Interview: Joseph Arthur
Published on October 8th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Fresh from the release of his magnificent tenth album The Ballad of Boogie Christ, Joseph Arthur is in the UK this week for live dates at The Musician in Leicester on Wednesday, the Grain Barge in Bristol on Thursday and Heath Street Baptist Church in London on Friday.
We fired yer man over a set of questions pertaining to his latest recorded triumph, the mystery of the “psychic pretzel” foremost in our thoughts…
You’ve talked of having grand ambitions for The Ballad of Boogie Christ. Do you feel you’ve accomplished what you set out to achieve?
In a way just getting it out feels like a big achievement. One can get bogged down and procrastinate something into non-existence but having said that I would say there is still a long way to go to fulfil my real ambitions for the project.
How much of the album’s instrumentation did you handle yourself?
Quite a bit, but I tend to make records where I play almost everything and this record was not one of those. It’s a record full of collaboration and input of others. It’s the sound of friends and even different generations coming together to make something hopefully bigger than the sum of its parts.
You’ve said the songs began life as poems. Did you write the poems with one eye on developing them into songs later, or was it more spur of the moment? Have you ever thought about releasing a volume of poetry?
No, I wrote the poems just as I have other poems and considered them separate from songs. However now that I’ve discovered this “word first” style of songwriting, I’m sure a certain part of my innocence is lost forever regarding poetry.
And yes a volume of poetry entitled I Miss The Zoo and other Poems is coming out later this year on EM press out of Chicago.
How far back do some of these tracks date? Roughly how many as-yet-unused songs do you have stockpiled, and do you plan to use them all one day?
I have vaults full of songs and getting them out is more difficult than it seems. I’ve tried many different ways to get them all out but they keep coming faster than I can set them free, so eventually they will bury me and then hopefully someone will try and dig me out of my song graveyard.
Or maybe I’ll just release them all at once in a box set called Song Graveyard. Good idea, thanks!
Have the lyrics of the title track upset anyone? There are some sensitive souls about!
Well I assume that they have but not as many as I had thought; at least I haven’t heard of any, but then again I don’t read reviews.
What exactly is a psychic pretzel?
well I think deep down you know
but just think about it long enough and if the answer doesn’t come well
that’s your answer
and if it does
ask another question
and bake it in the oven
and then sprinkle salt on it!
You’ve received plaudits from some of the biggest names in music. Which have left you the most starstruck?
To be honest all of them, and really anyone that tells me my music has helped them in some kind of way. It’s always unbelievable to me that I get to do what I do
Do you have any more exhibitions lined up?
On this five-week European tour I have three art shows: one in Paris, one in Marseille and another one in Germany
I painted until hours before my flight and packed a suitcase with nothing but canvas and paper – it’s a helluva way to travel.
Finally, if you’ve had the time to be listening, which other albums from 2013 have you enjoyed?
Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city is a current favorite.
Joseph Arthur, thank you.
The Ballad of Boogie Christ: Act 1 & 2 is out now on Real World Records.
Joseph Arthur plays the following UK dates this month:
October 9th – Leicester, The Musician
October 10th – Bristol, Grain Barge
October 11th – London, Heath Street Baptist Church