INTERVIEW : 2016-06-22 Joseph Arthur's 5 Essential Peter Gabriel Songs (by Kara Manning)

As the first North American artist signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World label, Joseph Arthur has had a unique perspective on his boss, collaborator, and friend. Arthur's debut album, Big City Secrets, was recorded at Real World Studios and released in 1997. That same year, Gabriel covered Arthur's "In The Sun" for the album, Diana, Princess of Wales: Tribute, a big vote of confidence from Gabriel for this young artist from Ohio. Many years later, Arthur covered"Shock the Monkey" for Gabriel's 2014 album And I'll Scratch Yours.

Arthur's album The Family was released on Real World in June, marking a nearly twenty year relationship with Gabriel and his label. Not surprisingly, Arthur deeply admires his longtime friend's music and drew up an insightful, personal list of "Five Essential Peter Gabriel Songs" for FUV Essentials.

Joseph Arthur's Five Essential Peter Gabriel Songs:

"Shock the Monkey," Peter Gabriel IV (Security)
This one is a standout for me because it was the first 45 I ever bought. First piece of outside music I brought into my folks' home in Ohio. It alerted me then, as much of his music does and has done since, that there is otherness. It's hard to explain that singular space his music occupies. As it, in ways, complies with tradition while at the same time invents it.

"Don't Give Up" (featuring Kate Bush), So
This song has helped me, and I'm sure many others, to not give up. You can feel it comes from something personal, though it's obviously framed in, I think, a fictional story line. This is a great example of strength and vulnerability coalescing to make something very powerful. Very human. And something that would be hard not relate too.

"Mercy Street," So
Peter is big into lyrics and words in general. Whenever I would play him new songs, he would ask about lyrics to clarify that he was getting them all. He told me he loved [the poet] Anne Sexton because of her straightforward approach, which you can really hear in his own work. This song, I believe, he wrote for her. An incredibly moving tribute.

"Solsbury Hill," Peter Gabriel I (Car)
This is everyone's favorite. But I have a funny story about it. Firstly, I think its massive popularity is down to the fact that it communicates that feeling we have when we feel we can overcome our obstacles. When we get our courage and strength to do the impossible. It strides ahead; the way we do when we believe in ourselves. It's an anthem of self-belief. And it's youthfully exuberant in the face of all challenges.

My funny story about it is a conversation I had with the late and great Lou Reed, who covered it for the covers project Peter did in the recent past. I was contributing "Shock The Monkey" and I asked Lou what he was doing and he told me this song. I said, "That's cool." He said, "I had to change one lyric." I said, "Oh yeah? Which one?" He said, "I had to change 'nut' to 'slut'."

"In the Sun," Diana, Princess of Wales: Tribute
Rich of me, I know, to pick my own song but here's my backwards logic. It's to illustrate how giving Peter is and has been. He helped me find my way with my own music. Guided me and taught me many things. It wasn't until I heard his version of my song that I really heard my own lyrics. Before that I just heard my voice which distracted me away from meaning. And the minimalism of this recording is something I still think about. I heard an earlier version of this song that was filled with instruments. So the fact that they made it so minimal helps me to continue to strive for that kind of clarity.

- Joseph Arthur
June 2016



REVIEW : Vacancy - Billboard

by Larry Flick

Arthur has developed quite nicely since his first album, 1997's "Big City Secrets."

This new seven-song EP, which previews a full-length set due this fall, shows an innate ability to craft taut, infectious melodies while weaving intense, probing lyrics. 

Interestingly, Arthur doesn't opt to couch his material in the pristine production that would guarantee a full-throttle crossover. Instead, he slaps mud all over his arrangements, keeping the songs raw and sounding like they were recorded in a garage. 

It's a creative move that will delight college radio folks and altera-rock purists, who will gobble up this album. It will be interesting to watch where this set takes Arthur, and to see if he'll concoct a way to draw the masses without compromising his integrity.

REVIEW : Come To Where I'm From - Brainwashed


Friday, 08 April 2005 19:00 Jason Olariu 

Following up his "Vacancy" mini album from last year, Joseph Arthur returns to the scene a bit wiser.
Lacking a lot of the sound experimentation featured on his debut album, "Big City Secrets", the theme of "Come To Where I'm From" seems to be perfecting the art of song craft. 

Beginning with the bittersweet acoustic-led "In The Sun", which has been a long-time live favorite of Joe's fans and was also recorded by his mentor/label boss Peter Gabriel for a Princess Di tribute album, I had a bad feeling J.A. has gone soft and has given up his cutting edginess for more AOR-driven pop balladeering. 

"Chemical" and "History", with their flickering sounds fluttering around the song's jangly pop heart like butterfly wings of distortion, are refreshing reminders that no matter how radio-friendly Joe gets, he's still head-and-shoulders above most of his pop-driven peers. Giving further props to Tom Waits, such as "Bottle Of Me" from "Big City Secrets", "Invisible Hands" is a late-night lovers lament, with it's big drums, echoey guitar, and whispered vocals - personal, sensual, and enticing. 

"Come To Where I'm From" is, essentially, both homage to the genius of the late Jeff Buckley and a promise to carry on in the creation of ecstatic, groundbreaking music. 

Beautifully honest and sublime.


REVIEW : Holding The Void - 75orless.com

May 13, 2003 3:57 PM

Holding The Void (Joseph Arthur)

As a side project for the increasingly prolific Joseph Arthur, this is a straight-up rock album that stands apart from his solo act. 
Supported by a backing band, Arthur indulges in the occasional guitar solo and, more importantly, sounds like he's having fun the whole time. 
While the lyrics aren't terribly deep, it's proof that, underneath it all, everyone just needs to rock out every once in a while.


REVIEW : Vacancy - Brainwashed

With the long-awaited follow-up to his 1996 debut, "Big City Secrets", Joseph Arthur proves he is the defibrillator paddle that can shock some life back into the stale corpse of the singer/songwriter stereotype. 

He makes music that is a boiling down of the past twenty years of groundbreaking popular music: from "Rain Dogs" to World Party, Guided By Voices to Bob Dylan. How can you doubt a kid from Ohio who's music so impressed Peter Gabrial, he not only signed him to his Realworld record label, but also sang back-up on his debut along with Brian Eno! 

His tunes, while carrying enough pop for radio play, are too intelligent to be sandwiched between other verse-chorus-verse slaves. He mixes standard solo and group line-ups with added tape loops, noise, and treated exotic instruments (What the hell is a caxixi, anyway?). While this album (a mini album, really, just a teaser for his upcoming sophomore effort) has a much more stripped down sound to it, it still encompasses different genres and pays debts to obvious influences. 

The title track could be an out take from Nick Drake's "Pink Moon", which gives way to the uncampy doo-wop of "Crying On Sunday." The albums ends, strangely enough, with "Toxic Angel", a chameleon-esque track that starts off a beautiful ballad and ends as a noisy shuffle of haunting piano, drums, and low-level samples, sounding not too different from Scanner's more introspective material. 

