INTERVIEW : 2000-06-26 Joseph Arthur - Future Imperfect (by Annie Zaleski)

Joseph Arthur may be one of the last true artists left in the world. Come To Where I'm From (Real World/Virgin) is a crossroads where dark trip-hop beats become alive and warmly human when subtly blended with rich acoustic guitars and Arthur's gravelly, weathered voice. Arthur's journeys into darkness and introspection reverberate with unmistakable optimism. Where I'm From vaguely references Beck and Neil Young with dusky Leonard Cohen/Lou Reed atmospheres and the anguished tranquility of the Verve.

Then again, such diversity would be expected from a man who was approached by Peter Gabriel to become the first American artist signed to his world-music-oriented label Real World. Gabriel's confidence in Arthur's talent and patience with his musical development was just what Arthur needed to hone his musicianship.

"[Gabriel's] friendship and mentoring has been something I really needed," Arthur says. "He knew I needed to grow when he signed me. I wouldn't have survived had I been signed to a regular record label. He helped me grow a lot."
Indeed, Gabriel's "don't change what you do" advice to Arthur is reflected in the album's utter lack of pretension or trendiness. "Deep down, I'm not hip. And I think that does help in art, because the less self-conscious you are, the better."

This cynicism, deficiency and penchant for timelessness was most likely ingrained in Arthur from his hometown of Akron, Ohio. There, like most of Ohio, time stopped around 1975, a fact he freely admits. "Downtown was sort of abandoned and me and my friends just took acid and ran around and listened to Bauhaus and classic rock the whole time, thinking that was the only type of music there was. Even when you go back there now, it's the same Led Zeppelin concept. It's unreal! And I don't want it to ever change, but it's outrageous."

Managing to escape the barren midwest, Arthur now calls NYC home, counts Rosanna Arquette as a friend and owns a Grammy nomination for his artwork on his 1999 Vacancy EP. In fact, Arthur's visual artistry is as important to him as the music he creates ("When I paint, I learn more about making music," he explains. "I can bring more freedom to making music because my painting is really free, it teaches me"). But it's Arthur's acknowledgment that "dreams, fears and love live" in his music that brings a special quality to Where I'm From that's overwhelmingly real.

"I'm always moved by people who allow themselves to be vulnerable in music," he says. "I wanted to do something that had human imperfection in it. I think there's a quote—I forget who said it-but [it's] 'in the future, beauty will be in imperfection.'"


2000-06-24 - Glastonbury Festival, Glastonbury

On Stage :

Solo concert

Setlist :

Big city secret
In the sun

Recording :

Sadly, there's no audio recording of this event. 
If I am wrong, thank you to inform me by email.


2000-06-19 - Gypsy Tea Room, Dallas

On Stage :

Solo concert

Setlist : 

tiny echoes
toxic angel
big city secret
invisible hands
i donated myself to the mexican army
innocent world
in the sun
the real you

Recording :

The complete show was officially recorded and mixed by Graham Pattison.

The eleven songs are released officially and available for download on JA's website

A Promo CD from Virgin Records exists, with only 7 songs. The back insert of this CD states: 
"This is a recording of Joseph Arthur in solo acoustic performance. Everything you hear is untreated, unedited and completely live."


2000-06-10 - CBC Radio, Toronto

 On Stage :

Solo performance for "That's Definitely Not the Opera" radio session

Setlist : 

in the sun

Recording :

Sadly, there's no audio recording of this event. 
If I am wrong, thank you to inform me by email.- Canada


INTERVIEW : 2000-06-06 Joseph Arthur Talks Mean “Chemical,” Difficult Art (by David Basham)

Singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur wrapped up his mini-residency tour in support of his new album, “Come To Where I’m From,” following a show Monday night in Minneapolis, and the video for the first single, “Chemical,” has just been added into rotation at MTV2.

The minimalist “Chemical” clip was directed by famed photographer Anton Corbijn, and although Arthur is known as a soft-spoken artist who is as willing to display his paintings as perform his songs, he told MTV News that he actually enjoys the track’s malevolence.

“It’s about addiction, I guess,” Arthur said of the song, “or taking drugs… but I like the lyric ’Putting myself in jail/Hoping to see you fail.’ I like saying ’hoping to see you fail,’ because it’s so mean-spirited. I rarely hear something that’s so purely mean, and there’s nothing redeeming about saying [that line]. That was my favorite part of the song,
and [the fact] that it was in a pop tune.” [RealAudio]

Last year, Arthur and artist pal Zachary Larner shared a Grammy nomination for Best Packaging for his “Vacancy” EP, and Arthur said coming up with the cover image for “Come To Where I’m From,” which features a series of highly-stylized wraparound portraits, may have been the most difficult part of putting the album together.

