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Articles Home » Interviews » Bonrud, Paul - 2004 Interview 01
Bonrud, Paul - 2004 Interview 01

Date: September 13, 2004

A new name to the melodic hard rock ranks this year is Paul Bonrud. You'll shortly see and hear his self-titled debut album released on Frontiers Records this week. From Seattle, the city of grunge, Paul is anything but. A man with his musical taste-buds set in the eighties decade. Thank god for that! And thank God that Paul had the wherewithall and determination to carry through on his promise, and release a tasteful hard rock album that invokes all the best memories of those bygone years. Not only are the typical reference points for many included on the new Bonrud album (we're talking Journey, Foreigner et al), there's the odd nod to other acts that have walked this road before. Acts such as Sik Vikki, Danger Danger, Open Skyz all get a look-in here. Joining Paul on the album are singer Dave Hendricks and drummer Paul Higgins, but make no mistake, the creative force behind the album, is the man with the name himself..

Let's now meet him. Thanks for joining us here at GLORY-DAZE for a few words Paul. 'My pleasure George!'

Though Paul currently resides in Seattle, it is not home-base for him. A few thousand miles to the east is where home and heart truly reside. 'I grew up in Minnesota the son of a professional musician' says Paul. 'I was immersed with music from an early age, and I grew up singing, playing piano, violin, and baritone horn. However, the only instrument I ever really wanted to play was the guitar, which I started playing as a teenager.' And that's great news for us melodic rockers, otherwise we wouldn't be here talking to the man! Paul continues.. 'Once I picked up the guitar I never looked back and I've been rockin' ever since! I played in several bands and that eventually lead to work as a session guitarist. I then moved to Seattle during the 90's when Grunge was all the rage. I played in bands around the city but I never adopted the Grunge style.'

It is only this year that Paul's name has come to the surface as a melodic rock artist. And in a sea of grunge hopefuls, at least one man was brave enough to carry the torch, despite hiding away during those dour-sounding years. 'Well I kept doing session work on the side but always wanted to release my own melodic rock album' he says, 'and now I've finally seen my dream come true with this release, I hope this debut album is the start of a great new career!'

It's great (for our readership at least) that someone has come along and given us music that reflects the past but has both feet permanently set in the present. That can be a double-edged sword though, sometimes making one feel like a fish out of water when compared to the mainstream (no pun intended). I asked this of Paul, playing a style that isn't on the seafood menu? 'You ain't kidding!' he says jokingly. 'Yes, melodic rock is not really in the mainstream right now but some elements are being heard again with bands like The Darkness for instance.'

Paul has a theory on where part of the melodic rock scene went to, and who helped changed the soundscape. 'I actually think most of the AOR/Melodic rock style got merged into modern country music during the 90's' he suggests. 'I mean, just listen to Shania Twain and Faith Hill' you will hear those big production elements in many of their songs' though they do have that down-home twang thing happening. It shouldn't be too surprising that some of those big rock elements may appear in subtle ways in their songs since Mutt Lang and Dann Huff produced those two artists respectively. That's a great example of two very smart men following the money to the style of that moment.'

'Getting back to me though, yes I realize that my CD may have a lot of elements from the big melodic rock sound of the 80's but I have definitely been influenced by a great deal of other music I've heard over the past 14 years as well, and some of that also creeps into my music in subtle ways. How can it not? My music reflects everything I like about music and what I have listened to.'

The whole Journey/ Foreigner/ Boston/ Styx love affair is still alive and well for many of us. The same for you too by the looks of things. From your perspective, why is it after nearly 25 years or more, that this genre of rock music still appeals? 'Those are four of my favourite bands and that's the kind of music that made me want to play guitar' says Paul. 'I think the reason that music still holds up after all of these years is because it was GOOD. It's as simple as that. Those bands wrote classics that none of us will ever forget. 'Faithfully', 'Juke Box Hero', 'More Than A Feeling', and 'Come Sail Away' are all classics that still make me want to turn it up to eleven even after all of these years.'

Actually, while we're talking about some of these old rock dinosaurs, isn't it pleasing to see so many of our favourite acts still out there doing the business? Releasing albums, touring/gigging, with up-to-date websites, CD re-issues etc. That says to me the classic rock industry is still very much alive.. You'd be pleased with that no doubt Paul? 'Definitely. They are doing great with the tours, especially since everyone wants to go hear their hits but it's hard for most of them to sell lots of new music. I think this is primarily a problem with the fact radio is VERY controlled in the US with only a couple companies like Clear Channel controlling the same 30 songs that everyone gets to hear over and over again.'

