Hal Robins Interview

Josh: Thanks to everyone who is reading this. Today we interview comic book artist, Master of Church Secrets, and voice actor extraordinaire Mr. Harry “Hal” Robins. How are you doing today sir?

Hal: I do reasonably well, as far as I can tell.

Josh: So most gamers know you as the voice behind a few of the characters in the Half-Life series, such as some scientists and Dr. Kleiner, but you’re also a comic book artist and member of the Church of the SubGenius. So, before we start talking about your voice-acting career, how did you get involved in comics and the Church?

Hal: San Francisco is, or was, the spiritual home of the movement which came to be called Underground Comics (some prefer the spelling, “Comix” to make this designation). I have always drawn in the comic strip/comic book medium, and after coming to S.F. I met and worked with many of the best artists in the field. While working in a comic book factory I encountered the first SubGenius literature. The first founders of the Church, Ivan Stang and Philo Drummond, were also well-versed in comics and in their extensive lore, as any study of the SubGenius writings of the period will quickly make plain to one who makes a cursory investigation. Thus, it was inevitable that we should combine our efforts to spread the Church in its various forms.

Josh: What exactly is the Church of the SubGenius and what part do you play as the Master of Church Secrets?

Hal: To know what “exactly” in the Church of the SubGenius requires exact study. I recommend a visit to subgenius.com, also known colloquially as “SubSite,” for one who wishes to set his or her faltering footsteps on this path, a path beset with the thorns of public ignorance and incomprehension. We will not provide explanations or do this study for the pilgrim—“therein the patient must minister to himself.” Please note our books—the main ones continue in print, and even the out-of-print ones can be achieved via the Internet and amazon.com. Start with The Book of the SubGenius, but do not fail to follow with Revelation X: The BobApocryphon. The recent Psychlopedia of Slack (The Bobliographon) has its uses in deciphering current developments. I play the part of a doctrinal explicator in the Church. As far as my ordained place as Master of Church Secrets is concerned, I will say by way of analogy that if the Church were the Russian Revolution, I would be Anatoly Vasilyevich Lunacharsky. That is to say, Commissar of Enlightenment.

Josh: Are you a gamer? Any particular games or genres you’re interested in?

Hal: I wish I could call myself a “gamer,” but my schedule is too full to permit the diversion of irreplaceable hours. Perhaps some day…

Josh: Speaking of games, how did you get involved in Voice Acting?

Hal: I am a film and stage actor as well as a writer of screenplays. I have provided voiced additions to the soundtrack of various movies. I also have a history of being on cable television in the last decade. I have a night club show which periodically runs in San Francisco, and contribute to two radio shows as an improvisateur. All of these, especially radio, prepare one for voice work.

Josh: Was Half- Life the first game you did a voice over for?

Hal: It was the first game that I was paid for which was actually developed. I have collected checks for voice work in un-produced games, or those that hired me but ultimately used another voice in the part.

Josh: How did you get involved with Half-Life?

Hal: On the basis of my previous work, writer Marc Laidlaw brought me to the project. I did not audition per se.

Josh: Did you know Half-Life was going to be as big as it was while doing VO work for it?

Hal: As Yogi Berra said, making predictions is difficult, especially about the future.

Josh: You’re the voice of Tinker in DOTA 2. Have you played it yet? How involved in it were you?

Hal: He is a little Tinker, isn’t he? I was given an opportunity to play when my part was previewed. I also recorded a commentary as Kleiner on my part in DOTA 2.

Josh: Have you only been in Valve Games?

Hal: As far as I’m allowed to discuss.

Josh: Question on everybody’s mind, is after the huge cliffhanger of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, where is Episode 3 or Half- Life 3? Now, obviously as a voice actor you wouldn’t probably know too much about or even be allowed to talk about it but have you done any voice over’s for Episode 3 or Half-Life 3 or been contacted about being in it or would you know if it is even being worked on?

Hal: Again, I’m not able to answer fully here; proprietary information is involved. When it does happen, my expectation is that I will be involved again.

Josh: Any new games or comic you’re working on at the moment?

Hal: I was just in an international comic book called, PUCK Comic Party,working with many European and American cartoonists. The book just came out and looks great in my opinion. Unfortunately for some, it is entirely in Italian. How’s your Italian? I am currently writing for the online news blog Raw Story.com. Click on the section called “Culture Clutch,” a drawing of a bird’s nest which I did for them, to reach my pieces, as well as those of Ivan Stang and others. To hear our radio broadcasts, Google the podcasts from KPFA 94.1 FM and Radio Valencia.FM (The Ask Dr. Hal! Show).

Josh: Anything you would like to say to the fans?

Hal: Thanks for being there, and noticing! I was pleased, after Valve sent me to be on G4 TV, at the reception my segment received, so thanks again! When in San Francisco, come to the live show—next date will be June 1st at Viracocha. My show at Burning Man is always on Saturday, day of the Burn, in Center Camp Café on the Main Stage from 5-7 PM. Look on the Puzzling Evidence Channel to view live Ask Dr. Hal! Show episodes via YouTube and Vimeo. Make sure you see the go-go dancers and gorilla suits about half an hour in to the last posted show, which was March 30th.

Josh: Any advice to anybody looking to get in the voice acting or comic field? What can they expect?

Hal: To get into voice acting, prepare a demo reel on disc to leave at auditions. Specialty voices are fine, but what makes the most money is always the “normal guy.” There is no such voice, of course, but if you can sell yourself as that voice your career is made. In comics, whatever your art looks like, sadly, no one will read it unless your lettering is legible and easily read. Don’t neglect the lettering, and the rest will follow. Study the world in all its aspects and be familiar with the work of the masters.

Josh: Thanks for your time.

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