Is It All Over?: Arthur Russell and the Art of Fluidic Dance Music... How Much Of His Music Is Still Locked Up in The Vault?...
“If you listen to Arthur’s music, and you’re not familiar with it, you think how could one person work in all these different ways? Not many people allow themselves the full extent of their complexity.” David Toop (1)
In his lifetime, Arthur Russell explored a diverse range of music with a multi-faceted approach that ranged from intimate solo cello work to extrovert dance music. Following his untimely death in April 1992, most people remembered Russell for his dance music. This side of his work had been commercially successful and long after his death DJs continued to consistently have a big appetite for his music. Russell’s experimental work on albums like Instrumentals, Tower of Meaning, and World of Echo, as well as his music with bands The Flying Hearts, The Sailboats and The Necessaries was all but forgotten by all but a select few lucky enough to have the vinyl or have witnessed Arthur Russell as a performer in person. Until the relatively recent resurgence of interest in his non-dance music work in the mid ‘00s, Russell’s strongest impact remained on the dance floor.
Certainly there were those who tried to get the world to see the full scope of Arthur Russell and his music. In 1994, Phillip Glass’ Point Music label aimed to revive interest in Russell’s cello led songs with the oft-overlooked album Another Thought. Attempting to reach a larger demographic Point Music even managed to get his former collaborator David Byrne to talk on camera in an EPK video they sent out to the press. But despite Byrne’s endorsement a fuller picture of Russell remained under the radar.
Important support for Russell’s non-dance work also came from musician and critic David Toop (2). Toop continually reminded anyone who would listen about the epic and emotional cello focused masterpiece World of Echo, gradually building up a cult following for the record with readers of The Wire magazine (3). For many, World of Echo was a clear example of the remarkable multiplicity of a man whose work remained an insider secret.
In 1996, Russell’s spiritualist, Corn Belt-inspired space anthem “In The Light Of The Miracle” was released as a white label by Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud imprint (4). The 12” featured three takes of the track. On the A Side, Russell’s fans and acquaintances – DJs Danny Krivit and Tony Smith, produced an extended, untitled, over thirteen-minute mix that recalls the work of Russell collaborator Walter Gibbons (5). The single caused a revival of interest in Russell with those who love to dig for obscure cuts. Rumors started to flow that this mysterious white label was the tip of an iceberg and in fact there remained a large stash of unreleased Arthur Russell material hidden away in some mysterious vault in New York.
I first heard more about this legendary cache of material in 2000, from David Hill, co-founder of the UK dance music label Nuphonic who told me he was negotiating with Arthur’s boyfriend to release the material as an ongoing series of albums. David had big plans and spoke enthusiastically about listening to unreleased tracks but sadly nothing materialized as Nuphonic folded in 2002. I was exceptionally excited to hear in the fall of 2003 about the launch of a new label with plans to release archival Arthur Russell material. Steve Knutson’s independent Audika imprint launched its astounding series of albums (many of which touch on dance music) with 2004’s Calling Out of Context (6). This was rapidly followed by World Of Echo (2005), Let’s Go Swimming EP (digital only) (2005), First Thought Best Thought (2006), Springfield (2006) and last year’s album of country songs Love Is Overtaking Me (2008) (7).
From the start Audika’s releases caused an almost instantaneous outpouring of love for Russell that just grew and grew – especially with the indie rock crowd. Many discovered the uniqueness of Arthur Russell for the first time and it quickly became apparent that a major reassessment of Russell’s work was underway (8). Independent filmmaker Matt Wolf was so inspired by Russell’s story and Audika’s outpouring that he made the very touching documentary Wild Combination: a Portrait of Arthur Russell adding further fuel to the movement (9).
Last November, the Washington Post reported that Audika’s release program was now “probably” completed (10). Around the same time Russell’s partner Tom Lee told Gothamist “When I first met Arthur I wasn’t crazy about his ‘dance music’” (11) adding that as he got to know Arthur more he found the dance music side “very odd compared to the music that I favored.” (11) Earlier, in 2004, Tom had told David Toop that “Going to discos was very painful. It took me a while to come out. If Jackson Browne has been the music of the gay community I would have been out in a heartbeat.” (12)
As a long time fan of Arthur’s dance music I was struck with a question. Did this mean that the purported hours of Arthurs infamously quirky dance music that was supposedly in his archives would now never see the light of day? Was Tom Lee interested in the dance music side of Russell? What had happened to Audika’s promised album of “dance music’? How much unreleased Arthur Russell dance floor orientated music remains locked away in the vaults? From the looks of footage in Matt Wolf’s film quite a lot! But let’s remember a lot of dance music was released.
