Final Fantasy XV’s Ray Chase, who voiced fan favorite lead Noctis Lucis Caelum, spoke to The Natural Aristocrat at Anime NYC 2019 about Square Enix’ development process and the ebb and flow of the voice acting industry.
During an Anime NYC 2019 interview, Ray Chase described what built up the foundations of his vocal range, the difference between working in the Gaming and Anime industry, and the fear of losing a role. In fact, fans will be surprised to hear that Chase temporarily lost the role of Noctis Lucis Caelum for sounding too much like Gladio in the Final Fantasy XV demo. However, he received a rare opportunity in the industry to reaudition and won it back. In part because fellow FFXV voice actor Keythe Farley “went to bat for him.” For that, Ray Chase is forever grateful.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: A lot of fans have described you as a voice chameleon. How you’re able to jump from voices like Noctis Lucis Caelum to Piccolo effortlessly and that kind of thing. What does it take to bring that kind of range out of you? Is it something you always practiced when you were younger?
Ray Chase: Absolutely. I did something called Forensics back in high school which was Competitive Speech and Debate. There was an event in that called Humorous Interpretation / Dramatic Interpretation, where you take a script and you play all the parts yourselves. You’d have to switch back and forth in-between each character and just do do an entire play like that. In order to be successful in that, you had to have a lot of range to differentiate the characters, since you’d be playing twenty people at a time.
So that’s something I’ve been doing since high school, trying to disguise my voice in a lot of different ways. I’m glad the casting directors allow me to. Not everyone always gets that…
Is there a lot of difference between doing dubbing for a Video Game studio as opposed to an Anime studio? How different is that day-to-day process? Let’s say at Square Enix for example.
It’s very different depending on who you’re working for even within different business divisions of Square Enix. Kingdom Hearts’ recording process is way different than Final Fantasy’s recording process. Which is way different from Deus Ex’ recording process.
The basic change is that with Anime, you’re looking at the finished product. You see what the finished product looks like. You can do your performance to the lip flaps and make it work. Whereas with video games you have usually have no idea what the finished product looks like. You’re just kind of shooting in the dark, hoping that it’s the correct line, in the correct place.
For Final Fantasy XV, they did an amazing job of really honing in on the English Adaptation. Making sure that we had all the tools we need because in previous Final Fantasy titles they didn’t always have that. They didn’t know what the ending was going to be or they didn’t know certain things within the world of the game. But we had the Head Writer, Dan Inoue, there for every single session!
It was amazing to be able to work on something from beginning to end like that, with all the information there. It’s usually not how it works. Usually you just have a spreadsheet and you’re just picking and choosing figuring out where lines play, hither and thither. So yeah Final Fantasy XV was really interesting in that regard.
Can you ad lib at all?
Can’t ad lib when it’s dubbed to Japanese unfortunately. There is a couple of instances where we were able to have a creative reign, like we had something in Japanese… Takka asks Noctis to pick up beans and it’s some line like, ‘Ah, I don’t like beans very much.’ But it didn’t work. We had 2.3 seconds and just could not figure out something that would work. And so I said what if he just says “Beaaaannnns…” And that was it! That ended up working!
How do you protect your voice? Especially with screams and those kind of things. I mean over the years repeatedly doing that has gotta do some kind of damage. Do you have any rituals you practice?
Yeah, I had my tonsils removed which ended up being a really big thing. I didn’t realize how much that was holding me back… But man it’s really painful when you’re an adult. I was out for a good ten days. Just pain, that was rough. Then I ate a pineapple which is really dumb. I found out my dad also ate a pineapple when his tonsils were removed. So it runs in the family! That was really bad pain.
Things to do to help… Try to find out if the session you’re going in for is vocally stressful and then try to schedule that on a Friday. That’s like the only thing you can really do. If you start out on a Monday where your voice is shredded and then get through a whole week of sessions it’s going to do a lot. It’s going to compound the damage. If you do it on a Friday and then you have the weekend off, then that’s one way of sort of isolating the hard part.
Have you ever lost your voice during a recording session?
