The X Factor voiceover man, 55, lives in Buckinghamshire, with his wife Barbara, and their two teenage sons.
Who are you backing to win the X Factor this year?
I’m not allowed to answer that question at all, unfortunately. I have to remain impartial. It’s important for the acts as I could be influential to some viewers. Somebody, I think it was Dermot O’Leary, once said the X Factor’s like wine. Some years, you get good years; some years, you get great years; and some years, you get exceptional vintage years, which I think is this year. They’re a really talented bunch, there’s no doubt about it.
Do you see the judges and contestants much backstage?
Yes. We’re a very close-knit team and you do get to know all the contestants quite well, so it’s difficult for us to see one of them disappear each week.
The X Factor final will be held in Manchester this year – are you looking forward to the move?
I’m really excited. I love Manchester and it’s really become media-central now, so the producers thought it would be a good idea to move. It’s going to be an amazing night if last year’s final at Wembley Arena is anything to go by. It’s an honour to be part of the show anyway, but to be part of the biggest TV show on the planet on the biggest TV night of the year is just extraordinary. If I had a pound for everytime somebody asked me whether or not they can get a ticket to the live shows, I’d be a very rich man. But the good news is that with this series, Pepsi Max and Walkers’ Extra Crunchy are now teaming up with the X Factor to give members of the public the opportunity to win pairs of tickets for the final before 20 November. It’s going to be a fantastic night.
What’s been your favourite name to say on The X Factor over the years?
Rachel Adedeji! She’s got so many syllables in her name, it was great to say. I also liked saying Sophie Habibis, that was a good one. Going back a few years, Rhydian was a good one. And I also liked Gamu Nhengu, but she was booted off the competition. She had a great name, I was so looking forward to saying it, I was a bit gutted when she didn’t get through! I approach the end of the audition phase with great interest. When they send me the list through, I scan it and see which one I’ll enjoy saying.
What made you get into voiceover work?
I started as a journalist for the BBC in Belfast many years ago. I was a reporter in the mid to late seventies – a terrible, dark chapter in Northern Ireland’s history was still open and they sent me off to interview one too many policeman’s widows, so I just got so disheartened and depressed with the whole situation. So I answered an ad in the BBC’s internal magazine for an attachment to Radio 2 as an announcer and I spent nine very happy years there. I was Terry Wogan’s newsreader for a number of years, and they even gave me my own show on Radio 2 called Peter Dickson’s Nightcap. After Radio 2, I embarked on a freelance voiceover career.
How many ‘voices’ can you do?
I’ve never really counted. I do so many and have to change gears so many times during the day. One minute I’m playing a zombie on a computer game, the next minute I’m reading a script about a company’s annual report, the next minute I’m producing a voiceover for a TV commercial. I’m pretty busy.
How much prep do you do?
My vocal chords are how I earn my living, so I have to look after them. I’m actually quite a quiet person in real life. I like silence. I listen to Radio 3 a lot and meditate in my office, and then when the moment comes I turn into this Jekyll and Hyde character!
Is your voice insured?
It has to be, it’s the only thing I’ve got. I couldn’t do anything else.
What else would you like to do a voiceover for?
Actually, somebody asked me that question a year ago and I foolishly said that I would love to read the football results on TV and do a voiceover at the Olympic Games and both of those have come true this year! The voice of 2012 is a nice way to put it!
Do you get together with other voice artists?
I know Alan ‘Voice of the Balls’ Dedicoat from the Lottery. There’s definitely a voice artist community – it’s a small community – and we all hate each other of course! It’s quite funny when we all meet up in a pub with 30 or 40 fruity voices in one room all trying to out-do each other.
Do you get recognised by your voice when you’re out and about?
The last thing I’d want to do is be recognised in the street, because I’d be held up for hours! I get lots of people asking me to do their voicemail messages of course, but that’s one of the reasons I’ve started my own app. Plus, Pepsi MAX are doing something with me on their website where you can upload your photograph to be included in the X Factor opening sequence and I say their name – it’s clever stuff.
Could you ever imagine making money from your voice?
No, I never thought in a month of Sundays I’d be in this position. I’ve got the best job in the world, I love what I do with a passion, no two days are the same, I work with some fantastic people, and have a laugh.
Pepsi MAX and Walkers Extra Crunchy are partners of The X Factor live final, and are giving consumers, through an on-pack promotion, the chance to win tickets every hour to the show’s live final weekend on 8 & 9 December. More information available at pepsi.co.uk
Lorraine Kelly reveals her X Factor favourites at http://www.womansown.co.uk/?p=8949