The only problem with dogs is … that they don’t live forever!
And spelled either frontwards or backwards … Dog is still man’s best friend.
The Shadeaux, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal dogs, came to the Airlift Productions Studios and became our official mascot and ‘talent herder’ over Christmas 2006.
Near as we can tell, he’s twelve years old today and, truth be known, he picked us out at the SPCA that day. Kind of like the Ziants boyz – a mutt; part German Shepherd, part Chow, part Border Collie … and all Love.
No, this is not his obituary (and even he’d appreciate the humor that the word ‘bitch’ is in that word), it’s more like a mid-life opus and testament to his otherworldly powers.
After all, the recording process can be somewhat intimidating to some, and capturing a stellar on-mic performance can feel a bit daunting at times – even to the pro!
And the Shadeaux has an uncanny way of throwing a ‘chill-out’ factor into the entire equation.
Little Quvenzhane Wallis (of ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ fame) wanted to take him home with her (no chance), and James Carville’s ‘missus’ – Mary Matalin – could hardly tear herself away to get back to work on her audio book.
With a woof, a lick, and an appreciative tail wag – coupled with more fur than Liz Taylor at a pre-PETA-days holiday bash – the Shadeaux has an amazing talent for making anyone feel comfortable, relaxed and right at home.
And when trying to record a stunning on-mic, on-point performance … what more could you ask for?
Except maybe that he’d live forever.
Airlift Productions … where EVERY day is ‘Take Your Doggie to Work Day’… Airlift Mike with his fave, furry four-footed friend – and uncharacteristically shy, The Shadeaux
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” ~ Will Rogers
“I care not for a man’s religion whose dog & cat are not the better for it.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.” ~ Andy Rooney
“Airlift Mike was a saint, and ridiculously patient and supportive (and helpful!!) for this audio book virgin. In another environment, without the support, and with pressure to perform “right”, I probably would have completely fallen apart. So the MVP for this getting done goes 100% to Mike and the chilled outenvironment he’s cultivated…personally and within his studio.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to get this audio book out to you guys!! As challenging as it all was, the end result, I think, is amazing!
Once again, a big heartfelt thanks to Mike and the years of expertise he brought to this project to ensure I sounded my very best. If you’re ever in Nola and need the best audio dude, and the best dude dude, holler at my man Mike withwww.airliftproductions.com
Thanks for the great week my friend! :)”
— SEAN O’SHEA, Los Angeles-based Dog Trainer & AudioBook Producer
Hired by the Hachette AudioBook Group, based in Paris & NYC, my job was simple.
Or was it?
I would host the congressman, along with his body guards the Capitol Police, here at Airlift through the month to record and capture his personal memoir reading of “Back In The Game” for worldwide distribution.
The AudioBook recording process, even to the pro, can prove a daunting task. To a newbie, like Steve, it can prove most intimidating.
Even though as Majority Whip the congressman could and would speak on the floor of the United States House with conviction, confidence & fervor – THIS was something else altogether.
Alone. Isolated. Pensive. Painful. Hopeful.
While reflecting on a life-changing event. And one that damn near took his life.
“Back In The Game” details the congressional baseball practice shooting in June 2017 – what could have been the biggest political assassination in U.S. History – and the remarkable efforts of the police, first-responders, doctors, and surgeons who saved Steve’s life.
Not exactly light reading.
It was harrowingly frightening, desperately challenging… and ultimately inspirational and hopeful.
Through our three weeks of recording, I hosted and made all the Capitol Police comfortable, engineered the sessions, operated the phone-patch with our director in New York, delivered the wav files via FTP to the final producer – and bonded with the congressman.
Steve and I recorded for hours (over two dozen), had lunches together, shared anecdotes from our respective life-walks, laughed long and hard, and talked of God, politics, and country.
Incredibly, to this audio engineer, two of our recording sessions followed lunches he had just come from with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and another with our U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (and former two-term Georgia Governor) Sonny Perdue!
Ya know, not exactly my lunchtime cohorts down at the Subway.
Although after this rather unique month of October, I can now look upon this affable, personable & warmly sincere congressman as more than an acquaintance.
So, Steve, if you just so happen to be reading this – you’ve got more than just a constituent on Pomona… you’ve got a friend.
“Mike, I can’t thank you enough for the great job you did coaching me through the audio recording of my new book, “Back in the Game!” Since this was the first book I’ve ever written (and recorded), it was all new territory for me. You made the entire process go very smoothly, and I am incredibly happy with the final product.
