Home Alternative Music Jared Artaud (The Vacant Tons)

Jared Artaud (The Vacant Tons)

Jared Artaud (The Vacant Tons)


With the upcoming launch of The Vacant Tons’ newest album Interiors and a flurry of Suicide and Alan Vega archival releases hitting the market lately, Tony O’Neill interviews Vacant Tons front-man and Alan Vega producer/archivist Jared Artaud about his band’s newest album, his long-term affiliation with one in every of punk’s most infamous trailblazers, and the realities of life on the street in a post-pandemic world.

I first met Jared Artaud again in 2015. We have been in an NYC dive bar quickly after the Vacant Tons‘ debut album Departure had been launched and it felt like his band have been on the lips of nearly everybody. Tracks like 6 AM and By no means Happy had individuals whispering in regards to the Brooklyn-based duo as potential successors to the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Spacemen 3, and Suicide. I used to be instantly struck by his quietly confident method, this tall and intense younger man with an nearly menacing air of cool inscrutability. Over beers we talked about music, medication, literature, and his unrepeatable experiences within the studio of Pete ‘Sonic Growth’ Kember, who’d not too long ago combined Departure. Jared turned out to be outrageously humorous, possessing the type of dry, caustic wit that appeared extra naturally British than American. He had a passionate curiosity within the darker backstreets of literature and music and was an enchanting storyteller. He was enjoying an upcoming NYC present with Suicide, he instructed me. “It’s best to come alongside, test it out.”

That present, which came about at Webster Corridor, is the place my curiosity within the Vacant Tons actually started.  However extra on that later.

Regardless of keenly following his band’s profession, in addition to his work as a inventive director, producer, and archivist of the vault of late Suicide front-man Alan Vega, I’ve by no means really interviewed Jared. Not too long ago there was an enormous flurry of exercise from the Artaud camp, together with the career-high Vacant Tons album Closure, in addition to a collection of newly found Suicide/Alan Vega materials hitting the market. So this appeared the proper time to rectify the scenario and interview Jared for Louder Than Warfare. I tracked him down in Paris, the place he has been cooling his heels the previous few months, in preparation for the October thirteenth launch of the Vacant Tons’ newest, Interiors through Fuzz Membership.

“You’re a busy man,” I say, no hint of a query, through our crackly transatlantic connection.

“Yeah,” he says. “However it’s good busy, you recognize? Issues are transferring ahead, even when it does typically really feel like the remainder of the world is falling aside.”

Jared Artaud is one thing of a Renaissance man. As one half of the Vacant Tons, he sings lead vocals, performs guitar, and shares songwriting duties with synth-genius Brian MacFadyen. A slew of nice albums adopted Departure, additional cementing the band’s fame among the many trustworthy. Countless Night time (2017), Interzone (2020), Harm Management (2020) and Closure (2022) showcased the band’s continuously evolving sound and grand ambitions, which have been starkly at odds with the simplicity of their titles and monochrome uniformity of their distinctive, futurist cowl artwork.

Except for his work with the Vacant Tons, Artaud has been onerous at work preserving the creative legacy of Suicide front-man Alan Vega, who handed in 2016. These efforts have resulted in a collection of recently-unearthed recordings and reissues. Highlights the embody misplaced Vega solo album Mutator, the Suicide biggest hits assortment Give up (which featured a wealth of unreleased bonus materials) and the current Thirty fifth anniversary launch of 1988s A Method Of Life, which featured some newly-discovered Suicide reside cuts.

“I’m kinda forwards and backwards between right here and NYC in the intervening time,” Jared tells me, after I ask about life in France. “I prefer it right here. You stroll lots in Paris, and it’s lots much less of a every day hustle. However I’m retaining my productiveness up, there are just a few tasks which were retaining me busy.”

These tasks embody his current collaboration with the style home Celine this previous February, presumably the catalyst for Artaud‘s present Parisian foray. “Oh man,” Jared says after I point out this. “That was one thing. I flew out to work with Hedi Slimane on placing collectively this completely new, prolonged mixture of Suicide’s GIRL for the Celine FW23 runway present. For me, it was the last word collaboration – I imply, Suicide and Celine and dealing with Hedi, who’s a visionary genius and longtime hero of mine… It was an unbelievable expertise.”

