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Life’s Rich Demand

Joseph Arthur begins again with ‘Arthur Buck’

ARTHURBUCK JPGS 209
Photo credit: Dean Karr
REDEMPTION’S SONS: Joseph Arthur and Peter Buck.

“When people say, ‘I love your music,’ it’s weird to me because it’s like they’re talking about somebody else,” says singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur. “I feel like a new artist, like this is my first album and I’m in a band. I understand I have a history and I’ve made a bunch of albums, but it feels like that was somebody else. It’s not a pose. It’s kind of a death and rebirth process.”

It’s a surprising revelation from an artist with over 20 solo efforts under his belt. Arthur is calling from his home in Brooklyn, having just returned from tour rehearsals with Arthur Buck, a collaborative project with former R.E.M. guitarist, Peter Buck. The band’s self-titled album, out June 15 via New West, displays a tonal shift, both lyrically and musically. Since his 1996 debut, Big City Secrets — an album that began while he was living in Atlanta, before signing with Peter Gabriel’s Real World label — Arthur has cultivated a faithful following due to the confessional bent of his songwriting. The somber themes he explores are swimming in layers of looped instrumentation, or laid bare upon simple guitar and piano arrangements, further amplified by his brooding vocals.

But as the single “Are You Electrified?” suggests, Arthur Buck’s vibe is ebullient. Buck’s lustrous hooks create a framework for Arthur’s life-affirming sentiments. In the rousing opener, “I Am the Moment,” Arthur’s mind is on the present when he insists, “Just take your time/There is no need for you to rewind.” “American Century” is a modern glam rocker, its vibrant harmonies reminiscent of Electric Warrior-era Marc Bolan. “If You Wake Up in Time” is a swirling bit of post-funk — Buck’s winding guitar rhythm against a stark beat is a sonic callback to his partner’s early experimental work. Arthur Buck defies listeners to sit quietly and take it all in.

“I graduated to this place because my life bottomed the fuck out,” Arthur says. “My plane skimmed the trees for real, and when that happens, you wake the fuck up, or you don’t. What you wake up into is ‘Holy shit, I have a long way to go’. I didn’t care. I just started running in the opposite direction as fast as I could, as hard as I could, and as well as I could, and I haven’t stopped or really looked back much.”

Arthur Buck is a vital reflection on survival. In the ’90s, when Arthur was developing as a songwriter, the benchmark artists for him and his peers were icons of self-destruction. Musicians like Keith Richards and Kurt Cobain, whom Arthur describes as “not giving a fuck, while accidentally tripping over greatness,” epitomized romantic notions of the tortured rockstar that he internalized early on. With age and experience, Arthur realized creative achievement owes little to personal torment or a hedonistic lifestyle, and he cites Atlanta’s most lauded artist to drive his point home.

“What now becomes subversive, ironically, is waking up at six in the morning to run, going to yoga class, not eating meat. When I’m in bed at 10:30 p.m., I get this crazy smile on my face the same way I used to at 4 a.m., doing all kinds of fucked-up shit. What looks cool to me now is someone like Childish Gambino. Like, ‘Holy shit, dude, you’re doing everything on this A+++ level!’ I’m glad the cultural myths are changing, and excellence is not seen as this weak thing.”

While they both have roots in Georgia, Buck tracked Arthur down at a Seattle gig to recruit him as an opener on R.E.M.’s 2004 Around the Sun tour. Michael Stipe covered Arthur’s breakthrough single, “In the Sun” for Hurricane Katrina relief, and Buck and Mike Mills have provided backup at a handful of Arthur’s shows. A trek to Mexico last fall to pick up a Dobro guitar Arthur left at Buck’s place in Todos Santos offered an opportunity to write some new songs together, and as they traveled up the West Coast from LA to Portland, more kept coming. Arthur credits Buck’s Zen-like approach to songwriting as the guiding hand for the structure of the work, which left room for his own musical stamp. A true collaboration.

“I didn’t have to make sure that I didn’t put too much of my own identity into it because Peter is an influence, and R.E.M. is an influence when I’m just working on my own. I also wear my influences on my sleeve. There’s something in me that feels like it’s fun and perverse to not be bashful about your influences, and being confident enough in your originality to do that. You leave yourself open for people to bash you, but I don’t think in a fear-based way when I’m making music. (Laughs) I only think in a fear-based way after it’s all done,” Arthur says.

With six new songs in the works, enthusiastic support from New West, and an upcoming tour booked, Arthur feels confident the band will surpass his expectations.

“I’ve been in side projects with other big artists, but a lot of times collaborations are cursed — cursed is a strong word, but you know what I mean. It works because it’s actually a surprisingly good album. Like, everybody is surprised by how good it is, even us!”

Arthur Buck is out June 15 via New West Records. The duo plays the 40 Watt in Athens, Georgia, on Sept. 13, and Music Midtown on Sept. 15-16.