I appreciate all you did to bring this book to life. You know you are really good when both James Carville and I are in complete agreement that you are great to work with!!” — CONGRESSMAN STEVE SCALISE
From Nat King Cole’s “Chestnuts roasting…” to Bing Crosby’s “I’m dreaming…” to Karen Carpenter’s “Greeting cards have all been sent…” the Christmas holidaysevery year have always been about all things audio to me.
And since I long ago left the snow-covered northeast for warmer climes in New Orleans, I’ve also replaced the crunch of snow and the sound of snow shovels scraping across concrete sidewalks with holiday sounds of my own making.
So, on this Christmas 2018, let’s queue up a few for this audio Christmas greeting from NOLA…
While I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Peyton or Eli Manning, I sure have met and worked withtheir pop Archie.
In the early days of the Airlift Studios down on the Crescent City’s Iberville Street, acting as writer and producer for Archie Manning’s Gold’s Gym, it was my job to work with Archie on his various different radio campaigns.
Among my fave creative efforts for Archie was this one, wherein I was Santa Claus and he was the kid on Santa’s knee at the mall telling me what he wanted for Christmas.
** Archie Manning’s Gold’s Gym ** from 1992 **
And with our Saints making a Super Bowl run here in late 2018, how much fun was that?
Another 1990s Christmas effort of mine has resurfaced here this Christmas season, as old pal Sue Bonano resurrected a couple spots of mine to air on Entercom radio stations here in 2018!
Yeah, it all sounds a bit crazy but, with a little editing, a radio ad that is now 23 years old, was brushed-off and aired all over NOLA this holiday season to lovers who weren’t even born when it first aired.
** Sue’s Jewelry “Because…” Radio Campaign, again in 2018 **
As the Christmas audio memories continue…
Hired by a Chicago-based ad agency called Right Hat in late 2015, I was tasked with lining-up the talent and recording a web-based “politically correct” Holiday greeting card for a Washington, D.C. law firm.
Wait a tick, a what?
That’s right. A politically correct greeting card! So I tracked down a trio of very talented professors at our Loyola University to come to Airlift Productions to record a classic thatwould have old Ebeneezer himself doing a double take.
** Right Hat’s take on Christmas 2015, with Airlift Mike **
Whew! Let’s decompress after that one, OK?
And at the same time shift gears totally.
Shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific school shooting at Newtown, CT just before Christmas in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary, I was inspired to hit theAirlift Studios.
Taking an anonymous internet writing and adding Danny Elfman’s mystical score to my voice, I came up with an answer from the “other side” as to what happened to those beautiful young souls that fatefully painful December morning…
** Christmas Eve in Newtown by Micheal Ziants**
Without a doubt, Jesus of Nazareth is the Reason for the Season!
But given the fissures & cracks in our 21st century society, is it any wonder why the season can be so paradoxically wonderfully troubling and problematic for so many?
Meanwhile, the prayers and reflections continue to this day…
Like I said, for this Christmas audio greeting card – Funny, Sarcastic, Profound, Inspirational.
Which pretty much sums up my feelings, my take here on my 66th Christmas here on the 3rd rock.
(To be sung) As the old tune goes, … “She’s Oh, Oh, Oh what a gal!”
Pomona may be just another street to neighbors & friends here just outside New Orleans, but to me it’s a lot, lot more.
After flooding at the Iberville Street Airlift Productions location TWICE through my 1989 – 2001 stay, just off Carrollton & Canal, I re-located the whole biz to suburban Metairie well outside the ‘bowl’ that is Orleans parishin March 2001.
Pomona sits on Metairie ridge, naturally above the flood plain and, ironically, not even a mile from the now-infamous 17th Street Canal which breached and gave America the historical tragedy known as “Katrina”.
Furthermore, the Bonnabel subdivision here in Metairie seems somewhat preoccupied with the Holy (or otherwise) Roman Empire.
I routinely walk myAirlift Productions mascot the Shadeaux past streets named “Nero”, “Claudius”, and “Feronia”. Go figure.
Well, unbeknownst to most of my neighbors and friends here in the ‘hood, Pomona is the ancient Roman mythological goddess of fruitfulabundance!
Not that she gets that much attention here in this hectic, frantic-paced #MeToo generation, but check out her Wikipedia page here.
Living, loving, playing, and, yes, working from Pomona for what is now nearly 18 years, and having found a success beyond my wildest dreams, I’d have to say that perhaps the Romans were onto something here.
