FADE TO BROWN

Because so many people have been asking for some clarification as to Arthur’s future:

There are no further issues of Arthur planned at this time. We’re happy we got to do the three issues we did in 2013, while being able to pay our contributors for the first time ever and fulfill all those old outstanding subscriptions.

The online mail-order Arthur Store will be open until March 2, 2014. At that point, all unsold backstock will be chucked on the compost heap or into the recycle bin. Everything has been discounted. A number of items are now sold out and have been removed from the Store. Go here to grab stuff for cheep: arthur.bigcartel.com

This website, as well as the Arthur Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr pages/feeds, will stop being updated on March 3, 2014.

For many reasons, it’s now time for Arthur to go dormant. Perhaps the mag will sprout again in the future, perhaps not. In any event, we hope we’ve been of some use, and thank everyone who’s been so kind to us.

Thank you so kindly,

The Arthur Gang
Joshua Tree, CA * Portland, Ore. * Austin, TX * Northampton, MA * wherever you can hear your footsteps

undead

(Artwork by Arik Roper)

ECSTATIC UPHEAVAL: A conversation with artist David Chaim Smith (from Arthur No. 34)

Originally published in Arthur No. 34….

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DIAGRAMMING THE DIVINE SPARK
Is there a way to examine the nature of existence at its very foundation? Esoteric mapmaker DAVID CHAIM SMITH say yes—but there’s a price.
by Jay Babcock

I first encountered David Chaim Smith’s remarkable, bewildering work through Pam Grossman’s Phantasmaphile newsletter, a daily email bulletin spotlighting a contemporary or historic personage up to something witchy and beautiful, usually in the visual arts. Smith’s work was particularly striking in its unusual combination of diagrammatic composition, simple media (pencil!?!) and unapologetically rarefied Kabbalistic-Gnostic content. Generally that would be more than enough to warrant further investigation, but it was the work’s difficult-to-grok provenance that intrigued me the most: these pieces looked like plates that could have been included in Alexander Roob’s Taschen compendium of dazzling Medieval alchemical artwork, The Hermetic Museum (alternative title, courtesy of Adam Egypt Mortimer: The Original Face Melter Times A Thousand). They seemed like the kind of work that’s usually brought to light by accident, decades after the a recluse’s death or disappearance (or committal to a mental ward): strange, highly charged devotional work rescued from a trashbin, the details of its artist’s life and practice gone to dust, Iain Sinclair on the case.

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And yet, the author of these stupefying drawings is alive and well—David Chaim Smith [above] is a contemporary New York artist with an MFA, a publisher and (until recently) a gallery. Despite living a semi-monastic life, Smith seems eager to engage with a curious public. He has a website. He’s on Facebook. Dig a little and you’ll find a few occultist-oriented podcast interviews and accounts of public talks he’s given in the last few years around the publication of his two books—2010’s esoteric exegesis The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis: Commentary on Genesis 1-3 (Daat Press) and 2012’s massive art/text collection The Sacrificial Universe (Fulgur)—and a 2010 gallery show. And now, here he is on the other end of the telephone line in late January, just days after completing his new book, Blazing Dew of Stars, set for publication this springOctober 23, 2013 by Fulgur. A surprisingly garrulous fellow, Smith spoke frankly about who he is, where he comes from and how his day-to-day life and spiritual practice generates such artwork. What follows is a condensed version of our conversation. Continue reading

THE BIOPHONIC MAN: A conversation with BERNIE KRAUSE on the wild origins of human music (from Arthur No. 35)

Originally published in Arthur No. 35, available now in stores and direct from us

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THE BIOPHONIC MAN
Guitarist, composer and analog synthesizer pioneer BERNIE KRAUSE left the recording studio to find that really wild sound. What he discovered was far more profound.
by Jay Babcock
Illustrations by Kevin Hooyman

“…The entity’s life will be tempered with song, music, those things having to do with nature.” — Edgar Cayce, the 20th-century American psychic, from a ‘life reading’ given when Bernie Krause was six weeks old, as reported in Krause’s Notes From the Wild (Ellipsis Arts, 1996)

Has any single person—any entity—ever been better situated to explore music’s Biggest Questions—that is: what is it, what’s it for, why do we like it, where did it come from, why does it sound the way it does—than Bernie Krause?