Trying on the movie of the present it’s apparent that Suicide was way over only a soundtrack selection – the 50s greaser meets post-apocalyptic stylish aesthetic of the gathering was pure Alan Vega. It’s maybe simply one other signal that this notoriously ahead-of-their-time act is lastly seeing the broader tradition catch as much as them.

As befitting a band with a printed writer for a front-man (the gathering Empty Area was launched in 2014 adopted by Tomorrow in 2017) an enormous a part of the Vacant Tons‘ attract comes from their darkly poetic lyrics. How do they fare with Francophone audiences?

“I believe Europe on the whole, in addition to the UK, have been receptive to what we’re doing. Quite a lot of the larger cities – London, Paris, Berlin … have been actually optimistic. It’s the identical factor at residence – we entice extra of a crowd once we play locations like LA, New York, Austin, you recognize? I don’t know how you can describe us – if it’s an underground or cult factor, or what. However the individuals who get it appear to stick with us and proceed to assist what we’re doing.”

I ask how has life on the street modified lately, given all the post-pandemic upheaval?

“It’s tougher,” he says. “It’s total changing into much less and fewer of what it was. I don’t know if that will change. Earlier than the pandemic you’d simply exit for lengthy stretches of time, including an increasing number of dates over completely different territories. There was much more freedom to improvise, to function on the fly. Now there’s much more restraint and technique concerned with regards to the place and once you play, in addition to monetary constraints. It’s tougher to tour for lengthy stretches. We did a US / Canada tour with the Black Angels final yr, which was nice, it was a bit bit over a month within the US, then we came visiting to Europe for six weeks and it was simply murderous. It took lots out of us and we misplaced some huge cash. It’s one thing the place we’re going to have to determine the suitable technique for the longer term, to make touring sustainable within the long-term.”

I can inform by his voice that Jared just isn’t kidding. After I immediate him for extra particulars he lets out an extended, weary sigh.

“Actually, the sensation within the band was that if we didn’t re-calibrate, somebody was gonna wind up lifeless or fucking insane. We weren’t so keen to leap proper again into the lion’s den after that, you recognize? We now have our new album, Interiors, popping out October thirteenth. The primary single, Amnesia, is out on July seventeenth. That’s the place our focus is true now.”

In reality, Amnesia made it’s radio debut on Sunday the sixteenth due to none apart from the godfather of punk himself, IggyPop (through his BBC6 present Iggy Confidential.) Certainly, Iggy has been a long-term supporter of the band. Jared tells me that he’s significantly happy with this album, whose genesis displays these first few fractious post-pandemic excursions. “There was a variety of inward looking on this one. I used to be considering of how the tour was this strategy of waking up on daily basis and duct taping myself collectively, so we may keep it up. I imply that’s actually fucked up if you concentrate on it. Simply to have to do this to stand up within the morning.”

Interiors is an simple future basic. It’s an totally European soundscape of chilly electronics and determined emotion that marks one other big step on this band’s exceptional trajectory. Not for the reason that days when Iggy was cavorting round East Berlin with David Bowie has an American act so skillfully fused European modernism with the New World’s emotional frankness. The truth that these songs have such a stunning sonic gloss offers their darkish lyrical issues an additional sense of hazard. Interiors just isn’t the work of a band content material to play it secure – it’s an all-or-nothing affair that deserves to cement their rising fame because the vanguard of the American underground.

I ask Jared about the way in which the band’s sound has modified from album to album. He agrees the sound is continually evolving, “there are issues that can all the time stay the identical when it comes to imaginative and prescient, concepts and themes. We’re all the time making an attempt to push new floor. I really feel that every album has seen the event of an unique sound that’s singularly ours.”

