Fistful Of Mercy stops by SiriusXM and performs "Things Go 'Round"
Each issue, we ask a different artist who we feel has good, insightful taste in music for their feedback on 10 or so songs we choose for them. It’s a generally straightforward, two-page feature that we feel people enjoy reading. We asked longtime MAGNET fave Joseph Arthur to do one for issue #143, and below is what he sent in. It’s a really good piece, but in order to make it fit into our print format, we had to do quite a bit of editing on it before we ran it. Needless to say, Mr. Arthur liked his original version better than our edited version, which ran on the site earlier today. (Check it out here.) So we told him we’d run this original piece online, as well as the very cool piece of art he supplied with it. Consider this The Joseph Arthur Director’s Cut. Enjoy.
Brian Eno’s tin foil hat or how I tried and failed to write a piece for Magnet by Joseph Arthur
My manager said “hey I need that piece for Magnet by monday. ” we were having our Friday wrap up conversation, you know the one, where you are both looking at the weekend and so everything is a little lighter. Life doesn’t seem impossible at all. This was no Tuesday. It was Friday. But you have to be careful in Friday’s because that free and easy feeling can lead you to say yes to something you perhaps should say no too. In other words your ass may write a check that your dreams can’t cash? How does that phrase go? I’m pretty sure that’s not it and I’m gonna pretend it’s 1979 and so there’s no google. I’m gonna go with God on this one.
I said to my manager
In that overly confident and quick to get off the phone way. ” what is it ?”
“Oh I sent you the email”
“Oh cool ” I went on “Ill knock it out, as long as I don’t have to write a Shakespearean play I can’t imagine having a problem with what ever it is”
We were loose it was Friday
” well actually even if it was a Shakespearean play I could probably do that” my Friday over confidence had gotten its grips on me to near pathology at that point. You know the feeling. Monday seems like a million years away. Almost like it will never be monday again.
Here’s what an outbreak of the disease looks like. You go into a kind of zone in which if anyone asks you to anything at that time which will be do monday you will without even understanding why just automatically say yes.
So sure you are that monday is practically years away. But here’s the thing. It’s not. It never is. So we set up an organization called OCFA
The only requirement is a desire to stop making proclamations on Friday afternoons about things you’ll need to deal with monday morning.
But I missed my meetings. I said yes to a monday obligation right in the zone of the Friday eternities
The Friday eternities are what we aim to be sober from. The Friday eternities are similar to what alcohol would be in AA. I e “the feeling that Friday will never ever end and if it does it will just be Saturday forever. And if god forbid that ended well then Sunday is just fine for eternity. But when monday does come and you come too with all the fog of your grand proclamations of achievement. The activity around your head like a cartoon mix up with keystone cops a mouse in a suit and a dandelion tree that two orphans are trying to light ablaze with a wet pack of Ohio blue tips.
It was monday morning the guilt shame and remorse for knowing I had relapsed with a bad case of the Friday eternities
And remembered the good natured and affable conversation with my manager and how I had boldly said yes to lengthy writing assignment sight unseen and it was do today!
The voices flooded in “why did you say yes!?”
The toxic shame like an expert archer on high peek taking aim to the center of my skull as I opened the email of what I had said yes too.
And here’s what came up
This piece will run online and in the actual print publication. Can you work on this, this week?
Here’s a sample of what they would like you to write about.. The intro should be about Redemption’s Son 15th. After that, it’s your thoughts on these 10 or 15 tracks:
(Note – Magnet picked all of these tracks)
Here’s 15. We only need 10, but we can run the rest online if he wants to do all of them. They are alphabetical, but he can do in any order he wants.
The Afghan Whigs “Gentleman”
The Band “The Weight”
The Black Keys “Tighten Up”
Coldplay “Viva La Vida”
Bob Dylan “As Time Goes By”
Brian Eno “Needles In The Camel’s Eye”
Genesis “Back In N.Y.C.”
George Harrison “Isn’t It A Pity”
Diana Krall “Glad Rag Doll”
The National “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
Liz Phair “Never Said”
Lou Reed “Romeo Had Juliette”
The Rolling Stones “Rocks Off”
Suzanne Vega “Tom’s Diner”
Well at least I can do any order I want.
My palms got sweaty. My heart raced. A lifetime flashed before me. I got a case of the hiccups and peed my pants a little. I looked over the list
Oh no.. please don’t say it’s one of these things where I gotta say how much I like this or that. Oh no!
I mean I like The Weight as much as the next guy but how am I gonna come up with a paragraph on it?
My head started scrambling.
