Green Dot Session with Paul Aluculesei

Dave Anians - November 13, 2013

Our next Green Dot Sessions is with Paul Aluculesei, a Chicago area guitarist and studio manager and freelance engineer at IV Lab Studios. I’ve known Paul since high school and he has always been a solid dude and an excellent musician. In the past three or so years, he has recorded, mixed, and mastered a solid chunk of my music. It has been a very fulfilling experience as I learned how to not sound like total crap and he learned how to make sure I didn’t, culminating to our last big project at IV Lab, my concept album WAITT (woo self plug!):

He’s a guitarist in two bands currently: Fathoms and more recently, Warforged.

Check out a badass video of Fathoms that I show people when I drink too much here (my favorite part starts around 2:40).

As a metal/progressive guitarist and a professional audio man, Paul has a lot of experience in things that I have very limited knowledge and understanding of, so this was fun! Hopefully you’ll think so tooooo.

Dave Anians 11/4, 4:46pm

alright, dude, im down to get started. answer these however and whenever!


fill in the blank:

my name is Paul and I enjoy ________ as well as ________ my _______. I'm so glad I get to ________ and _______ my ______ to the world

Paul Aluculesei 11/4, 5:37pm

My name is Paul and I enjoy recording as well as playing my guitar. I'm so glad I get to play and present my music to the world.

Dave 11/4, 6:02pm


how did you first get into music, my friend?

Paul 11/4, 6:16pm

I actually got into music because I had an interest in video games, specifically Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. It influenced me to start skateboarding and exposed me to a lot of punk bands. One of my brother's friends who I would skate with sometimes owned a guitar. Before that, I had never even thought that I could become a musician. I thought it was something you were born into or your parents had to find you a teacher. Seeing someone play a guitar without any sort of formal training made me want a guitar. Shortly after that I got my first guitar. An acoustic guitar made in some foreign country with insanely high action. It hurt my fingers so bad that I would tape them up so I could keep playing. Ever since then, I haven't been able to put it down and I've been listening to all kinds of music which lead to me wanting to pursue recording as a career.

Dave 11/4, 6:31pm

awesome. youre actually not the first person to mention the importance of tony hawks pro skater for these interviews haha.

what about music do you think attracted you to becoming a part of the making/production of it?

Paul 11/4, 6:41pm

I think Tony Hawk just got big at the right time. It seems like those games and the x-games and warped tour and pop-punk all got really big together.

The reason I ended up in the recording part of music is because I was raised with the understanding that college gets you a good job. I think I was around 17 at the time where I thought, "Hmm, I love music, but everyone keeps telling me you can't make a living doing it. I know! I'll record bands. Studio engineers seem like they have a pretty great job." Worst mistake of my life, haha! But I love music and I knew that it would be a big part of my life. Around the same time, my older sister was looking to get involved in music management and she took a brief 5 week summer class at Columbia College centered around music production. At the end of the class they had to record a track with a band and she brought a CD home with her track recorded. I thought it was so cool that you could go to school and do something like that so I ended up enrolling at Columbia College and graduated with a degree in Audio Arts and Acoustics last May.

Dave 11/4, 6:49pm

for sure. do you ever get afraid that basing your profession off of it may lead to getting bored with music?

Paul 11/4, 7:00pm

Sometimes, but I usually experience something else that will offset that. For instance, if I have to sit for a few hours and edit drums or tune some vocals, it definitely gets a little tiresome. But then the next time I'll set up for a brand new band and they are just killing it in the studio, all that leaves my mind. Or even when I'm rehearsing with my band, or playing a show, it reminds me of why I do what I do. The exciting aspects make the mundane aspect more than worth it. And then of course, seeing the excitement that my clients get from hearing their tracks the way they always envisioned them, makes it all worth it. But I totally understand why you asked that question. I've met a lot of folks in this industry that have been left feeling bitter.

Dave 11/4, 11:24pm

nice, i see what you mean.

when did you start making songs of your own?

