Jared Artaud's New York Soundtrack
“I mean, when you think of New York City, don’t you think of Lou Reed?” The musician, producer, and one half of the duo The Vacant Lots shares 5 songs that for him are synonymous with New York.
Jared Artaud lives for music. The New York native has created an existence immersed so deeply in the art form that his expertise run the gamut from musician (guitarist, songwriter, vocalist) to lyricist to producer. He hones his craft as one half of post-punk electro duo The Vacant Lots—be sure to check out their new album Interzone when it lands on June 26—and has worked with such music greats as Alan Vega, Sonic Boom, Anton Newcombe from The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley.
With the city as a constant, unwavering source of inspiration, filtering into his work in ways both big and small, Artaud has amassed a treasure trove of seminal New York music moments. Here, he shares five standout songs that comprise his personal soundtrack to New York.
The Velvet Underground, “I’m Waiting for the Man” (1967)
Jesus Christ, those guitars… I was 16 or 17 when I first discovered The Velvets. It was game over for me. Life was never the same. This is the song though that made me want to play guitar. The song details in an almost Hubert Selby-esque way traveling uptown to score drugs in Harlem. I mean, when you think of New York City, don’t you think of Lou Reed? The Velvets mean so much to me and epitomize so much in music as they single-handedly reinvented the wheel with Warhol’s help for future generations of musicians and artists.
Suicide, “Dominic Christ” (1988)
Probably my most played song with earbuds and the song I abuse the most when DJing at my DAMAGE CONTROL nights at Night of Joy in Brooklyn. Alan Vega was such an amazing poet. I’ve been working on mixing and producing a lost Alan Vega record, which has been an immense honor and one of my favorite things to do is isolate his vocals and just immerse myself completely in those performances where the poetry and mastery shine through. I feel like more than any other band, Suicide is the most iconic New York City band. The streets… the rawness… the cold hard-hitting, no bullshit machinery noise and street hassle. Alan is probably the most underrated fashion icon of the CBGB movement. I love how the drums never change.
Albert Ayler, Bells (1965)
Albert Ayler lived and died in Brooklyn. He drowned in the East River. Alan Vega lived one stop away from me across the East River. I used to go over and hang out with Alan and I remember vividly talking about Albert Ayler with Alan more than any other musician. For me, Ayler is the holy grail… Ayler was the artist that got me into free jazz when I was in high school and maybe alongside Gram Parsons is the ultimate for me. This is also where I lifted the title for The Vacant Lots song we recorded with Anton Newcombe of the same name.
The Vacant Lots, “Empty Space” (2017)
I was born in New York City and grew up here until my family moved to New Jersey when I was in elementary school, and I’ve been living in Brooklyn for years. I spent so much time walking around completely out of my skull downtown listening to this song before we released it to make sure it was bulletproof… Listening to it on the subway at 2am… Sitting in Brooklyn Bridge Park looking out at the East River at night… The song originally had like 25 verses but Sonic Boom said to me, “Why don’t you make four verses out of it and make every line count,” and that kinda resonated with me. For the chord progression, I lifted Wilson Pickett’s “I’m In Love,” then I was experimenting for weeks on lead guitar ideas. When I was working in Ableton I accidentally hit the reverse button and it completely reversed my entire guitar track—and when I listened back to the song it was perfect and beautiful and we left that in there without changing it and that’s how that part got written. When I’m on tour in Paris, LA, Berlin, and I listen to this song it reminds me the most of home. Music for loners or lovers.
Television, “Guiding Light” (1977)
Verlaine. Holy guitars… Master of production and the Jazzmaster. We kinda took a page out of this song’s book for “Paint This City,” if you can hear it? Television single-handedly started CBGBs. This song always makes me feel like New York City nights. It’s calming in a fucked up way… I spent too many nights listening to this song on repeat on the subway coming back home from god knows where coming down. All the music just sounds like poetry to me… The way the cymbals shimmer like leaves and the guitars pick and pluck like rhythmic scenes or stars along some distant landscape. I love how the song makes me feel cold and detached almost frozen in time forever. I hear blue colors when I’m listening to it… I got to see Television perform a few months ago before the apocalypse for Fashion Week at this small basement club downtown for like 60 people. This music is best listened to with eyes closed.
PHOTOGRAPHY Courtesy of Jared Artaud