Geoff Arsenault

Musician & Illustrator

Geoff in the Media

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Geoff Arsenault and 'Voodoo Baby Rattle' - Atlantic Airwaves, April 21, 2012
On this weekends' edition of Atlantic Airwaves, we'll have a feature on Geoff Arsenault and his new recording 'Voodoo Baby Rattle'

If you've ever attended a live concert from Ray Bonneville, Morgan Davis, Carlo del Junco, Mary Jane Lamond, Thom Swift , Rita MacNeil, David Myles or Bill Stevenson, then you've probably seen and heard Geoff Arsenault. He's the unassuming guy tucked in behind the drum kit laying down the solid rhythmic foundation. For most of his life, Geoff has done just that, quietly making other people sound better.
But there's another side to Geoff, that of a songwriter, a singer with an incredible voice, and a more than adequate guitarist. Up until he released his first solo recording, 'This Ain't No Fiction', back in 2006, most of his closest friends and band mates knew nothing of this other side. Well, now Geoff Arsenault is back with his second solo recording 'Voodoo Baby Rattle'. It was recorded at the legendary Echo Chamber in Halifax with Charles Austin and released back in February, and ike his first recording, the songs on this one are based on very subtle grooves with a Tony Joe White vocal style and guitar work reminiscent of JJ Cale.


Penguin Eggs
The folk, roots and world music magazine

Issue No. 53 Spring 2012, p 61
Geoff Arsenault — Voodoo Baby Rattle (Funking Funeral Line Records)

When’s the last time a drummer released a solo record? That’s likely because, unless you’re Gene Krupa or Karen Carpenter, you’ve got little else to say besides professing your skills as a time-keeper. In this instance, Geoff Arsenault is an East Coast institution, playing drums for anyone who’s anybody and spreading his talents across multiple genres of music--his ancient kit an unspoken symbol of quality. Naturally, with a lifetime of making contacts in all these circles, this is a love fest for fans and selected musical friends who have congregated around him for his second solo record.


His guttural raspy vocals sit well with the rootsy cast he’s assembled here--a J.J. Cale meets Leonard Cohen after a few beers. Not a lot of range but it’s hardly required across the dark, crusty grooves found across these 10 originals.  Arsenault seems a believer in voodoo and the spiritual connections that can result.

He’s made one here--this music is far from exciting yet its lazy spirit invites you in and won’t let go. The hooks are there but they’re more subtle than most. Love is Righteous stands out, as does the title track. The musical contributions of Brian Bourne and Chris Corrigan on guitar are substantial and well thought out. On this outing, Arsenault’s vocals are showcased, standing out more than his drum work.

Then again, Arsenault’s stock and trade is his “invisible” drumming--he fits in without ever drawing attention to himself, which is his edge. Three Shades of Trouble has a folk edge--this could be a Ray Bonneville track easily, while songs like Good Morning Rooster throw out Cale-esque energy, bringing the percussion forward. Likewise, Time and Money displays its spark through holding back--a technique you’ll either find find frustrating or satisfying, depending on your particular bent. Hound You features guitars more in the foreground and almost breaks, certainly displaying Aresenault’s potential as a budding roots artist with a twist. A nice surprise albeit a supremely laidback one.

— Eric Thom


The Chronicle Herald
The King of Groovedom

Tuesday April 11, 2006
Drummer Arsenault is always on the move but when it comes to style he’s the laid-back guy with the sticks, the book, the boat

By Stephen Pedersen
Arts Reporter

Port Mouton drummer Geoff Arsenault has a taste for books, a love of roots music, and a passion for groove. He plays for Mary Jane Lamond, Rita MacNeil, Ray Bonneville and Carlos del Junco, which means a lot of road trips, and he freelances in Halifax, which means one-nighters, and occasionally has record gigs for David Miles, David Carmichael, Bruce Guthro and others.

Understandably, living two hours by car away from Halifax, Arsenault is on the road a lot. But, apart from his drum kit, he never goes anywhere without another piece of essential equipment.

“I always have a book,” he said early last week in a local coffee shop. He likes Joseph Conrad novels and Latin writers. A well-worn copy of Palace Walk by Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz lay on the table. “My mother was a huge reader. I grew up in St. Margarets Bay and she would go to the mobile library and take out 20 books. She’d read them while she was knitting. She read to us every night.” (Arsenault has two brothers).

