Ariel Pink Is the King of Whatever 

Raised in Beverly Hills, he became the preeminent Eastside satirical musical madman

Thursday, Aug 16 2012

See also: Outtakes from our interview, "Ariel Pink on His Name, and Why He Hasn't Left L.A."

Ariel Pink is a rock & roller from Beverly Hills. But Beverly Hills doesn't normally mint rock stars. It hatches doctors, lawyers, real estate hoarders, Cher Horo-witz, Rodeo Drive raptors carnivorously bound to "the industry" (aka show business) and the Menendez brothers. Also: Angelina Jolie, Jack Abramoff, waxen real housewives. Perhaps its most famous musical alum, Lenny Kravitz seems like an actor starring in a rock biopic.

"Who lives in Beverly Hills? Iranians, rappers and small-time crooks. Nouveau riche. It's not meant to last two generations before the grandkids squander it all. Systematic suicide," Ariel Pink says with a smirk. The man who was Bar Mitzvah'd Ariel Rosenberg is eating at Folliero's restaurant in Highland Park, walking distance from the art-school-dorm squalor of his apartment, which is 15 miles and several zeroes removed from Beverly Drive.

It's scarcely noon on a Saturday, but the 34-year-old with marble blue eyes and shoulder-length fuchsia hair chases his pepperoni pizza with whiskey and Pacifico. Somehow, the man whose locks are flamboyant enough for his stage name is rapidly gaining ground on Mr. It Ain't Over Till It's Over.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY PIPER FERGUSON - Ariel Pink, right, with Haunted Graffiti
  • Ariel Pink, right, with Haunted Graffiti

Related Stories

  • 620-Year Sentence

    A serial robber whose last crime, in Beverly Hills, was witnessed by cops who finally caught up with him was sentenced this week to a whopping 620 years behind bars. Despite that botched attempt in Beverly Hills that put him behind bars, Alonzo Harris, 54, was "extremely violent," prosecutor Jack...
  • 6 Places to Revel in Summer Corn 3

    Nothing says summer like biting into a fresh, sweet cob of corn and letting the butter drizzle down your chin. Piping hot or tossed into a cold salad, corn is extremely versatile and appeals to just about everyone. The season, which is July through October for most varieties, is just...
  • More New Port Seafood!

    Say farewell to waiting two hours, or more, at the San Gabriel New Port (two words, by the way, in the title of the restaurant, to distinguish it from the city of Newport) Seafood  – either in the parking lot or hovering over the large crustacean tanks in the lobby...
  • Beverly Hills High Rap

    Beverly Hills was ostensibly inhospitable to boom bap. In the mid-'90s pop culture pantheon, 90210 was renowned for Dylan McKay and Cher Horowitz. The imagination conjured palm trees, Porsches and digital wardrobe selectors. The reality, however, was way less reductive. There was no Peach Pit, but there was Larry Parker's...
  • 5th L.A. Cop Lost 2

    An off-duty Los Angeles police officer was killed today at nearly the same spot where Nicholas Lee died on patrol two months ago, the LAPD's Rosario Herrera told us. Chief Charlie Beck was en route to the scene of the the accident in the 1000 block of Loma Vista Drive...

Over the last eight years, Pink has been credited with resuscitating lo-fi bedroom recording and inventing chillwave — a micro-genre where blog darlings recast an alternate 1985 with neon synths, melted tape and unremembered nostalgia. Pink is royalty for the weird; perhaps Kurt Cobain if he'd never become more famous than The Pixies.

"The irony is that I see myself as completely normal. The weirdest thing about me is the music," Pink says and pauses, twirling his hair, lips curling. "But maybe I'm not giving myself credit. I'm probably weird."

His new album, Mature Themes, out Aug. 21 on celebrated British indie 4AD, is Pink's coronation as a rock star for those who don't believe in rock stars. It may the most anticipated and best L.A. other-ground album this year. Recorded shortly after the dissolution of his eight-year relationship with musician Geneva Jacuzzi, the record is as romantic and catchy as a Cure record and as hilariously absurd as Frank Zappa's We're Only in It for the Money. It's a karaoke-ready opera of nautical-themed '60s spy shanties, schnitzel boogies and tales of nymphomaniac, Beverly Hills–bred rocking.

Thanks to a bigger budget and a vastly improved band — Haunted Graffiti, who first joined Pink for his last album — Mature Themes is more polished than one would have expected from Pink's raw 8-track tapes, which bled like a tortured voice wailing out of some Sunset Strip Sinai a decade ago. Now, Pink stage-manages a saturnalia of 12-string guitars, psychedelic pop and organs that might as well be offering acid.

It's impossible to know when irony starts and stops, but the music retains an exquisite sadness. He suffers for his sins and those of his hometown. As he once titled a song about the shuttered West Hollywood nightclub Golgotha: Every night he dies at Miyagi's.

"I just want to be Buster Poindexter," Pink says, wryly smiling, as we leave the restaurant and slouch down York Boulevard. The reference alludes to the alter ego of former New York Dolls frontman David Johansen on "Hot Hot Hot," a novelty record cut by the progenitor of punk rock. "I feel like I'm devolving. I used to take myself so seriously; now I don't at all."

Pink's a serious student of music but unable to dismiss the bleak absurdity of life. In person, he's ordinarily, endearingly eccentric, all mordant bon mots and philosophical tangents: Jim Morrison as written and played by Woody Allen. And like the Lizard King, he is the subject of speculation shrouded in drugs, sex and madness. His reputation as indie rock's enfant terrible was burnished by a 2011 Coachella performance where he spent the first 15 minutes smoking cigarettes with his back to the crowd, before strutting offstage (he eventually returned and performed).

Those seeking the nexus of styles next and wrongfully abandoned understand that this is the price of admission. They've worshipped Ariel Pink since Animal Collective's Paw Tracks imprint reissued his album The Doldrums in 2004. Recorded around the turn of the century, it sounded like an AM radio graveyard: a quicksand of spectral laments and '60s pop spooked by the reflection of fat, baby boomer faces. Innumerable releases and reissues followed, as Pink exhumed his backlog recorded between 1999 and 2003. Had he never recorded another note, Pink could have dissolved with a secure legacy, a mercurial genius in the (off) key of Syd Barrett.

"Its honesty and depth of emotion made it brilliant," says Stones Throw modern funk messiah Dam-Funk, a frequent Pink collaborator. "He wasn't a stifled artist, unafraid to suppress his weirdness or worried about fitting in."

Related Content

Now Trending

  • Lady Casa: Queen of the Ravers

    Lady Casa is perhaps the country’s most famous raver, and something like a cult leader to her tens of thousands of fans. When the Miami native makes a pilgrimage to L.A. and hosts an event on Venice Beach the day after seeing DJ Armin van Buuren, it quickly turns into...
  • Porter Robinson - Shrine Expo Hall - September 13, 2014

    Porter Robinson The Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall September 13, 2014 It was clear from the minute his set started that Porter Robinson's performance at the Shrine was going to be more than just your typical EDM event. Robinson is on tour in support of Worlds, his first album and...
  • The Best Concerts to See in L.A. This Week

    Be sure to check out our constantly updated concert calendar! Monday, September 15 Mia Doi Todd BLUE WHALE Calling her an “L.A. singer-songwriter” doesn’t quite do the job when it comes to describing this local jewel. Mia Doi Todd is a valuable presence for her gracefully conceived, wonderfully intimate songcraft,...
Los Angeles Concert Tickets