All the time, yeah! All the time! It’s just… It is what the job is and it’s understandable. For video games, they need a lot of different instances of dying and getting on fire, (laughs) and stuff like that. It can be really rough.
What was your first major voice acting addition like? Were you nervous?
My first time… I didn’t do shows first, I did a lot of video games, and for Final Fantasy XV, that was nuts to work on the demo. I was super nervous and the writer Dan Inoue was like, “Oh, I saw your YouTube channel…” I had this YouTube Channel with like 100 dumb videos. He was like, “It was very interesting to go see your history,” and I was like, “Oh s***!” I deleted all of it that night. They’re gone! They’re somewhere in a vault all locked up.
I was very scared about losing the part and I did lose the part after the demo came out. The feedback was that he sounded too much like Gladio, and I had to reaudition for the role of Noctis. Thankfully, I got it. You don’t always get those opportunities to r audition for roles. Most of the time, game comes out and you just find out that you’ve been recast. Your part’s been cut… But Keythe Farley went to bat for me and for that I’m forever grateful.
You mentioned before the fear of being cut from a project. Has that ever happened to you for something that you went all the way through? Spent hours, days, months, maybe years on a title… Only for the role to be cut or recast?
Absolutely! For Fallout 4, I was a big character and the character was removed from the game. That was sad because I’m a big, big Fallout fan but I got to be in Fallout 76, so it’s all good. They actually still credited me in Fallout 4 which they didn’t have to do. There were a few other instances not as notable as that.
At the Fallout cast party, I actually talked with Matt King and Matt Mercer. We were in conversation and they told me their story was being recast. Matt Yang King was the villain in Far Cry 4 and then was just recast. And so for him, that was crushing but then you realize all the other successes that he’s had. So it happens. It’s kind of goes around, comes around sort of thing.
Was Noctis Lucis Caelum your favorite character to play ever?
For sure Noctis, and Roy means a lot too. Because I played him when I was a kid. It’s a big deal to be someone you’ve always wanted to be!
Be sure to check out AnimeNYC.com for the latest on the annual Anime convention at New York City’s Javits Center. Ray Chase has now been a featured guest at Anime NYC two years in a row, so there’s a good chance he’ll be back at Anime NYC 2020.
Disgaea 4’s Carrie Savage spoke to The Natural Aristocrat at Anime NYC 2019 about the title’s remastering and finding beauty in voice acting.
You could pick out Carrie Savage’s unique, sugary sweet sounding voice from across the room. Disgaea 4’s voice of Vulcanus/Artina was already doing theater starting from grade school on. Flash forward to a couple of Film and TV execs in LA telling her she sounded ‘too young and innocent,’ during auditions, and Carrie, undeterred, decided to make the voice work for her. It’s no surprise industry powerhouses like Funimation and New Generation Pictures would take notice of her talent.
There’s something charming in Carrie Savage’s delivery which fans just getting into NIS’ Disgaea 4 Complete+ will no doubt enjoy. “Mr. Vampire!” A voice that’s easy on the ears you could say. As you would expect from Disgaea’s Celestia.
Watch the full interview with Carrie Savage above or read the transcript below:
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Disgaea 4 Complete+ was released recently, how do you reflect on it and Artina/Vulcanus eight years later?
Carrie Savage: That was one of my favorite games to do, I loved doing it!
What was it like exploring the whole relationship with Valvatorez? Were you recording with Troy Baker in the studio?
No, it was one at a time. I remember it was my first time working with Keith [Arem], PCV, and Valerie and I just love them. They’re awesome and I was so excited to work with them.
What does it mean to you that a whole new generation of fans are going to hear your voice again?
I didn’t even think of that, that is awesome! (smiles) That’s exciting! Because I feel so much of the stuff I’ve done is so much older now compared to the newer stuff. But the old stuff, some of it is amazing! Like the one you mentioned with the angel, Haibane Renmei. (smiles) I’m excited for a younger generation to come in and be watching my work.Carrie Savage on right as Artina (Vulcanus) speaking to Lord Valvatorez (Troy Baker) in Disgaea 4 Complete)+ – Captured on Sony PlayStation 4 – Screenshot / Photo Credit: Nir Regev via NIS America
What kind of rituals do you have when you go into a booth? Do you have something you do every time, where if you don’t do it you feel off for the rest of the day?
