When all else fails...( including severe medication and other well known and completely dependable remedies) the Arthur Offen story is sure to induce that blissful sleep and restorative slumber you've been so longing for but never, until now, been able to achieve! At long last say goodbye to those endless nights of tossing and turning by simply reading further....you're getting Drowsy.....
Yes friends and neighbors gather round for the mercifully abbreviated and edited "Cliff's Notes" version of where I came from and what I've done. For those of you that know me well I promise I will keep the following to the point and as brief as possible.
I'm from an old Atlanta family that I am very proud to be a part of. Growing up in the south I was lucky enough in this life to have a Mom who was a great musician as well as a brother who is a great drummer and a sister who is a fine voice and pianist and a younger brother with a fine sense of language and history. Singing and the study of how vocal harmony worked was a big deal as choral singing was going on at church and at school. My mom was responsible for our extensive education in opera and all things of classical culture as far back as I can remember. Being thirteen in 1963 set up me and everyone else my age for the coming of the explosive 60's. After The Beatles came along there was just nothing else on my mind but the nearly mystical call of a life in pop music. I came up in a great R& B outfit called "The Dynamic Daiquiris". What a band! We had a four piece brass section and a great rhythm section. Since the early 60's I was the bass player and singer (fat kid, zits, no cool looking guitar and amp for Christmas like the guys I grew up with who couldn't really play...) and that's what I did here. We were the ultimate southern college fraternity Friday night party band! It was a great education but the sharp dressed British four or five man team was what I really dreamed of doing being surrounded by The Beatles, Procol Harum, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, etc. in 1967!
The south I grew up in was a whirlpool of the civil rights movement set against the almost blinding onslaught of the British music invasion though the music of "Young America" at the time would prove to be the most startling arbiter of cultural change ever heard. It's not hard to believe with the coming of the great Motown artists and the more southern Memphis hit makers (Stax Volt) pitted against the coming the Atlantic stable ...(Ray Charles, Aretha) while on the West coast the coming of the Beach Boys and the later San Francisco movement left an indelible stamp on my growth and inspiration. Though these many musical influences in my life are insanely diverse I am so glad to have seen them explode full tilt and be absorbed into the American landscape by the time I was 19!! It's 1969! Talk about a revolution!!
Oh My God I'm 20 years old in 1970 in Atlanta GA, trippin' my brains out in Piedmont Park hanging out with a new band called the Allman Bros. and lucky enough to be playing in a truly inspired Atlanta band called Radar. Radar was a popular Atlanta quartet made special by the fact that there were three strong song writers, myself, James Cobb and Chris Cornish. We were then and still are a formidable three part harmony trio though now we're called "The Realm". Each of us has perused different paths over the years but we have always come together to sing or dissect song craft. The Flag album "Book of Conquest" features our harmonies on just about every track. I very much hope that we can put together a collection of our tunes in 2007.
Radar was lucky enough to be able to open a lot of concerts with a lot of big stars of the day and it was my first big look at the giant Rock-N-Roll circus that just got bigger and crazier as the seventies wore ever onward. When that line up broke up in 1973 I was at a loss as to what to do with myself. Though I did finish an intensive art school education I had my heart set on somehow being in a rock act that could play the tunes I was writing. Re-uniting with an old high school friend really helped make that dream a reality. The Air Raid story has been told extensivly here so I won’t re-hash it. Lets just say for the next few years I was totally driven to make the band a success. Those years did wonders for injecting a new identity into my writing. I wanted a blank page to create my own mythology complete with a wide screen visual lexicon and a descriptive poetry that would bear a grander view of historical events and the pageantry of tales told and of times past and future. I really worked hard at committing to a form and style that I feel is more present than ever in my new work but fits tongue and groove with my older songs and lyrics. Fellow band members too
Fellow band members took their own roads. Rick Brown moved on from this life and Tom Walker took back his private life away from us so the end of the Air Raid story slowly became the beginning of the Arthur Offen and Rick Hinkle story as the crazy eighties started to power up. I am the luckiest guy in the world to know Rick Hinkle. In Atlanta, Georgia his name and presence whether it is guitar, bass, keyboard or producer on any form of music live or recorded is synonymous with an unparalleled excellence at the world class level. But that is just the icing on cake because he is and will always be one of my dearest friends.