Should you buy this? My answer would be yes, without a doubt.

by Jason Olariu, 1999-05-23

INTERVIEW : 1997-11-27 Heart full of soul, Peter Gabriel discovery Joseph Arthur plays modest (by Cindy MCGlynn)

Akron, Ohio, native Joseph Arthur is the first to admit that the learning curve is steep when you find yourself going from working retail and playing yer guitar in the bars of Atlanta, Georgia, to having Peter Gabriel call you, fly you to England, record you (also doing some backup vocals himself, along with Brian Eno...) and sign you as the first white rock boy to his Real World label.

"It's kind of like if you're a poor person and you win the lottery," Arthur explains. "And you get a couple of million dollars and you blow it because of your personality -- you're not really a millionaire, but you just have a million dollars. But it doesn't matter, you're going to lose it because that's not how you are."

Joseph Arthur is hard on himself. I remind him that the learning curve was his analogy and presumably, he's been, um, up it. Which would mean, he should be developing the mindset of a millionaire, if we are to follow his other analogy. Not quite, he says, but suffice it to say, he's learning to be a little less self-conscious and edging toward acceptance of his talent, if not his success.

"I've grown a lot into it. I feel more like who I really am rather than having to put on an act of who I am. I guess always there's a little bit of an act, but less of an act. God, I really think too much, I think."

Maybe. But hey, it's gonna take a heady sort of guy to write the edgy, raw, lyrics with which Arthur caught the ears of Gabriel. Arthur's voice roughs out smart urban poems that search and wander and that one critic described as being so isolated and lonely they're "almost homeless." Couple his lyrics with the hard, moody arrangements squared by sharp drum patterns and flavored with harmonica and vibraphones and you've got something of what sets Arthur apart from the singer-songwriter pack.

What is interesting is that Arthur himself says there isn't nearly enough heart and soul on his Real World debut, Big City Secrets, which should only make the rest of us wonder from what superhuman well of emotion he'll draw for subsequent works. "I don't think it gives enough of what I can do... or, I don't think it's enough me, really. I guess I'm disappointed in that aspect, but maybe I'm just over-analytical about it."

According to what I read, and certainly according to what I hear, the heart and soul are what people are raving about. "Really? See that's the thing, I can beat myself up over absolutely everything. I tend to. Like, I buy a pair of shoes and beat myself up the whole way home. So for something like making a record, because it's so significant in my little universe, I'm bound to just kick my ass about it over and over again. Fuck, I've gotta give myself a break."

Indeed, one gets to wondering whether Arthur's life really does ache as much as the ones on his record. He told me it wasn't that bad... any more. "I used to just be like an open wound. I could cross the street and sort of see sadness in the cars stopping at the red light. And now I think there's moments where, maybe I've lightened up a bit or just gotten a bit more used to it. I'm becoming a little bit more callous as I get older and it's kind of worrying. But I am emotional, you know. I cry and stuff. And hey, I do go and see movies and stuff and have a sense of humor," he promises. "You just wouldn't know it from my music."

And hey, he's enthusiastic too. Ask him about Peter Gabriel, though, and the floodgates of praise open.

"I've got him on a bit of a pedestal, and obviously if you've got someone on a pedestal, you think they deserve to be on a pedestal. I mean, I know he's a human being with human failings and all that other shit, but he's really ultra, ultra-cool."

So great is Arthur's enthusiasm for Gabriel, it actually spills over, for one delightful moment, into appreciation for his own success. "He did one of my songs on the Princess Diana tribute album, It's called 'In The Sun' and I wrote it and he does such an amazing job," Arthur says. "Pretty good, huh!"


REVIEW : Redemption's Son - A.V Club

By Keith Phipps
Jan 20, 2003

When Joseph Arthur's American debut Come To Where I'm From appeared in 2000, it signaled the arrival of a talent at once intriguing and half-formed. Thanks to an enveloping sound appropriate to an artist signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World label, Arthur made it easy to overlook his shortage of memorable songs, as well as lyrics which might politely be called direct–;or, less politely, clumsy. 

In a reversal of how notable albums usually work, Come To Where I'm From grew less pleasurable with each listen. The new Redemption's Son seems unlikely to encounter the same problem. 
Not every track represents a powerful stride in the right direction, but more than enough do for Son to make good on Arthur's past promise. 

His new songwriting muscularity reveals itself on the opening track; "Redemption's Son," a dark, cooing tale of a lost father, establishes the themes of emotional and spiritual dislocation that haunt the disc. With the help of mixer Tchad Blake, Arthur carries forward the sonic layering that distinguished his last record, but he makes room for a lot of diversity within that framework.

"Let's Embrace"; sounds unabashedly poppy, the album-closing "You've Been Loved" belongs on any make-out mix, and "Dear Lord" sneaks gospel into a harmonica-driven rave-up. Jesus is name-checked more often than on some DC Talk albums, and "Dear Lord" is only one of God's many cameos, sometimes as a distant friend, sometimes as an impossible ideal, and sometimes as an alter ego. 

Arthur can occasionally sound like a clove-smoking undergrad, but he mostly handles his headiest material with grace to match his musical ambition, and a depth of feeling that should only grow more impressive over time.


REVIEW : Come To Where I'm From - A.V Club

By Keith Phipps
Mar 29, 2002 

There are so many singer-songwriters floating about these days that you could call it a surplus if so many of them weren't worth hearing. Among the most immediately striking is Joseph Arthur, whose self-described "experimental folk-rock" caught the ear of Peter Gabriel in the mid-'90s. 

Come To Where I'm From, Arthur's third album, finds him continuing to place traditionally structured songs against try-it-and-see-if-it-works sonic backdrops. The results—expertly produced by Arthur, T. Bone Burnett, and Rick Will—are always interesting and occasionally far more. 

Come starts off as promisingly as an album can, with "In The Sun" and "Ashes Everywhere," two ballads that grow more compelling and complex as they progress. But "Ashes Everywhere" presents the first sign of trouble, with groan-worthy lines ("I still think about washing your hair / I wish I could wash away all of your despair") foreshadowing the unevenness to come. 

Arthur's shortcomings as a lyricist make his emotional palette seem as limited as his sonic palette is varied and, however layered the production, his songwriting nearly always follows suit. At his worst, he can make Smog's Bill Callahan seem like a member of The Cowsills, and at times he seems to look to Trent Reznor for lyrical inspiration, with "Creation Or A Stain" serving as a low point. 

Maybe, as his unpredictable onstage behavior might suggest, Arthur can't help it, but when he sings his way out of self-laceration, as on the gorgeous album-closer "Speed Of Light," he's as memorable as any singer-songwriter working today. When the songs catch up with the sounds, he'll be even better.


INTERVIEW : 1996-11-08 Joseph Arthur et ses Ombres (by Eric Dahan)


Par Eric Dahan— 8 novembre 1996 à 01:55

Festival Fnac-Inrockuptibles, à Paris; ce soir au Divan du Monde:

Un intérieur modeste de Streatham, banlieue verdoyante de Londres où réside actuellement Joseph Arthur, révélation new-yorkaise de l'année, avec une petite amie qui joue Ophélie dans une production de Hamlet sur le West End.

