Joseph Arthur was born in Akron, OHIO, USA.Joseph’s first instrument was the piano which he started playing in fourth grade. The inspiration to write and record music came at age thirteen, when Joseph inherited an electronic keyboard with a sequencer that his aunt had bought for his cousin. From then on he began overdubbing and recording his songs.
Joseph then moved to bass. While still in high school he played blues with FRANKIE STARR AND THE CHILL FACTOR, doing gigs all over Cleveland.
A professional musician since age 16, Arthur has spent half his life living the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Growing up in Akron, Ohio, he was turned on to Smokey Robinson-penned pop songs via his parents’ record collection. “The Four Tops were big in our house, then I got a Kiss record, Hotter than Hell, in my Easter basket one year,” Arthur recalls, breaking into a smile. “My older sister was into Dylan, and I got into Ozzy Osbourne, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones. The first record I ever bought was [the Stones’] Tattoo You.”
When his aunt passed along an electronic keyboard to 13-year-old Arthur, he started writing his own songs. “I couldn’t play along with my records, so that’s why I started writing my own. The keyboard had a sequencer so I started writing these little electronic music things. I thought I was a genius, and I would play them for my mom. And she’d be like, ‘It sounds like Chinese music,’ and it would crush me. I wanted her to say, ‘That’s the most genius thing I’ve ever heard.’”
Arthur picked up bass next, and by the time he was a high school senior, he was playing three sets a night in local blues bars with Frankie Starr and the Chill Factor. “We were hot shit,” says Arthur. “I made 50 bucks a night and started going to school a half-day. Frankie was this genius guitar player. We opened up for Stevie Ray Vaughan twice, and he wrote Frankie a note and said, ‘You’re an inspiration.’”
--(Paste Music – November, 2004)
"He was one helluva bass player in high school," said Erisey. [Jon Erisey, who played in a band with Arthur while they were both students at Firestone High School.] "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.
--(The Akron Beacon Journal – June, 2000)
"When I was in Ohio I was in a blues band called Frankie Starr and the Chill Factor and... I played bass. I was one of the Chill Factor. We were great! I mean, he was great, and we were keeping up with him. But this kid, named Frankie Starr which sounds like a "staging" to me, he was like a year older than me... I was 17. He was 18 or something and we were playing in all the clubs in Cleveland. We opened up for Stevie Ray Vaughan a couple of times and Stevie Ray wrote me a note saying that he was an ispiration to him. So that's how good this guy was, I mean... he played the Harbor King. So that was a sort of wake-up in music, it was just like back in the sky up".
--(Transcript from CIRCUIT 6: AIR DVD, 2000)“I was into Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke and all those embarrassing fusion bands, which are still great, I think,”
--(The Cleveland Free Times - 2004)He graduated from Firestone High School in 1990."I went to same school, Firestone High, as Chrissie Hynde, Mark Mothersbaugh and Angie Everheart -- she looked then just like she looks now. I struggled, I still struggle. I wasn't rejected in high school because I'm kind of outgoing, so I can make myself into characters, be very upbeat and obnoxious, the class clown. "
-- ( Hits, 1997)After being booked to play several shows in Atlanta and Savannah, Joseph moved to Atlanta with the funk-rock band TEN ZEN MEN in which he played bass ("slap-and-pop style"). He later left the band to form the rock trio BELLYBUTTON.
"It was the first place I lived outside of my hometown. I was just really thrilled to be ... away. I didn't go to college, and just wanted to go somewhere."
--(Creative Loafing, 2003)
"I was working at a music store in Atlanta, selling guitars and picks, and generally going mad. I had graduated high school in Akron and moved to Atlanta. There was a band I was in at the time, Ten Zen Men. We chose Atlanta just because we felt like, let's get out of Akron. I had a friend down there who gave us a place to stay, booked us a month of shows. I made it my home for four or five years. I quit that band soon after moving there, and then started my own group, Bellybutton, that was more hard rock. That's when I started singing -- before I had just played bass. I started thinking along the lines of lyrics, and felt like maybe I had a bit of a knack for writing. In high school, I wrote essays, I felt like it came natural to me. But then you doubt yourself, at least you do if you're me. I assume that if it comes easy to me, it must come easy to anybody. (…)
That band was where I put all my dreams and ambitions, instead of college. I invested all my energies in Bellybutton, but it disintegrated because I filled it with all my ambition. I was living with a woman and we broke up around the same time. Suddenly my life was very empty. I started writing on acoustic guitar. I realised if I played simple chord structures, and just let the music and the ego get out of the way, there would be more room for lyrical and emotional content”.
--( Hits, 1997)
Though Bellybutton had a semi-successful run in Atlanta -- Arthur can still recite several of the negative and positive reviews his old band received in CL's Music Menu -- he was still not sure that he had found his true musical calling. "Bellybutton was all about trying to make this impressive, complicated piece of music. Playing bass for that band was pretty symbolic of my frame of mind at the time. It was the instrument that I practised on relentlessly to compensate for my low self-esteem. I was becoming more technically proficient, but less sincere. The music was all kind of clever, really, but it didn't come from a genuine place."
Subsequently, Bellybutton dissolved, as did as Arthur's naive ideas about the simple road to rock 'n' roll superstardom. Though in hindsight he knows the break-up of Bellybutton forced the creative soul-search that led directly to his current success, he remembers it as a desperate period: "All of the ideas that I hung onto about being in this huge rock band or making this big career in music fell through at that point and I was just stripped down to nothing. I moved into this one-room apartment behind Fellini's and I was so depressed. I felt like I didn't have anything at all."
-- (Loring Kemp - Creative Loafing, 1997)
"When I started to do my own stuff, I had this band called Bellybutton and we were really loud rock music, so I was cloaked in that. I was yelling a lot and we were just playing really fast, furious music. It was just one of those things when that band finally broke up. Instead of going and just trying to do another band like that, I switched from bass to acoustic guitar. I started realizing that the simpler I kept the structure of the songs, the more I could put behind the melody and lyrics. It wasn't about the complexity of the changes or something, it was about ... I could produce more feeling in the music, more soul in the music by making it simpler. So I just started writing simpler songs."
--(Scott McClain - TuneInNow.net, 2000)
"Well, basically my aim when I was in bands was to try to make people go crazy. When you are playing in bands and trying to make a pit go crazy, you're limiting your songwriting potential. You know what I'm saying? There was a breakthrough moment that came late in the day for me, you know what - there is life beyond getting the pit moving. Why don't you just not worry about playing live for a while. It was all during that whole grunge period in 92. That was so heavy, the idea of taking an acoustic guitar and writing songs with melodies and lyrics was a real revolutionary idea for me. When I gave myself that freedom, I was able to really capture my voice. What I did was I stripped away my identity and I made myself into a blank person and then from that vantage point I could then evolve into my potential. I wasn't restricting myself. ... 'No, you are this guy, you are a rock guy.' or 'No, you are a musician guy, you can't paint.' Just don't give yourself an identity and then you can be whatever you want to be."
