Category Archives: New Orleans VoiceOvers

Airlift Productions Answers Chicken Versus Egg Conundrum

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Around the Airlift Productions Studios,  I still get into this one with my video production pals – when it comes down to audio versus video, which of the two is more powerful and packs the bigger punch?!?

I mean, what is all televison except radio… with pictures?  Which came first? And where are the more powerful emotional cues?  

You know, the ones that capture attention, motivate, inspire, scare … and drive someone to action?

Pause to consider, the very first sense that develops as the human develops within the mother’s womb is …. wait for it –  the sense of HEARING!  The growing infant HEARS the mother’s heartbeat and the rush of amniotic fluid, almost like ocean waves,  surrounding it’s ears.

The eyes are nowhere in the picture yet.

paragon-city-center-12Now, picture yourself in a movie theater. You are terrified by the motion picture – from b/w ‘Psycho’ in the ’60s to the latest flick about some camp counselor gone crazy chasing teens through the woods with an ax – and you can very simply close your eyes.

But you cannot close your ears!

The shrieks of terror, the ragged breathing, the sound effects, the dramatic music pulsing and pounding.  Even when all sounds disappear and come to a complete … heart-pounding … stop!

Interestingly, the Creator gave us eyelids… but He didn’t give us EAR-lids!

Now, talk to a hospice caregiver, and they’ll quickly tell you from experience that in the majority of cases the final sense to leave us at death – is the sense of hearing.

More to the point, in the case of television advertising, when an ad comes on, many are off to the bathroom or into the kitchen.  In this case, all the expensive video editing software and fancy visual zips and zaps are superfluous! They are not even there in the experience of the intended viewer.

The AUDIO portion of the ad, however, is still there – OUT LOUD for all to witness!

And since time immemorial, the story-telling tradition, as one generation passed legend and myth and bedtime stories down to the next, the entire presentation was aural – powerful, memorable and impact-full.

Sorry, video aces, but audio trumps video. It will always be AUDIO that drives the emotional train.

Airlift Productions, driving that emotional train from NEW Orleans …. since 1984.

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harlon miller“Airlift is THE place to go for a top quality demo. With Mike behind the board you are in very capable hands. His vast knowledge and command of all things audio blends with his laid-back fun environment to bring out the best in any voice.  Airlift Productions has the experience and all the tools necessary to make a voice-over reel that is on par with anything you would find in New York or LA!”

– – – HARLON MILLER, Voice-Over Actor

** Harlon’s Airlift-Mike-produced VoiceOver Demo **

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Airlift Productions – we’ll leave the mics hot… and the light on for you.

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans… since 1984  

Toussaint, Ziants & NOLA Memories~Reflections

A young Allen Toussaint, back in the day, recording with Cosimo Matassa at J & M Studios, NOLA
A young Allen Toussaint, back in the day, recording with Cosimo Matassa at J & M Studios, NOLA

Allen Toussaint & I first met in 1992 backstage at the New Orleans Big Easy Entertainment Awards Show in the bowels of the now long-vacant Municipal Auditorium at the foot of Orleans Avenue.

Allen was there to accept yet another award and, as the show’s live announcer (a job I enjoyed for ten straight years) it was my duty that night to introduce him to the packed house.

Allen at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, getting to know President Obama
Allen at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, getting to know President Obama

Warm, engaging, self-deprecating, soft-spoken, and  impeccably dressed, Allen Toussaint truly defined the word – Gentle-man, with qualities that truly belied his most amazing and breathtaking list of rather heady and remarkable musical accomplishments.

That night we laughed and got to know each other. In fact, after recognizing my voice from years on local television, he asked me, “Mike, would you do a few of those ‘Tonight on Fox Night at the Movies’ promos for my lady?” Laughingly, I agreed.  And did.

November 10th in 2015 at the age of 77, across the ocean in Madrid, while performing and doing what he loved, Allen suffered a heart attack and proceeded to drop his body… and move on.

