1000 Words With Paul "Arlo" Guthrie

by Richard Olson
in PLSN Interview
Paul Guthrie and the VL-6000
Paul Guthrie and the VL-6000

We’re chatting while peering into a spanking new Vari-Lite VL6000 at the Heroic Productions facility in Minneapolis, where production designer Paul Guthrie, (nicknamed Arlo) resides. He’s an Aussie who fell in love with an American girl and settled here back in the 1990’s. He’s pretty much covered every aspect of lighting in his career, including a huge sold out show at First Avenue’s main room last week with Poliça, a local band. His light rig consisted of six Chroma-Q Color Force 48 strip lights and six Martin MAC Auras.

PLSN: So you are a popular LD around this city who seems to get a lot of calls from local acts when they need a hand. How’s that tie in with your normal large arena-sized tours you design?

Paul “Arlo” Guthrie: They all call me because I’m available and cut deals for $20 cash and a drink ticket…but for me, it’s nice to have a connection to local creative people after living here for 20 plus years. For these gigs I have to get a van, pick up some gear from local vendors who do me favors on pricing, set it up myself and program my own console. It ended up looking great and I was very pleased, but I’d be happier if I could just walk away from all that gear I brought in at the end of the night. I’m not in the same shape I was when I was 17 and excited about the thrill of loading out.

Where were you previously?

I just got finished re-booting Miranda Lambert’s tour. After a week there with 100 moving lights or so I went and lit the Red Bull Crashed Ice downhill ice cross competition with a 12-man crew and trucks of gear. Then I find myself loading my own micro rig into First Avenue and getting yelled at for cutting into everyone’s dinner time.

Red Bull Crashed Ice, St. Paul, MN

How was the band Poliça?

They are great and are part of a gang of local musicians that work regularly in town and collaborate on many varied projects. They are really creative musicians that overlap between the electronic, experimental, and hip hop communities. They’re smart and sweet people, so it’s fun for me to bring what I can do to these events. Some nights you hit it and the energy’s really good and the crowd’s crazy. After the show, you think, “Yeah, that’s why I do this,” and you’re glad you made the effort. But on other nights when it’s not really clicking … you can find yourself wishing you had your crew to pack out everything while you cut out early.

What’s going on with Miranda Lambert this year?

It’s based on the same production design from last summer’s shed tour, but I had to rescale some pieces to fit arenas. She added nine songs from her new album that we needed to program lighting and build video content for. I had Taylor Price, the same amazing lighting director, back from last year, as well as the Upstaging and Screenworks crew. That was helpful, as I kind of got volunteered for all sorts of extraneous art-related projects. Things like generating artwork for laminates and dressing room signs seemed to fall under my jurisdiction. The most unique request was, Miranda wanted a mural airbrushed on her new tour bus. Somehow that got pushed up towards the top of the to-do list.

Guthrie put Miranda's horses on the bus.

So your company now includes custom bus mural design?

Apparently. She wanted a vintage air brushed mural of horses on the side of the bus. Hemphill Brothers Coach Company outfitted and customized her bus with a pearl glitter paint job that in itself is beautiful. She wanted something along the line of Willie Nelson’s Eagle tour bus vibe with an airbrushed fantasy painting of horses on each side. Miranda owns five horses, so my daughter Ruby and I went out to the ranch and spent the afternoon taking photos of them while they ran around. I cut them out in Photoshop and put them on a background, added some details, then faded the edges like it had been spray painted directly on the bus. I wound up getting some help with the airbrush texture because it was taking time away from making content and writing cues for the new songs of the tour! Once we were done with the image we had them printed onto a brand new 3M clear wrap stock. Now her bus has a retro style mural of her own horses galloping through fantasy land.

What’s on the docket for you and your company, Toss Film & Design?

We are shooting two Stevie Nicks shows from her current tour in the U.S. As her production designer, I will be on site to add audience lights and set levels for cameras. We opened the new US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis last year, and I was called to light the opening game halftime celebration event honoring Prince as well as an evening televised game and we are talking with the Vikings about adding more production value to their home games. With the Super Bowl coming here next year, there is a lot of excitement around the stadium and the city of Minneapolis.

Guthrie lit the Vikings opening game halfime show last fall. Photo courtesy Quince Imaging, which handled the projection for the show, seen here.

Are you headed to Florida to do the Tortuga festival* this year again?

Yes I am. I design three stages and get to be onsite for the festival to make sure each acts’ LDs are looked after. We try to cater directly to the three main stage headliners and provide something that works for everyone as well as giving the festival its own look. I get to see a lot of friends do great work and meet new designers that come through without having to write (or clone) one cue.

What do you think of this Vari-Lite VL6000 Beam** you just played with?

It’s impressive; what’s not to like? I have to get them on some shows!

*Rock the Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival, set for Fort Lauderdale, FL April 7-9, 2017, will feature headliners Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton and Kenny Chesney along with a variety of other top country, rock and roots music acts. The multi-stage event raises funds for ocean conservation efforts.

**More details about the VL6000 Beam fixture can be found in Nook’s “Road Test,” this issue, page 78.

***For more, go to www.tossfad.com

 

For more on the Vikings Halftime Show, go to http://plsn.com/projection-connection/21143.