Looking back on the eighties is a look back over my shoulder on a darker time for me as the repercussions of losing Air Raid and the business of carrying on with my life was a time marked by confused priorities both career wise and on the home front as well. As issues with addictions both chemical and private escalated, my marriage and my ability to focus on anything were slipping away even faster than any place I might have had in the music business. Though I wrote vigilantly and produced art works I was very aware that I could not gracefully re-instate my own forward motion no matter how I tried. I recorded an entire album of finished work that I thought was wonderful only to have it vanish one night along with the studio. Many a retry at recording some of my tunes sounded really hot but for whom? I guess all of us flounder at some point not knowing how to plug ourselves back into the world. I was alone and living in Atlanta but through it all Rick Hinkle was my oasis in the desert. He was living alone as well but always had the house full of the best guitars, Marshall amps, and tons of great music to listen to. He always made a great burger and he was dreaming of having his own studio one day and I was just always so glad he was there. Our friendship deepened and eventually I was his best man when he re-married. When I left to tour hotels in northern Europe in 1988 we wrote long letters back and forth and he would always send photo's of new guitars and Marshall heads stacked up neatly just to keep me in the loop .Through it all he worked on his dreams of having his own studio and I just went back to playing live full time. I stayed overseas on and off until the spring 1991 and though I returned home sort of burned out I was oddly rejuvenated and very glad to be back in the USA.
I moved to Boston in the later half of 1991 to help open a sing-along piano bar with a troupe of fellow players led by the talented Texan, Kevin Clover who had taught me how to do the show and gave me a great paying job. Thank you Kevin!! He provided a new start and so much inspiration! It was hard work on the weekends but I was living in a truly great American city with a fantastic music and cultural scene. One of Kevin's local recruits into our show was a young Berkley student named Jon Sherman. He and I struck up a fast friendship with a mutual love of all things progressive rock especially YES. One thing led to another and in the harsh winter of '93 we started to piece together midi orchestra/keyboard arrangements of a lot of my tunes and one of his to get them ready for rhythm section tracking at some later date. Enter Tom Waltz a nearly famous and incredible Boston based engineer with his own studio. With Tom onboard as co-producer, Jon on drums, vocals and a million keyboard parts and yours truly on guitars, bass, vocals and sheer aggression we put together the album "Across the Stars" calling ourselves "Flag" after the title of the first song.
I lived in Boston until the late summer of 1996 when the Club and the people I was working with changed course and the whole working scene there seemed to shift gears. I was pulled away to the South Carolina shore to help start a new club there. I reluctantly left Boston only to realize to late that I never should have left at all. I ended up being miserable living at the beach and stayed only two years or so. I must say I did meet a few wonderful people with whom I will always remain very close. They know who they are.
When I finally returned home to Atlanta in the early summer of 1998 it was wonderful being back in my hometown and though I eventually moved up to Charlotte NC for a few years for to work I was constantly writing the whole time and plotting out the next FLAG album. I new it was going to be a "Ben Hur" size piece of work and somehow everything aligned perfectly for me to finally get the chance to work with Rick Hinkle again. God knows we'd been talking about it for a couple of years at this point. Ricks studio had been growing steadily more sophisticated during the end of the century so by the time I started the giant "Book of Conquest" album his studio had grown into a wonderful place to create music. With Rick as taskmaster, producer and engineer I was a once again in good hands to rise up, stay dedicated and complete the insane amount of work that lay ahead.
So "Book of Conquest" was born right about the time my stay in Charlotte, NC came to an end during the summer of 2003. I had been offered the opportunity to return to Boston to work with old friends I'd left behind six years earlier and I was really happy to be back at the beginning of 2004. As I write, I am preparing to get ready to record the third installment of the FLAG trilogy entitled "Perihelion" with non other than my old friend Tom Waltz at Waltz Audio. Boston is a fantastic place to live. I am surrounded by great friends and much to be inspired by.
Further on: I know there is much here in this very abbreviated story I have left out but I'm happier in my life these days than I've ever been so I feel that living up here right on the edge of the unknown future is the place to be! I have purposely left out any kind of story about the many days of my life I have devoted to my art work and graphic design but it's all around this site glowing with a life of its own. For the time being the same goes for my song writing process. I promise to devote a lot of attention to this area with the input of my friend and fellow songwriter James Cobb. I would, for the moment, tend to let my music as well as my art do the talking.
A big thank you and a lot of admiration goes out to Roger Dean for the many years of inspiring work he's done with his many projects including his world famous design work and wonderful stage sets for YES. The music of Yes, Procol Harum, the Jefferson Airplane family of players, Kings X, and of course The Beatles are a constant source of inspiration in my life. I know their influences appear in my work in ways I'm sure I'm not even aware of. At the end of the day the relentless power of poem and story woven to the tapestry of song craft will forever remain the only way to paint my inner visions into a world all of us might see, marvel at and share in this amazing journey on earth.