Minchin's anger over Superstar Auto-Tune

'It's humiliating and insulting'

Tim Minchin has said he was ‘humiliated’ and ‘insulted’ after his singing voice was Auto-Tuned on the DVD of Jesus Christ Superstar.

The comic was acclaimed for his role as Judas in the arena tour of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s revived musical – but was shocked to discover his voice had been manipulated by computer for the DVD release.

Speaking on an American podcast, Minchin said said it was ‘fucking rude’ to be subjected to the technology, which was designed to correct off-key ‘inaccuracies’ in recordings.

He told broadcaster Ken Plume: ‘I don’t like that the put an Auto-Tune on my voice. It really pissed me off. It was an absolute surprise.It’s completely bizarre.

‘I’m not deluded about my voice. I know the weaknesses of my voice more than anyone. But I also can hear pitch. I know when I’m out of tune and I’m just not very often out of tune particularly. That’s not my problem. I’ve got problems and that ain’t it … If I wanted to sing bang on the notes, I could choose to do that.

‘As I interpret it, it’s actually worse than Auto-Tune, what they did was change what I sang a bit. Andrew’s got incredible ears. He would have sat there in the editing studio and gone “I just don’t like the way he’s doing that, can we pull that note a semi-tone this way?”’

‘That death scene, there was no holding back for me … trying to represent such emotional turmoil that you’re going to kill yourself, stumbling up the stage and crying out to God and all this, it’s so awful. It’s such a slap to be tuned.

‘It’s like, “So that was good, I like how you utterly put your guts on the floor there, we’re now going to turn it into a pop song.”’

‘It’s humiliating... it’s fucking rude, it’s insulting.

‘I’m sounding more outraged than I am. I know that they’re just trying to do a good product but they just got it wrong.’

Minchin added the Auto-Tuning had been ‘a little negative in a largely massively positive experience’.

He admitted that he hadn’t raised the issue with composer Sir Andrew, who wrote the show with Tim Rice, but said: ‘Assuming [the DVD] goes to a reprint, I might have to have a little tantrum, I don’t know,’ he said.

The 110 minute interview was conducted for the Bit Of A Chat podcast, while Minchin was in New York, preparing for the Broadway run of his musical Matilda, based on the children’s novel by Roald Dahl.

In it, he also discussed the musical, his role as a dissolute rock star in the US comedy series Californication and overcoming his insecurities.

‘I’ve always loathed my voice and even more personally my relationship with my body. Judas made me learn to sing a bit and Californication made me lose weight, and suddenly I’m in my late 30s feeling powerful,’ he said.

However, Minchin will not return for Californication’s seventh season because of his starring role in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead at the Sydney Theatre in August.

Auto-Tune’s use across pop music and television talent shows has become increasingly controversial for its ubiquity and perceived lack of authenticity.

In 2009, Time magazine quoted an unnamed Grammy-winning recording engineer as saying: ‘Let's just say I've had Auto-Tune save vocals on everything from Britney Spears to Bollywood cast albums. And every singer now presumes that you'll just run their voice through the box.’

Lloyd Webber’s production company The Really Useful Group, declined to comment on Minchin’s comments.’

Here is an extract from the DVD showing Minchin playing Judas, which he has previously described as his dream role, stating ‘I just love it because it is just pain and rock.’

- by Jay Richardson

Published: 31 Jan 2013

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