If you had told struggling metal singer Sébastien Croteau 20 years ago that doing monster and alien voices for films and video games would grow into a cottage industry in Montreal, he would have laughed.
Croteau is one of the co-founders of Quebec voice talent house, The Monster Factory, (along with Corinne Cardinal and Jeffrey MacDermott), which launched a new website this week making its voiceover artists directly accessible to video game and film companies.
The 45-year-old veteran of the Quebec metal scene, who started performing in his first metal band at age 15, first got a taste of voiceover work back in 2005 when a friend at Ubisoft told a sound designer working on Far Cry Instincts about the singer.
“After that, they saw the potential as a source for their monsters and it went from one contract every one or two years to now 10 or 12 a year,” Croteau told Broadcast Dialogue. “The video game companies are a small community and the word got out and soon other companies like Electronic Arts and Warner Bros. started to use our services.”
The Monster Factory, which came together as a collective in 2018 and doesn’t claim a percentage of its performer’s earnings, has since grown its roster to 16 metal singers – eight men and eight women – many of whom are also part of Montreal metal and harsh vocal performance group, The Growler Choir.
“At one point we had to add more people to our roster because, for example, there’s a game, [the yet to be released] Project TL…I think we did around 150 monsters. With that many monsters – I can do probably 10, 15, 20 monsters – but in terms of a unique sound for each monster, I really needed to have more people involved,” explained Croteau.
He said it’s coincidental that the timing of the new website launch comes as many relying on the entertainment industry as an income stream are grappling with live events being put on pause. For many collective members, Croteau said it’s the first time they’ve been able to earn meaningful income using their voices.
“It’s a growing business for us because we’re lucky, usually as a metal artist maybe we can sell 5,000 or 10,000 records when we get one out, but now millions have heard our voices and they don’t know who we are. Having millions listen to what you did and not know that we’re metal singers, for me it’s like revenge of the metalheads,” he said with a laugh, citing The Monster Factory’s credits that include games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Eidos), Resident Evil 7 (Capcom), Prince of Persia (Ubisoft), and Assassin’s Creed (Ubisoft).
The new website features the short film, Horde, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the impressive vocal effort that goes into a simulated zombie attack, as Croteau directs.
Having lent his voice to the extra-terrestrials in feature films like The Colony, Devil’s Gate, and Syfy series Helix, in addition to numerous games, he says using voice actors as opposed to lab-blended animal sounds adds a layer of authenticity and precision.
“Frightful, distorted, but natural…this is why the companies want to work with us. We can produce natural ‘scary’ sounds and then afterward they have a base with which they can build. They look for realism and it shows when they hire artists, songwriters, voice actors…they are all looking for something realistic and also people relate more to the human voice more than animal sounds,” said Croteau, pointing to the audience response to characters like actor Doug Jones’ “Amphibian Man” in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water and David Harbour’s performance as Hellboy. “I think even with the use of CGI, people relate more to human presence than when it’s actually something made of different sounds. It can still be scary, but it’s not the same thing.”
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