NekoCon 2013: Steve Blum
Prolific voice actor Steve Blum was one of the feature guests at Nekocon 2013 in Hampton, Virginia. This article covers his Sunday afternoon Q&A session, since he had several throughout the con. Blum proved to be a wonderful guest, taking multiple requests from the audience for lines spoken in the voices of many of the characters he’s been. While Blum is best known for being Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop and Amon in The Legend of Korra, he has also had a vast number of other roles, including Batman’s grunts in one of the LEGO Batman games; Wolverine; The Green Goblin; several characters in Digimon and Digimon: Tamers; TOM from Toonami; and Roger Smith in The Big O. Among the many line requests he got during the panel, he was asked to do his best happy birthday in Batman grunts. It was odd. He also did his best to sing a portion of the current My Little Pony theme song in Wolverine’s voice. That was even odder. And oddest was being asked to say “happy birthday” in Orochimaru’s voice. That was rather skin-crawl inducing.
Blum obviously has a very long connection to us here at Toonzone, given that he was Toonami’s TOM throughout all of his iterations. He was quite upset the first time Toonami went off the air. He apparently did all of his recording through a phone connection to Williams Street and he got the word that Toonami was shutting down while he was on the phone with them. It was apparently a pretty emotional day, at least until the next job came in. TOM also does quite a few video game reviews in the new Toonami, and when he was asked if he plays any of the games for the reviews, Blum was very quick to say that not only does he not play them as he has no opposable thumbs (ok, yes he does), but that he also frequently hears the folks at Williams Street playing a game while he’s on the phone with them.
Given that voice acting doesn’t always involve having someone next to you to play off of, Blum doesn’t always get to meet all of his fellow actors, even if he’s friends with them. In particular, he has very good friendships with Nolan North (known as the voice of Deadpool) and Crispin Freeman. Quite of a few of the X-Men recording sessions apparently involved Blum and North trying to kill each other, and Blum and Freeman spend quite a bit of time inventing new obscene phone messages for each other. Blum and Freeman also like to find new ways to leave off color outtakes for each other during the recording process, none of which can or will ever be heard outside the studio.
Blum’s career took quite a few turns, going from the literal mail room all the way to an executive suite before moving out to pursue voice acting full time, right as SAG went on strike. Obviously things worked out, but that was not a good year for him. Union issues also play into why Steve will not be a part of any of the shows that FUNimation licenses, as FUNimation is obviously a Texas company and the work rules between union California and non-union Texas make having someone work in both very difficult to impossible. Blum really wanted to be a part of Shinichi Wantanabe’s newest production Space Dandy, but the work rules sadly don’t allow for it.
If it seems like Blum is at a lot of conventions, there’s a reason for that. He said that he loves coming to conventions and feeling the love and acceptance. He said that he didn’t always fit in when he was a kid, being a bit overweight, so being in a place where everyone can be accepted for who they are makes him really happy. Happy enough that he brought his son along with him, insisting that the younger Blum was “Mr. Steve,” since his son is a school teacher. Blum also had an interesting comment for some of his fans when they asked him about what it takes to get into character. Many times he said he does not get any prep time to play a role: he’s given a script when he walks into the studio, is maybe given a short description that may or may not be the same as the one he was given when he took the role, and is off and running through the recording.
Blum also said that, for a very long time, he didn’t think he was acting when he did his roles. Even in one of his most famous roles, Spike Spiegel, he didn’t think he was really acting until someone else told him how good a job he had done and how great he was at voice acting. Towards the end of the panel one of the NekoCon heads came in to make a announcement: Blum had brought a signed script with him from the Cowboy Bebop movie, and it had apparently gone for over $3,100 at the charity auction. Blum was blown away when he heard that and was very happy to be a part of raising money for Shelterbox. Hopefully, even though Blum can’t work outside of California, we will be seeing a lot of him on the East Coast again soon.