Paul Kulak’s Woodshed brings independent music to life

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Paul Koulak likes to say that singer-songwriters are his only vice.

Rather, it is a consuming passion. In 1999, he created, and has since invested his entire life in, Kulak’s Pyre, a video recording studio and live performance space in North Hollywood. The Laurel Canyon Boulevard showcase has hosted thousands of artists, ranging from the famous Jackson Browne and Christopher Cross to teenage composers and people who postponed their musical aspirations until their children grew up.

“I had a crazy dream of opening a small room for singer-songwriters where they could walk in and feel at home regardless of your level of talent,” Kulak, 62, told The Woodshed, at the middle of mismatched second-hand furniture. and wall album covers, posters, distressed toys and other junk that give the place the look of a Salvation Army store.

The appeal to anyone hoping to be heard in LA’s competitive and often exploitative music scene soon became evident. Especially since Kulak provided everything – staging of the Woodshed’s pioneering shows, recordings, live web video broadcasts – for free to artists.

Until his money ran out.

“I paid for it myself for the first 10 years, and then we had to turn into a semblance of a business,” Kulak says, still feeling lousy about the necessary decision.

Some musicians have never forgiven him for that. Many others, however, found that what they got for a $ 300 per night rental was a bargain unmatched anywhere else in town: recordings of a live webcast, two-hour show made with a console. 24 tracks and six HD cameras (including the remote -Kulak “skateboard cam” controlled along the rails on a top wall), plus 100% of all ticket and merchandise sales they could generate in the listening room with 49 seats.

“We’re the only video / recording studio where you can recoup all of your rental costs and even make a profit,” notes Kulak.

Although it archived 10,000 hours of programming, the Woodshed rarely made a profit. There were fundraising performances to literally keep the lights (and the sound system) on. A long-time single, Kulak leads a Spartan lifestyle; Pet doves have been his main companions since the COVID pandemic shut down the site 22 months ago.

Still, he’s still here, thanks to a grant from the SBA and a few Go Fund Me campaigns. Kulak has booked a handful of recording sessions since October, though the Omicron Wave has postponed the first show with an audience. live, starring Severin Browne (Jackson’s brother) and James Lee Stanley, which was slated for release Jan. 7.

“People have asked me over the last few months, ‘You barely survived for 20 years when you were open, and now that you are closed you are still surviving. How do you do that? ”, Notes Kulak. “You could say I have the hardest nails in town. Holding on to my dear life for 20 years kind of prepared me.

Of course, many musicians have spent time learning how to make their own recordings and webcasts, and Kulak wonders how many of them will still find what he has to offer relevant. Another question is, will the warm community of local regulars and visitors from around the world regenerate under COVID protocols and concerns?

A self-proclaimed “socially autistic” loner who has struggled with chronic depression all his life, Kulak somewhat dreads the prospect of interacting with artists and clients again.

But as with any vice-addict, there is no choice.

“I have nothing else to do,” Kulak said.

And if the story is any indication, it will make it work one way or another.

“I think the most impressive thing is that someone like me, with all my flaws and blockages, would be able to not only create something that others love, but also be able to miraculously maintain it for 22 years,” Kulak said.

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