Well, lemme see here, through my tour of duty on Pomona, I’ve seen in/out the studio doors… Chef John Besh, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Dr. Morgus (the Magnificent), Ronnie Lamarque, James Carville, Mary Matalin, SteveScalise, Deuce McAllister, Quvenzhane Wallis, Alden Ehrenreich, Toby Kebbell, Morris Bart, Lee Zurik, Greg DiLeo, Rich Lenz, Norman Robinson, Rachel Wulff, Camille Whitworth, Heath Allen, Theresa Andersson, Stacy Head, John “Spud” McConnell, Edoardo Ballerini, Ed Clancy, Jamie Neumann, Scott Walker, the Krewe of Nyx, Bradley Edelman, Anne Gisleson, David Menasche, Mike Church, Nathan Ales, P.H. Fred, John R. Lee, and, well, even some folks you may have heard of. (I know, cheeky, huh? But try Googling just a few of these names…)
And from the high ground on Pomona, I’ve produced work that encompasses most all media – from Radio spots, TV VoiceOvers, Educational Software, Radio Imaging, Animation VO, Website Explainers, Industrial Narrations & Podcasts… to Phone Messages-on-Hold, CD-ROMs, and AudioBooks.
Furthermore, my AudioBook recording efforts have now included work with the biggest AudioBook producers on Earth – Penguin, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Blackstone, Harper, Listen-Up & Random House.
So, while I indeed thank the One True Living God for the inspiration and effort to have made the move to Pomona all those years ago… let’s not leave the oldgal herself out.
That October morning Mary showed up to record – and dressed to thrill – little did I know at first but, after the session, she was off to the French Quarter with hubby James for dinner and drinks with Bill Clinton!
Her tireless on-mic performance that day was really something… one bathroom break in four straight hours of recording.
“I’ve been in studios from the Bayou to the Beltway and I can say after recording my last two audio books with Mike that there is no better place than Airlift Productions. The quality of the production, the studio, and frankly the comfort make it the only place I want to record now or in the future” ~JAMES CARVILLE, Political Commentator, Tulane Professor & Campaign Strategist behind the most dramatic political victories of our generation
Short story longer, I used to wake up in a cold sweat on the waterbed (hey, it was the 1980s) in the middle of the night wondering where I’d be when I reached age 40, to say nothing of 50 or 60 if I stayed on my current path.
So, my Q-93 partner in crimeRon Chatman and I were sitting around the bar at Bert’s, a bar on the first floor of a now-imploded and long-gone hotel on Canal Street having a few, comparing battle scars and musing about our collective futures.
I grabbed a bar napkin and started doodling, sketching, dreaming … and came up with the first crude version of the Airlift Productions logo.
Airlift – as in ‘to the rescue’, with all it’s heroic connotations. If all radio & TV commercials are indeed sent over the air, “let me give your Air a Lift!” Alphabetical listings being what they are, I’d also be listed first in all the recording studio listings.
Plus, I somehow knew all those years ago that the studio would be involved in projects bigger and loftier than just commercials, so it just had to be Airlift ‘Productions’. I knew that I was on to something.
The year was 1984.
After hiring local artist Harrel Grey to fine-tune my crude bar napkin logo rendering, I trademarked it with Baton Rouge officials, got my first bonafide free-lance account with WGNO-TV/Tribune Broadcasting – and was off to the races.
Today, in 2018, if one were to do an internet search with just those two words ‘airlift productions‘ in a search engine – with no qualifiers, no country or state, nothing else – out of over several million possibilities worldwide and worldwide-web-wise … there I am.
Hard to believe that as I write these words it’s well over thirty years later, but that’s what the calendar tells me.
Meanwhile, the technology, the recording gear & the delivery methods somehow grew into my dream & vision.
And the jobs? Well, Airlift Productions has today recorded and delivered audio all around the world – literally!
“Mike, I can’t thank you enough for the great job you did coaching me through the audio recording of my new book, ‘Back in the Game!’ Since this was the first book I’ve ever written (and recorded), it was all new territory for me. You made the entire process go very smoothly, and I am incredibly happy with the final product.
I appreciate all you did to bring this book to life. You know you are really good when both James Carville and I are in complete agreement that you are great to work with!!” – CONGRESSMAN STEVE SCALISE
Yes, in those prehistoric days before the internet, the web, and a digitally-connected world, RADIO was the thing. No iPads, iPods, iPhones… if you wanted to hear your favorite song, you turned on a radio!
In 1982, Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, ‘E.T” was huge at the box office, and my “office” was the morning drive chair 5:30 – 9:00 on WIFI-92!
