From The Desk Of Liam Finn: Arthur Russell

Liam Finn could rightly be identified as a world citizen. The New Zealand native was a globetrotting toddler, accompanying father Neil Finn on Crowded House tours, repeating the experience as a young adult with his own band, the renowned Betchadupa. To record FOMO, the sophomore follow-up to 2007 solo debut I’ll Be Lightning, Finn relocated to London, but moved to New York City three years ago. Finn’s third solo set, The Nihilist, runs the gamut of his genetic and experiential influences. Finn will be guest editing all week. Read our new feature on him.


Finn: I only discovered the music of Arthur Russell since living in NYC. He was an admired cellist, songwriter, singer and experimental composer who passed away in the ’80s without having much commercial success. He collaborated with some really amazing artists, including Allen Ginsberg and Phillip Glass, and made an incredibly diverse amount of work through the ’70s and ’80s. Those who do know his music worship him, and he has inspired hoards of musicians young and old. Last year I had the opportunity to cover a song of his to be included in a tribute album that is set to come out this year. I originally planned to do a song called “Soon To Be Innocent Fun” which is a hauntingly beautiful cello and voice piece. It is very unique to his way of playing the cello, and I had no idea where to start. Then the people at Red Hot and Yep Roc who are putting together this tribute album put me in touch with a man called Ernie Brooks, who was the original bass player in the Modern Lovers. He was a long-time collaborator of Arthur’s and had a bunch of unheard and unrecorded demos and rehearsal tapes of his. He sent me a few, and they were all really amazing. We finally settled on one called “This Love Is Crying” to tackle as a cover and recorded it in my studio with a couple more of Arthur’s old friends: experimental trombonist Peter Zummo and Bill Ruyle on hammer dulcimer. It was the most interesting musical experience I’ve had in this city.