Yes, this kind of applies to my theater auditions also. It’s different in New York though. When I was in LA, I used to have these these certain CDs that I would sing with in my car to warm up my voice. And then I developed like this list of about twelve characters. Some of them were from classes I took and some of them were actually characters that I did.
I would go from highest to lowest and I would do all these little snippets of all these characters in a row. So, that I could warm up the softest kind of voice, (does voices) down to the low part.
I did that, I sang, and I used different parts of my voice when I was singing in different placements. And then I would do all the characters because the way they speak was different, the placement was all different. Like, if I’m going to play an old lady, it’s going to a different place in my whole system. I used to do that in my car and I had a lot of time because it was LA and there was traffic.
In New York, the difference is I have to do that in my bathroom and I don’t have as much time! So, I don’t get to do all the singing with it. And I have 30 to 45 minutes of stretching that I also do, prior to going to any audition or voice work. Which is based on my dance classes.
What do you do to protect your voice?
In theater school, I learned about how to free up the voice and how to support it so that you’re not damaging things. How to keep the vocal apparatus free. For me warming up helps. Using different placements helps. Some of the ways that I learned to warmup in school, I still use some of those tricks to warm up my voice.
If you’re working on a character like initially Mokona [Modoki] in xxxHolic/Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE. (does voice) You have to find ways to make it easier on yourself. It’s placement.
You have a really unique speaking voice! Do you feel you were born to do this pretty much? Where you pushed into this career or steered into it somehow?
I’ll tell you what happened. I was a theater actress, I still am. But I started doing theater when I was in grade school. And when I got into High School and after High School. Actually, I was going to be a Doctor, I was not going to be an actor. But when I realized that I loved acting so much that I couldn’t give it up for pre-med, and I started acting again… So many of the directors I knew would tell me after I auditioned for things, “We can’t cast you because you sound too young and innocent!” So, it would be like characters who commit suicide or who are like really depressed.
Then a film I did later, I auditioned for the crazy street chick. And they’re like, “You would’ve been our first choice. But you just do not come across as… You’re just too innocent for this street chick!” I was younger too, you know? So, they wrote a part for me in that which totally fit and was really cool.
My character was the more super innocent, didn’t know anything type. For a couple of years while I lived in LA, I had two of my closest friends keep telling me I should do voiceover work. I didn’t know what that was, I was like “What’s that?”. Finally I was out auditioning for Film and TV, and my agent had arranged a specific audition. He said that these people were having a really hard time finding the person that they wanted for this role. I was around late 20s at that point.
I went in and I auditioned, the Producer and the Director were sitting there and they go, “She is exactly what we’ve been looking for! But we can’t cast her because she sounds like she’s 12…” Right in front of me. That was when I was like, “Fine. I’m going to start making this voice work for me!” That’s when I decided to do voiceover work. I’d been toying around with the idea like wanting to do a demo before but it was only because I met somebody who did voiceover work. But I still didn’t know a lot about it.
But that’s what really pushed me into it, I was like I’m not getting any more of this, ‘We can’t cast her because she sounds too young!’ (laughs)
What was that first voice acting audition like? Many voice actors have told me that they’ve been really nervous or they thought they messed up but they actually got the role.
Actually, my first audition was for a show called 3×3 Eyes. And that character was a little girl and her voice was high but then she had to talk like this (does deep voice). I could do that but I didn’t have the mastery of that at that point. I hadn’t worked on that lower part as much, so I didn’t get casted in that. But I don’t remember being that nervous, except for just trying to understand how this character was going from that high voice to that low voice.
It was two years later that Jonathan Klein and New Generation Pictures and his partner Reiko [Matsuo], they remembered me from that audition and they called me back. I auditioned for Strawberry Eggs very eyes and another show called Dangaizer 3 and got those.
