"It's definitely a rock and roll album. There's something unhinged about it, but there needs to be." Arthur says of the writerly 12-song first set in which rock and folk melodies meet a touch of soul and psychedelia in the service of his candid tenor and lyrics peering into a psyche in communication with despair, desolation and doubt but nonetheless, open, engaged, uncowed, and, Arthur hopes, with a sense of fun intact. The character is, "sort of based loosely on myself, or based on phases I've gone through in my life; phases of enlightenment and insanity." But Boogie Christ, who particularly takes center stage on the mantra-like title track, is also a take on a Jesus Christ figure that "has a bit of a punk rock spirit and doesn't mind joking around," Arthur says. "Maybe Christ would have a sense of humor."
The Boogie that populates the quiet, humbled "I Used To Know How To Walk on Water," is "claiming real power but from the other side of it, of not having it anymore," he explains. "And as a listener you can decide if that person is sincere or just megalomaniacal." Directed by Ehud Lazin and filmed during a February 2013 blizzard, the video for the song, which Billboard.com premieres here, finds Arthur and a silent female friend in alone somewhere in noirish New York "during the middle of the night and the snow was coming down like crazy," lost figures trying to find their way in a literally black and white world. The clips ends as ethereal voice of Ben Harper, who guests on the song, floats out into the frigid night.
Harper is far from the only other presence on the album. While Arthur and his multi-faceted protagonist take the lead, a cast of other performers also add to the sonic texture. Juliette Lewis sings on the beautifully drawn "Saint of Impossible Causes." Veteran drummer Jim Keltner, the Band's Garth Hudson, Joan as Police Woman's Joan Wasser, and Catherine Popper (of Ryan Adams & the Cardinals and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals) all lend their talents, among others.
And he's got even more than the "Boogie Christ" albums on tap. He shares that RNDM will probably do more recording. "We've got a bunch of tracks [already] but Jeff [Ament] wants to start clean slate," he says. "I think how high quality the [first RNDM] record was… We did great shows. Its going to percolate and I think the next time we put out a record it will have built. I'm super optimistic."
Fistful of Mercy, meanwhile, also has plans. "We've been in the studio and recorded one more track recently," featuring Jim Keltner on drums and Gillian Welch on bass. "We [FOM] are going to try to make a record I think, hopefully. I want to. it's hard to get all of us together in the same city in the same schedule ready to go because everybody is so busy. but the vibe is good for us to do that."
"Creativity begets creativity, It becomes a catalyst" Arthur says, strumming a hand-painted guitar. He talks of the responsibility of inspiration, of not letting a creative spark go uncaptured. He smiles, and plays on.