All I could think about is what it must have been like to hang with Martin Scorsese and Robby Robertson when they famously lived in a blacked out party house together where they were always gaked up. And how that’s when Marty made Raging Bull and shit like that. That I could try and write a paragraph about but how am I gonna say something about The Weight?
” I remember that time I sparked up a doobie and it was full moon and it was our summer of love and there was like all these butterflies in the parking lot and we had just dropped acid and it was coming on and we were out in your t windowed corvette. You had the radio on and the dj on the classic rock station we alway listened too said and now this one from Robbie Robertson and The Band. And then that song. That song that’s like everybody’s favorite song at one point or another. Transcends race. Transcends time. A great song has a spirit in it. This one is so identifiable. And profound that it almost feels wrong to speak on it. But it does make me want to take acid and drive around in a vette with tbird windows.
Normally I might call Greg in a time like this. He’s always got a good take on things. Funny and dark and then we just wind up talking about girls we are both in love with on Instagram. (True Hollywood confessions.
What would I write about Greg? I’ve said it all. We’ve laughed we’ve cried.
I remember Gentleman came out and I had it on cd and listened to it on my cd walk man. There were beneficial limitations back then. You know how sometimes you lock a certain memory with a certain album. That album always reminds me of a flight I took because I discovered on a flight and listened to it the whole trip. That was the good thing about not having endless options. Made you focus on one thing. I focused on Greg’s voice and lyrics. I was just starting to write songs at that point so I listened with intention all the time then. I was still forming my own musical identity. If I had to put my feeling about what Greg does in a quip designed for bathroom fodder. It would be this. He’s original. And he’s rock n roll. So. Nuff said.
Ps. Those two things are rarer than diamonds who are also a girls best friend. Plus he’s from Ohio. Which I notice quite a few folks in this list are
Suddenly in my writing assignment I feel like I’m going deep in. Like Magnet has me searching for my inner captain Kurtz “never get out of the boat. Absolutely god damn right! Never get out of the boat. Read this next part in Martin Sheens voice like apocalypse now. “Who put this list together, where did they get their intel. For years this Joseph Arthur was the model soldier of rock and then one day he wrote a song about how there was no song. was no rock. There was no man. There’s was no song. He just blew a gasket. He’s not coming back. I think he’s waiting for me deep in that jungle he’s waiting for me to come make sure there will never be another monday again. Or another case of the Friday eternities. ”
I could tell Magnet was leading me straight into my very own apocalypse now. In which I am both Kurtz and (side note what is the Martin Sheen characters name? Remember this is a period piece so google is not an option) anyway the Martin Sheen character. Side note to the side note. Which song on this list Magnet gave me would be Charlie sheens favorite? That’s a fun article. I could write an article on that.
Anyway I wanted to get out of the boat even tho the voices kept repeating. Never get out of the boat absolutely goddam right. Never get out of the boat.
I texted my manager
I was breaking out all over the place with a case of the PMDM’s
It went like this.
“Hey Keith happy monday. Gimme a shout on that magnet thing. It’s a real pain to write about songs. Can you imagine writing a paragraph about a Coldplay song? Or even about one you like? Think of the adage talking about music is like dancing about architecture. Don’t want to leave you out in the lurch and if you think it’s an important thing to do I will dig deep but doing it will be well… just imagine having to write a paragraph about the band song ‘the weight’ I mean.
Where do you even begin? I remember the first time I heard “the weight’ it was a real good song. The band are amazing. See what I mean? ”
He didn’t and still hasn’t responded. Cheap joke on Coldplay. I don’t actually feel that way. Everyone knows Chris can make melody his bitch in ways that are unique to him and let’s face it endlessly appealing. Besides no ones ever gonna be cooler than The Replacements anyway so who really cares?
It’s the kind of joke you make on a defeated monday
A day when the PMDMs are really getting the better of you. I guess the price of ubiquitous fame and fortune is that you become a punching bag for people in moments like these. I’d take that trade. Haha.
Coldplay should use this on their next ad campaign
“Coldplay! a band that’s easy to slag on a monday
But impossible not to fink are ace on a Friday! ”
the band most people hate on monday but oddly love the fuck out of on Saturday night.
Hell that should be the name of their next record. You’re welcome Chris.