I don’t remember being any more nervous than anything else. I just remember being excited and having fun, and wanting to pour my heart and soul into the voice into the character. That’s just like I do all the other auditions I kind of approached it exactly the same way.
A voice actor [Todd Haberkorn] mentioned to me in an interview earlier that he tries not to ad-lib lines because he doesn’t get any writing credits for that. That the credits go to the person who wrote the episode. He essentially said he ‘didn’t want to coin a popular phrase that he wouldn’t get writing credits/royalties for.’ How do you feel about that and ad-libbing in general?
I can understand that. For me, that’s not the case but also, I script adapt for a lot of Anime and Korean Animation. So, it doesn’t bother me to ad-lib something or change the line at all. In a lot of auditions, like a lot of commercial auditions or mainstream animation auditions, they want you to ad-lib. And actually I find I’m not as good at that as I would like to be.
It’s different when you’re script adapting because it’s kind of your focus. But when you’re auditioning or whatever the things don’t come to me as quickly. So, I actually wish I was better at ad-libbing. I don’t have a problem with it.
Do you like working away from the mic? Behind the screen so-to-speak doing scripts and directing.
I prefer acting over everything! I do the script adapting because as a voice actor especially in the Anime world, we don’t make enough… Most of the time to pay the bills, especially I found that to be the case in New York. What I do like about the other stuff is that exercises a different part of my brain.
I think it’s the part of my brain that I would have used had I studied medicine and been a Doctor. It maybe gets a little left out a bit when I’m acting because the acting all comes from my heart! (smiles) It’s from my gut. You know what I mean? Because you don’t want to overthink things when you’re acting.
I’d still prefer the acting over everything… And the dancing. I love dancing! And singing! (laughs)
You mentioned wanting to be a Doctor, I’ve read you’ve done a lot of charity work in other countries as well. I was wondering if you’d elaborate?
When I was eight years old, I felt like I was meant to be a Doctor/Missionary in Ethiopia. To bring medicine to kids who were starving and didn’t have access to medical care. That was my heart.
Who are some of your biggest acting influences do you feel?
When I was younger and in school for the Arts, a teacher mentioned Meryl Streep to me and I didn’t know who she was at the time. He’s like, ‘You need to go look her up! I watched the dingo one [Evil Angels] and I think I watched Kramer vs. Kramer. I was like, this woman does exactly what I’m trying to do the way that I approach acting! That’s the way she does it! And she’s completely successful at it, she completely changes, you wouldn’t recognize her from one film to the next. So she was a big influence because she successfully does the type of acting you’re supposed to do.
And also Anthony Hopkins, for the same sort of reason. Those two are my biggest influences. There are other actors that I love and there are other actors that have kind of gone in that direction. Movie stars I should say, when they first started being in stuff, they were not so different from role to role but they were very enjoyable to watch. I’ve seen some of those people actually start changing from role to role and that’s the kind of thing I love! When someone is so immersed in a part that you don’t recognize them.
But I value the other side of it too. I value the side of acting of just using everything. I mean I think as a person you have everything in you anyways. But I’m starting to realize that just using yourself, is great too! You know what I mean? So like, I’m very unique and quirky, and that can be an asset too!
In Haibane Renmei, I mean I have other shows that are my big favorites that I love too like Shin Chan. Like okay, she [Penny] swears and I don’t. I try not to swear in her life. So that was really fun because it was part of my job!
You don’t have like a swear jar or something do you?
No, no (smiles) and New York has ruined me, I got to admit. And theater school ruined me a little bit. I just don’t want you to think that I’m not remembering my other roles because I love them all.
Do you have a personal message to fans?
In light of Haibane Renmei, it’s very important that the characters in Haibane Renmei remember their dreams that they had when they were born. So, I’m always writing, “Always Remember Your Dreams.”
I feel very strongly, that what you most want to do in life is what God wants you to do. And so my message would be, if there’s something you want to do that’s very strong inside of you… Don’t give up. Put your heart and soul into it, and try to do it.
Follow Carrie Savage on Social Media
Carrie Savage was nominated for ‘Best Female Lead Vocal Performance in an Anime Feature Film/Special’ in 2015 for her role as Hakufu Sonsaku in Ikki tousen: Shugaku Toshi Keppu-roku at the Behind the Voice Actor Awards (BTVA Awards).