Une histoire d'amour mais aussi de raison, l'original ayant été repéré et engagé sur le label Real World par l'ex-Genesis Peter Gabriel. Au mur, les toiles de Joseph Arthur (également illustrateur de son CD) représentent ­ entre Bacon et Basquiat ­ un homme se tirant une balle dans la tête, ou un couple en situation moins inquiétante. Sur la table de chevet, Mystery Train, du journaliste rock Greil Marcus, et un Jim Harrison. Un petit monde qui permet déjà au fan de chanson rock lettrée, de Cohen à Palace en passant par Lou Reed, de se repérer.

Prétexte de cette rencontre, on l'aura deviné, la sortie de Big City Secrets, premier album de Joseph Arthur qu'on entend sur la bande FM parisienne et qui semble rencontrer le type d'accueil réservé il y a deux ans à un Jeff Buckley.

A la différence que, loin du lyrisme du fils de Tim Buckley, la voix d'Arthur charrie une mélancolie terne tenant de l'imagerie naïve d'un Folon, de la minutie emphatique d'un Robert Wyatt, du bricolage douloureux de l'avant-dernier Suzanne Vega (99.9 F), et de l'héroïsme sans éclat de groupes anglais des années 80, comme James ou House of Love.

Nippé façon Guerrisold, Joseph Arthur pourrait sortir des premiers David Lynch. De sa voix américaine, il confie qu'il aurait aimé parler français pour lire Baudelaire et Rimbaud, héritage new-yorkais oblige. C'est pourtant à Akron (Ohio),la ville de Devo et de Chrissie Hynde, qu'il nait le 28 septembre 1971, de mère agent d'assurances hispanique et de père avocat d'origine écossaise. Malgré une éducation libérale, le jeune Arthur n'échappe pas au piano dans le salon, même si la basse électrique prend le relais de Mozart à l'adolescence.

Au fur et à mesure qu'il se raconte, Joseph livre des clés: s'il a appris à s'aimer finalement, «c'est le résultat d'un investissement coûteux». Enfant, avant le divan, il aura «essayé de charmer et de gagner l'amitié des autres en faisant le clown, en étant hyperactif».

Avec des copains plus âgés qui écoutent Led Zep et Hendrix, Joseph fonde des groupes, le plus notable étant Frankie Starr & The Chill Factor, formation de blues dont il tient la basse et qui ouvre pour Stevie Ray Vaughan, le Texan disparu. Mais à raison de cinq shows par semaine, celui qui se rêve déjà nouveau Jaco Pastorius, se trouve, pour cause de mononucléose, contraint de choisir entre les études et la musique. A Atlanta, où il vit de 18 à 24 ans, Arthur lit, se drogue, joue avec les Ten Zen Men et fonde Belly Button, sous influence Hüsker Dü, où pointent déjà les velléités d'auteur sous influence Dylan et Lennon.

Une cassette de ses chansons atterrit chez Peter Gabriel, qui emmène avec lui Lou Reed au Fez, un club folk de New York où Arthur se produit avec la guitare sèche. Pendant le dîner avec les deux stars qui suit, Joseph va souvent aux toilettes se rafraichir le visage; il ne rêve pourtant pas: le pied à l'étrier, il figure bientôt à l'affiche du festival Womad à Reading, et se retrouve dans les studios Real World, à enregistrer ses étranges ritournelles dérangées, inspirées par «le regard des autres qui influe sur la propre perception qu'on a de soi-même» (Good About Me), mais aussi par sa soeur aînée (Mercedes), qu'il encourage à «s'accepter», et par cet ami d'enfance, Mikel K., sans qui la fameuse K7 ne serait jamais parvenue à Peter Gabriel, «à qui on peut toujours s'accrocher quand ça va mal».

Les livres de Herman Hesse aident aussi Arthur, qui prie et médite à l'occasion, en quête «non pas de valeurs morales», mais au moins «d'une façon de vivre en étant moins tourné sur soi-même». Joseph Arthur ajoute que «ses oeuvres de Hesse aident à vivre, calmant au lieu d'exalter... Pendant un temps, j'étais fasciné par ce tableau de Bacon montrant une bouche avec des oreilles, comme un rayon de lumière sur l'aspect honteux de l'humanité, la faim, l'aliénation. Longtemps, moi-même je m'efforçais de ne montrer que mon côté attirant.»


REVIEW : Come To Where I'm From - Libération


Par Hélène LEE— 18 mars 2000 à 23:32

Joseph Arthur tient une sculpture, sorte de robot macabre hérissé d'allumettes calcinées. 

«Un truc comme ça paraît sombre. Pourtant, en le faisant je me suis bien marré.» Il triture l'objet, sans la moindre déférence, finit par en arracher des bouts. «Peut-être que la musique fonctionne comme ça. Exprimer les choses les rachète. Et c'est ce qui touche les gens. L'évidence que les autres aussi en chient, ça a quelque chose de réconfortant.» Sous la provocation narquoise, les thèmes de la destruction et de la rédemption hantent Joseph Arthur. Crawling on Bones, son troisième enregistrement, à peine moins viscéral que le premier, Big City Secrets, écume les épaves des mêmes naufrages: «Les murs saignent, j'hallucine/ Je suis sous la roue qui tourne et je n'arrive pas à la ralentir (") Mon imagination m'épuise» (Exhausted).

Autodérision. A 28 ans, Joseph a «une vieille âme». Cure de désintoxication à 14 ans, antécédents psychiatriques" Au bout des dérives, de job en job, de sofa en sofa, un message de Peter Gabriel sur le répondeur; c'était il y a cinq ans. En 1997, Big City Secrets sort donc sur le label Real World. Une voix vomit des peurs, bredouille des secrets, s'asphyxie sur fond de guitares déliquescentes. My Dad Is On Prozac reste un classique: «Papa est sous Prozac/ Je crois que je ne veux plus le voir/ Il me fait me sentir dangereux.» Pourtant, le son, magma de guitares acoustiques et d'effets, est sensuel, et certaines chansons évoquent le calme après la tempête, la jouissance d'être en vie; dans les textes les plus sombres, l'autodérision veille.

Comme souvent ­ Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley­, c'est la France qui réagit la première: 10 000 albums vendus. Le style low-key, les textes vaguement mystérieux, s'inscrivent dans la ligne de Ben Harper, Tim Buckley. Malgré le peu de réaction aux Etats-Unis, Virgin décide de continuer à travailler Big City Secrets. Le temps passe, avec, pour le chanteur le tourment de voir s'entasser les nouvelles chansons sans pouvoir les sortir. «Depuis que j'ai arrêté de boire et de me foutre en l'air, c'est la seule chose qui me reste, dit-il d'une voix traînante. Je suis tout le temps en train d'écrire, de peindre ou de jouer.» Pour patienter, il lâche huit titres au mini-label Undercover, en 1999.

