Born on May 28, 1953, in VA. Addresses: Record company---Righteous Babe, P.O. Box 95, Ellicott Station, Buffalo, NY 14205, phone: (716) 852-8020, fax: (716) 852-2741, website: http://www.righteousbabe.com. Website--Arto Lindsay Official Website: http://www.artolindsay.com.
An artist whose work has transcended countless genres, guitarist and singer Arto Lindsay is one of underground music's most celebrated figures. Constantly bridging gaps between the familiar and the obscure, Lindsay has performed in a number of bands, from experimental punk outfits to his own Latin-influenced, jazzy solo projects.
Born in Virginia on May 28, 1953, Lindsay, along with his Scottish Presbyterian missionary parents, moved to Brazil at age three. As Brazil's tropicalia style came alive in the 1960s, Lindsay was enraptured by its liveliness and the way that its left-of-center politics infected popular music. This perspective would later prove to be a strong influence on his punk, rock, and jazz compositions, as he explained to the Wire: "Because I was a teenager in Brazil in the '60s, I thought it was part of the purpose of pop music to change people's consciousness and spread information. In the '60s, Brazilian pop was aware of many other styles. ... from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Brazilian folk to avant garde music like John Cage to serialism to 20th century classical music."
Lindsay moved back to the United States at age 18 and studied in Florida, before making his first major forays into music as a member of DNA, a defining band of New York City's "no wave" scene of the late 1970s. The no wave style was marked by its unstructured sound, one which valued feedback and discordant noise over conventional songwriting and instrumentation.
Playing alongside percussionist Ikue Mori and keyboardist Robin Crutchfield in DNA, Lindsay's guitar and vocal work was an ear-splitting cacophony of atonality. DNA frequently performed with bands like the Contortions and Suicide at New York clubs such as CBGB's, and though the band recorded only one proper album, they remain one of the genre's most recognizable names.
DNA's first appearance on record came on the Brian Eno-produced sampler, No New York, in 1978. But by the time DNA released their first actual album, A Taste of DNA, Crutchfield had left to form his own band, Dark Day, and was replaced by bassist Tim Wright of the Cleveland post-punk band Pere Ubu. The band showed much promise with the new lineup, but rather than taking their inventive sound to more fans, DNA turned inward and became even less accessible, pointing themselves in the opposite direction of pop. They began to play fewer live shows, and by 1982, with just a single proper record under their belt, DNA disbanded.
Despite DNA's break-up, Lindsay's inspiration never faltered. While DNA was slowly phasing itself out, Lindsay was already making his presence known in other New York City-based revolving door bands like John Lurie's Lounge Lizards and Anton Fier's Golden Palominos. He performed on the bands' Lounge Lizards (1981) and on Golden Palominos (1983).
On top of his busy performing schedule, Lindsay found himself wearing a number of hats throughout the early 1980s. He ended up producing a few songs for Talking Heads' frontman David Byrne and singer/performance artist Laurie Anderson. He was even bitten by the acting bug, showing up in the films Candy Mountain and Desperately Seeking Susan.
In 1983 he formed his next band, Ambitious Lovers, with keyboardist Peter Scherer. Thematically examining the seven deadly sins, their first album, 1984's Envy, nicely picked up where DNA left off. With its dissonant approach, Envy kept Lindsay's strong experimental interests front and center. Writing in All Music Guide, John Dougan commented, "Lindsay is not the greatest singer in the world, but the twists and turns that make this album uniquely wonderful help smooth over any problems one may have with his vocals."
Lindsay became increasingly more in tune with his Brazilian heritage and often sang in Portuguese on the Ambitious Lovers' records. Their next disc, Greed, was released in 1988, and was a veritable survey of modern music, incorporating Lindsay's Brazilian influence and fusing it with funk and R&B, while maintaining an experimental sensibility.
After 1991's Lust, Ambitious Lovers sought other creative paths and Lindsay, who frequently traveled back to Brazil, found himself working with some of the country's pop giants, including João Gilberto, Gal Costa, Caetano Veloso, and Tom Zé.
Upon returning to the United States, Lindsay embarked on a successful solo career with the album Aggregates 1-26 on the Knitting Factory label, an imprint run by the owners of the experimental club of the same name. Much like his work with DNA, Aggregates 1-26 was a noisy record filled with a lot of instrumental skronk. But when he made the switch to Bar None Records---typically a pop label---for 1996's Mundo Civilizado, it was obvious that his Brazilian pop leanings were back in full swing, especially with his inclusion of Portuguese lyrics.
Of his next record, 1996's O Corpo Sutil (The Subtle Body), Guitar Player's Joe Gore commented: "Brazilian pop of the '60s and '70s fused modernistic harmonies and literate lyrics with an earthy eroticism, and guitarist Arto Lindsay's latest repeats that feat in microcosm."
After a few more releases for Bar None, and during a fruitful period of collaboration with other experimentalists like Ryuichi Sakamoto and DJ Spooky, Lindsay switched labels again, this time moving to Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe Records. Prize (1999) was the first Righteous Babe release by any artist other than DiFranco. Lindsay employed bits of electronic instrumentation on the disc, which received considerable praise for its seamless fusion of bossa nova sounds and experimental pop sounds.
Lindsay followed with 2002's Invoke and 2004's Salt, continuing his marriage of the obscure and the accessible, and of English and Portuguese. Speaking to the London Guardian's John L. Walters, he commented: "Because I speak two languages ... a lot of things are amusing, which I think people can enjoy without knowing what I'm giggling about. I like opaque lyrics, but I think I've learned how to use this opacity in a less opaque way, if you know what I mean."
In 2004 No More Records released DNA on DNA, a collection of Lindsay's seminal work, to much critical acclaim. The Village Voice's Frank Kogan claimed that, "Of all the rock bands that you might call avant-garde, DNA were one that actually did something new, the musicians countering the habits of their instruments, though each in a different way."
by Ken Taylor
Arto Lindsay's Career
Began musical experiments in New York with DNA, late 1970s; recorded A Taste of DNA, 1981; performed and recorded with Lounge Lizards and Golden Palominos, early 1980s; formed Ambitious Lovers in 1983 and released Envy, 1984; Greed, 1988; and Lust, 1991; began solo career in mid-1990s and released Aggregates 1-26, 1995; Mundo Civilizado, 1996; O Corpo Sutil (The Subtle Body), 1996; Noon Chill, 1997; Why Compare, 1999; Prize, 1999; Invoke, 2002; and Salt, 2004.
- Selected discography
- Solo albums
- Aggregates 1-26 Knitting Factory, 1995.
- Mundo Civilizado Bar None, 1996.
- O Corpo Sutil (The Subtle Body) Bar None, 1996.
- Noon Chill Bar None, 1997.
- Why Compare Bar None, 1999.
- Prize Righteous Babe, 1999.
- Invoke Righteous Babe, 2002.
- Salt Righteous Babe, 2004.
- With DNA
- A Taste of DNA Rough Trade, 1981.
- DNA on DNA No More, 2004.
- With Ambitious Lovers
- Envy E.G., 1984.
- Greed Virgin, 1988.
- Lust Elektra, 1991.
- Guardian (London, England), June 14, 2002.
- Guitar Player, September 1996.
- Village Voice, December 13, 2004.
- Wire, date unknown.
- "Arto Lindsay," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (December 28, 2004).
- Additional information was taken from Righteous Babe Records press materials, 2002.
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