Paul Allen and the Underthinkers disc features Heart, Chrissie Hynde and spins coin for kid music projects
Tech entrepreneurship and rock music have always had unexpected overlaps. Apple’s Steve Jobs had his rock nerd counterpart in Steve Wozniak, who spent his early cultural capital organizing the Us Festival in 1982. Texas Instruments’ rudimentary language translators provided the group Kraftwerk with a key midcareer muse. And techno-futurist prophet Ray Kurzweil spent years designing custom synthesizers for Stevie Wonder.
But perhaps no major tech world figure has been as proactive about his rock fandom as Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Allen, who personally commissioned Seattle’s Experience Music Project Museum back in 2000, is a longtime Jimi Hendrix fanatic and blues guitarist (he’s jammed with the likes of Eric Clapton and released an album with group the Grown Men), — and now he’s finally going solo.
Under the moniker Paul Allen and the Underthinkers, Allen’s album “Everywhere at Once” will feature plenty of ringers: Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson, Joe Walsh, Chrissie Hynde, Derek Trucks and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo all are heard on this record. Doyle Bramhall II manned the mixing boards.
The package will feature 13 original songs, all written or co-written by Allen, and unless “Big Blue Raindrops” turns out to be a subtle IBM diss track, the song titles do not indicate any sort of tech theme. One track, “Divine,” has already been heard in Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike.”
All proceeds from the album, due out Aug. 6 on Sony imprint Legacy Recordings, will benefit the EMP’s educational initiatives, which include teen artist workshops, a music therapy camp for children with autism and developmental disabilities, and a program that provides coaching for local high school bands.
Asked if the album could kickstart a dedicated EMP label, the museum’s head publicist, Anita Woo, is skeptical — though thankful for Allen’s largesse. “It hasn’t really been something we’ve considered,” she says. “But this is a good fit, since he founded the museum, and has a natural passion for the institution, so we’re grateful he thought of us.”