Paul Price, a veteran of the Chapel Hill music scene during the '80s and '90s and a founding member of local indie rock mainstay Lud, passed away Sunday night at his home in Chapel Hill. He was 59.
Price began playing in beach music outfits as a teenager and made an impact on the Triangle scene starting in the early '80s. He played in bands such as The Swamis and The Emperors of Ice Cream and was a notable fixture at the Hardback Cafe, a now defunct meeting ground for musicians and other artists.
In the early '90s, Price began jamming with Bryon Settle and Kirk Ross, shifting from his more comfortable role as a bassist and guitarist to play drums. The collaboration would go on to birth Lud in 1993. The lush and mercurial indie rock outfit remains a vital player in the Chapel Hill scene.
"We had an old four-track tape machine, and it ran about 20 minutes a side," Ross says of Lud's genesis, referring to the three men as brothers. "We would just hit record and play until the tape ran out. That's how we got to really know each other. You do a lot of talking sitting up late at night."
Price was also an accomplished academic. He studied and taught at UNC-Chapel Hill, receiving one of the school's first bachelor's degrees in international studies. In 1994, he left Lud to work for UNC, where he became assistant director of the Center for International Studies. During his time at UNC he traveled to the African nation of Eritrea, where he joined a team of scholars assisting the budding democracy in getting on its feet.
"He pretty much had the best damn excuse to quit a band that I've ever heard," Ross laughed. "You know, 'I've got to go off and help a fledgling democracy in Africa.'"
Price rejoined Lud in 1996, switching to bass and contributing to the albums Sparkling Rope and Epiflot despite suffering a heart attack in 1997. In 2000, he left the Triangle for New York, where he worked for the Social Science Research Council. He became ill earlier this year and moved back to North Carolina to be close to his friends and family.
More than just a key cog in local bands, Price was a prolific solo artist with a diverse collection of accomplishments. He composed the soundtrack for Sweet Dreamer, a 1990 indie film directed by Robert Landau, and he wrote the song for a popular N.C. tourism commercial in the early '90s. Wes Lachot, a friend of Price who owns the Durham recording studio Overdub Lane, hopes to remaster and release some of Price's solo work in the near future.
"He was always the most intellectual guy in the room," Lachot says, recalling the way Price would help him out around the studio, laying down fills or helping in the production booth. "He was always the fiercest critic of everything. I hated bringing my own songs to him. He was very hard to please. If he did finally like a song, you knew it was a good song because he would reject 19 and choose one."