My manager never got back to me so I decided to take a few bong hits and go skateboard. I ride my longboard along the promenade in brooklyn over looking the whole of manhattan. From Redhook to dumbo and back again. It’s like heaven in the spring. Always helps me get ideas. So I rip the bong a few times and then grab my phone and my board and my keys. I notice a news alert on my phone. There was a story about certain unnamed news agencies were getting paid laundered money from china to pay off some Russian ambassador who played pranks on the line Chief Justice and gold handed prophet son and sergeant of mexico. The piece went on to say mind control directives were placed in specifically three songs. (And here’s what got my attention). They were Tighten up by the black keys. Rupture by blondie) and isn’t it a pity by george Harrison. I felt a shiver run up my spine. Wait a minute!? What the hell is going on here?! I Dug out the songlist from magnet and just as I had thought. Those three songs were all on my list. I suddenly started connecting dots. Things weren’t what they seemed. Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddam right. But that was a joke. I had been out of the boat for a long time. I’m not sure there was even a boat at all. For some reason I had the KISS song black diamond in my head. But not their own version. The version that’s on Let It Be by The Replacements. Neither of those bands were even on the list. Which yes I was free to alphabetize but I couldn’t just talk about anyband I want all Willie nilly. There had to be some measure of control in this piece. I looked long and hard at myself in that jungle when another Replacements Song came thru my mind. Unsatisfied. But they aren’t on your list so why won’t this song leave me be?
“Look me in the eye and tell me that I’m satisfied are you satisfied.” Or however it goes. What’s with Minneapolis and the best songwriters in history? Dylan and Westerberg
Dylan’s on the list but Westerbergs not hmm. Pieces are adding up. Things people said. Fragments I had forgotten about. I started picking up things in the street and putting together a cap made out of tin foil. But JUST then a song started blaring as if the tin foil hat had been a finely adjusted radio antenna to only one song and it was screaming now as if it was coming from manhattan itself. Like the buildings were all signing it to me all at once. And it was “needles in the camels eye.”
I love weird rock songs by English geniuses. And this is one of the best. Why is the city singing this one. He’s on the list. I guess it triggered something. Now the Empire State Building is swaying back and forth to the beat. I’m frazzled at this point the way a fighter is who is two rounds beat already but just won’t stay down.
I gotta get out of this.
Need to write my manager and tell him I just can’t think of a creative way to write this piece. “Tell them I said sorry Keith”
Still waiting for a response.
This entry was posted in MAGNET FEEDBACK.
Rencontre avec Joseph Arthur, song writer américain qui commence sérieusement à s’imposer dans la durée, pour preuves ses premiers albums ont bercé mon adolescence et c’est un trentenaire qui écrit ces mots.
Pour avoir croisé la route de ce grand monsieur par deux fois, je suis sûr d'une chose c’est qu’on ne ressort pas indifférent d'un de ses concerts.
Pour cette date à Montpellier, un concert d’à peu près deux heures s’est joué pour le plaisir de nos sens.
Comme si cela ne suffisait pas, l’artiste en remet une couche en poussant la chansonnette a capella derrière le stand où se vendent ses albums et l'intégrale du concert qu’il vient de jouer sur cd gravé. (Chose rare après un concert)
Interview de 15mins pour découvrir une partie de la personnalité de ce grand monsieur.
Sous titre dispo en français .
JOSEPH ARTHUR, the singer, songwriter and artist, has created his own little artistic paradise in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn. The Museum of Modern Arthur, open to the public every Tuesday through Sunday, serves as Mr. Arthur’s version of Andy Warhol’s Factory: a place he and his friends can get together to exercise their imaginations, which often involves creating art for the gallery, recording music in the studio in the back, silk-screening clothing or just talking.
On a recent blustery evening, Mr. Arthur, wearing the “lucky” hat that he had bought in Nottingham, England, was entertaining a couple of members of his five-piece band, the Lonely Astronauts, and some friends. He was about to embark on a solo European tour as the opening act for Tracy Chapman.
Despite the jittery sounds of the “Psycho” movie soundtrack in the background, the mood in the gallery was peaceful, with the aroma of sage incense filling the air. Sibyl Buck — a bass player and former model (and the stylish Edie to Mr. Arthur’s Warhol) — told everyone of a performance artist who had been smashing car windows in the name of art.
“The new definition of art is when you do something and other people talk about it,” she said.
Mr. Arthur, who at 6 feet 4 inches describes himself as circus tall, said that when it comes to his artistic pursuits, like the band’s new album, “Temporary People,” and his latest exhibition, “Wigs,” at Galerie Pangée in Montreal, he strives to be more contemplative. He added that he avoided spending too much time on “meaningless” diversions like Facebook.
“I just prefer real life, like this,” he said, gesturing to those around him. “This is so nice. Later we’ll see each other again in cyberspace, but it won’t be like this.”
There is a familial unity to Mr. Arthur’s band members, a closeness that can be felt by one outside their inner circle. Appropriately, they have matching tattoos of a perfect circle, a permanent bond they got just one week after they met one another two years ago.
Jen Turner, the lead guitarist, pointed out an identical circle on the sleeve of her Army jacket. “The band regalia,” she said. “We all wore these for a gig.”