More By This Writer

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  string(8703) "Since her 1998 breakthrough via the sparsely ambient Moon Pix, through the sultry Southern soul of 2006’s The Greatest, Cat Power singer-songwriter Chan Marshall’s nomadic path across the musical landscape has led from revered indie figure to legacy artist. Early on, her haunting homages and transcendent voice invited comparisons to Nina Simone and Patti Smith. More recently, it’s hard to miss the influence of Marshall’s own work on a new generation of female performers, whether it’s in Sky Ferreira’s fuzzed-out synth-pop or the tragic glamour of Lana Del Rey.

Ahead of releasing the ethereal and reflective Wanderer, the Atlanta native talked to CL about moving forward and making the first new Cat Power album in six years.

Much has transpired since Sun came out in 2012: recovering from a serious illness, motherhood, a new label, a new album. That’s a lot of change.

Nothing could have prepared me for these changes, except the habit of having to take care of myself since I was young. Writing songs, or being an artist in general, puts you in a state of soul-searching. You’re able to release that through creativity. People sometimes have other techniques: drugs, alcohol, denial, or however people deal with immense amounts of stress or failure, or even personal growth. We all have our own book of life lessons. Having my son changed the landscape 100 percent as far as getting through and addressing things with positivity and strength.

I jotted down, "How did parenthood inform your songwriting on this record?" They rarely ask male songwriters that question. But it didn't change the way you approached writing.

Of course they don't. Because everyone in the goddamn world knows it comes down to us.

But not at all. He's only three. They say our DNA is attached for 10 years. Maybe in three years, the data will reveal his effect on me as a parent creatively. He hasn't affected my process, he's just affected me in my heart, my consciousness, and my grounding as a person. There's a life experience there that translates.

Different versions of the title song “Wanderer” open and close the album, almost like someone saying a morning and an evening prayer. It symbolizes protection of the material, which seems maternal.

That's exactly what it is. That part of my personality has been enhanced through the alignment of knowing I am a parent here protecting my child, and there's some strange universal protection involved in my life now. That comes across on my record on purpose.

How does that translate when dealing with the music business? You recently left Matador for Domino.

When Matador said they needed a hit record with Sun, I worked hard to produce that. I got really sick from that stress. On this record, I made sure to build this subconscious wall to protect the art. I made sure to create songs that came only from wanting to communicate honestly. Making sure I put up that wall was enhanced by being a mom. The correlation made me stronger. But when I handed in the record to them, they said it was no good, and they needed me to change it.

Matador did?

They called producer Rob Schnapf saying, "There better be hits." The artist-friendly ideology I cherished about them was gone. I had already written the full album, so all that protection made sure my art would speak for itself. Whether it would be good or not wasn't the question. I made sure to do whatever I felt it needed to do. I was trying to leave it up to the universal space. It took about a year to find Domino. The indie relationship and the artist integrity is valid there, so I chose to go with them.

How did Lana Del Rey come to appear on the first single, “Woman”?

The year I was with no label had me thinking, “Maybe it's true. Maybe I am a no-good artist.” I was processing that, but still knowing whatever challenge may be in my path, I've got to get through it. Lana reached out during this period. She became a kind of reflection of my past — when there was a community of bands and friends touring together, playing shows in different places around the world. There was a commonality of the tribe between us. With record stores closing, radio formats and the music scene changing, people dying, people quitting the band … we grew up, went our own ways, and that community ... I don't want to say disintegrated, because Lana reminded me of that time. She showed me an appreciation for what I'd done in my past.

I had been working on the song privately because I didn't feel strong enough about delivering this message personally. I asked Lana, "Would you sing on this song?" I thought of the duality of women, and about using their combined strength to become more empowering. Two ladies, sharing an identity, a similar scope of issues –– that's where I got my balls to ask Lana to sing this with me –– knowing I wasn't alone. She said, "Whatever you want me to do, I'm doing it." I told her, "Whatever words you want to say, they're yours. You choose them."

What made you decide to include a version of Rhianna’s “Stay”?

The week before I recorded it, I heard it briefly in a cab in Miami. I had to deliver my record. A friend of mine had passed away. When someone passes, there's always a stretch of time where emotions are super available. I had all these feelings I didn't know I had inside my heart. It punctured something in me, and I was able to feel her triumph. I was able to relieve something. Rhianna possesses a struggle in her voice, in her story, in her soul, and she comes through shining with her closure. The song had a closure to it.

I went to LA to finish the mix with Rob. He asked, "What do you want to start with?" I was like, "Let's start with the piano.” I did my vocal piano test. He came in and said, "Do you want to do a take?" I said, "I want to do ‘Wanderer.’" I played piano and sang for like 45 minutes. Two days later Rob said, "Can I play something for you?" I heard the piano, and I was like, "I didn't know you recorded this." It was that recording of “Stay.” I didn't know it had happened.

