“This is ART” is the brainchild of musician and performer Art Webb. While the bass-driven, electronic, and hip-hop music is a product of manipulation, his ingenuity is real. Art’s moniker sets the paradigm for a full-bodied experience. His performances engage all five senses by transporting listeners from the outside in. Etched into it all is his personal ethos: “to take a mindful and purposeful approach to all that we do.”
“I want people to think about the truth and beauty they are listening to,” he explains.
By means of a bass guitar, laptop and synthesizer keyboard, he unravels a psychedelic journey. They are his vernacular and method for mangling and manipulating sounds until they are no longer recognizable. Live instrumentation and melodies play together against a gritty, rhythmic backdrop. Figuratively, he invents new instruments on every track.
He infuses his kinetic performances with a lighthearted camaraderie. Audience members exchange hugs, high-fives and collectively chant “om” together. The only rule is to enjoy the music created from a place of sheer passion and pleasure.
This is ART has claimed performances opening for prominent EDM acts such as Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, Lotus, Ghostland Observatory, Bonobo, and Emancipator, just to name a few. Art has also garnered praise performing Camp Bisco Music Festival, Pretty Lights’ Illumination Fest, and Official Afterparties for Bassnectar and STS9.
While Art was born in Anchorage, Alaska, he is undeniably inspired by his Nashville, Tennessee, community, where the artistic diversity and quality of musicianship is unparalleled. His peers’ work ethic continuously inspires him to hone his skills and musical palate. Nashville is where his mother relocated her family of four so she could pen songs for a publishing company. His father worked odd jobs to make ends meet prior to establishing himself as an author and philosopher. As travelers, artists and writers, they were biased towards teaching their son and daughter to pursue what they loved. Given that mentality, Art and his sister were raised in the recording studio.
He remembers looking at the audio mixing boards thinking, “One day I’ll know what each of those knobs does.” He became enamored with the tape recorder and used it to document his childhood. To this day, he samples miscellaneous sounds from that era. The vibe is magical, in the moment and representative of where it all started.
Record, start, stop, rewind and play. It is how he adopted the role as the 21st century songwriter using a laptop, electronic equipment and a pair of headphones in place of a guitar. When he was 7-years-old, Art’s mother invited him onto the stage for the first time. He experienced the moment that crystallized his desire to become an entertainer. Soon after, the band life tallied itself high in his book when he had the chance to observe a basement jam session for the first time. Art immediately requested a bass guitar for his 14th birthday.
Every time his fingers touched an instrument it felt right. His home-schooling schedule afforded him the liberty to play music full-time. After several months, he mustered the confidence to begin playing bass guitar in jam sessions and performances.
As a teenager, Art skateboarded straight into a half-pipe of culture: baggy jeans, shredded T-shirts, dreadlocks, hard rock and hip-hop. Jimi Hendrix presented a haven along with jazz, classic and psychedelic rock. He borrowed CDs from the library by the likes of Miles Davis, Cream, Herbie Hancock and Pink Floyd. Catchy guitar solos, reversed sound effects, dirty bass lines and progressive rhythmic drums became his obsession. Modern era artists that fused jazz and psychedelic rock together—like Medeski and Martin & Wood—inspired him.
Nonetheless, it was an STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9) concert that brought his mutable musical interests full circle for the first time. They fused the “jam” of 1960s music with hip-hop, drum ‘n’ bass, and electronic instruments. For Art, the limitations suddenly appeared endless. All he cared about was delivering music of quality, and that each song resonated with himself and the listener. In 2008, he streamlined his focus and began touring under the alias This is ART. He explains the creative and civic-minded venture as, “Something makes a difference in the individual as well as the community. There’s nothing more special than the gathering of like-minded people to celebrate life, joy and artistic freedom.”
Written by Lily Clayton Hansen