In Lewiston the name Speer is synonymous with bullets, but it also spawned a musician.Paul Speer, 60, is one of Lewiston’s most successful musical exports. He has produced hundreds of albums and been nominated for a Grammy for his long-form video work. Top-selling collaborations he did with David Lanz and others are popular on SiriusXM’s Spa channel. Speer’s latest album, “Ax Inferno,” is due to be released Tuesday, Aug. 13. Roger Fisher, guitarist and founding member of Heart, has called it “guitarzy, fat-bottomed, creative and nicely recorded.”
Speer grew up in Lewiston, where his grandfather, Vernon Speer, created Speer brand ammunition in the basement of his Idaho Street home in the 1940s. The 1970 Lewiston High School graduate talked to Inland 360 from his home in Memphis, Tenn., about his new album and the changing business of music.
360: What’s the story behind “Ax Inferno?”
Speer: “I enjoy collaborations but I have to go away into the cave and do stuff by myself. Half the albums I’ve done are collaborations and half are solo projects. This one I just had to rock out. … I’d been listening to a lot of electronica and trance and EDM (electronic dance music). I really like the pulse and textures of that kind of music but it never has any guitar so I did an experiment and put hot rock guitar on top. I uploaded it to YouTube and asked fans to provide feedback. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.”
360: You turned to Kickstarter.com to promote this album.
Speer: “I raised almost $12,000, which exceeded my financial goal. The record was already in the can when I started the campaign in early May. I wanted to raise money for manufacturing, publicity and radio promotion, which is expensive when you don’t have a major label, which I used to in the ’80s and ’90s and I sold a lot of records…. To know that people still find my work compelling, my music, and they still want to buy it, still want to listen to it — I would have been really bummed if I’d only raised $500, that would have been hard to take.”
360: What were some of the rewards you offered people who funded the album?
Speer: “The fans want to get up close and personal. For $500 I buy you lunch and give you a private tour of Ardent Studios in Memphis. For the grand one, $2,500, I take you to tour Graceland, Sun Studios, and Beale Street, buy you lunch and later on go back to my house for dinner. A hard core fan from Oklahoma bought it. For $300 I’ll play guitar on one of your songs. There were also T-shirts, custom guitar picks and a Skype call with me.”
360: What’s next for you?
Speer: “This could be my last CD. Nobody is buying CDs anymore. Eighty plus percent of my sales are digital.”