Paul 11/4, 11:29pm

I started writing songs when I was 15 or 16. I put together a metal band in high school because I was listening to a lot of Iron Maiden. We played the high school battle of the bands and we needed songs so I just started writing riffs. We were just awful but it got me started.

Dave 11/4, 11:34pm

haha right on. where did it go from there?

Paul 11/4, 11:42pm

The band broke up soon after. I played with a few different folks but nothing serious until I started playing with Fathoms. I met Alex and we put the band together. We played some shows here and there and made a lot of friends. I slowly developed an interest in jazz and quit Fathoms for a while to learn jazz guitar with a great teacher named Eric Klotz. Eventually, I rejoined Fathoms. Around the same time, I started interning at IV Lab studios and decided to quit my job to spend more time there and learn as much as I could. I brought in a band called Warforged to track their drums at IV lab. A couple months later, they were looking for a new guitarist and I decided to audition. I got the part and now we're finishing up our EP.

Dave 11/4, 11:45pm

right onnnn. how would you describe your guitar playing style?

Paul 11/4, 11:52pm

That's a tough question! I feel like it really depends on who I'm playing with. When I was playing with Fathoms, I tried to be really melodic and tried to incorporate some of my fusion influences like Allan Holdsworth and Shawn Lane. When I joined Warforged, it was much heavier and more metal than any of my previous projects. A lot of the music called for faster "shreddier" parts so it's a little more straight forward metal type playing. I started to use harmonic minor and Phrygian more often for that "exotic" type sound. I'm still in the midst of finding that perfect balance between shredding and tastefulness.

Dave 11/5, 12:03am

damn, that sounds so cool and so way over my head haha. how did you get into learning metal/progressive/jazz stuff?

Paul 11/5, 12:23am

Well, after I got my first guitar, I spent a lot of time learning punk songs. It eventually led to iron maiden and that was the first band that really set a new standard for me. I couldn't believe the speed and energy involved in their playing. In high school, I was exposed to some heavier bands like Arch Enemy and In Flames. Thinking back, iron maiden and in flames also had songs in tony hawk games! But it pushed me to become a better player. I eventually got into shredders like Paul Gilbert and Steve Vai and I spent a lot of time on technique. The prog influence came from Rush and more modern bands like Protest the hero. When I heard protest the hero, it really blew me away. The time signatures, the technicality, the obvious punk AND metal influences. Around the same time, I think I was 15, I saw the Dillinger escape plan live. It really blew me away. It was so visceral and unlike anything else I had heard. It also had that jazz influence that really planted the "jazz seed" in my head and lead to my interest in fusion and more traditional jazz.

Dave 11/5, 12:31am

most excellent. this is probably a good opportunity to ask a question i like to do. if you can, could you find 2 or 3 youtube vids of bands that you feel have really helped shape you and your work?

you can talk about them too if you want, or not, no big deal : )

Paul 11/5, 12:33am

Oooh! Guitar world has an article where they ask a guitar player to pick 5 songs that have influenced them. I've always wanted to do something like that, lol. Give me a second.

Dave 11/5, 12:33am


i love those things

Paul 11/5, 2:15pm

My first track would be City Nights by Allan Holdsworth. I thought i'd get this out of the way first since Holdsworth has been my favorite guitar player for a long time. When I first heard this track, I was blown away at how perfect each phrase was. He's wasting absolutely no time on this track. That opening lick in monstrous and his tone is just gorgeous. It sounds like his fingers are breathing through the guitar, sending out this swirling sound that many people have tried and failed to duplicate. His playing sounds like it's from another planet and he'll probably always be my favorite guitarist.

