11 Questions: Paul Turpin
Paul Turpin is old school Bellingham, which means he’s been around for yyyeeeaaarrrsss. He’s a great dude with has a fantastic grasp on sound. And this month, he’s our 11 questions. Let’s get to it.
Who are you and where did you come from? Tell us about yourself.
I am Paul Turpin. I come from deepest suburbia (Federal Way in South King County). I was a music major at WWU studying trombone and music composition from 1985-1993. I also learned many studio skills at Fairhaven College and in many northwest studios during that time. During the 90s I was in the band Jumbalassy and worked door at Speedy O’Tubbs in Fairhaven. In 1996 I founded Bayside Recording in my garage. During the 2000s I started Clickpop Records with my friend Dave, released a bunch of records and did touring sound for Idiot Pilot all over the US and UK. These days I run Champion Street Sound Studios, where I track, edit, mix and master local bands and solo artists. I also am live sound engineer at The Shakedown and the Mt. Baker Theater. I am married to the fabulous playwright Krissa Woiwod, our daughter Harriett roams Railroad Avenue startling people with her cuteness, usually wearing a pink tutu.
How did you first get involved recordings bands?
I experimented with a Cassette 4-track in high school, but first real recording was in the Fairhaven Recording Studio class which I took in my sophomore year at WWU in 1987. I joined the Caribbean band The Almighty Dread that year playing the Trombone. My next step was recording my bands first album which came out on cassette in 1988 (I switched to keyboards and the band switched its name to Jumbalassy in 1990). I used my own band as a guinea pig to learn how to, and how NOT to record bands (one exception to this was that I recorded local band Weehuggum in 1991 at Binary Recording Studio). By 1996 I got tired of spending money in other people’s recording studios and took out a loan for my own recording gear and started recording in the garage of the house I was renting, calling it Bayside Recording (as it was on Bayside Place). It was at this point that I started recording bands other than my own most of the time. Some of the first bands were The eLvi’s and Clambake. In 2000 I took put another loan and built a new large studio downtown, where I recorded the bands I’m known for working with such as Idiot Pilot, The Trucks, Rooftops, and dozens more. Last year I upgraded the gear again and renamed it Champion St Sound Studios.
Tell me your favorite memory of old school Bellingham.
I took my college girlfriend to Cattlemen’s Diner on Holly St in the middle of the night. When the check came, turns out we had forgotten to bring any money. The waitress was all “No problem. Keep the check and pay next time.” Then they closed forever – I still have that check. Am I supposed to answer “seeing and playing cool shows at the “Up and Up” and the 3B? ‘Cause that was fun too.
Who is your all time favorite local band?
Probably the Trucks. They were so much fun in the studio AND on stage.
What trait in your daughter do you see that reminds you of yourself?
She likes to stay up late and she pretty much does whatever she wants.
If you didn’t live in Bellingham, where would you live and why?
Part of my brain says London or Barcelona because of the music, food, and culture. But what seems more likely is either Portland for the music scene or Mt. Vernon for the cute affordable houses. Austin would be cool, except that it seems way too hot – and it is surrounded by Texas.
You’ve seen a lot happen in the music scene over the years, what do you see as the strength of the scene?
I think the diversity of the scene is a great strength. I think that diversity occasionally results in a lack of unity, but it also helps the scene survive as the larger culture changes and affects it.
If you could see one band reunite, who would it be?
Lands Farther East.
What is your “go to” Bellingham meal?
Lately, it’s been the pulled pork at Fiamma Burger.
What song on your ipod would surprise even your closest friends?
This is the hardest question here, because I don’t think those who know me well would be surprised about finding anything on my iPod. Krissa was a little surprised Recently when I went through phase of peak mid-70s Elton John concept records. But she wasn’t surprised it was on my iPod, she was surprised more by the fact that I was intensely studying it. People who don’t know me might be surprised to find Justin or Britney, maybe someone could be surprised I’m listening to FKA Twigs, or Charles Mingus, Skinny Puppy, or Penderecki. I don’t know – I sort of listen to everything.
What do you feel is the key to being a good soundman?
Not making any is important. If you can make the band feel comfortable and they can hear themselves – they will play better. I like to make sure I am working for the band – even if it is the venue that is paying me. It is crucial to mix every song, not just the first one – things change! Loud songs should be mixed differently than quiet ones, and heat and humidity change everything.
What advice would you give bands to help them sound better on stage?
Make sure your gear works and you have a spare of everything you can afford to. Be Patient. Don’t pretend like you know everything about live sound and performance because nobody does, and there is more than one way to do it “right”. Introduce yourself to the sound person and ask them what they need to know about your band. Be on the sound persons “side” and they will be on yours. Do a soundcheck. Don’t use your amps for volume, use them for tone. If you want to hear your amp better, consider asking for it in the monitor instead of turning up (These answers apply to situations where you have a sound person and a pa – house shows have different rules). If there is something that needs to change, calmly inform the sound person what needs to change instead of yelling at them, or even worse, saying nothing and then complaining to someone else.
Any last thoughts?
Not really. I just like to make albums and mix music.
Published in the September 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine