Martians Invade Earth...Thanks To Jonathan Ward And His Creative Sounds

Apr 7, 2017

A door is kicked open.  A shot rings out.  A body falls. Saying it isn’t enough if you’re doing radio theater…you need a convincing sound to sell the action.  Jonathan Ward knows that.  He’s a foley artist for Fred Craft’s Radio Redux, which is performing “War of the Worlds” this weekend.  KLCC’s Brian Bull visited Ward during a rehearsal, and has this audio postcard.  

Jonathan Ward uses an old car jack to create the steady ticking ambience of an observatory.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

Credit Ekaterina Vladinakova /

“What we have here is the foley table.  I have it set up for this performance of the “War of the Worlds”. 

“Now this is the tin can which gives us the death ray.  I blow into the tin can, and next to the microphone, and it gives me this effect. <WHOOSH! WHOOSHHH….>

“Also part of that scene is an explosion as the death ray…hits cars and other objects and explodes…and so we have an explosion on our laptop for the explosion sound, but then we have debris sound which is where we use the plastic container with all of the stuff inside, and it sounds like this …(RATTLING, CLUNKY NOISE)

“Then next up is, we have the old car jack…which gives us the ticking sound at the observatory.   << TICK…TICK…TICK….TICK...>>

When not making sound effects, Ward often joins his fellow performers as a character actor.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

“Now this is the Dutch oven, heavy cast iron pot with a lid on it.   It makes a great sound for the cylinder of the Martians opening up and as the Martians emerge finally in Grovers Mill, New Jersey. And here’s what it sounds like…<<SCCRAAAPEEE>>….it unscrews…and the Martians emerge….<<SCRAPEEEEEE……>>

(Reporter Carl Phillips:  “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable, I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it!  The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent!  The mouth is V-shaped, with saliva dripping from its rimless lips!")

“I love the creativity of creating the sound.  It makes the people happy to watch it.  People laugh, they applaud, they really seem to enjoy themselves, and they really seem to enjoy foley so that’s why I like to do it.”

YouTube Video: Watch Fred Craft's Radio Redux rehearse the emergence of the Martian


WEB EXTRA:  More Audio Tricks from Ward’s Foley Table


“Of course in almost every program we always have people walking.  So whether they’re walking upstairs or walking down the street or across the floor…I’ve a soundboard here that’s about 3x2…and I wear my leather soled shoes, and so I simulate a walking sound  (CLOP CLOP CLOP CLOP CLOP…etc.)

Dead Weight 

A standing board for walking effects, and a sandbag for falling bodies.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

“Another very popular sound that I do, is the old “body hits the floor” sound.  And I use a sandbag, what I’ve here is a pillow case with a plastic bag inside full of sand.  And I knead it up like a bread dough…(SHWUFF SHWUFF) get it ready, then I hold it up, and I drop it…right on the sound board. <<WHUMP!>>  That’s a heavy body, hittin’ the floor!  The audience loves the body drop, it’s one of the most popular.  It makes everybody laugh or applaud.

Tornado Sounds?  It’s a Breeze  

“That is the wind machine which is a mounted cylinder with a piece of fabric across the top, of it, and you turn it,  and it sounds….<<WHOOOOOOOOOOOO>>….like wind….<<WHOOOOOOOO>>  We use this in a lot of shows, especially the Wizard of Oz, when the tornado is bringing Dorothy down to Munchkin Land << WHIIRIRRR!!!!>>

Breaking and Entering (or Leaving)  

A wind machine (left) simulates strong wind storms, while a small door (right) is equipped with multiple locks and latches, as well as the standard door knob and hinges.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

"In most every show…there’s always the door opening and the door closing.  So what this is, is a door mounted that I can easily grab with the handle of it, and close the door like this (SLAM).  Then open it…(RATTLE)…just the handle….and open the door (SLAM)…close it again, and even lock it.  <<WRATCH WRATCH>>….or chain it….(RATTLE, RATTLE, RATTLE).

Sometimes It Just Gets Weird  

“The most unusual and challenging sound we’ve had to make is…was…the sound of a hospital respirator.  And we tried to replicate it with mechanical things, and we could not get the right kind of sound.  So me and the foley assistants had to do it with our voices.  

Rebecca Nachison and Achilles Massahos perform one of the earlier scenes from Fred Craft's Radio Redux's production of "War of the Worlds".
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

"And it went something like this:  ‘Tapahkita, tapahkita, tapahkita’….and we were alternating back and forth because we could not keep repeating ‘tapiktah’ without running out of breath, so…we kinda alternated, this chorus line thing going on…’tapahkita, tapahkita, tapahkita’ and the crowd loved it.  And so did we (LAUGHS).

Copyright 2017, KLCC.