FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Peter Broderick

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“When covering someone else’s work, one can’t help but wonder sometimes, what would the artist think about these new renditions?”

—Peter Broderick

 Words: Mark Carry

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Released initially on Christmas day, “Peter Broderick & Friends Play Arthur Russell” is a loving tribute to the 20th century musical visionary.

Many parallels exist between these two cross-generational composers, for Russell and Broderick’s genre-defying and deeply moving musical works are boundless (in terms of crossing a myriad of styles and many times within the same record) and limitless (in terms of the sublime beauty that soars from each artist’s wholly unique song-craft). The full spectrum of Arthur Russell’s compelling songbook is celebrated – and re-interpreted – across the album’s ten pristine recordings, from post-disco (‘That’s Us/Wild Combination’); sparse folk (‘Words of Love’) to soul-stirring minimal wave of ‘Losing My Taste For The Nightlife’ and folk country gems (‘You Are My Love’).

This deeply heartfelt record reflects just how these American composers are in fact, kindred spirits and this precise timeless spirit emanates from the album’s captivating narrative (of which spans many of Russell’s divine records). On ‘Ballad Of The Lights’, a young boy’s voice (replacing Allen Ginsberg’s original spoken word) talks about life and mortality and hopes and fears: “He wonders about life and he wonders if he will ever get old”. It is one of the most beautiful and deeply moving recordings to grace your ears, to hear a boy (full of innocence, sincerity and hope) that “mystifies his younger years” and hits you profoundly.

This album invites a cast of family and friends to offer new insights into Russell’s music. ‘Come To Life’ sees the gorgeous harmonies of Brigid Mae Power’s blend effortlessly with Broderick’s, creating a divine avant pop folk odyssey. The two previously unreleased Arthur Russell recordings are also captured to tape here, further revealing (yet again) the endless mystery and innovative nature of Russell’s tower of songs.

‘Peter Broderick & Friends Play Arthur Russell’ is available now via Pretty Purgatory:

https://prettypurgatory.bandcamp.com/album/peter-broderick-friends-play-arthur-russell

http://www.peterbroderick.net/
https://arthurrussell.bandcamp.com/

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Interview with Peter Broderick.

 

Congratulations Peter on the truly spellbinding Arthur Russell covers record, it’s such a loving dedication to a special voice in music. One of the lovely aspects of this collection is how you interpret Arthur’s songs, and in many ways make them your own (or at the very least, put your own unique fingerprint to these songs). Please take me back to the recording sessions and this beautiful ensemble you had by your side? Having played several live shows in the recent past with this concept, I wonder did you have quite a clear picture in how this album would become?

Peter Broderick: Thank you Mark. As you say, I had already done a number of Arthur Russell tribute shows, so it felt like a natural next step to record some of those songs. And after getting the chance to meet Arthur’s niece and nephew in Maine, as well as making some other friends in Maine whom I wanted to collaborate with in some way, I got the idea to record the songs there, in Portland, Maine, and to invite Rachel and Beau to contribute to these new versions of their uncle’s songs. After recording the basic tracks there, I put the finishing touches on the recordings at home in Ireland, inviting some more friends and family to contribute.

Can you recount your memories of first discovering Arthur’s music? Which record or musical period did you first fall in love with his unique sound? I must say there is a lovely correlation between you and your musical hero, in particular how you both really have created a plethora of wide-ranging musical journeys (in terms of the boundless nature of your music)…in the process of delving into this album, were there new insights and learnings you feel you uncovered about Arthur Russell’s songbook and musical genius?

PB: The first record that caught my ear was Another Thought, which I heard at a friend’s house in 2008 or 2009. I had already heard of Arthur Russell quite a bit before then, and even had quite a few people tell me I reminded them of Arthur Russell . . . but for whatever reason that was the first time the music really caught my attention. But once my attention was caught, I quickly went down into the rabbit hole. I just love everything he did, and how much musical exploration there is in his catalogue. I tracked down everything of his I could get my hands on. The most expensive record I ever bought is an original pressing of ‘Tower Of Meaning’ . . . I’m not gonna tell you how much I payed for that!

Two songs are previously unreleased, never to have been released by Arthur Russell. I was very interested to hear that you were given full access to his vast treasure chest of unreleased recordings. Can you perhaps discuss the reasons why you picked these two particular songs, Peter? I’d love for you to describe this experience and indeed how you crossed paths – and collaborated closely – with many of Arthur’s family, not least his partner Tom Lee?