As he left us with  musical memory after memory after memory. Is it even possible to pick a favorite? From “Mother in Law” to “Southern Nights”, “Working in a Coal Mine” to “Lady Marmalade”, and these are but some of the radio ‘hits’. They just go on and on and on….

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Epic & Legendary New Orleans Recording Engineer & Producer Cosimo Matassa Service Prayer Cards ~ September 16th, 2014

I last talked with Allen Toussaint in September 2014, at Lake Lawn Funeral Home, as the NOLA music world all showed up to pay homage to our just-departed friend, mentor, and seminal recording visionary Cosimo Matassa.

You see, the Coz was the one behind the huge mixing console down in NOLA’s French Quarter in the ’50s & ’60s who made all that musical magic happen with Allen and so many others back in the day.

That day – and this is so Allen – the entire crowd, and it was sizable, was all dressed in funereal black. Except for Mr. Toussaint. Ask anyone who was there. Allen wore the most amazing shade of iridescent blue!

Now, we’re the ones who are… blue, that is.  As Allen Toussaint belongs to the ages. And pages of musical history.

Oh, and no minor footnote here, he also posthumously loaned his name to a major New Orleans thoroughfare formerly known as Robert E. Lee Boulevard.

Brother Allen, rest in power and musical paradise, thanks for all you brought us and taught us through all those years.  

And for all that MUSIC!

Our ‘Southern Nights’ will never be the same.

** Allen Toussaint waves “Bye, Bye”, as only he could, via YouTube **

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Nathan, while recording at Airlift Productions, October 2019

“Mike is a master of his craft, a true audio artisan. The long days I spent recording my audiobook with him were a joy. First and foremost, he is a meticulous professional who wants to make sure that the production achieves the best possible quality. Because of his extensive background as a voice actor, he can coach you in exactly how to make something sound serious, credible, and powerful. And because he built the whole studio himself, he knows how to get the most out of his equipment and produce exceptional recordings.

But more than that, Mike is not just a skilled producer. He’s a great guy, with a tranquil life philosophy that will put you at ease and make you feel comfortable enough to give your best effort. He knows how to make you feel good, from the mood lighting to his calming presence in your headphones. He’s funny, too, and has lots of great stories from his long career in radio. I truly had a blast working with Mike and will write another book just to do a new audiobook with him.” 

— NATHAN J. ROBINSON, Editor in chief of Current Affairs magazine and author of ‘Why You Should Be A Socialist’

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Airlift Productions New Orleans Logo Re-boot 2012 by Ethan AndersonAirlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

Is Audio Recording An Art … Or A Science? Or Magic?

The short answer? All three! The long answer? How much time do you have? Too many questions? Oops, another question…

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To begin with, all sound travels in waves.  That’s analog.  As I speak, my voice travels from my larynx to your ear as a wave form. Now, in capturing said wave form in a recording device or computer for editing and storage, it is still considered and called a wave form, but then it’s digital.  Science.

But making MAGIC with that wave form is quite another thing altogether.  Art.

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Airlift Productions “Booth” ~ where talent shines!

Now, creating an environment, a creative space, a ‘vibe’, a place to make that audio magic – that audio alchemy – possible is yet another story completely.

Art & Science & Magic get it on at Airlift Productions!

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Original Airlift Productions Studio Design ~ Micheal Ziants, 2001

Pause to consider, the entire Airlift Productions air space is completely out-of-square with no parallel walls, and the studio ceiling rises from front to back.

Custom-designed, the entire room is built like the ancient Greeks imagined the amphitheater – sound waves naturally propagate from the near-field reference monitors in the front across the room to the back wall.

The Airlift Studios control room widens from 6 feet square at the front … to nearly 12 feet at the back. Dramatic, sure, but functional, as well.  A critical listening space should never be constructed with parallel walls, ceiling & floor, as this creates standing waves, slap-back echoes and assorted audio headaches.

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Airlift Productions “Gift of Life” Stained Glass Window

Room treatment, acoustic foam, carpeting on the walls, natural daylight filtered through stained glass, and dimmer-controlled mood lighting further enhance artist & engineer comfort & creativity through the entire recording process.

