Zak Miller Interview

Zakmiller1. How did you get involved in audio production?
In my late teens and early twenties I made my living as a carpenter.  When I moved to Augusta Georgia after they put a moratorium on construction in the Florida Keys, there were no substantial paying jobs in the carpenter field.  As I was looking in the newspaper want ads the next thing below “Carpenter” was DJ.  Here is the funny part- Everyone always said that I had a good voice ~haha true story~ so I called to see what the deal was.  They told me they were a new radio station that had not gone on the air yet and they needed DJs.  They told me to send in an “air check tape” and a resume.  I called a buddy of mine that was in radio in Atlanta and asked what an “air check tape” was and he filled me in saying just read the area briefs in the local paper into a tape machine.  I dug out a cassette recorder that my father had since the sixties and went into my spare room and the end result was I scored the midday air slot on WCHZ 95.1!  A week before the station went live the production guy flaked and they came to me and said they would pay me five hundred more a year to be the production director, and I took the gig!  I had no idea what I was doing and the owner knew this to be the case.  He flew a friend in from New York that worked as production director at Z100 to teach me.  Four days of 16 hour work days and I made my first commercial.  It was for a horse show at the Aiken Square Mall in South Carolina.  I will never forget that spot!  All sound design was foley! Which came first, the production or the voicing?  I guess it would be voicing, but they kind of hit at the same time.

2. Where did the name 50 to 1 studios come from?

In May of ’09 I played the long shot in the Kentucky Derby.  Mind that Bird number 8.  I put a fist full of money down on a hunch that I was given a sign from above.  My nephew was staying at my house, and when he was closing the gate a lady drove by and flipped him off when he waived at her.  He came into the house and said in his 7 year old voice, “some lady flipped me the bird!”.  When the call sheet for the Derby came out the next day “Mind that Bird” was a 50 to 1 long shot.  Needless to say, I was the only one at the pay window after the race!  They had a police escort bring me to my car, and that was enough money to fund my studio equipment.  I had seen the writing on the wall at the studio that I ran and knew I had to have my ducks in a row.  Thankfully my passion for horses and sense of humor lead me in the right direction!

3. Tell us about how you race yourself editing.

While working at a studio that did a ton of long form I got bored.  My mother always told me as a kid, if there is a chore you don’t want to do, make game of it!  So, I decided to make a game of editing boring long forms by taking time to edit out pick ups and breaths, mouth noise and such for the first minute of the piece.  Then I would start playing the audio from the start, go to my last edit point, and listen to the piece as I edited by sight down the edit desk.  The game was to see if I could beat the cursor to the end and have a clean edit.  Most times I won, sometimes, depending on the talent, and how on point I was while recording after pick ups, the machine won.

4. Although you haven’t updated there in a while, were did you get the idea for voice actor-isms?

Voice Actorisms came about when I stumbled upon “Bro-isms” from Neil Patrick Harris.   I figured most people in the field could relate and it may bring a smile to someones day.  I have been lax on updating them because they were tied to a part of my life that does not exist any longer, and it is still just a bit to raw on the emotion side to be able to put my mind back in that space.  I hope one day to work past that, but for now, no one can steal the idea! haha

5. Surfing is a big thing for you, how did you get involved with that?

I grew up in Miami and I idolized my older brother.  He surfed all the time! If there were no waves, he was on a skateboard ramp somewhere.  I didn’t really know what it meant to feel the ocean, or the light that surfing can bring to your soul.  I just wanted to do everything he did since he was my hero.  We moved to Spain in ’79 and we had heard of Biaritz France being an awesome surf spot. ( back then, surfing hadn’t hit Europe yet and surfing was still a subculture rather than the mainstream sport you see today) My brother had read about it in Surfer Magazine and somehow got my parents to take us there for the weekend.  It was May, cold and no one was even on the beach. We had a camper van, and stayed right in the car park of the beach.  Tom and I got up early and he told me that “today is the day you learn to surf!”  He then put on his wetsuit, grabbed his board and paddled out.  I didn’t have a wet suit, and will never forget the gripping cold of the North Atlantic in May.  I was wearing a pair of gym shorts (no baggies back then) and a Jimmy Buffet t-shirt.  After an hour or so my brother called me out to the line up.  I swam out, got on the board, a set came in and he pushed me into my first wave.  I stood up and went straight down the line and felt like I had found Heaven.  When I looked back at the beach to see if my mom had seen my epic ride, there was a line of school kids standing on the break wall clapping and laughing at the spectacle of these two Americans playing on a board in the freezing water!  They had no idea what surfing was, and really I didn’t either until that day.  Just like a junkie, I am still searching or that feeling of the first high of riding waves!  There is nothing like paddling off the continent and leaving society behind while focusing on nothing but what is ten feet in front of you.  All the worlds troubles just leave you mind, and it is really only in that minute that I feel alive!

As a post script, if you know anyone who you think would fit in to my ‘techie’ interview series please email me at [email protected] Also, you can check out previous interviews with Morgan Barhart of SociableBoost.com here, Dan Friedman here, Jeff Kafer here, Eric Souer here, George Whittam here, Dylan Gamblin here, Louanne Frederikson here, and Dan Lenard here.

Jeff Bowden, a man with more than 40 years worth of experience in media related fields is the subject of my next interview.

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One comment

  1. […] My daughter Karen Souer has been doing a series of interviews on her blog. The latest entry shines a spotlight on Zak Miller. […]

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