When I first discovered Sonic Youth, they quickly became an obsession for me. I spent an entire summer listening to their back catalog, reading books on them, and even seeing them live at their last Chicago show before they broke up. They also happen to be another band that I discovered through a video game. I heard the song Teenage Riot on Rockband and it captured my attention in a weird way. I had known of the band before but I never really "got it" before I heard Teenage Riot. I picked The Diamond Sea because I feel like it encapsulates the interesting dichotomy that band has had between noisey art sounds and more simple rock songs. They use their instruments not only for riffs but also for amazing textures. I don't think that many people would hear SY in my playing, but their evolution from album to album and their overall philosophy are both things that really shaped my artistic decisions and goals.

Like I mentioned before, Dillinger was the band that completely changed the game for me. When I saw them on stage, running around manically, jumping off of speaker stacks, and swinging their instruments horrendously close to peoples faces, it completely changed any sort of expectation that I had regarding music. The sheer intensity was like nothing I had ever seen before. I never looked at writing a song the same way again. The constantly changing meters and the dissonant chords combined with the catchy hooks just floored me. I picked Sunshine the Werewolf because it was the first Dillinger song that I fell in love with and it's become the bands calling card at most of their shows. The bands artistic choices and philosophy has also had a huge impact on me. They really are one of the few bands that do not compromise their integrity for the money. If there's one thing to be learned from DEP, it's that as long as what you are doing is sincere, people will respond to it and if you stick with it, it will take you places.

Dave 11/5, 3:36pm


have you had any run-ins or cool experiences with any of these bands or with some other musicians you look up to?

Paul 11/5, 3:42pm

Not really. I've met various people I look up to and I usually just end up telling them how much I love their music, but I'm sure they've heard it all before. I never really know what to say beyond that.

Dave 11/5, 3:48pm

ah yeah for sure. it can be a weird experience finding the balance between wanting to tell someone how much their stuff means to you and not coming off too odd haha.

what are some cool successes or victories you have had with your music career so far?

Paul 11/7, 2:02am

Well, working with Warforged before I joined the band was a huge success for me. I really liked them a lot and I thought they had a lot of potential. They were my first paying client so it was really a milestone for me. Now that I'm in the band, I can't wait to put out the EP and see how people respond. Doing your album was huge for me as well. First project I did on my own. The process taught me so much.

Dave 11/7, 11:28am


Alright, we're winding down to our deepest darkest questions. Prepare your brain.

Not really, but, alright. What do you think the role of the musician/producer is in society? If there is a role

Paul 11/7, 12:41pm

We're getting a little philosophical now. This sound a little like Nietzche but I think the reason art exists is to make life more bareable. Bareable for the artist and the audience. So the role of a musician is to create something that someone can use to forget about life for a while, to quote Billy Joel. I think this applies to all kinds of music, even avant garde and noise stuff because not everyone gets the same pleasure listening to the same type of music. The producer/engineer is supposed to act as sort of a muse. A creative lubricant, if you will, that helps the artist realize his vision. In a lot of cases, you have to understand what the artist wants to do, and take them to that next level that they couldn't get to before hand.

Paul 11/7, 12:43pm

I think this applies to mainstream radio too. All the Lady Gagas and Justin Biebers of the world are speaking to an audience that really enjoys listening to them. Even with all the money involved in their creation and marketing.

Dave 11/7, 12:57pm

that's an awesome perspective. i think its definitely an important thing to keep in mind when people get all righteous about hating on different types and areas of music. cool! to go along with that

besides being a artist that makes life more bearable and a muse for other artists, is there anything specific that you want people to get from the art you make?

Paul 11/7, 1:14pm

I would love to be in one of those bands that sets off a spark in people. Makes them think, "oh, you CAN do that with music." I know those bands mean a lot to me so having a similar effect on someone else would be just mind blowing. Im hoping to be constantly evolving as a musician and I think that's the best way to really change peoples perceptions of things. Guys like Miles Davis, Radiohead, and even Kanye West changed music forever due to their evolution and refusal to compromise their creative vision. It's a pretty bold thing to hope for, but then again, the types of people that end up doing that are pretty bold to begin with.