Whenever I do a cover, there is an immediate impulse that is not being satiated. I just want to hear the song. I just started singing it without realizing it. I think it happens with people all the time, but generally, there's not someone there recording you.

You’ve lived all over, since childhood. Does the theme of the album and your instinct to keep moving stem from that experience?

The last line of the title song on the album is, "I'll be wondering." W-O-N-D-E-R, not W-A-N-D-E-R. As a child moving around a lot, I was wondering, “Where is my place, and do I share a future with this stranger? Do I share a future with this parent? Do I share a future with my grandparents? With my sister?” It's not as easy as, "Oh, it's because I moved around a lot." It was as a child wondering, "Where's my place?" As human beings, even if we never step foot out of our 1,000 per capita town, we have a wondering sensibility in our character. I just got more curious about the rest of the world and was searching for a connection at a very early age.

You once remarked about performing, "I'm not an entertainer, I'm not Neil Diamond." How do you feel on stage now?

When I was younger, the point was not the posturing or the face or the body, it was the song. It still is the point, but the relationship changed during performing because when The Greatest tour happened, it was the first time I performed without holding a guitar or playing piano, and my hands were free. My face was uplifted. I saw the audience for the first time. That tour became the first time I ever actually enjoyed singing. It really changed the performance. The audience communication made the song 100 times more powerful or purposeful.

There are things right outside, right next door, across the planet, that are much more important than a song. It doesn't mean that I don't take very seriously the opportunity that I have to attempt to create some kind of connection. John Lennon said that a song never saved the world, but bringing people together in song can definitely encourage empowerment, create self-awareness, and, hopefully, stronger vibrations. There's no Bob Marley or Bob Dylan herding us to a deeper concentration of enlightenment. The heroes of right now are the leaders who are bringing awareness to issues beyond their communities and driving legislation. Those are the rock stars.

Wanderer is out Oct. 5

Cat Power plays Center Stage Sat., Oct. 13. $35-$54. 8 p.m. (doors). 1374 West Peachtree St. N.W. 404-885-1365. www.centerstage-atlanta.com."
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Ahead of releasing the ethereal and reflective ''Wanderer'', the Atlanta native talked to ''CL'' about moving forward and making the first new Cat Power album in six years.

__Much has transpired since ''Sun'' came out in 2012: recovering from a serious illness, motherhood, a new label, a new album. That’s a lot of change.__

Nothing could have prepared me for these changes, except the habit of having to take care of myself since I was young. Writing songs, or being an artist in general, puts you in a state of soul-searching. You’re able to release that through creativity. People sometimes have other techniques: drugs, alcohol, denial, or however people deal with immense amounts of stress or failure, or even personal growth. We all have our own book of life lessons. Having my son changed the landscape 100 percent as far as getting through and addressing things with positivity and strength.

__I jotted down, "How did parenthood inform your songwriting on this record?" They rarely ask male songwriters that question. But it didn't change the way you approached writing.__

Of course they don't. Because everyone in the goddamn world knows it comes down to ''us''.

But not at all. He's only three. They say our DNA is attached for 10 years. Maybe in three years, the data will reveal his effect on me as a parent creatively. He hasn't affected my process, he's just affected me in my heart, my consciousness, and my grounding as a person. There's a life experience there that translates.

__Different versions of the title song “Wanderer” open and close the album, almost like someone saying a morning and an evening prayer. It symbolizes protection of the material, which seems maternal.__

That's exactly what it is. That part of my personality has been enhanced through the alignment of knowing I am a parent here protecting my child, and there's some strange universal protection involved in my life now. That comes across on my record on purpose.

__How does that translate when dealing with the music business? You recently left Matador for Domino.__

When Matador said they needed a hit record with ''Sun'', I worked hard to produce that. I got really sick from that stress. On this record, I made sure to build this subconscious wall to protect the art. I made sure to create songs that came only from wanting to communicate honestly. Making sure I put up that wall was enhanced by being a mom. The correlation made me stronger. But when I handed in the record to them, they said it was no good, and they needed me to change it.

__Matador did?__

They called producer Rob Schnapf saying, "There better be hits." The artist-friendly ideology I cherished about them was gone. I had already written the full album, so all that protection made sure my art would speak for itself. Whether it would be good or not wasn't the question. I made sure to do whatever I felt it needed to do. I was trying to leave it up to the universal space. It took about a year to find Domino. The indie relationship and the artist integrity is valid there, so I chose to go with them.

__How did Lana Del Rey come to appear on the first single, “Woman”?__

The year I was with no label had me thinking, “Maybe it's true. Maybe I am a no-good artist.” I was processing that, but still knowing whatever challenge may be in my path, I've got to get through it. Lana reached out during this period. She became a kind of reflection of my past — when there was a community of bands and friends touring together, playing shows in different places around the world. There was a commonality of the tribe between us. With record stores closing, radio formats and the music scene changing, people dying, people quitting the band … we grew up, went our own ways, and that community ... I don't want to say disintegrated, because Lana reminded me of that time. She showed me an appreciation for what I'd done in my past.

