Paul Mahern

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Paul Mahern (born September 11, 1963 Indianapolis, Indiana, United States) is an American rock and pop record producer, mixing and mastering engineer, singer, songwriter, professor, and yoga teacher. Mahern has worked with acts such as John Mellencamp, Lily & Madeleine, The Fray, Iggy Pop, Lisa Germano, Willie Nelson, Okkervil River, Over the Rhine, Afghan Whigs, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, Magnolia Electric Co., and Neil Young.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Paul Cantwell Mahern[2] was the youngest in a family of eight. He lived in Chicago for much of his childhood and returned to Indianapolis as a teenager.

Soon after, Mahern burst onto the American music scene in 1979 as the 17-year-old singer for seminal hardcore punk band, The Zero Boys. The band was known nationwide for its intense live performances, but it was their debut album, "Vicious Circle," that remains a punk-rock staple to this day, recently seeing a re-release on celebrated indie label Secretly Canadian Records.


Mahern is credited and referred to interchangeably under several monikers including:

  • Paul Mahern
  • Paul Z
  • Paul Cantwell Mahern
  • Mahan Kalpa Singh
  • Mahan Kalpa

Record production[edit]

During his days in The Zero Boys, Mahern was drawn to the other side of the glass and started learning about the production aspects of record-making. He began by recording bands local to the Indianapolis area, and was soon working at Hit City Recording as an in-house engineer. After a few years of paying his dues in and around Indy, Paul made a move to Bloomington, Indiana, where he started working with major label acts like Blake Babies, The Judybats and Mysteries Of Life.[3] He founded Affirmation Records.[2]

Mahern's years of solid production work, and deep ties to the Indiana music community, eventually attracted the attention of local and international music legend, John Mellencamp, who now works primarily with Mahern as his recording engineer. Most recently they undertook an exciting project for Mellencamp's "No Better Than This" album by touring the country with co-producer T-Bone Burnett, to record in legendary rooms with a single 1950's reel-to-reel tape deck and one microphone. The astounding results have garnered praise from the music press and recording community alike.[3]

Always open to learning more about his field, Mahern worked for two years at Indiana University on the NEH-funded Sound Directions project, at the Archives of Traditional Music. It was there that Mahern was lead engineer on an IU and Harvard University co-authored paper on best practices for audio preservation. His work there involved all aspects of transferring analog sources to the digital realm, including everything from restoration and repair of old tapes and discs to digitization and metadata management.

These days, Mahern spends his time working out of his own White Arc Studios in Bloomington, where he has a burgeoning audio mastering and record production business. He continues to collaborate with several of the recording industry's most sought after artists, producers and engineers.

Mahern has produced and/or engineered many national and local Indiana artists' records, including Afghan Whigs, Blake Babies, Lisa Germano, The Fray, Over the Rhine (band), Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band, Mercy Creek,[4] Sloppy Seconds, Toxic Reasons, Antenna, The Judybats, The Sugarfreaks, Thin Lizard Dawn, John Mellencamp, El Nino, John Wilkes Booze, The PIeces, The Mary Janes, Iggy Pop, Farm Aid.

In 2012, Mahern began working with Lily & Madeleine, a sister duo from Indianapolis, IN. He discovered the girls and encouraged them to start writing, later recording and producing both their EP and self-titled full length, released in November 2013 on Asthmatic Kitty Records.

Industry recognition[edit]

Engineer on The Fray's 2007 Grammy Award-nominated release, How to Save a Life, which was RIAA certified double platinum.
Engineer and/or Producer on multiple Gold and Platinum records for John Mellencamp: "Words and Music, "Cuttin' Heads", "John Mellencamp", "The Best That I Could Do" Engineered multiple Grammy Award-nominated recordings for John Mellencamp: "Your Life is Now", "Peaceful World", "Our Country".

Bands and musical projects[edit]

Zero Boys[edit]

In 1979, at age 17, Mahern was enlisted to be the singer and frontman for up-and-coming Indianapolis band, Zero Boys.[2]

Their first release, Livin' in the '80s, was a 7" EP released by the band on their home-brew Z-Disc label. Their debut full-length album, Vicious Circle, was released in 1982 with its distinctive bright yellow cover on the local label Nimrod Records.

The intelligent, ambitious lyrics of "Vicious Circle" tackled such themes as social stratification, teen angst, and political corruption. Mahern's clear tenor voice emerged like a rapid-fire war cry, well-suited to the message and material. These themes, set into a blazing, sonic buzzsaw with huge choruses and intricate changeups, set an influential stylistic precedent for hardcore punk which still resonates today.

The Zero Boys have been cited as influential to many current punk and punk-pop bands.[5] Recently, The Hives released a cover of Zero Boys' "Civilization's Dying"

Dandelion Abortion (mid 1980s)[edit]

Paul Mahern, Randy Ochsenrider, Rick Ochsenrider, Mike Sheets

Datura Seeds (late 1980s - early 1990s)[edit]

Late 1980s-Early 1990s. Paul Mahern, Jonee Quest, Lee Cuthbert, Tom Downs, Vess Ruhtenberg

DNA-12 (late 1990s)[edit]

Late 1990s. Paul Mahern, Gretchen Holtz

Mahern Audio Production: Business Divisions[edit]

Mahern Audio[edit]

Mahern Audio is the umbrella organization offering services to record, mix, master, and preserve audio recordings. Mahern is available to mix, record and produce albums for recording artists of all types, whether independent and self-financed or label-supported.

White Arc Studio[edit]

Mahern's home studio is The White Arc, located in Bloomington, Indiana. The studio has a large, comfortable, open-room design with a great selection of gear and microphones available for use.

Mahern Archival[edit]

Mahern Archival Preservation offers expert, full-service audio restoration, preservation, and archiving. Includes physical restoration (baking, cleaning, re-housing, etc.) and sonic restoration (noise reduction, equalization editing, etc.), cataloging and database support to organize collections and prepare for reformatting.

White Arc Artist Management[edit]

Artists include Lily & Madeleine and Simrit Kaur.

Spiritual life[edit]

In 2002, Mahern trained to be a Kundalini Yoga teacher under Yogi Bhajan. It was then he adopted the spiritual name Mahan Kalpa Singh. Kundalini Yoga continues to be a daily practice for Mahern. Mahan Kalpa Singh has released several Kundalini Yoga-inspired songs.


  1. ^ "Paul Mahern - Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Paul Mahern". Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  3. ^ a b "20 years: Paul Mahern, then and now". NUVO. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Record". Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-06. Retrieved 2011-04-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]