For a guy who only ever seemed interested in sitting in his bedroom, altering his mind, and playing with his ultra lo-fi recording set up, Ariel Pink is doing pretty well for himself.
Somewhere along the way, his particular brand of almost childish pop enthusiasm, cross bred with the deepest, darkest surrealism found it’s audience (and glowing reviews) and the man and his haunted band found themselves in magazines, on some major roads and tonight, playing 930 Club, on the ultimate double magic carpet ride bill with Os Mutantes.
It is like a psychedelic Cinderella fairy tale coming to life before our very eyes. And who doesn’t love a happy ending? (or midway point, at least). We catch up with the man behind the living dream:
BYT: How is being back from Europe?
Ariel Pink: Great, I’m not really back home.
BYT: Right. Tell me… Is it like once you are on the road, the road becomes JUST the road and it doesn’t matter if you are in Europe or Australia or the United States; it’s just like “I am getting up, I am going to shows, setting up and doing my thing,” or do you get a sense of place?
Ariel Pink: It’s the same thing every day regardless of where I am in the world.
BYT: That’s what I thought (feared?)….
Ariel Pink: If that’s what is on the program; if we have a date in the states, then I will fly in, but then we are back in the van powering right on through just like we were in Europe.
BYT: Yeah, definitely
Ariel Pink: So, I am by no means off tour; I am supposedly starting a new one soon.
BYT: Yeah – it’s like “The king is dead. Long live the king!”
Ariel Pink: Yeah, it’s a new beginning.
BYT: Regarding the new record: it’s interesting how you brought up the work mentality of it. Your previous recordings had a sort of stream-of-consciousness appeal to them, and your described the process of them, and then the new record seems kind of more fun. Are you having more fun making music and playing it, or it is more work?
Ariel Pink: It is both. I am more committed to having fun these days, but it’s always been fun. Having fun in different ways I’d never had fun before. Let’s put it that way.
BYT: I like that. You’ve worked recently with The Avalanches and you are buddies with Animal Collective – have you ever considered dabbling in the dark world of sampling?
Ariel Pink: Well I am about the only artist on the planet these days that does not use sample based records
BYT: Yeah, exactly
Ariel Pink: It is almost inevitable that if I am going to collaborate with someone (The Avalanches-ed) that they are going to use some samples in their music… I’ve used samples in the past; I just use them like an instrument, ya know? You probably wouldn’t even know it…
BYT: Right, I mean like a lot of keyboards are sample-based keyboards; I guess I am talking more about “stealing,” or should I say… not “stealing,” but more like re-purposing…
Ariel Pink: Like having a drum beat, like a very specific dream beat kind of sample is what I think people are talking about… samples that are like little snippets from movies that are like 8 seconds long that are perfectly within the legal limit and that are referring to nothing but themselves. But I don’t really have a sample bank, so I don’t really use those things. I kind of just use instruments that are for setting around sound. So for me it’s just kind of traditional.
BYT: Yeah… listening to your old music it sounds very much driven just by you and an instrument and going with it, and I think the approach that a lot of the new Animal Collective and The Avalanches is more regimented…
Ariel Pink: Yeah, they are just as much interested in music that is organic-sounding but synthetic at the same time. I am not as much as interested in that approach. I just want to sound like a good record, more classic sounding…
BYT: So, you are on tour in the states with Os Mutantes: a legendary band in their own right. What was it like the first time you heard Os Mutantes… do you remember that?
Ariel Pink: I actually don’t. I was kind of late on the whole craze – I never dealt to far into my catalog. They didn’t affect me the same way when I heard them the first time when I was in high school that was like kind of like the…
BYT: ….”Oh shit moment?”
Ariel Pink: Yeah, I am still into, censer domes but I am still just kind of feeding off of that. My whole musical education forged in high school and then I just kind of stopped when I got all the basics, and I got up to date with my rock and roll history. And then I started separating it with all these underground little discoveries that I made. After that I was just like, okay somebody else has this job, not me – I am just going to like listen to everything.
BYT: Yeah, I think that is a good approach
Ariel Pink: Yeah, I am stoked to see them. I can’t say I am familiar with what they have been doing lately, but this trip is going to be good.
