If there was such a thing as Musical Royalty in Worcester, Duncan Arsenault would be its prince. The progeny of Jazz/Blues legend, Al Arsenault (The Phaetons, The Drifters, Lou Donaldson), if his padre was the “Jimmy Smith” of Worcester, Duncan would be our “Michael Stipe.” Duncan’s band, The Curtain Society’s 2005 album Every Corner of the Room has been heard on multiple soap operas, on Bravo’s The Rachel Zoe Project, and in the locally produced movie Still Green. He has also created one of the area’s most influential Worcester-centric websites, worcesterite.com, which can tell you the general mood of Wormtown’s hipster populace in a double-clicking instant. Plus he hosts and runs the Dive Bar Music Series, which orbits each Thursday. Says Arsenault, “Many people I know are locked into their bands and never have the chance to stretch out and meet other musicians. I have invited sometimes up to 10 people who have never played together to these nights. When we finish the night, people often ask what the band is called and I like being able to say that we are all just Worcester musicians who enjoy playing music.”
We caught up with Duncan while he was getting a Turkish Massage (the kind where they hit you with a giant fish) and asked him these very difficult questions.
WM: You created the popular “Volcano boy” website, now better known as Worcesterite.com. Where did the name Volcano Boy come from, and what awful thing did he do that you decided to change his name and send him packing?
D.A.: In 1995 I wanted to create a fanzine centered around the music scene in Worcester. I was listening to the band Velocity Girl and Volcano Boy popped into my head; it had no meaning and was just something I liked the sound of. I shelved the idea for many years and in 2002 I decided to make an online version of it. In 2008 I abandoned Volcano Boy for the name Worcesterite.com, which I felt was a better and a more obvious name for what the site has become. Volcano Boy now sits and stares at a wall waiting for Google to take him out for dinner.
WM: Your father, Al Arsenault, was a very well known, successful jazz and blues organ player. How the heck did you end up with the sticks?
D.A.: For as long as I can remember I have had access to instruments. When I was very young my sister Charlene was already playing piano and eventually got a drum set. When she got a guitar, at her insistence I started accompanying her on whatever songs she wanted to play, I didn’t have a choice. Because of my father, music was simply always around, there was no introduction to it or effort to get us to play. It was not unusual to make music every day and if we weren’t playing, my father was. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I had the opportunity to play drums with my father. It worked out nicely that I played drums because honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to get up there next to him on a keyboard, he handled those just fine.
WM: Your band, The Curtain Society has backed up the great Jim Carroll as The Catholic Boys, Shana Morrison, and Mark Burgess of Chameleons UK. Do you plan on these kinds of things or do you just bump into these guys and agree it would be great to work together?
D.A.: How we meet these people is top secret and only Ron Mominee is allowed to talk about it. We have been fortunate to be able to work with so many great people. Every experience we have had as a backing band has been different. For a long time the three of us only played music together. To be able to play with other people has not only been a great joy for us but also helped us discover new musical voices for our own music.
WM: Have you met Shana’s dad? I heard he still owes Peter Wolf money for rent back in 1967. (Shana’s dad is Van Morrison)
D.A.: I have not met Shana’s dad yet. I’m looking forward to the day that he shows up at a gig and we get him up there to play with us. After the show I will mention the back due rent and see if I can help out Peter.
Catch Duncan every Thursday at The Dive Bar on 34 Green Street in tropical Worcester. 9p.m. No Cover, but tips are always appreciated.
Find out about more shows at duncanarsenault.com, worcesterite.com, thedivebarworcester.com