Check the biography. Born in 1938, Krause grew up a violin-playing prodigy with poor eyesight in post-World War II Detroit. By his teens he had switched to guitar and was making extra money sitting in as a session player at Motown. In 1963, he took over the Pete Seeger position in foundational modern American folk band The Weavers for what would be their final year of performances. He then moved west to study at Mills College, where avant garde composers Stockhausen and Pauline Oliveros were in residence. Soon he encountered jazz musician and inventive early analog synth player Paul Beaver, who was introducing the Moog to psychedelic pop music. They formed Beaver & Krause, an in-demand artistic partnership that released a string of utterly unclassifiable acoustic-electronic albums in addition to doing studio work with adventurous pop musicians (The Doors, George Harrison, Stevie Wonder, etc.) and composing and recording for stylish TV and film projects (The Twilight Zone, Rosemary’s Baby, Performance, etc.). After Beaver’s sudden death in 1975, Krause began to shift his attention towards field recordings of natural soundscapes.

This wasn’t such a great leap. In the late ‘60s, inspired by an idea from their friend Van Dyke Parks, Beaver and Krause had first tried to record outdoor sounds for use on their eco-musical album In a Wild Sanctuary. Now, Krause followed this thread more intensely, traveling to seemingly every far corner of the globe, innovating techniques and utilizing new technology to more accurately capture the sound of what’s left of Earth’s rapidly diminishing wild.

What Krause discovered there, and how it compares to what we now experience in daily life in the un-Wild, is the subject of his latest book, The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places, published last year. Writing with a scientist’s precision, an artist’s poetic wonder and a human being’s persistent outrage, Krause tosses in astonishing highlights from decades of field notes (elk in the American West are into reverb; the sound of corn growing is “staccato-like clicks and squeaks…like rubbing dry hands across the surface of a party balloon”; ants sing by rubbing their legs across their abdomens; the fingernail-sized Pacific tree frog can be heard more than a hundred yards away; “You can actually determine the temperature by counting the number of chirps made by certain crickets”; etc.) as he make several interweaving arguments about the aforementioned Big Questions of Music. One thesis is that the sound of animals in a healthy habitat is organized, a sort of proto-orchestra. What follows from this is the startling argument that gives the book its title: our music comes from early humans mimicking the sounds of the soundscapes they were enveloped in—we “transform(ed) the rhythms of sound and motion in the natural world into music and dance… [O]ur songs emulate the piping, percussion, trumpeting, polyphony, and complex rhythmic output of the animals in the place we lived.” And we developed our music(s) not just by imitating animals such as the common potoo, who sings the pentatonic scale, but also by mimicking other natural sounds: in one of the book’s most striking episodes, Krause recalls hearing the church organ-like sound of wind passing over broken reeds in Lake Wallowa in northeastern Oregon. “Now you know where we got our music,” a Nez Perce tribal elder tells him. “And that’s where you got yours, too.”

This past spring, I interviewed the entity Bernie Krause via the far-from-ideal set-up of two speaker phones. Ah well. Following is some of our conversation, condensed by me, and edited with additional thoughts by Bernie via subsequent emails. Continue reading

The Universe, the Planet, This One Spot
: A conversation with dreamer/cartoonist RICK VEITCH by Jay Babcock
, with introduction by ALAN MOORE

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Cover artwork: “Self-Portrait in Six Dimensions” by Rick Veitch (2012)

The Universe, the Planet, This One Spot
A conversation with dreamer/cartoonist Rick Veitch
by Jay Babcock


As published in Arthur No. 33 (Jan. 2013)