I had been working on the song privately because I didn't feel strong enough about delivering this message personally. I asked Lana, "Would you sing on this song?" I thought of the duality of women, and about using their combined strength to become more empowering. Two ladies, sharing an identity, a similar scope of issues –– that's where I got my balls to ask Lana to sing this with me –– knowing I wasn't alone. She said, "Whatever you want me to do, I'm doing it." I told her, "Whatever words you want to say, they're yours. You choose them."

__What made you decide to include a version of Rhianna’s “Stay”?__

The week before I recorded it, I heard it briefly in a cab in Miami. I had to deliver my record. A friend of mine had passed away. When someone passes, there's always a stretch of time where emotions are super available. I had all these feelings I didn't know I had inside my heart. It punctured something in me, and I was able to feel her triumph. I was able to relieve something. Rhianna possesses a struggle in her voice, in her story, in her soul, and she comes through shining with her closure. The song had a closure to it.

I went to LA to finish the mix with Rob. He asked, "What do you want to start with?" I was like, "Let's start with the piano.” I did my vocal piano test. He came in and said, "Do you want to do a take?" I said, "I want to do ‘Wanderer.’" I played piano and sang for like 45 minutes. Two days later Rob said, "Can I play something for you?" I heard the piano, and I was like, "I didn't know you recorded this." It was that recording of “Stay.” I didn't know it had happened.

Whenever I do a cover, there is an immediate impulse that is not being satiated. I just want to hear the song. I just started singing it without realizing it. I think it happens with people all the time, but generally, there's not someone there recording you.

__You’ve lived all over, since childhood. Does the theme of the album and your instinct to keep moving stem from that experience?__

The last line of the title song on the album is, "I'll be wondering." W-O-N-D-E-R, not W-A-N-D-E-R. As a child moving around a lot, I was wondering, “Where is my place, and do I share a future with this stranger? Do I share a future with this parent? Do I share a future with my grandparents? With my sister?” It's not as easy as, "Oh, it's because I moved around a lot." It was as a child wondering, "Where's my place?" As human beings, even if we never step foot out of our 1,000 per capita town, we have a wondering sensibility in our character. I just got more curious about the rest of the world and was searching for a connection at a very early age.

__You once remarked about performing, "I'm not an entertainer, I'm not Neil Diamond." How do you feel on stage now?__

When I was younger, the point was not the posturing or the face or the body, it was the song. It still is the point, but the relationship changed during performing because when ''The Greatest'' tour happened, it was the first time I performed without holding a guitar or playing piano, and my hands were free. My face was uplifted. I saw the audience for the first time. That tour became the first time I ever actually enjoyed singing. It really changed the performance. The audience communication made the song 100 times more powerful or purposeful.

There are things right outside, right next door, across the planet, that are much more important than a song. It doesn't mean that I don't take very seriously the opportunity that I have to attempt to create some kind of connection. John Lennon said that a song never saved the world, but bringing people together in song can definitely encourage empowerment, create self-awareness, and, hopefully, stronger vibrations. There's no Bob Marley or Bob Dylan herding us to a deeper concentration of enlightenment. The heroes of right now are the leaders who are bringing awareness to issues beyond their communities and driving legislation. Those are the rock stars.

''Wanderer is out Oct. 5''

''[http://www.centerstage-atlanta.com/show/?id=3107&artist=CAT POWER|Cat Power plays Center Stage Sat., Oct. 13. $35-$54. 8 p.m. (doors). 1374 West Peachtree St. N.W. 404-885-1365. www.centerstage-atlanta.com.]''"
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  string(9238) " Cat Power   PC Eliot Lee Hazel   3598   300dpi  2018-10-02T15:34:19+00:00 Cat Power - PC Eliot Lee Hazel - 3598 - 300dpi.jpeg     The Cat Power singer-songwriter returns to Atlanta with the Wanderer tour 9429  2018-10-05T05:00:00+00:00 At home in the world: A conversation with Chan Marshall chad.radford@creativeloafing.com Chad Radford Loring Kemp  2018-10-05T05:00:00+00:00  Since her 1998 breakthrough via the sparsely ambient Moon Pix, through the sultry Southern soul of 2006’s The Greatest, Cat Power singer-songwriter Chan Marshall’s nomadic path across the musical landscape has led from revered indie figure to legacy artist. Early on, her haunting homages and transcendent voice invited comparisons to Nina Simone and Patti Smith. More recently, it’s hard to miss the influence of Marshall’s own work on a new generation of female performers, whether it’s in Sky Ferreira’s fuzzed-out synth-pop or the tragic glamour of Lana Del Rey.

