Art of Noise

Photo:Sarah Morrison
Art Bourasseau is a man who has a most distinctive ear when it comes to finding raw talent in the music industry. He has worked in the music business for over 15 years as head of his own music label MuSick Recordings, as an artist manager, a producer,and now as a documentary filmmaker with his new music interviews series, Art of Rock.

Art, who grew up in the Caribbean and moved to the U.S. as a teenager, has always had the arts in his blood. His father is a successful sculptor and painter (abstract expressionism) and lauded entertainer in the lost art of ventriloquism. His grandfather was a famous magician during the 1950s and 1960s. Art credits his grandfather's magic act as the catalyst that inspired his love of music, as the magic show featured"exotic records" while the illusions were performed onstage.

Throughout his career he has worked with a variety of music artists including Iggy Pop, Eazy-E, The Moog, The Boss Martians, Satan's Pilgrims and many others, and has continued to thrive in an industry that is forever evolving and changing at the same time.

Art has just returned from Seattle where he has finished work as co-producer of the upcoming new album for Hungarian indie rockers The Moog with legendary David Bowie producer Ken Scott.

Revolution spoke with Art directly from his home in Los Angeles to get the scoop on his latest music and film projects, talk about the ins and outs of making a record album, why Phibes is his"other"last name, and how he got Bruce Springsteen to talk about the band he managed live in front of 20,000 people.

R. You wear many hats, which role do you feel most comfortable in?
AB. I like them all. On the label and producer side, the process of seeing an album go from demo stage to full studio productions followed by the finished album(be it LP or CD) is something I'll always love. As a manager, going from point A to B as you reach each goal or step with the artist you manage is also very satisfying. With Art of Rock, our new film/documentary venture, our first episode is about Hal Blaine. Hal practically invented pop/rock drumming as we know it, and it was great interviewing all his peers such as Herb Alpert, Don Randi, Bones Howe, and other musicians whose drumming he influenced, like Marky Ramone, Kenny Aronoff and Clem Burke.

R. You go by Art Phibes as your Art Of Rock persona. What's the story behind the name?
AB. Well, I wanted a different name for Art Of Rock, to differentiate this persona from what I do in my other projects. Since being an interview host is a new thing for me, I decided to adopt the Phibes name for it. It comes from one of my favorite classic horror cult films "The Abominable Dr. Phibes," starring Vincent Price.

R. Over the course of your music career you have seen many changes in the industry. Would you say it has evolved for the better?
AB. Definitely not for the better. The industry now is run by accountants, lawyers, banks and incompetent young A&R people..i.e. not music or art people. Their sole goal is to make money and keep their  corporate jobs. Though major labels were always about making money, the music fan got way more before because within that structure, you had visionary artist-leaning A&R reps and executives who understood the artistry of rock 'n' roll, soul, jazz or whatever type of music they were releasing. Record executives like Ahmet Ertegun, Clive Davis and Jerry Wexler-these crazy geniuses behind the labels had it right, they were daring, and knew how to do it. Now you have less and less people taking chances on signing real artists offering real music to the public-in other words the industry is beyond SAFE, to the point where "artists" like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga are considered "edgy." Are you kidding me??! Katy Perry and Lady Gaga make Debbie Gibson and Tiffany look like Wendy O.Williams. And development of the artist? Don't get me started. I am tired of hearing established major artists from Madonna to Radiohead to Prince-saying who needs record companies now, that they can just make money from touring and merchandising and labels mean nothing. Mind you, these artists are the same artists who when the labels they were signed to believed in them when they were unknowns, took full advantage of the time, money and major push these companies gave them to achieve success and fame. My point is that it's very disingenuous for these now established artists to pretend that the major muscle they had behind them for years developing their careers means little, and that what they have now would have been achieved without gutsy or half-crazed A&R label executives that took a chance and believed in them, giving them the time, care and financial push necessary to develop them into the artists they are today.So a long answer to your question, I know, but that's the reality of the music business today as far as I'm concerned.

