ARIEL PINK: DIE AS AN ORGASM
illustration by luke mcgarry
Ariel Pink’s newest album pom pom (4AD) is two LPs of Zappa-doing-Fowley-doing-Bowie why-the-fuck-not rock with zero adult supervision. Besides hospital-penned lyrics by Kim Fowley before his passing, Pink’s got unpredictable input of all types from Don Bolles, L.A. impresario of the utmost notability, as well as a support from likely every still-fighting member of the L.A. freak scene. He performs on Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW on Wed., Feb. 18, and he talked with us last fall to assure us that he’s still Ariel Pink. This interview by Chris Ziegler. (And don’t miss the recent “Dayzed Inn Daydreams” video featuring Berlin Brats/Mau Maus’ Rick Wilder below)
Are you actually turning into Kim Fowley? ‘Sexual Athletics’ is credited to you, but it sounds like … him.
It’s my best impersonation of Kim.
It worried me. I saw a photo of you with ‘70s Kim bangs and wondered if he was doing a soul transfer to a fresh new vessel.
In so many ways, dude! Down to the weird controversy … me presiding over all this … if I’m not Kim Fowley now, I will be after the whole record cycle. I could not hope to equal the powerhouse force of inspiration that is Kim Fowley by any stretch of the imagination. But I can somehow have a diluted sort of … this is really to the core of what I’m always going on about. If I could just freeze-frame time and actually NOT change, not do anything and stand still and preserve some of history’s moments just for the sake of doing something different, rather than doing the usual, that would be an accomplishment.
In terms of physics, that’s the hardest possible thing to do. You’re standing alone against the forces of time and entropy.
There’s all these forces for change everywhere and everyone’s always talking about it. There’s no need to try for change—why don’t you stop and sit down for a second and harness your thoughts on a single thought for more than five seconds and think before you do it? It’s amazing what you can accomplish. Especially nowadays! There’s sort of an usurping—or dethroning of authority of some sort. We’re poised here with the Internet and the social media stuff which is the domain of the younger generation, and they rule it with an iron fist. We’re right there in the middle! The forgotten generation. We still use our hands and our tools, but we’re discarded in some way. We’re not making movies like we used to. And there’s not that many of us! There’s baby boomers who still buy everything even though they’re 60 or 70, and there’s a whole shitload of millennials around now. There weren’t very many of us. We’re not very materialistic, as far as generations are concerned, but millennials … I pray for them. And I don’t know if it’s helping!
We’ll be like interesting relics of the olden times.
Not really! Maybe? If we’re seen as anything worthwhile! I could see them collecting us like they would a discarded dungheap on the side of the road. If they don’t preserve the idea of history … I’m sure everybody over 60 years old is like ‘Get me out of this place as soon as possible … before they drag me into the street for things I said in 1967, and girls I fucked …’ Whatever! I’m a nice guy! I don’t strike an imposing figure. Maybe online, where I seem a little more caustic and intimidating. The Wizard of Oz! This tiny little top hat dude behind the whole scene.
How did you communicate what you wanted for this record to Don Bolles? I DJed a Fancy Space People show and he was playing every guitar solo off my records note-for-note during warm-up, so I assume he knows almost everything in or around rock.
Don is the archduke muse on this whole record. The guy’s really special, and we’ve all known this forever. He’s a personal hero of mine. The Germs are my favorite band ever. L.A.’s finest. I saw him at FYF Fest not like two years ago. So Don sauntered up to me like, ‘Hey! What’s going on? I got a new set of shiny whites!’ And flashed me his new smile. It seemed like he was doing really good. And when it was time to record the new record … he essentially bullied his way in. I would have loved to have been in a band with him, but I wouldn’t have considered it prior to this episode. He really had the wherewithal and the drive to really push me and push at me … ‘I really really wanna work on this record, man!’ ‘Yeah, yeah, of course!’ I sorta dragged my feet the way I do, but he’s one of the most restless people ever so he pushed it and with Kim Fowley on the other side also pushing it—
You, Don and Kim—that is some set of dudes.
Don will say his icon is Kim Fowley. I think they both have an appreciation for ambition in music. It’s something you wouldn’t necessarily have thought when you think of them. We’ve been in a misanthropic shooting-ourselves-in-the-foot kind of age, where we despair about the current state of the music industry and don’t have too many promising things to invest in. For people like them, I think they were probably resisting the idea that time might have passed them by. I’m just happy to be a conduit to helping these guys get a new lease on life. Don is particular is definitely my guru.
He definitely has a guru-esque hat.
That hat is legendary. He’d float into the ether if you took it off. It’s a weird halo.
A hairy halo?
The hairy halo of entropy that keeps him squashed and earthly in this demonic realm. His interest and enthusiasm in the whole thing was the Popeye spinach that got me excited about making a record again. He’s all over the record. I get a real kick out of it. The ages flow through him.
You’re collapsing all these generations of music into one record.
It’s fast forward! A petri dish where an ecosystem flourishes.
What was left off this record? Is there anything that just wouldn’t fit?
No—there is none of that. The record only came about because I got word from 4AD that if I had any intention of releasing this record this year, I’d have to turn in whatever I had in the next three weeks. So I made the executive decision to say, ‘OK, guys! Enough fun!’ I would have been totally happy just recording and never releasing the thing. And never sort of sitting down and creating new stuff. Not even a month before, I was like, ‘I’d be happy if I never released this.’ But we ended up taking all the things we’d amassed and set them on the fast track to close all those loose ends and use everything we did. We spent nine months doing it in my off time at various stages with various people at various time, and nobody really involved at all times except for me. If you want filler, there’s my entire back catalog.
It’s pretty focused. It’s not as drastic as Sandinista!.
No, but it is a little Willy Wonka. It has a weird winding through … it’s like the Secret of NIMH. A ouvre or overture—
Did any lab rats have to die?
In metaphorical form. A lot of Chinese food was eaten and a lot of animals perished. And a lot of kales were consumed. Don had to have a smoothie every fucking morning.
We had a big talk about Phil Ochs once before. How close are you to covering his ‘Love Me I’m A Liberal’?
Funny—I’ll probably be doing ‘Rehearsals for Retirement’ before that one. There’s a backward trajectory here. We wanna die as an orgasm! And spend our retirement in kindergarten. Look forward to the past. The future is behind us! And spend the rest of our lives being a premonition.
ARIEL PINK PERFORMS ON KCRW’S MORNING BECOMES ECLECTIC ON WED., FEB. 18, AT 11:15 AM. ARIEL PINK’S pom pom is AVAILABLE NOW FROM 4AD.