Arsenault’s wife Bernadine is also an avid reader, he said. She’s a photographer and painter who freelances in the film industry as a set painter. She teaches yoga. “She’s always supported my music. She comes to my gigs, and gives me critiques. She’s the first to hear my songs.”

Perhaps it’s the reading that has given Arsenault his unique perspective, a desire for space and quiet that Port Mouton feeds, where he can kayak and work on his sailboat. It also contributes to his relaxed engagement with music which translates into a need for laid-back groove.

But he sure does run around a lot.

In the music business Arsenault is a moving target. People who need him always know where to get him, though. When I first tried to contact him three weeks ago, he was in Fort McMurray, in the middle of a tour of British Columbia, Oregon and Washington with Carlos del Junco. In February he toured Europe with Ray Bonneville.

Last week Arsenault spent several days in Halifax recording his first CD for Atlantic Airwaves in CBC’s Studio H with producer Karl Falkenham.

“It’s all original music, 13 of my songs,” he said of the sessions. “Brian Bourne and Tom Easley play bass, Kim Dunn and Bill Stevenson are on piano, Chris Corrigan and Morgan Davis on guitars. It’s roots music, a kind of swampy, funky, New Orleans, Tex-Mex bag, tinged with blues.”

I’m supportive but I can dictate from the drums how a singer or lead player will feel and come up with something original in sound and ‘groovedom’.
— Geoff Arsenault

Arsenault has been writing songs since he was 18 (he’s 45 now) but didn’t do anything with them until New Brunswick band Hot Toddy performed one of them, Hired Hand, on their Salty Sessions I CD (2004).

His earliest musical experiences include a teacher who would rather play than teach. He used to bring his accordion to class and play for the kids. Arsenault also remembers watching his parents dancing to records, and how, at Legion dances, they would basically take over the floor.

“My mom and dad listened to Edith Piaf and Keith Richards,” Arsenault said. “Dad was a paratrooper, an army brat from Summerside who grew up in Montreal, Germany and Calgary. My mother came from England.”

One of his brothers listened to all the rock and roll records from the period 1965-75 he could get his hands on. “I remember him drumming on an armchair at a party while we were listening to (Iron Butterfly’s) Inagaddadavida. I was eight. It was a very jungle kind of groove.

“I started several years later to collect boxes. At 11 and 12 I had them set up in a barn we had on our property. I filled a Nestle’s Quick container with marbles and used it for a snare. I whacked the boxes with different kinds of shakers and things. I still do.”

Next door in St. Margarets Bay, singer, piano player and master of the blues Bill Stevenson became a big influence on the young Arsenault’s developing taste. When he was 12, Stevenson would invite him over to listen to his records--Taj Mahal, and a lot of blues, roots and jazz.

Years later, in mid-career, Arsenault talks in Halifax coffee house about the individual style that has developed out of his very personal engagement with music. “I try to make everything sit in a comfortable groove,” he said. “I’m supportive but I can dictate from the drums how a singer or lead player will feel and come up with something original in sound and ‘groovedom’.

“I’m not a technician. I don’t consider myself a guy with a lot of chops. I’m really lazy. I don’t practice anymore, but I play a lot. At home I work on my boat.”

Port Mouton is very beautiful, Arsenault says, and very quiet. It’s all white, sandy beaches. He sails a 16-foot dory skiff he converted into a sailboat. “It’s an open boat with an old-fashioned lug sail,” he said. “I’m a roots sailor.”

But he has to admit that Port Mouton is “out there.”

“It’s a two hour drive to a club date. You have to think about it. So I’m gigging less, though I’m very busy with touring.”

Arsenault admires drummer Tom Roach but knows he will never reach that level of playing. “In order to play jazz like Tom Roach, you’ve got to practice, man. I wonder how I would do if I got off my butt and practiced--I used to do it.

“But now it’s all about listening, and tone -- tone is very important to me, and silence. The space between the hits is an important part (of playing).

“Everybody plays who they are. I’m not hyper or a scatter-brained personality. I’m laid-back.”