For Tahoe Donner resident Paul Klein, the greatest thing about music is its timeless nature.
“You can play it again and again and still enjoy it just as much as you did the first time,” says Klein, who describes himself as a frugal Illinois farm boy turned defense contractor turned music television techy.
For close to three years now, Klein has been bringing the best of Truckee-Tahoe’s music scene to life for viewers in their own living rooms with his show, Truckee Tahoe Music TV, fondly known as TTMTV, on Truckee Tahoe Community TV Channel 6.
Each week during the summer months, TTMTV gives North Shore residents a glimpse into the local concert scene with bands like the Deadbeats and Larry Yates and the Blues Monsters jamming at venues like Sugarbowl and the Truckee River Regional Park.
In the winter, viewers can rock out to video jockey Klein and his half-hour music video-style segments.
It may not have all of the glitz and glamour of MTV’s multi-million dollar segments, however, Klein’s combination of local talent and overlaying of picture perfect panoramas of the Sierra puts a fresh face on the music television genre.
From the farm to the editing room
While he was growing up as a simple Illinois farm boy, Klein never fathomed he’d one day be behind the lens of a video camera.
He had never even traveled outside of his home state until after he graduated from the University of Illinois in 1968, when despite his mother’s urgings to stay close to home, Klein bought a one-way ticket to California and never looked back.
“It was a big thing for me to do, especially being the protected son,” he said, as he toyed with the knobs on an editing machine. “I wasn’t supposed to do anything like this, anything this risky.”
For the next 26 years, he worked as a high power defense contractor in the Bay Area. But when things went sour at his company, he retired early, took his “lead parachute” and packed his bags for Truckee.
“I really just wanted to be in a place with four seasons, and this was it,” he said.
Not too long after he’d moved to town, a dispute over a proposed development in his Tahoe Donner neighborhood would introduce him to Channel 6 Director John Echols, who encouraged him to start volunteering with the station.
His first filming attempts were of a different kind of performance on a very different type of stage, though, – the witness stand inside the local courtroom.
“I’d always been intrigued by the legal system and was hoping to get a local court TV-type show going, but there were a lot of people who weren’t too happy with that idea and I started to run into a lot of roadblocks,” Klein said.
Soon after he was asked to film one of the Wednesday night summer concerts at the Truckee’s Regional Park.
“I can’t even really remember what band it was and I’m sure I the show I produced wasn’t very good – I’ve probably erased the tape by now,” he says with a laugh.
Klein likens his first few times filming to being a soldier on his first mission after basic training.
“You get out there in the field on a project and you’ve just got to hit the ground running,” he said. “A lot of the times, you’re thinking, ‘Oh my God, will I survive this operation or even more importantly, will I get anything out of this? But I ended up really enjoying it and things just kind of went from there.”
52 segments later
Today, nearly three years and 52 half-hour segments later, Klein continues to crank out shows weekly.
Sometimes, he even finds gigs just walking down the street.
“Just the other day I was walking near Safeway when I saw a big old tour bus parked out front with a sign that read, ‘Lost Highway,'” he said. “I though, ‘That sounds kind of familiar.’ So I just walked right up to the bus and knocked on the door and asked the band if I could film them. They’re this very cool blue grass band that’s been around forever.”
“I ended up chatting with them and filming them – it was great,” he said. “I just let that baby roll.”
As for the secrets of what Klein looks for when filming a performance, he says it’s all about finding the featured musicians in a band.
“You look for the people who have a lot of body language or body English, as I call it,” he said. “Keyboard players are usually great and guitar players, too. I like to film the drummers, but the problem is that they tend to get buried in the back of the stage.”
Other filming challenges include bad lighting and background noise in a venue, which is one reason he prefers covering outdoor events.
“It’s tough because a lot of what I do is not what you call organized,” he said. “I can’t just yell to someone to fix the lights or do this or that. Most of the time I’m stuck out there all on my own. I’m an afterthought.”
Each half-hour segment takes a tremendous amount of work, requiring a minimum 16 hours of intense tooling – none of which Klein receives a paycheck for as a volunteer.
Despite the challenges and hard work, though, Klein says he couldn’t imagine anything else he’d rather be doing.
“It’s great,” he said. “I’ve got a ringside seat, documenting these people and these shows that no one else probably would. I have access to all of this great music and these really cool tools and equipment. I feel very lucky.”
The one thing he would like is a little more feedback on his show.
“I always say, ‘What’s worse than hate mail? No mail,'” he said. “It seems like you’ve really got to piss people off or give away free stuff before people will contact you.”
As he rolls footage of previous filmings, one can see he takes a great deal of pride in his work, and rightfully so, according to his Channel 6 cohorts.
“He’s extremely talented,” said John Echols, director of TTCTV. “It’s been really fun to watch the evolution of his work and the show itself. He’s our guy around here – our music guy.”
TTMTV airs weekly on TTCTV Channel 6. For more information, contact Paul Klein at TTMTV@yahoo.com.
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