By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Which is why when we walk up the street to vinyl Valhalla, Mount Analog, he gets the whispers and stolen glances of a celebrity, but back in Beverly Hills, his Jem-colored hair would just elicit strange looks. Love-hate relationships with hometowns are biographical staples, of course, but Pink's is usually complex. He attended Beverly Hills High School in the Clueless era, when the cool kids bumped rap in Range Rovers, the stoners congregated on the front lawn and the Persians clustered around the Persian tree. Pink ate lunch in the art room and listened to death metal.
"Your environment raises you. I fetishized Beverly Hills in my mind. When I was getting into music, I loved the L.A. scene. You're growing up on this historic site, next to the Whisky and the Sunset Strip," Pink says, flipping through Kraut-rock and world psych-rock records. "But I was also walking around in my Godflesh shirt, wondering, 'Why doesn't everyone love me?' "
Pink's mother originally comes from rural Louisiana. His dad was a Mexico-born Jewish gastroenterologist, and they divorced when he was 2. Soon after his mom returned to her native Bogalusa, leaving him to be raised by a father who merely wanted financial stability for his son. Musician was the worst of all professions.
"I told my parents that I was an artist and that I was gay," Pink says with a laugh. "I figured that when only one came true, they'd be OK with it."
CalArts invited Pink, a drafting prodigy, to attend upon high school graduation. After a year at UC Santa Cruz, he accepted the offer and almost immediately had his hopes deadened when he took a historical art survey.
"I didn't want to know about other people's art. I just wanted to learn how to mix colors and stuff," he remembers, now back at his three-bedroom apartment, a deluge of clothes, cassette tapes, records and empty Camel Lights packs. The walls are adorned with abstract paintings, maps of São Paulo and Nairobi and a stolen parking sign from Sea World.
After his teachers told him that representational art was dead, he and a classmate drew a photorealistic mural of the faculty, staff and students in a massive orgy. When the administrators saw the carnal scene, one woman was rushed to the hospital and later sued for sexual harassment (she lost).
"The lawyer representing the school interviewed me, and I told her that I thought it wouldn't be a big deal because representational art was completely dead," Pink deadpans. "I didn't think they'd recognize themselves. I thought they'd see it as graphite concentration matter — a phenomenological and semiotic interpretation and critique. After that I went to music school."
For the next half-decade, Pink earned subsistence wages working in record shops while making albums at night at a series of squalid apartments around L.A., including an ashram. After Animal Collective "discovered him" (when he passed them a CD-R after a show), he stopped recording for five years because, he says, he was touring and waiting for a legitimate record deal. Mature Themes is his second album since signing to 4AD, and it figures to make him as famous as a man who dedicated an album track to his love for Der Wienerschnitzel can be.
Catch Pink in a rare serious moment and he'll admit that he sees himself in the lineage of Frank Zappa, The Doors and Love. He's blessed with a rare alchemy of pop sensibilities and affinity for subversion, the native son made to squint but not maimed by the proximity to celebrity and fame.
What are you supposed to do when you grow up in Beverly Hills with a clue? There is nowhere up to go. So Ariel Rosenberg scored his sad stardust memories and transmogrified into the Highland Park rock & roller named Ariel Pink.
"Last year, I wound up in Star magazine's 'Fashion Don'ts' section. It felt better than any accolades or good reviews that I've ever received."
Pink smiles with slight unease, skating the thin, weird line between satire and sincerity once more. This is the barnacle of Beverly Hills that still clings to him, the part of Pink perversely lustful for celebrity, one who wants to be worshipped for both body and brilliance. After all, everyone wants to be Dylan McKay; no one wants to be Andrea Zuckerman. "It made me want to be just a bobbing head for the rest of my career. If I could do that and survive, I'd be that."
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