--("Stephan Cox - Music Backstage, 2001)“With the band, I had the mentality that I couldn't just play a simple, strummy song. It was more like, 'I wanna rock the house.' I gave up on that idea and became a little more vulnerable to the idea of writing these simple, open-chord type songs. I was working over at Homage, but when I wasn't there I was in my apartment recording all of these acoustic-based songs with this little home-studio setup I had."
--(Loring Kemp - Creative Loafing, 1997)Though working as a guitar salesman for Clark's Music in Atlanta he was interested in creating music. Fate smiled at him and his passion when a demo tape found its way into the hands of Peter Gabriel. Before signing for Gabriel's label REAL WORLD, Joseph created his first work, the EP "CUT&BLIND", published for Sell My Soup Records in the August of 1996. An interesting 4-tracks record, "CUT&BLIND" featured songs with the raw "in progress" sound of a basement recording. The songs were later re-recorded for inclusion on full length albums.During that period, Arthur recorded two album-length demo tapes, both of which contained his "acoustic-based songs" along with several multilayered tracks that sounded oddly well-produced for a homespun recording. Arthur made numerous copies of each, alternately passing them out to friends as well as sending them to every record company he could find an mailing address for.
"I sent some to record companies, but they all came back telling me not to quit my day job or to inform me that they didn't accept unsolicited material," Arthur recalls. The next step was to form a band, Joseph Arthur Foundation, to back the material live, while reconsidering the idea of recording a CD independently. So much for the rejection letters from record companies. In the end it would be the cassette that he gave to friend, music writer Mikel K., that led to this message on his answering machine: "This is Peter Gabriel. I think you write great songs. I want to get in touch with you."
As it turns out, K had passed the demo on to Joe Babka of Capricorn Records, who in turn, sent it to former Real World employee Harvey Schwartz. Gabriel, passing through New York, visited Schwartz, who suggested that he give the demo a listen. By the second song, "Pick Up The Phone," Gabriel was hooked. Not long after he left Schwartz's house with both the musician's tape and phone number, he called to offer a Arthur a record deal.
Although negotiations had already taken place with regard to Real World, Arthur wasn't any less nervous about the first show he was booked to play in New York -- and which Gabriel was expected to attend. He admits that paranoid thoughts raced through his head of Gabriel changing his mind after seeing him perform in person; when informed that Lou Reed would be in attendance as well, his anxiety went into overdrive.
"It was just so fucking intense. I went in the bathroom and got on my knees and prayed, no shit." Arthur laughs. "It was just way too fucking intense with Lou Reed there. But then before I knew it I was sitting in a restaurant with him sharing ice cream off the same plate. It was like dreaming with your eyes open." Arthur floated back home to Atlanta, packed up his apartment, and left for Europe to record his album.
-- ( Creative Loafing, 1997)
In July 1996, after having lived in Atlanta for four years, the newly minted contract with REAL WORLD led Joseph to leave his place behind Fellini's Pizza. He moved to England where he soon joined the WOMAD tour (World of Music Arts and Dance), an annual festival for International and mainstream artists established by Peter Gabriel in 1982. Joseph recorded his first album at Gabriel's Real World Studios in Wiltshire. His official debut "BIG CITY SECRETS" saw the light in 1997 under REAL WORLD. The album, produced by Markus Dravs, found particular favour in France.
Looking back now, Arthur sees the night and his subsequent recording contract with Gabriel’s Real World label as “an amazing time, like winning the lottery.” He immediately joined Gabriel’s WOMAD tour and began roving around Europe. “I was literally one week out of working at the music store in Atlanta,” says Arthur, “and I got to go to this thing over there called Recording Week, which is musicians from all over the world getting together. I got to meet and hang out and jam with Joe Strummer. A whole family from India was playing one of my songs with me, and I was recording with Karl Wallinger [of World Party] on bass.”
-- (Paste Magazine 2004)
“the next thing was like I'm going to play WOMAD and at the recording week. And I'm working at you know, a guitar shop and I had just started playing solo. And my vision of WOMAD was you know, like Live Aid or something like that. I had no idea because really what it is is really laid back. There's tons of different stages and of course I was playing on one of the smaller ones anyway, so it really wasn't that big of a deal but I was thinking of it as Live Aid or something and I was freaked out.
Then the recording week came up and there was a family from India, and we're playing Mercedes and there's this family from India playing behind me and Karl Wallinger is playing bass and singing backups. It was just so surreal that it was beyond.
Joe Strummer was there. It was cool, because there was all kinds of different high tech recording things. He had this little room that he just sort of found. He had a four track cassette going. And that was actually one of the most fun rooms, because it was him.”
--(KCRW Radio interview, July 1999)
By this time Joseph had amassed an impressive collection of songs. Eager to start work on his debut album for Real World, he headed off to the U.K. where he recorded BIG CITY SECRETS with producer Marcus Dravs. Having quickly immersed himself in contemporary British music culture, the album reflects the excitement of a talented young American living abroad, finally bringing his dreams to life, because let's face it, when Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno sing background vocals on your debut album, you're bound to get the feeling you're doing something that demands to be heard.
Big City Secrets, set for release March 11, continues Arthur's quest to open himself to further musical experimentation, with results as sincere as they are dramatic. With its dense rhythmic layering and loop-enhanced textures, the European influence on this album's production is undeniable. However, Arthur's earlier, less complicated approach to songwriting still forms the core of the material; even the most studio-enhanced tracks revolve entirely around the artist's voice, simple guitar work and intimate lyrical content. With this unique debut, Arthur has managed to develop his simple rock and folk-oriented songs into ambient, fully evolved compositions.
--(Loring Kemp - Creative Loafing, 1997)Produced by Markus Dravs and featuring musicians of the calibre of Ashley Slater (trombone), Simon Edwards (bass/guitar), Martyn Barker (drums/percussion), and Nigel Eaton (hurdy-gurdy), the album drew on an eclectic range of musical styles and instruments to augment Arthur's raspy vocals and guitar. His mentor Gabriel contributed backing vocals with Brian Eno to the downbeat "Mercedes", a stand-out track alongside the slyly humorous "Daddy's On Prozac". --(from an online biography)
"BIG CITY SECRETS" showed all the potential of a new talented musician who was trying to express his artistic flow in a determined and personal way. Even though Gabriel's touch is perceptible in the editing of the tracks, Joseph didn’t seem entrapped in another's personality. With full artistic freedom yet to be his for the taking, Joseph Arthur created a ‘bomb inside a soap bubble’: the polished arrangements of the tracks clash with Joseph's direct expressionism, but this contradiction made the record even more powerful and characterised by a striking originality.