Yes, Art & Science get it on at Airlift Productions!  To create MAGIC.

Purpose-designed for comfort, creativity & breath-taking sound, Airlift has delivered the goods since 1984 from New Orleans to the planet with style!

From big screen to small;  basic TV/Film voice over tracks & intimate audio book sessions to fully-produced broadcast-quality podcasts, test-drive your first session today from wherever you are on the web at  Airlift Productions.

“Weapons of Mass Production” ~ Airlift Productions, New Orleans

Airlift Mike, always as close as the mouse on your desktop or the cell in your pocket at #504.833.8450.

When quality counts ~ count on Airlift Productions.  Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984.

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Micheal Ziants & Sean O’Shea, navigating the twists & turns of AudioBook production

“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 out environment he’s cultivated…personally and within his studio… 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 with www.airliftproductions.com”

—- Los Angeles & NOLA-based Dog Trainer SEAN O’SHEA

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984

Airlift Productions – we’ll leave the mics hot… and the light on for you.

Airlift Productions – From Dream to Reality Brick by Brick on Iberville

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Airlift Productions 3927 Iberville Street location, under construction in 1989

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.

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Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants ~ like a proud papa ~ at the Airlift shingle, Iberville Street, NOLA 1992

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 oh, the people who were destined to walk through that front door to record within these walls … Peyton & Eli’s pop Archie Manning,   Mayor Marc Morial, his mother Sybil, the Rev. Avery C. Alexander, Romper Room’s “Miss Linda” Mintz,  Dr. Morgus the Magnificent, Ronnie Lamarque, I CAN Learn founder John R. Lee, WDSU’s Norman Robinson …

Dr. John Autograph to Airlift Mike on old Airlift Iberville Street Notepad
Dr. John Autograph to Airlift Mike on old Airlift Iberville Street Notepad

Dr. John (Mac Rebennack), Oliver Thomas, Senator Jon Johnson, Congressman Bill Jefferson, Academy Award winning documentary film maker Charles Guggenheim, Anders Osborne, Theresa Andersson, Bishop Paul Morton…

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!

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Airlift Productions – as it looked in 1992 on Iberville Street … Reel-to-reel analog decks, outboard gear & mixer, the way recording used to be done. Oh, if only you’d lived then, kids.

** 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!

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Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants outside the Iberville haunts, shortly before the 2001 move to Pomona

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.

Yet again.

But Airlift on Pomona – along with its construction & marketing challenges – is the story for another blog and another time.

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Amy Landon recording audio books at Airlift Productions New Orleans, March 2017

“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

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New Orleans Premier VoiceOver & Recording Studio  ~ Audio Alchemy from the Big Easy … since 1984

Airlift Productions – we’ll leave the mics hot… and the light on for you.

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The ART Of VoiceOver Demo Production

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Airlift Productions’ VO session in progress with Steve Blaze of Lillian Axe fame at the hot mic

Of all the audio jobs produced at Airlift Productions, I enjoy creating Voice and VoiceOver Demos the most.

Whether working with a ‘newbie’ or a veteran, taking the written word on a page and using all the tricks in my audio producer’s bag to bring it to life, to create ART, is indeed an art unto itself.

And today in 2023 the Voice Demo runs the gamut – from commercial to animation, video games to the medical field, and from industrial narration to audio books.

Still today affectionately called a “reel”, I’ve seen the demo go from reel-to-reel tape… to audio cassette… to compact disc… to digital wav file and mp3.

Yet through all the technological changes, the heart of the art remains the same —

The copy has to ‘sing’, the reads have to be spot-on, music selection and editing, along with proper equalization, compression, reverberation, and normalization remain paramount.

Art, unlike science (although there is  a helluva lot of science involved here), is indeed a very subjective call.  And what is art to one … is shite to another.

The call here is obviously up to the reader of this blog.

Enter Exhibit A – JOHN DENNEY.

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.

                               ** JOHN DENNEY VOICEOVER DEMO **

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Rachel Wulff records her VoiceOver Demo at Airlift Productions NOLA

Enter Exhibit B – RACHEL WULFF.

