The Sonic Society

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That is All…

The 4077th Productions and All Better Audio have been stalwarts on the ramparts of the audio drama landscape for more than a decade. Last year we lost Viktor Aurelius, and this past February, his partner in the sublime, Jeff Niles. Jonathan Patrick Russell from Dreamrealm Enterprises provides this moving tribute to his friend and collaborator…

Jeff Niles, founder of The 4077th Productions, has died. That’s a shattering sentence to type, as well it should be. Jeff would probably like me to throw a gag in this bit, because he always liked me to throw more gags into things, but I can’t find one. My friend is gone, and the gags aren’t there for me now.

His voice lives on, in the many productions he was involved with, and in our hearts and memories. Jeff was well-loved – nobody had a bad word to say about him. He was kind and funny and engaging – and he was always, always doing things. Lots of things, often all at once. “Hey, Jeffster, how’s it going?” I’d ask, over some internet messenger service. “Pretty good,” he’d reply, “just got back from drum circle to grab a bite to eat before heading over to rehearsals for the Radio Players. Spent all morning recording lines for Robotz of the Company, MOSH, Dr Who, a fantasy epic series, a political thriller, a sitcom about clowns, and a 15th Century dark romance set on the high seas, involving penguins.” “Cool,” I’d say, wondering where he got the energy and the enthusiasm. Because he was always enthusiastic, always seeing the positive side of things, forever singing the praises of the people he worked with and the projects he was involved with. I sometimes wondered if he was just being polite about sub par scripts (and I’ve written enough of those), but I think he genuinely loved acting and producing, and just being involved. To him, the good bits in anything always outweighed the bad bits, meaning he would invariably be prone to judge a work favourably. His enthusiasm was infectious. He rescued lots of things from the dustbin of ideas, gave them a smile and a good talking to, and released them into the world.
Someone soon should try to compile a list of all the performances he gave. That would be an awesome thing to read through. Because he could play anything. He did play anything. His range was enormous. He’s been Doctor Who (and The Master), Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes, Professor Moriarty, various robotz (including the wonderful Zim Tron), sundry demons, Shakespeare’s King John, Edgar Allan Poe, Ebenezer Scrooge, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robin Hood, Faust, hard-boiled noir detective Lance Hardwick, Count Dracula, Tomás de Torquemada, and many, many, many more. So many more! He’d often be cast in several parts in the same thing, because no role was too small for him. I swear he did a MOSH single-handedly once, playing every character in a variety of accents. When we last spoke in December, I’d asked him to play the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and I was greatly looking forward to hearing him play the part. Damn you, Jeff, now I’m going to have to recast! (That gag was for you, old friend)
Aside from being so busy and enthusiastic, he was always surprising. One day he told me he was producing audio campaign adverts for politicians. Another time he told me he had a whole other life as a pirate – he even had photos to prove it. That was another thing about Jeff – he was always in photos with people. There he is with an arm around Peter Davison. Here, he’s smiling at Nichelle Nichols. And here he is sat playing drums aboard a spaceship. That moustache! Those glasses! That twinkle in the eye.
We talked about producing a final MOSH story in the spring, with Holmes and Watson in their dotage, solving a case in their retirement home. The villain was going to be Moriarty’s daughter, now a Nurse Ratched type character. He wanted to call it Holmes Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but I talked him out of it. I’m going to write it anyway, and set it at Holmes’s funeral. And, Jeff, yes that’ll be the title.
My friend has died, but I’m still writing gags for him.

Goodbye, my friend.


About The Author

Born to Teachers and Amateur Audio Enthusiasts in the small rural community of Belwood, Jack's first love was stories- writing, reading, telling, and singing. He developed his acting skills through High School, University, and through film and community theatre. Jack writes the lion's share of Electric Vicuna's Audio Drama scripts and has his own writing site at www.jackjward.com He's thrilled to co-host the Sonic Society with his wonderful, talented, friend David Ault!

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