“The Artic Zone is a cold and desolate place. Detached from the rest of the world,” says producer, singer and songwriter, Stephen Paul Dix wryly. “This is why I chose it for the name of the project. This is how I felt a lot while recording the album.” Indeed the debut album by the Arctic Zone, Poetry During Wartime is a stark atmospheric introverted and strangely beautiful affair. People say it’s depressing. Stephen Paul doesn’t necessarily agree, “I would say it’s downbeat with some depressing subject matter.” A great deal of the CD deals with loss. The title track is clearly about the war in Iraq and the frustration with George W. The instrumental It’s In The Mornings When I Miss You Most is also about loss. The album’s centerpiece, A Song for Stephen, deals with the accidental overdose of a close friend prior to his 30th birthday. “Stephen was a perfectionist so I wanted to do a fitting tribute. It took months to finish the song. I finished on my birthday, went into the backyard and listened to it over and over. It was a starry night and I just broke down,” says Stephen Paul. “The song The Night Before Your Funeral was a beautiful instrumental that servered as an extended intro to Song for Stephen. Another deeply personal song is The Shell of A Man. Stephen Paul says he wrote it at a low point, “I was thankful to have music to see me through that period.”
The rest of the CD is a rather eclectic mix of style and subject matter. Sad Satie Suite is actually a song dedicated French classical composer Eric Satie. Lift off Pt 2 begins as a lush ambient track and evolves into something very danceable. A Verse and a Chorus is a straightforward pop song with traditional lyrics that looks nostalgically at an early and pivotal relationship. Proving that the CD isn’t all doom and gloom are 2 songs, Who Killed Rock n Roll and Summer Bliss. The former pokes fun again at W. as well as American Idol, Britney Spears and aging rockers in Spandex pants. The latter is the most perplexing song on the CD. I actually recorded Summer Bliss a year ago and always imagined it as a dancehall rap duet. I invited Laine (singer Laine Scandalis) to do a female rap to accompany my own rap. Half way through we almost gave up but we persevered nearly pissing ourselves with laughter. I almost decided to not put it on the CD, then felt it belonged right smack in the middle to lighten the mood.
So how does an album so varied in style find any continuity. Stephen believes it’s the Wurlitzer. I used it on nearly every song, developing a symbiotic relationship with it. It definitely gives the CD it’s own identity.
Poetry During Wartime takes on a more broad meaning as an album title. Unlike the title track which looks solely at the War, the album title represents a broader meaning. It’s about the war we face with our family and loved ones, the war we battle among ourselves, the poetry is the beauty we find among the chaos if we just look for it.
So far the CD has drawn rave reviews and earned comparisons to Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Brian Eno. Stephen says that’s high praise. "I wouldn’t be so bold to make such proclamations but they are keen observations. My inspirations were Dark Side of the Moon, Low and Heroes by Bowie. Before and After Science by Brian Eno. My biggest influence though was Kate Bush’s latest album, Ariel".
“I would just say the CD sounds like me. That sounds obvious but that can be a challenge. In the past I’ve let producers take me into the wrong direction. For the sake of democracy I’ve allowed band members to do the same thing. This one I produced and played almost everything. As a result, I’ve created a CD I’ve always wanted to. The most true representation of who I am.”