Jul 13, 2012 11:17AM

Interview: Ariel Pink

"Weird is cool now because of people like me."
Ariel Pink shot by Terry Richardson

Most of you will know Ariel Pink as the enigmatic frontman of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, who brought us the Pitchfork approved 'Round and Round' Song of the Year back in 2010. The band's melodic sound comes with a hint of nostalgia, seemingly plucked fresh out of the 60s and 70s, and given the Ariel edge.

Earlier this year Ariel collaborated with 'Ambassador of Boogie Funk', Dâm-Funk, on a reissue of Donnie and Joe Emerson's crooning 'Baby', with pleasing results. Just last week we were treated to 'Only In My Dreams', a new track from forthcoming album Mature Dreams, which is due out August 17.

We caught up with Ariel to discuss the new album, dressing as a gay hobo pirate, and hanging out with Dâm-Funk.

Leesa Gallaher: What are you up to at the moment?
Ariel Pink: I'm in London. I'm on the phone in my hotel room, putting cologne on.
Nice. So, this is your second album released with Haunted Graffiti. What can you tell me about the album?
I guess I should clarify, it's the second record on 4AD Records but not the second record with Haunted Graffiti. Every record's been Ariel Pinks Haunted Graffiti up until now. But yeah, I guess this is the second one with the band Haunted Graffiti... I guess it can be a bit stupid… What was the question again?
Do you feel like you've taken a new direction with Mature Dreams?
Well, yeah of course. I mean, that's kind of obvious isn't it? I mean c'mon… It's just uh, I don't know, it's a good time, you know? If you like that kind of thing.
Okay. I read that you wanted to see how far you could go using the lo-fi equipment, and then decided to go with a more polished sound. What led you to that decision?
You start off in obscurity in your garage, not knowing if you're going anywhere, with no money and no equipment. I just feel like it's a very natural progression [to go to a more polished sound]. It'd be weirder if I started with all those things.
And then went lo-fi...
Yeah, if I ended up in my bedroom, a little lo-fi artist talking to myself [laughs].
What made you decide to start touring with the one band, Haunted Graffiti?
I had the experience of playing with an unrehearsed, or barely rehearsed, lazy rendition of a band. I also got to experience a band that might have chemistry with itself. That's what that experience taught me — that it's [the best when there's] fully assembled bands, not just one guy just wanking on guitar. It was like performing with bands that were essentially doing covers of my songs, and I was running them on vocals. So that wasn't always successful and whatever triumphs came out of it was always so short-lived, 'cause then it was onto the next town. I wanted to be able to experience the glory on a nightly basis, so I found bandmembers that were willing to give me their life for a spell, and I'm extremely lucky.
You're based in LA, like Dâm-Funk — is that how you got in touch to collab on 'Baby'?
Stones Throw Records, which is his label, is actually a stones throw from my house. It's right down the street so I met him just hanging out in my little hood.
Oh cool, you're like neighbours!
Well, he's down there a lot… so I see him, and he was recording the record not too far from me at various points, so yeah, we have steady contact and we see each other. We're good friends.
So you guys hang out?
Well, yeah!
What drew you to 'Baby' as a song?
It was requested by Light In The Attic Records who put it out and we reissued the original song, and they requested Dâm, and you know that version, the version that me and Dâm do of that song… yeah it was great. It was really good fun and it came together very quickly, and naturally, easily. We didn't wanna kill the spirit with too many bells and whistles. It's nothing like the original.
It's good though! I've had it on repeat for a while…
Yeah, I'm proud of it [laughs].
What can you tell me about that word 'retro-licious' that you like to throw around?
Oh, oh, oh retrolicious! Yeah I've got a reserve stash of songs that I wrote when I was 10 and 11 years old. But I'm saving them for a rainy day, if I don't have any more songs left...
If you run dry...
Then I'll just bring back that collection.
That makes sense. Speaking of retro… who is your all-time favourite musician?
There's not one. That's a very, very difficult question to answer.
How about a top few then?
Maybe Darby Crash or something like that. Dot from The Shaggs.
You've been to Australia a bunch of times now, and something people always seem to remember from your gigs, other than the music, is your wild fashion sense. Do you feel like you're getting into a character when you get on stage?
I don't. It's the same off-stage as it is on-stage. I'm more of a character off-stage if you ask me. More of a class-act! [laughs].
I remember you wore a plush snake around your neck one time, and sequin tights another.
Yeah, I wear that on a normal day too. But, you know, it's just to make it a little bit less of a casual occasion. You wear a suit to a wedding. You've got to dress up for the occasion.
What would be your dream stage costume?
I guess it would be a bandana, and a stick with a bag at the end of it and some jeans cut-off at the knee and some sort of eye-patch and a handle-bar moustache!
Kind of like a hobo pirate detective?
Kind of like a gay hobo pirate that's hanging out in the Australian outback. [laughs].
Ah, sick.
A bogan!
That's not nice!

You've been making music for a couple of decades now, how has the music industry changed over the years?
I really wasn't around to the industry at all. I've only really risen to mild prominence in relative comparison, and even then, never really rose to any prominence. But, that's changed over the last couple of years. People's tastes and the audiences are changing. We're really playing to the kids. They decide what's new and what's cutting edge every year. There seems to be a whole generation of 16-year-olds replacing the last one. It's like putting them through the grinder, the conveyer belt.
Do you feel that pressure to become more accessible?
It's just a tiny bit of pressure, but luckily it seems more like the world has come to me. I'm not so weird anymore, it's not even so much of a compromise anymore.
Weird is cool now.
Weird is cool now because of people like me. And John Maus and blah blah blah [laughs].
One more question. It's hard to pin you guys to a particular genre. How would you describe the sound of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti?
Psychology rock or something. Psych rock… Psychiatry rock. Or psycho rock!
I like it. Well, thanks so much, it has been really good talking with you.
Yeah, thanks, man, thank you.