Vacancy est trash, les distorsions des guitares menacent les textes, mais le charme délétère est là. D'autant plus évident que les musiques moins soignées. Le titre caché, I'm Going out Tonight, est un fragment saisissant, où une voix à la Tom Waits beugle en contrepoint d'un piano lyrique. La pochette (dessinée par Arthur lui-même) est nominée aux Grammys, l'album écoule ses 10 000 exemplaires. 

A l'automne, Joseph Arthur, en tournée avec le groupe anglais à la mode Gomez, débarque au Café de la danse avec sa guitare acoustique et un bric-à-brac de câbles et de machines, associés à toutes sortes d'effets delay ou distorsion. Au milieu de ce capharnaüm sonique, il meut son long corps avec précaution, écrasant une pédale de la pointe de sa chaussure grise à bout carré, suscitant un labyrinthe de boucles au-dessus duquel il expédie sa voix samplée tourner dans les cintres. Le public est scotché. Farce? 

Cette semaine, Joseph Arthur débarque à nouveau, en première partie cette fois de Ben Harper. Et sort enfin son troisième disque. On l'aura attendu, ce Crawling on Bones... Dès la première écoute, on sait qu'on tient quelque chose. Mais quoi? La séduction est si flagrante qu'on se méfie. C'est sûrement un grand disque; peut-être une grande farce. Forcément, un album qui intrigue. Il attire dans des eaux croupies, joue les confidences sur l'oreiller ­ «Je m'imagine encore en train de te laver les cheveux/ J'aurais voulu laver tout ton désespoir»" Et puis, tout à trac, l'incongru: «Avec le potentiel d'un fusil chargé/ Je pourrais être frais comme du chewing-gum durci», ou «Jésus est venu sur terre mourir pour mes péchés/ J'ai besoin qu'il revienne mourir encore pour moi»" 

Ouaf-ouaf, ricane celui qui, à 5 ans, décidait de fabriquer une marionnette «qui ferait flipper toute la classe» (et mettait sa menace à exécution). Il y a des moments prenants, où l'on sombre dans les guitares lentes comme une houle, psych-outées à la limite de la nausée (Invisible Hands, The Real You). Il y a aussi des chansons classiques, à la composition soignée, tel le superbe Chemical, sorte de Lucy in the Sky postmoderne. Le producteur, T. Bone Burnett, s'est glissé dans le monde du chanteur, a joué son jeu des parodies pop, des guitares déjantées. Pas une chanson ne ressemble à l'autre, toutes présentent ce son unique, murmure traînant sur déchirement de soie, qui devrait accrocher le public roots de Ben Harper. Au fait, est-il bien sage pour Harper de se faire précéder de ce jumeau pervers? 

Erratum Joseph Arthur. Dans notre édition de samedi, nous avons titré à tort Crawling on Bones le nouvel album de Joseph Arthur, intitulé en fait: Come from where I Am (Real World/Virgin). 

Joseph Arthur est très attendu ce soir à Bercy en première partie de Ben Harper. 




Par Hélène LEE— 18 mars 2000 à 23:32

Février. Les trottoirs de New York sont bordés de neige anthracite.

D'un snack bio de l'East Village où Joseph Arthur a ses habitudes, on marche vers son deux pièces de vieil immeuble type anglais. Le papier peint de l'escalier a un côté pépère, la fenêtre du salon donne sur une cour intérieure qui répercute la lumière verte et les chants d'oiseaux.

Sur un meuble, deux poupons menottés; au plafond, une guirlande lumineuse garnie de têtes de mort, des bouts de ferraille dans un coin. Au-dessus du lit défait, une gouache scotchée; visage jailli du mur vert et pourpre, percé d'yeux qui fondent. On pense à la chanson Invisible Hands: «Ta photo est une balafre sur mon mur"» Près de la fenêtre, sa guitare. C'est là que Joseph Arthur travaille; il fait rouler un titre juste enregistré, assis à l'écouter. La voix est plus ajustée, deux ans ont passé depuis Crawling on Bones" Pourquoi avoir sorti l'album inachevé Vacancy juste avant cet album officiel? Par peur de ne plus faire de disque?

L'échec n'est pas vraiment quelque chose qui m'angoisse. L'idée de devoir prendre un boulot normal ne me fait pas peur. J'étais frustré de ne pas pouvoir sortir mes trucs, peut-être, mais peur... Il y a des choses plus graves. C'est même ça qui me pousse à dévoiler ma vulnérabilité, le fait que rien n'ait d'importance, personne n'en a rien a foutre. On est là de manière si comptée, de toute façon; qu'est-ce que les autres peuvent bien nous faire? pourquoi ne serait-on pas courageux et vrai?

Tout cela a beaucoup à voir avec l'acceptation de soi. J'ai besoin de me manifester. Je pense être exhibitionniste. Aujourd'hui, les critiques applaudissent le cool, le détachement et l'esprit ­ surtout pas l'émotion. Pas moi. On ne peut pas émouvoir avec l'intelligence, il faut autre chose. J'aime qu'on prenne des risques, qu'on s'expose. C'est ainsi qu'on progresse, en dévoilant ses secrets.

Les chansons évoquent des situations d'échec, de souffrance, mais la façon dont c'est exprimé" " rachète? C'est exactement ça. Je travaille au rachat de mon existence, essayant de tirer quelque chose de profitable de tout ce merdier. Je ne puis me résigner à cette idée que la vie serait juste un voyage sinistre, pénible, vers la mort. Enfant, j'éprouvais une telle aversion pour moi-même que, pour survivre, il a fallu absolument que je fasse de moi quelqu'un d'exceptionnel.

Cette haine, pourquoi?

Je ne sais pas. Peut-être mes parents étaient-ils des gens passablement confus, eux aussi" Personne ne m'aimait. J'étais bizarre.

Comme maintenant" Oui, mais maintenant, on m'aime! Et je m'aime aussi, je prends soin de moi. J'ai encore des penchants autodestructeurs, mais moins qu'avant. Je me sens déjà moins lourd, parce que, dans un sens, je suis sorti de l'âge où sont morts tous mes héros. Ça m'a libéré d'avoir 28 ans, car tout à coup je n'étais plus en compétition.

La voix a atteint une certaine maîtrise. Plus mûre, plus belle, chiante aussi, moins de tranchant" On ne peut s'empêcher de mûrir, c'est naturel. Aujourd'hui, j'ai du mal à me surprendre moi-même. Parfois, j'ai même l'impression que mon aventure avec la musique est terminée. Je me sens plus excité par la poésie et la peinture, plus aventureux. Je ne suis pas encore bon, j'essaie. C'est là qu'on prend son pied. Et quand il n'y aura plus d'émotion...?

Je ne guérirai jamais à ce point-là" ­ et puis même si je guéris tant mieux, ça ne peut pas continuer comme ça. J'ai 28 ans ­ ce n'est pas beaucoup, je sais, mais je les ai passés à courir en tous sens comme une poule à la tête coupée. Quand je me sens en paix, j'apprécie. Je savoure la vie, tout ce processus. J'aimerais bien ne pas être différent. Mais j'aime bien quand c'est glauque, aussi... Je crois en gros à une forme de bonté inhérente au monde, malgré sa brutalité flagrante. C'est comme un terrain de manoeuvres pour les âmes, une épreuve extrême pour une raison que nous ignorons. Tout ce binz est parfait dans son imperfection même.