Ahead of releasing the ethereal and reflective Wanderer, the Atlanta native talked to CL about moving forward and making the first new Cat Power album in six years.

Much has transpired since Sun came out in 2012: recovering from a serious illness, motherhood, a new label, a new album. That’s a lot of change.

Nothing could have prepared me for these changes, except the habit of having to take care of myself since I was young. Writing songs, or being an artist in general, puts you in a state of soul-searching. You’re able to release that through creativity. People sometimes have other techniques: drugs, alcohol, denial, or however people deal with immense amounts of stress or failure, or even personal growth. We all have our own book of life lessons. Having my son changed the landscape 100 percent as far as getting through and addressing things with positivity and strength.

I jotted down, "How did parenthood inform your songwriting on this record?" They rarely ask male songwriters that question. But it didn't change the way you approached writing.

Of course they don't. Because everyone in the goddamn world knows it comes down to us.

But not at all. He's only three. They say our DNA is attached for 10 years. Maybe in three years, the data will reveal his effect on me as a parent creatively. He hasn't affected my process, he's just affected me in my heart, my consciousness, and my grounding as a person. There's a life experience there that translates.

Different versions of the title song “Wanderer” open and close the album, almost like someone saying a morning and an evening prayer. It symbolizes protection of the material, which seems maternal.

That's exactly what it is. That part of my personality has been enhanced through the alignment of knowing I am a parent here protecting my child, and there's some strange universal protection involved in my life now. That comes across on my record on purpose.

How does that translate when dealing with the music business? You recently left Matador for Domino.

When Matador said they needed a hit record with Sun, I worked hard to produce that. I got really sick from that stress. On this record, I made sure to build this subconscious wall to protect the art. I made sure to create songs that came only from wanting to communicate honestly. Making sure I put up that wall was enhanced by being a mom. The correlation made me stronger. But when I handed in the record to them, they said it was no good, and they needed me to change it.

Matador did?

They called producer Rob Schnapf saying, "There better be hits." The artist-friendly ideology I cherished about them was gone. I had already written the full album, so all that protection made sure my art would speak for itself. Whether it would be good or not wasn't the question. I made sure to do whatever I felt it needed to do. I was trying to leave it up to the universal space. It took about a year to find Domino. The indie relationship and the artist integrity is valid there, so I chose to go with them.

How did Lana Del Rey come to appear on the first single, “Woman”?

The year I was with no label had me thinking, “Maybe it's true. Maybe I am a no-good artist.” I was processing that, but still knowing whatever challenge may be in my path, I've got to get through it. Lana reached out during this period. She became a kind of reflection of my past — when there was a community of bands and friends touring together, playing shows in different places around the world. There was a commonality of the tribe between us. With record stores closing, radio formats and the music scene changing, people dying, people quitting the band … we grew up, went our own ways, and that community ... I don't want to say disintegrated, because Lana reminded me of that time. She showed me an appreciation for what I'd done in my past.

I had been working on the song privately because I didn't feel strong enough about delivering this message personally. I asked Lana, "Would you sing on this song?" I thought of the duality of women, and about using their combined strength to become more empowering. Two ladies, sharing an identity, a similar scope of issues –– that's where I got my balls to ask Lana to sing this with me –– knowing I wasn't alone. She said, "Whatever you want me to do, I'm doing it." I told her, "Whatever words you want to say, they're yours. You choose them."

What made you decide to include a version of Rhianna’s “Stay”?

The week before I recorded it, I heard it briefly in a cab in Miami. I had to deliver my record. A friend of mine had passed away. When someone passes, there's always a stretch of time where emotions are super available. I had all these feelings I didn't know I had inside my heart. It punctured something in me, and I was able to feel her triumph. I was able to relieve something. Rhianna possesses a struggle in her voice, in her story, in her soul, and she comes through shining with her closure. The song had a closure to it.

I went to LA to finish the mix with Rob. He asked, "What do you want to start with?" I was like, "Let's start with the piano.” I did my vocal piano test. He came in and said, "Do you want to do a take?" I said, "I want to do ‘Wanderer.’" I played piano and sang for like 45 minutes. Two days later Rob said, "Can I play something for you?" I heard the piano, and I was like, "I didn't know you recorded this." It was that recording of “Stay.” I didn't know it had happened.

Whenever I do a cover, there is an immediate impulse that is not being satiated. I just want to hear the song. I just started singing it without realizing it. I think it happens with people all the time, but generally, there's not someone there recording you.

You’ve lived all over, since childhood. Does the theme of the album and your instinct to keep moving stem from that experience?

The last line of the title song on the album is, "I'll be wondering." W-O-N-D-E-R, not W-A-N-D-E-R. As a child moving around a lot, I was wondering, “Where is my place, and do I share a future with this stranger? Do I share a future with this parent? Do I share a future with my grandparents? With my sister?” It's not as easy as, "Oh, it's because I moved around a lot." It was as a child wondering, "Where's my place?" As human beings, even if we never step foot out of our 1,000 per capita town, we have a wondering sensibility in our character. I just got more curious about the rest of the world and was searching for a connection at a very early age.