BYT: Oh yeah, how could it not be? So, you recently toured with people you toured with 4 years ago, you took some time off to record the new record and you recently employed people that saw you four years ago and vowed to never see you again to give you a second chance. What clicked for you to put your feet down and take a more structured approach? What was that, was it that you had more resources to record more consistent and more structured music (and by structured I mean more high fidelity music)?
Ariel Pink: Seeing me live has nothing to do with the recording – I didn’t do anything like I never mixed the two. People who didn’t like what they saw live a while ago but liked what they heard on record: I would say if they came to a show now they would get more of what they are listening to and more of what they were listening to, and more of what they liked about the album at a live show. The two are more synchronized I suppose – the show and recordings. We just want to do the versions of the songs on the records and that was always the goal, we never wanted to confront anyone’s version of reality or question their own sanity by being something that might make someone feel completely abject and disgusting. That’s just not like an overnight decision; that’s been in the works the past 5 years. That is just something….well, if they haven’t seen me live in the past 5 years, their loss….
BYT: Are you still a fan of the “anything goes” process or is it from the jump a more regimented effort? It seems like you just have to be in that mindset when you are actually putting together songs to play on the road.
Ariel Pink: Yeah, I would say nowadays I am more wary about stuff. I am not as reckless and jumping to record any little idea and slap it together and make it work. I mean – I am working with other people so it’s not just up to me, it is like trying to steer a ship in one direction and having it being steered in many directions. I want them to be good, I want to take my time with them and be gelled a little bit more than they were in the past than I used to before recording them to tape and playing them live. Ultimately, when we have the recordings down they are the authority of how we (should) play them live, we can’t record in the studio and not know what we did after, we want to play the songs just how they are recorded and maybe add a few bells and whistles live.
BYT: Sounds promising. Changing gears a little bit here… in an interview I read about you recently, you said you have no interest in music involving politics. But do you think music has any role in addressing serious social stuff as a society, or do you think that music is more of a personal thing and it should stay limited to that?
Ariel Pink: I also said I wanted to be president, so take anything I say with a grain of salt. I’m more than willing to bullshit for hours on end about politics.
BYT: Well, that puts you in a pretty good place for (being in) politics…
Ariel Pink: When I say I don’t even care, I mean I don’t even care what I am saying at this exact moment so there is nothing anchoring me to words like “please don’t bring that up again.” But ultimately, yeah, I’ve got a big mouth. But of course I believe in all those things, music has broke down the wall, we’ve united the world in many ways with like the Beatles and all that stuff it’s kind of a step in a the right direction, it’s only halfway there. People have music all around the world – it helps cope with the depression of life; it helps with pain and depression of daily distance and the total manipulation of leaders and lies and wars that are going around. People can’t even figure out what is good about the world anymore, nothing is concrete anymore, sciences don’t have as much bite as they once did and technology doesn’t have as much of a bite as it once did but money still does have a pretty bad bite. But! Music has always had a bite, so one way or another people realize they need to do the dance to get away from all the stupid stuff. It hits our brains in such a way that we cant talk even talk about it, like imagine a world without it.
BYT: Yeah, it’s impossible….
Ariel Pink: Without the music….think about all the other stuff, how much more dreadful the world would be, even if you had Van Gogh the world would be all the more depressed without music, you know what I am saying?
BYT: I think it’s one of the things that it is impossible to imagine the world without…
Ariel Pink: You would kill yourself…
BYT: Not just necessarily because it would be profoundly depressing, just that it seems impossible that someone wouldn’t have “invented it.” It is just so engraved in the human brain that we think of things like that…
Ariel Pink: Music is not an invention. Music just like totally comes with the package, you’re born and the music is there, you don’t invent it. Maybe people invent other things: they invent ideas and languages and they invent words and like complex forms of communications and politics and all that kind of stuff, but they don’t invent music. They don’t say that a specific person invented music that is a little older than we are.
BYT: Ha-ha that is a good point. Well Ariel I really appreciated your time. I am very much looking forward to the show in DC. Anything else you would like to say before I kill the mic?
Ariel Pink: Nah man, I’ll see you in DC….
BYT: Yeah great…
Ariel Pink: Let’s fight for peace.
BYT: That sounds good.
Ariel: Yeah and all that other kind of shit.