A longtime television news anchor and reporter, Rachel had moved to town, had been in New Orleans about ten years, and was looking to exit the local 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.

She does now.

                       ** RACHEL WULFF VOICEOVER DEMO **

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Mary Rose Neumeyer having way-y too much fun at the Airlift microphones

Enter Exhibit C – MARY ROSE NEUMEYER.

Mary Rose was all of fourteen years old, had studied acting for some five years, done some on-camera things, but was looking to spread her wings into the VoiceOver field.

After a brief pre-production meeting, we collaborated on some copy, I then coached her through all the reads and edited her demo. 

It captures promo pieces as well as commercial copy, and I’d have to say, for a “newbie”, she states her case for an on-mic job most eloquently.

                 ** MARY ROSE NEUMEYER VOICEOVER DEMO **

Finally, an entry from yours truly.

Enter Exhibit D.

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New Orleans Voice Talent & All-around Audio Dude Micheal Ziants, Airlift Mike

As I pursue the AudioBook field, I’ve  compiled a demo targeted at this particular audience; a demonstration recording completely different from the shorter commercial ones.

It also differs from the previous demos, which were “manufactured” and produced from scratch, in that this demo is actually from a product being currently sold and marketed.

So, in this case, the demo is more of a ‘sampler’.

What follows here are actual excerpts from “Murder In Coweta County”, a true crime drama that took place in 1940s Georgia and shocked the nation.

Think ‘The Sopranos’ gone south!  With mysticism, race, murder, and the police all thrown into one big gumbo….

                    ** MICHEAL ZIANTS AudioBook DEMO **

Commercial, AudioBooks, Industrial, Animation, Video Games, the Voice Demo in 2023 sure does cover a lot of ground.

Er, ah… make that “air”.

And make no mistake. Evoking this kind of emotion is an ART.

Or is it a science?

OK, how about BOTH?

Well, whatever you want to call it…

Call on Airlift Mike and Airlift Productions to book yours.

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“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

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“We’ll keep the mics hot…and leave the light on for you!”

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984

I Never Did Heroin With Dr. John. We Just Did Other Things.

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Dr. John Autograph to Airlift Mike on old Airlift Iberville Street Notepad

Hired by Quincy Jones’ staff and his daughter Jolie to record Mac’s VoiceOver tracks for their Take It Back Foundation, I first met the Nite Tripper in the Airlift Productions Iberville days during New Orleans’ raucous early 1990s.

He walked in without pomp or circumstance, no entourage, no fanfare, no feathers, solo… but just as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Our job wasn’t anything to do with recording music, it was all about VoiceOver – he’d been cast as the Yak in Quincy’s animated PSA to promote recycling efforts and it was destined for use in movie theaters, television & MTV across America that summer.

We phone-patched to Los Angeles and together with Stevie Wonder, Ozzy Osbourne, B.B. King, Natalie Cole, Pat Benatar, Charlie Daniels, Barry White and Bugs Bunny…

With a hip-hop beat straight outta “In Living Color” – Fox’s big hit at the time – it all showed-up in movie theaters like this

Dr. John’s 1st visit to Airlift Productions – as “the Yak”

Some recording session, I’ll tell you that.

When Mac, not even asking if he could smoke, pulled out a Cheroot and lit it up, we rushed an ash tray into the booth without giving it a second thought. Sort of.

And when he asked if he could “use the facilities”, I took him up in the elevator to the Iberville Street living quarters, to the bathroom, where he encountered my then-one-year-old son Benjamin.

Imagine, if you can, Dr. John setting his walking stick aside, so he could pick up your child, hold him… and whisper sweet voodoo nothings in his ear!

Our second session, the following year, was all about VoiceOver for an awards presentation, wherein Mac & I were hired to record the introduction to accompany the big show-opening video – all about New Orleans legendary Red Light District!

Dr. John “Special Events Magazine” Awards Show Intro – 1993

Our paths – and stars – would continue to cross through the next couple decades, most notably at New Orleans’ Big Easy Entertainment Awards Shows.