Recording under a variety of monikers Russell was one of the first artists in dance music to really develop the idea of having different identities as an art unto itself. His use of aliases between 1978 and 1986 was like a Buddhist lotus flower slowing unfolding. Each new project name revealed more of his Id, and another side of his never-ending creative mind. (13) If you could figure out that all these projects were the work of one man you were in on the secret.
One of Arthur Russell’s most successful dance music projects came about when he met DJ Steve D’Aquisto at the world’s first disco – The Gallery (14). Entitled Loose Joints the project took its name from the availability of said items in Russell’s East Village neighborhood. Moving quickly, D’Aquisto drafted in three vocalists he met on the dance floor at David Mancuso’s Loft – Melvina Woods, Robert Green and Leon McElroy. The duo also smartly brought in a family of talented R&B musicians from Philadelphia called the Ingram Brothers. While the Ingrams role in giving Loose Joints releases genuine funk can’t be denied clearly Russell and D’Aquisto were also able to get the brothers to experiment in new ways. First came the hit single “Is It All Over My Face?” a hedonistic composition that was reportedly recorded during a full moon in February 1979 at Bob Blank’s Blank Tapes studio thanks to a bankroll of $10,000 supplied by Mel Cheren of West End.
“Is It All Over My Face?” is a track that to this day still ignites dance floors whenever it’s played. Arthur’s partner Tom Lee recalls the time “When I first met Arthur he was not going out to clubs but we would go to either The Loft, or Paradise Garage, when he was assured by the DJ, or maybe Will Sokolov (15), that they intended to play one of his songs. When I first met him he would bring test pressings of “Is It All Over My Face?” One Saturday afternoon I remember going to the Loft and David Mancuso listened to the test pressing and promised to play it that night. We would usually get there after midnight and wait an hour or so until the DJ played one of his songs. The crowd at The Loft was very intense because it was very densely packed and people danced like crazy to “Is It All Over My Face?” (16) Tim Lawrence, author of an upcoming Arthur Russell biography, says this is one period of Russell’s recording career that’s he’s most curious about, adding “Personally I would love to hear more of the all-night Loose Joints sessions, which must have included the section that ended up becoming the Larry Levan remix of “Is It All Over My Face?,” as well as the section that was picked out for the very brilliant 7” version of “Pop Your Funk” (17/18).
“Pop Your Funk” was an altogether different beast, again like “Is It All Over My Face?” the songs theme is sexual but this time it also reflected Russell’s day-to-day life more – a life that meant Arthur was one of the few who could actually bridge the then very different environments of places like the Kitchen, the Paradise Garage, Danceteria, Roxy and CBGBs and in the process make music that could work equally well in any of them. In addition to a 12” release West End pressed up around 150 copies of a 7” version with a hand screen-printed sleeve (19). Critic David Toop has called the release “one of the craziest 45s ever released” (12). That 7” still remains something of a holy grail for Arthur Russell collectors – featuring two distinctly different mixes not on the 12” release. Neither of the two tracks has ever been reissued or repressed. Both tracks feature what could easily be described as prototypes for the music around us today. The spectacular (vocal) version clocks in at a mere two minutes and thirty-seven seconds, submerging the original 12” version further into a ethereal kind of mutated basement funk brimming with sexual tension and warped into mind-bending intensity by an oddly situated falling/rising sine wave blast. The two minutes and forty-one seconds of the flip side (Instrumental) version are a more punk-funk take on the song, removing the vocals and bringing to the fore metallic percussion and heavy reverb. This experimental take brings to mind Russell’s contemporaries Liquid Liquid, Konk and even early Martin Hannett-produced A Certain Ratio. Since the release of these tracks rumors have circulated and collectors believe there to be much more music from Loose Joints that has not seen the day.
