“You can actually make something out of nothing because we had shit, then we somehow whipped up this fucking fury — Arab On Radar,” says Jeff Schneider (aka Mr. Clinical Depression) to no one in particular on the newly released AOR DVD Sunshine for Shady People (Three One G Records). Said “fury” would be the brutal sonic assault courtesy of the four Providence guys who pulled the plug at their peak. From 1994 to 2002, Arab On Radar toured nonstop, recorded four albums, and ultimately became the catalysts for modern-day noisemongers Lightning Bolt, the Locust, and Wolf Eyes, to name a few. Guitarists Schneider and Steve Mattos (aka Mr. Type-A), along with singer Eric Paul (Mr. Pottymouth) and drummer Craig Kureck (Mr. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), will host a DVD release party on Friday at Machines with Magnets (machineswith-magnets.com), with performances by Tinsel Teeth, White Mice, and Daughters.
“AWKWARD HORROR”: Arab On Radar prepare to see the world.
“Their shows were solid spectacles of awkward horror,” White Mice’s Dave Mousstain told me. “Their music was amplified stress — unique and grotesque, raw and compelling.” And asking him how Arab influenced him is “like asking a tomato how it grew next to a spectacular pumpkin.”
Sunshine for Shady People is an entertaining, well-edited romp. Kureck “obsessively filmed everything that happened with one camera, from the beginning of the band to the end,” he said last week. “Literally 100 hours over a seven-year span, whittled down to a half-hour of dynamic footage.” There are glimpses of early local gigs and 3 am performances in packed boiler rooms and basements across the US and Europe, where the band always received “the royal treatment because being a musician is actually considered a profession over there,” Kureck said.
“But shows here in the heyday of Fort Thunder were the best of the best.” DVD extras include 18 live songs spanning from Minneapolis to Milan. Unfortunately there isn’t any footage from an incident during the band’s first show in 1995 while opening for Marilyn Manson at Club Babyhead. I wanted to confirm the Wikipedia entry, and Kureck verifies the story as if it happened yesterday.
“During the set, Eric literally kicked out the front teeth of someone in the opening band,” Kureck said. “They were trying to pull him off the stage to beat him senseless and he just kicked the guy’s teeth right out of his head. Then I overheard them planning to curb-stomp Eric’s head outside the club. They posted a meathead at every door and we snuck Eric out through the back gate.”
Listening to the foursome and friends throughout Sunshine for Shady People, there isn’t a hint of regret about the assumed untimely breakup. “I’m completely happy stopping when we did,” Schneider says on Sunshine. (Paul and Kureck went on to form Chinese Stars, while guitarist Schneider helped spawn Made In Mexico.)
“A group of degenerate, white-trash fucking assholes were gonna see the world, and we went out and did it,” Eric Paul said. “And that’s pretty fucking cool.”
And while the members of Arab On Radar will be in attendance on Friday, an impromptu secret/surprise live show isn’t in the forecast. “We’re all from here, and we’ll probably all die here, but the reunion question has honestly never been proposed or addressed, so who’s to say.