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Dr. John & Airlift Mike, Big Easy Awards Show New Orleans 1995

I was honored to act as ‘Live Announcer’ for the show for ten consecutive years and Mac, being the one and only Dr. John, would be along many years to receive an award, or just to perform.

Just. As if.

My favorite memory was the year his mother flew in from NYC for the show, so Mac tracks me down and tells me that he wants me to meet his mama… and together we made the trek across the Fairmont ballroom so I could give my regards to his Dorothy.

Indeed, while Mac’s bouts with smack/heroin through the years are the stuff of legend, he had successfully navigated those choppy waters and was ‘clean’ the entire time I ever was fortunate enough to talk and record with him.

Through the years – the recording sessions & Big Easy Awards – we talked and laughed of many things… his love for New Orleans, his love of music, the ‘Big Picture’, existential things like living a life with “one foot in this world… and the other… in the other”!

Much in the way that Time Magazine caught his candor here

Dr. John, with some pretty amazing answers… and questions.

The last time we ever spoke to each other?

It was at the funeral for Cosimo Matassa, New Orleans’ legendary, seminal recording engineer and producer.

Along with a Who’s-Who of New Orleans music royalty – Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Quint Davis, Deacon John Moore, Benny Grunch – we’d all gathered to say goodbye to Cos, the big mac-daddy that started it all down on Rampart all those years ago.

Dr. John had flown into NOLA from NYC to say his final farewell to Cosimo down at Lake Lawn.

Then, in 2019… it was his turn.

Yeah, we all may very well be ‘whistling past the graveyard’ but, damn – nobody whistled that tune better than Dr. John!

And just like ‘dat, mellifluous, mesmerizing, mystical Mac moved on… from New Orleans & ‘da World.

Sort of.

I mean, there IS the matter of all that fantastic music he left us.

Deepest thanks for all that hoodoo voodoo that you did so well, bud.

Nighty-night, Nite Tripper.

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Airlift Mike Onstage with the late Sid Noel at NOLA’s Orpheum Theater, Halloween 2019

Dr. Ziants: My dear colleague, it was a true delight to visit and work with you in your digital laboratory. I somewhat envy your remarkable equipment, which far exceeds anything we can afford here in the old city ice house. Your audio production facilities are second to none, and I thank you again for the excellent recordings you produced for the Momus A. Morgus Institute.” — Momus

** A tested-by-time Testimonial from Dr. Morgus (aka – Sid Noel Rideau) direct from the old city ice house to the Airlift digital lab via email.

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Airlift Productions – we’ll leave the mics hot… and the light on for you.

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984

Taylor Swift “Shakes Off” Airlift Productions

Taylor Swift, tagged to headline Jefferson Parish's Family Gras 2008
Taylor Swift, tagged to headline Jefferson Parish’s Family Gras 2008

** With the rather remarkable news of Ms. Swift booking NOT ONE, BUT THREE SHOWS IN THE SUPERDOME FOR NEXT YEAR, 2024 – I’m re-posting this blog, originally published in June of 2015 **

Long before her recent shaking-up of the “Apple Cart’s” new music streaming service, Country/Pop-Tart Taylor Swift was headed to play New Orleans – and yours truly, Airlift Mike, was tagged to help promote and give voice to the show.

Little did any of us realize when then-19 year old Taylor was selected to appear at Family Gras 2008 – just down Veterans Boulevard from the Airlift Productions Studios – that she was destined  to explode and become one of the world’s hottest selling musical artists!

Family Gras was brand new – and so was Taylor Swift’s career.

Contracted & hired by NOLA public relations ace Greg Buisson and the Jefferson Parish Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, I was tasked with voicing and producing the :60 audio track (video edited by Joseph Schneider) which was then to play all over New Orleans television to promote the affair.

** An uncharacteristically UP-Tempo Micheal Ziants, generating excitement for Taylor Swift’s Family Gras 2008 Appearance **

2008FamilyGrasLineupSo, with but one big hit in her hip pocket (“Our Song”), Taylor got in the bus with mom & dad, Andrea & Scott, and drove down to NOLA from Nashville for the show on that ill-fated late January.

