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In the fall of 2004 the Reader was the first outlet to profile Jay Babcock and Laris Kreslins, cofounders of Los Angeles-based counterculture mag Arthur and its fast and somewhat unlikely rise in the publishing world. Since that story appeared Arthur has undergone some changes. It's switched from a broadsheet to magazine format, and it's also spawned a thriving music and DVD label, a publishing imprint, and a series of successful arts festivals, including the upcoming multi-evening Arthur Nights event in October.
Last May Babcock stirred up a minor shitstorm when he interviewed Sully Erna (text link, MP3 audio link), singer for nu-metal chart-toppers Godsmack, and asked about the ethical questions arising from the band’s decision to allow the U.S. Navy to use the group’s music in recruitment ads. Babcock pressed him on that, as well as the potential effect of the band’s generally prowar, promilitary stance on its legion of young fans. Babcock’s contentious Q and A with the singer spurred a debate that was covered on comedian Marc Maron’s Air America show, CNN’s Showbiz Tonight, and elsewhere.
Last week Arthur’s Bastet label announced the release of So Much Fire to Roast Human Flesh, a compilation CD that will “benefit countermilitary recruiting campaigns and programs.” The disc is is curated by eclectic singer-songwriter (and sometime Chicagoan) Josephine Foster, who recently left Chi-based Locust Music to sign with Michael Gira’s Young God Records. [Update, September 12: It turns out that Foster hasn't signed to Young God, though she was in discussions with Gira. She's currently searching for a new label home.] She's rounded up an impressive group of American psych, folk, and indie-rock artists to contribute, including contemporary favorites Devendra Banhart, Feathers, and David Pajo, as well as members of Espers and locals Spires That in the Sunset Rise. Underground vets like Michael Hurley, Kath Bloom, and Angels of Light also appear. Selections from the disc can be heard at the MySpace page for the album, or streamed in its entirety here.