Ariel Pink

Ariel Pink

Tuesday 21st December, 2010 11:26AM

LA musician Ariel Pink aka Ariel Rosenberg recorded hundreds and hundreds of songs using various lo-fi materials throughout his teenage and twenty-something years. When he finally started drip-feeding his material out to the public, he immediately got the attention of the Animal Collective's label Paw Tracks. However, his latest album, Before Today, marks a drastic departure for the now entitled Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: while featuring his now customary eclecticism, the album features a richer sound, some killer covers (e.g. the Rockin' Ramrods) and considerable critical hype. He's also heading this way, and is playing at Laneways (both Auckland and Wellington editions).

What got you into music in the first place?

Well I was really into music when I was younger, really into it, and it kinda seemed like the best thing to do in your life. At some point I had to finish, it sounds pretty messianic of me, but I felt like I wanted to give back a little bit of the goodness that music gave me. Aside from wanting to be a rock star as a kid being a motivation.

You've obviously been sticking with it for a while and didn't get noticed for a while, was there ever a point of wanting to give up?

Yeah. I think about it often too. But as long as I can do it with some sort of degree of a sense of accomplishment, or something like that, I feel like it's worthwhile to do it.

You've obviously recorded hundreds of songs, when did you realise you were ready to put them together on an album?

Long before they were ready to be, I decided I wanted to record tonnes of albums before I had recorded anything. In fact in my own mind, I felt like I had already accomplished all of that, before I had actually. So it was delusions of grandeur since the beginning.

Did you originally write with a specific album in mind?

Well, I never really wrote a record, it's just song by song. And then I felt like having a bunch of good songs on a record would do fine, so I kinda just made records as I went. I'd go in periods of time recording, and then gather all of the material from a certain time and then putt an album cover and a name on it.

Your music is very eclectic – do you think this way of recording music has helped with that?

I think so, I think also keeping it within a certain era created a sort of continuity. Of course, everything had been disseminated out of order, the records had been in and of themselves, these little nuggets of time.

Given they were these nuggets of time, was it weird releasing them years later?

Yeah, I think that's just a path that I took, that normally people wouldn't take. For whatever reason, I felt like they were ready for release, the quality – never-mind that there had been no mastering. I was probably the only person out there who deemed that material worthy.

I imagine it must have been weird for you having audiences viewing this as new music, but for you it would have been music from a different you.

Yeah. But you know in hindsight, they were released only four years after, not ten or anything like that. Not that long (laughs). For me though, I was in a vastly different place 2000-2004. When I first released [2004's the] Doldrums it was four years old, but that doesn't sound like a very long time to me now ten years later. It did feel a little weird, but I think it helped me distance myself from the material that I was going out and promoting and working out in a live setting. I was able to probably not take so much offence to things that probably would have been more personal if they were hot off the press.

You've obviously collaborated with [legendary indie pioneer] R. Stevie Moore, but how much of an influence was his way of operating as a musician to you as a musician?

Oh you can't stress it any more, he's been a huge influence. Knowing him as an individual, and getting to know him, was kinda like having a great picture of integrity in my opinion. It's hard to come by, in the life of one person you can find nuggets of goodness from most people's catalogue, but in terms of sheer quantity and quality, he's pretty much the cat's meal in my opinion.

I guess he also refused to be tied down to particularly genres and…

Refused to be tied down in any way other than total commitment to his craft and to hell with everything else. Maybe, he's doing it for all of us. I set out very early on, saying while being in contact with him, 'I'm going to go out there and say things for you so they don't forget your name'. I don't know if I've succeeded in my pledge, but the fact we're talking about him right now is nice.

Given the 'democracy' of his music, and also of your music, is it difficult with this separation of audience and performer?

It is difficult. I try not to make it about 'me' so much in a live setting. I try to reproduce the records and reproduce the music that people come to see. I don't assume that they've lapped up the cult of personality that might be surrounding certain aspects of what I do. I'm definitely prone to mania and stuff like that, but that gets in the way. It's difficult enough to reproduce a good sound live, and I'm pretty focused on that in a live setting. The less I speak between songs, the better – the yardstick for a good show is how much I talk between songs, and engage with the audience – it's not a role I'm very comfortable with.

Was it a difficult process trying to play your music live?

Absolutely, it's still my number one challenge and priority. It's still developing. As long as I'm not satisfied with how good it could be, there's a reason to stick with it, and strive for more. It's also one of those things that didn't come naturally since the beginning, since my first tour, so I've had a slow but steady improvement I would say in representing the stuff live. That's taken a lot of learning one step at a time and falling flat on my face millions of times. I'm not in a hurry per se, trying to make the most of it, not squandering my opportunities just because I'm into self-sabotage or anything like that.

I read that you called Before Today a 'debut album'. Did it feel like a fresh start to you?

It's a real change for me in just about every respect. It's not a record I've made before. It does have songs that people might be familiar from more obscure releases but that said, in the process of making it, it's different in just about every way. For me, it's like a first record. But I feel that way every time I do something, I don't want to rest on my laurels midway into my catalogue. I feel like a new beginning is just around the corner, because impressions are fickle so people won't remember anything in two years' time, and they'll remember something else. You can change all that.

Brannavan Gnanalingam


Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti play Laneway Festival in Auckland and Laneway Presents in Wellington - head to for more info and to get tickets.

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