“Everyone should experience Arab On Radar at least once in their life.” –Arab On Radar
Underground music icons Arab On Radar are back with their first tour (and new music) since 2002. This is really exciting, because with the exception of The Flying Luttenbachers and XBXRX (and U.S. Maple with whom AOR share a certain “precisely wrong” musical aesthetic), they were the only band to get me through the dark ‘n sad (though immaculately coiffed) era of the late 1990s and early 2000s when emo was dominating seemingly everywhere from punk squat to outdoor arena. AAAARGH…Thank goodness that’s over.
Now all the AOR players—Mr. OCD, Mr. Pottymouth, Mr. Clinical Depression, Mr. Type A—have returned to save our insanity once again. Each is represented in this SEANCARNAGE.COM exclusive interview.
Arab On Radar were one of those rare groups to rise out of the muck of ’90s post-Grunge with a unique sound and presentation. They were equal parts simian punk rock (complete with demented ass-touching and other monkey-like rituals) and cutting-edge psychedelia (the band mapped out a new synaethesial frontier that Frank Zappa or Faust would no doubt have been eager to explore).
Arab On Radar were super nice, insightful guys, too. I thought they’d be little messes in real life (with their insane live show it was only natural to think that). But when AOR slept on my floor a few times back in Cleveland, they were ever so neat and tidy.
So when this legendary group announced they were getting back together a few months back, I immediately sent interview questions. Today, Arab On Radar were gracious enough to respond:
Just to make sure I’ve got all the details right, what personnel are currently Arab on Radar? And are you still based out of Providence?
Mr. OCD – Drummer
Mr. Pottymouth – Singer
Mr. Clinical Depression – Guitar
Mr. Type A – Guitar
Weasel Walter – Producer
Sonny Kay – Manager
Jasmine Hughes – Tour Manager
Bobby Missile – Booking Agent (USA)
Vincent Royers – Booking Agent (Europe)
We are from Providence, RI not a thing has changed about that.
How would you describe your current musical aesthetic?
Arab On Radar
When did you start thinking/talking about this new tour?
What’s the sartorial concept for the upcoming shows?
The concept is Blue uniforms this time. Also, we are trying to give away one unique item at every show as to make it a special occasion. Limited to about 200 per night.
What about the music?
Setlists are based on what songs flow best musically from one to another. It sometimes takes us a few shows to understand which songs to put where, but it usually depends on how we feel about an hour before the show. If it is going to be a psychedelic night then its one way, if people seem to want to go nuts with us, then it will be our more intense songs. The setlist depends on how we feel on the ground when we arrive at a location.
What turns you on most about making music with the other guys in the band?
We have been developing Arab On Radar for many years.
How have you guys stayed in touch?
No, we did not stay in touch. We still like all the music we always have and that is too much to list here. As we have said elsewhere, we listen to our own music and derive influence from our own music, this is how we proceed. We encourage other musicians to use this method it is the key to creating new and original music.
How do you prepare physically for a new tour? Obviously you guys expend a ton of effort when you play. Do you ever feel like: my body can’t take any more of this?
Not really, we are always ready to play and perform, and once we get into the state of mind required to do our show there is little consideration for the abuse our bodies take. The next morning is another story.
What’s happening in music right now that most excites you?
Whartscape 2010 in Baltimore is a prime example of many amazing musicians, who have developed some amazing things, performing together. The influence such events have on culture is impressive.
Arab on Radar has always had a mongoloid/scatological/disturbingly satirical edge. That’s taboo for a lot of folks. How and when did you, as performers, discover that you could relate uncomfortable concepts to an audience as a team?
Perhaps the parts of our music that are scatological just are the most salient. There is a lot of deep stuff in our music. The parts that may be taboo we decided to do because it is reality and we are not joking with our music. It is music that reflects reality in this day and age. Many people are stuck in the past, but we dwell in the present. We are mindful.
Often it is not just us playing, many of the people who go into it with us are just as responsible for making it happen as we are. It is a ritual for the people who go into the music.
What songs should fans expect to hear—and perhaps not hear—in your current set list?
They can expect to hear about 5 of our old songs from Soak the Saddle and Yahweh or the Highway, and probably only three of the brand new songs we have written. They won’t hear all of our new songs at one show, we will mix that up from show to show so that we have some room to play some old ones.
The musical landscape—labels, magazines, etc—has been literally turned upside down in the past 15 years. How are you going to do things differently now to make a connection with new fans?
We are making an album. We are writing and recording. We are not on any label at this point but we are talking with some. We hope to get our music out to as many people as we can. As much as it seems like things are upside down, for us this is not really the case, our people have always sought us out and have come to see us because it is what it is and they are a part of that. Without the people on our side there would be no us. We perform in a way that is very extreme and we try our best to get our music out on record (because we are vinyl fans ourselves) and we always try to have amazing art with all of our releases. We also have arabonradar.info to keep people connected with our work. The normal “social networking” sites have some additional information about us every so often, but we do not maintain it personally.
Why do you think that your music is so compelling for so many after all these years?
What makes us compelling is that we try to play our own style of music and people enjoy our live show very much, not to sound like fuckfaces but, it is unlike anything else ever done. Everyone should experience Arab On Radar at least once in their life.
Have you seen that SNL skit where the dudes (Fred Armsen & Dave Grohl among others) “get the old band back together” at the wedding reception?
We have seen it, yes.
If you could reunite a band from back in the day—perhaps one that you’d even want to tour with—who would it be and why?
Lady Gaga or Ke$ha? Explain.
Cher because we want to go where Sonny Bono has gone.
ARAB ON RADAR – 2010 TOUR DATES
7/2/2010 – Easthampton, MA – The Flywheel w/ Weasel Walter’s Cellular Chaos and Fat Worm of Error
7/3/2010 – Providence, RI – AS220 w/ Tinsel Teeth and Whore Paint
7/10/2010 – Indianapolis, IN – ES Jungle: Dude Fest
7/30/2010 – New Haven, Connecticut – Cafe Nine w/ no babies, orange coax, brava spetre
7/31/2010 – New York, NY – The Cake Shop w/ child abuse, no babies, orange coax
8/6/2010 – Montreal, Quebec – Lambi w/ aids wolf, dd/mm/yyyy
8/7/2010 – Toronto, ON – The Garrisonw/ dd/mm/yyyy
8/8/2010 – Rochester, NY – The Bug Jar
9/2/2010 – San Francisco, CA – The Eagle Tavern w/ thee oh sees, no babies
9/3/2010 – Los Angeles, CA – The Eagle Tavern w/ 400 Blows and Foot Village
9/4/2010 – San Diego, CA – TBD
9/5/2010 – Los Angeles, CA – The Smell w/ All Leather and XBXRX