Sarah Natochenny reflected on her life-changing audition for the role of Pokémon’s Ash Ketchum to The Natural Aristocrat at Anime NYC 2019.
You never know when an audition thought to have gone rock bottom is actually the complete reverse and sends your career soaring high. Actress Sarah Natochenny told The Natural Aristocrat at Anime NYC 2019 about such an audition, one that largely defined her future, and most recently was influential in winning her the Voice Arts Award for Best Animation/Gaming Demo. The role of a lifetime… Pokémon’s lead character, Ash Ketchum.
Just when Natochenny thought all the chips were down, it turned out she was perfect for the job all along. Sarah Natochenny went on to describe the surreal, humbling feeling she gets when fans write that she brightened up their day, just by ‘liking’ their Instagram fan art.
Watch the full interview with Sarah Natochenny above or read the transcript below:
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: How do you reflect back on the first day you got the role of Ash? What was that day like for you?
Sarah Natochenny: Actually, I don’t really remember that day. I remember the day I auditioned the first time and how I left that studio crying… Because I don’t think I’ve ever actually left the room feeling that bad about an audition since. I thought it went horribly. I sounded right, I guess? But I didn’t know how to dub.
They taught me how to do my job at my audition. So, that to me was a horrible audition. The fact they had to do that. But I guess in hindsight, the fact that they actually stayed with me and took the time to teach me and to see how I would respond to that kind of teaching… Which I guess I did fine! It’s a testament to the fact that they actually wanted to work with me.
Did you picture this role would end up largely defining your life for so many years?
Oh God! Yeah, Yeah.
You thought it would keep going from the beginning?
Yeah, I didn’t know if they would manage resurgences like they have. They’ve really done an amazing job! Pokémon Go really changed everything! I didn’t doubt that they would but I didn’t know what was possible because that’s not my business. I don’t look ahead and create technologies based on other amazing technologies. I’m an actor.
Do you get notes from Nintendo ever? Do they ever get involved?
Like notes, “On well on that episode?” like that? No. They keep to themselves. I’d welcome their notes, I just don’t have any notes. I’m all ears!
Do you read what fans say, both praise and criticism on voice acting? Does it impact you creatively when you’re back in the booth?
Impact mentally? That’s a very deep question. Less now. Unless I get a link to something and then I go down a deep hole, it’s usually not pleasant. The positive responses, especially now that I’m active on social media, I get so many positive notes. It’s amazing! That I read! That I love to read, when people who follow me, actively engage with me on the Internet.
I’ve taken screenshots, one recently I liked an image of some fan art on Instagram and they wrote a whole thing like, “I was having the worst day. And she liked my photo and I’m crying and it’s the most amazing thing! It’s exactly what I needed!” I’m just like, the fact that I have a power like that to make someone’s day…
As a voice actress, that started working really young… You know, there was the fantastic South Park voice actress, Mary Kay Bergman, who sadly took her own life when she thought she might be losing her talent. Do you ever worry about that? How do you protect your voice over the years?
I haven’t worried about it, yet. But I drink a lot of throat coat tea. I try not to scream a lot. I don’t go to loud bars or restaurants. If a restaurant is too loud, I’m the person who’s like, “Yeah, we’ve got to go.” Yeah, I’m fun! I try to protect my voice, reasonably but I’m not thinking about it a lot.
When I interviewed Funimation cast members, they spoke of how they typically don’t record together. I was wondering if for you it’s the same? I mean, you don’t have that partner to play off of. I know you studied at Lee Strasberg.
Yeah, it was definitely strange when I first started doing it. Like “What do you mean, I need other actors.” It varies now. I used to be the last to record, so that I would have everybody already in… But at this point I don’t even notice it. It’s really second nature to just imagine how everyone would sound. I feel like I know what Carter [Cathcart] and Team Rocket are going to do. I know what my partners-in-crime are going to do!
We do a few different takes, I trust my Director completely. So, if there are different reads to be done, we do them all. Then the Editor does everything else.