I'm not sure if I even answered that question correctly, haha. I think it's very difficult to make people have specific feelings or ideas about your music. It seems like people will interpret it one way or another.

Dave 11/7, 1:29pm

for sure! thats great.

alright, so where do you want to be in 5 years? in terms of goals and aspirations and the like

Paul 11/7, 1:37pm

In 5 years, I hope to put out more music whether with Warforged or Fathoms or some other band. I want to be prolific with music. Hopefully go on tour and play some shows which I've been dying to do for the longest time. On the recording side of things, I want to keep working with bands and artists that I find interesting and cement myself in the Chicago music scene as a go to engineer or producer. That's all I really want.

Dave 11/7, 1:39pm

not bad at all. maybe get a few songs in tony hawk 15 too, thats always a plan

next: what would 12 year old paul think of now paul, in terms of what youre doin musically and such

Paul 11/7, 1:40pm

Exactly! That way I can influence kids just like me.

Dave 11/7, 1:40pm

haha there we go

Paul 11/7, 1:45pm

I feel like that question really puts things in perspective for me. My girlfriend always tells me I'm too hard on myself and I'm never satisfied with my accomplishments. But I think 12 year old me would be really impressed with where I am. I never thought I'd be working in a professional recording studio or playing in a band with such big plans.

Dave 11/7, 1:46pm

hell yeah.


Paul 11/7, 1:48pm


Moving on up. To the east side.

Dave 11/7, 1:49pm

woo woo!

alright, so before we get to the closing questions, we'll get a little more thought provoke-y. what do you think your life would be like without music?

Paul 11/7, 1:52pm

Id probably be involved in film or television if not for music. I'm a huge film buff and I've always loved the way specific directors can make a subject interesting regardless of what the subject matter might be. For a while now, I've wanted to direct a movie but that would be a whole nother story.

Films influence my thought process when writing music and I love soundtracks. I'd love to score a soundtrack for a movie some day.

Dave 11/7, 2:09pm

nice! thatd be so cool. hopefully for tony hawk: the game: the movie. but im projecting on you

alright paul, what are some things coming up in your world that we should tell the people about? shows? releases? etc

Paul 11/7, 2:18pm

Tony Hawk is my spirit animal in life. Ooh, the fun part where I get to plug all my personal projects! Warforged will have an EP coming out before the end of the year entitled "The Essence of the Land." We'll be playing the underground lounge in Chicago with Scorned Diety on November 16. We also have a show at the Cobra lounge with Black Crown Initiate on Dec 13th. Check out IV Lab studios where I do all my engineering and contact me at if you want to make a record with me! Phew, that was a mouthful.

Dave 11/7, 2:19pm

woo! are there any facebook event pages for those shows or links i can post?

Paul 11/7, 4:14pm

There isn't an event page for the show at the cobra lounge yet, but here's one for a show we have in late december with Arkham.

Dave 11/7, 4:21pm


alright dude. one more:

is there any advice youd like to give to the world of music makers/producers?

Paul 11/7, 4:30pm

Care about what you are doing. If you are in the music industry and you aren't willing to starve a little to go on tour or go that extra mile for the band you're recording, just don't bother. The industry is already full of people who will take a check from a band without even bothering to coach them and teach them how to get a good performance out of themselves. If you can't bring out the best in people, there are others that will gladly do so. Don't burn any bridges. There will always be someone who knows more than you so humble yourself and listen. You never know who can help you, so be kind. Don't be afraid to fail and be patient. I think that covers everything.

Dave 11/7, 4:40pm

most excellent. looks good to me, my man.

thats about it.

thanks dude!! this was awesome

Paul 11/7, 4:42pm

I had a lot of fun doing that. Definitely had to think about a few of those questions.

Dave 11/7, 4:47pm

haha for sure. youre really good at answering them, it should be up by next week im hopin/thinkin

Paul 11/7, 4:49pm

Cool! Looking forward to it.