Late that night, Mr. Arthur and Ms. Buck strolled the cobblestone streets of Dumbo, with its remnants of streetcar tracks, on their way to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Flanked by the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, the rocky beach is a favorite haunt of Mr. Arthur’s. He goes there a lot, he said.
“I call it Joe’s place,” he said, skipping a stone toward the cityscape across the water. He added, “I think a lot of people call it Joe’s place.”
It was a soothing, if somewhat unusual, way to wind up an evening, bringing to mind a comment that David Letterman made when the Lonely Astronauts made one of their appearances on his show: “I want to go with those people. I would like to be with those people. I think they’re probably doing things I’m not.”
It’s not actually that they’re always doing “fabulous stuff,” Ms. Buck said. “But he knew it was something different than what other people are doing at midnight.”
Joseph Arthur advocates instability. He doesn’t believe in comfort zones. If his seat in life gets too cushy, he’ll pull the chair out from under himself just to remember how hard the ground feels after a fall.
Most recently, this mindset landed Arthur facedown somewhere on the edge of New Orleans’ French Quarter, armed with not much more than a guitar, some clothes and a few rough demos.
It’s not that he wasn’t enjoying a successful music career out of his home base in New York City. After Peter Gabriel took the young singer-songwriter under his wing in the mid-’90s, Arthur turned out three albums to critical applause (1997’s Big City Secrets, 2002’s Come to Where I’m From and 2002’s Redemption’s Son) and toured with the likes of David Gray and Ben Harper. It was just that the booming metropolis had begun to feel too much like a recliner.
“It’s good for an artist to be off balance a little bit,” Arthur says. “I write best when I’m traveling because traveling detaches you in a way.”
“At first there was a lot of disillusionment from being detached, which turned out to be a great gift. But at the time it doesn’t feel great at all. It feels like your life is falling apart.”
New Orleans turned out to be an ideal venue for Arthur to reassemble the splinters of his shattered-by-design existence. The result was a lo-fi blueprint of what would evolve into latest moody pop masterpiece, Our Shadows Will Remain.
The album is a buoyantly ponderous affair, like a 12-track poem written by a motivational speaker on the worst day of his life. The songs bear dim titles like “Wasted” and “Failed,” but inclinations toward withdrawal are held upright by a sturdy spine of optimism and bright pop melodies.
Arthur views his music as a study in emotional symbiosis, a manifestation of creativity’s codependence with pain. In the song “Can’t Exist,” for example, he threatens to disintegrate altogether just before reassuring listeners that no, really, he’ll be fine: “Sister, don’t be scared/ A thousand times or more/ I’ve walked away alive/ on my feet again.”
“It’s a mystery where inspiration comes from, but I think it has something to do with a spiritual source and also a place of suffering. There’s some kind of relationship there between a state of crisis and state of grace. It’s a graceful crisis, I guess,” he says.
The album takes its bittersweet title from a nuclear phenomenon: When the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the impact of the blasts was so intense that people were immediately incinerated and their shadows were burned onto floors and walls. Arthur perceives this as metaphor for humanity’s ability to surmount tragedy, a poignant reminder that life goes on in spite of ideological rifts.
“I don’t think this is an overtly political record, but I think its disillusionment reflects the times to a degree. I think there’s some hope in my work, too,” he says.
Musically, the album is a Picadilly Circus of genres, from subway-style acoustic guitar to brooding synthesizers to guest appearances by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. For shows, Arthur records himself playing live, then loops the recordings and harmonizes along with them to better reproduce the texture of his diversely sprawling style.
Creative consistency is one hobgoblin that Arthur couldn’t care less about.
“People want to protect themselves by saying that they’re this or that. But I see identity as something to transcend, not protect,” Arthur says. “Why not explore a bunch of different things? When you pull from a variety, you make something more original.”
Case in point, Arthur identifies with the label “artist” on several different levels outside of the strictly musical realm. He paints, writes poetry and began dabbling in documentary filmmaking during a recent tour with REM. In 1999, the self-designed art of his Vacancy EP earned a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package.
“The same principles you apply to visual work you can apply to music,” Arthur explains.
However, he hesitates when asked to describe what his music would look like if it were translated into a visual medium.
It’s a tough question. Arthur’s compositions possess the visceral substance of sculpture, the sensitivity of blown glass, the impulsive brushstrokes of paint on canvas and the choreographed abstraction of a slightly out-of-focus photograph.
“I think it’d be film,” he finally responds, “because it’s moving.”