After “Pop Your Funk” Arthur morphed Loose Joints into a new version of Dinosaur (14) – redubbed Dinosaur L that again included the Ingram Brothers, this time alongside New York experimentalists like African-American New Music composer Julius Eastman, Peter Gordon, Peter Zummo and percussionist Mustafa Ahmed. On the band’s album 24>24 Music (reissued in 2007) Arthur attempted to fuse together the many streams of music in his head into a new form of music. Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan was brought in to remix “In the Corn Belt” but it was drummer turned remixer Francois K who remolded the song “Go Bang” into a euphoric anthem that induced madness on the dance floor. So much so it became a massive hit (20). Tom Lee remembers “I remember being at The Paradise Garage when Larry Levan started playing “Go Bang.” People at first were just frozen still, not dancing, and we looked at each other, I think both a little worried. And then after a little bit of time the music kicked in and it was as if the people realized what song it was and started going wild. I can remember hearing “Go Bang” on WBLS; I think it may have been on a Sunday morning show. There was a time when Arthur would also perform “Go Bang” in some clubs with his cello, a backing track and a female vocalist – Thi Linh. I don’t remember the names of the clubs, one was here in the East Village” (16/22/23).
Arthur seemed to always be searching for new musical comrades. He was so persistent about breaking the “secret codes” of music, whether it was Indian Music that he studied in California, or rock that he induced The Modern Lovers’ Ernie Brooks to help him with. In the mid-80s with disco starting to lose its luster for many, Arthur finally found a collaborator who was equally as intense both personally and musically – DJ and remixer Walter Gibbons (5). Gibbons is arguably one of the most important innovators in dance music history. Together the duo created two astounding singles that to this day remain some of the most adventurous and avant-garde examples of dance music ever released. In 1985, under the brand new alias Indian Ocean (inspired at least partly by Arthur’s love of all things oceanic) they collaborated on the gem “Schoolbell / Tree House.” The A side brings together two mixes that combine a World Of Echo-like Russell cello with a subtle percussive underplay that never outstays its welcome. Russell sings -“I am a 100 and I am still going to school. I am 1000 and I am still going to school” indicating that learning was never over for him and his childlike spirit was still alive and kicking. Recalling the prairies of this youth the music is panoramic. It’s also a form of controlled chaos that recalls the fantastic mess of contradictions around Russell’s daily life both in the East Village and as a composer. On the flip side Gibbons contributes a reworking perhaps best described as glorious. His “Mixed with Love” take on the song tells us quite often, should we not realize it, that we “better listen” – his perfect placement of hi-hats and congas, and smart use of dub techniques, gives us a dance music piece that redefines the idea that 4/4 is a rigid constraint. Here it’s merely a guideline. Gibbon’s 4/4 is as elastic as can be.
Perhaps realizing the true genius of their collaboration, Russell dropped all pseudonyms for his next collaboration with Gibbons released the following year. Like “Tree House,” “Lets Go Swimming” was a new version of song Russell had been performing since at least 1984 (23). Again the A side featured two Arthur mixes/edits – “Gulf Stream Dub” and “Puppy Surf Dub” – and yet again the flip included a “Mixed with Love” version from Walter Gibbons – the results were nothing short of jaw dropping. Gibbons mix of “Lets Go Swimming” is one of the most important dance mixes of the 20th Century – taking in everything from electro’s desire for a pounding kick to dub’s echo techniques – Gibbons and Russell created something that to this day still sounds ahead of it’s time. If you want to know what all the fuss is about when it comes to Arthur’s dance music give yourself a few months with this track. Sadly little else was to surface from Arthur’s collaboration with Gibbons (6/21).
The next year Arthur collaborated with Bob Blank on the Lola single “Wax The Van” a hit in the clubs with the then nascent house music scene. No more dance music was to be released during Arthur’s lifetime.
