All images courtesy of Jeff Clement/The NoSleep Podcast
Continuing on with our series of NoSleep Podcast interviews, this is an interview I’ve been all too excited to share because he’s one of my favorite voice actors on the show. We’ve got none other than the David Ault with us.
Having been with the show since early on in season 4 David has been in well over 250 episodes. Since then, and his roles never seem to disappoint, bringing many types of characters and different levels of intensity as well as emotion to his characters, and the show itself. With that being said, there’s a good reason David lands in my top-5 actors on NoSleep.
In this interview, we touch on his background in music, acting, theatre, audio, and everything in between. This really is a comprehensive tell-all that goes into great detail about what makes David, well, David. So, without further adieu, I give you David Ault! (I hope you’re ready for some Doctor Who talk!).
David Ault! I am absolutely thrilled to have you here with us today for our series of Nosleep interviews as you’re one of my favorite voice actors on the show. How’ve you been holding up?
Thanks, it’s a pleasure to be here! Yes, it certainly has been a bizarre 18 months, and I’m lucky that I have a job (private tuition) that transfers pretty well over to the online world, but it has certainly been difficult. Still, the sun is shining and the earth is beautiful!
Let’s start off easy and get to know you a bit first before we get into things. Who are you and where are you from? I read you actually have a degree in astrophysics, can you tell us a bit about that as well?
Well, as you’ve already mentioned, I’m David Ault and I live in the picturesque city of Ripon, North Yorkshire, in the UK. A warning though: historically over here cities can be of any size, as long as they have a cathedral, and Ripon is one of the smallest cities in England with a population well under 20,000!
It’s true that I have a degree in astrophysics; I also have one in radio astronomy! They came in useful when I went to drama school because it kicked off my ability to do private tutoring to get some money in! I do like having a foot in both camps of science and arts, though as I get older I realize more and more how the two are inextricably interlinked, and not as compartmentalized as high school would have you believe.
How did you get into acting in general and voice acting, because you also participate in theater, correct? What’s your history? You have quite the background between enjoying audio dramas and performing in them.
I’ve always loved audio drama, and this comes from listening to tapes when going to sleep as a child. I would listen to all sorts, but I especially remember the complete Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series and a selection of Edgar Allen Poe stories. As a teenager, I first took to the stage with my local church pantomime, and the rest, as they say, is history!
When at university I took part in a number of shows too, but it was once I discovered the internet-based audio drama that I was captivated. I’ve always been a fan of Doctor Who, and around the turn of the century(!) there were groups making fan audio fiction (such as Back to Reality productions Floorten Audio and Dogma Audio, amongst others) and making them available for people to download and listen to. I loved this, and one group, Darker Projects, was doing several fan fictions, including Doctor Who and Star Trek. They put out a call for someone to do the voice for a quick two-line ensign, and that’s how I got started!
Where have been some of your favorite places that your acting, and music have taken you?
In 2008/09 I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to join four other actors in Rajasthan, India, performing Shakespeare, as well as many other interesting projects. We spent six months out there over the winter, and it was the first time I’d worn shorts while out walking on Christmas Day! The director wanted my character to play the cello to relax, so I was able to play each night for the audience.
My cello also took me to Taiwan to play for a good friend’s wedding out there, and I took the opportunity to have a good look around. But of course, one of my favourite places that my acting has taken me to is on all the tours with the NoSleep Podcast, and I’m hugely indebted to David Cummings for that!
You performed the cello parts for the season 16 theme. What was that experience like? Tell us how the piece came together.
This was one achievement I’ve been wanting to unlock for a while! Brandon invited me to play on the theme and found that the best way was for him to create the backing track, then for me to play along to it in a few different ways, then for him to put the music together and send it off to Phil Michalski to work his immense creative magic with it. Brandon and I have wanted to duet for a while, and it’s funny that both times we’ve actually got to do it have been remotely!
Have you played in any bands that have toured or released any albums? Where else can we hear some of your music?
You can hear me on Brandon’s 2016 album Book of Winter playing “Wilting Flower.” Brandon’s such an excellent creative musician that I was honored to be part of that. Otherwise, I’ve not been with a band since university, but there are places where you can hear me singing…
In 2009 I adapted some Gilbert & Sullivan songs for the planetarium I was working at, and those still can be found on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9HdkC3LbPtf5SLNfMyg1QKmdRJtz4R4N.
Now, onto NoSleep! I discovered the show maybe 7 or 8 years ago. How soon after discovering the show did you decide you wanted to be a part of it? What was the process like, and how soon after did you have your first episode out?
I discovered NoSleep well into Season 3, at which point I binged the first two seasons and became determined to get involved with this amazing horror anthology show. I got in touch with David Cummings, asked if he needed any more British narrators, and then that’s how things started.
One day David told me that there are more roles for two-handers, which is how I then got the wonderfully multi-talented Erika Sanderson involved, but I’ll let her tell that story!
What does horror mean to you? What is it about horror that you love ,ost? Out of the many sub-genres of horror, what are your favorite types? Do you prefer audio for certain types of horror and visual for others?