Interview follows this introduction…

Rick Veitch: Cartographer of the American Dreamtime
by Alan Moore

The Julia Set, unique and intricately beautiful, is an exquisite fractal outgrowth from the mother Mandelbrot arrangement, a specific form dictated by the mathematical peculiarities of its precise location in the overall continuum, the jeweled continent of numbers charted and explored by Benoit Mandelbrot during the 1980s. The Julia Sets are, if you will, distinct and individual entities which nonetheless arise from the unique conditions at their point of origin. As such, they offer us a splendid metaphor; a new way to consider the relationship between ourselves as human beings and the landscapes that we grew from. We are Julia Sets, and our specific natures and distinct psychologies are an elaborate extension of the maze of streets where we were born; the valleys, hills and rivers that defined our world and the topographies that we grew up amongst.

If some supporting evidence is needed in defense of this hypothesis, then we need look no further than Rick Veitch. Born out of Vermont, he spent childhood and youth unaware of the powerful significance of his surroundings, as most of us do. In attempting to find the right path for himself, an endeavor that might lead him past the constraints of his life, he pursued both a passion for comic-book artistry and an increasing involvement with his own tumultuous dream-life. While these two preoccupations have greatly enabled and enriched each other in Rick’s subsequent career, I suggest it is the dreampath that is of the primary importance in that it is somehow closer to the center of his being, closer to the source of his artistic inspiration than the marvelously illustrated pages that grow out of it. By following the shadowy and lunar trail of his oneiric explorations, mapping his own route as he made his way further out into uncharted territories, it would seem that he’s been led back to the very point at which he started out, but with a greater understanding and appreciation of its meaning and its majesty: Vermont. The river and the bridge. The petroglyphs.

This was the landscape that another vocal and prolific dreamer, H.P. Lovecraft, had described after a visit to Vermont, the flooded river and its cargo of gas-bloated cattle lending local color to his tale of ghastly and unfathomable alien abduction. Brains in copper cylinders, extraordinary rendition, bound for Yuggoth. Funnily enough, the isolated cabin where Lovecraft’s protagonist is subject to the conversation of its human-mimicking inhabitant was based upon the residence that stands a little way from the Veitch homestead, owned once and perhaps still by a neighbor with experience of alien abduction who had published books upon the subject. Or at least, something that looked like him had published books upon the subject.

As Rick started to investigate the place that he was raised in, he began to get a sense of its geography as it related to his personal history, to the history of the area and to his own ongoing archaeology of dreams. He learned about the Abenaki, whose own cultural perspectives had informed the landscape once, before the vision of the settlers had been ruthlessly imposed. They’d been the ones who’d scratched those strange horned stick-figures into the rocks down by the river, the same ones that Lovecraft mentioned, with the ancient markings partly smothered by the concrete of the bridge foundations. That would be the bridge across the river to New Hampshire that in Rick’s dreams seemed to symbolize a bridge across the centuries, jet fighters sparring with pteranodons above the central span. The Abenakis’ hilltop burial ground, with bodies customarily interred sat upright, had been razed by bulldozers… decapitations and bisections of Native American deceased… in order to erect the paper-mill where Rick’s own father would slave out his days. America, ignoring the advice of its own horror movies, is entirely built upon the site of an old Indian graveyard and must take its ghosts and hauntings as they come.

While he deepened his inquiries into the rich history of his birthplace, Veitch’s waking life and dream life seemed to synchronize with his material world, seemed to connect with narratives that were those of the streets and soil themselves. He dreamed about a native shaman with a magic bow, his features masked at first by a carved pumpkin head but then revealed as those of an unusually tall man with a goofy and distinctive overbite, a face that was entirely unforgettable. A few days later, in the waking world, he took a walk down by the riverside in search of either inspiration or some new clue to the innate puzzle of the area. Floating in the water was an orange globe that seemed from several feet away to be a pumpkin like the shaman’s headpiece in his dream. Venturing nearer he discovered that it was in fact a punctured child’s ball, thrown away somewhere upstream, upon some previous occasion. Fished out of the water, on the other side was a crude, childish drawing of the same distinctive face with the same goofy overbite. The last I heard, Rick had it perched above the doorway of his studio.

