By Noe Gutierrez
Less than an hour from the Coachella Valley, Audiowild Studios provides recording, mixing and mastering for all genres of music as well as a unique performance space for private events and rehearsals. The Idyllwild, California studio also offers artists video shoots, podcast recording, green screen filming and more.
In the past month Audiowild Studios has hosted live music events featuring The People of the Sun (Rage Against the Machine tribute) that includes Armando Flores (bass), Jeff Bowman (drums), David Burk (guitar) and Joshua A. Fimbres (vocals) as well as Rock trio The Spaceman Trilogy’s first live album recording.
The impressario behind it all is Brian “Puke” Parnell, vocalist and guitarist of 2020 Coachella Valley Music Award winner for ‘Best Punk Band’ Throw the Goat. Parnell is also the founder of Idyllwild Strong Music Festival, a yearly benefit borne in response to the Cranston Fire of 2018 that devastated the mountain town of Idyllwild burning over 13,000 acres and destroying 12 structures.
Coachella Valley Weekly connected with Parnell to get the lowdown on Audiowild and everything else he’s juggling.
CVW: You’ve come a long way in short time in regards to arriving at this moment. What can you tell us about the struggle?
Parnell: “I was having some health issues at the beginning of the year that were most likely stress related. I got put on medication and was feeling really freaked out. Then my car got stolen right before my birthday and things got downright miserable. The meds started giving me crazy side effects and I had to miss a bunch of work. I was sitting at home, hating my life and thinking, ‘I just turned 39 years old and I don’t know what I’m doing with myself anymore.’ So, I started looking into options for a new job or new apartment, even contemplating a move off ‘The Hill’. It was a depressing thought but I knew that I needed a drastic change.”
CVW: I bet a lot of people could relate to your story. How were you able to overcome the stressors and obstacles?
Parnell: “Eventually I started searching commercial listings in Idyllwild, something I’ve done many times over the years while daydreaming about starting my own business. I stumbled across a listing that I’d seen before for a spot that used to be a church. After a little hesitation I emailed the owners and told them I was thinking of renting the unit and turning it into a recording studio, fully expecting to be told to kick rocks and forget it. Much to my surprise, they were into the idea.”
CVW: Tell us more about your resilience to get through the difficult times?
Parnell: “All the stress went away as soon as I got the keys to this place. It’s such a great feeling. No matter what happens, if life throws something shitty my way, it’s really not that shitty because it’s given me a better perspective on everything. There’s gonna be some pressure to keep things going and to keep making improvements, I’m kind of self-conscious about it. If somebody walks in and says, ‘Wow, this is awesome!’ OK, cool, I’ll be the first to beat myself up if I don’t let myself get too egotistical about everything.”
CVW: What a great testimonial to holding fast to your dreams. How did the studio eventually come to fruition?
Parnell: “Now, I’m not exactly an independently wealthy guy. I’ve lived well below the poverty line for pretty much all of my adult life, so I had no idea how I was going to come up with the money. I scraped together everything I had, called up everyone who had ever owed me a dime and then borrowed a bit from a generous friend to cover the last of it. The stars aligned, I got the keys in mid-March 2021, started working two jobs to cover rent and got underway with remodeling and soundproofing.”
CVW: Idyllwild has been able to keep that “small town feel” where everyone knows everyone and each individual has seemed to find their place. What has the response been like?
Parnell: “The support from Idyllwild has been astounding. This is obviously something that has been much-needed for a long time. There’s still a long way to go before I’ll be done with the remodeling but things are already getting booked up for the rest of the year. This is turning into something truly amazing and I could not be happier to see this dream become reality.”
CVW: This has been a dream of yours for quite some time. Now that it has come to fruition, is there relief or do you feel the pressure to keep elevating the space and its services?
Parnell: “I don’t think improvements are ever gonna end, where I feel I can rest on my laurels. It’s always gonna be in flux. There’s always gonna be more that I can do to make it better, to be more all-inclusive. Whether it’s constantly improving gear or whatever, there’s definitely big plans aside from being a recording studio and a venue.”
CVW: What sets Audiowild Studios apart from other recording/performance studios?
