surprised how many artists and underground icons got their start this
Back in 1996 when I started soundboy records, the best part of running
the company was publishing the accompanying magazine.
I combined all the things I loved and wanted to do as a career -
write, interview, take photos, review and edit.
It was glorious. But alas, the glory days would fade into the hip
but ordinarily mundane tasks of indie record label biz.
Then I was bitten by the film vampire - and I became one.
Perhaps I should start from the beginning.
I was born H. Allen Pulley II on July 22, 1972 at a Catholic Hospital in
Downtown Boston Massachusetts. I was the youngest of three children.
Both of my parents were affiliated with Boston University. My Mother was
Assistant Dean of minority student affairs and my Father was a graduate
student of Theology. We lived in the city on Commonwealth Avenue.
Later that year we moved to West Newton, a few miles away. The
following spring we moved to Greenville, New Hampshire near the
Canadian border. Although I spent a lot of time there throughout my
childhood and early adult life, I never really considered New England my
home. In 1975 my family moved to western Pennsylvania. Although we
didn't know it at the time, It was the beginning of the end. The following
year my parents were separated. They were both originally from
North Carolina, having met on campus at Livingstone College. Although I
vacillated between them, I eventually came back to North Carolina with
my mother and two sisters. We lived near Gaston College between the
small towns of Dallas and High Shoals. I spent the majority of my
childhood between there and Pennsylvania with my Father and half
Brother. Beginning in the early eighties, I developed a fascination with
music. I had a good voice but otherwise not musically inclined. I learned
to play a few instruments, but I was not dedicated enough to become
great. I collected 45's and played them on a vintage turntable in my
room. I played any type of music I could get my hands on. By age 10,
I was a vocalist. I sang in competitions until I was twelve. But I grew tired
of constant rehearsal and performance. I stopped singing at 13, which is
a critical time in voice training. When we are young, we often make
mistakes we cannot see, or do not realize.
In 1984, I would hear an album that would change everything. It was the
debut album from a new your trio, RUN-DMC. At that point my friends
and I realized that we could make records from records. It was a
revelation, and a revolution. I still followed other styles; ska, punk rock,
reggae, electronic, new wave, etc. - I was in tune to anything that was
underground, away from the mainstream. In 1985 nothing was more
underground than Rap. In 1986 my teenage hip hop group released two
singles and two B-sides on an independent label. After three years of
performing in high school gymnasiums, festivals and amusement parks,
I wanted to return to my musical and artistic heritage. I fell into an
"artistic phase". I formed my own band, nailed quilts to the walls of my
bedroom, and cut a five song demo. Although I had been writing since
I was a small child, I suddenly became proficient. Poetry and song
became part of my arsenal. I was a high school senior in 1990. I won the
national honor society essay award, I was selected for the future
entrepreneurs of America, I had my first article published and syndicated
and I won a freelance writing contest for a music magazine; all in the
same year. It seemed as if I was about to begin a remarkable career.
Then everything began to transform. I awakened spiritually and socially;
as a direct result, ambition escaped me.
I was anti-establishment, but I was also anti-everything else. My student
career consisted of College, Jr. College,
Film School and Vocational training.
I made decent grades but I was bored, agitated and restless.
I had no direction or drive. I switched majors five times. I then turned to
music, as I often would through the years, and I started to DJ;
the way I used to in high school and Jr. High.
I was successful, or at least what society considers a success. I was
periodically on the radio and briefly had my own show. Rapidly becoming
an underground sensation only fueled my real passion; writing and
producing film. Many of my peers saw believed them unrelated, but to
me there was no separating the two. When an opportunity came in 1996
to direct a music video for a local band, I jumped on it. Entertainment
now had its hooks in me. I did not want to do anything else.
In the Summer of 1996 I started a small independent label and
production company, called Soundboy Records. The focus of the
company was music. My main focus was publishing the accompanying
magazine. But all that time, I desperately wanted to learn film making.
I had done my best Kerouac impression the previous year and released
a spoken word album, Egyptology,1995. I finished my international
business degree in 1998 and was more restless than ever. The next
spring I threw all caution to the wind and enrolled in film school. I was 26
years old. At first it seemed as if I could make it work. I was no stranger
to hardship and sacrifice. But when my resources ran out
and the film community shifted gears,
I saw my window of opportunity begin to narrow.
For the next year I thought about what my next move should be.
Feeling as if my career was over before it had begun, I leaned on the
strongest pillar I had left, Soundboy; the company I had started just
three years prior. After a conversation with another label owner,
I established my home base in a record store located in Eastland Mall in
Charlotte, NC. The label and accompanying magazine generated
enough revenue for me to purchase some camera equipment. Together
with my film school textbooks, four years worth of screenplays and
friends as reckless as myself, I began to make independent film.
I was inspired or driven by many factors that I did not understand at the
time. My master (Stanley Kubrick) had been murdered. JFK Jr. had
likewise been killed. I felt as if the stage was being set for a crisis of
conscious, but I also felt that I was powerless to stop it.
The first film I made was free radicals, 1999
a documentary of our everyday lives in filmmaking,
pro skateboarding and raising hell in general. Being nihilistic seemed to
accompany being young and unafraid. That project was followed by
the ides of march, 2000. The next, was one of my proudest.
I collected over 20 hours of footage from WWII in order to produce
World Warrior, 2001, a conceptual documentary in my natural style of
music video that I felt most comfortable with during this time. It made the
festival circuit and received lukewarm praise. It was also tied to the
subversive rhetoric of my writing style. Just before its release in the
spring of that year, the circumstances associated with being
independent began to overwhelm me. I was perceived as an insider on
the outside. Most of my associates spent more time trying to figure me
out than understand my work. Because I wasn't constantly talking about
what I was doing, many people assumed I was doing nothing - or
something I shouldn't. I admit that I had material that was hard to
swallow, but I couldn't change overnight, even if I wanted to.
