The Slow Poisoner
The archetypal journey of a one-man band
His call to action was to be a solo musician. At first he refused, playing in a regular multimember band. “Originally there were five of us,” he says by phone, “including two cellists, which sounded terrible.” Every couple of years a member would disappear, and each time, he says, the music would get stronger. Goldfarb began to realize he might be better off alone. “The thing was that, being on the road, I found that I wasn’t really able to cope with the needs of other musicians, which is sleeping or eating. I really just wanted to drive and rock.”
The best thing about being solo, he says, is an increased focus of his artistic vision with no other musicians “meddling up the stew with their own ingredients.” When asked about the trials of going it alone, he cites the fact that he’s easily distracted on the road. “When I see signs for the two-headed cow, I’m sure to stop and see the two-headed cow,” he says. “Sometimes it results in my traveling on roads that are not well maintained, and then I’ll be broken down and surrounded by rattlesnakes.”
His last breakdown happened in Colorado when he drove out of his way to visit the place of a former freaky attraction. Mike, the living headless chicken, allegedly kept going for two years after a farmer decapitated it in 1945. Goldfarb says the farmer used a turkey baster to feed Mike through his neck stump, keeping it alive for the incredible amount of time. The chicken is long dead, but Goldfarb got to see a commemorative statue and the hometown of one of his obsessions. “I sing about it. I’ve got a song called ‘Run Rooster Run.’ Then my tires blew out and it was 110-degree heat.”
Roadside attractions and dark allegory may lead him astray, but they also fuel his music. Songs like “Le Grand Zombi” and “Thundering Fists O’ the Lord,” both on his latest album, Magic Casket, mix grungy swamp rock with gothic Americana themes. “From the River Bottom” begins with a snake-handler-style sermon. Slow Poisoner tunes are full of jangly guitar and thumping drums, with Goldfarb’s twangy country voice spinning stories over it all. He says he’s working on a special roots rock opera that he’ll debut at his Albuquerque show. It’s the saga of a traveling salesman, a phantom hitchhiker and a sinister minister.
There’s a moment in the archetypal journey called “meeting the goddess”—when the hero begins to see himself in a non-dualistic way. Goldfarb has that down. “I agree with almost everything that I do,” he says, “so it’s easier to make decisions. Sometimes the decisions turn out to be bad ones and there’s no one to blame but me. The simplicity has been a definite boon. And plus,” he adds, “it’s cheaper.” As for temptresses on the road, he’s happily married. The only things tempting him now are two-headed cows and the like.
Goldfarb is still on his journey, so perhaps he hasn’t reached atonement with the father, where the hero confronts the person or thing in his life that holds the most power. He admits that his trip is long. “Playing music is kind of a Sisyphean task. That’s where the slow poisoning part comes in,” he says. “Because I figure by just keeping a steady dose of myself injected across the conscious cultural landscape, on a steady basis, I’ll eventually infiltrate and make my vision known.”