I ask him if the altering actuality of life as knowledgeable musician has performed a component on this supercharged improvement. Jared concurs, including “In the course of the pandemic, we have been compelled into recording in an remoted, residence studio-type scenario. And as a lot as I assumed that it would destroy us on the time, the alternative proved true. It sped up the method, gave us the liberty to experiment with out the strain of the clock ticking as a result of we had six days booked within the studio, or no matter. There’s an actual freedom to with the ability to stand up, have a espresso, take a capsule, wait till it kicks in, after which simply begin experimenting with a guitar half or a drum sound … Following the concepts wherever they lead, y’know? I imply a file is a mirrored image of what you’re going by means of at that specific time, in addition to all the pieces you could have already skilled. Interiors is much less about what’s occurring on this planet extra about coping with your inside panorama. Whenever you take heed to it, you’ll instantly sense that this one was recorded throughout an intense interval of change, upheaval and uncertainty.”

It’s simple that there’s a definite through-line from their debut to Interiors. You may spot a Vacant Tons track from the very first few seconds of listening – they’ve a definite and unmistakable sound that’s all their very own.

“For me,” Jared says, “music just isn’t about reinventing the wheel from. You’re a part of a lineage in rock’n’roll and with us there’s a particular continuation. After you have created your personal sound it turns into a canvas on which you are able to do one thing new and completely different every time.”

I ponder if the band’s unbelievable productiveness is due partly to their being a duo.

“Perhaps,” Jared agrees. “It helps, for positive! After we’re writing, Brian and I’ve these zones we work in individually, and different zones the place we work collectively. After so a few years there’s a type of brotherhood that develops. As a songwriting and producing crew we’re capable of full one another’s concepts nearly on pure intuition, it’s a extremely intuitive course of. With us, there’s been an actual synergy of concepts and emotions from the very begin. I imply… to have the ability to proceed for this lengthy as collaborators? That looks like one thing particular.”

I agree that it’s, particularly given the sorts of intense exterior pressures which can be dropped at bear on bands lately.

“No kidding,” Jared says with amusing. “It’s been fairly relentless, hasn’t it? With Trump changing into president, then the pandemic… it’s like, when will it ever cease? Typically it feels just like the world is gonna finish and there’s a way that I’m in a race towards time to get all these concepts out. After all of the shit that’s occurring on this planet and has gone down in my very own life, making these data and writing these songs looks like much more of a necessity now. It’s like… now, I NEED to do that.”

When life will get tough it both steamrollers you or acts as gasoline.

I transfer on to The Vacant Tons / Suicide connection, which is one which runs deep. I ask Jared the way it all started.

“In 2013, we coated a track for this Christmas compilation album, with Iggy Pop, Psychic Ills and some different bands we knew.” Jared says. I ask if he’s referring to the 2013 Cleopatra Data compilation Psych-Out Christmas. “That’s the one. As soon as we agreed to do it, we have been caught making an attempt to determine what track to do. I keep in mind Brian and I have been driving ourselves nuts looking round for one thing Christmas-related that hadn’t been performed earlier than. Finally we got here throughout this Ze Data Christmas album from 1981, which had a Suicide track on it (Hey Lord) and a solo Alan Vega track, No Extra Christmas Blues. And man, this factor was probably the most miserable Christmas track I’d ever heard – I simply LOVED it. I used to be like, THIS is what the Christmas spirit is all about – we HAVE to do it! It was a ballad, an actual downer, slow-burner monitor. We did a radically completely different model, gave it this dance really feel and these rock’n’roll, heavy guitars…”

And that’s what put you on Vega’s radar?

“Yeah. Earlier than the album got here out, I despatched a duplicate of our monitor to Liz Lamere, Alan’s spouse and long-time inventive collaborator, together with a letter expressing my admiration for Alan and Suicide. I keep in mind saying Suicide are just like the Beatles to us. I ended the letter by saying I hoped Alan didn’t suppose we’d butchered his monitor. I received a message again from Liz later that day telling me that she’d performed it for Alan and that he actually preferred it and needed to satisfy us. He invited us over just a few weeks later once we have been on tour with Dean Wareham.

It will need to have been intimidating, to say the least. I ask the way it went.