She was slated to appear along with Blake Shelton, Kansas, Billy Ray Cyrus, The Bangles and a host of class N’awlins acts  – all in between Mardi Gras parades on the neutral ground of Veterans Boulevard here in Metairie for Family Gras 2008.

But Mother Nature had other ideas.

As fate and the rain gods would have it, the skies over NOLA opened up that fate-filled Friday afternoon and it rained.  And it rained.  And it rained!

Poor Taylor’s only appearance that afternoon was on the 6:00 News/Blues.  Under an umbrella.  In a pouring rainstorm.  As she tendered her regrets to a dismayed New Orleans crowd about her canceled show.

swift14f-1-webReally.  Ask her about this one sometime, should you get a chance.

And little did any of us realize that day that this little PA native, Nashville transplant, Taylor Alison Swift’s career was about to explode – into the stratosphere!

Oh wait, of course. Her mama did.

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984   

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L-R, Heath Allen, Theresa Andersson, Micheal Ziants, Rich Lenz – during a break from the original HEALING HOUSE sessions, Airlift Productions 2004

“Great recording studios share something in common with great concert venues. They both have a…what is it? An aura, a vibe, a karma, an ambiance? Whatever you call it, it’s as real as any speaker on the wall or slider on a console. You can’t see it, but, you can absolutely FEEL it. 

Airlift Productions has IT – thanks to the man behind the board (and in your ear). Micheal Ziants has a knack for gently pulling your best work out of you – and then improving upon it in the final mix. The finished product always leaves you thrilled, satisfied and amazed that you really had it in you! The best part- he gives you all the credit and you only realize later what great hands your material was in. 

Do yourself a favor- give Airlift a try. You’ll love the results and every moment you spent producing them.”

~ RICH LENZ , former WDSU-TV Sports Director/Anchor 

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What Makes a Voice Over Talent … Talented?

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The little, bespectacled goober front row left is 13 year old Micheal Ziants of Airlift Productions – part of the “Young Tom Edison” cast, Youngstown, Ohio Civic Children’s Theater, 1964

It has been said that the best VoiceOverTalents come from the STAGE not the RADIO because the theater and acting is at the heart of the craft – not broadcasting.

But what if a talent could combine both?

Yes, this blog could perhaps be seen as self-serving, tooting one’s own horn and sort of like ‘breaking the 4th wall’ in a Woody Allen movie where he addresses the camera directly, but here  goes:
 
While I began my broadcasting career in the 1970s and worked on-air in some of America’s greatest cities as well as for some of the USA’s hallmark companies – The Pulitzers in St. Louis & Billboard Magazine in Nashville –  for me it all began on the stage!
 
Airlift Mike with the Tribe of Ziants, front porch, Youngstown, Ohio, circa 1962

The acting bug bit me early and hard! In the 1960s it was the Civic Children’s Theater in Youngstown, Ohio that was my launch pad. Saturdays could find me onstage re-creating the stories of Peter Pan, Tom Edison or Robin Hood for hundreds of school age kids at a time.

 
I then went on through high school to become the President of the Thespian Club and had the leads in the Junior and Senior Class plays as well.
 
Using the human voice to arrest someone’s attention, intrigue them, and then motivate them to relate to a cause or sympathize with an issue seemed damned near magical.  I was hooked.
 
Later on, as a broadcaster and then as a voice over talent, I learned to call on these same skills, intuitive yet honed on a stage, and bring them all to the microphone!
 

               Shocking, Raw, Visceral – Adults Only ** Micheal reads from Pelican Publishing’s True Crime Drama “Murder in Coweta County”

So, again, what if the voice over artist – the person delivering the message at the microphone – could combine innate, yet trained, acting chops plus vast commercial broadcast experience plus decades of technical, hands-on production experience?
 
OK, here comes the horn tooting part: that would be – ME!
 