It’s really hard to find the words to describe the thrill of the morning call to the starting gate. (Despite some mornings being the ‘snow plow’) I mean, what a challenge to be the first voice a person heard in the morning – in the bathroom, the kitchen, by the bed, under the car dashboard in the commute – in Phila-freakin’-del-phia!
Rockin’ the Cradle of Liberty ~ WIFI, Philadelphia.
Morning Drive Radio was exciting, pulse-pounding and very rewarding on many levels. But what I remember most about the Philly days/daze is Satur-days!
Every Saturday, from 10 am to 3 pm – the most listened-to weekend day part – I cranked up TURNTABLES, brought in the most amazing collection of VINYL and held court with “From Motown to the Philly Sound”!
It was my professorial, Dick Clark-ish, honky, white boy approach to the most sizzlin’, cookin’, excitin’, sex-citin’ hit music of the 20th century.
Temptations. Four Tops. Supremes. Junior Walker. Marvin Gaye. Martha & her Vandellas. Spinners. Harold Melvin & his Blue Notes. Barry White. Michael Jackson… all served-up with background, historical facts, dates, anecdotes – and fun!
** John Saint John Entertains Philadelphia on WIFI-92 ~ From Motown to the Philly Sound in 1982 **
“Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end” … but they did.
In early ’83, the Bala Cynwyd-General-Cinema corporate crew decided to hire a consultant out of Los Angeles (only the name has been changed/dropped toprotect the guilty), go ‘Rock of the ’80s’, and fire that morning John Saint John jock because he’s way ‘too adult and mature sounding for the new format’!? Really?
But you know, when you’ve found a way to take all the shit folks throw at you … and then throw it over your shoulder to use as fertilizer for tomorrow’s crops, you roll with it.
In the ashes of every defeat lie the seeds to a greater or equivalent benefit. And I am a graduate – with honors – from the University of Adversity.
“I had the extreme pleasure of working with Mike of Airlift Productions for a project in 2016. He was professional, courteous and most importantly, fun to work with. Mike is patient and very thorough with his recording, making sure that what you want is done before he powers down the gear for the day. 10/10, I would work with him again.”– JARED GARCIA, Sr. Recording Engineer for Blackstone Audio and Downpour.com
When Denney first rang my phone, he’d found my website in a Google search, had experience behind a microphone – he founded the Weirdos, an LA-based punk band in the ’80s – had moved here to NOLA, and had never done a commercial in his life.
I said, “Well, John, we’ll change all that!”
And change it we did. It began with a commercial demo (heard here); after he landed his first job within two weeks of production, he subsequently returned to produce an animation demo… and a medical demo.
A longtime television news anchor and reporter, Rachel had moved to New Orleans just about ten years ago, and was, in 2017, looking to exit the TV scene and begin self-employment as a VoiceOver artist.
Again, like John Denney, she had a lot of on-camera and on-mic experience, but Rachel had no commercial background.
“For voice over actors, the demo serves as a calling card and is unquestionably the most important tool in the pursuit of voice over work. Mike Ziants and Airlift PROductions produced my first VO demo and within weeks I landed my first job in the industry. Airlift’s state-of-the-art recording studio combined with Mike’s wisdom and expertise provided me with an excellent demo as well as the confidence needed to achieve success.” ~ JOHN DENNEY, Founder/Lead Singer of the notorious LA-based punk band The Weirdos … and relatively new VoiceOver Artist
If you ever recorded at or visited or got silly during Friday ‘happy hours’ at the now-the-stuff-of-legend Airlift Productions Iberville Street location … have you ever paused to consider what it took to create that remarkable space?
It’s not too bold a statement to say that my blood is quite literally in the mortar that holds the very bricks in this wall together! For though I am not a mason or a brick layer, I certainly played one in 1989 on Iberville Street.
With the help of just one other guy (Joe Delery now works in the crime division of the NOPD), I also pounded the nails, hung & floated sheet rock, packed insulation, laid carpet, and wired the entire facility. Whew!
And a whole host of radio rebels, stand-up comics, misfits, in-laws & outlaws!
The mantra through the entire construction stage was ‘Build it…and they will come!’ What a passion, what a studio… what a time!
** A “Mike McCann” classic VoiceOver/Production Demo from the 90s, all produced on Iberville with R-R tape – for NOLA clients like WVUE-TV, Pat O’Brien’s, Times-Picayune, etc. ***
But as much as I loved this location, Iberville street, the elevator, my Endymion parties, and having Venezia’s Italian food, Angelo Brocato’s, Mandina’s & Liuzza’s but a block or two walk away … I flooded twice at this location – and this was well before Mother Katrina came to town!
