A Morsel of the Infinite: The Art of Marc-Antoine Mathieu

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Sasha Watson talks to artist Marc-Antoine Mathieu about creating a graphic novel for the most famous museum in the world and “pulling the image out of time” with his comics. Photography by Jef Rabillon.

Note to the reader: Click each image for a full-size version.

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It had been several years since I’d last spoken with comics artist Marc-Antoine Mathieu but when I got him on the phone, I remembered how thrilling and exhausting it could be to talk to him. Within moments of making the connection between his home in France and mine in Los Angeles, I was mentally dashing after him as he leapt from particle physics to the significance of the first cave paintings to Proust and the nature of time. Mathieu is well-known in France as a graphic novelist who, with every book, expands the boundaries of the form. He does this with a unique combination of intellectual weightiness and the purest sense of play. It’s the same in conversation; he’ll be discussing a mathematical or philosophical concept, about which he’s read widely and consulted several experts, and then suddenly he’s laughing—you’re both laughing—at some comical application of the idea. Trying to keep up with him is thought-provoking and funny and exhilarating, and it’s all those things at the exact same time.

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The Way of The Riff: Contemplators Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance) and Al Cisneros (Om) discuss roots, rock, rhythm and chess.

Originally published in Arthur No. 27 (Dec 2007).

Artwork by Arik Roper
Introduction by Daniel Chamberlin

My favorite story about Om, the bass and drum duo of Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius—the rhythm section of now defunct drone metal icons Sleep—takes place on the back patio of Los Angeles club The Echo. It’s a cool winter night in 2007 and we’re all gathered here—hippie goners, young punks, indie rock squares—to take in a few breaths of fresh air before the band takes to the stage inside. One group stands out from the crowd: two women and a guy who are having a whale of a time, gesticulating wildly and laughing like crazy. At one point the dude approaches a hipster who’s nervously dragging on a toothpick joint. Our man offers his flask to the young fellow and a confusing exchange takes place: I can tell that he’s looking to swap quaff for toke, but for some reason he’s having trouble communicating this. I catch on about the same time the stoner does, giving up the doobie to the guy and his gal pals: They’re deaf, this happy trio of Om heads. That’s how deep the band’s sensual, mantra-like music goes.

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VENGEANCE IS HERS: a conversation with DIAMANDA GALAS


THE WOMAN WHO KNOWS TOO MUCH
A conversation with pianist-vocalist Diamanda Galas: Avenging queen of the damned, obvious musical genius and the only person alive who’s a fan of Doris Day and Vlad the Impaler

By John Payne
Photography by Susanna Howe
Make-up and styling by Kristofer Buckle

Originally published in Arthur No. 28 (March 2008)

“Get up off your knees, you weak bastard, and fight!”
—Katzanzakis

Diamanda Galas made her solo recording debut in 1982 with The Litanies of Satan, a bloodcurdling blast of screaming, sighing, sneering, spitting sonority based on texts by the poet Charles Baudelaire. Recorded in a freezing cold basement studio in London after she’d been awake for 24 hours, Litanies is a glossolalic galaxy further perverted by insane floods of reverb, spatial delay, complex signal processing and overdubbing. Twenty-six years later, it remains quite terrifying in effect.
That initial recorded outpouring established Galas as a troubling and troublesome singer of the avant-garde and beyond, one who boasted a multi-multi-octave voice of unparalleled power and technical command along with a contemporary-classical/new-thing piano style the equal to and great leap forward past the storied prowess of your baddest dudes of the modern jazzbo scene. But all that’s just the mechanics of it; her performances have combined these vocal acrobatics with electronics and triple- and quadruple-mike techniques that’d fling the voice around in horrific battles between the Devil, God and all us poor victims – sometimes with her back to the crowd. Her topics? AIDS, rape, torture, genocide.
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TRIGGER HIPPIES AND TRIMMER GIRLS: Life on a Humboldt cannabis farm during harvest season

illustration by Arik Roper

What can I tell you about going to work on a weed farm that the Grower, The Trimmers and The Landowner won’t kill me for? Soft criminals are especially tense about getting put in cages by men with guns….


A very special edition of Dave Reeves’ “Do The Math” column in Arthur 32/December 2008. Illustration by Arik Roper. Photos by Daniel Chamberlin.

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"IT'S COMING DOWN, BABY!": Sir Richard Bishop interviewed by Erik Davis (from Arthur No. 27/Dec 2007)

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It’s Coming Down, Baby!
Erik Davis catches up with SIR RICHARD BISHOP—gypsy picatrix, ex-Sun City Girl and guitarist extraordinaire
Illustration by John Coulthart

Originally published in Arthur No. 27 (Dec 2007)

Superlatives can be lame, but Richard Bishop is one of the few post-punk guitarists who came of age in the 1980s to have achieved the incendiary prowess of a true Guitar God. Though largely unknown outside the underground, Bishop plays and improvises with an uncommon and original power. He can tantalize in a myriad of styles, he has a global jukebox in his head, he can shatter the walls of sleep and chaos, and he can turn on a dime. He loves the guitar and mocks it: he plays like an absurdist and a romantic at once. He studies the occult and travels the Third World fringe and you can hear it. He plays guitar to save himself and fails in the endeavor and you can hear it. He can scare the shit out of you sometimes, and he can make you giggle and grin.

For decades Bishop played with his brother Alan and the Charlie Gocher in the Sun City Girls, where his ferocious and inventive exploration of psych-rock, punk spew, idiot jizz, Indo-Arabic fantasias, and jazzbo abstraction was often shadowed by the madcap antics, acerbic lyrics and general air of arcane weirdness that surrounded that impossible act. Gocher passed away in February this year at the age of 54, and the Girls are no more.

But over the last half decade, Bishop has also been playing and recording solo instrumental music as Sir Richard Bishop, and the effort is really starting to flower. This year SRB released two great albums. While My Guitar Gently Bleeds features three long pieces that triangulate his essential territory as an improviser: a North African arabesque, a noisy electronic nightscape, and a modal neo-raga on the tantric tip. Polytheistic Fragments is a more accessible and varied work, featuring a dozen tunes that also stretch into Americana, gypsy rag and Lennon-McCartney charm. As always, the recordings are packaged with strange and mystic images that speak to Bishop’s longtime study of esoterica.

Earlier this fall Bishop toured with labelmate Bill Callahan. I called him while he was taking a break in Seattle. Continue reading