Fighting purists unanimously agree, when it comes to beat’em ups, they simply don’t get much bigger then Street Fighter’s Ryu. The iconic Karate wielding Street Fighting talisman is one of Capcom’s most recognisable and acclaimed creations and arguably one of gaming’s most admired and respected characters. His impact goes so far as to transcend the confines of mainstream gaming and Ryu is as popular now as we was when he first came to prominence on arcade machines the world over nearly twenty five years ago.
TGL had the distinguished honoured to sit down with Kyle Hebert at Nom Com 2011 in Dublin, the man now responsible for the iconic vocal growls of “hadouken” that accompany every hurtling blue fireball. We spoke to Kyle about his career, becoming Ryu and why voicing Ryu and Tekken’s Kazuya Mishima is something you should probably not tell your perspective employers.
Here we go…………….
TGL: Hi Kyle, nice to meet you. So how do you like Ireland so far?
Kyle Hebert: Ireland is pretty darn awesome I got to say. The closest I have ever been here before was the UK. Last year I went to the London MCM Expo and that was my first time to London so I’ve never been to Europe in general before. Getting to do what I do has afforded me so many perks, it’s not just the fact that I get to put my name on a big franchise, I get paid to do something I love and I get these great perks like being invited to conventions around the world and I’ve been very lucky this year alone. I’ve gotten to go to Australia, here I am in Dublin this weekend, later this year I’ll be in Honolulu for the first time and lets next year I’ll probably be back in Europe again, I’ve already heard from some other conventions so yeah this is a whirlwind and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
TGL: We’re glad to hear you are enjoying it.
KH: Thank you, it is great but the only downside is being stuck on a plane for many hours.
TGL: Airports are just nightmares……
KH: Yeah but once I’m at the destination and I get this wonderful face time with the people that support the shows and the games it’s very intensely satisfying, creatively and personally.
TGL: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, just for anyone who hasn’t heard of Kyle Hebert.
KH: Basically I’m a voice actor who started in the business with Dragon Ball Z eleven years ago, this month actually. I went in for my first audition in August of 2000 and I came from radio actually. Two things I wanted to do since I was a child was get into voice acting for cartoons and become a disk jockey, so I ended up getting a degree in radio/TV/film from the University of North Texas right outside Dallas Texas and went from there, started internship at a radio network and work at various radio formats through the years like Top 40. I did classic country, I did jazz, I did heavy metal and then I did kids radio for nine years. While working for the kid’s radio format I heard about auditions for Dragon Ball Z at Funimation, also housed in Dallas. I got lucky, tried out for Gohan and I ended up booking it. I started off doing bit parts at the end of the Cell Saga, the Bardock special and it went from there, one thing led to another and six years ago I moved to Los Angeles. I think I kind of got the Radio bug out of my system and I said to myself “I really want focus on cartoons and I’m not getting any younger so I got to get to Los Angeles” so I picked up and moved to the west coast in late 2005. I got an agent for the first time and my résumé definitely helped me open doors there. Steve Bloom, the voice of Wolverine on the new Marvel shows, he kind of walked me in and said “hey this guy from Texas has come out here, give a listen to his demo and see what you think”, so he got me into Naruto which led to Bleach and then other studios like with Gurren Laggan and then a lot of anime voice actors also do videogame work.
KH: Yeah there’s folks from cartoons who do games, there’s folks who cross from animes to video games and back to cartoons again but not necessarily backwards because anime pays on the low end of the spectrum, games pay really well, they have bigger budgets but they pay hundreds more per session and cartoons are also on that end of the spectrum too, so people who started in cartoons don’t work their way back, it’s like “why would I want to work on a show that I get paid so much less for and yet it’s harder to do?” I mean you’re matching lip sync and what not. Games are flourishing despite a really weak world economy, the gamers are still forking out money and that is fortunate for our industry. We voice actors are still able to immerse ourselves in the craft, there’s still a need for us and we’re more than happy to step in.
TGL: We weren’t aware that there was such a discrepancy between the value of the work of voice actors in video games as opposed to cartoons; do you feel this is directly representative of the voice actor’s contribution to a game?
KH: Well I can honestly say I understand the gamer’s perspective, at the end of the day you want a good game. You don’t necessarily hear about good voice acting but you hear loud complaints when it’s not there, when it’s not up to snuff.
TGL: Michigan Report from hell….