The synchronicities came thick and fast, as they will tend to do when one embarks upon investigations of this nature. At one point, researching his own genealogy he came across a tantalizing reference to a long dead ancestor, a female member of the Veitch clan who had intermarried with the local Abenaki, taking as her bridegroom an unusually tall man if the story was to be believed. Was this the reason for his serial dreams about the petroglyphs, about the Abenaki, some unlikely but convincing blood connection?

Whether the descent be biological or otherwise, it seems that Rick Veitch has been pressed into continuing the role of his shamanic Abenaki forebears, of the ones that walked the land before him, who grew out of it as he did. Through his studies, his experiences and the splendid comic pages that resulted from the same, Rick has fearlessly explored and mapped the dreamtime of his native landscape just as thoroughly as did his psilocybin-entranced predecessors. And let there be no mistake, it is that dreamtime that all our reality is founded on, the mythic bedrock upon which we build our paper-mills, the modem structures of our modem lives.

Also, in Veitch’s case, in should be noted that we are exposed to an authentic vision of the true American dreamtime rather than another dissertation on the American Dream. The latter would seem to have been of questionable use in the development of the United States, too often held up like a brightly painted backdrop to conceal a less agreeable American reality; the promise of a photogenic destiny, of realizing lifestyles that in truth only exist on celluloid, a retro-fitted continuity. The former, the American Dreamtime, is the sustaining, nourishing, neglected panorama that is still there, underneath the muddle of contemporary detritus that has piled up in the cellar-rooms of our unconscious, and Rick Veitch is its cartographer.

And in the sempiternal and unchanging Mandelbrot of spacetime, that is who and what he is forever: a unique and fascinating outgrowth of his place, his time and circumstances, an inimitable Julia Set grown from that cemetery dirt, that riverside, those petroglyphs. Or, if that’s not the case, then somewhere in another world there is a butterfly that’s having the most unbelievably strange dream.

Alan Moore
Northampton
April 2009

* * *

Born in 1951 in Bellow Falls, Vermont, Rick Veitch experienced the psychedelic late 1960s as a teenager. After overcoming some profound self-inflicted difficulties as a young adult in the early ‘70s—detailed in the following Q & A—he got serious about becoming a professional cartoonist. He succeeded. In the last three decades, Veitch has navigated the comics industry’s ups and downs while creating a singular, deeply weird and challenging body of work: sometimes raw, rough and outrageous in an old-school underground comix way, but more often clever and fantastically imaginative, with moments of startling cosmic beauty. My personal Rick Veitch highest highlights are a few visionary issues from his run as Alan Moore’s handpicked writer-artist successor on the Swamp Thing series in the ‘80s; The One, his deeply anti-superhero comics series, somehow published by a Marvel Comics subdivision, that in a better world would have been the final word on the superhero concept; and Can’t Get No, a daring, dialogue-less graphic novel drawn in landscape format that builds from the story of a corporate drone’s post-9/11 roadtrip into something truly poignant and profound. (Not for nothing did Fug/poet/historian Ed Sanders himself salute that work with a rare blurb—as did Neil Gaiman.)

Rick Veitch’s most unlikely and enduring triumph, though, has got to be Roarin’ Rick’s Rare Bit Fiends, a black-and-white comic book series he self-published under his King Hell imprint for 22 issues starting in 1994. Rare Bit featured no continuing characters or stories—its entire subject matter, issue after issue, was Veitch presenting his dreams in comics narrative form. It was a remarkable run that continued to resonate long after it finished, due to its enduring, mysterious subject matter.

A few winters ago, suffering from two decades of persistent distressing nightmares, I visited Roarin’ Rick in his rural Vermont home. Here is our after-lunch conversation.

