The poetically pungent Joseph Arthur kindly agrees to let us into his Morrissey influenced mind set and takes us on a journey of discovery. His brand of quirky Akron, Ohio born beat box and laid back guitar indie has caught the attention of a wide ranging audience inclusive of Keanue Reeves. Arthur shows himself to be articulate honest and endearing, both on and off stage.
Your latest single ‘even Tho’ is quite sombre and reflective. This is borne out in the cover presentation, as it is in a DVD style package and contains reviews of your past offerings in the sleeve, including the wistful ‘Redemptions Son’ album. Are you in a thoughtful mood and does this mean that you might be heading in a new direction musically?
Direction ever changing
In the past
And in the future
Lately I like music with as few elements as possible
Everything a reaction against itself
‘Even Tho’, vocally speaking, possesses a hint of Ryan Adams, Neil Young, Surfjan Stevens and Danny McNamara, as you tell the tale of loneliness and unrequited love with true depth and feeling via the lyrics;
“Even tho I’m here; you know that I’m already gone.
Even tho I’m here; you know that I’m already gone. Gone baby.”
It is very personal, was it difficult to record and is it emotive to play live?
Does my vocal really hint at four other singers
Who all sound different from each other?
Difficult to record
The vocal is one take
But the track took time
I hope so
I strip it down so the emotion is present
You have been back in the UK recently following up on your successful small venue/café tour. Did you notice Keanu Reeves at your gig in Manchester (@ the Night & Day) last time? Are you considering posting “Please turn off all mobile phones” neon signs at your gigs, as a result?
We tell people to turn off their mobiles
So they don't interfere with the live recording
It has nothing to do with gossip columns
Or michael j fox
What do you want people to take out of a live Joseph Arthur set & how do you want to leave people feeling after they have witnessed it?
I want to inspire them
But if I give them a little escape
Or relate in some way
I've done my job
Continuing on the topic of your live performances, you have added dimensions in the fact that you use your artwork as a backdrop and you paint while performing. Does the picture you create reflect your mood on the night, or is it the same one each time? Also, you record your live performances and sell CDs of it afterwards; does this put increasing pressure on you to perform?
The paintings are always improvised
And different every night
And recording and selling the shows doesn't put pressure on me
I don't think of it that way
I ask a spirit to sing thru me
And usually it does
I ask to be a light
And hopefully I am
I ask to give something to the people
And then I get out of the way
Were you alarmed about the recent court case in America where it emerged that record labels pay DJs to play their artists tunes? What implication does this have for struggling non mainstream artists trying to make it these days? Is the music industry up for sale?
It’s common knowledge that everything is for sale
Marketing money and corporations have been manipulating the public at large since the radio was invented
It makes it hard for true independents
But other avenues open up and give us a way to break thru
Best to keep the head in the music and let the business sort itself out
To expect it to change is like hoping human nature
It aint gonna happen til jesus comes back
You seem so laid back, who or what makes you angry?
I am not laid back
In private I wear spandex and juggle flaming bowling pins
What film, poem, book or T.V. show would you say sums you up best and why?
A cross between easy rider, dante’s inferno, and the idiot
Finally, if you could change but one thing about the modern music industry what would it be?
Industries by their nature breed corruption
Which breeds lowest common denominator music made
By people who don't like music for people who don't like music
That is why when you do something different which threatens the status quo you are meant with a remarkable amount of resistance
People usually don't understand something unique unless it can be made to fit in a box
So if I could change one thing about the music industry
I would fill our radio with people of unique vision
People that sing from their own voice
That would inspire us to new heights of consciousness
And give humanity a chance to cure its disease
Of thoughtless slumber.