“Oh, man,” Arthur recalled. “I must have spent as much time on the artwork of the album as the album [itself], along with my friend Zach Larner, who contributed a lot of ideas and inspiration and love into that, too.

“Kind of like in a similar tip of [what producers] T-Bone [Burnett] and Rick [Will] did with the music, Zach was with the artwork. It wasn’t all put together by me, and I didn’t do it by myself, but
we spent a lot of hours
on it. I don’t even know why it takes so long, but it just does.” [RealAudio]

“Getting the cover is really hard, you know, wondering, ’What’s going to be the cover?'”he added. “Then changing your mind. It’s weird. A lot goes into making a record, and it’s those kind of decisions [that] are brutal, more than going and recording some tunes or making a painting. Just making decisions is what’s the most difficult part, I think.” [RealAudio]

Arthur has lined up gigs in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Austin, Texas over the next few weeks, after which he will head over to the U.K. for an appearance at the Glastonbury Festival on June 24.

For a sample of some of Arthur’s paintings, be sure to check out an officially sanctioned fan site (www.jps.net/kthalken)
that Arthur specifically sends digital copies of his artwork to while on the road.


2000-06-05 - Q101 Radio, Chicago

On Stage :

Solo radio session for the Mancow Morning Show

Setlist : 

in the sun

Recording :

Sadly, there's no audio recording of this event. 
If I am wrong, thank you to inform me by email., IL - USA


INTERVIEW : 2000-06-03 JOSEPH ARTHUR: A Peter Gabriel Discovery Releases his Finest Work (by Bryan Thomas)

Like a handful of contemporary singer/songwriters -- Elliott Smith, Jim White, Mark Cohn, etc. -- Joseph Arthur doesn't have a very rock n' roll sounding name. But, other than, say. Elvis.. who does??

Arthur may look the part of a modern rocker -- in press kit photos and the CD booklet for his third full-length album (by famed rock photog Anton Corbijn), the recently-released Come To Where I'm From [Virgin/Real World], Arthur comes across looking like the pale, weedy long-lost brother of the brothers Gallagher from Oasis -- but where his real strengths lie is in his skillful ability to write songs that stand apart from the dross and fodder quite a few singer-songwriters are trying to pass off as über-hip these days.

Arthur co-produced Come To, along with singer-songwriter T-Bone Burnett (probably best known for producing the Counting Crows' August And Everything After and the Wallflowers' Bringing Down The Horse) and Rick Will, who also engineered and mixed most of the album's dozen tracks; three others were mixed by producer Tchad Blake, the man responsible for helping the Latin Playboys achieve those Tom Waits-ian carnivalesque sounds.

During a phone interview from his New York apartment, Arthur discussed Come To's various influences: "I feel like my generation grew up listening to a whole array of musical styles, and so I don't wanna feel like I'm tied to any one style myself. I liked Nirvana, but I also liked Nick Drake, and I'd like to think that their influences come together in my music somehow." When hard-pressed to pick a genre, Arthur somewhat uncomfortably settles for "experimental folk-rock."

Come To's mostly-downbeat narratives are, by turns, cynical, haunting and introspective, and often murky with Southern Gothic atmospherics. Strummed acoustic guitars are layered over electric guitars with distortion and echo effects, and often embellished with crackling drum beat loops, textured keyboards, harmonica, honky-tonk piano, and cello.

Arthur usually sings from a confessional first person perspective. His songs often lament unfulfilled dreams while wholly drenched in the bittersweet flopsweat of failure and desperation. Arthur's world-weary baritone may even remind some of Leonard Cohen, the so-called patron saint of "beautiful loser"-type songsmiths, or Beck at his most laconic.

"Chemical," the album's first single, is Come To's finest pure pop moment, and crackles with offbeat "Devil's Haircut"-like hooks floating aloft on a chorus of soaring multi-tracked harmonies and phasers-set-to-"stun" production.

Joseph Arthur grew up in Akron, Ohio, where he spent his nights playing "hippy rock" (his term) in local bands like Ten Zen Men or Frankie Starr's band. After splitting with his girlfriend of three years, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and got a job working the door of a nightclub. He stapled old sleeping bags to his walls and covered his windows to keep the light out, then spent his daytime hours four-tracking songs.

Months went by, and he amassed an impressive collection of those songs, and got a new job working at Clark Music, a musical instrument store, but was depressed to find himself so far away from what he really wanted to be doing ("it was like hitting an impossible brick wall" Arthur says).