Dans notre édition de samedi, nous avons titré à tort Crawling on Bones le nouvel album de Joseph Arthur, intitulé en fait: Come from where I Am (Real World/Virgin). 
Joseph Arthur est très attendu ce soir à Bercy en première partie de Ben Harper.



2007-09-14 - Paste Austin City Limits Festival After Hours Party, Maggie Mae's, Austin

These videos-have surfaced this month on the website Paste Magazine.

There is a wrong date for these videos. They were recorded during the Paste Austin City Limits Festival After Hours Party.


REVIEW : The Family - VultureHound Magazine

By Craig Hermit | 14th June 2016

Best known for his solo material, and as a member of Fistful of Mercy and RNDM alongside Pearl Jam’s Bassist Jeff Ament, Joseph Arthur has built something of a reputation in his sixteen year career. It has been a career filled with high profile collaborations and solo albums – becoming known for his acoustic songs being filled with emotion and character.

His latest album, The Family, only emphasises this and it is all down to his instrument of inspiration: a Steinway Vertegrande piano from 1912. The Familywas written at the piano and he states that it was so full of character and history, that it was owned by just one family until it ended up in his industrial studio space and you can hear how it has impacted this album as he takes you on an emotional journey about the circumstances surrounding families.

Opening with the title track ‘The Family’, the easy-listening, relaxed sound gives a sense of being welcomed in by your own family. This continues as ‘Sister Dawn’ is another relaxing melody brilliantly keyed by the piano and the addition of the drums makes a fantastic impact. But it’s the lyrics that capture you, as the song appears to advise the listener on how to treat their children with love. The tone of the album changes gear as ‘With Your Life’ is a lot faster in pace, yet with vocals that are perfectly whispered over the beat.

After this the mood changes in the album. While there is not a dramatic shift in melody, it’s the depth of emotion in his vocals and lyrics that lets you feel that Arthur is opening the Pandora’s box of family dynamics even more. From songs focusing on leaving your family (‘Machines of War’) to songs tackling the topic of parent suicide (‘Ethel Was Born’), Arthur leaves little territory unexplored as he delves into the darker side of familial concepts. ‘Daddy The War Machine’ then brings it all back around, with the mix of hardened drums and piano keys proving a stunning backdrop to lyrics delving into the consequences of war within a family – making for an excellent way to close the album.

The Family is fantastic album that discusses the difficult situations that a family has to deal with and how the realities of the world effect the family unit. Deeply personal, this album will have listeners realising just how important family is – whether it being via blood relation or emotional attachments. The Family will make you think and question your own emotional depths while Arthur scrapes his own.



2016-05-26 - Live from Studio A, WFUV, New York

Setlist :

The Campaign Song
The Family
Machines Of War

2016-05-26 WFUV mp3

LYRICS : Wishing Well

On a long-distance sunday
We could go to the mall
Look around but still don't buy much
Can't afford a place to fall

Oh, the wishing well
Throw your coins in there
Tell them what you want
Oh, the wishing well

I wonder who gets the money
It's been sitting there for years
Those old coins they don't rust tho
Soaking in our dreams and tears

Oh, the wishing well
Throw your coins in there
Tell them what you want
Oh, the wishing well

Just one dime will get you mercy (mercy)
A nickel is worth a place to stay (come here)
A quarter and you'll be forgiven
For everything you couldn't say

Oh, the wishing well
Throw your coins in there
Tell them what you want
Oh, the wishing well

I know you will
Find your way
You know you've got to hold on
You always got to hold on

I know you will
Find your way
You know you've got to hold on
You always got to hold on

I know you will
Find your way
To hold on, hold on

I know you will
Find your way
To hold on, hold on

LYRICS : You Keep Hanging On

I love you more than my pain
Says I should
I love you more when you're rain 
Than the desert would

You say life's in the past
When we were strong 
But I would love you to stay
Keep hanging on 

(You keep hanging on)
Even when I tell you to go
(You keep hanging on)
Even when I ask you to leave
(You keep hanging on)
Even when I tell you to go
(You keep hanging on)
Even when I ask you to leave

I see you on the other side
Of your moon and your folded knife 
And I wonder 
How you came into my life

I know sometimes you're cold inside
But I still want you to be mine
It makes me wonder
Why you came into my life

I love you more like a dream
Than reality
I love the way that you seem
To be there for me

You say love is a church 
And a crucifix
It will kill us in time
After saving us

(You keep hanging on)
Even when I tell you to go
(You keep hanging on)
Even when I ask you to leave
(You keep hanging on)
Even when I tell you to go
(You keep hanging on)
Even when I ask you to leave


LYRICS : Hold On Jerry

Hold on Jerry, hold on
Talking to the dead
Endless highway mercy's song
Well I sing to you

Going home there's no one
Gonna meet you there
As your road keeps droning on (and on)
The dead just come to you

This life is complicated
This death is overrated
And your dream is turned to faded blue
This love is obligated
This time is thinly stated
And your mind is agitated too

Hold on Jerry, hold on
The family needs you now
As you come back to us all
Well we come to you

Going home to Mercy
She's been loving you
And you've been loving her so much
She's in you now

This life is complicated
This death is overrated
And your dream is turned to faded blue
This love is obligated
This town is thinly stated
And your mind is agitated too

This life is complicated
This death is overrated
And your dream has turned to faded blue
This love is obligated
This time is thinly stated
And your mind is agitated too


LYRICS : You Wear Me Out

You're their mother
Start being one
I'm their father
But I can't hold it down alone
You should see them
When they ask for you
What should I tell them
Since I can't tell them the truth

You wear me out

You say you need them
But you've been gone
They have changed now
Boy have they grown and grown 
I know it's speed 
That's turned you blue
The pills you swallow
Haven't they now swallowed you?

You wear me out

You wear me out
You wear me out 

Time won't turn around
Time won't turn around
Time won't turn around
Time won't turn around

For you 
Or them


LYRICS : Ethel Was Born

Ethel was born
The day the Titanic sunk
Her father drowned in the Portage Lakes
Known to be a great swimmer
His death was a suicide
And when she died she was ninety-two years old

Bill was from Glasgow
He flew a fighter plane in the war
But after the war he killed a man
And ran away to America 

Ethel was born 
The day the Titanic sunk
Her mother died when she was young
She took over for her
And took care of her Dad
Until she ran away to New York City

There she met a man named Bill
He was fifteen years older than her
And he already had a wife
But he was soon to be divorced

You and I, are gonna rain girl 
You and I, are gonna reign
You and I, are gonna rain girl
You and I, are gonna reign

Like a cloud, in the sky
Like a king and queen, getting high
Like a cloud, in the sky 
Like a king and queen, getting high 

You and I, are gonna reign 
You and I, are gonna rain girl
You and I, are gonna reign
You and I, are gonna rain girl


