Alex Olson - our guest-editor this week - selects "Hold Onto Your Dreams" for our Read This Book series. We chatted with him to get to know how much he enjoys the legendary Soho musician's fascinating and crazy world.
You’ve been reading this Arthur Russell book?
Alex Olson: Yeah, I just accidentally saw it on Amazon. I was actually looking for that book right there – Love Saves the Day – which is all about dance and music culture of the 1970’s. And it’s stuff that I’m into. I’ve always been into Arthur Russell as well. I’ve listened to his music ever since I was a kid. From watching a skateboarding video, and then hearing a song by him and then trying to find the song on this CD, and then buying the CD was cool. The book is all about his biography, but also about the downtown music culture of the 1970’s, and the Soho scene at the Music Kitchen. Russell was just experimenting with a lot of different music and meeting a lot of different people.
Who was Arthur Russell?
He was a musician. He was cellist, a pianist, a composer and he just made all of these different styles of music. He played guitar too, he played pretty much everything. He made disco, he made folk, classical, experimental - he was really ahead of his time. I think that this book is important for any musician or artists living in New York right now. It talks about the whole Soho scene and how all of the artists were collaborating.
Why is it called Hold On To Your Dreams?
I think he was a daydreamer. I don’t know. You know, he died of AIDS, he was gay and I believe he was Buddhist too which I didn’t know. I think he was just someone that was so into music that that’s all he thought about really. In the book, it says that it was hard to work with him because he had so many different ideas that it was tough collaborate with him.
Is he well-known as a musician?
No, he’s not. Which is really shocking because he seems like someone who should be more popular than he is. He published records but I don’t know about books. The older he got the more paranoid he got. He experimented with LSD and stuff, then he moved to New York and I think eventually the city began to wear on him. He started to think that the Rolling Stones would come and steal his music and stuff like that. He’s epic.
Where did he live during his life?
He moved to Ohio, then to San Francisco – became a Buddhist – and was playing in a band which was kind of a cult. Then he moved to New York. He stayed and connected with Phillip Glass and all of these amazing composers.