“I’m not going to die any time soon. Well, at least I’m not planning on it.”
Ariel Pink is set to light up The Bakery on Thursday, January 29, supported by Nick Albrook. TYSON WRAY reports.
Ariel Pink is a fucking mess. A beautiful one, but a mess all the same.
That’s part of his appeal. Over the course of his 12-year career, Pink’s peculiarity and eccentric inclinations have always demanded centre stage. This, as you can imagine, means he’s an absolute headfuck to interview. He contradicts himself at every corner, he uses metaphors that make no sense, he goes off on pointless tangents and he laughs with a dry cackle when detailing his own mortality.
“It’s not illegal to be an asshole,” he told Pitchfork in September. True. Even if it was, you doubt Pink would adhere to the rule. He doesn’t want to be interviewed, but he’s contractually obliged to promote his album. He’s trying to catch me off-guard. It’s working.
“I didn’t have to deal with the public, the press, stuff like that, it was nice,” he laughs when reflecting on the earlier stages of 2014. “I spent most of it recording and playing music. They’re all very pleasant memories. I was off in my own world. It felt normal.”
The result of this time spent recording is pom pom, Pink’s latest opus, following 2012’s Mature Themes. While it may be Pink’s first full studio album released under his own solo moniker without his band, The Haunted Graffiti, the record is his most collaborative to date, featuring joint ventures with the likes of the legendary Kim Fowley, Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce and LA punks, The Germs.
“I recorded the album over about nine months with various players and in various locations over various times,” he details. “It was always very casual and in non-committal circumstances. The cast became so large. I made sure that I worked with immunity so that I could play with as many people that I wanted. I wanted it to be like I was landing a ship somewhere and I was the leader. Call me the biggest slut on the planet. It was very natural for me to be in this frame of mind, to be so promiscuous with my talent.”
Clocking in at a behemoth 17 tracks over 68 minutes, pom pom is a melting pot of obscurity. Ranging from beat-driven pop (Put Your Number In My Phone, Dayzed Inn Daydreams), dirty punk (Goth Bomb, Negativ Ed) and gobbledegook surf (Nude Beach A Go-Go – a collaboration with Azealia Banks), the record’s the perfect embodiment of Pink’s mantra of eclecticism.
“I really wanted to go out with a bang and utilise the resources at my disposal,” he notes, referring to the fact that pom pom concludes his current three-album contract he holds with revered independent English label, 4AD. “I felt like they were squandered on the last record. I like the whole idea of a record. A collection of songs that you experience in a certain sequence.
“The record label would have liked the album to be as short as it could be so that they could maximise profits from as few tracks as possible,” he laughs. “That’s why albums generally only have about 10 songs, five songs a side. iTunes won’t pay for any extra tracks beyond that. For the label, the last seven tracks on the record is akin to their money being spent on nothing. That’s fine with me. I’m glad they’re throwing their money into a rabbit hole like me. I’m happy for them to spend their money on something that’s as useless and arbitrary as my music.”
If there’s one thing his label is happy about, though, is the fact that Pink has spent the majority of the year in the limelight – for better or worse. He made a claim that Madonna requested to work with him as her career had been on “a downward slide” since 1983 (of which her management refuted as she had “no interest in working with mermaids”), he’s voiced his adoration of the loathsome Westboro Baptist Church and he’s compared the online backlash towards his own misogynistic comments to the 1994 Rwandan genocide – himself in the role of Tutsi. He’s the biggest troll in the music industry. He’s trolling us. We hope he is.
“I’ve also been generating a bit of press over myself, the record label is very happy about that,” he laughs. “They own the record. It’s not like I’m doing any of this for myself.
“It’s a really strange thing that some people, some long-time fans, might be believing that I’m pandering to the industry. That I’ve sold out, or that I’m trying to do things differently to how I’ve done then before, or that I’m trying to seek a larger audience. All of that stuff might be true. I’m doing things how they come most naturally to me and that’s more the point.”
While widely regarded as one of the most influential artists in the contemporary industry, Pink’s rise to notoriety has been a slow burn over his career. In 2009 he signed to 4AD, the following year he released Before Today – an album that gave him mainstream success. Lead single Round and Round highlighted a vast departure from his former lo-fi recordings, with Pitchfork dubbing it the best song of the year. With pom pom marking the end of this record deal, Pink’s unsure if he’ll be offered a renewal.
“It’s not up to me, is it? It’s up to them. And also me,” he notes perplexingly. “I’m a working artist. I’m a professional. I go where the money is. If they offer me another deal then it’ll have to be worth more than any other record label out there. I’ll go wherever I can receive the most support for my music. There are a lot of pros for me to stay with 4AD, but there are also a lot of cons. When you negotiate these sorts of things, it’s not like a real marriage, there’s no reason to take things personally.
“My whole career has sort of been an attempt to commit suicide before I’ve even been acknowledged as a living, breathing thing,” he adds. “It’s very difficult to support yourself in this industry. Musicians need so much less than other people; they tend to be very self-sufficient. They don’t need many of the amenities or cheap thrills or material things that other people seem to think they need to own to have a good life. I’m really happy doing what I do. That to me seems like having all of the money in the world. No one pays me for this. I might be having to do something else on the side, but I’ll always be keeping my work load to a minimum to allow for lots of time to do what I like. It gives me a lot of fulfilment. It makes other people happy, that’s the most satisfaction I derive from this. I have a work ethic. I need to support myself. I survive, just like everybody. I don’t have any juvenile claims to purity. It’s always been my goal to make it in this industry and to flourish within the world.”
Next month will see Pink return to Australian shores for the first time since 2012.
“It’s certainly not going to be a circus show or anything like a set with high-production budgets or an extravaganza like that,” he notes. “It’s gonna’ be some people playing some music, hopefully with some good lights. I don’t know. The people who are playing on the record are by in-large going to be accompanying me on the tour. If you’re coming, expecting psychedelic visuals, like snakes coming out of our guitars, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you close your eyes I’m certain that you’ll be able the record in a whole new way.”
While Pink will begin his year with a sojourn Down Under, his plans for the rest of 2015 are typically amok.
“I’m not going to die any time soon. Well, at least I’m not planning on it. I’m not planning on committing suicide. I’m going to forge on, gotta keep swimming, can’t stay still. I might make a new record. I might get married and have kids. I don’t know. I’ve always been a throwback artist. I want to keep the gears of rock’n’roll in motion.”