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The Evolution Of The Audio Industry: A Conversation With Van Gunter – Part 1
Episode 17015th February 2023 • Audio Branding • Jodi Krangle
00:00:00 00:37:11

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“It was one of those like 'this is what I wanted, wow, this is Johnny Fever, this is radio, and then it, kind of honestly, it quickly declined after that, because of, you know, changes and Napster recording things, stealing things, and the DJ really, um, for the companies I worked with, lost their importance to the corporate creative team, which was a real disappointment. I mean, there’s nothing worse than getting into something that you love to do your creative part and then, like, ‘oh yeah, welcome aboard! We don’t do creative anymore.’” -- Van Gunter


My next guest has spent over twenty years as a voice actor, eight years as a radio DJ, and, for the last sixteen years, has been an audio engineer. He works with his best friends and is part owner of the studio where he began as an intern, Boutwell Studios. His name is Van Gunter.

We were introduced by Kelley Buttrick many years back when he attended his first FaffCon, and I've been trying to get him on this podcast for a long time, so I'm very excited that he was able to join me for this interview. His understanding of how things work both in front of and behind the glass is bound to make for some very interesting observations and golden nuggets. And, of course, sound has been a big part of his life for a long long time. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!

As always, if you have questions for my guests, you’re welcome to reach out through the links in the show notes.  And if you have questions for me, visit where you’ll find a lot of ways to get in touch. Plus, subscribing to the newsletter will let you know when the new podcasts are available. And if you’re getting some value from listening, feel free to spread that around and share it with a friend, along with leaving an honest review. Both those things really help – and I’d love to feature your review on future podcasts. You can leave one either in written or in voice format from the podcast’s main page. I would so appreciate that.


Being Johnny Fever

As the interview starts, Van tells us about his first memories of sound, from his parents sneaking into his room to check on him as a toddler to the terrifying first impression a birthday party made on him. “And it was the sound of all these kids screaming,” he says, “and like thirty balloons popping.” We talk about how WKRP in Cincinnati helped inspire his career in radio, and how school systems at the time didn’t have a good answer for future voice artists like him. “I didn’t have a clear direction of what to do with being a disrupter,” Van tells us. “I just knew that I was loud and talked and tried to be nice.”


Like a Rock Star

Next, we discuss his early career as a radio DJ and the ups and downs that the 21st century has brought to the industry.  “When they say that ‘we’re not gonna do contracts this year,’” Van warns us, “[that] it ‘doesn’t matter,’ you’re next.” He recalls being a disc jockey for an alternative music station just before the switch to digital audio, and how, for a time, his dream of being WKRP’s Johnny Fever came true. “It was a brief amazing period of my life when I felt like I got treated like a rock star.”


Making You Move

Van tells us how the changing industry led him to Boutwell Studios and how his role quickly expanded from a DJ to a voiceover artist and audio engineer, a success he attributes to "a lot of anxiety and a lot of kindness from the people that I worked with." He shares his vocal warm-up routine and the important role hip-hop and jazz play. "It makes you move and it gets your blood flowing," he says, "and you're excited, and all of a sudden you're smiling and you can't remember why."


Because You’re Awesome

“Before I go into the booth,” Van says, “I always say I am about to kill it. I am about to kill it because I’m awesome.” He tells us the advice he gives younger voice talent on how to perform with confidence and how his audio analysis of the famous Yanny/Laurel audio meme from a few years back gave him fresh insight into how our perceptions of sound can influence the way we think about the world around us. “It was just such a weird phenomenon and I totally bought into it too,” he recalls, “I thought people were messing with me.... but it really did change the way that I do my VO life.”


Episode Summary

  • Van’s early memories of sound, from nursery footsteps to popping balloons
  • How Johnny Fever helped inspire Van to become a radio DJ
  • The changes digital and streaming audio have brought to the industry
  • Van’s vocal warm-up routine and the importance of keeping a positive attitude
  • The impact our assumptions about sound can have on our daily lives


Tune in next week as Van and I talk about the power of teamwork and comradery in the voice industry, as we take a look at some of Boutwell's latest projects, including for Birmingham's Sidewalk Film Festival and the TV show DIY Science Time, and how his superpower is speaking canine.


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Editing/Production by Humberto Franco -