Original Link: https://www.rockeramagazine.com/interview-with-ari-joshua/
Interview With Ari Joshua
Ari Joshua’s cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Help on the Way” is a cosmic journey where we get to experience intense sentiments and enjoy brilliant musicality. Diverse genres are flawlessly blended to offer a musical sage where instruments sing along with the vocals to offer one mystic vibe.
The lead vocalist, guitarist, and producer Ari Joshua collaborated with drummer John Kimock, bassist Andy Hess, and keyboardist Eden Ladin to pay tribute to the Grateful Dead with their paradisiac psychedelia.
We had a chat with Ari Joshua to go behind the scenes of making the song as well as learn more about the artist himself.
- Hello, Ari Joshua! We are glad to have this conversation with you. Your cover of Grateful Dead’s “Help on the Way” is outstanding! But if a listener is just getting to know you, which original song would you suggest for them from your diverse discography?
Wow. I mean I have like over 100 out there, so I am not sure where to begin. There is a playlist on Spotify where you can find a lot of choices. I would say like this: If you are into Rock n Roll check out Big High, maybe go check out a song like Angel Devil. If you are into jazz check out Slippery Slope from my quartet. If you like Organ jazz maybe go for Let’s Do It Right Now with my heroes, Billy Martin, and John Medeski. If you like free jazz check out Meeting of the Minds. For the early Phish influenced vibes, check out Home by Space Owl, and or the Milly and Fee tributes. I double dog dare anyone to listen to the whole catalog. I think it would be a trip for someone to discover my music and really dive deep. If anyone can take a quiz with me about the songs and pass the quiz I would offer a free month of lessons.
- Back to the magical cover. The essence of The Grateful Dead’s original is there, yet you made the song sound your own. How did you manage to strike that balance between keeping the song’s nostalgic flair and, at the same time, making it sonically authentic?
This seems like it’s hard for a lot of artists to do. I really hear so many people out there emulating the sounds and the style, but for me it’s not a challenge to both pay respect to it and to do it my own way. I loved studying the masters all through high school and college, but now I find it hard to not stay true to who I am. I am a living breathing new person, I really can’t help but be authentic, and to live in that magical middle ground.
- The cover made the song sound like a musical odyssey with a psychedelic atmosphere and captivating singing and playing. Could you go through the composition and walk us through the process, from what sparked the idea to its finalization?
Thanks for that, I mean it’s clear you checked out the track and that’s great. I hope more people find it and check it out. The track starts with an ambient intro, and dive into the vocals in a way I haven’t explored enough. The vocals have a few layers deep of harmonies. The solos on this one are the original solos from the studio. The process was to track 1-2 takes of each song, and pick the best one, and work on overdubs and production from there. I just book time with engineers I trust and like and I start to just plug away, and I keep plugging away till it seems like it’s time to share it. Rarely do songs ‘feel’ done for me. I am trying to learn more about that process though because at this rate I may die well before I can share even half of my music. I also need to get it all out there so I can make new stuff. There is no one at fault but me, but I have had a struggle over the last 15 years or even more to come to terms with the industry and how it is. I am tangenting a little, the music and the song is one thing, and the version you hear is really based a lot on managing time, and letting the flow take over.
- All of the instruments are marvelous, but the guitar work stands out. What made you pick up a guitar in the first place? Can you tell us more about your journey to becoming the master guitarist you are now?
Thanks for the nice words. I grew up with a great record collection. I took piano lessons, but really wanted a guitar. My neighbor Barry, he lived 2 blocks north of my house and it was an easy walk up there. He bought me my first guitar. It was called ‘The Terminator’ and it was ordered from the back of a magazine. It had a built-in speaker which really distorted nicely if cranked, and I began learning The Star Spangled Banner right away. I wanted to be like Michael Jordan till I was like 12, at which point I realized I probably was not going to be a basketball player in the NBA. But music made so much sense to me, it was like deja vu. I just knew I could play, and I could do it on a high level. I had the emotional side tapped in. Once I got going I just had to gain access to be able to express the stuff that was inside of me. I started with blues, so I had a good start. Eventually Jazz presented itself, and I fell in love with the potentiality of it. There is a quantum level process with Jazz that involves rhythm and harmony and it begs for a strong connection to the spirit and the soul. I played for hours every day. 5-12 hours easy.
- John Kimock, Andy Hess, and Eden Ladin, along with you, form quite a squad! How did you all come together and harmonize naturally like this?