His weight as a songwriter was evident from the beginning: Joseph’s evocative lyrics make a hole through each song, they grab the listener with a sense of urgency. With a flexible voice that reaches from falsetto to a deep baritone, somber at times, searing at others, sometimes cutting right to the bone, he sings about intimate stories of relationships and self-confessed guilt. This intense lyrical approach became Joseph Arthur's trademark, as did occasional mantra like repetitions in the song’s chorus. Joseph also employs religious symbolism to shed light on the human condition of vulnerability and loss.
With the first album out, Joseph toured Europe and U.S.A. He spent a year in London before settling in New York in 1998.
European solo acoustic shows followed, prompting the French music magazine Les Inrockuptibles to remark..."Even though Joseph is inspired by rock and folk music, this album isn't either. BIG CITY SECRETS belongs only to Joseph Arthur. It contains sharp poetry, articulated by an acid voice. It is an isolated record, almost homeless. It's the result of a personal music education. Weird songs, very raw in the beginning, become embellished in the studio without losing their force." It is precisely that rawness, when combined with dark humor, a direct, emotional delivery and an intriguing array of looped sounds, that accounts for Joseph's engaging edge. During his recent showcase tour of the States, he moved from disturbing baritone over a softly strummed guitar to manic falsetto within the space of the same song, drawing howls of delight from unsuspecting audiences.
Joseph Arthur says it finally hit him recently -This is not all a dream- when he walked into a music store in Paris and saw a huge poster on the wall, of himself. There he was in a city where he doesn't have family or friends, staring at a blown up photo of his bare torso, from the chest up, his hair cropped short, a brooding look on his face, it was an ad for his debut album. (...)“You know, it was a lot of struggle, the true answer is that there was just a lot of struggle for me in London. Well, you know, and I think this is what happened in London was OK, I've got this record deal and, you know, I'm over here and sometimes I can be seen hanging out with famous people and you know... I started like, it went to my head big style as I think anybody who would go through something like that... If they said it didn't go to their head, I think they'd be lying. So it went to my head, and I did alter myself completely. I mean, your ego goes on a roller coaster ride with that kind of stuff, I mean, 'You're a genius' 'You're crap' 'You're a genius' 'You're awful' You know that kind of thing…”
-- (National Public Radio Interview, March 1997)
1998 saw the release of the Tony Cinceripini movie HELL'S KITCHEN, starring Rosanna Arquette and Angelina Jolie. Joseph wrote four songs for the film and made a cameo appearance performing one of them with Rosanna Arquette.
A year later, Arthur went into the studio in Los Angeles armed with enough material for three records. From those sessions he released the seven-song EP "VACANCY" on May 11, 1999. "Vacancy" was produced by T Bone Burnett and Rick Will with musical contributions from Joan Osborne and drummer Carla Azar (Autolux). The EP was released on indie label Undercover in Portland, Oregon. A limited edition of 5,000 copies were pressed under a licensing deal with Real World.The same sessions gave birth to Joseph’s second full-length album “COME TO WHERE I’M FROM,” which was released March 14, 2000. Like Vacancy, the album was produced by T Bone Burnett and Rick Will; this release was through Virgin Records on Real World.Last time we met, you told us that your new album was going to be a double CD. What happened to the second CD?
It got lost, in a way. I realised that it was easier to publish just the single CD. There was a lot of music: that would have been great for the fans but for the people who discover my music with this record, may be it would have been too much at one time. It was better to have "less is more" to start with, you know? I felt a certain frustration about wanting to put the music out more quickly than I had been able to do in the past. But it was not a good reason to release a double album. The record is ready to go out; I will launch it when it is the right time to do so.
Have you anything recorded yet?
A whole disc is ready. We recorded "Vacancy", "Come To Where I' m From" and another disc at the same time. We recorded something like 40 songs.
"Vacancy" sounds as rich as "Come To Where I'm From" but it's not the same kind of record at all. Can you tell us about your work with T-Bone Burnett?
I met him via Yves Beauvais, who works at Atlantic Records. I spoke to him and we agreed on the idea of a spontaneous disc with a live feel. It is odd that "Vacancy" sounds so different to "Come to where I' m from" because we recorded both pretty much at the same time.
But they have a very different sound
Not only the sound...
Very different atmospheres.
In fact, "Vacancy" sounds a little like it's the demo of the new album.
Ah yes... I really like "Vacancy".
Well, on "Vacancy", "Crying On Sunday" is very different from the other tracks. It sounds like an old rock 'n' roll classic.
Yeah! In the US, all the critics say it is the best song on the record but it's the one I like the least. When I listen to "Vacancy", it’s the only song I skip. But they were very nice with the record and I don't regret having to put it on the disc, but I was like saying "I am not sure... ok, shit, it's funny", you see?
There is another very different song on the last album, "Creation of a stain": we would like to know more about it.
Ah yes? (after a long hesitation) It was after approximately a week of sobriety and it went out like that: splash! (as if he were throwing up) I wrote it in one night. I was laughing when I wrote it, then we recorded it immediately and we kept the first take. You can hear it at the beginning of the song: I hesitate with my voice, then Carla starts to play the drums then stops and starts again with a different idea. It was never re-recorded. When we put the album together, some people said "Hey, that's a good one!" So we finally decided to include the track at the end for it's energy. But I have mixed feelings about this song.
You've just spoken about Carla Azar, your drummer. Is she the one who sings on "Cockroach"?
Yes, it was the very first time she sang. Her voice is a little out of tune and she is very ashamed about it. But I just love the energy produced by this kind of vulnerability.
--(translation, from the french fanzine "Abus Dangereux" - 20 March, 2002)
Joseph and art director Zachary Larner used Joseph’s visual art to stunning effect on the packaging for the EP Vacancy, garnering them a Grammy nomination for BEST RECORDING PACKAGE.
It may be just as well that they didn’t win the Grammy, which went to Asleep at the Wheel’s "Ride with Bob." Arthur had mixed feelings about being recognized for his talents as a visual artist, not for his music.
"It was nice to be acknowledged," he said. "But the part of me that makes music was jealous of the part of me that paints. The visual side basically gets treated like a hobby. I don’t take it as seriously."
--(John Soeder - Cleveland Live Entertainment)
"It was cool,'' Arthur said, calling from a European tour stop in Modena, Italy. "Me and Zach (Larner, the project's co-nominee) arrived at the awards in a limousine dressed up all nice. It was during the day because that's when those awards are. They go really fast and we got in there right before best packaging was announced. The whole thing took about 10 minutes. We lost and we went to go eat Mexican food.''
--(Glenn Gamboa –Akron Beacon Journal)
Vacancy, 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.
-- (Larry Flick – Billboard)Currently working with Portland record label Undercover, Arthur maintains a low-key yet emotionally flexible posture; his bummed-out mumble can explode without warning into an elongated wail of anguish.
-- (The Rocket #302, 1999)
Driven by the simple beautiful intensity of the single “In The Sun” and given added weight by a gorgeous video by Anton Corbijn, "COME TO WHERE I'M FROM" was critically acclaimed. Entertainment Weekly voted "Come To Where I'm From" Best Record of 2000.
