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FILTER 49: You Should Already Know: Ariel Pink

By Kyle MacKinnel on November 16, 2012


FILTER 49: You Should Already Know: Ariel Pink

Ariel Pink believes in magic. “It’s black magic, for that matter,” he says over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “It’s some sort of pagan invocation every time we speak. We repeat the words and conjure gods. I think we may as well use the magic for something, and we have to figure out what the goal is.” Pink offers this type of insight with regularity, always careful to skirt the heart of the issue, never failing to deliver with beguiling resonance. It is certainly coursing through the veins of his Haunted Graffiti riddle-pop recordings, including the forthcoming Mature Themes, but this goes far beyond music.

Take reading; Pink likes to read in his spare time, but when asked what he is currently flipping through, he deflects to a sort of Lacanian discourse. “I definitely read things with my own interpretive, correlative logic, making it so that every book is feeding into a larger narrative... It’s almost like convincing you that you’re talking to yourself,” he explains, before coming back with, “I appreciate concise, clear ideas.”

Image by Piper Ferguson

The musician was born in Beverly Hills with the name Ariel Rosenberg, but it didn’t take long for Ariel Pink to emerge. “People would ask what I was planning to do, or if I was OK. I got into all of the things that parents would be very worried about,” he says. “But I was extremely secure in my calling, maybe before I had anything to show for it. I don’t know about manifesting your own reality, but I like to think that it’s true.” And that’s exactly what Pink was ultimately able to do. After years of stockpiling his glorious lo-fi alchemy, he approached the guys from Animal Collective in 2003 with a CD-R of his album The Doldrums, and became the first artist outside the band to sign with their label, Paw Tracks.

“I think there was something in me that needed to have an audience; I needed to feel validated with a few fans,” Pink says. “It’s the only thing I know how to do. At this point, I’ve gotten pretty good at the more administrative aspect of it, but I guess that’s part of growing up, isn’t it?”

The concept—or perhaps more accurately, the question—of growing up is at the heart of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s 10th official release. The title track of Mature Themes features a nautical synth lead and the heartfelt pledge, “I want it to be good / I wanted to be good / My baby.” Coupled with the cleaner production trend that began on 2010’s Before Today, “Mature Themes” exudes a vibe of earnestness and commitment. But Pink is quick to dismiss the notion that he has actually matured into the meat of his 30s.

“I think it’s pretty misleading,” he says. “I like to mislead as often as possible. I suppose, no, I think I’ve gotten more immature. The point of ["Mature Themes"] is it’s like a juvenile catch-all for someone that is supposed to be mature. With me, I’m on some sort of postmodern phenomenon. There’s no such thing as irony anymore. Everything is really serious and sincere, even when it’s not. I don’t see myself as a comedy act, but I don’t see myself as worthy of being more than a comedy act.”

For the present, Pink lives alone, doesn’t own any pets and describes himself as somewhat hedonistic, citing that he still frequently likes to party. So perhaps it is the ilk of his ode to Austrian sausage, “Schnitzel Boogie,” that more closely approaches unfiltered reality in the Haunted Graffiti canon. While expounding on the blockages inherent in American sexuality, Pink cites another Mature Themes highlight, “Symphony of the Nymph,” as a confessional number.

“I speak in general as a man, so I’m not speaking for a woman when I make my case,” he says. “I think that men want to be able to have their birthright, to be able to fuck holes and stuff like that. That song is my Nymphaholics Anonymous song. ‘My name is Ariel Pink, and I’m a nymph,’ for better or for worse. But since everybody seems to be a nymph and a pervert, I feel like Caligula,” he laughs.

As intrinsic as art seems to the nature of his being, and for all the confidence with which he delivers ideas, Pink insists that insecurity is an essential ingredient to his process. Never evading the conversation is the overwhelming sense that he’s extremely grateful to be doing what he is doing. In fact, he considers himself “a pretty lousy” artist.

“I have qualities that are in line with the music that I make,” he says. “I’m not a perfect work of art in myself, and I’m not afraid of that. I feel lucky that I got to share that in my work early on, not being bogged down or embarrassed by those things. It’s like, if I’ve got nothing to say, or I’m just a fucking loser, then so be it.”

At 34, Ariel Pink has already released more material than most artists do in a lifetime. He has been associated with others who have found considerable recognition since Pink’s own coming out, including John Maus, Christopher Owens (formerly of Girls) and even his own mentor, R. Stevie Moore. Pink feels honored to have been the sounding gun for such a sequence of events.

“We’re kind of stringing a thread,” he says. “We’re binding to certain historical individuals or movements that we think have more staying power, so we can put off the inevitable end of rock and roll one more day. It’s on the new artists to keep the thing going, because I already kind of gave my two cents. I don’t know if it’s universally acknowledged or anything like that, but it’s fine with me. I feel like I’ve done my part.” F

Ariel Pink Picks 3 of His HAUNTED GRAFFITI ALBUMS You Should Already Own

The Doldrums (2004)
It was a break with the old and a sort of rewriting of the new into realms that I didn’t know I was getting into.

Odditties Sodomies Vol. 1 (2008)
It’s kind of a little grab bag of the half-baked cutting room floor stuff that never made it onto records.

Mature Themes (2012)
It’s a return to an idiosyncratic merging of skills, except I was able to lord over the process more, as opposed to the early days.