PB: I wouldn’t say I was given full access to the archives. But Steve Knutson, who manages the Arthur Russell Estate, handed over to me several hours of unreleased material, which I then combed through to retrieve anything listenable . . . some of which needed considerable finessing to get into a decent sonic state. But the whole process was deeply fascinating to me, and along the way I discovered some absolute gems of songs, including those two on the record, which Steven and Tom Lee so graciously allowed me to release. And it’s been wonderful getting to know Tom. He has such a pure love for Arthur’s work, and he creates such beautiful works of art himself. I’m really honoured to have his painting on the cover of my little record of covers.

Portland Maine is the place of birth for both you and Arthur Russell. What was Maine like as a place to grow up in? The coast must be something that served a big inspiration for you, throughout your life?

PB: I was born near a small town called Searsmont, a couple hours away from Portland, Maine. And Arthur was actually born in Iowa. But much of Arthur’s surviving family is based in Maine nowadays. My family relocated to Oregon when I was just 3 or 4 years old, so it’s only in the last few years that I’ve been reconnecting with my birth place a bit. I’ve come to realize that I really love Maine.

Your beloved step son – and a big hero of mine! – Seán Power is prominently featured on the gorgeous and deeply moving cover of ‘Ballad Of The Lights’. I just love how Seán’s spoken word segments are beautifully interwoven with your heavenly harmonies. Please take me back to the recording (and even your initial ‘sketches’ so to speak) of this incredible song (and new recording)? Needless to say, it must have been a fun session to participate in…

PB: I’m not sure when exactly I got the idea in my head to ask Seán to recite those lines, which are spoken by Allen Ginsberg on the original recording . . . but once I got the idea, I couldn’t shake it. I asked Seán if I could hire him for the job, and I believe we settled on €30 plus a trip to the toy store immediately after the recording session. I am absolutely delighted with the result, and I think he was pretty happy with his new toys. It seems like people are enjoying that part of the record, which I’m really glad to hear. Seán is an awesome dude and I’m so grateful he’s on there.

One of my all-time favourite Arthur Russell songs is ‘Losing My Taste For The Nightlife’ and your version here is so fitting and blissfully beautiful. Again, the immaculate instrumentation and your vocal delivery (a constant across all these songs) breathes new life into Arthur’s sacred songbook. Did you have any concerns or doubts about (not only) playing Arthur’s songs (in terms of the live shows) but recording a whole batch of songs and releasing them?

PB: When covering someone else’s work, one can’t help but wonder sometimes, what would the artist think about these new renditions? I was definitely a little self-conscious about turning ‘A Little Lost’ into a reggae song . . . but I just LOVE playing it like that, and it’s one of my favorite ones to listen to from the record. There are some songs, like ‘Eli’ for instance, which I tried to learn pretty much note for note . . . but then there are others which I felt compelled to make a bit more my own. I suppose like anything, some people will like it and some people won’t. I’m happy with all these versions though.

Were there any happy accidents – I’m sure there were, as often in your recordings some spontaneous wonder occurs – that took place during the making of this record? I also love how you cover a lot of the composer’s various releases and in turn, this record really does convey just how inspirational and genre-defying his music truly is….

PB: Well I was really surprised by some of the contributions from friends on this record. The pedal steel parts from Hamilton Belk really blew my mind and just added so much to the songs. David Allred’s horn arrangement on ‘A Little Lost’ was a lovely surprise, and I love the bass part that Daniel O’Sullivan came up with on ‘Come To Life’. All of Beau Lisy’s percussion additions are really special to me. He likes to play this thing he calls a ‘Shitar’, which is basically a guitar with a bunch of shit glued onto it (get it? shit-ar?) . . . there are some really groovy rhythms on ‘That’s Us/Wild Combination’ which were played on that thing.

What’s next for you, Peter?

PB: Just a couple hours ago I finished mixing a live recording which, if all goes according to plan, will become my first live album, to be released later in 2019. More details to come on that one. I’m gearing up now to do some shows with my friend David Allred, working on some music for a film . . . it seems like 2019 will be another busy year with lots of music. And hopefully some time to do some of my favorite outdoor activities like foraging for wild food. I also hope to continue learning and sharing Arthur’s songs.

‘Peter Broderick & Friends Play Arthur Russell’ is available now via Pretty Purgatory:

https://prettypurgatory.bandcamp.com/album/peter-broderick-friends-play-arthur-russell

http://www.peterbroderick.net/
https://arthurrussell.bandcamp.com/

Written by admin

January 14, 2019 at 3:02 pm

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