Do you want to book a voice talent with experience?  With theater in his blood? With years of broadcasting & audio production thrown in ala carte? 
 
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Broadcast Veteran – and Actor – Micheal Ziants, plying his trade at the Airlift Studios
 
Then you want to book, hire, make the call – Airlift Productions, New Orleans Premier Voice Over Recording Studio!
 
(I know, cheeky, huh?)
 
We now return you to your regularly scheduled internet browsing, already in progress…
 
 

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Texan Peg Jones at work station

“I listened to a lot of voices to represent Detective Lt. Robert (Robbo) Davidson for our audiobook version of “The Evil I Have Seen” and none quite fit. At last, I did a search for a commanding, seasoned, slightly Southern voice — and pulled up Airlift Productions of NOLA. I clicked on Micheal’s sample narrations of “Murder in Coweta County” then James Patterson’s “The Chef,” and I was hooked. No one else would do.

I was surprisingly delighted after speaking with Micheal to learn, he would not agree to narrate and produce the audiobook until he read it. He wasn’t in it just for money — he would only partner on material he believed to be worthwhile. It has been a delightful, rewarding experience and Robbo and I could not be more proud of the way he brought this book to life.” — Author PJ Jones

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What Do You Do When You’re #@&% Tired Of Being Fired?!?

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1984 Times-Picayune Sunday article about that new Mike McCann dude at Q-93

 

When clients first visit my Airlift Productions Studios here in New Orleans one of their first questions is regarding my motivation for building such an awesome recording space & studio complex in the first place.

My response? “Well, quite frankly, I have an entrepreneurial drive that was born and forged in the fires of unemployment!”

Really.

Q-93 Memo to Staff & Times-Picayune article about Mike McCann's exit
Q-93 Memo to Staff & Times-Picayune article about Mike McCann’s exit

I just grew tired and weary of the corporate radio mentality that treated warm, talented and caring humans – with families to look after – as simple commodities!

While much of America today it seems is constantly being outsourced, marginalized, downsized and capsized, even back in the ’80s, I wanted to forge, hand-craft, and create my own future.  

Enter the Airlift dream.

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              Airlift Productions Recording Studio, New Orleans Master Control on Pomona

 

Pause to consider, I would never have been at Q-93 Radio (WQUE-FM) in 1983 had WIFI-FM in Philadelphia not terminated my position.  A format change to “Rock of the ’80s” – Psychedelic Furs, Oingo-Bongo, Roxy Music, X, Berlin all the time – in early ’83 led to my dismissal.

Imagine taking this excuse to the PA unemployment line bean-counters, “Well, the consultants considered my on-air approach & style too adult sounding and too mature for the new format!”  Really.

I would never have been at WIFI in Philadelphia had management not fired the entire air staff at WLAC in Nashville.  This legendary 50,000 watt radio station sat on Music Row in Nashville, was owned by Billboard Magazine at the time, and reached Canada and Cuba from the mid-south with it’s remarkable signal.

But it all didn’t matter when Billboard sold the station to new owners – who then changed the format to All-Talk/News and fired/terminated its entire air staff, including yours truly.

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Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants as alter-ego John Saint John, in the production room at WLAC, Nashville, 1980

I would never have been on-air at WLAC had the Pulitzer family in St. Louis at 55-KSD not made a similar move. The radio station was sold to new owners who then changed the format to All-Talk/News and fired it’s entire on-air personality music air staff.

Are you beginning to see a pattern here?  Enter the Airlift dream.

Note that my exits from WKBO in Harrisburg in 1978 and from WQUE here in New Orleans were indeed at my own hand.

I left Harrisburg on my own terms to pursue my first major market air shift in St. Louis.  And I indeed exited Q-93 (as afternoon DJ/Air personality) in 1985 to build my own dream, to fulfill my destiny… to create Airlift Productions.

Airlift Productions was my way of taking all the skills that I’d learned working for “the man” and putting them to work for myself! I simply parlayed the many skills hard-earned and fine-tuned through all those radio years into self-employment as a VoiceOver talent and recording studio owner.

