Our interview with May SERENDIPITY speaker, Bob Lord - Founder of Parma Recordings.
PKX: What is your path to your current career?
Bob: I loved music since I was a little kid. The Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis. Then I heard the Who. And I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I’ve never had a real job. I still don’t have a real job.
I followed my ear. I never had any formal training.
I got a band together with a college friend - that was Dreadnaught, and it went from there. That was 1996.
We began touring around New England, and then going further and further out. A whole cross country run from Idaho and back to here and back again. And trying to get back to class in time and make my classes at UNH.
I started Parma 9 years ago - it’s been a quick 9 years!
PKX: How did you make the jump from The Who to Classical?
Bob: As kids, we all hear classical because of Warner Bros, and jazz because of Mr Rogers. Right? But none of that really appealed to me until I could cross reference it with the rock I was really into - bands like Rush, Yes, King Crimson, Stravinsky started to make a lot more sense for me.
All of these complicated arrangements and a lot of detail in the music, has always been the stuff I liked. Classical was very natural for me to fall into.
PKX: What do you play now?
Bob: Well, we’re weird. Dreadnaught never really went away. We are like one of those horrible t-shirts that comes back in and out of fashion every few years, and you are never quite sure why.
It’s pretty logical progression when you look back at it. At the time it made no sense.
PKX: What advice do you have for people getting into the industry today?
Bob: Be open to creative criticism. Prepare yourself for a bad review - it’s the best thing that can happen to you early in your career.
I think that’s the most important things kids need to learn: You don’t need to be a rock star to have a meaningful career in this industry.
Be prepared to do an awful lot of things, until you can do the one thing.
Be yourself, be honest, do what you say you are going to do - always.
PKX: How does Serendipity play a role in your career as you look over the past 20 years?Bob: Serendipity spoke to me because of how unexpected my life has been. I don’t think anybody would have looked at me at 13 when I was playing the bass and said this is where Bob is going to end up.
Also - there are always things happening that you are not even aware of.
So what from the outside looks like serendipity, is really just the product of a lot of people helping you out.
There is no such thing as the self made man.
It’s a cliche - but luck is the residue of design. You simply need to put yourself in a position to get lucky. I can think of a circumstance that happened to me about a year ago - what looked like a regular 15 minute meeting, was actually the culmination of 10 years of work.
You go through dreaming what you want to do with your life….to do this and this and this…you might be so single minded as to not realize all the opportunities that are right there in front of you.
You can have a great game plan, but all that goes right out the window the minute you set foot on the playing field.
It’s like improvising musically - if you know it all, it’s in your gut, your heart, your brain, it’s easy.
PKX: Anything new and exciting happening in your industry?
Bob: All this chicken little bullshit “I’m not making royalties” “where is my money?” “How am I going to be paid?”…I think that’s a good opportunity for this completely green field of open opportunities.
Turmoil is a terrific thing.
There was a bubble for a long time, where you could be a 4th rate bass player in a 3rd rate band and still make a shitload of money.
That time is gone. It’s never going to come back. And I like that. It makes me think in a more ingenious sensibility.
On a personal and Parma Recordings front - I have some exciting projects coming up. I like working in Cuba and we are going back there soon. Look for some big announcements coming soon.
PKX: How do you get the word out about Parma and the work you do?
Bob: At the end of the day, it’s the quality of the expression that’s going to win the day.
Your technique with instagram doesn’t matter - it’s how good is the material itself.
In my day to day world in the classical music industry, so many people are unaware of all the different methods one can use to get music out. It’s a very insular community - where there is this perception that it’s about the artwork itself, and it’s “dirty” to think about how to get your art out there. That’s where I come in - I don’t mind doing the dirty work. I like it.
PKX: If would have any speaker at PKX - who would it be?
Bob: I’d love to see what Bach would have made of all of this. But I would be very curious to know what he thinks about the sustainability of a career. Or anything he would say…about anything. But he’s unavailable.
PKX: if you could open a door and go anywhere, where would you go?
Bob: I’d like to go anywhere in the known or unknown universe and see what advanced intelligence is like. I’d like to see that. And then see if they have drive-through.
Heard after we hit “stop” moments with Bob…