“It was my Pangolin,” tweeted Ariel Pink, the Los Angeles-based musician now infamous for raising the ire of Madonna and Grimes, and the rest of the progressive-leaning indie music community—on Monday morning. If we were interested in proving the link between Pink and the coronavirus outbreak, there’s certainly a motive: his music seems to be specifically designed for a quarantine.
Over a more than 20-year career, Ariel Pink’s music has morphed between warped pop and experimental rock—sugary at times, murky always. There’s so much of it; to shuffle through Pink’s prolific discography is to subject yourself to a kaleidoscope of his many personalities—and to lose track of your own. From the Beach Boys-tinged “Round and Round” to the wistful, faraway vocals of “Another Weekend” to the percussive stylings and slurred lyrics of “Innageko” clearly masterminded by a single brain cell at four in the morning, Pink’s music blazes a neon trail through the mind’s dark recesses.
This month, The Ariel Archives, a series of Pink’s retrospective collections and reissues, have begun to trickle forth—Underground, Odditties Sodomies Vol. 2, and Loverboy are out, and Worn Copy, Doldrums and House Arrest are forthcoming from Mexican Summer in late April. The release is focused on materials recorded by the artist under his early-aughts one-man recording venture Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, and are restored from the original cassette masters. When asked why this felt like the moment to revive his extensive back catalogue, his response was exactly what you’d suspect from the mastermind of a pandemic: “It’s the end of the world. What better time could there be?”
Pink took a break from eating Chinese takeout and maligning the democratic process to field some questions for us, lifted from Glenn O’Brien’s legendary 1977 interview with Andy Warhol. From Coca-Cola to the future, from the DMV to Michael Jackson, Pink’s got all the unpopular opinions.
MARA VEITCH: What was the first musical work that you created?
ARIEL PINK: I was about eight years old. It was called “Sexy Lady.” It was in the vein of “Dancing with Myself” by Billy Idol.
VEITCH: That’s a great start to a musical career.
PINK: It was all downhill from there.
VEITCH: Did you get good grades in school?
PINK: Sort of. I was a B+ boy.
VEITCH: What did you do for fun when you were a teenager?
PINK: For fun? Well, for the first two years of high school I had a girlfriend. So…that was the fun. Then I started making music all the time. I was just a greedy musicophile starting in about fourth or fifth grade.
VEITCH: What advice would you give to a young person who wants to become a musician?
PINK: Do it right away. Are you young? Young is probably the best time. First, learn an instrument for two years. Then, join a band that’s about to get signed. After that, just tour and get your rocks off. Get paid to travel. And then quit, of course. It’s obviously not a life plan, but it buys you time. Instead of college, save the money and go be a musician.
VEITCH: Who was the first musician to influence you?
PINK: Probably Michael Jackson. Can I say that? One more piece of satanic PR for that guy.
VEITCH: Do you think the art world is dead?
PINK: Dead? You mean, right now?
PINK: Man, that’s actually a really good question. I don’t know. That’s not even a normal question. That’s like asking, “Oh, is the housing market going up or down in LA?” I wonder. That’s a good question. I’m going to look into it. Damn. What a question.
VEITCH: I’m almost … afraid to ask another question about the art world, but do you think there are any art movements now?
PINK: Nope, just bowel movements.
VEITCH: Do you ever think about politics?
PINK: Yes, I do. All the time.
VEITCH: Do you ever vote?
VEITCH: I’d like to hear more.
PINK: I’ll get a pie in the face for this, but I’m an American and I vote for the winner, which means I don’t vote.
VEITCH: Are you a Republican or a Democrat?
PINK: I’m neither. Whoever is in charge, whatever. I don’t believe in party lines, that kind of stuff. You want my real tirade about this? The U.S. is great because it’s like the DMV. It’s just a very dysfunctional little office with a bunch of file clerks working there. The line is long and there’s nothing they can do for you when you get to the end of it.
VEITCH: What’s your favorite piece out of all your work?
PINK: Yes, let’s get back to that. My favorite piece of my work would have to be “Sexy Lady,” the first song I wrote.
VEITCH: Back to your roots.
PINK: No, it’s definitely this track called “Modulate,” my first recorded piece. I wrote it when I was 15, basically the music consisted of me turning my printer on and off. It sounded like warm leather, smooth. It was really, really dorky.
VEITCH: What’s your favorite color?
VEITCH: Shouldn’t it be…
PINK: What, pink? Definitely my least favorite color.
VEITCH: Ariel Pink, that is a scandal.
PINK: I hate myself. What can I say.
VEITCH: Pepsi or Coke?
PINK: Coca-Cola. No question.
VEITCH: Do you think Nixon got a raw deal?
PINK: Abso-fucking-lutely. I think he’s the best president that we’ve ever had.
VEITCH: Are you just saying that?
PINK: No, no. I actually do believe that he’s the best, second only to our current one.
PINK: Well, I like Nixon. Let’s not talk about Trump. I would’ve respected Clinton a lot more if he hadn’t lied, and I would’ve liked Hillary a lot more if she had divorced him. I liked reading her emails though.
VEITCH: Do you think about dying?
PINK: I’ve given it a little thought. It has crossed my mind.
VEITCH: Do you think that people should live in outer space?
PINK: I’d love to go to outer space, but I don’t think people should live there. I think we should go underground. It’s so much closer.
VEITCH: And it’s warm.
PINK: Who knows what’s down there.
VEITCH: Do you think the future will be futuristic?
PINK: Oh, the future will be very, very retro. It always has been.
MARA VEITCH: Do you sleep alone?
PINK: Unfortunately, yes.
VEITCH: Do you sleep in the nude?
PINK: I sleep in whatever I was wearing that day. I don’t like to sleep with other people because who knows what I do in my sleep.
VEITCH: Better to sleepwalk in clothes, I guess.
PINK: I’ve heard that I sing, actually. Sometimes people stay up and watch me.
VEITCH: That’s terrifying. What time do you get up in the morning?
PINK: I guess around 3pm, something like that. It depends.
VEITCH: So you’re up early today?
PINK: Yes, I got up especially for this.
VEITCH: What do you do all night? Isn’t the world shut down?
PINK: The world is awake, man.
VEITCH: What do you when you first wake up?
PINK: I have breakfast. Usually Chinese. Then I read the news, or about the ancient Egyptians.
VEITCH: Educating yourself. Do you think you are a father or mother figure to anyone?
PINK: I think I’m a father figure to a lot of people.
VEITCH: In what sense?
PINK: In the sense that they hate me.
VEITCH: Oh man.
PINK: No, just joking. I’m a loyal friend to a fault. So, a lot of people have gotten a piece of that. Some people might think of me as a baby sister, though.
VEITCH: Did you ever try to grow a mustache?
PINK: I didn’t just try, I did.
VEITCH: What’s your natural hair color?
PINK: Dirty blonde.
VEITCH: Do you believe in the end of the world?
PINK: I don’t, actually. I’m a big doubter of the end of the world.