'New Food For Thought'
When he sings ruefully in 'Mary Ann,' one of the songs on his Bardic Records debut, Edible Darling, "The older I get, the more I realize/The best I can hope for his compromise," Ben Arthur is only half-serious. After all, the young veteran hasn't toiled at his craft for more than a decade to give in without a fight for his beliefs. The singer-songwriter has been through a litany of near-misses after being heavily courted by several major record labels through the years.
For his Bardic Records bow (after two releases on his own Chicken Butter label), Arthur made sure he did things his way, with the help of engineer Mike Shipley (Aerosmith, India Arie, Shania Twain, Def Leppard).
Once you've listened to Arthur's music, if you get the idea he's not your everyday folk-rock-country-blues singer-songwriter, then you're catching on! Indeed, Arthur's delicate melodies remain key to his appeal, though he incorporates 808s, DJ-scratching and drum machines on several of the songs, with cellos and strings underlining others. There are bits and pieces of John Lennon's cheeky fatalism, Beck's homespun experiments, the earnestness of Chris Carrabba, Pete Yorn's seductive psychedelia, and even the exoticism of Joseph Arthur (no relation).
Chatting with the man himself recently, we first discussed why he named his forthcoming album Edible Darling and where the idea for the cover art had originated "I saw the words 'Edible Darling' stenciled on a trashcan down in the Meat Packing district of New York City. Surrounded by bloody sides of beef and dangling hooves, it seemed so wonderfully menacing yet affectionate, that I decided to co-opt it for the album!"
"The cover image - of a grinning tomato - was made by an extraordinary
artist and friend of mine named Margot Quan Knight, who graciously
allowed me to ride the coattails of her genius!"
You've been described as a 'young veteran' plainly for the fact of a
decade spent toiling away in the business ... so has there ever come a
point where enough was enough and another occupation flashed before your
eyes? "Being Winona Ryder's parole officer could have its upsides ...!"
The lyrics to your songs have been quite deep, sometimes even
broodingly dark - does this come from your own real life experiences or
simply life itself? "'Broodingly dark' ... I like it. Sounds like a Tim Burton movie! I'm not certain. The lyrics reflect a broad array of
experiences - personal, inferred, imagined and pilfered - but I suppose
all is interpreted through my own peculiar prism."
How will this new CD differ from your 1997, Curses and Rapture? "More Britney, less Cher! Hopefully I've become a better writer and producer, but I'm not sure if it's true."
Listening to 'Keep Me Around,' I'm wondering if you are a true fan of the infamous, 'Weekend At Bernie's' movie?! "Not really, though for sheer upbeat-macabre, it's hard to beat."
Tell me more about that infamous day in September 2001 when you moved
back to America, and in particular New York ... and the song you created
thereafter "I think the work of every artist (particularly every New York artist) has been effected and informed by 9/11. Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is all but a post-9/11 threnody/concept album. You're referring to 'Broken-Hearted Smile', I think, which kind of poses
the city as a lover. To my ears, though, 9/11's shadow touches a lot of
What did you learn most from being the son of college professors? "Tough question ... I'm not sure."
Describe yourself in just three words "Awkward but earnest."
From the way you compose you almost sound like a painter using his
brush strokes to create a masterpiece ... have you ever painted? "Thanks very much for the implied compliment, but I'm not sure I can lay claim to any masterpieces. I do not paint, but a lot of my family members do."
Finally, if you were locked into a studio and asked to make a song
with four other musicians (none related to the work you have done or
currently are doing), who would they be and what would the name of the
song be?! "Tom Morello, John Paul Jones, Emmy Lou Harris, Dave Grohl, and the song would be called 'Wormwood'!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
Check out this Ben Arthur E-Card:
Ben Arthur E-Card
To win your very own AUTOGRAPHED Ben Arthur poster and a Ben Arthur CD Sampler, just answer me this easy question: Arthur's 1997's album Curses and Rapture gets its name from a book written by ...... who? Just send an e:mail to me with the subject title 'BEN' and the answer in the text to:
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