Back to 2009 and the fever pitch interest in Arthur Russell is far from over – a long awaited in depth biography Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973–92 is due out this fall from author of the disco history Love Saves The Day Tim Lawrence. Lawrence confirms – “The book is going to be about 400 pages long” (17) adding it will include “something like 80 pieces of artwork, much of which is original.” Delving further he reveals,
Of course the book is a biography, so I trace the life of Arthur and all of that. But one of the things that struck me about Arthur was that he wasn’t an obvious biographical subject, in as much as his life wasn’t very heroic, he didn’t achieve any level of fame, and much of his life included no discernible thread. Above all, Arthur didn’t seem to be primarily interested in Arthur, by which I mean, he wasn’t an egomaniac determined to achieve fame at all costs, but was rather a musician who wanted to follow his ear. What came out of this was that Arthur was in some respects interesting precisely because he wasn’t an obvious biographical subject, or precisely because he wasn’t the kind of guy who would normally have a biography written about him. I was attracted to the idea of writing a biography about that kind of person, but it wouldn’t have made sense to then write the biography in the mode of a regular biography. I was presented by an alternative mode of writing as I went about my research, which involved me speaking to something like a hundred of Arthur’s friends and collaborators (as well as a number of family members).
As I spoke with those people, it became clear that Arthur was part of this very important moment when a downtown creative-cultural network came into being. The network existed because all sorts of musicians, artists, poets, video filmmakers and so on had moved into downtown New York in the 1960s and 1970s because the rents were so cheap. After a while, an interactive, cross-pollinating community began to emerge, and this community was very much focused on collaborative, experimental work. A few people emerged out of the scene to achieve a degree of fame – bands such as Talking Heads and artists such as Keith Haring. But for the most part the musicians and artists who formed the downtown music and art network were focused on forming alliances and dedicating themselves to their art. Arthur was very much embedded in this network and was a key figure in helping a number of cross-generic/cross-arts projects come to fruition, so ultimately I wanted to draw this out, because I thought that Arthur’s biography was in many respects the story of his relationship with other musicians and artists. Then of course there was the hugely significant matter that Arthur lived in New York at a time when popular music was transformed in ways that we’re still coming to terms with. This was the era of the rise of disco (and therefore contemporary dance culture), the emergence of punk and New Wave and the evolution of hip-hop, as well as the equally important introduction of minimalism in the orchestral scene. Intriguingly and compelling, Arthur was involved in all of these scenes, often simultaneously, and so his biography also became a sort of biography of music in New York across the 1970s and 1980s.” (17)
Additionally this fall will also bring us the first conference devoted to Arthur Russell, “Kiss Me Again: The Life and Legacy of Arthur Russell” (which will take place at New York University on October 10). (24) The conference will include panel discussions on Russell along with a series of performances from musicians who worked with him. Tim Lawrence will be launching his book at the event. He adds, “The conference was proposed by Sukhdev Sandhu at NYU. I’ve become involved as a co-organizer, along with Peter Gordon, an old friend of Arthur’s and the leader of the always-interesting Love of Life Orchestra, who is now teaching at Bloomfield.” (17). Lawrence’s biography, continued academic analysis of Arthur Russell’s work, and the reviving of Arthur’s music by musicians who actually worked with him are all sure to keep raising the profile and fervent interest in Arthur Russell and his music, and in turn this is sure to feed further interest about what remains in Russell’s archive. (24)
Steve Knutson from Audika, along with Tom Lee, is largely responsible for much of today’s interest in Russell admitted that the Washington Post (10) got things wrong last year confirming “There will be more music released, but it’s unlikely that there will be a “major” project in the vein of say Calling Out Of Context or Love Is Overtaking Me. (26) Adding that in his opinion “Truthfully, there is very little left in the archive that warrants release.”
Last year Knutson wrote an article for Dusted Magazine (26) that discussed ten Arthur Russell songs that we’ll never hear. Number one on the list is a composition called “Anti-Gravity Soap.” Knutson describes this as “Hands down the oddest, most unique, unreleased rhythmic track.” Additionally Knutson describes an incomplete Loose Joints outtake “The Only Usefulness” “as Black Gospel as it is Disco. Arthur’s guide vocal is sublime. Same musicians as “Is It All Over My Face?” But Knutson adds the take is “incomplete” (26).
In his article Knutson does also explain the process of dealing with Arthur’s archive. “Once the songs are selected, years, weeks, months and days are spent looking for the appropriate tape reels. The tapes usually need to be baked as they have deteriorated over the years. It’s a long process. Sometimes, I use the cassette. There remain many songs that I’d love to release commercially, but in general either the tape quality is so poor that they best remain unheard or the performance is drastically incomplete” (26).