Do you listen to your own takes?
Sometimes, if I’m not sure about what what I did, I’m like, “Can I just hear that one more time?” Then I do it again.
I read you were in the Junior Olympics for Rhythmic Gymnastics and won a Bronze Medal. I was wondering did you ever want to go back to that?
Oh God no! No, no, no. I was 13 when I quit doing that and no, I never looked back. I’m very grateful for having had that because it showed me that you could be not very good at something, practice really hard, and lose your whole childhood…. And then get really good at it! So, that was a great lesson to learn but once I quit, I was like, “Thank you goodbye.” I will be an actor now.
What does it mean to you to get nominated for Voice Arts Award for Best Animation/Gaming Demo? Did you call your parents?
Yeah, my mom is right over there! (she really was) I’m very excited! It’s going to be great. Just to be nominated is amazing!
[Sarah Natochenny went on to win the Voice Arts Award for Best Animation/Gaming Demo]
I swear I'm posting about this really soon. ICYMI – I won the Voice Arts Award for best Animation/Gaming Demo. My life's work is on that reel, so this means a lot. Thank you Society of Voice Arts and Sciences for this honor. https://t.co/NyUQYttjDl
— Sarah Natochenny (@sarahnatochenny) November 19, 2019
Follow Sarah Natochenny on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and her official website. Be sure to periodically check Anime NYC’s official website for the latest updates on Sarah Natochenny potentially returning for Anime NYC 2020!
Check out The Natural Aristocrat’s Anime NYC 2019 interview with Lisa Ortiz, voice of many of your favorite Pokémon characters, and one of Sarah Natochenny’s best pals in the recording booth!
Nashma Amir sang an English cover of “Lapis Lazuli” by Eir Aoi during Anime NYC 2019’s SACRA MUSIC Panel. The performance was showcasing SACRA MUSIC’s WACAVA Project.
Anime NYC 2019’s SACRA MUSIC Panel featured singer Nashma Amir performing an English cover of Eir Aoi’s hit song “Lapis Lazuli”, promoting SACRA’s WACAVA Project. Standing for ‘World Anisong Cover Association by Various Artists,’ the project hopes to unite Anime music fans the world over. It’ll give fans the chance to audition with their own renditions of favorites, placing an opportunity to be the next bright star gracing Anime soundtracks within reach. WACAVAProject.com will take audition submissions from fans anywhere globally until the deadline of March 31, 2020.
Nashma Amir is certainly no stranger to performing Anime song covers, her YouTube Channel – Nami Kichi features a popular English rendition of Eir Aoi’s “Ignite” (from Sword Art Online) and Olivia Lufkin’s “Starless Night” from NANA. Both currently enjoy over 100,000 views a piece.
After performing, Nashma Amir did an interview with the panel’s moderator Jamie Mac Rae before playing a game of ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ against the whole audience attending for prizes. Yes, Rock, Paper, Scissors! SACRA MUSIC gave various posters to those who managed to win a game. It was definitely different and more fun for the audience than a regular ticket raffle, that’s for sure.
WACAVA Project Karaoke Booth at Anime NYC 2019
The WACAVA Project Karaoke Booth was quite popular at Anime NYC 2019 with LiSA and Eir Aoi appearing to be the most popular artists for fans. Let’s say more than a few fans attempted their luck singing LiSA’s “Crossing Field” (the famous opening theme to Sword Art Online). Considering the music video currently has over 45 million+ views it’s not too surprising it would be the most recognizable.
Eir Aoi’s “Ignite” and “Innocence” (SAO and SAO 2 opening themes) were similarly popular with cover renditions happening about every twenty minutes at the Karaoke booth. What’s clear is that Aniplex’ Sword Art Online is undoubtedly one of the most popular Anime shows on the planet right now.
— WACAVA Project (@wacavamusic) November 18, 2019
Catch up on the latest SACRA MUSIC news and release updates on their official website SACRAMUSIC.jp.
Be sure to check out more of The Natural Aristocrat’s Anime NYC 2019 coverage in the Anime NYC category page!