Rollo & Grady Interview :: Keith Wood AKA Hush Arbors

Rollo & Grady Interview :: Keith Wood AKA Hush Arbors

Hush Arbors, born Keith Wood, is one of my favorite artists. His self-titled album in 2008 was one of the best albums of the year. It should have been a breakout year for Wood; his music falls into the folk category, but it’s edgier with a more psychedelic-rock-folk sound. He’s been kicking around for years as a solo artist and been a contributing member of Six Organs of Admittance, Current 93, Wooden Wand and Sunburned Hand of Man.

Wood told me recently that he feels like his best work is on the horizon. He’s excited about recording his next solo album with Ecstatic Peace in April, which is Thurston Moore’s (Sonic Youth) label; one of Wood’s idols. He will be touring the states in May.

R&G: Where are you right now?

Keith: At my house in London.

R&G: Which album or band changed your life, and why?

Keith: Bob Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. “Tombstone Blues” affected me as much as it did when Judas was called at Newport. I know I grew up with an entire canon of amazing rock ‘n’ roll at my disposal, but even to this day that track has an amazing effect on me. I don’t know if it’s the heavy backbeat or the lyrics. It stills feels present. No one has ever been able to capture that sound and fury on tape. You can’t overlook “White Light” by Gene Clark. The title cut is enough to make songwriters reconsider their profession. Neil Young; I wouldn’t be anywhere without him. His recordings gave me the spirit to sing and record. Bless him always.

R&G: You are deeply inspired by nature. Tell me what it means to you.

Everyone has their own personal experiences within the bounds of nature, you know? Personal history and experiences create all of this. Now, maybe walking to catch a train or hiking up a mountain occupy the same space; that experience is a personal one but universal at the same time. We all have shared experiences and how we communicate them is what’s important. Relating to the shared experience is the goal. Presenting things in a universal vision is important. I feel as though my experiences in the natural world have lead me to a certain understanding of life.

R&G: You’ve travelled much of your adult life to many beautiful places. Can you tell me how these journeys have affected you personally and as a musician?

Keith: I like to travel. I’ve always been restless and wanted to see a lot of places. I have been very fortunate to do so playing music. But when I was younger I just wanted to see stuff. You know, the Kerouac thing, with the “getting somewhere” being the best part. I also had a goal of visiting the 48 continental states before going to any other country. I did a pretty good job, but still haven’t been to Nevada or Maine.

R&G: Were you trying to “find yourself?”

Keith: Well, you know… whatever. The meaning of that is really ambiguous. I’ve found myself in a lot of different places, jams, good times, etc… I just wanted to be where I was meant to be, so I had to look around. I’m always looking for something new, something exciting, but familiar and loving at the same time.

R&G: You grew up a fan of Sonic Youth. How excited are you to be on Thurston Moore’s label?

Keith: Absolutely amazing. That’s one thing I think about when I’m down in the dumps.

R&G: How did the relationship come about?

Keith: Through touring with Six Organs of Admittance. We stayed at his house after a gig.

R&G: Any plans to collaborate with him?

Keith: Hopefully yes.

R&G: You generally record your music outside or with the windows open. Can you explain the significance of that?

Keith: I recorded a lot of the earlier records at my parents’ house in Virginia. There is a power outlet out on the dock, and I used to go down there at night and record. It was nice and quiet and I didn’t bother anyone inside. So a lot of the ‘field recording’ type of effects were accidental. Living in London, I haven’t done that in awhile.

R&G: How much does your location affect creativity?

Keith: I think location can affect your state of mind, but in the end the creative drive comes from within. Being able to hold on to that is the most important thing. I’ve been in some places that are very inspiring, but it normally takes a while for all of that energy to sink in.

R&G: Do you feel your current album is the best work you’ve done so far?

Keith: You haven’t heard the new one yet! No, we are super stoked about it, but even more stoked to get the new one recorded.

R&G: Critics have been praising your album. How much of this type of feedback reaches you? Do you read your own press?

Yeah, we’ve been reading some of it. Most of it has been very kind and forgiving, but a magazine over here really hated it. Called it a pile of dog shit, which I think should have bothered me. But, I thought it was really funny; journalism at its finest, and most constructive.

R&G: Do you ever worry about success clouding your artistic vision?

Keith: Not really. It would be rad to do this and not have to think about work. I think working clouds the artistic vision a little.

R&G: What is the significance of opening your album with the heavily distorted “Water” and closing with an intense “Water II”?” Water seems to set the tone like a tidal wave, and everything in between is beautiful, sunny, calm and organic.

Keith: The last record I did ‘Landscape of Bone’ ended with the super heavy track “Nine Bones”, and I wanted to continue that thought. The cover was a picture of a girl sitting on a log playing acoustic guitar with a guy lurching behind her with an axe getting ready to give it to her. In a way, with the folk boom, or whatever you wanna call it, it seemed a little draining. I didn’t want to start the record with something nice and peaceful; we were looking for something to give the signal that things have changed a bit. I don’t think you can keep doing the same thing ’cause people will get bored with you, and I was getting kind of bored with myself. This new record and the band I’ve got together now is the closest thing to my own personal vision and goals.

R&G: What do you want people to experience from your music?

My only hope is that people will listen with an open mind and no pre-conceived notions. Tags are made to help people relate to things. But I like to listen to things with new ears, and I hope people do the same.

R&G: How do you balance the joys and sorrows of life in your music?

Keith: Hopefully within the darkness there is a little bit of light, and vice versa. It seems like there is always a little tinge of sadness within happiness.

R&G: Your lyrics in “Rue Hollow” are beautiful. “In some dark hollow, she’s on my mind. In that Rue Hollow, tell her that I’m doing fine.” What was your inspiration for that song?

Keith: I wrote that song for my great grandmother who passed some time ago. When she passed I felt like it was the best thing at that time because she couldn’t walk and couldn’t really remember anything but the past. I never really processed anything until I wrote that song. Growing up, my mother spent a lot of time with my great grandmother and grandfather in a place they called Rue Hollow. It’s about her and how I feel like she’s always with me. “But in the clouds I see her, blown in from her mountain home.” You know… presence within absence.

R&G: Any thoughts on Ben Chasny’s quote “This music is for you who love your perfect clothes caked in mud. This music is for you who could have been scientists but realized that most scientists are thrown into the back of an anonymous van and sold into slavery for their government. And at that point, you said, Fuck it. I love the stars and germs and shit, but I’d rather not have a gun to my head.”

Keith: I think Chasny had too much to drink… just kidding. He was pointing out that some people are going to do what they love no matter what happens. I’d still be writing and playing music and sending tapes to friends no matter what. I love doing it, and sometime I feel I have to. That’s what I got from it. I don’t know if that’s what he meant. I’ll have to ask him.

Hush Arbors – Hush Arbors (iTunes)