[Come To Where I’m From]
"These remarkable tales from the Manhattan-based singer-songwriter will break your heart and rebuild it time and time again. Built on the starkest of musical foundations - a drum loop here, a jangling guitar there, a fleeting bass line - Arthur's compositions are a rare combination of the infectious and the intellectual. Songs like the ode to separation anxiety "Ashes Everywhere" and the anti-depression rocker "Chemical" unfold like complicated road maps to deeper understanding. His questioning ballad "In the Sun," covered previously by Peter Gabriel, is the best song of this year and quite possibly the most emotionally wrenching sing-along ever written.”
-- (Glenn Gamboa - New York Newsday, December 2000)The end of 1999 saw Arthur on the road supporting Gomez on their European tour and playing large stadium shows with Virgin label mate Ben Harper.
While on tour with Gomez, Joseph wrote and performed a new song “I DONATED MYSELF TO THE MEXICAN ARMY”. The song was recorded WITH GOMEZ and appeared on the Starbucks compilation “GROUNDWORK - ACT TO REDUCE HUNGER” (2001)
Joseph kept a daily record of his travels. Those notes and poems were later compiled into the two-volume "NOTES FROM THE ROAD". This limited edition was available only trough Joseph’s official web site, www.josepharthur.com.
The Mexican Army is not on the new album but I just recorded it this weekend with my friends Gomez.
So it's a new song?
Yeah, sort of new and we had fun recording it this weekend
Now you were in town for a show at the Universal Amphitheater with Ben Harper. Did you just slip into the studio and put the track down?
They were in town for that and then we got some free studio time from my good friend Tony Berg
-- (KCRW - Morning Becomes Eclectic, 2000)
Gomez paid Arthur a visit to the LA hotel he was staying at and Arthur later invited the band to join him in the recording studio. "The music felt like it was infected by some spirit or something," confesses Arthur with his feet propped up on the glass table that sits in front of him. "Ben played some great guitar and Ian and Ben sang and Olly played drums and it was amazing," continues Arthur. "I swear that was like some of the best music I've ever been involved in making because they're just so talented. It was (also) easy we did it in just two hours."
-- (Just Music, 2000)
"I had recently been reading through Joseph's diary extracts from life on the road. He has been touring around the globe for some time now with the likes of Gomez and Ben Harper and chronicles his experiences in his on line tour diaries. Prolific and expressive they deserve publication in their own right."
-- (The Raft, 2000)
"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.”
-- (Bryan Thomas - Music Connection, 2000)
In 2000 Joseph went on tour in Europe with Ben Harper and, following a tour of solo club dates across the US, stateside with David Gray. Towards the end of the year, Joseph spent some weeks in the studio recording new material. In the meantime Virgin Records released a series of live EPs as promos such as the seven-track “LIVE AT THE GYPSY TEA ROOM,” which was recorded live in Dallas, TX.
At The beginning of 2001 Joseph had over 75 new songs, but there were no releases planned for that year. He performed a series of North America concerts and was joined for some of them by multi-instrumentalist PAT SANSONE (WILCO, AUTUMN DEFENSE) on bass and GREG "Wiz" WIECZOREK (TELESCOPE) on drums.
Finally new tunes came out on four limited edition EP’s called “JUNKYARD HEARTS I, II, III, IV”. The vinyl pressing featured original handmade artwork by Joseph Arthur. The EP’s were available from February 2002 on the official site and sold after live gigs.Joseph’s third album “REDEMPTION’S SON” (REAL WORLD / VIRGIN) was released in Europe in May 2002. Available in North America in November through ENJOY RECORDS / UNIVERSAL, the U.S. version included the songs "Dear Lord" and "Let’s Embrace” (instead of “You Could Be In Jail” and “Buy A Bug”) and different artwork that again showed Joseph Arthur’s artistic skills. Pat Sansone, Greg "Wiz" Wieczorek and Rene Lopez contributed to the album.
Joseph has been recording: "I've been reclusive for a few weeks and this is like my coming out party. It's very strange suddenly to be on a stage after being locked away, hidden, ordering nothing but Japanese food ..."
-- (WDST and Radio Woodstock.com - October 27, 2000)
Singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur is hard at work on his third album for Peter Gabriel's Virgin-distributed Real World label. Speaking backstage after an opening slot for Coldplay last night (April 9) in New York, Arthur told Billboard.com he has mixed 12 songs in collaboration with Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo, Lou Reed). The new, as-yet-untitled album is tentatively scheduled for a fall release. (...)
A seven-track promotional live EP, recorded last June in Dallas, is also making the collectors' rounds.
-- (Jonathan Cohen, N.Y. - , Billboard, April 2001)
I just have a lot of songs recorded. I'm trying to find vehicles for them. I have 70 songs recorded outside the album and the four EP's I just released. There is a lot of material there and I'm just trying to find a way to get it out.
I'd like to start releasing a record every six or eight months or at least one a year. But it is hard to do that, because there is a whole machine behind releasing a record and to get that process all up and running is very difficult as well. There's a bunch of men behind the curtains and you are the puppet in front of the curtains, many people are playing with your strings. I have to stay busy or else self-destruction comes. No, I'm making it up. It's true you got to stay busy or else you can get in trouble. Idle time is the devil's hands or whatever. You know that whole phrase: idle time is something of the devil.
-- (Cucamonga.be, May 2002)
Real World/Virgin released the album [Come To Where I’m From] in the States, but when Arthur wanted to start his next project, Virgin backed off. But his overactive muse couldn’t wait for corporate support, so he jumped into recording regardless. Arthur ended up with Redemption’s Son, plus another two albums’ worth of songs, which were released over the course of four EPs called Junkyard Heart, 1-4 (available on his website and at performances).
“I make three or four records a year, but I’ve only been able to get ’em out every two or three years,” says Arthur.
-- (Holly George-Warren- Paste Magazine, 2004)
"I'M CONSTANTLY WRITING. I write on the road—I record on the road, too—and when it comes time to put albums together, I really feel like any particular album, whenever it gets released, is like a snapshot of where I was at the time. Listening to Redemption's Son now, I'm sure I had a plan—it sounds like I had a plan—but I honestly can't remember what that plan was. I hope there'll be a day when I can record an album and, four months later, still remember what it was I intended to do."
Redemption's Son, Joseph Arthur's first full-length release since 2000's highly- acclaimed Come to Where I'm From, is in actual fact something like the third or fourth album he's assembled in two years. Maybe it's even the fifth album—it's hard to say. Arthur just kept giving the company record after record until they found one they could accept.
"I'd give them a bunch of songs, and they'd give them back to me and say, 'Well, why don't you change this or remix that, and we'll take another listen.' And at that point, I wasn't really into remixing or changing anything. I was doing a solo tour, and Virgin Records [to which he was submitting the tapes] was going through a lot of difficulties, and each time I felt like that particular bunch of songs was done. So instead of remixing, I'd just give them a whole new collection of songs." (...)
