Arto Lindsay

Article Works Projects www
Music (Art rock, avantgarde, improvisation, Latin art, samba, soul-funk)
America, South, America, North
Brazil, United States of America
created on:
August 24, 2009
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since September 29, 2009. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
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Arto Lindsay
Arto Lindsay (c) Promo


From "Horrible Noise" to Brazilian Bossa

Guitarist and latterly producer/solo artist Arto Lindsay embodies in his work a rather unusual blend of art-rock savagery and Brazilian smoothness. The offspring of American missionaries, his early upbringing in Brazil left him with as much appreciation of Latin music as of the more traditional pop fare. His mother was an enthusiastic amateur pianist, introducing the young child to the music of Dorival Cayimmi and Nat King Cole. During the early ‘60s the Tropicalia movement spearheaded by Jorge Ben and Caetano Veloso were as much a part of the soundtrack to Lindsay’s childhood as was western rock music.
He sets it into context: "because I was a teenager in Brazil in the ´60s, I thought it was part of the purpose of pop music to change people´s consciousness and spread information. In the ´60s, Brazilian pop was aware of many other styles. People loved all kinds of music - from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Brazilian folk to avant garde music like John Cage to serialism to 20th century classical music".

Lindsay moved back to the USA in 1970, and reached New York in 1974. Initially he thought he might make his way in the art world as a writer, but soon turned towards music in general and the guitar in particular when he heard the sonic roar of Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop’s Stooges.

The dawn of punk-rock was glimmering on the horizon when the young guitarist was offered a gig for his ‘band’ at Max’s Kansas City, the Mecca of punk. Despite the fact that he didn’t actually have a band, he accepted and then set about forming a group of like-minded musicians for the occasion. The result was his legendary outfit DNA, which included a drummer who had never played drums and a performance artist whose main role was to look striking. It was at this point that Lindsay began to incorporate ‘extended techniques’ into his playing, using prepared instruments and unconventional playing techniques. He says that he ”wanted to do something really extreme. I thought that was the route to success”.

The result certainly made an impact upon critic Lester Bangs, who referred with a certain admiration to the ‘horrible noise’ made by the outfit. In a nod to their leader’s heritage, DNA’s provocative approach also included Portuguese vocals and Brazilian drumming, but nobody really noticed - Lindsay notes “people thought we were improvising but it was meticulously rehearsed”. Unlike their peers of the time, the outfit did not manage to successfully climb aboard the punk bandwagon, and in the 1980s Lindsay redirected his energies to the Lounge Lizards.

Described as ‘fake jazz’, the Lizards drew upon rock, improvisation and avant-garde to create an idiosyncratic music .There followed a series of equally ambitious projects, including the Golden Palominos with Anton Fier (focussing primarily upon improvisation) and the Ambitious Lovers (soul-funk with added samba), before Lindsay launched a solo career in the early ‘90s.

As solo artist, he fused samba and bossa nova, and here he added vocals to his list of skills. Later on, Lindsay accidentally stumbled into production work via his guitar contributions to a Caetano Veloso recording. Following his Latin Grammy-winning production of a Marisa Monte album, he has become a sought-after figure in Latin art music, including work with Gal Costa, Carlinhos Brown, Tom Ze and Vincius Cantuaria to his credit.

Like any self-respecting eclectic, his art activity is not restricted to performance and production. He has both curated sound installations and has created pieces in his own right, including installations at such prestigious venues as London’s Barbican and the Brazilian Carlton Arts festival. Collaborators in this field include musicians Ryuichi Sakamoto and Brian Eno, and he recently stepped into the world of dance with a commission from Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Company.

He sees himself primarily as a collaborator, despite his solo career. He points out that ‘solo’ is rarely solo in reality – “somebody’s got to record it and mix it and master it”. This sense of collaboration also extends to composition. He notes that he can’t play an instrument in the conventional sense: “I can’t write chords, so I have to collaborate to write a song. Maybe one day I’ll sit down and write songs on my own but at this point, I still can’t”.
Author: Martin Gordon


Solo Records

Published Audio
Invoke: Righteous Babe Records Avex 2002; Prize: Righteous Babe Records , Avex 1999; Form and Function: 10" vinyl, Arto and DJ Spooky, Manifold Records; Why Compare (vinyl-only compilation): Bar None´; Reentry EP: Güt/For Life Records 1997; Noon Chill: Güt/For Life Records, Bar None Records, Ryko 1998; Hyper Civilizado (remix record): Güt/For Life Records 1996, Gramavision Records (US/UK/Europe) 1997; Mundo Civiliazdo: Güt/For Life Records 1996, Bar None Records, Ryko 1997; O Corpo Sutil (The Subtle Body): Güt/For Life Records 1995, Bar None Records, Ryko 1996; Aggregates 1-26: Knitting Factory Works 1995


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

The Spirit of the Haus

20 years of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt

(02 September 09 - 30 September 09)


Homepage of the artist