“We headed over to his condo and studio earlier than sound-check at Bowery Ballroom” Jared says. “Fortunately, Alan was actually unbelievable to be round. It felt like I’d identified him ceaselessly. No weirdness, you recognize? It was this instant nearly brotherly connection. It’s onerous to place to phrases. Because it turned out, again then I lived one cease away from Alan in Brooklyn Heights. I might simply hop on the 2 or three, cross over the East River proper the place Albert Ayler had drowned – which was one thing Alan and I had talked about quite a few instances, as we each have been fascinated by him, and be at Alan’s in twenty minutes.

“For these previous few years we constructed this deep connection, a real friendship. It was actually like me calling him up, Hey Alan – whatcha doing? And him, Nuthin’, simply workin’ on some drawings … wanna come over? I used to be capable of actually expertise his course of up shut and private. Once in a while I’d should cease myself and suppose, I’m hanging out and taking pictures the shit about music, life, artwork with the man who wrote Frankie Teardrop and Give up, y’know?”

After I ask what they’d focus on, Jared explains that Alan, “had a extremely formidable mind. We’d speak about music, physics, artwork, historical past – he may maintain his personal on nearly any topic you might think about. Towards the top of his life, we had written this monitor for our second album (Suicide Notice, the epic nearer of Countless Night time) that was meant to function a visitor vocal by Alan. Actually the final time I noticed him was the day I performed him the track and we have been planning to enter the studio to file his vocals … Then, just a few weeks later, he was within the hospital. He knew he didn’t have a variety of time left and would usually say that to me. Later that day, as I used to be leaving, he walked me out, and I stated goodbye. There was this second the place I received chills, and this sudden realization hit me … this may effectively be the final time I noticed him. Man, that was powerful. Our friendship had developed and deepened at such a quick tempo, and now…” Jared’s voice drifts off. After an extended silence he says, “You recognize, I nonetheless haven’t actually absolutely coped along with his loss.”

For these of us who solely knew Alan through his work, the information on July sixteenth, 2016 that Vega had handed away on the age of 78 got here as a horrible shock. For Jared, it was additionally deeply private.

“I do not forget that final day, we have been standing exterior his place and we made a pact. That’s actually what began this entire mission Liz Lamere and I’ve been on to hold the Alan Vega and Suicide legacy ahead. That’s what led on to Mutator.”

The second posthumous Alan Vega launch (following 2017s It, recorded within the final six-years of Vega’s life) Mutator was the primary fruit of Artaud and Lamare’s work as curators and trustees of Vega’s musical archive. It was recorded throughout a very fertile interval, the 95-96 period, throughout which he launched the sensible album Dujang Prang. By all accounts, this assortment fell by means of the cracks as a result of Alan had merely moved on to different tasks earlier than it might be completed. Jared would uncover that this was a typical theme in Vega’s course of, which means that the Vega vault was completely brimming with unheard gems.

“That was the primary Alan Vega misplaced album… listening to these songs for the primary time actually drove residence what a treasure trove this archive actually was.”

Certainly, Mutataor is that rarest of issues – an unreleased album that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the most effective materials the artist launched whereas alive. Maybe the darkest and most excessive album of Vega’s profession, the album’s at-times terrifying industrial sonic assault showcased a very new facet to Vega, which paired brutalist electro-industrial soundscapes with a few of his darkest and most despairing lyrics (All the good minds / Of our time / Are lifeless / Holy Holy/ Jesus Fizzles). That these lyrics have been delivered in a raspy ‘previous man of the mountain’ growl, belies the actual fact it was recorded when Vega was nonetheless in middle-age.

Jared agrees. “With that one he undoubtedly went to a deep place, very completely different from something he did on the opposite solo albums or with Suicide. Iggy Pop had stated that too on his BBC6 present; that there was a development and depth that Alan hadn’t skilled in his time in Suicide. And due to that, Mutator is de facto essential. Listening to these tracks, the sheer scale of Alan’s productiveness got here into sharp focus for me. Are you able to think about leaving an album of that caliber unreleased?”