KH: Ha ha, yeah one of my favourites is House of the Dead 2, it has some wonderfully laughable performances, nothing against the actors themselves but you know…
KH: Yeah absolutely, like I always tell fans, don’t blame the actors when you hear a voice or a performance you don’t like. The actors job is to go into the booth and give the voice director what they need or what they are looking for and in the case of games a client will be overseeing the session too so while the director is interacting with me, they’re interacting with the client, a writer or producer say from Capcom for example that’s calling the shots above them. So the director says “Great take on Ryu there, hadouken, that’s really good” and then they will say “Stand by” while they confer with the Capcom rep who will say “That was good, let’s work over it”
TGL: You’ve worked with a lot of different game companies haven’t you?
KH: Yeah through the years I’ve forgotten the names but I’m starting to learn them now. I’ve worked for Blizzard doing stuff on Warcraft; I’ve worked for Ubisoft and just all over the place really.
TGL: Were there any particular ones that stood out as being the best to work with?
KH: Honestly I just tend to geek out over any chance I get to work in the booth and just play, this past week alone I was playing something like four to ten different roles. I’d be like a race car driver then a soldier, then a bar patron, then a General.
TGL: It must be kind of like being a secret agent…..
KH: Yeah, you’re wearing all these different masks and I get called in to do a lot of the miscellaneous background stuff because I have a wide range. I can sound young, old, demonic and they put me through my paces, give me a good vocal workout and you record for an hour, two hours, maybe four hours, sign some paper work, walk out and go about your day. You get paid a month later, it’s all freelance but hey it’s great when the phone rings to say they haven’t forgotten you and they want to bring you in on an interview. Nowadays, the big thing is the internet of course and the ability for us to record auditions from home.
TGL: Well we’ve seen, you’ve even lent your vocal talents to more amateur productions…
KH: Absolutely, the folks from Team 4 Star, Kirbopher who’s a big name on Newgrounds. You know a lot of amateur projects, I see the passion in their eyes, using the Internet to distribute and get content out there quickly and freely. I’m more than happy to show up in a cameo for them here and there; if they want to use my name to get their project heard then I’m fine with that.
TGL: That’s got to be really inspirational for them; you are a big name in the industry.
KH: Thank you, I’m always humbled by that and very very flattered. I like to quickly get past the “You’re amazing I’m star struck!!!” reactions at a convention; I quickly say “No, no I’m just a regular person”. I have an awesome cool job but I’m just like you, I have bills to pay, drama, I’m a single parent, I’m just a real person.
TGL: Which actually brings me to a rumour I’ve heard, apparently you’re quite the gamer yourself?
KH: I am a gamer, I’m not a good gamer but I am a gamer. I’m more of a casual gamer, I was a child of the 70′s so I started with the Atari and then a Colecovision, then the Nintendo and I still have a Sega Dreamcast. Since then of course all these iterations of Xbox and Playstations so here we are today and I still play with friends on Xbox Live, I got a Kinect, I got a 3DS even though that’s not selling too well. I bought all the iPhones, I love Apps, I love gadgetry, and I just got an iPad! I just love the portability of it and I never would have thought that when I’m grown up I’m gonna be like a gadget geek and love technology, social medias like Facebook and Twitter. Back in the day, MySpace was the big thing, I was all over that too and Live journal but now its Facebook, Twitter, whatever the next big thing is.
TGL: Google Plus?
KH: To Google Plus, I’m all over that too and loving it. I love Skype, I love that people can talk for free, download the app and you’re saving tons of money talking to people all over the world, all you need is a Wi-Fi connection, it’s great.
TGL: Can you tell us what would be your preference in voice acting work simply from a production point of view?
KH: The most creatively satisfying would be the cartoons. I got to voice a two episode arc on the Avengers: Earths mightiest Heroes which hasn’t aired yet, in the States it airs on Disney XD and I’m sure it will make its way over to these shores. I’ve always wanted to get on cartoons and now that I’ve gotten to I just want it all the more because it’s a different dynamic, you actually have the whole cast there so its kinda like an old radio play, you get to play off each other’s performance, you get to watch other actors do their craft and immerse themselves in it, everyone is cracking jokes and having fun. As soon as the recording light goes on everyone is in the zone, we’re professional and we’re doing what we are paid to do. They really are a fantastic, talented, laid back, hysterical group of people and I can’t wait to do it again. I auditioned all the time, I met Peter Cullen the voice of Optimus Prime and he was so gracious. I said to him “I not only look up to you but I actually do what you do, just not at your level and I hope to one day”. I’ve tried out for Transformers Prime several times but I haven’t got the call back yet but he said “Stick to it, stick to it” which was great to hear from Optimus Prime.
