Leppard, Journey, Oingo Boingo, Phil Collins, Billy Joel… Like I said it’s a big mix of lots of stuff, I think from being a DJ in the 80’s and growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, you really got exposed to some great variations of music.

However, all that said I’m also a sucker for Beethoven. I listen to a lot of classical music and soundtracks from films like (of course), Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, to more modern ones like The Social Network, Inception, Batman… I truly love music, it’s at the soul of all life, so a wide range is important to me.

Q. If you weren't working in voice acting or that industry, what do you think you would be doing?
A. I think I would probably be a chef. I always loved cooking, I do all the cooking in my house. As I mentioned earlier, I lost my voice to black toxic mold which was discovered in our house. I got incredibly sick and I couldn't speak at all. I had to learn to retrain my voice. And when I did, I also had to change my my diet to cleanse my body of the mold. So I learned from macrobiotic chefs and vegan chefs how to prepare all this great healthy food to cleanse my body of the mold. But ever since I was a little kid, I loved cooking. I’ve always said, if all else fails I'll become a chef, since it’s another way to make people happy which is one of my favorite things in life, it’s why I love entertaining as well.

Q. How would you describe your experience with Aston Microphones?
A. Beautifully artistically made/ Made for what I do. Or perhaps as my alter ego Obi-Wan Kenobi might say, “It’s an elegant microphone for a more civilized age.”

Q.What was the first song that made you cry?
A. Actually, that’s an easy one to answer… As I said I am a sucker for classical music. I think music in general is the closest thing to heaven we can get. The song was, and still is one that brings me to tears… Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 “Pathétique”, It’s truly amazing - It's been used in so many rock and roll songs from Kiss to Billy Joel.

But I first heard it in a Peanuts cartoon when I was four or five… Snoopy was ice skating to it as Schroeder played it on his little toy piano. I remember thinking it was beautiful even back then and it just made me emotional it stirred me. I still listen to it often and it still stirs me the same way, that’s the beauty of music.

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