Does that imply there are doubtlessly different album-length collections of unreleased songs?

“That’s precisely what it means,” Jared says. “In reality, the follow-up known as Rebellion and is popping out later this yr on Within the Purple Data.”

Are the Rebellion tracks from an identical period as Mutator?

“These tracks have been additionally initially recorded within the mid-90s,” Jared confirms. “That appeared to be an extremely prolific interval for Alan, for positive. However the actual fact is that Alan was continuously writing and recording, whether or not it was with Suicide, or his solo albums, facet tasks, and collaborations.”

For a second, as we’re speaking about Rebellion, Jared the front-man and archivist is momentarily changed by Jared the music obsessive. Out of the blue I’m speaking to the identical man who wrote that fateful letter to Alan Vega all these years in the past, spurred on by the slim risk that one in every of his musical heroes may merely acknowledge what he was doing. “Tony, man – you’re going to find it irresistible,” he says, voice crammed with pleasure. “I co-produced and combined it with Liz – and it’s so fucking good, one of many biggest issues he ever did. And it was simply filed away, forgotten for many years. Critically, Rebellion is an unbelievable album, I can’t anticipate individuals to listen to it. It hits so onerous.”

I ask Jared how the invention course of works. It sounds overwhelming…

“We’ve been transferring a variety of tapes. We use Alan’s phrase for this materials, Vega Vault, and it quantities to an insane quantity of cassette tapes, CD’s ADAT tapes, Professional Instruments periods, random recordsdata, the works…”

Is the archive all contained in a single location?

“Liz Lamere is in possession of all of the tangible, bodily materials that signify a long time of Alan’s working course of. So far as a musician, I might describe Alan as a visible artist working in sound. What I imply by that’s Alan’s method was to enter the studio to experiment with sound the way in which that possibly somebody like Jackson Pollock would experiment with paint/color. So the identical means you’ll have a tendency to search out a variety of sketches and completely different iterations of the identical piece in a painter’s studio, it’s the similar with Alan’s vault. From the digital facet, there are songs which can be full and incomplete, some which can be mastered and combined, others that aren’t. There are reside recordings, plenty of issues that have to be transferred and preserved from its analog supply. That facet of it alone is a large, time-consuming enterprise.

“Additionally, with Alan, nothing is what it appears. Even when the tape says one thing is on it, it’s a coin toss whether or not that label is correct. Anyone may need given him a tape of a band’s album or one thing, and he’d file over it along with his personal demo or sounds. I attempt to search for stuff that has his fingerprint on it. I’ve gotten good at recognizing the refined visible clues – it is perhaps a strip of duct tape, or just a few scribbled notes in his handwriting – and instantly I’ll know, Okay, this one is gonna be nice. It’s a way you develop the extra you immerse your self within the course of, like an archaeologist, I assume. You’re actually letting Alan information the method, in a means…

“That’s how we found Mutator and Rebellion… To not point out these superb Suicide tracks we have been capable of put out as half of A Method Of Life‘s Thirty fifth-anniversary launch. They have been on a cassette that stated SUICIDE – LIVE, PARIS 80s. We transferred it, it was in any other case unlabeled ... and the very first thing I hear is Alan’s voice, popping out of the audio system … Hey, hey, hey – this can be a little track by Bruce Springsteen … And you may hear the viewers going nuts BOOOOOOOO! They fucking hated it … And Alan goes, Don’t fear, We‘ll fuck it up! It’s our model of it, we’ll fuck it up … After which BOOM – I’m listening to Suicide, doing BORN IN THE USA. I couldn’t consider it.”

It’s a implausible model, I say, and unbelievable that it went unheard for thus a few years. I inform Jared how a Suicide reside recording was the factor that originally turned me on to the band, again within the mid-90s. The reside recording referred to as 23 Minutes Over Brussels got here as a bonus disc with one of many first CD reissues of Suicide’s debut album, a recording infamous as one of the antagonistic reside recordings for the reason that Stooges Metallic KO.