Tom Lee explains their vision to date: “Steve, and I want to make sure that whatever we do release is truly representative of Arthur and his music. We have tried together to do that with everything we’ve released so far. For example, I remember how long and hard Arthur worked on “Springfield” and felt that it should come out as it did, as a stand-alone feature” (16). Lee also confirms that the majority of the archival ‘dance music’ is out. “Arthur considered much of the music that was released on Calling Out Of Context to be ‘dance music’. I love those songs and feel that people maybe have to give it more of a listen and imagination to see it has he did. Arthur would have welcomed having someone re-mix those songs to bring them to the dance floor. I think that when you consider “In The Light Of The Miracle” and “Springfield” or “Wax The Van”, his view of ‘dance music’ was very broad, which I hope others will hear as well” (16).
Fortunately there is some hope that the future will bring more unknown Arthur Russell; Knutson confirmed, “I am planning to release a few projects (likely digital only) of songs that were set aside from the various Audika Records albums that did not fit within the intended aesthetics of the particular release.” (25). He also clarifies why he never released an album of Arthur’s dance music because in 2004 Soul Jazz’s The World of Arthur Russell compilation– “beat me to it, and did an excellent job with it.” (25). When pushed further about what remains in the vaults and his feelings about Arthur’s dance music Knutson is emotional in his response. “I became obsessed with Arthur BECAUSE of his dance music. But (and very personally), I believe that Arthur was so much more than just a dance music artist, and my goal with the various Audika projects was to illuminate that everything he did holds equal value. Tom Lee agrees with me on this 100%. Arthur was a genius of ALL forms he worked with. Arthur made ‘Arthur” music’ (25).” Knudson continues, “I was hoping to discover some unreleased tracks and remixes, but truthfully, there is nothing. The few Loose Joints outtakes are very raw and incomplete” (25).
Tom Lee confirms this “I don’t think that Steve or I are trying to give the impression that there is a cache of unreleased dance music but your questions all seem to imply that we are holding something back” (28). Clearly neither Lee or Knutson were.
Tim Lawrence noted to me, “I don’t think it’s a matter of being pro dance or anti-dance – at least not with Tom or Steve. They’ve just seen the dance material get a lot of prominence for quite a long time, and since 2004 there’s been more of an emphasis on Arthur’s other recordings” (17). He added, “I know that it’s the case that a number of Arthur’s collaborators and intimates felt that for the longest time the only thing Arthur was recognized for was his dance output, and that therefore the ‘whole Arthur’ was being missed. I’m not sure that those people want to sideline his dance output per se. They probably just want people to understand that dance was just one of the many kinds of music that Arthur pursued. And yet, I do sometimes sense that there might be a few people out there who don’t quite get dance, or who don’t feel entirely comfortable with the culture, who are feeling some kind of relief that Arthur’s dance output has not been at the forefront of recent ‘Arthur talk.’ U.S. popular culture for the most part simply isn’t comfortable with dance. But Arthur was fascinated by the culture and thought the music had huge aesthetic potential. To the end of his life, he recorded music that was notably funky, even when it wasn’t recorded primarily for the dance floor” (17).
So the question remains – with an unknown amount of tape from the vaults yet to be baked perhaps one day more usable Loose Joints recordings will be uncovered (29), or maybe Tom Lee and Steve Knutson will find a take of “Anti-Gravity Soap” (27/10) that they feel they can let the world at large hear. In the meantime I’ll have to content myself with that rare gem “Pop You Funk” 7” and the many 12”s and just hope that someday even a little more does emerge – digitally or otherwise. For the fact remains everything that Russell revealed dance music could be has rarely been equaled.
Former The Wire and XLR8R writer Gamall Awad is a DJ who runs a roving club night with Carl Craig called Demon Days. By day he runs independent music PR company Backspin Promotions which turns ten in January 2010.
REFERENCES AND SOURCES
(1) David Toop in Matt Wolf's Wild Combination: a Portrait of Arthur Russell. Plexifilm DVD - November 2008.
(2) David Toop was also the last journalist to interview Arthur Russell.
(3) Of course dance music fans and crate diggers lapped up World Of Echo too. After all, at the end of a long night of clubbing, a record like World of Echo is perfect come down music. Ambient DJs like Mixmaster Morris would also use it in their ‘chill out’ sets.
