On an unusually active Thursday night at Oberlin College, I had the curious opportunity of sharing some words with Ariel Pink, currently on tour with his band Haunted Graffiti supporting their new record, Mature Themes. Pacing the sidewalk with impressive composure for a 34-year-old in a glittered blouse, the neon-haired Pink had some feisty things to say concerning his bratty persona, the LA music scene and life as a recent divorcee—but it’s not Ariel Pink’s facetious glam banter that needs to be said. It’s neuroscience and uh, Chinese food.
QM: The Mature Themes record is a lot more sculpted as far as structure and production values go, than a lot of the stuff you’ve put out earlier. I’m curious as to whether or not that’s a conscious intention on the part of you and the band to put out a product with more mass appeal.
AP: Yes. Absolutely, those things don’t happen by mistake. My earlier shit, that’s what happens by mistake.
QM: Do you feel like it’s possible that you’re alienating any of your old fans?
AP: They’re alienated anyway. Hopefully they’re over it, hopefully they’re onto new and better things like getting married and being yuppies like they should be.
QM: A lot of the lyrical content on this new record makes you out to be very much a typical celebrity type, kind of bratty and promiscuous [he cackled]. I take it at least somewhat ironically, but I’m wondering if your life is at all the life of the rockstar that you make yourself out to be.
AP: Oh, well, I mean the life of a rockstar is really the life of every man. And it’s just a matter of time before you realize that. When your wife of eight years dumps you, then we’ll see how much of a rockstar you’ll be ok?
QM: Fair enough. So you grew up in Beverly Hills right?
AP: Uh huh.
QM: And now you live in Echo Park?
AP: Uh huh.
QM: So do you—[he cut me off]
AP: No. Neither. Yes. Yes, both.
QM: Do you identify more with either side of the city? Or would you say you’re half and half a product of both?
AP: No. I’m a product of the city, the city of Beverly Hills. The city of…LA, Hollywood. And uh, do I pit one against the other? No. They do that all by themselves. It’s just more…basically the line is cut down the middle. On the East side, the further East you go the cheaper it gets basically, until you hit like Riverside.
QM: So I’ve spoken to musicians in LA who say you are one of if not the most important person in that scene, in the alt. rock scene or whatever you want to call it.
AP: Alt. rock. Alt!
QM: Is that appropriate?
AP: No you have to enunciate, it’s Quit Mumbling.
AP: Alt! Rock.
QM: Yeah yeah.
AP: No I have never heard that I’m the prince of the alt. rock either, that’s a new one. I’ve heard prince of the lo-fi, I’ve heard prince of the glow-fi. I’ve heard prince of the hauntological hauntology. Hypnogogic crap. Hipster garbage. I’ve heard every last insult you could possibly hurl at me.
QM: My question is whether you take any personal investment in lesser known acts who are trying to make more of a uniform scene in LA, as opposed to the scattered mess—[I don’t finish]
AP: I hate scenes. I hate scenes, any scene that says that I am a member of it, you can definitely count me out. Except for my own scene, which is me. I am permanently a member, and I am permanently welcome in my own scene, which is me. That’s it.
QM: That’s a good place to be in. This is kind of a corny one, but do you think rock and roll is the best means of saying what needs to be said?
AP: No! I think neuroscience and computers and all that kind of stuff paved the way for the future. Maybe English is a good language to speak. Umm, Chinese food.