ONE OF AMERICA'S MOST INNOVATIVE SONGWRITERS, JOSEPH ARTHUR RETURNS WITH OUR SHADOWS WILL REMAIN
Shades of brilliance: Joseph Arthur remains standing.For followers of Joseph Arthur wondering about The Question, here is The Answer: It was the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend.
The question, of course, is how fate managed to cast a lucky horseshoe in the direction of the Akron native back in 1996, when Peter Gabriel became so enchanted by an Arthur demo that he sent the young songwriter a plane ticket to London and inked him to Gabriel's Real World Records, home to the adventurous and diverse musical dialects of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Poppa Wemba, The Terem Quartet and others. In terms of the Real World artist roster, Arthur stood as Gabriel's first—at least in Western pop culture—mainstream signing.
While the pal who placed the tape in Gabriel's palms remains nameless, Arthur concedes, during a recent drive to a Denver gig through the Colorado Rockies, that his temporary relocation from Atlanta to London and the Real World environment yielded a life-altering creative epiphany.
"Getting hooked up with Peter and then being around London when a lot of electronic music like trip-hop and drum-and-bass was happening opened my mind to the validity of electronic music," Arthur explains. "I was over in London during the whole Britpop/Oasis/Massive Attack movement, when music was undergoing some kind of renaissance. I had come from Ohio to Atlanta and been immersed in more of a punk-rock philosophy to some degree."
Arthur's revelation was felt immediately in the looped terrain of Big City Secrets, a record produced by Brian Eno apprentice Markus Dravs that straddled the organic and exotic in its introduction of its author's melancholic lyrical charm.
Themes of suffering and isolation also dominate Arthur's fourth full-length album (there have also been a handful of EPs) and latest opus, the recently retailed Our Shadows Will Remain on the Vector label. Its electronic aesthetic continues the aural thread of Arthur's last two other acclaimed CDs—2000's Come To Where I'm From and 2002's Redemption's Son—while songs such as "Stumble and Pain" and "Puppets" examine the messy emotional residue left by us carbon life forms.
"I guess my music comes out of shadows in a way," notes Arthur in connection with the album's title. "It comes out of struggle—the inspiration and motivation to make something, to redeem whatever pain you're going through. I find if I make some music or make something, I feel the agony wasn't wasted.
"But I guess, to some degree, pain and isolation are necessary for making a record. In some ways, there's a certain amount of trauma necessary for the production of art, even if it is hopeful art. I also think there's a certain amount of sanity necessary for it, too. It's a mixed bag."
However, Arthur says he doesn't want to dwell on the misery.
"I want to be happy and I think everybody does. To me, more of an important goal than making a good record is to find some sort of peace of mind."
"At the same time, I think I'm still a few records away from that, so I'm not worried about it. I think life is a struggle—in a good way—but I don't think the struggle's really going anywhere. Maybe you can become enlightened, and then you're not struggling anymore. But then if that happens, I don't think you're worried about making good records. At that point, you're probably saving souls or something."
Arthur seems to be happiest when living the life of a troubadour.
"Touring is so all-encompassing that it's a great way to live—it just keeps you in the moment all the time," the Brooklyn-based Arthur asserts. "It also really inspires me: I always write songs when I'm on the road—just motion and being off-balance a little bit helps.
"My whole adult life has been built on this foundation—making records and going out and touring them and writing more music on the road and playing shows. I think that's a really good way to spend my time. I don't really know how long I'll do it for, but I still keep writing songs that I like."
Arthur has also developed quite the reputation for his mesmerizing solo performances, his hand-painted Lowden acoustic guitar and a plethora of pedals, delays and Lexicon Jam Man boxes and the spark of spontaneity providing his only accompaniment.
"I like the openness in performance—I really don't like working off set lists and thinking about what I'm going to do before," he explains. "I really like being in the moment. So when I'm performing solo, it can be a whole lot less organized and [more] open."
Compact portability offers a few advantages, such as the recent North American tour opening for alt-rock icons R.E.M., a stint that Arthur will repeat in Europe once the ball in Times Square drops on 2005.
"They were very generous," says Arthur, who played to the biggest crowds of his career. "[R.E.M. singer] Michael Stipe introduced me every night, so that really helped open the audience's minds and gave me a chance to play for them. R.E.M. also let me join them on stage for the last three shows, and that was a lot of fun, too, because they're one of my favorite bands. I performed 'Permanent Vacation' with them, which is the first song they wrote—it's not on any record."
For his upcoming date at the Bowery Ballroom, Arthur will share the stage with opener Joan Wasser, aka Police Woman, whom he describes as "an incredible violinist."
"She's cool to perform with because she is so good that I can go in any direction without letting her know where I'm going to go beforehand."
And destination of any sort is the last thing Arthur seems concerned about—even creatively.
