9.30.2005

Interview with Arlie John Carstens/Juno/Ghost Wars


"Arlie Carstens Outside." Angelino Heights, 2005. Photo Credit: Unknown



1. I’ve read that you’ve moved from Seattle to L.A. – aside from the obvious differences - how is it for you to live in L.A.?

I needed a break from Seattle’s damp wet weather. I broke my neck and lumbar spine a few years ago and still deal with a lot of chronic pain and bouts of depression. More than anything, I moved to Los Angeles to simply be warmer and out of the rain.

It’s nice to be living somewhere else for a while. Many of my friends from around the country now live in Los Angeles. So honestly, moving here didn’t feel strange or difficult. I enjoy being here; I get out of bed each day with more optimism and energy. There are challenges here. I learn new things every day.

2. How is it been for you to not be in a band and to get out of the touring\recording\touring scheme that dominates just about any band’s life span?

That’s been tough at times because I enjoy touring and Juno toured a lot. It’s a good way to build and maintain friendships, and experience different perspectives on social and political issues. As well, just being around music and talking with other musicians can inspire the creative process. But oh well, things change. In order for Ghost Wars to happen I had to get out of familiar surroundings and routines. Leaving all that behind for awhile has given me room to approach this next project in new and different ways.


3. I’ve read your reviews of records on various magazines – did it came from a desire to share your thoughts on records and is it something you’re willing to keep on doing?

I became interested in writing when I was about eleven years old. Eventually I studied writing and literature at university. And for many years now I’ve worked as a freelance writer for all kinds of publications (weekly newspapers, skate, surf & snowboarding magazines, music publications, zines, literary & business journals, etc…). My work and personal life are wrapped up in music, art, photography, politics, and things like skateboarding and punk community. As far as I can remember I’ve always been involved with music as a writer and musician.
I love listening to music, and I make music- so, as part of my freelance work I occasionally write music reviews. But I’m not at all interested in being a music critic, if that is what you’re wondering. Most music critics seem kind of bored with music, or worse, spiteful of the efforts of those who make music. Generally, I try to write about things that I enjoy listening to and that I’d be happy to recommend to other people.


"Thinking About Music." Ghost Wars, 2005. Seattle Public Library w/Anna Hrnjak. Photo Credit: Anna Hrnjak

4.Reading the Juno website updates is always been to me a part of what your band was about – and seeing how articulate and diverse the updates were – have you ever had the desire to write something that has to do with fiction in anyway?

I grew up thinking I was going to be a writer; at least, that’s what I thought I wanted to be. And then in my teens I fell in love with punk and experimental music. So for me, music and writing have just always gone together. I’m interested in life and all the things that happen to people while they’re here. Writing about it somehow seems to help me make sense of it. Which may explain why the Juno updates are the way they are, and also may explain why our songs read more like stories than traditional verse/chorus/verse forms.

Recently, I was accepted to a creative writing program at a grad school in New York. Going would allow me to focus on the fiction projects I’ve been working on, but the two years at school will delay Ghost Wars a lot longer. So I don’t know…feeling pretty ambivalent about it. I’ll probably do more work with fiction eventually, but right now Ghost Wars is what I’m most excited to be doing creatively. It’s all a matter of carving out the time and finding the energy to keep at it.

5. I think that your lyric writing approach with Juno was very clear – despite the lyrics being about various subjects – how did you achieve it? What were the elements that you found important in writing lyrics?

The elements? People, places, politics, history, literature, jokes, music, and various experiences good and bad. I write lyrics in attempt to make sense of life and paint pictures of events and emotions; to tell the stories of the lives of people I’ve known and have cared about. Especially the stories of the people I miss, many of whom are gone and who can no longer relay the stories themselves. Despite how discarded some of us feel and regardless of how fucked up the world is, all of our lives matter. We can either fall into darkness and fear or we can build community and love one another. Music, much as it breaks my heart, it gives me hope. That’s pretty much it. Lyrics are my way of chronicling our lives, honouring my dead, and keeping the memory of past events, people and places close to my heart.


6. A couple of years have passed since Juno being in indefinite hiatus \ split, what has time bought to you in the way you look back at that experience?

Juno was a nine-year, full-time labour of love. We all kind of came from fucked-up and futureless, broken family backgrounds. And I think we all felt pretty strongly that music was the only thing that was going to get us up and out in the world. We worked hard and laughed a lot, but we also dealt with a lot of struggle. Tough times most all of the time. Our intention was to make music that was interesting to us, and that would challenge and change us, rather than make music that relied on clichés or that would fit easily into common genres. A great deal of love and dedication went into those albums and tours.

But toward the end, while some of us were excited to keep making songs and touring, others became unsure of what they wanted to do in their personal and artistic lives. The routine of practicing, touring, finding money to record, and dealing with setbacks can wear people out. Which is totally valid. Living the life of a full-time musician is hard, especially when working on an independent level and only having each other for motivation every day. Still, we’re all friends. Gabe, Greg and I occasionally talk about if/when we’ll complete the third Juno album. It might happen, it might not. Either way, we’re all appreciative and proud of our time together.