You once remarked about performing, "I'm not an entertainer, I'm not Neil Diamond." How do you feel on stage now?

When I was younger, the point was not the posturing or the face or the body, it was the song. It still is the point, but the relationship changed during performing because when The Greatest tour happened, it was the first time I performed without holding a guitar or playing piano, and my hands were free. My face was uplifted. I saw the audience for the first time. That tour became the first time I ever actually enjoyed singing. It really changed the performance. The audience communication made the song 100 times more powerful or purposeful.

There are things right outside, right next door, across the planet, that are much more important than a song. It doesn't mean that I don't take very seriously the opportunity that I have to attempt to create some kind of connection. John Lennon said that a song never saved the world, but bringing people together in song can definitely encourage empowerment, create self-awareness, and, hopefully, stronger vibrations. There's no Bob Marley or Bob Dylan herding us to a deeper concentration of enlightenment. The heroes of right now are the leaders who are bringing awareness to issues beyond their communities and driving legislation. Those are the rock stars.

Wanderer is out Oct. 5

Cat Power plays Center Stage Sat., Oct. 13. $35-$54. 8 p.m. (doors). 1374 West Peachtree St. N.W. 404-885-1365. www.centerstage-atlanta.com.    Eliot Lee Hazel RAMBLIN’ WOMAN: Chan Marshall of Cat Power.                                   At home in the world: A conversation with Chan Marshall "
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Article

Friday October 5, 2018 01:00 am EDT
The Cat Power singer-songwriter returns to Atlanta with the Wanderer tour | more...
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In his acclaimed memoirs, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division and Substance: Inside New Order, bassist Peter Hook often talks about “carrying on.” So often, he jokingly considers using the mantra in a book title. Hook has survived the loss of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, addiction, near financial ruin, and a bitter divorce from New Order bandmates Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, and Gillian Gilbert.

Just as New Order emerged from the ashes of Joy Division to become one of the most innovative bands of the ’80s, Hook has carried on by turning the rock bio template on its head. In addition to raucous tales of fame and debauchery, Substance is flush with Top 10 lists, detailed timelines, and insights into the recording of each New Order release. In anyone else’s hands, this much content would overwhelm the most enthusiastic fan, but Hook’s colorful storytelling makes for a captivating read.

Hook’s passion for playing the music behind these stories led him to form the Light in 2010. Since then, the band has toured playing selections from Joy Division’s and New Order’s discographies, offering rare opportunities to experience live versions of deep cuts from albums such as Closer and Movement. Prior to the Light’s second Atlanta gig to play both bands’ respective Substance albums, Hook took a few minutes to talk about honoring his body of work through writing and performing.

In 2010 you performed Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures as a tribute to Ian Curtis on the 30th anniversary of his death. I understand things evolved from there due to the enthusiastic reception.

Yeah. I’d been DJ’ing for quite a while, but I was missing playing. When it came to 30 years of Ian’s life, as I prefer to call it, I didn’t have anyone to play with. So, I asked some friends if they’d help. We did it as a one-off to celebrate Ian Curtis’s life.

How did you start playing complete albums, whether it’s a selection from Joy Division’s or New Order’s catalog?

I read an interview with (Primal Scream’s) Bobby Gillespie when they were touring behind Screamadelica, and he said that funny enough, from the record, the ones they never played are now his favorites. I thought, “Now that’s weird, that’s like me.” The songs we didn’t play are now the ones I like. Whereas at the time, it was the ones you did play that were the ones that you liked.

It was stunning to hear a song like "No Love Lost" live for the first time at the last Atlanta show.

You know, I love it. It’s broken my heart not to be able to play “No Love Lost” for 30 years. It did strike me that most people have never heard Joy Division live, they’ve only ever heard them on record. The band never played Closer (live). We never played those songs after we’d finished them in the studio.

Did New Order ever consider it?

No. We rightly said if anyone ever left the group, that would be the end of the group. We made that pact as New Order, too, but it seems to have gotten lost along the way somehow. Joy Division was finished. We had to start again, but we had youth on our side. Luckily the three of us were very talented and still had a lot to say. We channeled that 100 percent into New Order with no looking back, and it worked. It made New Order massive worldwide, no more so than in America. A huge success commercially and culturally, which was fantastic.

There's been some back-and-forth in the press between you and Bernard Sumner about your tours with the Light. It's surprising he'd complain about you playing music you co-wrote.

