Our mutual friend Ray Barbee introduced me to Paul Kwon way back in 2008. It was at the Montalban Theatre in Hollywood where Nike SB was celebrating the release of a new shoe. I’m pretty sure Paul had just moved to Long Beach from Detroit, and he was living the dream–hanging out and skating with pros like Ray and going on to design footwear for brands such as Element, Vans, and Dekline. He was a loyal Giant Robot reader who helped me line up stories with some of his friends who skated, and our friendship has outlasted the magazine’s existence.
Now and then, my friend would tell me about jamming with Ray or playing parties and celebrations with friends. And then, Pow! Paul recorded and released his own CD, Prosperity Gospel. How badass is that? And it isn’t raw demos or unfinished ideas; the songs are totally polished and produced with help from friends and accomplished musicians Tess Shapiro, Brian Andrews, Derek Poulsen, Nate Burkhardt, and, of course, Ray. It’s simply lovely. A gorgeous listen that makes good on the promise to “lift the burdens of a heavy heart.” How could I not ask Paul some questions about it?
MW: You have been making music with friends since I met you. What inspired you to go for it and record an album?
PK: I had one of the worst years of my life. I got fired from a very cushy corporate job. (I’d never been let go before. However, I deserved it.. It’s a long story.) A friend of mine who was very influential in my youth took his own life. And several people close to me were also going through a lot of rough times. I had always played music and written songs since I was in middle school but for the first time I felt like I had something to say–I guess to encourage others who were going through hard times, as well as a form of therapy for myself. No one is immune to our daily struggles, and it was an interesting subject matter to explore. You can only write so many songs about girls and unrequited love before it starts to get redundant.
MW: The subject matter of love of family and friends rather than typical romantic stuff is rarely addressed in popular music. Was it difficult to go in that direction?
PK: A lot of it stems from my own personal struggle with my faith. I wanted to present a very honest portrayal of what it means to go through the triumphs and failures of life while adhering to some kind of belief system. Spirituality can be a very polarizing subject matter but pain and struggle are universal languages.
MW: The record’s tone is very polished but quite intimate. What was it like for a private guy like you, who doesn’t enjoy attention, to step into the spotlight?
PK: Of course, it’s difficult to put one’s self out there. But a wise man once said, “If you can’t get hurt, then it’s not worth doing.” A lot of these songs got me through some dark times and in some weird, naive, idealistic way, I thought they might be of some comfort to others, as well.
MW: You’ve got some really accomplished friends helping out with everything from playing, to recording, to providing artwork. When did all of the pieces come together?
PK: The minute I realized I suck and wouldn’t be able to pull this off without the help of my friends. I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who are way more talented than I am. It was just a matter of conning them into contributing. Collaboration is paramount in any artistic endeavor; nobody gets anywhere on their own.
MW: You just worked on a skate video for Dekline. Will we ever be hearing one of your songs in a skate segment?
PK: You will most definitely not be hearing any of these songs in skate videos. I don’t think they fit the vibe for skateboarding–or at least what I’d like to hear in a skate video. That being said, I’m stoked when people from the skate community give me positive feedback or actually listen to my songs. It means a lot more to me coming from them than anyone else.
MW: Most of the CDs you pressed have already been distributed among friends and family. Any plans for another run? Shows?
PK: I’m planning on ordering another batch of CDs. Kinda stoked on the fact that in this day and age people still appreciate hard copies. I also plan on releasing the album on iTunes, as well. I’d love to release it on vinyl but I’m still figuring out how to do that financially. As for shows, I’d like to plan a small release party or something, but it’s been difficult with my schedule and coordinating all my bandmates. I’ll keep you informed if anything happens!
MW: Are you going to keep making and recording music now that you have made your first CD? Do you have the fever?
PK: The thirst has been quenched for the moment. It was nice to go through the process and learn what it takes to record a big project like this one. That being said, I’d like to do some more stripped down, lo-fi acoustic recordings. No big plans, just make stuff whenever I feel like it. I’m thinking about releasing some of the raw demos I recorded in my living room for the album, as well.
Give Paul’s music a listen at aposelpaul.bandcamp.com. I dig it and maybe you will, too.