LYRICS : They Called Him Lightning

They called him Lightning and he flew the war
He was from Scotland, but he had to run to the shore
America it saw his fortune grow
He had a family and two sons he never would know

I never knew him cause we barely spoke
Disowned my brother over money, no one would joke
His wife was drunk, but she still needed him
He brought her money and another bottle of gin

Now your mother gonna waste my time
What you are
What you are
She don't love nothing but a wasted spine
On a dirty floor, on the killing floor

You know most people they will never change
They damn you young and we all just end up the same
I'm driving drunk but I can find the end
I'm looking for her in the eyes of some other friend

She looks at you and she can see her face
She looks at me and sees someone she wants to erase
You know one day she's gonna lay me down
You know one day she's gonna put me into the ground

Now your mother gonna waste my time
What you are
What you are
She don't love nothing but a wasted spine
On a dirty floor, on a killing floor

Now your mother gonna waste my time
What you are
What you are
She don't love nothing but a wasted spine
On a dirty floor, on the killing floor

(There's a darkness in the heart of man
But you could be mine
You could be mine
There's a darkness in the heart of man
But you could be mine You could be mine)

LYRICS : With Your Life

I'm away
The devil will pray
For a fight 

I'm driving drunk
But I still see the road
My car is flipping
And it still might explode
But I'm known here

To bite

I'll throw your back 
Up against the wall
Nobody here
And nobody to call
Well I'll shut off
Your light

I'm away
The devil will pray
For a fight
The Will of God or man
Nobody can know
The jungle laws
And the idiot show 
Well I'm watching

For your knife 

You got no rights here 
You're just a kid
Don't want to hear you
Or about what you did
So just leave now

With your life


LYRICS : Sister Dawn

Sister Dawn 
Take care of your young
Don't do what they did
And hide away, hide away, hide away

Last night you were wrong
When you raged at your youngest son
When you grabbed him by his arm
He hid away, hid away, hid away
Hid away, hid away, hid away

Sister Dawn 
Take care of your young
You know our folks are getting old
It's you and me, you and me, you and me

You say you can't deal
Twisted by the way they make you feel
But they need you to be strong
Don't hide away, hide away, hide away
Hide away, hide away, hide away

Sister Dawn 
Take care of your young

(don't run away, don't run away don't run away, don't run away)

All night long
They run
Oh girl
All night long
They run
Oh girl


LYRICS : The Family

Sister Susan
By the time she was four
She could climb up 
Just about any tree
From the highway 
You could see our house
She would look out 
As the cars drove past

And the family
Was always
Glad you came
Said the family 
Was always
Glad you came

We played football
On the gravel drive
I would take it long
Every time
In West Virginia
The stakes were high 
The ball would fly through 
The sky so bright

And the family 
Was always 
Glad you came 
Said the family
Was always
Glad you came 
We may never 
Pass this way again but
I'll never let you down (no I won't)
I'll always let you in
I'll never let you down (no I won't)
I'll always let you in

The family 
Was always 
Glad you came 

Joseph Leon was taken first
Mama Enid she lost her mind
It was mercy that held them close
And it was mercy that left us behind

The family 
Was always 
Glad you came
Said the family 
Was always 
Glad you came

(Endless mercy
Hold me now 
Hold me now
Hold me now 
Hold me now
Hold me now 
Endless mercy)


LYRICS : When I Look At You

When i look at you
I can see his face
I can see his smile
I can see his dream

When i look at you
I can see his trust
I can see his hope
and everything he lost

When i look at you
When i look at you

Maybe you're the moon
When i'm in the dark
Maybe you're the voice 
In a hopeful song

When i look at you
When i look at you

I can see the maze
I can see the loss
In this lonely
(purple) haze
Look at you i must

When i look at you
When i look at you

When i look at you
When i look at you

LYRICS : The Flag

Though you're gone
You're still here
In Jimmy's eyes
And Linda's tears

Your picture sits
Upon the wall
I think you'd say
Don't give up

Today i think i've had enough
Without you here i'm not that strong
There's no on else i want to touch
Cause i wish you were near
I wish you were near

The army came
They had your stuff
It's in the basement
With the flag
We used to say
In God We Trust
But i'm not sure

Today i think i've had enough
Without you here i'm not that strong
There's no on else i want to touch
Cause i wish you were near
I wish you were near

LYRICS : Daddy, The War Machine

Here comes
The war machine
Here comes
The war machine

Has gone to war
I know
What that means
He may die there and
Never come home
Fighting thosemen
That want to kill us

You were brave
I miss you
At your grave

I wish you came home
Mother was never the same
Daddy i still
Love you

The war machine
Here comes
The war machine
Here comes
The war machine
Here comes
The war machine
Here comes
The war machine

The war machine


INTERVIEW : 2005-08-05 Engulfing the world’s glumness, Joseph Arthur: Idiosyncratic Sounds and Imagery (by Sasha S)

The current No. One, that infuriating ballad about the eternally ‘Beautiful’ bullshit, is so saccharinely nauseating we could name, at least, a dozen more exciting acts or singer-songwriters. But, they all are way above the lowest common denominator the contemporary music industry is hell-bent of flogging. That’s the mainstream to you, McPerson.

Now, Joseph Arthur has been around for a while and ‘Our Shadows Will Remain’ is his fourth album. When the record was released in the US late last year, publications naming it in their Best Of 2004 lists included, The Wall St. Journal, The New York Post and Entertainment Weekly. While touring his new record, Joseph opened for REM, Wilco, and most recently, Coldplay. “Michael Stipe was generous enough to introduce me every night”, he says. “With that foot in the door, all I had to do was deliver.”

And he does it, on record and live. Joseph Arthur was born in Akron, Ohio, the tyre-capital of the US - and home to Devo, Chrissie Hynde, Greg Dulli, Guided By Voices - but became a song-writing obsessive in Atlanta, Georgia, before settling in New York, where he still lives. In a 1997 self-penned article for Musician magazine, he recalled how his career was propelled forward in a circumstance which had seemed miraculous.

Circa 1996, Joe told Musician’s readers, he was still a guitar salesman working for the minimum wage at Clark’s Music in Atlanta. Frustrated, broke, musing on a life of crime, he returned home one day to find a message on his answa-phone that would change everything. The calm, quintessentially English voice he heard belonged to Peter Gabriel, who’d received a copy of Joseph’s demo and was smitten. “I must have sat in the room listening to that message for an hour”, Joseph wrote, “reading meaning into each word, each pause, and each breath”.

The surreal and the hyper-real merged when Gabriel brought his buddy Lou Reed to see Arthur playing a showcase gig in New York after which they all dined alongside Dolly Parton. Soon, Joseph would become the first pop-rock artist to sign to Gabriel’s RealWord label, releasing ‘Big City Secrets’ in 1996, the 7-song EP ‘Vacancy’ in 1999, ‘Come To Where I’m From’ in 2000 and ‘Redemption’s Son’ in 2002.

