“I heard a mean joke once, that musicians are to music what bricklayers are to architecture. Not the nicest thing to say to a trumpet player or person who practices violin all day, but nevertheless somewhat true. As for myself, I didn't want to lay bricks. I wanted to design a cathedral.”
"Way back, when I was a little kid, I can remember being about five years old and driving my dad insane playing a 78rpm vinyl record of Gene Autry's Frosty The Snowman over and over about a billion times."
This is electronica artist Arlin Godwin's first musical memory.
"Yeah, I was obsessed with music, and records, even as a small child. I distinctly remember that after many hours—actually days—of me playing that song endlessly, my Dad couldn't take it anymore so he grabbed the disc and hurled it against a wall and it shattered into pieces. Records were very brittle in those days."
This recollection is from a person who has been wearing out turntables, CD players, DAT machines and Hard Drives ever since.
"There was always music in the house when I was growing up because my Mother loved the classics. And so do I. A lot," Arlin says. "But later I discovered The Beatles, Miles Davis, Elton John, Lindsey Buckingham, Prince, and Trent Reznor. They influenced me at least as much as those earlier guys did."
Arlin was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida and never formally studied music. He literally took 4 piano lessons, which he hated, and then gave it up. But by the age of six, he could pick out a lot of what he heard on radio and around his home by ear and play it back on his Mom's upright piano.
"I don't read notes because I never learned how. And I didn't want to be a musician. Which might seem weird. I wanted to be an artist and make original music, not play somebody else's. And working on computers made that very possible. I always felt that I had the talent to be the guy composing the music. I couldn't care less about playing the violin until my fingers bleed. I'm not going to spend my life doing finger exercises. That type of personality is completely different from me. I don't like meetings. I don't like phone calls. I don't like discussion. I like making things. I get up in the morning and I know I'm going to make a new record that day. That inherently means I'll be creating new music. I just already know it. And then I do."
As a teenager, Arlin was fascinated by electronics. With oscillators and vacuum tubes weighing on his mind, he got his FCC broadcast license at the age of 14 and went to work after school at a local Pensacola, Florida FM radio station. Soon enough, his interests changed to tape machines and recording gear and he found that what he could do with the equipment was much more interesting than the machines themselves. This was the beginning of a serious music obsession that continues to this day.
"The first thing I learned was multi-track tape production. This is common now but at the time it was not. Unless you had a lot of money. So, I worked in radio. I worked eventually for a recording studio and I saved up and bought a 4 track. Wore that thing out and bought an 8 track TASCAM recorder that used half-inch tape. The Eurythmic's Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) was recorded on a machine just Iike it. That was all the encouragement I needed and I proceeded to write several hundred songs on that thing."
Later, when tape finally went away Arlin continued to produce on computers. "I felt at that point that recording had caught up with what I needed. Instead of tape I could input notes on a screen and play them back using any sound I wanted. So, I learned MIDI. I learned sequencers. And as always, I learned to do it entirely by myself."
"If I needed a guitar — I played it. Keyboards same thing. Drums? I used to actually use trash cans and office chairs for drums. Eventually I used drum machines. But basically I did whatever worked. Whatever made the sounds I wanted," he explains.
All that writing produced a massive amount of music.
"In the last couple of years, I've been slowly going through old tracks. Just under 100 cassettes tapes, I don't know how many DAT tapes, and hundreds of recordable CDs that I did mixes on years ago — and I've compiled just over 700 separate pieces of music written and recorded over many, many years. It's my own private 'vault'. Prince was not the only guy with one of those!"
As the years went by Arlin also did a lot of work in broadcast television making music videos for some pretty big labels.
"I worked in the television business for BET and Discovery and met a lot of very cool people. I did, among other things, music videos for Mercury/Polygram and I cut one for Parliament-Funkadelic and another for Donna Summer, who was an amazing artist and someone I really enjoyed being around."
Above: Capital Pride where Arlin performed in 2004 before 225,000 people.
In 2003 Arlin was signed by CEO Robb McDaniels to San Francisco label INgrooves, at that time home to a diverse roster of acts including Tina Turner, The Crystal Method, Jimmy Buffet, Jody Whatley, Paul Oakenfold, and Dolly Parton.
As for playing live Arlin explains, "I've avoided the difficulties of touring small clubs, instead choosing to perform occasionally at huge festivals like Washington, DC's Capital Pride show in front of 225,000 people (on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the U.S. Capitol building) or Baltimore Pride opening for Crystal Waters in front of a crowd of 30,000."
"Those festival shows are the equivalent of two stadium audiences. So, why play the bar circuit when you can sing to an audience twice the size of Madonna's when she's in town? And speaking of the first time I ever performed at a big festival she was in DC where I live. That same day Madge played for 15,000 at Verizon Center. I sang for a quarter of a million people on the National Mall. No comparison."
"Plus, the really big shows are a lot more fun!"