KH: Him and Frank Welker I just met last week, I mean there’s Megatron and Freddy from Scooby Doo. The man is constantly working, he is another living legend.
TGL: That actually brings us to our next question. Speaking of iconic characters, how did you land the role of Ryu in Street Fighter?
KH: Well I had already done other projects for the studio, New Generation Pictures, some anime and video games. I was asked to come in and I signed a non disclosure agreement at the time of the audition which was odd. That happens from time to time, usually you’ll do the session, sign the NDA for them saying “you will not talk about it until it’s out”. I get there for the audition they say ok I need you to sign the NDA before the audition which is unusual but this is a really big title and when I show you the audition side you may freak out a little bit because you are going to recognise this and I did. I was like “No way, no way am I actually gonna try out for this”, I couldn’t believe it. So I tried out for several characters El Fuerte, E Honda, M Bison and I kept thinking “I’m gonna get one of those other dudes, I’m not gonna get the lead” but then I get a call back and woah it was unreal. I blew my voice out in the sessions doing Hadoukens and asking “how do you say this? tat-su-maki-sen-pu-kyak-u? I have to say it how fast!? Cant I just say hurricane kick?” So yeah it was unreal because I had played Street Fighter, terribly of course in years in the past.
TGL: None of us at TGL can say we’re “tournament material” either.
KH: Ha ha yeah I’m a button masher, I can’t remember combos to save my life so give me Soul Calibur and I’ll stand at least half a chance of maybe doing well, oh and Marvel vs Capcom, mash a few buttons and maybe something will work.
KH: Yeah I’m certainly hoping because Capcom did say that they want to establish a talent pool for these characters and use them from here on, so that would tell me yes, you would hear me so hopefully Capcom if you are listening I’m waiting, I want to do it. I love playing these games and hearing my own work is a huge boost for me so the biggest rush I got up until getting into voice work on games was like popping in a DVD, watch on TV or a file online and get the feedback from fans, that was the rush. Now the rush is getting to select a character I have played as and getting to hear myself as I am hitting the combos, it’s a blast.
TGL: TGL would like to hear to continue to voice Ryu, we like your performance a lot.
KH: Well thank you, thank you very much. It’s been great recording on all the other iterations so far and I’m not going anywhere, I’m here for the long haul so all they have to do is call me and I’m there.
TGL: So what actually have been your favourite roles in your voice acting career?
KH: DBZ will always be special to me. I started off as a fan of that show in the mid 90′s. So imagine a fanboy dream come true, suddenly I am working on a show that I have been going around imitating of, including the narrator which I eventually became. Gohan and the narrator will always be super special because that’s the show that essentially launched my career. I mean I did start in radio and I had done some commercials on some other projects that were creative and fun but that was the most mainstream I had gone. It had really started kicking in during the early 2000′s. Through the years I have obviously being getting attached to Street Fighter even bit parts on Final Fantasy. I’m not really an RPG type gamer but it just feels great having that notch on the belt. Strangely enough even Sonic. I voice Big the Cat in Sonic DS colours and it’s not a big character, in fact it’s not even a well liked character.
TGL: It’s just a big cat…..
TGL: Well they are very fondly remembered what with the new Sonic Generations being developed.
KH: Absolutely and with the iPad I think there is a Sonic racing game you can get, I’m not on that but again huge franchise that I am happy to be a part of in some way. Full Metal Alchemist, a fantastic show that I think actually transcends the art form. I’ve converted a lot of my friends who don’t watch anime and they got hooked on that show just because the story and the characters stand out so well. Cowboy Bebop is another series I have always held in very high regard and I wish I could have been a part of but I wasn’t in California at the time but I know a lot of people that still work in L.A. who were a part of that show. Kamina in Gurren Laggan, he really was a special. It was bittersweet because I am friends with a lot of the talent pool originally from Houston, AVD as they were know back then, they originally had the show and for whatever reason they lost the rights to Bandai who brought it to the L.A. talent pool. I was asked to come in to try out for Kamina and Viral. I thought “ok hopefully one sticks” and then I got Kamina, the iconic character of the series even though he’s not in it as much as I wish he was.
KH: Ha ha spoilers yes but still a very important role.