Redemption's Son furthers Arthur's poetic vision by dressing his impressionistic lyrics ("Riding in my father's car/Ashtray filled with his cigars . . . /Till he's gone I won't be free") in weightier, more expansive instrumentation. Whereas Come to Where I'm From's arrangements were sparse, almost painfully intimate, the sound of Arthur's new album is heavier and—though it's an odd word, it absolutely applies—more theatrical.
"I think it is more theatrical," Arthur agrees. "But I've always felt like writing music was 'dramatic,' in a way. People frequently tell me how personal my songs sound, but it's just like a novelist—a person who writes a novel creates characters that aren't one with the author. Songwriters should be allowed the same latitude. I write characters. I don't see myself as being particularly brave, writing the things I write."
-- (Eric Waggoner - Seattle Weekly, 2002)
Embarking on a long and glorious tour of more than 150 dates, Joseph Arthur alternated solo live performances - as an astonishing one-man-band - with playing with a band. His solo acts impressed the listeners: armed with an acoustic guitar, Lexicon JamMan looping devices and a range of electronic equipment and pedals, Joseph developed a unique experimental sound over the years, building up his reputation as one of the most innovative performers ever.
At the beginning of 2002 he played with his new project HOLDING THE VOID. The band consisted of JOSEPH ARTHUR (lead vocals, guitar), PAT SANSONE (vocals, bass) and RENE LOPEZ (vocals, drums)
For a few dates in Europe Joseph was joined on stage by the rhythm section from KULA SHAKER: ALONZO BEVAN (bass) and PAUL WINTERHEART (drums). Graham Pattison, Joseph’s friend, tour manager and live sound engineer had previously worked with Kula Shaker.
In October/November Joseph toured the U.S. with JOHNNY SOCIETY as opening act and backup band. It was during this leg of the tour that Joseph began to record his live performances. The sound board recordings were then sold to fans at the end of each show.
In 2003, HOLDING THE VOID released a self-titled studio album. The album was recorded in only a handful of days following their 2002 live performances and was once again available after gigs and through josepharthur.com. The "Red Hot Chili Peppers - esque - living - in - the -house - you're - recording - the - album - in record" sounds unrestrained and deliberately rock'n'roll.
In the middle of 2003 Joseph opened for TRACY CHAPMAN in the U.S.
Using an electronic gizmo called the JamMan, Arthur builds looped backing tracks in real time, hitting the body of his acoustic guitar to generate rhythms. It is a deft business that needs sangfroid: any mistakes are destined to repeat ad infinitum.
-- (James McNair - The independent, May 2005)
Lowden acoustic, Countryman direct boxes, Fishman pickup system, Moogerfooger MF-102 Ring Modulator, D’Addario strings.
“This is the first looper I started with,” explains Arthur, “and I never felt like I had to check out other models. It’s really simple to use, and I can keep recording loops into it indefinitely until the sound just deteriorates to nothing. I use two JamMans synched together via MIDI, and I control the sound of each one with volume pedals. This way, I can fade loops in and out, and do dub tricks. I use the first JamMan to record percussion loops, and the second one for melodic, single-note lines or vocals—which I sometimes scream into the Fishman pickup installed in the bridge of my Lowden acoustic. For percussion, I just thump on the guitar, hitting it with sticks, my hands, or my head.”
-- (from fretsmag.com - winter 2005)
As musical genres mutate to serve the demand for creative innovation, singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur takes the one-man-band concept to a level that renders an accompanying band obsolete. Armed with his acoustic guitar, a dozen effects boxes, and the endless adaptability of two Jam Man's, Arthur accompanies himself with beats (drummed out on the body of his guitar, which is elaborately decorated with his own abstract drawings), loops, and his own free-form backing vocals. Delay pedals and volume controls create dynamics and layers of sound. What begins as fairly sparse fills out quickly, becoming a gorgeous, circular build-up of interlocking samples, vocals and guitar patterns that's truly hypnotizing. "It's not just a loop playing and then another loop of the same thing," Arthur explains (...) "You can bring things in and out and create some life in there. I have established beats, but I try to keep [the show] as improvisational as possible. That's just more fun for me, and I think people sense that."
-- (Gail Worley – Ink-19, September 2000)
Joseph Arthur may have changed the music industry forever, but you do not know it yet and he might not either. On a recent tour of Europe to support his fantastic new album “Redemption’s Son,” Arthur began recording his live shows because they were in such high demand from fans. Many people saw Joseph open for Ben Harper (since he opened 40 straight shows for Ben!) and were amazed by his ingenious style of playing live.
When the show starts you expect a folk, or maybe blues set as Joseph casually strolls on stage with his uniquely decorated acoustic guitar. Thanks to a now discontinued piece of guitar technology called the “jam man,” Joseph is able to overlap parts with only his guitar and voice to create what sounds like a full band. First he will drum the rhythm on his guitar, add angelic overlapping harmony vocals, then a bass line and so on until his song takes shape. The end result is truly unlike anything you have heard and each show is different which, along with his rapidly growing song catalog, created the demand for recordings of his live shows.
While in Europe, Joseph decided that high-speed CD copiers would allow them to immediately copy the top quality recordings they made and give it to fans as they leave the concert. Instead of waiting weeks to download or trade someone for a concert recording, you could wait a few minutes at the shows end and go home with the ultimate souvenir. Since Joseph began offering fans shows the (evil) Clear Channel Corporation, which owns most of the concert venues in the United States, has announced plans to start similar services at major concerts this summer. So in a few years when you are listening to the encore you missed the first time at a Buffet show in Tulsa, on an authorized bootleg, you have Joseph Arthur to thank.
Giving fans a recording of the concert immediately after it is over should tell you something about Joseph Arthur’s shows…they are always good. Musically, the young songwriter defies categorization, and could just as easily draw comparisons to Kurt Cobain and Beck as Bob Dylan and the Beatles. There are no topics too taboo in Joseph’s lyrics, which give fans plenty to think about and are among the best in music today thanks to brilliant metaphors, vivid imagery, and harsh honesty. There are not a lot of artists taking risks in music today, but Joseph Arthur is, and his risks are paying off because he has the talent to back them up.
-- (Art Bamford – The Calvin College Chimes, March 2003 )
I'm still doing solo stuff in the show. We were doing shows that were like 2 and a half to three hours long because I was doing solo stuff then they would come on and they're really good musicians y'know. Really good rhythm section.
And what are they bringing to the pot?
Well one thing that's revealed when I play with the band is, cos I played with a band in New York sometimes, but I seldom do both. It's usually one or the other but with this I was doing both and the thing about the jammin thing is it's quite cerebral. Good but there's kind of a heavy element to it but when you play with a band it comes from the hip a lot more. Which is nice. It's nice to mix the two.
How did this come about?
