by Ian Sputnik
Kristin Holland is a podcaster, voice actor, voice over artist, actor, and professional musician based in Melbourne, Australia. Currently he’s in his second year of running his fortnightly, short horror podcast Nocturnal Transmissions and regularly appears in other productions such as Justintertainment’s Yowie and the US based Simply Scary Podcast.
We took a moment to sit down with Holland, and ask him about his work, his love for horror, and what got him interested in voice work.
Sanitarium: What was the first piece of dark fiction that you narrated, and when was that? How did you get it out so the public could hear it?
Kristin Holland: Strictly speaking, that would have been a very short piece called “Harold And The Red Revenge” by D. G. Collins. I had entered the Chilling Tales For Dark Nights inaugural Evil Idol voice acting competition back in 2016, and the first hoop to jump through—so to speak—was to choose from … a whole swag of flash fiction pieces by this author. I chose “Harold” and my reading was posted on YouTube for listeners to vote on. I’m happy to report that it did take me through to the second round.
I don’t know if that original YouTube clip is still out there, but I did post the story on my channel many moons ago. It’s a great little piece; in only 275 words the author manages to create a satisfying short story with a haunting twist that stays with you.
Quite a feat.
S: When did you first realise that you had a talent for accents? Did you incorporate this skill in to your narrations from the get-go, or has the use of them been slowly introduced?
KH: I have a very early childhood memory of being in daycare and pushing another child on a swing. Every time the swing would return to me I would accompany my forward push with a funny voice. I remember very clearly the recipient of my performance laughing hysterically at my improvisational brilliance, which incorporated a great deal of Donald Duck—not a character of my own creation I hasten to add. It was, I suppose, the first time I had performed for an audience outside of my own family. Being able to get such a response from a stranger was absolutely intoxicating. Was this a formative moment? Who’s to say?
Now, to answer the second part of your question with a little more brevity than the first: I incorporated it from the word go.
S: Have you undertaken any profession training or vocal coaching to hone your skills, or are you purely self-taught?
KH: I have taken many, many acting courses over the years, even studying under the brilliant Howard Fine on more than one occasion. Some of these courses have been focused on voice and accent—David Coury’s I Am My Voice workshop was a particular inspiration—while others were devoted to the broader art of acting. In addition to this I have also undertaken quite a bit of study under my own steam; pouring over Stanislavski, Ivana Chubbuck, Uta Hagen, and the like.
This study certainly informs the choices I make in my narrations and in attempting to animate the characters therein.
S: Which is the preferred method that you use when learning new accents and styles of narration?
KH: In the past, I have been to accent coaches to prepare for auditions, but the internet is such a great resource that I tend to do my research there these days. I would, however, strongly recommend finding multiple sources when trying to understand an accent. As with everything on the internet, there are plenty of people who are going to lead you astray.
Regarding styles of narration, I tend to hear a particular delivery in my head when I read a story; I simply try to emulate that. I must add that I have had a long love affair with audiobooks. I think the countless narrators I’ve heard in that format probably inform my choices without me even thinking consciously about it.
S: What are the major differences to your approach to narration versus traditional acting?
KH: I don’t see the two as being very far removed from each other. Finding strong personal connections to the words is certainly a must for both. Whether it be a script or short story, a good writer will direct your performance simply through the specific word choices they make. The better the writer, the more one has to consider why they have chosen particular words to express an idea. It’s a fun process reading a piece and finding directions for performance in this manner. I think dear old Shakespeare is perhaps the finest example of a writer directing performance through word choice and rhythms.
I hasten to add that sometimes working against the grain of the dialogue can yield great results. (I reserve the right to contradict myself at least one more time in this interview.)
S: What attracted you to the horror genre as a platform for your voice?
KH: I love horror. As a child I voraciously consumed every short horror story collection I could find. Horror movies are a passion. From Franz Murnau’s 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu a Symphony of Horror to 2017’s Get Out [by Jordan Peele], I simply adore good horror films.
I’m not impartial to the occasional bad one either now [that] I think of it. (I think I just blew my second contradiction.)
I suppose it’s my own enjoyment of the genre that attracts me to that type of material.
S: What do you look for in a story when selecting a piece? What aspects in a piece of fiction make it more fun for you when narrating it?
KH: I particularly love finding a story that features spoken interactions between characters. Something one misses in performing narration by one’s self is that all important aspect of acting: reacting. While not quite on a par with the pleasure of working against another actor, it is still a lot of fun to flip between two or more characters and see how they affect each other.
S: Classic horror over modern literature, what are the different challenges for each?
KH: I feel more pressure performing a classic. Stories from writers such as Lovecraft, Poe, and Bierce have been read, performed, and pondered over and over again. I find myself doing much more analysis with these stories; not wishing to screw up something so beloved to so many.
S: Who is your favourite author that you’ve given a voice to, and why?
KH: Y’know, I really enjoy performing Poe.
I’ll make a confession now: when I was quite young I read many of his stories but generally found them a little underwhelming. Revisiting them at a later stage I realised it was in fact me who was underwhelming and Mr. Poe is simply fantastic.
S: Currently you’ve limited your voice acting talent to short stories. If you could narrate one novel, which one would it be and why?
Boy, oh boy, I have a terrible feeling that after answering this, I’m going to feel compelled to go and do it.
I love, love, love Melville’s Moby Dick but, by god, that is no pamphlet. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would be unbelievable fun. However I think my answer is Orwell’s 1984. I was a teenager when I first read that book and it has resonated … [with] me ever since. The subject matter is terribly, terribly grim (which certainly brings it into my realm) but the story is so skillfully and compellingly told that one just can’t stop reading.
Anyway that one buys me some time as it won’t come into the public domain for a couple of years yet.
S: Where can our readers listen to your work?
KH: My short horror podcast Nocturnal Transmissions is where you’ll find the lion’s share of my voice acting. I release a new episode each fortnight featuring classic and modern horror stories performed with as much conviction as I can muster. It’s a real labour of love. I have rather foolheartedly allocated myself the task of performing all the voices, doing the production, and maintaining the social media for this damn thing, so love is definitely what is needed to justify the obscene amount of time I spend on this particular little obsession.
If podcasts aren’t your cup of tea, there is a Nocturnal Transmissions YouTube channel as well. This doesn’t enjoy the popularity of the podcast but at least it’s there as an alternative for the podcast-adverse, and the clips serve as a good resource for the modern authors I feature who often embed them in their sites and can direct fans of their work to them.
Maybe I’ll also add that if you’re lucky enough (or unlucky enough, in this case) to live in Australia, there’s a good chance you’ve had my pernicious voice dribbled into your ear on many occasions through television and radio voice overs and not even realised it.