TGL: And a widely loved character from what we’ve heard.
KH: Oh he’s huge. I came here thinking ok I’m mostly known for Dragon Ball Z. It’s kinda like Leonard Nimoy and William Shattner, no matter what they do they will always be Spock and Kirk. I’ve done tons of shows, hundreds of games and it’s like “hey you’re the Narrator from DBZ” and I’m like “OK”. I come here and it’s like “Dragon Ball Z” Cool, “Kamina” WHAT!!!!! So ok I guess in Ireland a different thing resonates, I’m fine with that it’s cool.
TGL: Mr Hebert you have been great to give us so much of your time but if we could just ask you to tell us a little about what projects you are currently working on at the moment that would be great.
KH: Here’s the weird thing remember that whole “Non Disclosure Agreement” thing?
TGL: All too familiar with it.
KH: Yeah it’s like fight club, do not talk about fight club. What is coming out? Ok Marvel did let me say that I am going to be on the Avengers cartoon, what I can say about games, cartoons and anime; whenever I am on a project the best way to learn about it is when I tweet about it, a Facebook status update or blogging about it on my website. As soon as I get the ok or it’s about a week or two from coming out I think it’s in the safe zone to say “here I am”.
TGL: Well you heard it here first folks, follow Kyle Hebert on Twitter if you want to know more about what he’s up to.
KH: There you go…
That’s my fan page because you know the personal profile has a limit on how many friends you can have so I decided to wean that down to people I actually know and then the community page for everyone else who follows my exploits, so I tweet about it which forwards to the Facebook page, which forwards to the fan page, so follow me anywhere and follow my blog, we’ll get ya caught up on all my current stuff. Tekken Blood Vengeance is the latest thing to come out; it is released in the states. It’s a CG movie with the Tekken characters, I voice Kazuya. I can say I will not be Kazuya in Tekken X Street Fighter because they said there was no way you are going to be two iconic characters.
TGL: Share some of the roles.
KH: Yeah like share some of the work, yeah that’s ok. When Namco Bandai hired me for the Tekken movie I was like “Did you guys know I was…? Ok I’m not gonna say anything; I don’t want to lose the work”. There’s tons of games coming up this past week alone. Right before I flew out to Ireland I got to work on a huge game involving the undead, draw your own conclusions from that.
TGL: That does have us intrigued…
KH: Yes indeed and I am not breaking NDA by not saying an actual title but I will say it does involve things that are not living anymore.
TGL: Well to be fair if you look at games last year alone you could be talking about anything.
KH: That’s true so I’m even safer in saying that much.
TGL: You couldn’t have pushed suspicion further away.
KH: I know, I know but if folks want to hear something brand spanking new they can watch Iron Man the animated series. I voice Yinsen. In the live action movie with Robert Downey Jr, Yinsen is the character that finds him in the desert and they create the first Iron Man suit, so bit character but they take it in a completely different direction in the animated series so I got to have a blast with that show. If you’re a big Marvel fan there is a new Incredible Hulk comic book series coming out and what Marvel is doing now is motion comic trailers but the product is actually a physical comic book, not a motion comic book. So I did one for Fear Itself, which was a miniseries that came out around the same time as Thor and now they are pushing this new Hulk event that Marc Silvestri has written, a sort of a reimagining, revamping and rebooting of the Hulk Franchise.
TGL: That does tend to happen a bit.
KH: Yeah reboots are a big thing but Marvel liked my narration on Fear Itself, so they said we want you to do that movie trailer voice again on our comic which was cool. Then on SModcast.com, Kevin Smith from Jay and Silent Bob, Clerks, Chasing Amy. He has a very successful online podcast network called S.I.R. Smodcast Internet Radio and I am the voice of S.I.R. I voice and write all of his promos. You can hear me in-between all the shows. It all started with Hollywood Babylon. I sent a VO in as a gag, I was just going to voice the intro and see if they like it, they read my email on the air and said “hey Kyle send us another version of this intro, we want to use this”. That was another fan boy dream come true. I’ve been a huge Kevin Smyth fan for years and now I’m working for him.
TGL: Kyle it sounds like you have had an amazing career and we wish you only the best of success with everything that is yet to come.
KH: Thank you, this is just another pinnacle, getting to travel the world is what I love and here I am in Ireland, I never would have thought it. This is awesome.
TGL: We’re glad to have you here.
KH: Thank you.
TGL: No, no. Thank you.