"I'm never really afraid that it's going to dry up," says Arthur, who will drop an EP of six new songs called And The Thieves Are Gone on Vector Records next week.
"It's not really a fear of mine. I've never really had writer's block. There are definitely times when I don't feel inspired, when I don't mess around with anything and just hang out with my girlfriend, go to movies and get fat. Then some demon will be around the corner prodding me along back into it."
INTERVIEW : 2001-02-16 Hard-working songwriter pens 'best record of the year' (by Stephen Humphries)
"I once saw an interview with Jerry Seinfeld, and he said he thought 'writer's block' was a myth; people just get lazy," says singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur. "I think there's a lot of truth to that."
For his latest album, "Come to Where I'm From" (Real World), Arthur had to select 12 songs from a pile of more than 40 that had been "relatively easy" to write.
Prolific. That's one way to describe Arthur. Well, at least when he's at home rummaging through chord progressions on his guitar, that is, because he's hardly prolific in the public's consciousness - even if Entertainment Weekly magazine voted "Come To Where I'm From" as the best record of 2000.
"This is my third record," the Ohio-born singer said during a phone interview from his New York apartment. "I think my music's quite accessible, so I don't really see why it doesn't reach a wider audience."
Peter Gabriel certainly likes Arthur's brand of lo-fi, urban-folk music that weaves acoustic and electric guitars in between sparse drum loops and Arthur's own multilayered backing vocals (visit this article on www.csmonitor.com to hear sound clips).
In 1995, Arthur received quite a shock when he found a message on his answering machine from Gabriel, who, unbeknownst to Arthur, had been given a copy of Arthur's demo tape through a chain of mutual friends.
Gabriel has since recorded his own version of "In the Sun." Arthur's own version appears on his most recent CD, his third for Gabriel's Real World label, which mainly features world-music artists. Significantly, Arthur is the only American artist on Real World's roster.
"I feel really good about being on the label; there's something so artistic about the whole concept," he says. And the discounts on fellow label artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn aren't bad either, he jokes.
During our conversation, the singer sounds a little groggy. It turns out he's not used to being up this early.
It's 3:30 in the afternoon.
"I do love walking in the city, especially at night when it's really empty. I do love the buildings and the veins of the city."
When he isn't recording music, he takes to an easel and paintbrushes once the sun dips. The often-disturbing paintings can perhaps be described as an abstract blend of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" with traditional aboriginal paintings - often using bright neon colors.
"Painting has always been my hobby," Arthur says, adding that he's glad to showcase his brushstrokes on his album covers - one of which earned him a Grammy nomination for best packaging.
Another outlet for his artwork is a virtual online gallery at a devoted fan's website: www.lanset.com/kthalken.
Also on the site are journals from his tours. "It became my pet project ... it really helped me on the road because it gave me a focus. It's a strange thing because you're really busy on the road, but there's also a lot of downtime."
In concert, Arthur is his own one-man band. "I use these things called 'jamans.' I can loop my acoustic guitar and make a drum sort of sound," he explains. "I can loop my voice and just using those and effects kind of builds up a solo show that has a dynamic."
In the future, though, Arthur plans to put together a band for a new record, which he says will have greater focus on machines, rhythms, and drums.
"I definitely see stylistic progressions," he says of the more than 75 new songs he's written since his last album.
"It's a bit more optimistic, but not in a corny way, hopefully."
Joseph Arthur has been putting out records at a frantic pace over his 10-year career but no period has been quite like 2008 for the American musician.
Temporary People is his fifth disc of the year, following a staggered series of EP releases. This is Arthur's second full-length with his Lonely Astronaut players, and it's clear from the start that this is the first time one of his albums has truly sounded like it's being played by a band and not by one man.
Arthur is used to being the focal point (and one would assume he's still writing the lyrics), but on Temporary People, he very skillfully steps into the background and lets his bandmates flaunt their wares. Those looking for Joseph Arthur the solo artist should still seek out 2000's Come To Where I'm From.
For anyone interested in Joseph Arthur the band leader, Temporary People is a first-rate place to start.
It's been a very prolific year for Joseph Arthur. Vagabond Skies is the third in a series of four EPs designed as lead-ups to the release of his full-length album due out this fall.
This six-song collection is like a musical breather: subtle, understated and considered a return to form of sorts with its mostly folk elements. But Arthur gets a little experimental by interjecting a heavy, howling electronic chorus into "Second Sight."
"She Paints Me Gold," easily the best song on the EP, is an ethereal, delicately fluttering trip that morphs into an epic guitar solo underpinned by a crooning, wordless choir-like refrain.
For the most part, Vagabond Skiespasses pleasantly, but not that remarkably.
