Interview: TIM ARNOLD

Tim Arnold has released a new single, ‘You Like My Pictures’, which marks a departure in musical direction for him. The video for the single also saw Kevin Godley of 10CC fame become involved. 

Legendary music video pioneer Kevin Godley says Tim Arnold’s new single is “3 minutes and 43 seconds of razor sharp dystopian Pop that satirises our addiction to screen candy and a growing sense that nothing is worth anything unless it’s on a screen or has one”. 

YouTube Official Video

The new single, ‘You Like My Pictures’, is a real musical departure for you. How did the song come about and is this a musical route you will explore further?

I get completely immersed in each album project. It saturates every part of my life, so it took a while for The Soho Hobo to ‘drip dry’.  When I emerge with a blank canvas again, I’m never sure what new picture I will start to paint.  I try to let it find me.  You Like My Pictures is one of the songs from the next album I will release (although there is also another completed album that I am holding back whilst I work on this new one). This single is fairly representative of this new album I am working on at the moment.  Musically, I went back to bass playing and revisited the music I listened to when I was about ten years old. A lot of Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel.  All my bass playing heroes from the 80s like Tony Levin, Del Palmer and Mick Karn have been a huge influence on the new songs. It’s the first time I’ve practiced an instrument in years.

Lyrically and thematically, I wanted to embrace everything I fear about the modern world. i.e. information technology and social media.  Instead of being frightened of it, I wanted to become it, to understand it better and I began exploring writing from the point of view of an app, an algorithm or an automated social media site.  Regurgitating information just like our mobile devices do to us. I’m fascinated in Kurzweil’s predictions about transhumanism and I believe we are all in the early stages.  Much of this next album deals with those ideas and how it contrasts with the traditional notion of humanity.  TA+ (TA Plus) is the character I’m inhabiting in order to explore this new project. I consider myself to be transhuman. In fact I think most people who interact daily with technology are transhuman, whether they realise it or not.  I worked at Apple for a time. I’ve seen the plans for the future from the inside.  I signed a confidentiality agreement though so I can’t say more than that.

The video is cleverly done and did you choose the famous faces you used based on online popularity or just personal choice? How long did it take to create the finished version?

I don’t know if it’s clever! But thank you.  The choice of faces was a very personal process actually, and not at all based on their popularity.  It was much more based on each line in the song and who should be given which line.  It was more like casting a play or movie.  “You don’t like me telling the truth” was always going to be Julian Assange. “Phrases born of pretty words” could only be given to a master of linguistic dexterity like Stephen Fry.  I saw Taylor Swift’s video for Bad Blood which features some of the most beautiful women in the world. I thought I’d quite like to do that in a video, but I’d like to BE some of the most beautiful women in the world, so that’s why Beyonce, Margot Robbie and my mother Polly Perkins are all in it.

Much of the song and video revolves around the idea of revealing truth through disguise. Lindsay Kemp is and always has been a master of that art, so It would have been remiss of me not to include his face. We are currently working on a project together as well.

The fact that earlier this year, more people ‘liked’ a photograph I posted on Facebook of a Spanish omelette I had made than a song I sweated blood and tears to make did spark the initial idea for the song (in the shower as I recall).  But I’m glad it did.  I’m not the only person that feels like that.  The observation allowed me to create something I hope is entertaining to watch. We are all faced with the difficult task of sharing ideas that matter to us and I am sure I’m not the only person whose work has been upstaged by a photo of some potatoes and onions mixed with egg.

I started filming at 7.34pm on a Sunday night and finished at 6.06am on the Monday.  So all the content was created and edited less than 12 hours. I had only discovered Snapchat the day before I had the idea for the video so I approached it like a clueless caveman, which I think was the best way to use it.

I was simultaneously operating the iPhone as well as Logic Pro, so I couldn’t really use a tripod because it would have masked the computer screen.  My arms were killing me by the end of it.  My hands were constantly on the phone, a mouse and a keyboard, which is precisely what TA+ is all about embracing.

I was on my own. Checking the monitor, keeping the framing and lip-synching the song at the same time.  Somewhere in the process, I also had to think about performing to make each new face come to life in a way that would match the lyrics.  It was quite an experience. It was a very hot summer we had this year.

How did Kevin Godley become involved?

The day after filming and editing everything, I looked back at the edit and wondered if I had finally gone insane.  It’s ironic that in attempting to comment on how much we all love to take pictures of ourselves, I had to spend an intense period doing it myself.  Kevin and I have been working on a film project together for Save Soho this year and we share a fascination for all things ‘odd’.  I thought if there was anyone who would be able to tell if I’d made a good video or not, it would be Kevin.  Thankfully he loved it and started helping me to produce the finished result.  For an artist who practically invented the modern music video, he was incredibly humble and sensitive towards my work.  I explained that I thought of it as a demo, but his view on it was that the DIY approach I had taken was exactly right in order to convey the message of the song.

Originally, I had the lyrics scrolling across the screen. It was Kevin’s suggestion to make those into text messages on the iPhone.  He’s a connoisseur of the language of film-making and can identify the heart of a creative work.  My brain does feel like it might implode when we discuss anything creative together.  He’s operating on another level completely.  He’s a creative genius and I am so lucky to have had his contribution on ‘You Like My Pictures’.

We’ve become friends in the short time we’ve known each other, but I still think of him like God since I saw his projected image towering over the rest of 10cc at their Albert Hall show last year. It means a lot to me to work with legendary artists who I have looked up to since I was a child. To have that encouragement is like a kind of fuel when you work a lot by yourself.

How is the Save Soho campaign going?

I’ve never thought of Save Soho as a campaign.  That’s a media tag.  Which is fair enough.  Save Soho, to me, has always been a united voice about the shared affection for that magical square mile of London.  It’s not contentious. It’s constructive.

There have been victories: Madame Jojo’s and Soho Square in particular.

But more than anything, because of the public noise we all made about Soho, those who are in authoritative and influential positions have begun to adopt our original concerns about the future.  That surely is always the job of the opposition?  Bringing your opponents round to your way of thinking? And we will all continue to voice our way of thinking.  I remember last November when Terry Gilliam and I switched on the Berwick Street Christmas lights. He did the countdown in odd numbers.  As the great man said at the time: “Soho is for the odd ones”.  And we will continue to do all we can to make sure that is the one thing that never changes in Soho.

Message for your fans…

I owe everything to my fans.  I have some friends in the music industry who support and help me with my work, but I don’t have a publicist, a record label, a publisher or anybody marketing what I do as an artist.  So it’s my fans who share and spread the word about what I do.  It’s because of them that I am able to be myself and do what I love doing.  I think being who we truly are in a world that tries to make you fit into a certain mould is the greatest gift.  I love my fans for affording me that opportunity.  I always will. Twitter: @timarnold

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Power Plays w/c 9 October

ALMANAC Losing My Mind (Nuclear Blast)
TRIGGERFINGER Colossus (Mascot)
MIKE PETERS & THE ALARM Heroine (indie)
WICKED STONE Another Round (indie)
FOZZY Judas (Sony Music)

Featured Albums w/c 9 October (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 DANTE FOX Six String Revolver (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 FOZZY Judas (Sony Music)
14:00-16:00 JARROD DICKENSON Ready The Horses (Decca)

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