R.You recently hooked up with legendary David Bowie producer, Ken Scott, to work on a new album for a band you manage from Hungary called The MOOG. Tell us about that collaboration and how it felt to work with such a visionary.
AB. It was quite special, because here's a guy who worked with The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Bowie, Elton John, Supertramp and Duran Duran. So there was pressure on both the band and me (as co-producer), but it was mostly a great experience. Seeing how he worked, how he would place microphones in certain ways, or took extra time listen to what we were tracking. That's probably what I learned the most about working with Ken, actually listening with open ears to what we put down on tape.


R.You were recently in the company of Bruce Springsteen, I bet that was nerve racking. What happened on that day?
AB. This was about five years ago when I was managing Seattle band the Boss Martians. We were playing a big a festival in NYC with Iggy & The Stooges, The Strokes and many others. There were about 20,000 people there and I was informed by the organizer, Little Steven (of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band), that the legendary Kim Fowley was to introduce the Boss Martians, which was great of course. But I happened to see Bruce Springsteen on the side of the stage watching the bands and I thought what if I go up to him and ask if he wouldn't mind introducing our band. So I just went up to him, introduced myself,told him I managed the Martians which fortunately he said he knew and was also a fan of, and next thing we knew he was on stage in front of all these people improvising this amazing intro about the band. What made it extra funny is that the one thing that always drove me nuts about the Boss Martians' front-man, Evan Foster, was that he was always late for everything and this time he took sweet time to get onstage, plug in his guitar on,comb his hair, etc,etc. And since Bruce had already started his intro before the band hit the stage and they took so long to be ready, there was nothing Bruce could have done but to just keep talking about them. Like the true professional he is, he came up with all this amazing stuff about the them, beyond the basic bio-he started talking about planet Mars, outer space, how he was "The Boss" but these were The Boss Martians, Northwest garage rock (since the band is from Seattle) and how it all related to this great act the crowd was about to see and hear. It really was great, and that was the one and only time I was happy about Evan being late. I think he did it all on purpose to keep Bruce talking about his band, but to this day he won't admit it.

R.When you're not out making music, managing artists, or hanging out with legends, what bands/artists are you listening to on your iPod?
AB. I do listen to a lot of stuff by The Moog, since we're constantly working with them on various projects, but I mostly listen to my favorite classic artists/musicians and they haven't changed for many years. They would be: Thin Lizzy, David Bowie, Marc Bolan (T.Rex), Astrud Gilberto and Walter Wanderley, The Kinks, Rolling Stones, Psychedelic-era Temptations, The Church, The Damned, Henry Mancini and 60s LA icons LOVE.


Last but not Least...

R. If you could go back to any musical era, which one would you choose and who would you have managed and why?
AB. I'd go back to the 70s and manage Phil Lynott and his band Thin Lizzy. And the first order of business would have been to break them in America. There's no real reason this great band who had it all-the songs, the live shows, the looks, and one of the best frontmen ever-were superstars everywhere but not in America. That's an injustice that needs to be rectified. I'm ready to go back and do that.

Art Bourasseau
music label founder, producer, manager, documentary filmmaker


pyramiddj said…
This was a great interview about Art! I have known him in the music professional industry for almost 20years. He is very dedicated to the art of finding the "real" and pure truth behind what makes great music. He has always had this gift of having a keen sense of what music is really all about and has always expressed his feelings about it directly and firmly. That is the mark of a true music mogul. Anyway, I also wanted to express that your questions to him were well thought out and executed with a reporters sensse of really get to the bottom of the story! Great overall interview and report. A+! (Vern Shank- Daytona Beach, FL.)
Anonymous said…
I agree with his comments on the music industry and how bad it's become. Good interview.
Gabriella said…
Hi from Hungary, I'm glad Art's company is working with The Moog, who are from Budapest. They are a fantastic band and deserve big success.
Anonymous said…
This guy should be running Interscope, Atlantic, Capitol, Epic or any of the major labels left.