In 1999, ‘Vacancy’’s vibrant sleeve design - a collaborative effort by Joseph and pal Zachary Larner - was Grammy nominated for ‘Best Recording Package’. Pleasing, then, that on the sleeve for ‘Our Shadows Will Remain’ - a stunning 36-page booklet depicting Joseph’s excellent paintings - Zachary Larner is again credited as art director and designer.

Mr Arthur visited London recently for a show and we faced him for a discussion on… everything.

It is brave of you to be playing here whilst the Americans are keeping away from the harm’s way?

“Well, what can you do but continue to live your own life; we’ve had it on 9/11 and it was a real tragedy. I wasn’t there at the time but in England making a record. What can you do, it is real shame and it looks like this is more terrifying than 9/11. You can’t almost conceive the devastation, the scope of pain… It’s the real shame that humanity is behaving this way and it is hell-bound on destroying itself.”

“I can’t help it but all these things influence me and it will inspire me to write some darker songs… I’ve not written any songs yet to reflect the bombing but I’ve written poems, essays… I keep a journal and reflect on the vacuum in people, they are vulnerable and they need an outlet and if they haven’t got it, it can turn destructive.”

Your album came out in the US a while back; according to your biography you write daily and I wonder how many songs have you got stockpiled already?

“Quite a few, for sure and I’m waiting to record them but the question is not anymore when to record but how to find the right people to distribute music. This a great time for releasing music but it is also one of the most difficult. It is a weird thing and crazy time. I like it but not on the business level. I’m the lucky one who has a record out but there are so many talented people out there who’ll never be released. But that is a universal thing happening with people such as Iggy Pop who’s been struggling all his life to have music released. If you are challenging the industry, you can expect a long and lonely road ahead of you.”

“I started out in a blues band, playing bass, during my school days. I didn’t think of writing songs until I was in my 20s and living in Atlanta. I also lived in New Orleans and all this has informed and inspired my music. ”

Beck is often cited when your music is described but it looks like you were inspired more by David Byrne and Talking Heads, as well as some more traditional songwriters?

“Yeah, Beck is cool but not really one of my influences. Byrne, a little bit, but I’ve been more inspired by David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Velvet Underground… ”

Your demo tape found its way to Peter Gabriel, who signed you up, and you ended up having a dinner with him, Lou Reed and Dolly Parton!?

“Well, Peter Gabriel got my tape from a friend-of-a-friend and he came to see me play in New York. He brought Lou Reed to see me and we ended up at a dinner; Dolly Parton was sitting in the next booth and it was really surreal. I’m surrounded with all these legends despite not having released anything! And, it was interesting what Gabriel said, that he originally offered Dolly to sing ‘Don‘t Give Up’…” [Kate Bush teamed up with PG for the 1986 hit eventually.]

“My contract with the label expired and I’m sorry not to be with them anymore but I wasn’t really an artist for their WorldMusic roster. It may have been a good idea but it didn’t work out.”

The title of your album can be taken both ways; which way are you inclined yourself?

“Looking at the state of the world right now, I‘d have to say - the negativity prevails. But, usually, it is the other way around… I like the title because it is ambiguous and once you make a record, it is up to people to interpret it. It is not in my control anymore and it belongs to people who buy and listen to it.”

So, heed the man’s advice and go get yourself a great album that can move you in more profound ways than you can imagine.


INTERVIEW : 2006-04-26 Glasswerk Interview (by Cathryn Hopkins)

The evening I went to meet Joseph Arthur, I wandered aimlessly around the Old Street area for a while before finally finding myself in the intimate setting of the Vertigo Gallery a couple of days before the opening of his first UK art exhibition. Of course, I’d seen photos etc. of Jo before but those images hadn’t really prepared me for the massive presence that greeted me with a low American drawl, before showing me a painting that he’d just created (The outline of a head – many of his creations seem to involve a person/people of sorts). We then sit down on two chairs and, minus a move downstairs where we settled ourselves cross-legged on the floor surrounded by his art, this is the extent of my half hour with Joseph Arthur (the long version, for the true fans): 

Cat: You record all your gigs. Have you been doing that since the start – before Real World picked you up? 

JA: Peter Gabriel gave me the idea – he said you should definitely record every performance. Virgin Records wouldn’t let me do it at the time. A couple years later this guy Ran, who runs a great record shop on Long Beach, gave me the idea again and I started doing it. 

Cat: When you do the live stuff do you think beforehand, “This has to be different to my last live thing because it’s all going to be recorded and I don’t want similar CDs”? 

JA: No, I think I want to do that a bit anyway, I guess it comes into my mind not to be too samey about it but it’s impossible to do something completely unique every single night, although I guess it’s going to be relatively unique due to the nature of the show. But I try to change it up a bit but don’t freak myself out over it. I really just don’t think about it because if you do then your fear won’t allow you to do it. Most things in art are like that. The more unconscious you are about it, maybe the better. 

Cat: You’ve been doing your own artwork for ages, when did you start bringing your music and art together in your live shows? 

JA: Just recently - last year. 

Cat: Do you have an idea beforehand of what you’re going to paint? 

JA: Sometimes but not always. 

Cat: Is it based on the atmosphere of the place? 

JA: A painting is determined by the first thing you put on it and that then suggests another thing to put on it. 

Cat: And the first thing you put on it – how’s that determined? 

JA: Just randomly. 

Cat: You’ve done bigger gigs supporting Coldplay and REM, do you record those gigs as well? 

JA: Well, you only get 40 minutes but, yeah, we recorded those but didn’t sell them straight afterwards. 

Cat: But are they on sale on the internet? 

JA: Oh I don’t know, you just record for prosperity’s sake. But things fade away, you can’t do something with everything, but loads of the shows are on sale on the website. 

Cat: Your art work – none of that is on sale, is it? 

JA: Nah, I gotta start trying to do that, not sure why I haven’t – it’s weird. 

Cat: So you’re not trying to keep your artwork to yourself? 

JA: I’ve sold a couple of things but I’ve not really sold loads. I’d really like to try and get proper gallery representation and get someone to deal with the business side of things – it’s weird trying to sell your own stuff. 

Cat: Would you keep that separate from your music? 

JA: I’d make an instrumental CD to accompany the exhibition. I went to a Robert Rauschenberg show at the Whitney right before I came here and I thought there’s never really music in art galleries. And I really like Rauschenberg but thought music would be a great addition. 

Cat: Is this your first show? 

JA: Well, I did one other exhibition of live paintings in America but this is my first exhibition of art I’ve worked on at home. 

Cat: What are your artistic influences? 

JA: de Kooning, Cy Twombly, Picasso, Basquiat, Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock. 

Cat: A lot of the pieces are people-based, is that a conscious decision? A recurring theme? Do you think about it or just do it? 

JA: I tend to draw a similar character a lot of the time. 

Cat: Is this character anyone in particular? 

JA: Nah, I don’t think so, I don’t know. 

Cat: Your latest album was the first one with a concept, a story, it’s a lot shorter and more precise. Is this for a reason? 

JA: The record I put out before that was 74 minutes long so I was conscious of the fact that I wanted to make something more concise so deliberately tried to make it shorter but it almost was really long as it’s always hard to cut things out. But the older I get, the better I get at cutting things out. 

