The Bowery Ballroom
Joseph Arthur

The Ballad of Boogie Christ Release Show

Joseph Arthur

Rene Lopez

Thu, June 13, 2013

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

The Bowery Ballroom

New York, NY

This event is 21 and over

Joseph Arthur
Joseph Arthur
When Lou Reed friend Bill Bentley, now working as an A&R director for Vanguard Records, read Joseph Arthur’s moving eulogy in American Songwriter magazine, he approached him to record an album of Lou Reed songs. “Bill told me, ‘Don’t overthink it,’” says Joseph. Arthur set himself up in his Brooklyn studio last December and proceeded to cut twelve of his favorites—using only acoustic guitar and bass, piano and vocals. “The only way I know to give new life to something as rich with life as Lou’s songs and recordings is to go about them in a completely different way. No drums or electricity.”

By stripping these songs down to their essence, Arthur allows us to hear Reed’s music and especially his lyrics, with brand-new ears, from the well-known (“Walk on the Wild Side,” “Heroin,” “Pale Blue Eyes,” “Satellite of Love” and the first song he attempted, “Coney Island Baby”) to the more obscure (Magic and Loss’ “Sword of Damocles,” Set the Twilight Reeling’s “NYC Man,” Lou Reed’s “Wild Child” and “Stephanie Says,” later reworked as Berlin’s “Caroline Says”).

“I put my soul into this record,” says Arthur. “It was like getting to hang out with Lou again, being inside his head.”

Indeed, Lou lets you listen to these songs as if you’ve never heard them before. “I only wish he was alive to have heard them,” says Arthur, who wrote in his remembrance, “I’m trying not to focus on the fact that I had him in my life; that I loved him, and he loved me, and not think about the lost opportunity to see him again. We can’t cross over and we can’t come back and those that go before us become one with the mystery of everything. Lou was always of that mystery.”

Lou Reed was not only one of Joseph Arthur’s musical inspirations, he was a good friend, and that “Family Love,” as the singer/songwriter/painter/designer describes the pair’s relationship, can be heard in Lou, his simultaneous eulogy and tribute to the man’s life. Reed was on hand at New York’s Club Fez back in 1996 when Arthur performed a live audition for Peter Gabriel, which earned him his initial deal as the first American artist signed to Gabriel’s Real World label. Afterward, the two went out to eat ice cream, and found themselves sitting next to Dolly Parton.

“He was always just true to himself and what he was,” admired Arthur, whose liner notes for the album states, despite his punk reputation, “Lou was lovable… Everyone I knew loved him, whether they knew him or not.”

Lou offers a glimpse behind the curtain, both homage and a way to breathe new life into Reed’s remarkably deep, but consistent, catalog for future generations to come. Lou works as a cohesive whole, even though the individual songs come from all periods in Reed’s career, from the Velvet Underground to his solo output.

The Akron, Ohio-born Arthur was a jazz fusion bassist when he first discovered the Velvet Underground in his late teens (“It was the perfect timing,” he recalls, since he had only begun singing himself), and forged an impressive solo career that began with 1997’s Big City Secrets, as the first American signed to Peter Gabriel’s Real World label, later joining Gabriel’s WOMAD tour in Europe. Two years later, the EP Vacancy, with an album cover he created and designed himself—as he did with most of his releases—earned a 2000 Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package.

Arthur released his sophomore album, Come to Where I’m From, produced by T Bone Burnett and Tchad Blake, in 2000, his last album for Real World before putting out the double album Redemption’s Son on Universal Music Group’s Enjoy Records in 2002. He followed with Our Shadows Will Remain on Vector Recordings, making the album in New Orleans, New York City, London and Prague, with string arrangements provided by the City of Prague Philharmonic. In 2006, Arthur started his own label, Lonely Astronaut Records, releasing a visual collection of his artworks in a book titled We Almost Made It, along with his fifth studio album, The Invisible Parade, recorded in Berlin and Los Angeles. His song, “In the Sun,” was covered by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Coldplay’s Chris Martin for a digital Hurricane Katrina EP sold on iTunes, which included six different versions, one a remix by Justin Timberlake. A sixth album, Let’s Just Be, came out in 2007, followed by Temporary People in 2008, both recorded with his back-up band the Lonely Astronauts.