MichealZiantsAsMikeMcCannQ-93Ad-1984The final chapter?  Well, it has yet to be written.  As the old advertising adage goes… “watch this space…”

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984 

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Airlift Mike Onstage with Sid Noel at NOLA’s Orpheum Theater, Halloween 2019

“Dr. Ziants:

My dear colleague, it was a true delight to visit and work with you in your digital laboratory. I somewhat envy your remarkable equipment, which far exceeds anything we can afford here in the old city ice house. Your audio production facilities are second to none, and I thank you again for the excellent recordings you produced for the Momus A. Morgus Institute.” — Momus

** A tested-by-time Testimonial from Dr. Morgus (aka – Sid Noel Rideau) direct from the old city ice house to the Airlift digital lab via email.

 

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Notes On Recording James Carville at Airlift Productions

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James Carville & Mary Matalin on Meet the Press, along with former BFF Tim Russert

In my now nearly 40 years of recording voice overs, radio/TV, AudioBooks & musicians at Airlift Productions in America’s most fascinating and interesting city, you could say that I’ve encountered quite a few characters.

 

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Dr. John ‘da Nite Tripper records at Airlift Productions NOLA

Doctor John (aka Mac Rebennack) has spent hours with me, recording voice-over tracks for awards shows, and even cartoon voice tracks for Quincy Jones’ Take it Back Foundation.

I still can’t get over that, not even asking if he could smoke, at the Airlift Productions Iberville location, he pulled out a cheroot at the mic and lit it up! (We rushed an ash tray in to his rescue.)
** Dr. John at the Airlift mics telling the story of N’awlins’ bawdy, infamous Red-Light District, known as  “Storyville” **

Archie Manning records with Airlift Productions
Archie Manning recorded  radio spots with Airlift Productions

For several years in the 90s, Peyton & Eli’s dad Archie Manning had the Gold’s Gym franchise here just outside NOLA in Metairie, and I served as a one-man ad agency, writing, voicing & producing all the radio ads for the gym, which brought Archie & his partners regularly into the Airlift Productions Studios.

** Archie Manning’s Golds Gym Christmas Radio :60 Classic  – with Airlift  Mike as Santa, along with Archie, at the Airlift mics **

 
The cast of characters – from the mayors (both Morial & Landrieu), to all the city council members, Morgus the Magnificent, stand-up/fall-down comics, radio rebels, misfits, in-laws and outlaws has become the stuff of legend.
 
JamesCarvilleAndMaryMatalinRecordLoveAndWarAtAirliftProductionsBut I would have to say the most memorable and colorful of them all is none other than James Carville!
 
We’ve spent dozens of hours together one-on-one – with only a producer, long distance on a phone-patch Skype connection – recording two separate audio books, ‘It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!’ and, along with wife Mary, ‘Love & War’.
 
Now, by his own admission, James has untreated ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  He’s tried the drugs but didn’t like how they made him feel, so he and Mary just ‘deal with it’.  Add (ADHD) me to the list.
 
Imagine working through hour-after-hour with someone in this situation and condition.  Add to that, someone very highly opinionated (ya think?), outspoken, given to tantrums … and ‘caged’ for an extended length of time!  Yowza & Yikes!
**  Airlift Mike reflects on 1st sessions, along with classic James Carville musings and rants, captured at Airlift Productions NOLA **

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Micheal Ziants and Political Firebrand James Carville at the Airlift Productions Studios 

But we worked through it all and laughed, bonded, and created two very memorable and collectible audio books  available from that amazon crowd.

James’ reaction to his experiences at Airlift?
 
“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 quite frankly, the comfort, make it the only place I want to record now or in the future” ~ James Carville
And, needless to say, but I will anyway, the out-takes are simply priceless!  Perhaps a tale for a blog for yet another day.
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JamesCarvilleRecordsAtAirliftProductionsA candid shot – through the studio door into the Airlift ‘green room’ – of Carville on the cell, taking a needed break, talking to George Stephanopolous in DC, with his feet ON my ping-pong table! Really, James?