“ACBeardo." Taking a time out from shaving to record. Photo credit: Eric Fisher

7. How is your new project Ghost Wars developing \ how did you decide to start something new?

Honestly, it all began about ten years ago when a friend gave me Talk Talk’s last two albums, The Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock. Ever since first hearing those albums I’ve wanted to do a project like this, something that has a distinct sound and vision but that is not the work of a specific group of musicians. Something that is not a “band” necessarily. For many years, Eric Fisher (Engineer/Producer/multi-instrumentalist) and I would talk about working together like this, but we could never find the time because we were busy with our other full-time projects. Same situation with our friend Nate. He’s been busy with the Foo Fighters (and until recently with the Fire Theft). Only recently has he had a recording situation at home that allows us to do more work on Ghost Wars.

8.Apart from yourself who is involved?

Right now there are about 22 songs and each one has different people playing various instruments. Some people play on a few songs, and some only play on one song. Everything is spread out across four hard-drives, one four-track, one ADAT, two cassette recorders, and a telephone voicemail line. It’s somewhat of a semi-organized mess. The main collaborators are Eric Fisher, Nate Mendel and I. From song to song we’ve done additional tracking with our friends: Rosie Thomas (solo artist), Morgan Henderson (Blood Brothers), Jay Clark (Pretty Girls Make Graves), Gabe Carter (Juno), Fasil Debeb (Recall Seven), Josh Myers (pianist/film scorer), Eric Akre (Treepeople/BTS/Heather Duby), Jason McGerr (DCFC), David Broecker (Juno/The Prom/John Vanderslice), John Davis (Q and Not U), Drew O’Dougherty (ex-Ted Leo & The Pharmacists), Todd Ussery, Ben Lappenga, Corey Murchy (Minus The Bear), Eric Kinder, and Goth Joel (Suffering and The Hideous Thieves). Is that everyone so far? I think so; apologies if I’ve left anyone out.


"Eric Fisher Telecaster." Eric Fisher, guitar tracking in Angelino Heights, Los Angeles, 2005. Photo credit: Arlie Carstens

9.Are you going to record and play some shows any time soon?

AC: I spent most of June and the first half of July 2005 recording in Seattle, where Fisher and I focused on basic tracks for nine of those 22 songs. The project is still very much in its infancy. For the most part, we’re working in basement studios and using home Pro Tools rigs. Right now it is decidedly a recording project. Once the material is finished, then Fisher and I will probably try to figure out if, when and how we’d like to play shows and tour. One step at a time.

10. Reading what you wrote on political and social issues I guess your take on what is happening in the world right now is similar to mine, but don’t you ever feel that it's difficult to hold on to an independent perception of events in a world that has long lost his?

Not so much. I like learning new things, and I have love, hope and willpower. There are a few principles that I try to live by but I’m also a flexible, open-minded person. Communication, insight and change for the better sometimes requires more listening than talking, more compromise than control. If anything, more people in the world need to believe their voices and talents matter. It is better to have well-informed positions on social and political issues than to give up and let others decide everything for you or for your country and community. Lots of people live passively; either believing nothing substantial will come of their actions or hoping that others will rise to the task of voicing dissent for them. Nothing good happens that way.

Here in the U.S. we’re dealing with the consequences of an unjust war in Iraq, massive flooding and failed disaster relief in New Orleans, Texas & Mississippi, nationwide financial recession, inflation, highest gas prices in 20 years, rampant unemployment, widespread economic and educational disparities, global warming, wars on “Terror” and “Drugs,” and a White House administration hell bent on dominating the world with its narrow-minded agendas. It’s all a fucking mess, but in big and small ways every day, life is what you make it. Participation is fun and interesting. Caring about people, sharing your life with others, and maintaining a sense of humour and curiosity are what makes being alive worth a goddamn. Otherwise, it is nothing but turmoil and doubt. The only way to effect change is to have the heart and the will to create something from that nothing. Perseverance every day.


"Arlie Hands." Los Angeles, Sept. 2005. Photo Credit: Chrissy Piper

6 commenti:

Anonimo ha detto...

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Anonimo ha detto...

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brett.andrew.miotti. ha detto...

solid interview! thank you very very much for posting this!

Anonimo ha detto...

This is interview is soooo Arlie. Can even picture the faces you were making, dude!

Anonimo ha detto...

Arlie, is quite an enigma, a cross between a sonwriting jello biafra/punk/anti establishment type of character and that guidance counselor you always believed in.....in some way. I love this guy, great little blogerview, very cool, I know Arlie does not want fame and fortune but he deserves not to struggle and to get his message to the masses, because it is a good message, from a really good guy.

Just promise us when GhstWrz does tour you come back to the middle east in Bean Town

Walker

Adeline ha detto...

arlie j i can't help but think you belong in seattle, but then its been years since i known ya.

glad we all grew up ok, some maybe better than others.