Arthur was also a member of two super groups, including Fistful of Mercy with Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison, releasing the album As I Call You Down in 2010, also collaborating with Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament in the band RNDM. He released three solo albums over the past three years: The Graduation Ceremony, The double-CD Redemption City and last year’s The Ballad of Boogie Christ, which he successfully financed through online crowd-funding site, Pledge Music.
Rene Lopez
Rene Lopez

So when was the moment you just knew you had to be a musician? What was the "aha" moment?

RL: Growing up Puerto Rican in the Bronx, music was all around me, so I do not remember any real epiphany. My father played the trumpet in the salsa band Tipica 73 and I probably spent more time at the side of the stages than I should have. I do have vivid memories of beautiful women, dressed in shimmering, tight dresses, their hair flying behind their heads as they were spun around by their partners. They would sweetly ask me to dance and everything; the smell of perfume and cigarettes, the sweating heat of the club, the intoxicating rhythms felt so natural that there was never a thought that I would do anything else.

Let's talk about the new album. There's a real old school soul vibe to it—your last record [2005's One Man's Year] had more of a rock feel—when did this new sound, especially from a song-writing perspective, begin to click, and feel right for you?

In the summer of 2008 I discovered a studio called The Document Room in Malibu, where I spent that summer. I decided to experiment; I'd write a song in the morning and record it in the afternoon. I wrote five in quick succession in the course of a few weeks and it was what came out of me naturally; the songs were almost stream of consciousness. And I was really happy with the results. I felt like I was in my childhood bedroom again playing music because…because it was fun, and because I loved it, and because I wanted to be doing it. It was like reuniting with an old friend or something.

You're a New York based singer-songwriter, and have been since the beginning of your career, going back to your first band The Authority, and the scene at Wetlands in the late 80s and early 90s; how does the city inspire you and does it still inspire you after all these years?

Oh yeah. For sure. New York's my home. I have a real love affair with it. Always have. From the diversity of the people, to the great music, amazing food and wine, and overall culture, I'm truly at home there and draw so much inspiration from it. And the music scene is really important to me—the camaraderie with all the musicians, and the built in support network. That's key.

You have a lovely wife and two adorable kids—your son's four, your daughter's two—so I imagine your days of late nights and craziness on the road, and the wild rock and roll life, are behind you; how has the experience of growing up and having children, and leading a stable and normal grown-up life change your relationship to songwriting and playing music?

I think it's made me more focused. I don't have time for bullshit anymore. I mean, my wife and kids come first, and it's a difficult balance at times to get things done with my music, but that's part of the challenge and I kinda welcome it. There's also an important lesson there too, and one that I was taught by my father's dedication to his family and his music. It is possible to be dedicated to both. And I want my kids to see how amazing it is to have a passion in life and how gratifying it is when you pursue things that you're passionate about.

You've dipped your toe into the acting world; you shot some scenes for Paul Morrissey's last movie, and you had a role in the blockbuster He's Just Not That Into You, is this something you want to pursue?

If it comes my way I'll give it my best, but I have no desire to pound the pavement going from audition to audition. I mean, I do enjoy the acting part, I just don't like all the bullshit in between. There's enough of that in the music business.

What are some things that inspire you right now? What about current musicians? What are you digging?

Well, I've been listening heavily to Boogaloo lately, which is Latin soul from the 60s—artists like Joe Cuba, Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, Peter Rodriguez and Tito Puente. It's party music. It makes people smile. It's also the music I grew up with, the music my dad played. I've been working recently on a modern take on Boogaloo for my next record. I'm also obsessed with [the 1978 Jamaican cult movie] Rockers. It's so stylish and raw.
Venue Information:
The Bowery Ballroom
6 Delancey St
New York, NY, 10002