To me, horror represents a manageable dose of fear and excitement. There’s a lot of awful things happening in this world which are entirely out of our control, and it can sometimes be incredibly overwhelming. I take days off social media and have a full mute list myself! Horror gives us control over the fear because we can choose when enough is enough. We can decide to switch it off and keep it in a separate world, without it impinging on our own.
As a child I was always very interested in ghost stories – probably why I help run the Ghost Walks here – and so it was a natural step forward to go into the world of horror. There are some things I can’t enjoy- anything gratuitously gory, body horror, that sort of thing. I much prefer the psychological and occult side of things.
You’ve played a myriad of different characters. Do you have a favorite character type that you like to play? You seem to do a lot of mysterious and otherworldly type characters, those are my favorites.
Yes, I’ve certainly played the Devil a few times! When I first started, the groups doing audio drama were mainly American, so a British voice tended to be a villain, a butler, or someone very posh. Nowadays, the internet and the podcasting universe have grown so much, and become so accessible, that there’s so much more opportunity for everyone, which is brilliant.
My favourite characters would be the ones who have a slow descent into madness, or where a normal life starts to spiral out of control. But then again, who doesn’t love a baddie?
I’m also really pleased that more podcasts are showcasing diversity of race, sexuality, and gender identity. At NoSleep, it was a huge honour when David Cummings handed over the hosting reins for the Pride month episode a couple of years back, then defended us to the hilt against people who felt we were shoving it down their throats. David has been such an amazing ally for the LGBTQ+ community and is also making sure that the show is more representative as time goes on.
Do you have any inspirations when it comes to voice acting? How do you prepare yourself to get into character? Are some types of characters easier to get into than others?
There are some actors I really admire for their abilities to get into character. One is Erika Sanderson, whose range is utterly astounding, and another is a fellow NoSleeper and the Cool half of Cool Fool, Elie Hirschman. Sarah Golding is another vocal chameleon and excellent actor whom I very much admire.
More famously, I’m always blown away by David Tennant’s ability to voice so many different and distinctive characters, and that’s not just because I’m a fan of Doctor Who!
In terms of my own characterization, I remember what was told to me at drama school: Know Yourself, Like Yourself, Use Yourself and Lose Yourself. The key to characters is firstly to know what makes you tick and accept who you are, then when approaching a character know which bits of yourself you can use and which bits you need to ditch. That also includes physicality, and many characters will be more easily accessed with a change of facial or body shape, even behind the microphone.
Being a part of the show for so long, what are some of your favorite memories as a member of NoSleep? It could be live shows or anything else. I can’t wait for another Halloween tour and see the show live for the first time!
I have so many fantastic stories of being on tour, whether it’s performing to 500+ people in Stockholm, or to 80-odd in the Gin Mill in Toronto (where they make amazing cocktails!). But there are two things that I would highlight: the first is having my first story, “All Children Look The Same,” produced on the show. It was amazing to hear it performed!
But my favourite part of NoSleep is the ongoing community around it. My colleagues and friends within the production team itself, but also and most importantly the fans. It has been so good to meet so many wonderful listeners and to hear their stories. I know it gets said a lot, but I genuinely feel that it’s the fans who’ve made this podcast and they couldn’t be nicer people if they tried.
You’ve been on the show since season 4 so this may be a difficult question, but what are some of your favorite episodes that you’ve been a part of?
Well, here goes:
S05E13 – “My Wife Cooked Me Dinner” – such a hauntingly beautiful story and the debut of Erika Sanderson!
S07E01 – “The Tall Dog” – one of my all-time favourites from Elias Witherow!
S07E12 – “The Djinn Bottle” – this story is one of the fan favourites, and an absolute corker (no pun intended!).
S07E15 – Bounce – I love this story, and Taylor Allgood is a very talented writer.
Anything by Henry Galley – I love Henry’s comedic horror and ability to distract you before laying in a corker of a twist.
“The Audition (live in Toronto)” – again, another story where I got to descend into absolute mania and I loved every overacting second of it!
S11E02 – “The Name Eater” – Caitlin is such an excellent writer with the ability to create incredible worlds.
S11E05 – “Transformation Tuesday” – part of the Pride Episode and another joyful descent to madness.
S11E22 – “I Am Ghost” – Gemma is a wonderful person, and this story blew me away with its detail (especially in what I had to do for it!) and its amazing twist…
There are so, so many more, but these are a handful of my particular favourites!
What are some of your favorite stories so far for season 16? I really loved “Final Investment” and “The Hidden Television Channel.” What are some of your favorite or more memorable stories altogether?
I enjoyed the “Rules of the Road,” as I do like the old creepypasta-style of story where you have to look out for a certain thing while driving down America’s long lost highways in the dark. “Every Man Digs his own Grave” was also a sobering look at how things can so easily get out of hand. “There’s Another House Beneath our Basement” had a wonderful twist and yes, I also liked Michael Squid’s “Hidden Television Channel” for its horrific scariness! I was one of those kids who’d go downstairs early at the weekend and flick through the TV channels…
And if I can put one in that I narrated, I was so chuffed to be the narrator for “The Bleak Stars!”