“I completely get that,” Jared says. “I all the time get chills discovering stuff that’s by no means been launched. Simply to have the ability to dig by means of the vault and uncover these things is unbelievable and such an honor… and there’s a lot extra nonetheless to find, each on the solo Vega facet and the Suicide stuff. Talking as a fan, I need to maintain discovering new issues from this unbelievable artist.  It’s the identical means individuals nonetheless need to hear stuff from the David Bowie or the Lou Reed archive. Artists of that caliber, with that type of obsessive want to provide, fairly often have probably the most unbelievable stuff hidden away unreleased.”

There’s little question that Alan Vega is as essential an artist as a Bowie or a Reed, I say. Should you’re in any means thinking about digital music, then you possibly can’t deny his significance.

“Precisely. Simply going by means of the fabric, producing it and mixing it, actually getting to take a seat with the sounds and the vocal performances, it’s like getting to take a seat in with an amazing grasp, you recognize? I typically really feel like I’m sneaking into an artwork museum when nobody else is round, so I can stand up shut and actually see what the artist was as much as. As a musician, I’m very process-oriented. Typically, it’s like I’d a lot slightly see Picasso’s notebooks than the precise work, you recognize? I’m simply endlessly fascinated by that facet of it. Take the Velvet Underground’s White Mild White Warmth. For me it’s untouchable, one in every of my favourite albums ever. I’ve all the time had this fantasy of how unbelievable it will have been to capable of one way or the other observe as they reduce the demos, sit in on the recording periods, see this unassailable murals come collectively from the very first inspiration, you recognize? See the alchemy because it occurs in actual time. Now, with Alan, I’m getting the chance to do exactly that. And for me, as an artist, it’s invaluable. Speak about inspiration.”

It additionally needs to be a heavy accountability, I counsel.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime alternative however, for positive, it’s an enormous accountability. I hope we’ll get to launch as a lot as we will, balancing that towards ensuring that something that comes out is genuine to Alan’s creative mission, you recognize? Would Alan approve of it? I believe with myself and Liz we’re capable of navigate that as a result of we’re coming at this from a perspective of a mission to maintain Alan’s legacy transferring ahead. For such an essential, culture-shifting artist as Alan retaining the legacy transferring ahead is an enormous deal. It’s actually turn into a type of holy mission, actually.”

I suppose the massive existential worry of any artist is that after they’re gone the work might be forgotten, written out of the historical past books. The prospect of that type of cultural obliteration is one thing that’s far scarier than merely dying, I counsel.

“For positive,” Jared agrees.

That’s why it’s essential that there are individuals prepared to work to maintain the legacy going. Loads of artists aren’t fortunate sufficient to have individuals left behind to do this. It’s undoubtedly uncommon for one individual to have these two equally essential obligations. Balancing the continued profession of the Vacant Tons with the preservation Alan Vega’s legacy is a full-time vocation.

Which brings me again to that first Vacant Tons/Suicide present I noticed again in NYC. I’d seen each bands in different settings, however there was one thing undeniably particular about that specific present. Years earlier than Artaud would start his work sifting by means of the Vega vault, you might already sense each bands’ deep connection. That night time, Suicide and the Vacant Tons have been spurred on to even higher efficiency heights than traditional. The Vacant Tons blew the viewers away, the proper introduction to a stellar, classic Suicide efficiency that left the viewers floored.

“Man, that’s actually cool,” Jared says after I’m performed reminiscing. “And I do know what you imply. That night time felt cosmic. It nonetheless goes down as one in every of my all-time favourite reveals we performed. I imply, we shared a stage with fucking Suicide. I imply, significantly… it doesn’t get significantly better than that, proper?”

Interiors by The Vacant Tons is launched in October. It’s accessible now on pre-order from Fuzz Membership Data.

The Vacant Tons on Fb and Twitter.


Interview by Tony O’Neill. Discover his writer archive right here.

Tony O’Neill is the writer of the novels Sick Metropolis, Down And Out On Homicide Mile and Digging The Vein, and the co-author of the bestselling Neon Angel: Memoir Of A Runaway with Cherie Currie.



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