Well John and I were looking to hang and make some music. He recommended Hess as he and his father Steve had both worked with him. Hess is now one of my favorite bass players, he was really chill and fun to work with. I had a few talks with Andy about the plans, and once we had a few dates I just needed a studio. When I was at The New School I had a few friends that were opening a studio in NY called Bunker Studios. I reached out to them and they had space for us, so as soon as it was a go, I was looking for some keys as well. Eden was at The Village Vanguard and Kurt Rosenwinkel was playing. Originally I was gonna do a straight ahead session with another Bassist by the name of Alex Claffy. Claffy and I were going over line ups and Eden came up. It became clear that he was also the choice for this when I heard his music. I fell in love with his feel, and his sound. I could tell he was not afraid to try new stuff out as well. The chemistry was there from the first note.
- You are a gifted, witty artist, and you had skilled musicians to help produce such a coherent output. However, sometimes it’s challenging to make a cover. Were there any challenging aspects during the writing and recording process?
No, making a cover work was not at all an issue for me. I had a mix of originals and some ideas for covers, but the priority was getting in a room together and getting to work together. I know John is touring with Mike Gordon and Oteil Burbridge, his dad also plays a lot of this music so I knew he would tap in nicely. We tried a few tricky songs of mine, but a lot of my songs are actually pretty complex, picking a few covers was a nice way to break the ice.
- Music is surely a form of help. From your point of view, how can music be the “help on the way” for someone who’s having a rough time?
I am really interested in the power of music. Music education is in my opinion one of the most important jobs anyone can do. Music gives kids and adults the tools to tap into a state of being that is incredibly beneficial and helpful for well being. There is no doubt about it. Music is the doctor. If anyone reading has to even second guess that, I question if they are really in tune with reality as I see it. Music saves lives. Music allows a place for pain and sorrow and grief and frustration to go that is also non-violent in nature. It also gives a place for artists to channel healing vibes and share them with others. I think every human should expose themselves to high quality live music every week.
- This is not the only Grateful Dead cover you have made; obviously, you’re a solid fan of the iconic rock band. Can you tell us how they’ve influenced you as a musician?
Well, I saw them in 94 and 95, there was a lot of just incredible music going on at the time. Before I heard the Dead I was into Hendrix, and Jazz, and Zappa, and all sorts of stuff. Phish was also on the radar. The Dead represent a whole movement, and an era in a way few other things in this world do so universally. Deadheads are like the coolest fans to have. So if you are building a dream and a career, to me it makes sense you would try to soak up and align yourself with as much of that good mojo as possible. I have been influenced by a lot of great art. There is a lot more to this, some of it really personal as well, so I hope to share more in a blog, or a biography someday. Meanwhile I will leave it at that. The magic, the psychedelic aspect, and the legacy of great material is a bit part of it though.
- Would you tell us about your other influences?
I get asked that a lot. There are no shortages of other interviews out there where you can find a lot of that information. In short, influences on my art are like breaths of air in the atmosphere. I mean it’s as vast as all the animals in the kingdom and all the stories ever told. I have a pretty good compass for the real deal, good stuff that comes from the heart and from a strong place. There is an underlying thread. I should teach a class or a series of classes on this topic. I love to teach lessons and share this stuff when it is applicable.
- Based on your discography on Spotify, you released your first album in 2021 and your second one in 2023. Can you tell us how your sound and style evolved throughout the two years?
Well if you really dig around you will see there are releases going back to 2002. There is my senior thesis which is out there under my quartet name, as well AriSawkaDoria, which was produced by Michael Shrieve, and then there is Big High both the original EP and the Albums. It is a try though I did take a long break, and there are a number of really dynamic reasons for that. I really also hope to break that wall down someday soon, but I started seeing the light around the pandemic, and I was able to process some stuff, and start to release and follow that mission with a strong faith in the process. I haven’t noticed a lot of evolution, but then again I rarely do. I feel like that would be a great question to ask a biographer or a critic rather. If anything it’s just become more of a priority now. It’s just part of what I do and what really gives me meaning. If anything I realize more how important it is to follow my heart of hearts. To really follow all the muse. I think it was Kenny Warner that told us in a lecture that if you take care of your dreams and the music, the universe will take care of you. I guess that is becoming more clear in some ways now.
- We are excited to know if there is a new album on the way.
There is a new track out tonight called ‘Dragons Layer’. It is out September 29th, 2023. After that there will be a slight pause, and a recovery phase from the last 5 songs released, but there is a plan for more music and eventually a series of full albums.
- Finally, thank you for your time! We would like to learn more about your planes lined up for the rest of 2023.
I am focused on The Music Factory, my music school, and all the amazing teachers, and students we see week in and week out. I am looking into ways to also grow the label, Music Factory Records. I hope to sign some new acts, and just keep learning about the industry, and keep making art. Nodoubt there will be more music coming soon.
Thanks Viola so much for the interview, I hope you have a wonderful 2023 and beyond.