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Jim Drake’s Entertainment Blog: Getting back in the Loop with Arthur Lee Land

Do you have some days when you feel that you’re just not in the loop?

Musician Arthur Lee Land has a live-looping “song-form” show that can cure any feelings of being left out, and bring you up to date.

Don’t worry, this artist is not going to assault your ears with electronic sounds that sound like an Atari video game. Rest assured, this will be a very unique, natural sounding mix that is putting Arthur Lee Land into festivals like the upcoming String Summit in Portland, and luckily for us, right here in Hood River on July 12.

Interview with Arthur Lee Land

You’ve been to the Gorge before - have you met Tony Smiley in your travels?

(laughs) So many friends have told me about Tony, but I don’t think I’ve ever met him.

I’m looping percussion, bass, acoustic guitar, guitar synth, six-string banjo and mandolin, and I’m doing something called “song-form,” I’m actually creating a whole song on the fly. I’m creating three-part harmonies and tagging the chorus at the end. I like to say if you have a guitar player with a loop pedal, that’s as far “left” you can go, and I’m as far “right” as you can go with doing this (laughs).

My setup is just like having a studio on stage, because I’ve got access to a computer with looping software. People can watch my online videos, and they’ll get a better understanding of this.

What genres would you call this music you play?

The last album I did I’m calling “electro-Americana,” because it’s a mix of folk-rock, Afro-grass, which is a world-beat-bluegrassy thing, and ‘electro,’ and electro means more of an approach to the style, it’s not just pressing buttons for getting a backing track.

How does the audience respond to all this?

Well, the audience is really creating a unique experience for each show. The last time I was in the Gorge I was at Double Mountain, and it was super-fun, there’s a lot of music fans in Hood River.

I’ve found that people with different musical tastes are finding what I do interesting. And I’m talking to people who are only fans of Metal or Hip Hop telling me this is the coolest thing they’ve heard. Every show is unique and the crowd plays a big part of that.

And then you’re adding vocals to all of this?

My wife is a great lyricist, so we’ve got a great catalog of songs. I’m adding harmony to this live, and there’s some beatboxing. My show is built on surprises, because instruments like the guitar synth gives me the ability to do a wide range of additional sounds, trumpet, flute — it really gives me a lot of colors on my palette.

How did you start to approach music in your life?

I was banging on round pillows with chopsticks at age 5, and then playing drums by third grade. At 16, it was on to guitar. The recent past, say the last four years, has been incorporating the six-string banjo and mandolin.

I was a guitar player for a long time, I’ve played a lot of country and roots music for years and years. I was a sideman and have been in bands all over the country for years — I’ve even played with people who are in Prince’s band. I’ve lived in Nashville, LA, I was in Chicago for a long time, and now I live in Lyons, Colorado. I’m all over the map in terms of the kinds of musical experiences I’ve had. I’ve also had experience teaching music listening as a life-skill to kids in schools, using my looping set up.

What made you incorporate African percussion into your music?

In 2001 I went to West Africa and brought back some drums to start including in my show. I was invited to go over there and play, so I went to Ghana, Togo and Nigeria, and that experience really changed my life.

Without giving too much away, the trip really gave me the idea for the Afro-grass genre. The experience was a huge part of my life, I mean I actually came home from that trip on Sept. 11, and the combination of all of that really changed my whole outlook on my life, my art form — everything, really.

Visit Jim’s blog on www.hoodrivernews.com for music and video links

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