One evening, he checked his answering machine to see if anyone had called about demo tapes he'd sent out. Surprisingly, there was one from Peter Gabriel, who'd been sent one by a mutual friend. Arthur recalled how the message hit him like a proverbial ton of bricks: "I must have sat in that room listening to that message for an hour, reading meaning into each word, each pause, and each breath."

Gabriel ended up calling Arthur several times, but their first meeting came when he was playing at a club called The Fez in New York. Gabriel was even bringing a family friend named Lou with him.

Later, he saw Gabriel and "Lou" - none other than Lou Reed -- walk into the club together. Arthur approached Gabriel ("with the grace of a duck on fire"), and was finally about to meet the man who had praised his music. They shook hands. What did Gabriel say?, I wondered. Joseph laughs. He said "I imagined you being a lot shorter."

Gabriel was so impressed with Arthur he invited him to play the WOMAD festival, and not too much later, he signed to Gabriel's eclectic Real World Records (he was the first American artist to do so!), then exiled himself to the UK to work with producer Marcus Dravs on his debut, Big City Secrets. The album was released in the U.S. via Caroline Distribution, but failed to connect largely due to the minimal promotion.

Last year, Undercover Records, the Portland-based indie, released Arthur's second album, Vacancy, under a licensing deal with Real World. Only 5,000 copies were initially pressed by the small project-by-project label, but it earned Arthur his first Grammy Nomination --- for "Best Recording Package" -- something he's still quite proud of. For the new album, Arthur also did the paintings and drawings of Dios De Las Muerta-style devils, skeletons and ghostly apparitions that were used in the cover art, booklet and digipak himself.

Come To has been garnering excellent press and good college radio airplay for the most part, but due to the fact that it's on Real World, it's occasionally being misfiled in the bricks & mortar retail stores: "I go into record stores occasionally when I'm on tour and because I'm on Real World, I'll find my stuff filed in the World Music section," Arthur laughs. "But, the way I see it, what I'm doing is the result of a conglomeration of indigenous American influences, so in that respect its a good representation of what America is offering the world."

Arthur recently concluded a European tour, playing large stadium shows with Virgin labelmate Ben Harper (there's another of those humdrum non-rock sounding names!). Arthur kept a daily record of his travels -- called "Notes From The Road" -- while traveling through cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Milan, etc. You can read these poetic observations on his unofficial fansite, dedicated to all things Arthur: www.josepharthur.com.

This month, Arthur begins a series of mini-residencies in several U.S cities., playing with 300 miles of a centrally located homebase, including Royal Oak, Michigan, New York City and Cleveland, Ohio. He's also doing a West Coast loop (San Francisco, Seattle, etc.), and returning to the Los Angeles area in mid-July, where he'll be showcasing at Luna Park.

Arthur will take the stage alone at these shows, playing his artwork-encrusted acoustic guitar and accompanying himself solely with samplers. "I'm doing live samples with these machines called Jam Mans that were made by a company called Lexicon," Arthur explains. "They have a built-in tape delay.I pound out a beat on the acoustic guitar, then loop it until it creates a backing rhythm, then add a supporting melody line, loop it, and then sing on top of that."

Arthur, meanwhile, will continue maintaining his road journal, and also continue painting. He's interested in doing work he'll be able to post directly to websites. "The music and art thing go together very well. There's always a need for art in music, and its something I feel very free about."


INTERVIEW : 2000-06-01 Career rolling on a royal bus (by Glenn Gamboa)

Firestone High grad Joseph Arthur has a new CD, a hit single -- and Prince's wheels

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS: Even at his most raucous, Joseph Arthur will never beat a listener into submission with his soft voice. He will never outgun a Metallica riff with a blast from his hand-painted acoustic guitar.

His music will never be overpowering. And he knows that.

In fact, his greatest asset -- even before his poignant voice, knack for gorgeous melodies and ingenious live presentation -- is that he knows himself.

The lanky 27-year-old Akron native knows his strengths and his limitations. He knows what he wants and what he is willing to do to get it. He knows others are unsure of themselves -- so he knows he is no different from anybody else.

Ask Arthur why he paints, and he'll say that he just started when he was in grade school in Akron and he never stopped. Ask him why he sings, and he'll give the only acceptable answer: He has to.

So he does -- even on nights when he doesn't exactly feel like it.

``This is a quiet song,'' he tells the crowd at the Grog Shop before launching into an acoustic number. ``You have a reputation with me for being loud, so I need you to be a little quieter. That means you folks over at the bar.''

The girls immediately to Arthur's left are giggling to each other about his butt. Guys at the bar are whooping it up about the Indians game on the TV above the bar. Canned golf claps blare from the Golden Tee video game in the corner after someone sinks a putt. And the creeeeek-ker-slam of the bar's wooden front door continues to add an unintended bit of percussion into Arthur's show.