(4) The original version of “In The Light Of The Miracle” can be found on the Point Music CD Another Thought. A recent Discogs entry image seems to indicate that along with the Talkin’ Loud white label-only pressing there was an also a pressing from Point Music with black and white label art and credits. The A side of the 12” “In The Light Of The Miracle (Untitled Mix 1)” was mixed by Danny Krivit & Tony Smith and produced by Steve D’Aquisto and Steven Hall. The song features musicians Elodie Lauten, Mustafa Ahmed and Peter Zummo who are now all members of the Arthur Russell tribute band Arthur's Landing. The single also featured the voices of long term Russell friend and neighbor poet Allen Ginsberg, as well as the rarely recorded gay African American composer Julius Eastman. The B-side “In The Light Of The Miracle (Untitled Mix 2/ Untitled Mix 3)” is also referred to as “Ponytail Club Mix (Parts 1&2)” on the Point edition and is credited there as having been remixed by Tony Morgan. Morgan is also credited with editing the A side. The Krivit & Smith mix was also included on the Soul Jazz 2004 compilation album The World Of Arthur Russell – a record re-released earlier this year.
(5) For an extensive analysis of Walter Gibbons and his history read Tim Lawrence Disco Madness and the Legacy of Turntablism and Remixology,Journal of Popular Music Studies 2008.
(6) Calling Out of Context (Audika 2004) touches on dance music and includes a previously unreleased Walter Gibbons mix of a track called “Calling All Kids.”
(7) Some of the material on “Love Is Overtaking Me” was produced with respected producer John Hammond. This collaboration is discussed in (1).
(8) This reassessment was also fueled by London specialist record store Soul Jazz releasing the compilation The World Of Arthur Russell (2004) aimed straight at the DJs who didn’t have the originals. Soul Jazz also re-released a 12" version of Loose Joints' "Pop Your Funk."
(9) Wild Combination: a Portrait of Arthur Russell brought even more people under the spell of Arthur Russell but some of his dance music fans of criticized the film for not including enough about that side of his work. Wolf was a newer fan and his intention was never to do the definitive story of Arthur Russell. As Russell's biographer Tim Lawrence states, "The film really gives a sense of what the world might have looked like through Arthur's eyes. In the end it's a portrait, one portrait, and not a definitive account of Arthur's life and that's what made it so effective from a cinematic point of view" (19).
(10) Chris Richards A Resurrected Body of Work , Washington Post, November 16, 2008.
(11) Tom Lee Interview - Gothamist , December 2008.
(12) David Toop: “The Flying Heart” – The Wire UK, January 2004.
(13) Did this multi-persona help Arthur be more successful when he was still alive? Probably not. Did it help create a mythos around him in later years? Most certainly it did.
(14) Russell had previously worked with the club’s resident DJ Nicky Siano on the project Dinosaur that also included David Byrne on guitar. The different takes of their S&M-influenced love song “Kiss Me Again” for Sire demonstrate Arthur’s inherent desire to keep tweaking a composition over and over, something that would continue throughout his career and a trend that would add both an air of mystery around his music and later feed collector's obsession-fueled tendencies, yet ultimately also become something of an obstacle for him. Arthur was a perfectionist – always searching for the perfect mix – always looking for that elusive ‘something’ to bring him to new level of public recognition. From the start of his career in dance music Arthur was trying to make hits.
(14) A while back Steve Knutson from Audika Records played an unreleased Japanese vocal mix of "Kiss Me Again" on Tim Sweeney's Beats In Space radio show. A podcast of Knutson's mix (which also includes one side of the "Pop Your Funk" 7" and Arthur Russell Live on WNYU in April 1987 can be found here.
(15) Record producer Will Sokolov co-founded the independent record label Sleeping Bag Records with Arthur Russell in 1981.
(16) Author interview with Tom Lee, September 2009.