Cat: Were you brutal on yourself? 

JA: Not really, just like records which are shorter. 

Cat: And how do you decide what to cut out? 

JA: I basically cut out things that weren’t holding my interest after ten days even if I like the song and it ended up as 11 tracks. 

Cat: I guess that’s why most albums are 11 tracks long – the human attention span. What’s your new album called? 

JA: “Invisible Parade”. 

Cat: And what’s going to happen with that? 

JA: I don’t know yet. It’s way more minimal…acoustic based. Much less production. No reverb on the vocals. 

Cat: Is that a one-off or do you see yourself going down that stylistic route? 

JA: I just wanted to do a record that was minimal as my last two albums weren’t. But I’m working on a bigger record at the moment too. 

Cat: The cutting down of the album and song durations – was that for commercial reasons? 

JA: I like the idea of someone listening to a record the whole way through, getting to the end and wanting to listen to it again, instead of getting 5 songs from the end and getting bored. It’s like putting artwork on every space of ceiling and wall – it’s too much. 

Cat: What’s the Nappy Dug Out? 

JA: Mike Nepolitana – Nappy – it’s what it’s called – his studio. 

Cat: Did you go to New Orleans with the intention of recording? 

JA: Yeah I’m always trying to do something otherwise I get bored my mind goes crazy. I was also trying to buy a house. 

Cat: What percentage of the songs were written before you went? 

JA: Most of them I already had. 

Cat: Some of your songs have been used in films and commercials – how did that all come about for someone who is quite underground? 

JA: The advert came at a time I wasn’t getting much exposure and it was when many people were breaking their songs through advertisements. I kinda regret saying yes to that. I don’t regret saying yes to any TV or movies ‘cause I think that’s a cool way to expose your art. I don’t like the idea of my music selling something but I don’t mind it being used in a TV show, even if it’s not high art. But it’s cool, I like to expose things that way. There was one time this gossip TV show wanted to use “In The Sun” but I said no. It was the Insider – a feature on a teacher who went to jail for getting married to her 14-yr old student. 

Cat: You’ve been in England quite a bit; France too... 

JA: It’s going well over here, I have good representation and people like it a lot. 

Cat: In light of what’s happened in New Orleans, how were people you know affected? 

JA: The homes of a couple of my friends went completely underwater but nobody died. 

Cat: How do you feel about the way it was handled by the government? 

JA: I think America got really disillusioned by the whole thing. 

Cat: Rightly so? 

JA: Rightly so. Even more than the war. It just realised that the administration was full of sh*t on an entirely new level. 

Cat: Would you call any of your songs political? 

JA: Yeah, I guess a couple – not really totally political. “All Of Your Hands” seems quite political to me. 

Cat: Do lyrics or melody drive a song for you? 

JA: Melody first, lyrics suggest themselves. 

Cat: When do the arrangement ideas come? 

JA: Kinda all just forms. Not a lot of thought behind it. 

Cat: Any musical training? 

JA: *yawns* 

Cat: Sorry, am I boring you? 

JA: No, no – jet lag. (OK, if you say so!) Not really, never went to college. I picked the guitar up but no proper music training. 

Cat: Who did you listen to to teach yourself ‘The Craft’? 

JA: I went through all kinds of phases. I listened to a lot of jazz fusion – Jaco Pastorius, Miles Davis. I wanted to be a jazz bass player. 

Cat: Have you seen “Shadows And Light” with Joni Mitchell and Jaco Pastorius where he does that amazing live looping? (I get excited and go on for a bit about the concert as JA nods along enthusiastically…I think) 

JA: He’s amazing… 

Cat: And after the jazz fusion? 

JA: Well, before that I was into Van Halen, then jazz fusion, then things my sister was into – Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan. Then Jimi Hendrix – really into him. Think that’s where I got my recording philosophy from – just complete experimentation. Everything’s ok so let’s just try anything. Then of course, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young – all great songwriters. 

Cat: You’ve been touring solo and your art is all solo. Can you see yourself staying solo or do you want to collaborate? 

JA: I want collaborate, I want to eventually have a band but I like performing the way I perform too.

Cat: Even with a band, would you keep the live-looping element? 

JA: Yeah, I think that’s my live instrument. My set up would stay the same; I’d just add musicians to it. 

Cat: Who would you want to be in your band? 

JA: Well, I like this guy Pat Sansone; he plays with Wilco now although I toured with him a while ago. Then for a drummer, G-Whiz, Greg Whiz – great drummer. 

Cat: What was it like doing the bigger stadium gigs? 

JA: It was pretty amazing but I got used to it. Michael would introduce me to the audience so I had a foot in the door, walking on stage. And they were real receptive and good. It worked out. 

Cat: You’ve got a book coming out of your art work – everything or a selection? 

JA: A selection of everything. 

Cat: Do you have commentaries? 

JA: Just pictures. It was going to include poems but now it’s just pictures. 

Cat: Why? 

JA: I needed space! 

Cat: Did you write a forward? 

JA: No – no explanation. 

Cat: Back to the live sampling – did you start doing that ‘cause of Hendrix? 

JA: It was this guy, Paul Ridout, who asked me if I’d ever played with delays and he helped me set up this system. I was off touring with “Big City Secrets” (his Real World debut) so started doing it for quite a long time. 

Cat: The album after – “Come To Wherever I’m From”, is quite different to your debut. Was that due to discovering live sampling in the interim period? 

JA: I think it was more that I had the confidence to produce it more myself. I was a lot more vocal about the direction – I had a vision, whereas with “Big City Secrets” I was more blown away that I was getting this chance to make a record. The producer was Marcus Dravs, great producer. He was really strong and so picked the direction more in the first album. My debut is an interesting record, but I’m not mad about it. It’s quite different, which is cool. They’re all quite different from each other. 

Cat: But there’s more of a progression between the other 3, whilst “Big City Secrets” stands alone with its more traditional song-writing. 

JA: Yeah, I agree. (Even if he didn’t, I guess that was the easy answer to get me off his back!) 

Cat: One last thing – most favourite and least favourite contemporary musician. 

JA: I like Cat Power a lot, she’s a solo artist and does her own thing. 

Cat: Least favourite? 

JA: Uh.. I dunno, can’t think of anybody that I wanna bust. 

And with that it was the end of my time with Joseph Arthur, a laid back and pretty open artist, who I saw perform a couple of weeks later at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. 
To be absolutely honest, I love his voice with it’s affecting extremes of rumbly bass and ethereal falsetto and some of his looping is ingenious, but I feel that it’s hard for anyone to hold an audience and a stage, especially one as expansive as SBE, for an hour. It did, at times, lack in variety, and some of the songs were lost to me. For me, not being a complete JA afficianado, the high points were the well known numbers like “Even Tho” and the Hurricane Katrina single, “In The Sun”. 

There were some fun lights going on behind JA but the painting wasn’t fantastic, although one can always be consistent with something spontaneous! All in all, a career I shall continue to follow and a man that was a pleasure to meet.