Interview by dadair
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 Keanu Reeves. Arthur shows himself to be articulate honest and endearing, both on and off stage.
Dave: 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?
Joseph: Thoughtful? Yes. My direction is always ever changing, in the past and in the future. Lately I like music with as few elements as possible, everything a reaction against itself
Dave: ‘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?
Joseph: Does my vocal really hint at four other singers? Who all sound different from each other?
Difficult to record? No. The vocal is one take, but the track took time.
Emotive live? I hope so. I strip it down so the emotion is present.
Dave: 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?
Joseph: 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.
Dave: 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?
Joseph: I want to inspire them, but if I give them a little escape, or relate in some way, I've done my job.
Dave: 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?
Joseph: 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.
Dave: 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?
Joseph: 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 through. 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 will change. It ain’t gonna happen ‘til Jesus comes back.
Dave: You seem so laid back, who or what makes you angry?
Joseph: I am not laid back. n private I wear spandex and juggle flaming bowling pins
Dave: What film, poem, book or T.V. show would you say sums you up best and why?
Joseph: A cross between Easy Rider, Dante’s Inferno, and The Idiot
Dave: Finally, if you could change but one thing about the modern music industry what would it be?
Joseph: 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.