 

It’s weird, isn’t it? I don’t understand it because it is as much mine as it is his. It’s his personal opinion. We fought about it legally and I’m still able to play the music, so I’m happy with that. Bernard is allowed to do what he wants to do. He said in his book he felt pushed into gigging too much. The odd thing is, I didn’t think it was much at all. But there you are, it’s that yin and yang of people that make something special. Peter Saville said the thing he misses in New Order now is the antagonism between Bernard and me. But to not be allowed to play your own music is a heinous crime, whoever it’s committed against. Playing Closer in full was the best thing I’ve ever done. I am so proud of that album. I wish (New Order) would play the albums. Power Corruption and Lies, Brotherhood, or Movement in full… Oh man, they were wonderful moments. It reminds you of the days when you were working the songs out.

You talked in Substance about occasionally feeling sidelined during the recording process. Is this a chance to perform the songs in a way that feels closer to your vision? The New Order set had a lot more edge to it than the records, and the energy of the Joy Division set was spot-on.

Yeah, I have that freedom and people seem to appreciate it. I wouldn’t be coming back to America to do a second  tour if people didn’t. Obviously, you are going to find people who disagree with you. That’s what makes life interesting, isn’t it? But I didn’t want to imitate the group. We aren’t Joy Division or New Order, and we never will be. What I’m doing is celebrating the records. That’s become my gimmick. I’ve very happily been working my way through them all now.

Substance illustrates how groundbreaking New Order was. Much of that has to do with the Geek Alerts where you describe how everything from sequencers to mechanicals work. And the Track by Track sections, which also appear in the Joy Division book, inspire fans to revisit each album. How did you come up with the idea to include those?

 

I read a lot of rock biographies. I’m reading Bruce Springsteen’s [Born to Run] at the moment. He talks about a record, and I’m feeling the same frustration I’ve always had that people never go into the nuts and bolts of recording. They never tell you enough details, and they certainly never talk about money. It’s like a bit of a fairy tale. I put the Geek Alerts in because I didn’t want it to be a string of excess stories, without showing that you had to work hard to get that freedom, if you like, to engorge yourself. It’s something nobody ever talks about. I wrote the book that I wanted to read. I am definitely ready for book number four, it’s just that I’m not sure what to do.

You've said in other interviews that you would like to write one with a happy ending. I feel like you are living your happy ending. You could have been another casualty.

That’s true. I’ve never not enjoyed a gig that I’ve done since New Order split up. I hope it’s the same for the other three, I hope they’ve enjoyed every single gig. But you know, you make great music — the very chemistry that allows you to make great music and be innovative as we were is exactly the same chemistry that destroys you in the end. We were very lucky to weather what we did, and to come out of it sane and being able to carry on. You look at a lot of people and they can’t carry on, can they? So, we were lucky: financially, chemically, and mentally, we’ve not done bad. Sometimes you forget that.

$26-$31. 7 p.m. (doors). Sun., May 27. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. N.E. 404-524-7354. www.variety-playhouse.com.

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Article

Monday May 14, 2018 12:06 pm EDT
The former Joy Division and New Order bass player keeps calm and carries on | more...
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Since his days with late ’80s alt-rock group Mary My Hope, James Hall has remained a revered figure in the Atlanta music scene. For most, what distinguishes Hall is his frenetic live performance style, which can leave a crowd both exhilarated and a bit shaken. Although a commercial breakthrough evaded him after signing as a solo artist with Geffen in 1996, Hall was undeterred. Regrouping in New Orleans, he went on to form Pleasure Club with drummer Michael Jerome, bassist Grant Curry, and guitarist Marc Hutner. The band released two staggering soul-infused rock albums, The Fugitive Kind (2001) and Here Comes the Trick (2004).

Since relocating to Atlanta after Hurricane Katrina, Hall is once again a fixture in the local music community — a seemingly indefatigable seeker of sorts whose output has included solo work and as a frontman for Player/Kommander, the Futura Bold, and the Steady Wicked.

On the eve of two highly anticipated Pleasure Club reunion shows at Smith’s Old Bar, Hall took a few minutes to talk about his long career, and how his experiences in life have informed his outlook on success and the future.

Last time we did this was in 1996, before Geffen's release of your solo effort, Pleasure Club. Give me a sense of your perspective on that period now.

Also, my wife was pregnant with our son. He's 21 now. You have to factor in those respective things when thinking about time and considering where things go and how they can go. There are a few things I would do differently. I would have worked to be a better team player and considered other people's voices and insights on how to proceed. The other thing is, if I were supposed to sell records and tour the world, it would have happened. There would not have been anything I could do to stop it. I can see now it was sort of foolhardy of me to think the music we were making on the Geffen album was all that commercial. It was not really giving up a whole lot, you know?

It was a complex record with an unexpected mix of influences. I get what you're saying. Your latest record with The Steady Wicked, Electric Hex, is as strong as anything you've released over the years.

And the vast majority of that record is collaborative. It wouldn't be possible any other way. Grant told me years ago he felt that while I'm a quality musical mind, my strongest suit was as a world-class collaborator and frontman. That's something I've come to value over time because it stepped up the richness of my work.

