Experimental musician Arto Lindsay, who came of age and international fame in the thick of the downtown late-70s art/music scene in downtown Manhattan was at The Standard, East Village recently performing some of his signature sounds. We stole five minutes with him and asked what he thought of the Punk scene finding its way into the Met Museum.
STANDARD CULTURE: You’re given name is Arthur Morgan Lindsay Jr. Where did Arto come from?
Arto: My father is called Art, so they wanted to called me something different ... They were merciful and didn’t call me Arty. And I guess Arto was a rare, but not unheard of nickname in the South for Arthur. My parents are Southern.
My dad is from South Carolina, my mom from Florida. But I grew up in Brazil because they were missionaries.
You just celebrated a big birthday. Any wisdom to share with us over the years?
Well...to some extent I make a living dispensing wisdom, but I don't know if it's necessarily useful or true. I don’t have any sage advice.
A Young Arto
How does it feel to still be an artist working and creating when a lot of your peers from the '70s East Village punk scene are no longer with us?
As an artist you get better at some things because you do them a lot. As a musician you learn things. Some things were always made difficult, you know.
What's your take on the MET Punk show?
Most of the girls looked pretty awful there on the red carpet. I looked at it briefly somewhere on the internet and, uh, they looked shockingly bad those girls. Some of them are quite pretty, ya know, those stars and stuff, but they looked awful.
How could they have looked better?
They could have been a little bit more beat up looking, showed a little more skin, and a little less, I don't know. They just didn’t look good. It’s a girl-by-girl, dress-by-dress story.
How are feeling about this brand of late-70s nostalgia?
New York has changed a lot, but New York always changed constantly. This nostalgia for this particular period has certainly been beneficial for me, but I’m tired of it. I was pretty tired of it to begin with. I hope people are getting a little tired of it.
Why do you think people are holding on to it?
People feel very unsure right now, for many reasons. It's a weird thing because you get all these people feeling nostalgia for something that they didn’t experience, and also for a time when it was very, very difficult for most people. If you weren't some ivy league dude transiting into Wall St., or whatever, life was really hard for most people in Manhattan.
You have somewhat of an iconic guitar strum...
I’m interested in freedom. I’m interested in control too and precision. I’m interested in freedom from myself also.
Is it liberating when you get on stage?
Sometimes, but it’s also hard work. Not knowing exactly what is going to come out of the guitar sometimes. Originally the point was to keep me on my toes. To force me to concentrate on certain things.
How did living in Brazil inspire your music?
I think Brazilians are really connected to music. It’s more a part of their day-to-day life. So many people were poor and music is free if you sing it, or make it. In that sense it was really inspiring.