Normally, it wouldn't bother him.

After all, things are going pretty well.

His new CD Come to Where I'm From has been well-received by critics. The first single Chemical is starting to get attention from rock radio stations, including hitting No. 1 at WAPS (91.3-FM) in Akron. The video for the song, directed by famed photographer Anton Corbijn with help from Arthur's mentor Peter Gabriel, is in rotation at MTV. And Arthur has just returned from a successful European tour, where he played in front of tens of thousands of people as the opening act for Ben Harper.

But on this night, he's battling a nasty lung infection. He's hopped up on Dayquil and wrestling with the effects of insomnia. And frankly, he was looking for some of the comforts of home.

``This is my hometown gig,'' said Arthur, dressed in a Cleveland T-shirt and jeans, ``and my jokes are falling flat.''

Less than half an hour later, he walks off the Grog Shop stage without saying a word, leaving while his final song still loops through the sound system.

``I was having a prima-donna moment,'' said Arthur, after the concert -- the second in his three-concert stint over six weeks. ``It got me mad, but I'm OK now.''

Plush on the bus

It was a mere bump in Arthur's road to the Big Time.
A slight disappointment? Sure.

Only two weeks earlier than that Arthur seemed to be heading to stardom on a highway paved with gold, rolling along in air-conditioned, cushioned comfort in the modified bus he rented from the Artist Formerly Known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

``Don't ever let me complain about being on the road again,'' he said, showing off his swanky bedroom-on-wheels, which includes a Prince-size bed and a purple-lit screen with little doves on it. ``This is pretty great.''

Arthur had just delivered an excellent set worthy of the opening night of his American tour at the Grog Shop, a jaunt that could take his career to the next level.

His hourlong set was also worthy of a hero returning to his hometown.

The 12 steps between the stage and his bus were crowded with well-wishers and childhood friends.

``You were so awesome, man,'' said Jon Erisey, who played in a band with Arthur while they were both students at Firestone High School. ``I just have to hug you again.''

Erisey, who now works as a graphic artist, making large-scale signs, presented Arthur with a massive sign featuring artwork from the Come to Where I'm From CD.

``He was one helluva bass player in high school,'' said Erisey. ``Now, he's just great. I knew he was going to make it after he came to school one day with bandages on his fingers. It sounds (corny) now, but it was just like that Bryan Adams' song. He played until his fingers bled.''

It was that bass playing that first landed Arthur attention in local music circles. While still in high school, he began playing with local hero Frankie Starr, gaining a reputation as a bass prodigy.

After graduating from Firestone High in 1990, Arthur moved to Atlanta to launch his career. A twist of fate put Arthur's demo tape in the hands of Peter Gabriel, who immediately signed Arthur to his Real World label, resulting in a major-label deal and the debut Big City Secrets in 1997. Gabriel also covered Arthur's In the Sun, for a tribute CD for Princess Diana.

``(Big City Secrets) was basically shelved as soon as it came out,'' said Arthur, explaining how Virgin Records, the distributor of Real World, opted against a big media blitz to support the album. ``In a way, (Come to Where I'm From) is really my first release in the U.S.''

Because of the limited promotion for his debut, Arthur didn't get to play in Northeast Ohio much in the past few years. He's glad he gets to make up for that now.

So is his mom, Linda, who smiles from ear to ear, watching fans shower attention on her son.

``I've always thought he was great,'' she said. ``It's nice to see what other people think.''

Multiple shows

Joseph Arthur likes these multiple-show appearances, doing several of them at a time in various cities within a 500-mile radius.
He calls them ``residencies,'' though that makes more sense when he sets up shop in a city like Seattle or New York City to play the same place week after week.

He likes these residencies. They work to his advantage.

Songs like Chemical get inside your head and take up residence. The melodies stick with you. The meaning of the lyrics unfold when you least expect it. You find yourself remembering how he built a glorious song like Mercedes or Big City Secrets before your eyes -- laying down vocal tracks and rhythm tracks, looping them and then playing and singing over them.

Arthur does not overpower anyone with his music or his performances. He's far subtler than that. He succeeds because he gets the help from the listener, knowingly or not.

That plan of action will be in effect tomorrow night, as he rounds out his Cleveland residency at the Grog Shop.

It also remains intact when he thinks about the future.

``I don't want to be a huge superstar -- actually that seems to be more trouble than it's worth,'' said Arthur. ``I'm not thinking about selling millions of records. I just want some respect. I just want to be able to keep going. If I can keep going, I'll be happy.''