My sound engineer was the sound engineer for Kula Shaker and I knew those guys from way back then and I'd be on the road sometimes and I was good friends with Graham and became good friends with them. We all knew each other but it took time to think about having a band. They're playing with me at the festivals, Glastonbury.
-- (THE-RAFT.com, 2002)
Graham Pattison is a freelance sound engineer based in Paris who has worked with a host of big bands and artists. For years he worked as Kula Shaker’s Front Of House engineer and when the band reformed recently they asked him to work with them at their reunion gigs (…)
Graham has a long list of other bands on his CV too. “I’ve worked with Spiritualized and, over the last couple of years, I worked with Gomez who are now very big in America. I also work for Joseph Arthur who is a New York based singer/songwriter rising to acclaim right now. I also release my own music which is a kind of contemporary English folk.”
And for that music he enlisted the help of a couple of old friends from Kula Shaker: “When the band broke up the bass player and drummer became really good friends of mine and I used them on my album and Joseph Arthur also needed a band so they toured with him around Europe. Kula Shaker’s rhythm section became his rhythm section!”
-- (Chris Henry – L&Si Online, May 2006)
Rene Lopez plays the Fox Monday, Oct. 21, as solo opening support for renowned NY songwriter Joseph Arthur, a guy whom Lopez also gigs around a little bit with in a part-time project called Holding the Void.
"We were just hanging out at my house, playing some songs together, and Joseph said, 'Why don't we start a rock band, just start up a band to play songs,'" Lopez explained. "I said, 'Sure,' and offered to play drums. He went home that night and called me the next morning and said he already had written eight brand new songs for the band. Just like that. And every one was great-Joseph is the kind of guy I'd play in a band with anytime. He's just such a good songwriter, everything he writes I dig."
- (Boulder Weekly, 2002 )Johnny Society’s past musical credits include opening for and then backing alt-rocker Joseph Arthur. ‘‘He’s like another maniac,’’ Siegal said. ‘‘He records all the time. Joe is a very prolific artist.’’
-- (Poughkeepsie Journal, 04 )
Meanwhile Joseph produced TARA ANGELL’s debut album “COME DOWN,” out in 2003 and then again in 2005 on RYKO.
"Come Down" is an imperfect record, imperfect also for the mistake in the tracklist of the back cover: It really seems to be recorded at night, in the basement.
Joseph Arthur was really good at building around a blow, making keybords and vocals work together without weighing down the tracks. He let the songs grow slowly inch by inch, like an echo, following and giving shape to that distinctive hum.
--(Christian Verzeletti -MESCALINA.it, March 2005)How is the underground scene now? And how is to start playing there for a young musician?Tara Angell: "I think it's constantly evolving, but one thing remains the same. If you want to be a part of it, you have to work really hard. There are so many bands here, so it's easy to fall between the cracks. You don't have to give up, but offer something unique in order to be noticed. Then once you are noticed you have to work, work and work."Is that the way you met Joseph Arthur? In one of those clubs?
Tara Angell: "Yes, my manager invited him to one of my solo gigs because I wanted him to produce my first record ("Come Down"). He came to my show and immediately agreed to produce the record."How was working with him? And how important for your album?Tara Angell: "It was extremely decisive in giving the right direction to the record. He was a HUGE part of it. His voice and guitar are on almost every song. He played the bass too. He treated this record as if it were his own. He was very dedicated to the process. I feel very lucky to have worked with him. He showed me a challenge that I wanted to win. And we also had a great time doing it. It was fun but it was very intense too. "
I Think he's done a good job in building the background of your songs
--(Christian Verzeletti - MESCALINA.it , April 2005)
After a lot of hardships over frequent changes in distribution and the resulting inconsistent promotion, Joseph finally parted with Real World. At the beginning of 2004, now without a record deal, he felt the need to also part with New York.
With only his guitar and a dozen new demos in his suitcase Joseph headed to the Crescent City of New Orleans where he turned struggles into creative beats, working with previous co-producer Mike Napolitano at French Quarter Studio. Additional sessions took place in L.A., New York, London and Prague, where the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra contributed to three songs. Work on the record came to an end when indie label Vector got excited with the final result.
Joseph’s fourth album OUR SHADOWS WILL REMAIN was released in the U.S. trough VECTOR RECORDS (Damien Rice, Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson) in October 2004.
An outtake of the ‘Our Shadows Will Remain’ sessions “ALL OF OUR HANDS” was originally available for download at Joseph’s web site along with a powerful video directed by Chad Reddell. The song reflects on the atrocity of war and was eventually released as a numbered limited edition vinyl in the UK.
In 2004 Joseph also wrote the song "YOU’RE SO TRUE” for the soundtrack of the movie “SHREK 2”. Other previously released songs found placement in U.S. TV series like The O.C., Scrubs etc.
“ I guess there was a lot of insecurity in my world as far as the business side not being exactly stable. Everything changing. No record deal. No manager. But I actually felt really liberated during that time - I wasn’t scared. I think there’s a certain kind of heat that comes on you when things aren’t going to plan. If you’ve got to fight to survive it comes out in the work. Like Herman Hesse said, all the best things are born of necessity. When music is necessary, it sounds necessary. You can’t fake that and I don’t try to.”
Meanwhile, Arthur says, “I got totally wasted for a while in New Orleans, then I went to L.A. and was going further that way, and I called up my friends in New Orleans and said, ‘I’m coming back and I have to straighten out and you have to help me.’” Staying sober, Arthur returned to his previous co-producer, Napolitano, and his French Quarter apartment/studio to make a more streamlined fourth album. “I started working on my new record and it became obvious that Universal wasn’t gonna sign me up again,” says Arthur. “They finally let me go, but it was a struggle.”
His travails made their way onto the masterful Our Shadows Will Remain.
“The record is largely about finding out where I’m at now,” says Arthur. “There was a lot of addiction and a lot of pain, and a lot of the songs are about that. When your life isn’t working out, you dig deeper into what’s going to satisfy you. If you become disillusioned, you start to get to the heart of the matter.”
With the album partially done, Arthur headed back to New York, crashing at drummer Greg Wiz’s Brooklyn apartment. There, he met the musicians who helped him complete Shadow. In addition to Wiz, they included vocalist Julia Darling, who adds her tender soprano to Arthur’s baritone on the transcendent “A Smile That Explodes.” Andrew Sherman wrote the song’s gorgeous string arrangements, and he and engineer Ken Rich secured the services of the Prague Symphony Orchestra by flying to Czechoslovakia on their own dime. “The way the record got made was pretty amazing,” says Arthur. “I couldn’t afford to send them over there, but they just went on their own. People were real generous with their support, and it came out sounding really expensive—though it was done on the cheap.”
