Super Rad Records' Paul Ford: "I Recorded a Song in the Back of a Station Wagon Once"
Paul Ford spent some time playing in a couple local bands, including The London Scar. In 1997, at only 16 years old, he and a colleague formed Yuppiefest, which brought local talent to the 'burbs of Lewisville, including Bowling For Soup, The Latchkey Kids, Darlington and more. Ford claims they donated proceeds to a battered women's shelter in Denton. The last Yuppiefest, in 2007, was four stages and 60 bands over two days.
Eventually, after kids and marriage, he decided to go more behind-the-scenes. More recently, he's been making an ambitious go with Super Rad Records, a new start-up that's paired him with folks like Matt Pence (Centro-matic, Sarah Jaffe) and producer Geoff Rockwell (Forever the Sickest Kids).
So, you did some stuff some years back, settled down and had kids, then got the itch to come back. Why?
As I sat looking for a regular job one day, trying to pay the bills, I started taking recording gigs as I could... weird stuff in closets and bathrooms. I recorded a song in the back of a station wagon once. It escalated from there until I realized a lot of these kids have no idea what they're doing. They say, "Let's record a track," and when I show up and start a loop or click track, they look like I just asked them to pee on my ice cream. So, a lot of time went in to coaching and developing these kids. One day, I was just tired of spending a lot of time up front and getting paid for two or three hours of recording time. It's not about the money, it's just that they would end up with a crap record and my name was on it. So I came up with a business model and started Super Rad Records.
And what do you do with your young/green clients?
I take these kids and try to show them the power in branding and performing, in knowing who they are. The thing I found was that people were afraid to really be sad, to really speak about their eating disorders, or their feelings of loss. They'd whine about it but they would rarely go into how they were really feeling. I try and pull that out, discuss a lot of philosophy and religion along side culture and stereotypes. It's almost like a class we put them through and then we design a business plan for each artist and show them how to make their money and line up financing for their albums. Then we usually walk that road with them, calling booking agencies, organizing Kickstarter campaigns and things. My wife is actually great at keeping me on task. She's like a business manager.
So you, your wife and kids have the beginnings of a music family. Did you come from one as well?
My mom is a cellist and my father is a computer engineer so I was destined to thrive in this era of digital meets analog music convergence. When I was 15 years old, I was walking through a store and I saw the Weezer Blue album and thought, "If these nerds can do it, why cant I?" So, I pulled $5 out of my pocket and my best friend and I went 50/50 on the record. It changed my life. I instantly knew what I wanted to be. On a side note, you know something funny about Rivers? He wanted to be a pro soccer player! Even my idol didn't get to do what he dreamed about as a kid.
Did school play a role in who you are now?
I never got in to music in school. I was bullied so much that I never made it in to high school. I was struggling so much by the time I was 14, I was pulled out and home schooled. What I really did was play music all day, every day. Then, I got a GED and went to college at 16, and dropped that when the band picked up. I have a liberal arts degree after years of going a semester here and there, but I hate theory. It drains my soul. I know enough through osmosis, mainly.
You're a big Centro-matic fan when it comes to local music.
Centro-matic, first and foremost. I actually just got to work on a small project with Matt Pence while he produced an artist I was working with. I also love going to the open mics in Denton on the square. The local scene was so saturated in Dallas during that time. It was like everyone tried to emulate what was marketable and therefore no one took risks or got noticed; the exceptions being Tripping Daisy and then Polyphonic Spree and a few others. They didn't sound like Dallas though. They took risks. They did what they wanted, not what people wanted to hear. I think if you have to ask, "What's marketable? Is this the right sound that's going to sell?," then you're a part of the problem. We ask our artists, "What do you want to say?" If it's sincere, we'll take you.
So, have you always had your hand in helping other local musicians on one way or another?
I've been in the studio with my various projects once every year or so since I was 17. When I say in the studio, we've never recorded in a studio. We've always recorded at practice spaces, houses, bathrooms, outside, sheds, parks at 3 a.m. I think people are so used to the idea that you have to have all this gear or equipment to get the sound you want. I find it's the opposite for me. I have walls in place and I have to find a way through to the solution. I have three mics today? OK, we're recording drums with three mics then. I'm not going to discount nice studios and good gear, but when it gets in the way, when it takes three days to find "that sound," is it all hindering or helping the artist or the studio?
Do you feel we have a true sense of community here? Of helping each other?
There seems to be a real "every man for himself" attitude out there if a band does better than another. There's always exceptions, but to have a community of musicians that help each other and build and promote each other instead of themselves all the time I think would be great. That's what we're striving for. We want to build a community within ourselves and the area to help out, to do hard things, to do good things. By doing good things, we'll do great things. Like, if the "headliner" posted a picture of the opener and said, "I'm really honored to share the stage with these guys." That's the dream for me, and finding people that want that. Even if I have to create it from the ground up.