It seemed to me that even without having a successful film under my belt,
I was still regarded as an obvious "threat" to the establishment.
But I come from a family of fighters, rebels and revolutionaries. Being
methodical has made me relentless. I pulled everything together that
summer. I began desktop publishing and mobile recording. I dug deep
into the literary well and wrote a book from a group of essays called
the Glint of Bayonets 2001 and began to try to get a grip on the industry.
Then in September, on the eleventh, I was watching morning TV. It was
something I almost never did; but there was an interview with a guy who
wrote a book on Howard Hughes that I wanted to read. Suddenly, they
broke in with a report that a plane had hit on of the WTC towers. Even
though it had just happened, even though no eyewitness at that point
said they saw a plane, even though nothing like that had ever happened
anywhere ever before, they already had a news helicopter broadcasting
images of a hole in the tower (which was disproportionate to one a 767
would make) yet no plane crash debris was on the ground or outside of
the tower. And even though there are a dozen weather cameras pointed
toward it, there was no video of the actual crash. It was surreal.
Something about it was wrong, very wrong. A little while later I saw
something even more ridiculous. There was a lady eyewitness on the
phone live with the morning TV anchors. As the television audience is
seeing what they believe is a jet crashing into the other tower, the lady
screams and shouts that there was another explosion. She never
mentioned a plane. The NBC anchors tell her it was a plane. She said
she just saw an explosion. They hung up on her. A little while later, even
though no steel and concrete skyscraper in the history of the world had
ever collapsed from fire, including the one in Iran that was struck by a
crashing 737, the towers began to fall, straight down, rapidly. I realized
at once, especially as a video professional, that I was witnessing one of
the biggest travesties in the history of mankind. I had always been a
revolutionary, but now the ideal was cemented. Never again would I
believe in the consensus of mass media or the public at large.
The following month, I committed myself to making documentary films -
and not just conceptual short subjects - making It my top priority.
I immediately changed the name of the company to Soundboy America.
I thought to myself, this is where it all began,
and by god, this is where it will end.
I spent the next year writing, unable to shake the questions in my head
about the supposed attack and the rush to declare war on an imaginary
concept, invisible bad guys and countries and people that seemed
to have nothing to do with anything.
As the country fell deep into depression, I followed.
I tried to avoid the brown-people killing blood lust of the masses,
but it was everywhere.
In the fall of 2002 I met people who would become critical to my career.
They didn't fully understand me, but they supported me and gave me
confidence, and that was enough to regain lost ground.
Gradually things improved. Although my heart was broken and my soul
was crushed by the invasion of Iraq In 2003, I resolved to put it out of my
mind, at least until I could articulate my anguish.
When writing became too much to bare,
I turned to spoken word, and self published the glint of bayonets, the
book of essays and prose from two years before. In 2004, I decided to
record some of the tracks and combined it with Charlie Parker outtakes.
It was called Infusion: charlie and Me, released in 2004. It was my first
spoken word project in almost 10 years. I began to tour with poetry
groups and perform live in the coffee house and art gallery circuit.
I was in the best physical and mental shape of my life. Expression
without the pressure to entertain was liberating to say the least.
Between recitation and writing, my friends and I shot some screen tests
for my first independent short feature, lady luck, 2004.
Despite attention and critical acclaim, I could not complete the type of
"breakout" project I was looking to capitalize upon. Just as it had
a decade before, it seemed as if I was destined to live my entire life
as "the next big thing".
In early 2005, I finally had a viable idea. I was planning to make a movie
about a civil war regiment from North Carolina. Gradually it became a
movie about symbolism. Then, it became a movie about the history of my
family. I spent all that year filming it. Freedom vs. Liberty, 2005 in its long
awaited premiere was watershed for me. I became disciplined, organized
and professional. The next year brought a feeling of both relief and
exhaustion. I decided to take a short break from film to do some
corporate work in order to make more money. Accolades do not put food
on the table. During this period of personal disillusionment, I was
bombarded by fans of my now infamous 9/11 blogs to make a film. That
summer I capitulated. It was simple at first, then more complex, then I
began to wonder if it had been a mistake.
the Big Takeover, 2006 has proven to be my most successful film
to date. I do not measure my success by the commercial success of my
films, but on how they are received by those I respect, and how I feel
about myself when they are complete. I understand now what I did not
back when I started: that I (not my projects) am the threat to the
establishment, because my integrity is not for sale, at any price.
I am not driven by ideology, I am driven by a search for the truth.
If I die tomorrow, or as the old folks say, "if tomorrow is my great getting
up morning", then I will die knowing then no man ever owned
or controlled me. The things I sacrificed and went without
were as a matter of course.
In 2007 I finished my film degree and in 2008 I re-enrolled in tech school.
This course of action has lead to a dozen art films, two novels and
countless articles and webcasts. I have few regrets and very much to be
thankful for. I have always been into tech, but now I realize that I need
the association qualifications to make all my years of training complete.
I also realize that I cannot just write material directed to myself,
only about the subjects that I find relevant - as it would squander my gift,
which I believe is of a higher purpose.
Since I started making films I have become an existentialist and a
pacifist, which is the definition of a true Christian. I have also become
a feng shui master and completed training in martial arts and reiki.
I know at the very least, whatever happens from now on,
I am and always will be the Soundboy.
Skip Pulley, Soundboy America