Written for Snap! magazine, published in September 2008
Online version can be found on pages 43-44 at
Ariel Pink and his band, Haunted Graffiti sound like waking up from a Saturday nap, when the TV is playing infomercials and afternoon movies. SNAP! recently interviewed the band after their Montreal debut at Zoobizarre.
KK: How do you come up with your music videos?
AP: Whenever I’m working with a director, I tell him not to think about it too much and to just shoot me singing, maybe throw in a girl there somewhere and not to have too much content. [I want] a really bad video that isn’t a grand statement, but actually carries a performance. I perform in front of the camera. I don’t care for narratives… they could be great, but somebody else has to provide them.
KK: What kind of music were you into when you were at your most impressionable?
AP: When I was in the fifth grade, I was really into metal. It was the first time that music was really my own, because nobody else really listened to it. It cultivates a sense of okay-ness with being different.
KK: Were you happy when the eighties became trendy again?
AP: No, then I had competition! And I thought they were getting the wrong aspects of it, missing the soulful parts that were the most influential and lasting. Not just the appearances- there was always this primal musicality to it that got lost when the beat took over. There’s something that’s practically gone, extinct from it now, no matter how much it’s imitated. I see the eighties, seventies and sixties in the same way: they all had the potential to tap into so many little feelings, yet throughout rock revivals it’s hard for them to remain. But people do it, sometimes. Electroclash was too reliant on visual mock-ups and theatrical poses, and then there was David Bowie’s lesson about being pretentious.
Jimi: Maybe it has to do with time and in ten years from now, popular music will be so bad we’ll look back on electroclash and think it was a refresher.
AP: Yeah, exactly, I think it’ll need a lot of time in certain cases.
KK: How do you think L.A. has influenced you?
AP: Well it’s not for us to know, now, is it? It’s for other people to gage. We still live there, I was born and raised there, I never really left, I don’t have any perspective. I do have a sense of pride about it. The sounds that came from L.A. have been pervasive in music, even to this day.
Jimi: It’s hard for us to be conscious of it, but I would imagine that it probably affects us in all kinds of ways in our subconscious, the environment. You tend to make different sounding music depending on where you live… L.A. radio in the eighties had a huge influence on all of us. And the pop thing has always been an overwhelming thing underlying L.A.
AP: All the successful bands that come from L.A. have that: Mothers of Invention, the Beach Boys, the Byrds…
Jimi: A lot of bands try to dabble in that country-rock-psychedelic hybrid… Even jazz, in the forties, Sparks, freakish pop stuff, punk rock, the Germs…
AP: It’s also really competitive in the industry, to actually get on the airwaves so that something can be disseminated anywhere else. So what’s interesting about LA is that you can have someone like Johnny Rotten who lived there, you have all these people that I totally built up in my mind and they have their own stories from where they came from and yet they all descended on L.A. It’s hard to feel, like it wasn’t supposed to be that way.
AP: People tend to make excuses for why they’re not there, in my opinion. Everybody’s like, “No, I don’t like L.A.” You’re just saying that because you’re not there right now and you have to give yourself an excuse. You know you wanna be there because I think the whole world, if they knew what was good for them, would be there. But I like it just the way it is. It creates the best bi-products of people’s dreams that have been shattered because of their grossly overestimated ambitions.
KK: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with?
AP: Robin Guthrie, from the Cocteau Twins.
Tim: Lee Perry.
KK: How has your music shifted?
Jimi: All sorts of people have come and gone [within the band]. It’s gone from being a chaotic energy.
AP: It started as a messy, karaoke-y thing.
Jimi: I think a lot of people do karaoke in LA because they saw Ariel and realized they could do it too.
AP: Apparently Beck did it before I did. I never saw him [do it] but…
KK: Have you met Beck?
AP: I’ve actually met Beck. No comment. It’s between me and my Scientologist therapist.