Arthur: So Rick, when did you start dreaming?
RV: [laughter] From the time I was a little kid I was a big dreamer. There were normal everyday dreams but then were these big dreams that seemed like movies. I think that my fascination with dreaming was kicked off by a series of recurring nightmares. I would wake up in sheer terror from this recurring dream of a little girl trying to pick a flower below a skyscraper that was being built, and something happens, and the whole skyscraper starts collapsing. The girders start landing around the little girl, and the sound is COSMIC. I dreaded that dream. I had it again and again and again. I credit it with making me pay attention to my dreams.

Arthur: Did your parents know what was going on with your recurring nightmares, terror?
RV: Not really. I grew up in an odd situation. We were a big Catholic family, I was the fourth kid. My parents had sort of ran out of gas running herd on my older siblings. So I pretty much did what I wanted, with not a lot of input from my folks.
I paid attention to dreams in general, just because this terrifying experience kept coming back. I think that’s how nightmares work. They want you to pay attention. That’s what they’re saying: Pay attention to what this phenomenon of dreaming is.
My older brother, Tom Veitch, who also writes comics and is well known as a poet, had an early interest in dreams and spirituality too. He was ten years older than me. We grew up very differently. He grew up with a normal family, while our folks were still paying attention. I grew up when no one was paying attention anymore. By the time I started becoming aware, he was out of the house already, living in New York, so it isn’t like I saw him a lot, but when I did, I would learn interesting things about the culture, about art, and about dreaming. I was telling him some of my big dreams. He was interested in them. And from listening to him I began to understand that there was a system to analyze the symbolism of dreams, that dreams WERE symbols.

Arthur: Was there a turning point when you started to pay serious attention to your dreams?
RV: When I was about 20 years old, I went through a personal crisis. I had just sort of ran my life into the ground as 20-year-olds tend to do. I went into a deep depression. I couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning, that’s how bad it was. And in those days you didn’t go to a psychologist. You just sort of suffered these things. And somebody gave me a copy of The Portable Jung, a big fat paperback that collects a lot of Jung’s writings. I read the whole damn thing, kind of obsessively. I didn’t really understand it, but I went through the whole 700-page thing and began to see correlations in the dreams I was having, which were apocalyptic. That’s what was going on with me at the time. I couldn’t get out of bed. But at night my dreams were just unbelievably strong, really vivid. I began to sense that they were trying to direct me to heal myself. I can’t say I sensed all this consciously, but unconsciously, through the assimilation of all of Jung’s writings and the focus on the dreams themselves, I began to see a way out of my depression. And it worked.
I started this really detailed dream diary, writing down every damned thing I could, which I’ve still got, and bit by bit I began to understand the shadow side of my own personality, what was causing me to fail at growing up. I began to see that I had to ally myself with the deeper parts of myself, I had to trust that. I began to understand the nature of the structure of the psyche, which is one of the great things that Jung brought us. And I began to pull myself out of the hole. That was the beginning of my dreamwork.
Continue reading

Oregon’s Willamette Weekly on THE RESURRECTION OF ARTHUR MAGAZINE

From the Willamette Weekly

The Resurrection of Arthur Magazine
November 21st, 2012
By ROBERT HAM

News of any import is quick to spread on the web. But even knowing that, the number of outlets reporting on the return of Arthur Magazine was pretty surprising, especially for a print publication that focused on various strains of the counterculture: music, drugs, magic, underground comics, and organic gardening. Yet everyone from The Wire to the New York Times expended a few lines of HTML to announce that, after a four year hiatus, Arthur would be returning to print starting on December 22nd.

“Frankly, the culture is in such bad shape that even something this tiny is being taken as something significant,” says Arthur’s editor and founder Jay Babcock. “If that’s become newsworthy, that’s kind of sad. But you’re the journalist, that’s your call to make.”

I’ll gladly make the statement that Arthur’s imminent resurrection is noteworthy. During its initial run, from 2002 – 2008, the bi-monthly magazine (released for free) covered an impressive amount of territory. Its debut issue set the template: featuring BMX icon Matt Hoffman on the cover, and carrying interviews with confrontational electro-clash singer Peaches and psychedelic drug enthusiast Daniel Pinchbeck, comics by Silver Jews frontman David Berman, music reviews by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, and an advice column from comedian Neil Hamburger. The magazine gained so much attention and fans that they were able to put on music festivals in their L.A. hometown in ’05 and ’06, and released a batch of DVDs and CDs, including the Devendra Banhart-curated compilation Golden Apples of the Sun, which introduced the world at large to the burgeoning freak folk movement.

