An Unreasonable Man


Paul Rucker follows his intuition.

Paul Rucker, 45-year-old musician and interdisciplinary artist whose interactive installations and performances mash up musical composition, video and experimental technology, while tackling heavy-hitting subjects like HIV and prison policy. Inspired by the jazz and rock scene and innovative tech companies sprouting up in Seattle 15 years ago, he moved to the city sight-unseen from his native South Carolina.

Rucker picked up classical bass as a kid in public school and fell in love. Unable to afford private lessons, he lugged his instrument home everyday to practice. By 13, he was part of the regional orchestra and by 18 played professionally with the South Carolina Philharmonic. Eventually bored with the repetition of orchestral performance, he abandoned the Philharmonic and moved west. Shortly before coming to Seattle, Rucker acquired his first cello and taught himself to play intuitively, practicing on street corners in Capitol Hill and Pioneer Square.

“I think this George Bernard Shaw quote sums up my approach: ‘The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.’”

Rucker’s favorite instrument is a German-manufactured cello that was crushed in Romania during World War II. “It was horribly repaired, but I love the sound and feel. I’ve played quarter million dollar cellos, but I love mine more. We just click.”

Rucker admits he has a thing for collecting. There’s the instruments (“So many I’ve lost count”) and there are the shoes: He’s been acquiring Fluevogs for over a decade. His Central District studio is filled with rows of discontinued designs that he breaks out for special occasions. “Like many artists, I collect things that I may use for a future project. I’m kind of crazy on buying multiples. Right now I have over 400 cans of Limited Edition Warhol Campbell’s Soup.”

Rucker’s solo show at Gallery 4Culture in August will utilize CAD technology for routing and 3D printing. He’s taken over an empty storefront at 301 Occidental Square through Shunpike’s Storefronts project, where he’ll be hosting musical performances and installations through the summer.

Photo by Lauren Max