So what about Journey? I know you are a huge fan.. 'Yeah they're still churning out great music worthy of being heard. Their 2000 album 'Arrival' was an incredibly high quality release but radio didn't latch on to their new songs. Some of this may have been Sony's fault for not properly promoting them (they probably just wanted to keep them around for their back catalog) but the other half of that is that radio probably viewed them as being old and uncool. That really is unfair. I think their music is just as good as it was in their heyday if not better. I really think Sony and radio missed the boat with 'Kiss Me Softly' off 'Arrival'. That song was hauntingly beautiful and it was also very unique. It would have stood out on radio in a very good way. Instead they released 'All the Way' which was a bit of a cookie-cutter song even by Journey's high standards (I'd be hailing it as a masterpiece had I written it!) but there were deeper, more unique songs that would have stood out more' like 'Kiss Me Softly' or 'Loved By You'. At any rate, it's great to see these bands packing them in for live shows and keeping their fans updated on their web sites. It's a brand new era in rock and roll!'

Knowing how much Journey has played a part in Paul's musical upbringing (does the Bonrud album cover remind you of any past Journey album covers for instance?), I then asked him about his guitar inspirations. Neal Schon perhaps? 'Yep he was the one who really inspired me to pick up the guitar' agrees Paul, 'but I have to thank my older sister for this admission since I was always listening to her records as a kid, which is why I like some older bands that guys my age probably wouldn't have gotten into. Journey's 'Captured' album in particular was the one that started my dreaming of rock stardom. So, I emulated Neal Schon's playing while I was learning along with Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Tom Scholz, Night Ranger, and Def Leppard. I loved Dann Huff's playing too' he's a monster! (too bloody right he is.. Ed) I was learning to play in the 80's when the guitar solo reigned supreme so I was always inspired to push myself when I heard another killer solo on the radio. Another guy that influenced me was my friend Tim Compton who played in a couple great Midwest bands in the 80's and early 90's. Tim played in Mariah and Lynn Allen and really taught me so much about playing from the soul. He's still one of my best friends to this day and he's a monster guitarist too. If there is any justice in this world Tim would be a household name. He really is that good.'

I asked Paul whether he found being a Seattle resident a bit of a conflict musically? Considering he was a lover of all things 80's, the city had a strong association with the 90's grunge scene. In fact, many consider Seattle to be the birthplace of grunge. But yet, he must have lived through it. Paul looks back on those days. 'It was really hard for me when I moved out here. I had quit my hard rock band Citizen Kane back in Minnesota and moved out to Seattle when Grunge was going crazy. I thought I'd just pick up where I left off, get another band together and be the hottest band in town again but it didn't work out that way. Back in Minnesota you looked in the musicians wanted section of 'The City Pages'. Here in Seattle the equivalent at that time was 'The Rocket'. Well, I'll never forget looking at my first 'Rocket' the first week I was out here. I looked through the musicians wanted section, for ads that were searching for a guitarist, but they were listing bands as influences I had never heard of! I was as you mentioned, like a fish out of water.'

Though the difference in timeframe was only a few years, the musical separation between the melodic rock prevalent through the eighties, and the grunge scene of the early nineties seemed like a gulf. That's what it seemed like to Paul. 'Once I started finding out what their influences sounded like, I was very turned off. Of course when bands would find out that I thought it was cool to play Van Halen, they weren't interested in me either. So, that was a tough time for me. One of my friends hooked me up with a vocalist who was right in the thick of things in the Seattle scene and had grown up with all of the big grunge stars like Jerry Cantrell. He and I got together and jammed and had a great time. We really liked each other but at the end of the day, he couldn't sing well enough to satisfy my musical desires and I wasn't willing to play music that I didn't find personally challenging or fulfilling. It just wasn't meant to be.'

So what did you end up doing instead? 'Well, I went on to play with other bands but they were never Grunge bands. One was a modern pop rock band, we were closer to sounding like the Gin Blossoms who were popular at the time. Another band I played in was a modern hard rock band. That was cooler for me since it was a blend of what I liked from the past with a blend of what I liked about the current music. We never recorded a CD which was too bad. We wanted to' we still talk about it actually and we do have some stuff laid down but I got into my own project and when Bonrud took off, everything else was left on the backburner. One thing I will say about Grunge was that while I wasn't a big fan, there were bands I liked. Alice In Chains is at the top of my list since they were melodic and they rocked. I still love 'Would'! Pearl Jam's first CD was great too but they went downhill fast after that.'

Continued on into Interview Two (see below)

Related Articles:
Paul Bonrud - 2004 Interview 1
Paul Bonrud - 2004 Interview 2
Paul Bonrud - 2004 Interview 3
Bonrud - 2004 Bonrud

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