"The witching hour" at Q Sound studio in London is the time when Rupert Degas conjures up some of the fascinating character portraits he brings to his audiobooks. It started with a septuagenarian on his deathbed, Lieutenant Mamiya from Haruki Murakami's THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE . Late-night recording was when Rupert thought he could best get into the character role. Photos of Rupert recording show how animated he still is at that hour. "I physicalize myself. I don't hold the book."
Listeners know Rupert for his recent SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT recordings. Skulduggery is the ultimate undead—he's a skeleton, and a detective. And there are the nasty creatures from authors Darren Shan and Jamie Rix—audiobooks that haven't made it across the pond yet. And Philip Pullman fans know Rupert's brilliant role as a more benign "daemon," the beloved Pantalaimon, soulspirit companion to Lyra in THE GOLDEN COMPASS.
"I do accents. It's my specialty," Rupert told us on a recent trip to Los Angeles from his native London. "When you have to rely on just your voice, instead of a wig or a false nose, to get your character across, I want to use my voice. I want the listener to believe they are hearing a cast of 20." Rupert's youthful voice and top-notch American, Irish, and Australian accents are a great draw for the British audiobook producers. Rupert and Derek Landy worked on the two Skulduggery books in close collaboration. Going over each character, placing them in context and social status, Rupert would try a voice until Landy said, "Yes, that's it!" Rupert said, "As soon as I find the voice with the author, or in my head when I'm reading, I write down my 'hook.'" Rupert's hook for the voice has to be based on a real person—James Mason, the Emperor from Star Wars, an Irish celebrity, or George Clooney plus a Formula One race-car driver. "It's not an imitation, but it gives me an image for my mind's eye that helps me to establish the voice, and to bring the character back exactly the same later in the story."
Nicolas Soames, the creative light behind Naxos AudioBooks and publisher of the Murakami audiobooks, notes that Rupert created "an extraordinarily virtuosic performance" of THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE. "It's the toughest challenge for any reader. Rupert had to be the narrator and a long cast of rather odd people that need to be sustained over considerable spans." Rupert meets the complexities of Murakami's work in six novels, including DANCE, DANCE, DANCE, celebrated with an AUDIOFILE Earphones Award. His ability to balance the energy of such a range of characters with the subtlety of understanding is a winning combination—Robin F. Whitten