Here’s one I ask everyone. What do you use to record with? I love learning about all the different equipment and setups people use to record for their podcasts!
I use a Neumann TLM102 into an Audient iD4. When I started out 16 years ago, it was the most basic mic imaginable, before I moved onto a Zoom Handy H4…
I asked Dan Zappulla this one. Do you act against other narrators for your parts or are you able to do it all on your own, or is it a mix of either/or?
It’s very rare for me to act against other people for audiodrama. The first time I did it was in 2010 when I recorded Jack Ward’s masterful “Soul Survivor,” the Gluttony part of his Seven Deadly Sins series. Jack’s a great friend, an excellent writer and I’ve been very pleased to co-host the Sonic Society with him for a decade now.
There will be a few projects that will have the director link in via Zoom or SourceConnect or similar to be able to hear how they want a character voiced, or a particular piece of e-learning done, but the vast majority of my work remains solo.
Between the podcast itself, the live shows and Twitch streams, NoSleep is no doubt a huge project with lots of people involved and tons of fans. What’s it like being part of a production beloved by countless people?
It’s an honour and a privilege, for the first thing! I’m always blown away when on tour at just have lovely, how friendly, how generous and how effusive our listeners are. When I harangued David into letting me be another British voice on the show seven years ago, I never in my wildest dreams guessed that it would lead me around the world in the way it has. But the success of the podcast is thanks to everyone involved – artists, actors, the editing and social media teams, the crazy amounts of work that the producers and Brandon put in every single week, and of course, the man behind it all: David Cummings.
Although it’s always funny coming back off tour and going back to schools and my students. When they wonder why I’d taken five weeks off, they don’t actually care about the answer (or indeed what a podcast is), which is always useful to stop my head getting too big!
(Though I have to say that podcasting has led me to meeting the wonderful Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel at the first LA show, and then playing opposite Carla Gugino in “The Oyster,” and more recently having a quick exchange with Jeff Goldblum in “Dark Dice!).”
Back to music for a minute. What are some of your favorite artists? Have any of them influenced both you personally, as well as your music?
Without a doubt, my first answer is Mike Oldfield. Tubular Bells 2 was one of the first albums of his that I listened to and I still love it to this day. Rick Wakeman and many other Prog-Rock artists would also go into my list too.
I’ve always been a lover of Classical music, especially the Romantic era and into the early 20th century. I also love my soundtracks (Murray Gold is a master composer for Doctor Who!) and musicals, one of my favourites being Cats – though I can’t say I was too enamoured with the 2019 film…
Just a couple more before I let you go! Are you able to tell us about any projects you may be working on currently to be on the lookout for?
Well, there are a few on the horizon which I’ll be very pleased to talk about when the cast announcements are dropped, but before then…
But one thing that is coming soon is on the podcast I do with the insanely talented Mark Nixon, Shadows at the Door – we’ve adapted “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” and that’ll be hitting the feeds by the end of summer, then it’s onwards to series 3!
What are some of your personal favorite podcasts?
So many! Here goes:
Anything by Fool & Scholar. How Travis and Kaitlin manage to put out so much excellent quality content so regularly is beyond me. Everything they do is amazing.
We Fix Space Junk – Battlebird productions have a wonderfully Hitchhiker’s sense of humour.
We Are Not Alone – very British comedy, and very funny.
Crowley Time – Tom Crowley (Wooden Overcoats, etc) has his one-man showcase of comedy and it’s as impressive as it is hilarious!
Beef and Dairy Network – More British comedy, with added rich beef sausages.
Less is Morgue – in which a ghost and a ghoul talk about stuff.
Tin Can Audio produces Middle: Below, The Tower, and Folxlore, along with other stuff, and it’s all joyous and positive.
A Scottish Podcast – absolute filth, very Scottish and incredibly funny.
Caledonian Gothic – Scottish horror, wonderfully performed.
Down Below The Reservoir – Irish horror, poetic and lyrical.
The Sink – from the BBC, but very warped, wonderful, and frightening.
The Leviathan Chronicles – An epic sci-fi drama which, if you haven’t already listened to it, is very much worth checking out.
Caravan – Wild West, supernatural and unashamedly queer.
Uncanny County – supernatural, heart-warming, and bizarre.
Brimstone Valley Mall – quite simply, excellent stuff, with a twist I didn’t see coming.
Mockery Manor – bringing back memories of theme parks in the 90s.
The Unseen Hour – if you’ve ever listened to the Goon Show, then this is very much the spiritual successor, and gorgeous in its strangeness.
Wrong Station – Canadian horror stories.
Gallowtree – a bizarre British town’s radio station that must be started from the beginning.
Rude Alchemy – has quietened off recently, but has a madcap universe building up around wonderful characters.
…but I’m always finding new podcasts through Twitter, and of course the Sonic Society, part of the Sunday Showcase on the Mutual Audio Network!
David, I can’t thank you enough for doing this with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add before we go? Anything we may have missed or not gone over?
Dig this? Check out the full archives of A.M. Radio, by Anthony Montalbano, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/a-m-radio-archives/