Though Arthur says he’s in debt up to his eyeballs, it helped when the soundtrack producer for blockbuster Shrek 2 came calling, asking him to write “a strange love song” for the movie’s opening. The result was the fetching, “You’re So True.” “At first, I kinda felt weird about it,” admits Arthur, “like, ‘Is this selling out?’ But then I realized it was a great creative exercise because I was willfully trying to write something lighthearted, which was going against the identity I have of myself. I really like that song. Because I wrote from another place, it was actually liberating.”
-- (Holly George-Warren - PASTE MAGAZINE, 2004)
Are you doing this Album Independently?
No, this is with Vector Records, but I have always had total creative control, even through the span of my career.
So there wasn’t total fallout with Real World Records?
No, not based on anything creative.
Do you regret that period of time at all?
No, absolutely not. I learned a lot and I think that was really fortunate. Creatively I think completely fortunate for that situation, and I think it toughened me up in a lot of ways too. But no I don’t have any regrets at all.
-- ( Andrew Brun - MUSICLEAK.COM, 2004)
Arthur's acclaim has come at a considerable price. For all of his great reviews, his albums have yet to achieve significant sales, although each subsequent album has sold better than the last. His first three records were all under his Real World contract, but he was forced to change distribution with each album, lending very little consistency to the promotion of his work.
"You can tell that story in two minutes, but there is a lot of struggle in between," says Arthur. "There's lots of hardships in and around getting in and out of record deals."
Once Arthur disentangled himself from Real World, he felt the need to create outside the standard comfort zone of his New York apartment studio. Earlier this year, he loaded his possessions into a storage unit and moved to New Orleans for two months to work on new material.
"I'm always trying to do different things, and experimentation is a big part of what motivates me," says Arthur. "I like to challenge myself. It was basically time for me to get out of New York because I'd been there for a long time, and I didn't have a record deal anymore, so I wanted to make sure I held on to whatever money I had in case I needed to put the record out independently."
The result of Arthur's challenge is his fourth and perhaps best album, Our Shadows Will Remain. Although he came to New Orleans with a dozen songs written and demoed in New York, he only used about half of them on the album. The Crescent City had a profound impact on everything he did while he was there.
"You can feel the history in that place," says Arthur. "There was a lot of strong energy, dark and light. It's a strange place. There are lots of fine musicians there, musicians you'd have to pay 15 bucks to see at the Bottom Line you see walking around New Orleans for free."
Like all of his previous albums, Arthur had a destination in mind for his music when he started with his existing demos, but he's aware enough of his process to leave room for happy accidents.
"I have a loose vision, but it's not something I hold onto too tightly," says Arthur. "It's a vision that you let things happen and see where it goes. A lot of my vision is intact and a lot of surprises came."
-- (Brian Baker - Cincinnati CITY BEAT, 2004)On your new record, you also have new arrangements, a lot of strings. The sound is wider, is that new to you as well, that extending music ?
I met a string arranger named Andrew Sherman, who arranged some of the string parts. He took it to Prague and had a real orchestra play on it. I was quite fortunate to meet him. It gives the album a bigger feel sometimes.
-- ( PARISIST, August 2005 )
Following the release of ‘Our Shadows Will Remain’ Joseph toured the US twice with JOAN WASSER (JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN) who was the opening act and also joined Joseph on stage, contributing violin and vocals.
In December 2004 previously old/unreleased songs as well as outtakes from Our Shadows Will Remain came out in form of a limited edition EP called AND THE THIEVES ARE GONE on VECTOR.
For six November dates and then again in January 2005 Joseph joined R.E.M ‘bandwagon’ first for their Canadian, later for the first Europe shows of their tour.
Are you excited about opening for R.E.M.?
”I was terrified about it, but I'm really looking forward to it. I've played in rooms that size one time with Ben Harper, but other than that I have no experience. I'm sure a lot of people will be walking in when I'm on. That's cool, that takes the pressure off. It's like, "I'm just here to chill you guys out while you find your seats."
R.E.M. were part of the Rock For Change tour and you played a John Kerry benefit. There's also an unreleased anti-war song and video, "All Of Our Hands," on your website. Have you always been political?
”I was never that political, but I just felt that the stakes were different. We're involved in an unnecessary war. Human lives are at stake. You gotta stand up.”
-- (CMJ.com, December 2004)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."
--(Nick Krewen - Long Island Press, December 2004)
After being warmly received by R.E.M. and their audiences in Europe, Joseph went on one final US tour in support of “Our Shadows Will Remain”. Opener was POLLY PAULUSMA from the UK. It was during this US tour that Joseph added an experiment to his live act: taking a large canvas onstage he would play and paint during the gigs, setting loops and then singing and painting at the same time, letting his rare instinctual creativity emerge through both media with a powerful impact on the audience.
The singer- songwriter began his show by walking onstage alone with charcoal and tubes of acrylics. Using a white canvas on a stage wall, he then created his abstract/primitive art that fills the jacket sleeves of last year's brilliant "Our Shadows Will Remain," as well as 2002's "Redemption Son."
"At first it was a real vulnerable thing to do," Arthur said during a recent cell phone interview between Austin, Texas, and Houston. "You're dramatizing the song while painting. [He debuted one new song called 'Paints Me Gold' in Los Angeles.] I paint directly out of the tube. I had a lot of nervous energy for the first show [in L.A.]. I started drawing a charcoal outline before I played. Then I set up some tubes and finished the painting during the show."
Arthur said he sells his art, and prices are negotiable. "It's hard to put a value on it," he said. "If I love something, I don't want to part with it. And if I don't like it, it's just as hard to part with it."
--( Dave Hoekstra, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, March 2005)
Sometimes during songs, you look to the canvas. Could you tell me what is going on in your mind at that time ?
Well, I’m also thinking about what I want to do with the painting next time. It’s interesting because when I’m thinking about a painting when I’m actually singing, it’s like my brain is kind of turned off a little bit more. It can be clearer in the music and also clearer in the painting.
Like a relaxing time ?
Well it’s good I think.
Do you cut yourself from the audience, when you are painting ?
I think I do to a certain degree, but to me it’s a nice break. Then I feel like it’s a cut from the audience, but it’s also communicating with them in another level. A level that they are not used to be communicated. So I think it’s ok that there is a cut, and it’s only for 10 minutes maybe in the whole show. I’m singing a song anyway, and then I’m communicating something on a visual level.
-- ( PARISIST, August 2005 )Even before Joseph Arthur has played a note, he has the audience hooked. Emerging from the shadows, he casually spray-paints two Basquiat style heads onto a canvas like some laconic graf artist. In front of the canvas is an overwhelming array of effects pedals and speakers all trussed up in Christmas tree lights. Deposited within this shell of equipment he comes across as a crazed scientist concocting aural experiments on his trusting audience. (...)
The sound is indulgent and sometimes as experimental as his painting. This is evidenced when he taps the guitar, strums a chord, records it, loops it and adds vocals. The dichotomy of the artist is confirmed as he sheds his black outfit for a celestial white suit. Uplifting and often beautiful, the latter half of the set offers hope and inspiration with concise harmonies and direct rhythms. Indeed the final act is to merge the two daubed heads with a flurry of paint reconciling those two symbiotic personas – the artist and the musician.
