photography + story / EMMA KATHAN
Ariel Pink is a Los Angeles based musician who’s been releasing albums since 2004. His newest album, Mature Themes is on 4AD.
What can you tell me about your lyrics?
Well, it’s like a map and you have to decode it in order to find out what I’m saying. It’s not my doing. It’s like automatic writing. It’s a product of being in LA, of living the way that I do, it’s a product of the environment I’m around. And those are just the most kind of surface details about a person and about what their life is about you know? If you really want to get to the soul of a person you really need to read between the lines. You can’t take things at face value.
I’m slowly coming around to writing lyrics for this record and it’s been a very hard thing for me because I find myself at a loss for what to write about these days. I mean anything I can say, I just say it. But then when you impose a rhyme, or a certain pattern to it, you know, you just can’t do both things at once.
You don’t have to though. I mean stream of consciousness is the best most poetic expression in my opinion and just the ability to sit down and let what comes out, come out. It doesn’t really need to rhyme.
I know! It’s time too, I don’t want to force the issue. There’s no reason for me to get all hung up about what the lyrics are going to be right now for one of the songs if I’m not laying down the vocals today. If it comes to me, it comes to me. It’s a very natural thing.
Sure, we all have to wait for it.
And that’s what I do, I wait. I don’t spend time forcing myself to write anything. That’s different from back in the day when I just used to record around the clock as a means of capturing something out of the tons of shit that I was going to record. Like there would be some inspiration in there, somewhere along the line. And then I stopped recording for like 5 or 6 years I didn’t record a single song. I just toured, and played old songs for the first time on stage. And worked with people and worked with my band and tried to get a band going and tried to get a group dynamic going, and then I tried to make money too for Geneva and I so that’s what I was focused on doing and so now it’s really cool because I’m starting to write again and it’s good. It’s probably what I need to get me through the times.
What do you love about music?
Music has always been a gift to me, it’s saved my life just in the form of listening to stuff I love and just feeling like nothing else matters in the world. And again it saved my life because I was able to incorporate it into making my own kind of thing with it. It gives me so much validation to be considered a musician, to be playing, to be a part of this group.
Emma: You’ve been working at your music and building a fan base for such a long time here in L.A. and I’m so glad to see that you are now finally receiving more global recognition and praise.
I mean I work like a maniac at it and it’s not like I ever have time to sit down and relax and take a break but then, I don’t want to. While I have the vitality and energy I should take advantage of this. There’s this thing, this part of me, where I need to remind people that I exist all of the time. So I do really feel like I deserve any little attention that I do get.
Do you now feel like you can start to make a living at being a musician?
The music is never what got me any money per se, it’s the touring for me, the hard work of having to deal with constantly being on your feet and waking up early and doing all that kind of stuff. That’s what I’ve been doing non stop for about 7 years. It’s not for everyone but I finally got to a place where I can actually enjoy it. And I feel like I know what I’m doing more now and I can actually tell everybody in the band how much they’re going to make at the end of the tour. And everybody in the band knows it now too, we’ve been together long enough that everybody understands the whole thing. And we have a bank account. I split everything equally five ways, it’s easy and there’s no issue about money. Because everyone knows if you want more money, you’re taking it out of the pocket of someone else in the band. As far as touring though, it takes a certain type of person who can deal with it. You need the wherewithal to be constantly on tour and always be in another city it takes a certain kind of mindset and lots of musicians don’t have it. A lot of my friends, geniuses, don’t have it you know they don’t have the stomach for it, they’d rather be at home on their computer alone, and that’s great but you need to push yourself on other people, nobody’s going to discover you. I mean there’s always that story about someone who gets “discovered” but it’s not a chance occurrence that brought you to a certain road and a certain point in your life. It was really something that you did. And you decided to go in that direction instead of passing it up for something else and those things take a fair amount of trust in your decision making. You have to be able to make decisions and not shrink from the thought of scary embarrassment and humiliation. I have some of that fear, but not really so much anymore because I face it all the time. The fact that I’m scared to be on stage, I face it every single second, and I am scared and I’ve withstood people throwing shit at me and saying I should do something else and all that kind of stuff and I was prepared for that. I already assumed that stuff. I already assumed that I was doing the worst thing possible for myself.
I only got into music because I wasn’t supposed to. I didn’t have any lessons when I was a kid. I said I was going to be a rock star in high school and my dad said I should go to college. He just thought I was mental. And I was already fine with that. The best minds are mental and that’s what I told myself. The fact that I’m making money today is weird for me because I thought that I was doing something wrong by being mental. But really you just have to hustle to make a living, it’s also a practical thing.
All you need is like three good songs for anyone to call you a genius anyways.
If anyone likes what you do it’s cause for celebration.
Yes! Its rad! That’s really what it comes down to.You can’t expect rewards for doing what you love, because that’s the reward. You have to expect that its not actually going to amount to anything. I still expect this to not amount to anything. I mean , I have money in my pocket right now, but tomorrow who knows. There’s no insurance. I don’t have enough money to buy a house, or invest in stocks. I have no kind of retirement plan you know. I was always happy doing music, living for $300 in my apt and that was it and I was able to lead a very small existence then and I pretty much live the same lifestyle.
Ariel is in the #6 Fantasy Issue of LADYGUNN out now!