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Music for Serious Midgets 

The wonderfully obsessive world of Timothy Sellers' Artichoke

Thursday, Sep 30 2010

Artichoke make music for kids and drunks. Poppy melodies and seemingly innocent lyrics about bees and scientists and your neighborhood (Highland Park in their case), but which take on a darker subtext the older and more jaded you get.

Head Artichoke Timothy Sellers' dad returned from Vietnam in 1972 and decided to leave society, so Timothy grew up in the woods in upstate New York with no running water, electricity or TV. He turned out weird.

He moved to L.A., married another artist, and paints and sings and obsesses for a living. You can go see for yourself when Artichoke perform Saturday at the Eagle Rock Music Festival.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ALLISON ACHAUER - Artichoke's Timothy Sellers: "'Artistically open' may overlap with 'kid open.'"
  • Artichoke's Timothy Sellers: "'Artistically open' may overlap with 'kid open.'"

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Am I on speakerphone? There's a bit of a delay.

No. That's just how I talk.

You said your stuff isn't kid music, but I find it innocent, obsessive, gentle and cabalistic, which is what a kid's world is. And I'm suspicious of adults who speak directly to children. You don't understand children once you're no longer one of them. Adults and children are different species, I feel.

I think you may have little flashes of remembering what it was, but yeah, you've pretty much moved on.

But do you feel like a child?

Hahaha. Uh ... I don't think so. I do think that being an artist means you remain open, and artistically open may overlap with kid open.

Do you consider Metallica artists?

Hahaha! Where did that question come from? Do you mean are they all ... open to the universe? Well, there's a lot of craft, too — they have some amazing moves. I don't know if they're more open than the average person. They're louder.

I read that you grew up without electricity or running water. I was thinking about how back when we were an agricultural society, there was no concept of children. There were babies and there were normal adults and then there were these short adults. In paintings, children were portrayed as these very serious midgets.

That's true. I was going to mention that.

You were going to mention that? Why?

Well, based on the first half of your sentence. The psychology that they were just not completed adults was reflected in the paintings.

So maybe your throwback upbringing blurred lines for you between child and adult.

Heh, heh. I don't know if it would be good for me to be perceived as a child. But yeah, it does seem like our era does allow for a very extended immaturity. Maybe until 25. But I do feel like there's no right age. There's no age that's necessarily better than others. What age is cool? Why is 22 cooler than 70?

Living in L.A., it's bad to let your age get out. But the ability to hide it is evaporating.

Yeah, but attention spans are evaporating too, so they'll forget whatever they find out about you.

And if you worry about it, that's when they'll notice.

Do you feel European?

I don't feel that American — I grew up without a TV, but I've been to Europe and I don't feel like one of those guys, either. My mom was born in Kashmir of English parents. She grew up in India and Greece and all over. Her father was in the U.N. And I grew up in the woods and kind of invented my own thing, my own culture.

Are you psychedelic?

I'm not a drug doer. But I am interested in feeling kind of warm, having intense experiences.

Simplistic lyrics are a Rorschach test. Your song "Beaver" goes: "I've got a spanking new pet and she likes her environment wet." I picture a submissive in a submersion isolation tank in your basement. You can do that on just about all the songs. Are you aware of that?

Yeah. It's really fun for me. A lot of musicians hide behind the "Whatever you think it means, it means" approach. But I think it's better to have something that it does mean on one level as manifest content, leading content. Kind of like in dreams. "Beaver" is overtly about making beavers pets, giving them a home in your apartment, instead of the humans making homes for themselves in beavers' territory, nature. And the beaver pets get a little too excited and take over your environment. The naughty subtext, if you're in a bar, is all "Woah!" So there's the drunks-and-children overlap.

Ah! Like if a drunk and a child fall down a ravine, neither gets hurt.

Exactly. There's a lot of similarities.

"She dug a tunnel next door. The whole neighborhood's in an uproar." In my mind, that's when your victim finally made her escape and your atrocities made the papers, and the neighbors were saying, "He seemed like such a nice, normal guy!"

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