In our music feature this week we profile Ariel Pink, the enigmatic Beverly Hills-raised rocker whose 4AD-released latest album Mature Themes is one of the year's best. Over the course of two interviews at Folliero's in Highland Park and his nearby apartment, Pink showed why he's perhaps the most quotable musician this side of Freddie Gibbs.
On how he picked the name, Ariel Pink:
There's so many bad names and so many weird names that strike you at first as being wholly ridiculous and bad, but then they become pervasive enough and associated enough with the music that the meaning is stripped of it and then you have a different iconic stature. You redeem the name with the music. So I was thinking, 'What's a stupid ol' name? Oh, Ariel Pink. That's a piece of shit.' Great, I'm just going to be another bad piece of art to share with the world. I have to live with that. I can't get away that easily.
On recording part of House Arrest (2002) at an ashram:
It was like the cheapest living situation I'd ever had. I was just renting out a room in this place and it was kind of an open door policy for other people passing through. But they couldn't pay money for anything so the ashram offered hospice when they came into town. They fed the homeless and stuff like that.
I never got into the ashram stuff, but I liked it. I never had one noise complaint. I recorded four or five records there. All in the middle of the night, all behind a locked door. They gave me this three page, small print list of rules before I was actually able to live there, including, 'No garlic.' It was just the most ridiculous list, no drugs, no alcohol. I was like, 'Is there a lock on the door? Okay.' And I had people sleeping there, just getting wasted, just a mattress on the floor. But it was the best situation ever. I never got one noise complaint. They never came in the middle of the night.
On the return of guitar music:
We shouldn't take it for granted. In the early 2000s there was no guitar music anymore. There was maybe Shawn Mullins and Natalie Imbruglia or something like that. And then The Strokes came out and all the sudden guitars came back. And then the White Stripes came out and I was like, 'Oh, shit.' I wasn't into any of that stuff, but I was like, 'Holy shit…Like in this lifetime…this is happening.'
I was completely resigned to guitar music being considered dead. I wanted to work in the record store for the rest of my life. And little did I know how poignant that would be. If I actually hadn't made my way to the other side of the aisle, in the bins, I actually wouldn't have a job right now. Just cause they went extinct. Record stores pretty much went extinct. I took it for granted. I just completely assumed that would never be the case.
On writing lyrics:
All the music has to be perfect and then I procrastinate over the lyrics until I actually have to do them. Because I can't settle on lyrics, like I'll always just want to change them. So I don't even bother with that process. I just want to have a spontaneous shitting of lyrics.
On his influences:
I try to cover my tracks. As hard as I work, I never set out to be me. I set out to be other things. Never me. Like anything else. Anything beyond me that I somehow end up expanding whatever the definition of me is incorporating in the sound. But it's because I can't escape myself. But I always feel like I have to write from these characters.
On why his band Haunted Graffiti has periodic brief break-ups:
It seems to be like that every season. It's either I quit or the band breaks up. It seems to be the same time of year. It's winter every fucking year. Around New Years. It's a crazy time for me. I was born in June. I'm a total summer kid.
On his love of schnitzel:
How could you not like “Schnitzel Boogie”? It's what I eat weekly. There's a Wienerschnitzel right down the block.
Sometimes you're inspired and sometimes you're not. You just shouldn't record when you're not. I kind of have to wait around for inspiration. It happens in spurts. To even do it, it's really hard. It ends up adding up.
Fame doesn't mean anything any more because it's just a formula. And there's so many people. It's nothing special to be famous any more. Not enough people care for long enough or give a fuck to make anything worthwhile.
They're just screaming, 'Notice me! Notice me!' I guess that's kind of what you do if you want to make it. I never thought I didn't want to make it though. I don't know what I'd be fucking doing if I didn't do this. So that's pretty fucked up.
On never leaving L.A.:
Where am I going to go? New York? I feel like to do that would be escaping myself and running away. People tell me I should go to the country. I look at them and say, 'you must really want to get rid of me, huh?'