As part of a series, the record seems to make sense, but wouldn't be strong enough to succeed as a stand-alone effort.
Video by: Ehud Lazin
Audio by: Joseph Arthur
Love Never Asks You To Lie
Out On A Limb
Good About Me
Lack A Vision
A Smile That Explodes
The picture is wrong.
This show was played with Russell Simins on drums and Kraig Jarret Johnson on guitar.
almost blue / your only job
a smile that explodes
lack a vision
in the sun
honey & the moon
travel as equals
i miss the zoo
It’s almost two years since Joseph Arthur’s last concert in the UK so I’m more than happy to be at The Borderline this Sunday evening to witness his long-awaited return. It’s my twenty-sixth time seeing Joseph, although if time-money-distance were no impediment it would be more. If I’m normally hyped-up with anticipation before these shows, then there’s an added excitement this time after a surprise invitation to write a feature for this magazine.
Joseph Arthur at The Borderline, London on Sunday 17th April 2016 by Edyta K.
In those two years the multi-talented Joseph Arthur has been busy. Then he was touring his LP of Lou Reed covers with Mike Mills (R.E.M) and Bill Dobrow (The Black Crowes). Now he’s hot off the back of a short US tour with RNDM, an alternative-rock collaboration with Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam) and Richard Stuverud (Fastbacks/War Babies). RNDM had been on the road to promote their second album Ghost Riding.
In between Joseph found time to put out the self-released solo album Days Of Surrender – an album he recorded entirely by himself. Also a recognised painter and poet, his social feeds are strewn with his poetry and abstract art. He’ll even paint large canvases during his live shows. Joseph is a constant whirlwind of creativity!
This summer will see the release of The Family on Real World Records, a label that Joseph has a long history with. In the mid-90s a quirk of fate saw his early demo tape land in the hands of Peter Gabriel. After a personal call and audition, Joseph was soon signed to Real World and that was the home for his first three critically acclaimed albums and four EPs. The double album The Ballad of Boogie Christ marked his return to the label in 2013.
Following a delayed soundcheck Joseph generously spares a few minutes and we sit down to talk about his upcoming album. Joseph is quick to note the caption on the painting behind us that reads ‘IN THE BEGINNING’ which seemed like a good place to start.
The inspiration for The Family came when Joseph bought a 1912 Steinway Vertegrand and began composing songs on it – a process that he became totally immersed in, as described when he last spoke to RockShot Magazine in 2013. Joseph normally writes from guitar so piano was a new direction for him. “It was just something I did then and I haven’t written songs on the piano since. But I play it all the time and it’s used on almost every recording now, for example on Lou.”
Joseph gave the songs to renowned audio engineer Tchad Blake for mixing. “Tchad knows how to make things edgy and exciting. He’ll push things as far as he can without destroying them” says Joseph. “His intuition in matching emotion with sound and the decisions he makes about my music are something really special, so I hope I get a chance to work with him again.”
Tchad had previously mixed Joseph’s album Redemption’s Son and sequenced the Junkyard Hearts EPs so they already had a mutual respect for each other’s work. Over the years Joseph continued working on The Family and passing it round, but found that he wasn’t quite getting the response back that he wanted. “You always go through fear before you put things out or at least I do. You’re trying to gauge reactions, especially if you’re working in a vacuum.” He called on Tchad again to see if he would help edit and sequence it “Then it became something that I’m real proud about, I really like the way it flows now”.
Joseph’s lyrics speak of passion and pain, longing and loss so turning this to focus on the concept of ‘family’ seems utterly fitting to me. The songs are written from the perspective of various characters – a grandfather, a father, a mother singing to her son. Joseph interviewed his parents and used a few names and details from his own family history – “I found out some interesting stories, like my grandmother was actually born the day the Titanic sunk, but it’s not my real life story” he explains.
The songs are drawn from his observations and experiences. It’s clear that Joseph is excited to be putting this album out into the world. My personal anticipation for The Family, out 3rd June 2016, is running high for another captivating addition to a long line of Joseph Arthur releases. The first single from the album You Keep Hanging On came out recently, the piano co-stars in the accompanying video, and if the glowing reviews for the single are anything to go by I think this album will go far.
Joseph needs to relax and refuel, so it’s time to go back down to the venue to watch Jonny Kaplan & The UK Lazy Stars (feat. Rami Jaffee from The Wallflowers, Foo Fighters) open the night with a storming set of their LA-flavoured rock and blues to an enthusiastic reception. Rami and the band are good friends of Joseph’s who, luckily for us, are in town at the same time.