How did the Pleasure Club reunion come up?

Grant reached out to me in a fairly direct way and asked me what I thought happened with Pleasure Club, and where I felt things were. I think we were a phenomenally successful band at what we set out to do, which was to make some powerfully disorienting, frightening, and creative music for the early 2000s. He asked me "Do you feel like we didn't get a fair shake?" It's hard for me to say because it could have just not been of our time.

I assumed Pleasure Club disbanded because of Hurricane Katrina. But that was not the case?

The geographic relocation of the band certainly did finalize some conversations. I also have to look at my part and where I was then. I was looking outside for approval, for satisfaction, for some sense of valuation on what I did, and it was never enough. It was confusing to people who didn't believe in me, and it was pissing off those who did. I was an excellent candidate for some paid couch time.

Was losing everything after Katrina a wake-up call?

It helped and brought me to the faith I am currently in the care of, which is about practicing extreme presence and awareness. In terms of it being the right storm for the right person, it couldn't have happened at a time where I was more ready for some sort of transformation.

That's what you hope for in those circumstances.

It's losing everything and in the same breath nothing of consequence. Cancer, hurricanes, automobile accidents have no power over the love I have for the people who are close to me. That was helpful when it came to Pleasure Club and reforming those friendships. I had a fair amount of regret over the way I handled things. One of the brilliant things Grant said was, "Don't apologize, let your participation be a working amends."

Are you working on a new Pleasure Club album?

Yes, we are intent on recording another album. We're gradually working toward it. My attitude now is vastly different. When I go in with Grant, we get a drink, catch up a little bit and then start working off a bass groove. He's really generous with his ideas. We'll work that out but not build too much into it because we respect Michael Jerome and Marc Hutner so much for their ability to contribute. I'm grateful that our process has gotten more purified.

Does that mean approaching older material differently for the reunion shows?

I'm keeping an open mind. I'm not thirty-two anymore. I've got to factor in rest and energy levels. There may just be a charge from Marc striking opening chords, and there's no question what music does for me in regard to performing. As far as feeling like we have to hold true to a recorded history, we go for the spirit of the song more so than anything else and always have. We're going to have to show up with the songs as they present themselves in 2018, as opposed to trying to force it to be just like 2001.

How satisfying was it to release the expanded edition of Mary My Hope's Museum on Cherry Red last year?

It was a surprise, and it's satisfying. Hugh Gilmour, who is a promoter of note in Britain basically funded the re-release and the acquisition. When Mary My Hope came over to open for goth legends Fields of the Nephilim in 1989, he was one of those kids down in the front kind of freaked out by what we were doing. They felt its originality, and they felt the statement. He had always wondered what happened to us. The brilliant thing he did in the liner notes was making it about his first experience with the album. For that to occur at about the 30th anniversary was remarkable.

The Afghan Whigs released a cover of Pleasure Club's "You Want Love," in honor of their late guitarist, Dave Rosser, over the summer.

They did a stunning version of it. I like the way he vamped on the end with the first and last verse. If you want people's attention, you have to show up with a premise of respect, and Greg Dulli has my attention. He spoke personally about his friendship with Dave and the loss of him as a band member. Going to see Pleasure Club was something they enjoyed doing together. When Marilyn Manson covered it it was more trying to be faithful to the original, but Greg really brought his inner Joy Division and Velvet Underground sound to it.

You're appearing with David J at one of his Living Room shows on March 1. You go back with David, starting from the Mary My Hope and Love and Rockets days.

Indeed. Mary My Hope opened for Love and Rockets at the Fox in 1989. That was like a fine jewel in the crown a difficult trajectory. Love and Rockets and Bauhaus were bands we had immense respect for. David is about 10 years older, and he was a big hero, but he communicated with us like we were only a year younger than him. When they released Sweet FA in 1996, and Pleasure Club was invited to open for them, I was like, "There is no one else that I would rather be touring with!" Nothing against Matchbox Twenty, but morally speaking there was something more secure in us doing a tour with a band we felt a kinship with.

You have a new solo album coming out the next day. There's a thread of immense respect for your past while embracing your future and the opportunities that come with it.

It’s very stripped down like the last one, Talking Freedom with the Jailer, which was about looking backward somewhat, because there were songs from the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s. This record is going to have more recent compositions on it.

I am at a point where I consider having gratitude an initial response to even that which I'd prefer not to have because it can reveal an opportunity almost immediately. On the back of loss can come awareness. And on the back of enough suck can come success. You change your definition of success. My definition of success in 1994 wasn't giving me any peace. My definition of success in 2018 is giving me a fair amount of peace.

The Pleasure Club plays Smith’s Olde Bar Feb. 16 w/ PLS PLS and Feb. 17 w/ Young Antiques. $20-$25. 9 p.m. each night.

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Thursday February 15, 2018 04:45 pm EST
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