Read more: Willamette Weekly

PORTLAND MERCURY talks to Jason Leivian of Floating World Comics about his role in Arthur’s return to print

From The Portland Mercury:

Arthur Magazine Raised from the Dead, with Help from Floating World
Posted by Ned Lannamann on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 3:44 PM

The news spread quickly this morning that late, lamented Arthur Magazine has been resurrected. Arthur was a free, bimonthly music and culture publication that also dabbled in incisive political commentary, and when it departed the physical plane—it ceased publication in 2008 and existed on the web for a few years, before publisher Jay Babcock officially pronounced it dead in 2011—a gaping, literate hole was left in the landscape of music discourse. (That last, terrible sentence reminds us of why Arthur was so important.)

Now Arthur is back! (Arthur 2: On the Rocks, perhaps?… hello?) It ain’t free anymore ($5), and it will be on newsprint instead of sleek, paper-cutty magazine stock, and its publication costs will be predominantly reliant on the purchase price rather than advertisers to stay afloat. The new version of Arthur is due in large part to a new partnership forged with Portland’s own Floating World Comics and its proprietor Jason Leivian. We asked Leivian about the new Arthur, and how both he and Portland will be involved in the new incarnation.

The new Arthur (Issue No. 33) will be available December 22, and can be pre-ordered now. (UPDATE) There will be a First Thursday release party for the new issue at Floating World Comics (400 NW Couch) on Thursday, January 3 at 6-10 pm. Leivian says Babcock may fly up to make an appearance, although that is not yet confirmed. [I can’t be there, unfortunately! —Jay]

 

MERCURY: How did you get involved?
JASON LEIVIAN: I am really excited about Arthur’s comeback. It was such an influential and important magazine to me when I used to find them at Jackpot Records (usually) back in the day.

It’s interesting for me to recall the steps that brought Floating World and Arthur together. I discovered this bizarre Steve Aylett project ‘The Caterer’ in the pages of Arthur. I went on to reprint that comic. I was publishing a newsprint anthology called Diamond. I submitted an issue to Bull Tongue and they reviewed it. I was so stoked! So Jay knew who I was just from those two projects.

When the magazine was online only I took over as the comics editor for Arthur Magazine. That was how I first started working with Jay. That was a fun gig. It led to more publishing on my end and I think Jay was looking at the newspapers I was publishing as a potential format for Arthur’s resurrection.

MERCURY: Will Arthur be markedly different from its first incarnation?
JASON LEIVIAN: The first few issues of Arthur were on newsprint, so this is a return to that form in some ways. Although you’ll see the dimensions and format of the new issue are larger and laid out differently. I haven’t seen the Indesign files yet but I imagine it’ll be more like a daily newspaper, the way it folds over, etc… I believe this issue that we’re releasing was actually in production before Arthur went on hiatus before. [It’s a different & fresh animal, actually. — Jay] So it will probably have a similar feel to the previous run, but with an all new layout. Anticipate that the next issue after that will be built fresh from the ground up. Jay’s handling all the editorial but I suspect I’ll be sharing suggestions like “Hey Jay, have you heard this new Psychic Ills record? Hint hint.” I want to think of something cool for new comics content.

MERCURY: Will it be published in Portland? Do you know if there will eventually be Arthur CDs/DVDs as well, or other supplements?
JASON LEIVIAN: I’m using a web press printer in Oregon, the same printers that I’ve worked with on most of the newspapers I’ve published. I’ll be handling the distribution from Floating World. Jay and I definitely hope to do more, but we’ll have to review the sustainability after this issue hits the stands. If we can find a magazine or book distributor to help us with shipping and handling I feel like that would take a huge load off my shoulders.