In the subterranean vault of The Borderline the near-capacity crowd is waiting for Joseph’s appearance. There’s a little trouble setting up the heavily loaded pedal board, compounded by a broken string on his orange Fender Strat during the first notes, but then we’re plunged into a brooding distorted-guitar cover of The Man Who Sold The World with weaving rhythmic guitar chords. ‘That’s Bowie’s, may he rest in peace’ adds Joseph in tribute.
Joseph Arthur at The Borderline, London, Sunday 17th April 2016. (Edyta K)
An early request for In The Sun (‘What, already?!’) is bypassed for an impassioned harmonica and stompbox punctuated Mercedes. The lines that resonate strongly in this song ‘Always trying to keep yourself put together, always needing to fall apart’ were written for his sister on his first release Big City Secrets in 1997. The tempo slows for the delicate finger-picked Out On A Limb. Rami Jaffee is invited to the stage midway adding lilting accordion strains, then Joseph plays out with sampled beats overlaid by an exquisite guitar solo, the first of many this evening.
A tall and charismatic presence on stage, Joseph breaks for some humorous off-the-cuff banter. This allows time to reflect that in just three songs we’ve already been treated to a showcase of Joseph’s musical skills and his astounding vocal range; from eerie falsetto to gritty baritone to gentle musing. Next up he launches into beat poetry with I Miss The Zoo – a half-sung, half-spoken hailstorm of words over loops and Rami’s embellishments on the keys. Joseph reprimands the audience for clapping out of time, then forgets his lyrics halfway through. ‘F*** I Miss The Zoo, I’m sorry!’ he says as he gives up on the song, but all is readily forgiven.
He flies solo for the next few songs. Setting up loop samples by thumping on the guitar body as percussion and adding the melody line, he then floats haunting vocals on top for the romantic Maybe You. A rousing Travel As Equals with its chorus encouraging us to ‘Give it up to your destiny’ has everyone moving. Then a highlight, You Keep Hanging On – the beautiful new song from his upcoming album, The Family. Between the yearning verses Joseph harmonises with his own looped falsetto creating a multi-layered chorus to stunning effect. ‘There’s a high-degree of difficulty to that’ he explains and we believe him.
This gig is the last of three on a short jaunt to Europe and, being largely un-rehearsed, feels like it might crash at times, but Joseph pulls it back from the edge with his quick wit and dazzling talent. On this occasion, Joseph’s signature “one-man band” solo show is augmented by Rami Jaffee’s brilliant impromptu accompaniment.
Devil’s Broom, my favourite of the set, raises the roof with its powerful delivery and intense keyboard acrobatics from Rami. A need for salvation is a recurring theme in Joseph’s lyrics – ‘Since you’re gone ain’t nobody else gonna save me’ is a tortured cry from the scene of a messy breakup. This song is featured on the album Our Shadows Will Remain that was highly successful on its release in the UK in 2005.
Rami remains on stage for strong crowd favourites Honey And The Moon and Black Lexus. In between songs Joseph confesses to feeling nervous and relates some wisdom that Rickie Lee Jonesimparted when they both appeared at a recent Bowie tribute show – ‘When people come to a show they don’t come to love you, they want you to love them’.
Further requests are invited and a shout rises up for Redemption’s Son which is duly rewarded. If Joseph needs any validation at that point then he need look no further than the enraptured faces around the room – so I’d have to disagree with Rickie!
Walk On The Wild Side and a breakneck rendition of Heroin follow on, taken from Joseph’s 2014 recordings of Lou Reed/V.U. covers in remembrance of his late friend. The loosely psychedelic Pledge of Allegiance comes from his last album, the 2015 self-released Days Of Surrender.
There’s another audience request for All The Old Heroes and Joseph declares this would be a ‘sure-fire fail’ harking back to his earlier lyrical amnesia. Despite his doubts it’s a total success and one of the standout moments of the evening.
It’s finally time for In The Sun, perhaps Joseph’s best-loved and most widely-known song from its use in TV and movie soundtracks. Then, with the curfew already extended for his almost 2 hour set, the loops of Crying Like A Man play on as Joseph exits and waves goodbye to the crowd.
Joseph Arthur continues to raise his game as a performer, moving through tender ballads to aching guitar solos and pounding rock numbers. The sound wasn’t perfect, there was no formulated setlist, some lyrics were fluffed, but by the end we had been on an exhilarating and emotional rollercoaster ride of varied selections across Joseph’s prolific output. Like his beat poetry it was a kind of stream-of-consciousness show, as if we’d been allowed to tap into Joseph’s slightly chaotic persona for this short time. Willing to take risks and show his vulnerability “Expect the unexpected” could be the byword for Joseph’s shows. I’m already looking forward to the next one – I hope to see you there!