Capital Ideas: Rich Tupica

Rich Tupica has a passion for music like few others. He talks with equal ease about current indie bands, 1980s hip hop rhyme patterns, and 1960’s doo-wop. His living space is punctuated with stacks of CDs, LPs, 7” singles, and the knick-knacks and that go along with a life in music.

Tupica is uncannily connected to the Lansing music scene. As a writer, he goes out of his way to promote local and touring bands. More than once, he has offered his home (and shower) to bands from out of town.

The 27-year-old spent time moving around the country but ultimately returned to Lansing to be near family and friends. Now a journalism major at Lansing Community College (LCC) on the cusp of transferring to Michigan State University (MSU), he holds the position of editor in chief at the Lookout, LCC’s student newspaper.

Tupica recently caught the eye of Lansing’s major alternative newspaper, the City Pulse, with his labor of love: Turn It Down, a combination music zine, website, and blog, now a regular feature in the City Pulse. Tupica started Turn It Down in 2006 and has more than 60,000 site hits.

Capital Gains: What is Turn It Down?

Rich Tupica:
It started out as a zine. I paid for it myself.

Now, Turn It Down is its own page in the City Pulse. It’s all about trying to help local bands who normally might get just a little blurb in the Lansing State Journal.

I think if you ignore this stuff, in 15 years there will be no record of what even happened. Whether people like it or not, it is good to know what’s out there.

CG: Is the content you write for the City Pulse different from what you write for the zine?

Some zines are known for being risqué. I wasn’t trying to do that. I’m not trying to leave a stack of something with profanity at Biggby Coffee.

I try to write bands who either I like, or who contact me and kind of bug me. If someone’s persistent, it shows that they have dedication. I try to help those people out.

CG: Your zine covers a lot of stylistic territory.

More of it was geared toward rock n’ roll, indie type stuff, but I do appreciate hip hop music. I tried to find people in Lansing who I liked, but who had something different, like P.H.I.L.T.H.Y. He’s not your typical rapper. He’s a real lyricist.

CG: How is Turn It Down helping to maintain and sustain the scene?

Whether it gets more people out to shows or not, maybe later they see the band’s name and say, “oh yeah, I’ve heard of them.” Maybe they’ll check them out at Myspace, or buy their CD at FBC. All these guys have CD’s at every record store in town.

CG: What is your background?

I’ve been writing about music since 2005. I started out interviewing garage rock bands, underground type bands from all over the place. Some of them are now getting on bigger labels, but when I interviewed them they were playing in Kalamazoo and sleeping on my floor.

I always wanted to do something involving music. I play guitar but I’m not a musician. There’s no way I could ever make money off doing that. If I could somehow work it to where I’m getting paid to talk to musicians or go to concerts, that ain’t so bad.

CG: Why Lansing?

I grew up in Perry, so Lansing has always kind of been my home base. My family is here and I have lots of friends here.

Lansing is very diverse. It is kind of hard to hit everyone’s taste buds here. Lansing isn’t known for one thing.

But there are some good bands here, like People’s Temple and Cheap Girls. It’s good local music.

As a music writer, it gets tiresome just interviewing people over the phone. I want to get in the thick of it, show up to a band practice, see how they interact, then write the story.

CG: You seem to refer to Mac’s Bar as being kind of an epicenter of the local scene.

If it wasn’t for Mac’s, Lansing would be hurting. If you wanted to book a show with a band who might have kind of a draw—say they’re not big enough for the Small Planet—but they need a real venue. Mac’s is that. It has a bar, it has the open space, it has the gritty rock feel. It’s a good rock bar to have in town.

CG: How has the return of the Small Planet affected things?

It’s cool to have that name back. I remember being bummed when it got torn down.

Any venue for Lansing is good. Anywhere that bands can possibly play—the more the merrier for me.

CG: How important is technology to what you do and how you do it?

It’s actually really important. A lot of my stuff, I’ll write about it in the City Pulse and post up links to it online. I try to get people to read it online, if they’re not picking up the City Pulse. I think that’s where journalism is moving.

Without the Internet, it would be a really hard sell to let people know. I was online posting bulletins, blogs, links, sending out emails. People already knew what the cover of the zine looked like before it came out.

CG: What’s next for Turn It Down?

I’m definitely gonna keep writing for the City Pulse, and I’m talking with a few people about contributing to a new zine this summer.

I’m also putting out a Devo tribute with Lansing bands. It’s going to be free, since I’m not getting rights to any of the songs. We’ll just make a button online for people to download it.

CG: Have you ever heard the phrase, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture?”

I don’t try getting clever with describing music too much. Some music writers try getting so fancy with describing what the music sounds like, by the time they’re done it doesn’t even make sense.

People play music, and it’s that simple. Nine times out of ten, they’re a rock band, they’re a jazz band, they’re hip hop, or experimental, and that’s all people really need to know. That tells a lot.

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Jeff Shoup is a Lansing area musician, freelance writer and music fan. 

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.


Rich Tupica and his zine, Turn It Down

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

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