Arlo White’s bizarre radar for weird music and art mixes defies categorization — or falls, perhaps, into a category all his own: He’s an artist; a concert promoter; a musician in such bands as Deadbubbles, Sparkle Jetts and the Buckingham Squares; and, notably, the host of Radio 1190’s Hypnotic Turtle Radio as his alter-ego Diablo Montalban. He’s the kind of guy who rips off the little library model and instead installs an art installation in a DreamBox in his front yard — and then throws a party. He’s simply Arlo White.
What drives White’s peripatetic DIY practice and point of view? Get an inkling via his answers to the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Arlo White: Love, anger and rock and roll!
Love: Everything I do is for my wife and two children. I'm in awe of each of them, and the support they give is immeasurable! Just trying to give them something to be proud of.
Anger: The same feelings that kept me from creating in my late teens and early twenties are the same ones that won't let me stop today. I can't explain how and when the change happened — maybe it was spiritual, maybe drug-induced. One day a door opened, and I ran screaming through it, and I'm trying very hard not to look back. Where once my anger was focused inward, I'm now able to project it creatively. There's no shortage of things to be enraged about for even a semi-conscious being.
Rock and roll: Amazing art and music have been around since the dawn of time, but as far as I’m concerned, the history of rock and roll in America is everything. Rock and roll helped blow open the floodgates in a lot of people's minds. Societal norms came crashing down and opened arenas for self-expression on a mass scale, especially around things like sexuality, gender and race/ethnicity. We needed to shake things up! “Fuck You” never sounded so good!
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party and why?
Three people off the top of my head: Patti Smith, John Waters and Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
This IS a party right? They all might be a little stiff at first, but I think after a couple drinks, it would be nothing but fun! And they all know rock and roll!
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
The best thing is that we have so many opportunities for creativity here; maybe not as many as there used to be, but they still exist. It’s about finding them. Several clubs in Denver will book a band or performer’s first show. Community radio stations around the state have many opportunities to get involved. Hundreds of calls for artists are posted each year, many of which don't charge fees. If you’re willing to hustle, you can get your name out there, and in the process, you're gonna meet some of the most amazing, talented and beautiful humans you could ever imagine. They're here!
On the other hand, the worst thing is the continued undervaluing of the arts and artists. It’s not a problem exclusive to Colorado. Artists should be recognized, celebrated and fairly compensated; artists make life livable! Art is in everything and everywhere. Everybody loves art, whether they know it or not!
What is the Hypnotic Turtle DreamBox?
Hypnotic Turtle DreamBox, an idea created and curated by my wife, Kim Kennedy White, and I, is a box of magic and art hidden in the suburbs of Broomfield. The DreamBox was born out of a desire to foster imagination through creativity and inspire a sense of wonder in our local community and beyond.
Essentially, it's a Little Art Gallery (for a visual, think of a lending library; instead of books, it's an art display). For the first DreamBox, I created a miniature immersive piece called “Science Fiction.” I was the first test subject for this social experiment! We plan to curate future installations with local artists who might transform the space into a miniature museum with itty bitty canvases or create a sculpture, or...
What’s your dream project?
One of them would be Turtle Spawn! I think of my radio show, Hypnotic Turtle Radio, as live radio art. I want to expand my little world inside the air studio and bring it to life on a larger scale. I would have several performance stages conducted and mixed live by our resident DJ Diablo Montalban — my alter ego — in a beautifully demented installation piece. Rock bands, free jazz, performance art and flash mobs would all come together into a symphony.
If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?
Ugh. I have to come back? Probably as some aerial creature. Assuming I survive adolescence, I would love to fly on my own! Done it a few times in my dreams, and it's magic! Or come back as John Coltrane's biggest fan who followed him around or follow the Velvet Underground like Jonathan Richman. Yeah, I'd come back as Jonathan Richman!
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Still love, but hard not to be confused and angry, especially in Five Points or the ever-expanding RiNo district. The high cost of living and pushing fellow humans out of Denver at an alarming rate is heartbreaking and disgusting. Politics aside (if that’s a thing), the artists and musicians who are hanging in there are doing incredible work and lots of it. There is so much happening here!
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Little Fyodor: possibly one of the most important people in the Hypnotic Turtle story. His radio show of thirty years, Under the Floorboards, aired after an equally influential show, Smash It Up, on KGNU; they were an amazing one-two punch to my consciousness. Through UTF, I was exposed to a dizzying variety of found-sound, plunderphonics, noise and self-made-cassette-driven art. He introduced me to Negativland (the biggest influence of Hypnotic Turtle Radio) and hundreds of artists/people (assumingly) like myself, with nothing but hand-held tape recorders, making any sorts of primitive noise, telling stories, or just walking through leaves and gravel.
So much genius.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
Several band projects that I can't talk about yet. One I can hint at is a tribute band that should be ready by Halloween. If the names Lux and Ivy ring any bells, you know where we're heading.
Overdue episodes of our web series, Denver Rock City.
Lure in some of our favorite local artists for the DreamBox.
Promote more events: Currently, we’re co-promoting Claudio Simonetti's Goblin performing the live score to Deep Red on October 7, with Anchors Aweigh, both at the Oriental Theater.
We’ve also been fortunate to partner on some amazing events this year with the Gorehound's Playground in Fort Collins and CritterHype. We're always looking to expand on what’s possible with the radio show (guests, collaborations, etc.).
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
40 West Arts District is about to blow up. We always love what Betsy Rudolph and everyone at Next Gallery has going on! Love the work of Kim Anderson and Valerie Savarie from Valkarie Gallery. I'm always jealous of the stuff the Mad Tatters do and love to see Karl Christian Krumpholz continue to reach a national audience with his comics and illustrations. We are always excited to see what Maureen Hearty will do next with her amazing sculptures and community work, both in Denver and out on the eastern plains. Also, the person who scrawled "I Tried My Best" on the back of a street sign I passed a couple months ago — it still haunts me. That's great art!
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