Even Antarctica

RPM Challenge offers no prizes, but they throw a participants party!
  • RPM Challenge offers no prizes, but they throw a participants party!

Tim Mudd gets up at 4:30 every morning and begins writing music in his University Heights home studio. Mick Van Dyck of North Park carves blocks of recording time out of his work days. Chris Carnelian lives in University Heights and sequesters himself “in my second bedroom with my equipment. And some movies.” Alastair Kilpatrick of Clairemont (by way of Edinburgh, Scotland) has no songwriting regimen but admits that the temptation to “fill whatever remaining time with a long ambient piece” grows stronger toward the end of the month.

Why? Because the RPM (Record Production Month) Challenge is on during the month of February. Now in its tenth year, the challenge of the Challenge is to write and record ten songs (or 35 minutes) of new and original material in 28 days. This year, over 1000 bands and singer/songwriters have committed; more than a few of them are San Diegans. Karen Marzloff, 47, cofounded the Challenge in Portsmouth, NH a decade ago.

“We threw out the challenge to our local community here in February, when there’s five feet of snow outside.” That was in 2006. “The second year, we opened it up to the rest of the world. We had people signing up from all seven continents. Even Antarctica. Someone on base there sent us an entry.” Heavy metal, she recalls. “The idea is to make this a fun place for creativity that’s not a contest or a battle of the bands. It’s free for musicians to participate.” Marzloff says that RPM itself is funded through sponsorships and donations.

The RPM Challenge is like a contest, she explains, albeit one with no winners or prizes. The rules are strict: writing and recording can only be done in the month of February. No prerecorded songs are allowed, and all material must be previously unreleased. Have any of the entrants taken their completed albums on to greater success? “We try hard not to prioritize that,” Marzloff says, “but, I know of an off-Broadway show that came out of an entry,” and she says that more than one band has been formed post Challenge.

Van Dyck, 33, hopes to make his ten songs the touring foundation of his new prog-metal band. Kilpatrick, 29, claims to have finished an album a year for each of the eight years he’s entered. “It’s a great motivation to actually work on something new.”

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