I was lucky enough to speak to Auckland’s very own Arthur Ahbez who’s second solo album, Volume II was released on October 22nd. We spoke about everything from his journey to date to his love for all things 60s. Enjoy.
Overblown: For our readers back in the UK, you’ve been described as “a freshly squeezed glass of rock & roll, straight from the vineyard of 1960.” Would you concur with this?
Arthur: Heh, I’d like to think so. To be honest, that text is a little tongue in cheek description I made for use on my Facebook page. I’ll let your readers decide if it is an apt representation or not after they listen to my music…
O: When did you decide it was time to leave your previous project ‘Welfare Mothers’, and bring out music by yourself?
A: Wow, we are certainly going back awhile here. Welfare Mothers was my first band (formed 2008), and we went through a number of members and sonic changes up until its demise around 2011. Then I formed another band called Superbird. During this period I recorded an album (Gold) and decided to release it as “Arthur Ahbez” instead of under the guise of band (I wrote and recorded it myself). I felt I could achieve more freedom as artist this way as I continued to release material.
O: I read in an article that you’ve been on a journey of self-discovery over past few years. Where has this taken you so far?
A: The journey started with The Mothers… it was a journey to find out if I could succeed, to play in a cool band, to make a record, If I had the strength and faith in myself to create something I could be proud of 20 years from now… to learn about my own creative process.
Now that I’ve released a 2nd self-recorded album, I feel as though I’m on the right track.
O: You’ve mentioned that you have been “lost in the 1960s for nearly 10 years”. What is it about the 60s that fascinates you?
A: I’ve always enjoyed digging around for good music that gets unnoticed. I saw Easy Rider as a teenager and the soundtrack left a huge impression on me. After getting into the Byrds and The Electric Prunes I just kept finding more and more great music which no one, not even my parents, seemed to know or care about.
O: Sticking with the 60s, you’ve previously discussed that aesthetically, you savour material from the 60’s, who do you draw inspiration from?
A: I dig it all. People who stand out from the crowd to me are writers like Shaun Bonniwell (The Music Machine), Micheal Lloyd (WCPAEB, The Smoke) & Jake Holmes to name a few. I’ve also of late been really enjoying Angel Olson and some groups from Australia like The Babe Rainbow.
O: Gold was an excellent, honest and versatile record. How did you find the overall reaction to its release?
A: I didn’t really know what to expect upon the release, I kind of just set it free on the internet and let it gather steam by virtue of its nature. Thankfully, steam it did build, and I’ve had people as far is Belgium contact me in appreciation of the record.
O: Is it true that you recorded Gold on an 8 track Otari tape deck in your room? Is this the musical romantic coming across here?
A: Imagine walking into a second hand Mexican themed clothing store and unearthing one of these things from under a bunch of flannel shirts. It was love at first sight.
O: You said you’d never make a second album by yourself, but here we are talking about your second album Vol II. It’s been four years since the release of Gold, what can we expect from the new record?
A: Side A is 4 part folk track entitled “The Painters Portrait”. This was an interesting track to work on as I had to experiment with the arrangements a few times until it really clicked.
Side B consists of some upbeat rock and roll tracks and then album mellows out with a sombre folk ballad I co-wrote with a friend.
O: Gold had an almost faultless synergy to it, is this something you think is important in a record? Did capturing this synergy lead to the four-year gap between Gold and Vol II?
A: I spent a lot of time working and doing re-takes of a few tracks that didn’t actually make it on the album. In all honesty, this is why it took so long. These songs will resurface one day but I need to find the right pair of ears to help me make them what they should be. Synergy I do feel is very important on a record, so I’ll always to my best to compile an album with this in mind opposed to just releasing everything I’ve been working on in one go.
O: After the beautiful sombre harmonies of the debut album, were you still finding inspiration in the same places when writing Vol II?
A: Most definitely. I take inspiration from whatever can provoke an upset (to the mundane), from whatever re-connects me with my humanity. Generally speaking, I’ll find this in the artworks of people who themselves are striving for self-actualization (Maslow).
O: You’ve decided to release Vol II on vinyl a few weeks prior to the digital release, can you talk us through the thought process behind this?
A: I’m a fan of listening to music on vinyl as it can be a more holistic experience. The sensation of holding a record in your hands and to look at the big cover art…it’s rewarding. Personally, I feel my albums benefit from listening through in one sitting, it gives the listener a better chance to form a relationship with the music and cultivate a genuine response as to how it makes them feel.
O: What are your plans for the remainder of 2017? Can we catch you anywhere soon?
A: I’m on tour right now with a few shows left around the North Island (NZ). Check out my website for details. After the tour is done I’m just going to kick back and enjoy the summer! Hopefully get a bit of writing done with the down time.
O: As with any New Zealand act, we ask them for a few names of artists we should be looking out for. Which Kiwi acts are you excited by at present?
A: Check out Ounce and Dave Weir’s new single.
Volume II by Arthur Ahbez was released in October. You can get it digitally but there’s also a gorgeous red vinyl edition. Go get it here.