As one half of Two Bards Productions, a busy northwest actor and podcaster, Scott C. Brown helped bring the original four Airship Daedalus Radio Adventures to life, directing and voicing the Daedalus‘ malcontent mechanic, Rivets. We cornered Scott in a dark alley and threatened to beat him with a fire hose if he didn’t do an interview…
Q: How did you come to the original Airship Daedalus radio adventures project? Were you already a fan of retro pulp adventure, or was this outside your genre(s) of interest?
A: I first met Todd Downing at a local watering hole after some film community function. At the time I had big ol’ mutton chops, and this lovely lady was happily giving me a hard time and pulling on them. Then Todd appeared, like he does, and asked what his wife was doing. I immediately froze, and she responded something to the effect “I’m playing with this nice man’s facial hair. Feel it.” And from that moment on, we were brother’s from another’s mother.
It was just after The Collectibles had wrapped shooting, and was in the editing phase, so there was nothing immediate for Todd and I to collaborate on, but we knew we wanted to do something. And he showed me this awesome pulp comic that he and Brian Beardsley had done called Airship Daedalus. I immediately liked the name, and we began talking about how awesome pulp radio was back in the day. I’m not sure if or I initially started talking about doing a vintage recording of the comic, but eventually we knew that we were going to work on it together.
We sat down, he fleshed out the script, I went to work on logistics, and thinking about casting, then we had auditions/interviews with folks we were interested in, and everyone we talked to was totally game. So then we had to decide if, since we were doing a lot of the production side of things, if we also wanted to do voices. DUH!! So, that’s when we gave ourselves some smaller parts, and launched into the wonderful world of pulp radio! It was a blast, and even knowing what little we did at the time, it turned out very well. I would love the opportunity with the equipment I have now, and firmer grasp on recording and post production to have a shot at another pulp story. Who knows, time will tell.
I’ll talk later about my love of pulp radio.
Q: What did you like most about playing Rivets? What were the challenges?
A: I love the character of Rivets because he’s just that sidekick kinda guy, maybe even a sidekick to a sidekick, but he has pearls of wisdom to share. He’s also the guy you want in the scrap when the chips are down, and all hell’s breaking loose. He’s just a really cool character, and I’m glad Todd was willing to entrust that guy to me.
The challenges are that you don’t want to make a stereotype character. That would just cheapen him, make him laughable, and ruin any impact that he might have. On the other hand, Todd and I felt that he was an archetype character, meaning that he was one that folks should identify with easily and feel familiar with, so that they can identify the role he plays in the overall story. So we figured he was basically a mechanic (plus a whole lot more) and was one of the guys in the thick of things mostly. I gave him a gravelly, deep voice, so that his words would immediately carry weight, and I thought that geographically he would come from the Eastern US, and I have him that sort of accent. Or maybe it was Chicago. Either way, he’s a rougher, tougher kinda guy. A real leatherneck.
Q: How is your approach different for VO than for film or stage acting, if it is at all different? Do you enjoy voice acting?
A: I love voice acting, and wish I could do more. In the process of figuring out how to increase the number of VO projects I can get involved in.
The approach is in fact different, I believe, from film or stage acting, in that you usually get to use a lot of physical action to back up your vocal work. You can show things with your body that you don’t necessarily have to follow through with using your voice. You can appear happy, sad, depressed, excited, tired, etc. all with your body, and your voice can be doing something else. With Voice Acting, you have to convey everything with your voice, so you have to make strong decisions, and convey everything with only the sound of your voice. Which in the Golden Era of Radio, was probably even more exaggerated because the majority of folks listening weren’t well versed in film, and only some stage, which at the time, needed to have a lot of vocal projection to reach the back of houses, and was highly stylized. And due to that, I think there is a definite style, if you will, of the radio shows. And I love it.
Q: What appeals to you about the vintage pulp formula of storytelling? Feel free to point out examples.
A: The pulp formula is very predictable in general, 3 Act structure, based around the commercials and length of the programs, and so you get the Set Up, The Event, The Conclusion mostly. It’s quick, easy to digest, and makes you want to hear the next program. Like binge watching Netflix, you don’t want to wait till next week. That was prominent with the Serials type programs with the “What will happen next? Tune in next week to find out how the Lone Ranger and Tonto will get out of this one.” sort of thing. That was great too. It’s just a wonderful form of story telling, and is readily and easily identifiable.
And as the stories grew more popular, there were more varieties of them, and some became less stylized, and more “reality” based. And some used a bit of both. If you remember, for instance, the old Batman and Robin TV series, at least to my recollection, Batman (and Bruce Wayne) almost always spoke in a “normal” voice, meter, rhythm, while Robin (and Dick Grayson) would be more animated and stylized. The villains would seem to change between the two styles, depending on the circumstances and who they were talking to. I think that started in the pulp radio, usually in detective themed stories like Dragnet or westerns like Gunsmoke. But in the older programs like murder mysteries, Cruise of the Poll Parrott, as an example, things were very dramatic. The melodrama was alive and well in early pulp radio.
Damsel – “I can’t pay the rent.”
Villain – “You must pay the rent.”
Damsel – “I CAN’T pay the rent.”
Villain – “You MUST pay the rent.”
Hero – “I’LL pay the rent.”
Yeah, that’s some good stuff right there.
Oh, man! And product tie ins!!! Getting the decoder ring, or the clues on the boxes of cereal, or turn in enough box tops/labels/coupons and get a cool gadget or trinket that would put you right in the thick of the action!! Yeah, way better than what is done now. It was some marketing genius at the time. I wish they would go back to that sort of thing, but that ship has sailed. Too bad. That was the real social media marketing. Maybe not for adults, but it sure was for kids, talking about the latest shows that aired the night before, showing off the latest swag one had gotten, making me run home and tell mom I wanted to get the same cereal as Jimmy had because he got a cool spy thing-a-ma-jig. Yup, that was some good stuff too.
Q: What is your favorite retro or actual vintage pulp character, story or franchise? Why?
A: I don’t know as I have a real favorite pulp, but if I had to pick one and only one, I’d go with the Green Hornet. It reminds me of time with my mom, when as a child we would stay up late at night, watching old black and white movies, and I’d call out a title and she would tell me the actors in it, or I would give her a year and actors, and she would tell me the title. It’s how I became enamored with Acting in general, and specifically, the way that mom used to talk about going to the nickle theater and watching all the shows in the 40’s. It was a bonding time for us, and I will be eternally grateful to her for giving me that gift. Welling up in the ol’ eye sockets just writing this part. But seriously, she gave me the gift of being moved by words, and I wanted to be the one to move people. In some small way, I have accomplished that, and hope to continue to do more of it.
Other favorite pulps would be Boston Blackie, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Fort Laramie, Gunsmoke, Lone Ranger, Molle Mystery Theater, The Shadow, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Dragnet. You can catch any number of these today on radio stations that play the program “When Radio Was”. Look ’em up and discover the joys of old time pulp radio!
Q: What else are you currently working on, and where can we check it out?
I haven’t been working on much as of late. I have been doing more website build-outs, and that is helping to pay the bills. I have a major project I’m working on now, and another 3 smaller ones lined up. Creatively, I believe a film I am very proud of will be releasing soon. I can’t talk much about it but if you go to Facebook or Twitter, and put in #projectapophis, you’ll see some stuff.
Thank you Mr. Todd Downing for this lovely interview. I must say, and tell the reading public, that you have never looked better than you have during this interview. Stunning man. Stunning.