So, I ran with my prophetic visions and in early 2001 moved the entire Airlift Productions business well out of the flood plain and to the high ground just the other side of the now-infamous breached 17th Street Canal . To start over.
But Airlift on Pomona – along with its construction & marketing challenges – is the story for another blog and another time.
“Working with Airlift Mike in NOLA was an utter pleasure. I was in town for business for a month and needed to maintain my audiobook recording schedule. Mike was accommodating and a pure professional. He mastered the punch and roll technique in 24 hours to be ready for our first session, and over the course of the month we laid down 5 books and a number of auditions. His studio sounds great. The vibe & atmosphere can’t be beat. You’d be hard pressed to find a better recording studio in the southeast – no matter what your needs. I wish I could have stayed!” ~ AMY LANDON, Los Angeles-based Actress & Ultra-busy AudioBook Narrator
It’s been awhile since I last posted a full-on, space-cowboy, metaphysical musings blog, so on this fall Sunday morning in 2018, let’s have at it.
As a cradle Catholic & life-long Truth Seeker, I have many questions for the angels, but for the sake of brevity let’s focus on but a couple.
From ” the Gospel of Paul” – Paul Simon that is – he opines…
“If every human on the planet, and all the buildings on it should disappear… Would a zebra grazing in the African savanna care enough to shed one zebra tear?”
If you’ve never experienced this song before, do yourself a revealing, enlightening treat here….
** Paul Simon’s “Questions for the Angels”
And, Paul, as you walk away this year from your fantastic odyssey, many thanks for your inestimable contributions to the American/World Song Book. Much love and respect, my brother.
Now, a few questions from yours truly, Airlift Mike.
Why is that when man talks to God, we call it prayer… but why, should God ever decide to talk back to man, do we have to call it schizophrenia or bipolar disorder?
The psychiatric community, as it is practiced today – from the local “shrink’s office” to Big Pharma’s billion dollar yearly take – is but a scant hundred years old!
These very same issues of the ID versus Spirit were argued about back and forth last century by Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung. (These two actually rode a steam ship from Europe to the US in the early 1900s and analyzed each other’s dreams along the way.)
EGO vs. Spirit.
OK, then, if you’ve run with me so far, let’s take it a bit further.
What if the young maid from Domremy had been sitting, somewhat agitated, in a psychiatrist’s office five hundred years ago? I picture the conversation going something like this:
“Well, gee, doc, I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but lately, I haven’t been sleeping well. And last night, Archangel Mike was talking to me. He was! And he told me that Charles the Dauphin should be the King of France! Really. And he also told me that one day I would lead my country in revolt!”
Whoa! Wait a minute. When women here in America couldn’t even vote in an election a hundred years ago… this is a 13 year old peasant girl from the farms of Europe over five hundred years ago.
Well, there’s little doubt that the psych community would have intervened – and that’s putting it mildly.
Straight jackets. Haldol. Lithium. Leather restraints. Padded cells. Perhaps even some electro-shock therapy…
And the revelations & accomplishments of young Joan of Arc – now romanticized, mythologized, and marbleized (as in statues) – as the church took the Maid of Orleans down to the stake, would simply have never happened.
Also for your consideration…
While Jesus of Nazareth’s exploits, shrouded in the mists and myths of time, continue to be speculated over by scholars, the story of young Franceso is historically well documented.
Francis, as a late Italian teen, returned from war, committed to never again make that mistake. And as the son of a wealthy clothier, was expected to follow in pop’s footsteps. But, did it happen?
What Francis did do – after angelic intervention – was to deny his mother and father’s wishes, walk away from the family business – and in front of the town’s people, the church elders, as well as mom and dad… strip himself stark naked and walk into the woods to seek enlightenment!
Now, what would the psychiatric community today have done to young Francis… seven hundred years ago?
Same deal. Same results.
Only this time, the results would have been considerably more dramatic.
We would not, here in 2018, have a worldwide order of monks known as the Franciscans. The AA meetings would not have their famous 12-step recovery prayer.
Oh, and that quaint city on our west coast would never have been known as… San Francisco!
Perhaps, but certainly grist for thought.
So, the next time you encounter someone on the streets of America, perhaps homeless… lost, talking seemingly to themselves (and they’re not on a cell phone) ….
give them your understanding, and a wide berth, because you never know – do you – who…
or to Whom they may be speaking.
~ writing with humility, love and respect from the new Jer-USA-lem, New Orleans, LA, USA,
VoiceOver Recording & Production … with a New Orleans twist