-- ( Ivan Simmons – PI MAGAZINE, March 2006 )
In July 2005, “Our Shadows Will Remain” was released in the UK and Europe through “14 FLOOR RECORDS,” Joseph’s current label. He took his solo act to the UK and later Continental Europe starting in May.Joseph Arthur started the new year by taking part in a charity project – IN THE SUN FOUNDATION, launched by R.E.M.’s lead singer, MICHAEL STIPE. The project benefits Mercy Corps' recovery efforts for hurricane Katrina survivors along the Gulf Coast. The name of the organization is based on Joseph’s song “IN THE SUN”. To raise funds, Joseph co-produced a six-track EP “In The Sun” with Stipe and ex-Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, featuring six different versions of his song, including duets between Michael and Joseph and Michael and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. The release was available exclusively on Apple's iTunes on February 5th, 2006 (proceeds go directly to Mercy Corps). The U.S. Sundance Channel cable station followed up the EP release with a one-hour documentary about Stipe’s project in April.
With music as his preferred medium, Stipe chose to cover the aforementioned song, "In the Sun," a powerful, anthemic ballad written by singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur, whom he became aware of through R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. "The first time Joseph and I spoke, he was in New Orleans," Stipe says, "and I had to call a New Orleans number to reach him to have that first conversation. When I saw what happened with Katrina, 'In the Sun' came to mind. He writes from a very deep, intuitive place."
When it came time to record, it wasn't hard for Stipe to recruit the artists who participated in the project. Musician/producer/remixer James Iha [ex-Smashing Pumpkins] recorded the music and produced the track at Stratosphere Sound Studio in New York City, finding tremendous support from many talented musicians and technicians, including Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, who plays piano on the track. In addition to a duet with Coldplay's Chris Martin, singer Justin Timberlake and will.i.am (Black Eyed Peas) contributed a remix of the song. "Everyone who has worked on the "In The Sun" project, without exception," says Stipe, "was happy to contribute their time, talents, and expertise, free of charge. I realized that so many people wanted to do something, anything, towards helping the Gulf Coast, and this presented them with a way to do just that. The generosity is unparalleled."
-(From www.inthesun.org)"In the Sun” was previously covered by Peter Gabriel for the 1997 tribute album “Diana, Princess of Wales.”
"I guess it's a song made for charity, It must have a charitable heart in it.
When Stipe called him a few months ago to discuss the "In the Sun" EP concept, Arthur jumped at the chance to contribute. "The whole thing is such an incredible honor, When we did the version where we sing together, he'd sing the first couple of lines, but we were doing it at the same time in the same vocal booth. I'm listening to him do the lines and thinking that I want him to just keep singing it!"
That the project is benefiting Katrina charities is of particular importance for Arthur, who recorded portions of his 2004 album "Our Shadows Will Remain" in the Crescent City. "My little area is somewhat undaunted, right in the French Quarter," he says. "It's still in decent shape. But if you go a couple minutes away, it looks like Nagasaki or something. There's a lot to be done."
--( Billboard, February 2006)
In February Joseph Arthur staged his first solo ART EXHIBITION at the Vertigo Gallery, London, showing paintings realized on tour and in his New York studio.
He went on to perform in-store dates and a successful sell-out gig at Shepherds Bush Empire where four projection screens were used to create expressionist visual effects in addition to the canvas on stage and in conjunction with music.
For a second time Joseph worked as a producer. The result, GREG CONNORS’ album “HERE, THERE, AND ANYMORE” was released April 2006 on SCARED RECORDS.Greg Connors:
Making Here, There and Anymore was a high ledge creatively and productively. We worked for the finished song. Joseph, a couple of times would 'trick me' make me 'just kinda play what you'd do with that part if we were recording....', and that would be the take; the best take. There was a Pollockesque approach to 'mistakes' that there were none, so they'd have to be nurtured(a lot of these things have come to be my favorite parts of the record).I had been out of the recording process for a while. It was by the seat of our pants, yet grounded like warehouse beams, hooks and coat racks. Once Joe and I would start working we wouldn't stop. We drank gallons of fresh tea from Asia, and burrowed down in his vacuum-locked recording vault. It was a Chinese dragon festival with fireworks and it was the janitors office.I may have cracked more than once. i wasn't sleeping much but was wide awake. He didn't pander to my insecurities, so I more often than not forgot about them. I would sing a song with guitar or he'd play something and I'd sing. Technology walked freely, yet it was an acoustic, analogish-workshop recording feel. The songs developed bigger bones while he simultaneously learned the song well, mixed, engineered and figured part to counter mine with a variety of instruments; and often we'd just do something as monkeys with pots and pans would.Joseph has a very natural sense of an unapparent song stucture and what (INSIDE OR OUT-SAME)brings about a dynamic to its place, stretching it to where it always seems to have been.It was recorded in two four day/night sessions in an oddly chilly, damp June by the two bridges. Cerise Leang and Joseph filmed parts of it. I would take the bus home to Binghamton, where Amy would pick me up and I'd quickly put a copy of what we'd done in her cd player. I hadn't heard my songs like that before.Joe and I kicked about the idea of getting together again on this project, but decided it was the perfect time and amount of time spent on it .
--(from www.gregconnors.com - www.myspace.com/gregconnors)
Proving again his ability to create a whole artistic experience that goes beyond music, Joseph Arthur launched his first hardcover book of original art titled “WE ALMOST MADE IT” in May 2006. The book houses a new, 21-track mostly-instrumental CD, “THE INVISIBLE PARADE”. This 14th FLOOR PUBLISHING release was limited to 5,000 copies."This project started as a zine, with drawings and poems and turned into an art book with a soundtrack.
Typically a package is built to support and protect the music; this was the other way around. The music was built to support and protect the package. In a digital age this could be considered a throwback to a time when the artwork was important. “
--(JA press, 2006)
On May 22 ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) honoured Joseph Arthur with the COLLEGE VANGUARD AWARD for his song, 'In The Sun' at the ASCAP POP AWARDS in Los Angeles.Joseph Arthur, who picked up the 2006 ASCAP College Vanguard Award, moved the audience with a wonderful performance of his song "In the Sun." The award recognizes the impact of new and developing musical genres that help shape the future of American music and which gain early popularity on college radio. The award to Arthur also paid tribute to his song "In the Sun" and his generous contributions to the Hurricane Katrina Relief effort. Past recipients of the ASCAP College Vanguard Award include The Arcade Fire, Beck, Modest Mouse, The Strokes, Built to Spill, Jack Johnson, The Mars Volta, among others.
A new song written soon after Hurricane Katrina, "LAST TRAIN TO ITHACA", is available for download on the official site, offered as a reminder of the people who are still suffering from the disaster.
New studio releases are on the horizon.