Parnell: “A lot of times people who are running recording studios aren’t musicians themselves for whatever reason. I’ve been told over the years that I’m a much easier person to work with compared to other producers. I think it shows in the quality of the performances that I’ve been able to get out of people so far. There’s some really good albums that I’ve worked on. I think my approach is a little unique compared to other producers and studio owners. I’ve never been in a recording studio that was also a private venue and had the same vibe that this does, the sky’s the limit. I want to do different phases. ‘Phase One’ is what we’re doing now; studio and venue. ‘Phase Two’ I want to get into doing public address system (PA) rentals. Everybody up here has to outsource for their events, whether it’s a music festival or a wedding. ‘Phase Three’ I want to be able to do home installations. So when people want a recording studio in their house or spruce up their home entertainment system. A lot of my friends who work construction up here get asked frequently. There’s no one here who specializes in that so I think I found my niche.”
CVW: In July you had two sold-out, standing-room-only shows with The People of the Sun (RAtM tribute) and The Spaceman Trilogy. What makes Audiowild such a unique place to witness a live show?
Parnell: “A friend of mine, Chris Mitchell, ran the sound for both shows. He has a degree in acoustics and audio engineering and has helped build a dozen studios in his life. He likes my work ethic and wanted to be involved. He shared that The People of the Sun show was the best gig he has ever done in Idyllwild. He said nobody asked him to turn down and the cops didn’t show up. He said the place was full of rad people and many who attended didn’t know each other but by the end of the night, everybody’s friends. It’s such a weird and amazing experience, I’ve been in the music industry for over twenty years now and played a lot of gigs in a lot of different venues in a lot of different countries and met a lot of different people. I’ve never felt the vibe the way that it feels here. It’s almost like a family reunion even thought people are meeting for the first time. As soon as the vibrations start going, the energy picks up. Everybody ends up on the same frequency.”
CVW: You’re the poster boy for DIY. Not only have you had your hand in every aspect of Throw the Goat and the Idyllwild Strong Music Festival, you’ve built those entities from the ground up. Now Audiowild is in your repertoire and you have a lot to be proud of. I guess there’s no question here, just a statement of fact. Any thoughts?
Parnell: “I don’t necessarily know why it’s not more common for people to have that entrepreneurial spirit. To not just wait around and hope that somebody is gonna hand something to you. You gotta go out there and make it happen for yourself if you want it to happen at all. You also have to be serious about what you’re doing. It fulfilling to do all these different things. If I tried something and I sucked at it, maybe I’d be less motivated to keep putting myself out there.
It helps being a bit of a control freak. I don’t really trust too many other people. I would rather do it myself because then I know I can really geek out on it and do it the way that I want it to be done even though I don’t necessarily know what I’m doing.
For some reason or another, the universe seems to like me. I’ll try my hand at something and for some reason it works out. With Idyllwild Strong, nobody ever puts a festival together and has it super-successful right out of the gate. For most people there’s a trial and error period, even the first Coachella was a disaster. With Throw the Goat, our very first tour was a UK tour, no DIY up-and-coming band gets out there and does that shit. You have to embrace the idea that you can totally fail at any moment and you have to just not give a shit and go for it! There’s a quote from David Bowie that I really like, ‘If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting’. Jumping gives me that sense of worry, excitement and uncertainty and that’s when you know you’re onto something really special. It’s always been with me.”
CVW: Can you provide an update on Throw the Goat and Idyllwild Strong?
Parnell: “On Saturday, 09/18/2021 TTG will be perfoming live at Audiowild Studios, our first show since January 11, 2020! Our last album was recorded remotely so we didn‘t develop the record organically like we normally would. Most of the songs on the album, we actually have not played together as a band. Troy does a lot more singing on this album. Derek is always real intent on how he can best compliment the musical arrangements. With me being the frontman it’s still a fresh thing, I don’t necessarily have any training or vocal techniques. We’ll be performing some new songs as well as some covers.
With regard to Idyllwild Strong, things are way too up in the air. I contacted the Riverside County Planning Department and alerted them we were thinking about it. They werent too enthusiastic about it. They advised we fill out the permits as quick as we could and keep our fingers crossed. It takes so much work to put that together, it would be so disappointing to put all that effort in and then have the rug pulled out from beneath us. Instead, what we are going to be focusing on is Idyllwild Strong 2022. We’ll start planning now with over a year to go.”
CVW: You’ve worked on albums with Throw the Goat, Instigator, 5th Town, The Sweat Act, Johnny and the Competition, The Spaceman Trilogy and Hot Patooties at your previous space. What are you hoping to accomplish for artists recording at Audiowild?
Parnell: “I would like to bring in a band and when they leave the studio, they’ll have a kick-ass album recorded, a bunch of behind-the-scenes footage that was shot in the studio during the recording process, I can knock out a couple of music videos for them, facilitate merchandising and ultimately make it a one-stop-shop. I want to be able to handle all of it.”
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