sexta-feira, 19 de julho de 2013

Joseph Arthur: The stories behind Peter Gabriel's Real World Records Nº 2

In 1989, Peter Gabriel used his big Genesis bucks to fund Real World Records. The label that, arguably, gave rise to the popularity of world music is celebrating its stellar history with a series of reissues called Real World Gold. CBC Music seized the opportunity to interview some of the label’s biggest names. There have been some surprises along the way, which sparked this six-part series. Part one was an interview with Sheila Chandra. Now to part two, with Joseph Arthur.
It sounds like one of those urban myths, except in this case, it’s true: Joseph Arthur was just 25 years old when Peter Gabriel happened upon his demo and signed him to Real World Records. Arthur launched a solo, folk-driven career that has kept him happily on the fringe of mainstream success, until a few months ago when he joined forces with Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament and started the rock band RNDM.
Arthur credits his time with Real World for encouraging his lifelong interest in reinvention, something that’s evident even on his earliest albums — Come to Where I’m FromJunkyard Hearts and Big City Secrets — which have just been reissued through Real World Gold. CBC Music spoke with Arthur about the famous faces and collaborations from his heady first days at Real World.

How did you get involved in Real World originally?

It was dumb luck really. I gave a demo tape, a cassette back then, to some friends, and one of them gave it to somebody else, who gave it to somebody else, who gave it to Peter Gabriel. It was just complete dumb luck. Then Peter Gabriel called me up and had me play a showcase in New York and then the next thing I knew I was at WOMAD playing there, and then at the recording week at Real World Studios with like, families from India and Joe Strummer and Karl Wallinger and Tchad Blake and all of these amazing producers, engineers and musicians, just making music and improvising.
I was 25, I’d just been working at a guitar shop for minimum wage a month prior to that. It was mind-blowing, very surreal. It really was amazing. It kind of hasn’t stopped being amazing in a way [laughs].

Did you wonder how your music would fit into Real World’s roster?

I had never even heard of Real World Records. I had heard of Peter Gabriel; “Shock the Monkey” was one of the first singles I ever bought when I was a kid, but I didn’t know Peter Gabriel had a record label or anything like that. I suppose that was a beneficial kind of ignorance, because I was already immersed in it by the time I got intimidated by it. I think there was luck in that, in a way.

At WOMAD and during that recording week did you feel like what you were doing was a complementary fit?

Real World Studios is a beautiful place in the English countryside, [host to] families from other countries, and the whole thing was very utopian. It feels like it was something out of a dream. I had always been a bass player. I had really only just started writing songs and singing my own songs a few years before that. I didn’t start singing until I was 21.
I was sitting on a lawn at Real World talking to somebody, probably somebody amazing, I can’t remember [laughs] and Peter Gabriel came up to me and, "Hey, we’re recording upstairs if you want to come and improvise with us." I said, "Oh, do you want me to play bass or something?" and he said, "No, I thought you might write lyrics and sing." That was a mind-blowing moment. Like, really? That was him, Wallinger, [John] Leckie, I think, was engineering, who produced Radiohead and the Stone Roses. And the track we worked on was called “Exit Through You,” which ended up on the record they put out called Big Blue Ball.

I can imagine, not even knowing you’re talking to famous people or having any clue who they are.

Absolutely! People all over the place. I think about it now in hindsight. There were a lot of opportunities missed, and not on a level of ambition but just on a level of creativity. I was so young as well. But I also made good on a lot of creative opportunities, too, so I don’t have a lot of regrets or anything. But, it is one of those things where like, oh my God, Joe Strummer was just hanging out the whole time! And I did get to jam and play and hang out with him, but I wouldn’t have liked to do more than that ... Iggy Pop was there, I always forget to mention Iggy Pop and I don’t really know why, because I love Iggy Pop. He was there with Johnny Depp and Kate Moss, too. They never factor into my story, but that’s how surreal it was. When you leave names like that out, you know you’re in a surreal landscape [laughs].
It sounds like such a crazy whirlwind of activity.
I signed my record deal at that recording week. I assumed that was just how Real World Records, Peter Gabriel, rock star life was. I thought, OK, I’m now behind the curtain and this is how it is: all these people just hang out together. When you’re from Ohio you imagine it’s another world and it’s a fancy world where people do fancy things. They were treating me nice and I was actually staying at the studios, they have nice rooms there, and probably three days after the thing had ended, I was still hanging out there. They were like, "You have to go, man, this is a commercial studio. You can’t just stay here. Recording week is over." They said it in a nice way, but yeah, like you can’t just squat here.
I actually met this guy name Graham Patterson who now does the sound for David Gray, he used to do a bunch of tours with me, and we met at recording week and he’s still one of my best friends to this day. He had given me his number and said that if I ever needed a place to stay in London, call me. So, I did and ended up living at his place for a year. I just didn’t leave. Started a band, started recording my record at Real World and just dove headfirst into U.K. culture in 1995. It was pretty amazing actually.

It’s obvious from the reissues that you’re Real World's indie rock guy. Did it feel strange to be that on a label that was so diverse, so multicultural and all about bringing music from all over the world?

I guess in hindsight I was their indie rock person, but it wasn’t — well, it was a thing, but it was such a whirlwind. I was a good fit in that I’m kind of open-minded. Markus Dravs, who’s gone on to become a really big producer with Arcade Fire and Coldplay, one of the first records he produced was my first record.... We embraced the Real World culture. There’s a hurdy gurdy on it and [Dravs] kind of trained with Brian Eno, who sang on the record with Peter Gabriel. We weren’t making a record to purposefully fit onto Real World, but we were embracing the environment and the surrounding.
My aesthetic was more Velvet Underground and Nirvana. I loved Pavement and loose, sort of sloppy and live — that was kind of how my philosophy was and just record fast. Whereas Peter Gabriel comes from this whole other dimension of production and meticulousness and ideas. This whole other thing, to come up and learn how to make records in that environment, really changed me and opened me up to a lot of different ideas.
Source: by Andrea Warner -  CBC music

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