(17) Author interview with Tim Lawrence, September 2009
(18) Larry Levan also remixed “Is It All Over My Face?” making both Female and Male versions and 7” edits of those mixes. A previously unreleased extended acetate mix of one of Larry Levan’s remix of “Is It All Over My Face?” was also re-mastered and released on the now out-of-print Nuphonic compilation David Mancuso presents The Loft in 2000. Additionally in 1994 singer Dajae reinterpreted the song (with production by Hula & K.Fingers and remixes by Green Velvet and Cajmere) on Cajual Records as a house anthem. House music duo Masters At Work also released official remixes on West End in 2001 and as recently as 2006, the song was remade yet again, this time by pop rapper Cazwell for an iTunes-only release under the title “All Over Your Face”. Arthur’s Landing, a collective made up of musicians who played with Russell during his lifetime, have started playing the song during their live performances and are reported to be working on a new recorded version with New York-based disco-inspired producer Brennan Green. For more information on Arthur’s Landing check their Myspace page.
(19) Tom Lee confirms “I printed the 45 RPM covers for "Pop Your Funk," which was designed by his friend Joel Sokolov” (16).
(20) Walter Gibbons (5) also tried his touch on “Go Bang” a few years later and his oft-mentioned remix was sought out for many years and cited as one of the most treasured items in the Russell archive. Initially it was bootlegged in Japan around 1999/2000 and then again in 2004. The mix finally received a more accessible reissue earlier this year on the album The Sleeping Bag Sessions. Reports are that Arthur Russell didn’t like Gibbon’s mix and it was his decision to shelve it. Hearing it now is a joy but one can see why Russell decided that. More abstract that Francois’ fiery propulsive take, Gibbons deconstructs the track even from the start, perhaps in this case, and for the time, too much so. Aside from it’s obvious sexual implications “Go Bang” also seems to indicate that in dance music Arthur was attempting to link everything he loved – all the music forms, all the people, all his ideas, all his hopes – captured on the song by ebullient use of the phrase “I want all my friends at once.”
(21) After “Go Bang” Arthur returned to Loose Joints with the tightly structured rhythmic cowbell and horns driven “Tell You Today” – a song Tom Lee says, “We both were very sure that 'Tell You Today' would be (a) big hit!” (16)
(22) After producing “Tell You Today” Arthur Russell attempted to collaborate again with Gallery DJ Nicky Siano, this time with Arthur using the alias Killer Whale – the alliance was fruitful but Russell is reported to have distanced himself from the Felix single he contributed two mixes to because he didn’t like the title “Tiger Stripes.”
(23) Both “Tree House” and “Lets Go Swimming” were originally included on the Arthur Russell album “World of Echo” originally released in 1986 on Upside Records and reissued by Audika in 2005.
(24) "Kiss Me Again: The Life and Legacy of Arthur Russell," Saturday October 10 2009, NYU Tisch Performance Studies, 731 Broadway, Suite 612, New York. Full details here .
(25) Author Interview with Steve Knutson, September 2009.
(26) Steve Knutson Listed: Arthur Russell, Dusted Magazine, Fall 2009.
(27) Tom Lee adds “Arthur was very passionate about all of his dance music and it made me become more interested in understanding the genre better. Since I designed and silk-screen printed the covers for 24>24 Music music I was very attached to those songs, but it's true I had never heard anything like it before. I also argued for the Dinosaur to be printed in much bolder colors on the album, a few of which can be found at times.” (16)
(28) Tom Lee added, “Working with Steve Knutson and Audika has been a perfect fit for myself, Arthur's family and his music. Even prior to my contact with Nuphonic people would often ask about me about what was available to release and I would play them the same music that Steve first listened to. Steve's dedication to releasing new, unproven material, has been remarkable. He was truly moved and excited to present Calling Out of Context. For example, I could not get people to listen to "Platform On The Ocean," one of my favorite songs, and Steve did and loved it as well. We have built a friendship and an easy collaboration over the years. Whatever music of Arthur's that is released in the future will be with Audika Records.” (16)
(29) Rumors have been floating around since before Steve D’Aquisto died in 2001 that one of the reasons the unreleased Loose Joints sessions have never seen the light of day is due to the expensive legal fees that could be incurred in producing such a release. There is a relatively large number of parties involved (including musicians and different record labels). Just this AM before this piece was posted Arthur fan journalist Andy Beta confirmed to me that Steve Knutson just confirmed to him those legal cost concern rumors to him in person about a week ago.
Additionally the author would like to extend special thanks to Kabir Carter.