SEATTLE — You may have noticed a new sound coming from your radio this season and it’s not the likeness of Rick Rizzs, Dave Sims or Mike Blowers. The Seattle Mariners have revamped their radio ads incorporating a local DJ to remix game highlights, recruiting a local rap legend to voice the ads and getting a savvy audio engineer to put it all together. Josh Pizarro, George Quibuyen and Will Yen are the three talented local individuals, who composed, voiced and mixed the unique campaign.
Writer, musician, rhymer and restauranteur are all titles attributed to the voice talent of the Mariners radio sound, George Quibuyen. You may know him as Geo or Prometheus Brown from Seattle’s legendary hip-hop duo, Blue Scholars. The second-generation Filipino American was raised in the Puget Sound area where he co-owns Hood Famous Bakeshop in Seattle.
Quibuyen is no stranger to a recording studio; however, the radio ads brought up some challenges as he executed his talents in a new way.
“There are definitely similarities in terms of the equipment that is used and having engineers sitting at the computer,” said Quibuyen. “I would say 80 percent of the process was familiar, but the difference came with rhythm. I was talking, doing more of a narration that happens to have music in it. There was definitely an adjustment period where I had to fight myself to not speak rhythmically over the track but still match the emotion and intensity. I have a vocal style that is more subdued so there were parts where I had to get into sports character, which I appreciated.”
When Quibuyen was attempting to step into that “sports character,” he drew inspiration from not only the Seattle sports community, but his heritage and upbringing.
“My first inspiration was the long history of dope Mariners ads over the years,” said Quibuyen. “Everything from the personality of the players that got to shine through, to Dave Niehaus and his legendary voice and emotion that I heard in my head all these years. I was channeling that. I think it helped that there is a genuine excitement around the direction of the team. I didn’t have to pretend. I believe in this team.”
When asked what his favorite part about working on this project was Quibuyen answered, without skipping a beat, “Definitely working with [DJ] Rocryte. I’ve known that dude since he was a kid. We have crossed paths so many times, but we are kind of from different generations. For this project to have two people from two generations from the same community working together was super special. I didn’t even have to hand-pick him. He was already a part of the project. I would have done it regardless, but to know that he was the one creating the soundtrack for it was really dope.”
When Josh Pizarro, known as DJ Rocryte, is not mixing in the Seattle nightlife scene, or opening for performers such as Slick Rick, Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg, you can find him in The ‘Pen at T-Mobile Park getting the crowd pumped up for a game. Going on year eight working with the Mariners, this season came with a new opportunity and responsibility of bringing the Mariners radio spots to life.
“The process was definitely fun,” said Pizarro. “I was essentially supplied the paint, and the Mariners said, ‘Hey man, paint the picture,’ so I was able to do what I wanted to do. This project was very different from my day to day, I’m not scratching to a Dua Lipa song or playing the Top 40 songs on the radio. I got a track and 10 highlights and had to figure out what to do with that in 40 seconds. It motivated and leveled me up, you must have clean scratches because everyone is going to listen to this.”
With 40 seconds and many different stakeholders working on this project, Pizarro had to balance the wants and needs of everyone involved, while still staying true to who he his and his signature sound. Pizarro draws inspiration from his background but also the fact that he was practically born into the music industry. His father, Angelo Pizarro, is a local musician and composer.
“Growing up, it was a different life,” Pizarro said. “I slept behind speakers, I was listening to music constantly, I was rarely home, I toured with my dad. I think my background and heritage plays a part in the music that I produce because I have always listened to so many different types of music and sounds, then from there you can bring more modern hip-hop to it. I was always told to try and fit in as much as I could, so what made me connect with my culture and heritage really was music. With music, you can truly express yourself.”
The group and project were special from the beginning, where Seattle artists came together to create a unique and inspiring product that would reach a vast audience.
“Working on this project was truly amazing,” said Pizarro. “Working with George [Quibuyen] had been a dream of mine for so long because he wanted to work with my dad back in the day and my dad couldn’t for whatever reason. So when I got asked to do this and I heard George [Quibuyen] was on it, I jumped on the opportunity. Will [Yen] was also amazing. He is really quick and very efficient with what he does.”
Yen, a sound designer and engineer for world-class studio Formosa Interactive Seattle, rounds out the trio of artists who created the Mariners radio sound this season. Don’t let Yen’s laidback personality fool you, his robust skillset and impressive resume speak for themselves. From working on projects for Amazon, Microsoft, Nintendo and many more, Yen stepped into the sports world to help curate this new project or the Mariners — and loved every minute of it.
“The Mariners came to me saying they were going to do something a little different for the radio ads this year, cutting in game calls with cool music, all mixed together,” said Yen. “They got content from DJ Rocryte and then we sat in the studio and made sure it all glued together well. Then George came in and did his voiceovers. My favorite part of the project is when DJ Rocryte came in and actually brought his whole controller deck and played the music. He was scratching live to the music so that was super fun and interactive.”
When Yen was asked about what he draws inspiration from, he noted aspects of his culture and heritage, but also everyday content he absorbs like movies and TV shows.
“Subconsciously, I think my culture and heritage drives me in certain directions,” said Yen. “I don’t see many other Asian American audio engineers, at least in the field that I have been in, so it is always nice to have representation. I also draw inspiration from everyday things. I am always paying attention to the little things that I hear on an everyday basis.”
Having more representation of Asian Americans in sound engineering is something Yen believes to be important for the next generation in the field. When asked if he had any advice or words of wisdom for youth in his community or people wanting to pursue a career in the audio/sound engineering field he responded, “Get on top of it, whatever it may be, sounds design or media, don’t be afraid to do something silly and wild. Think outside of the box.”
All three of these talented and impactful artists brought something unique and inspiring to the table when creating the new Mariners sound this season. With each of them drawing from their roots in different ways, it created not only unique sound, but an opportunity to highlight and celebrate their community.