A darkening endless horizon
Legendary Pink Dots frontman Edward Ka-Spel can’t stop, won’t stop
By BILL FORMAN
“Obsession is a demanding mistress,” says Legendary Pink Dots leader Edward Ka-Spel, when asked about his prolific recording career.
Fair enough, but still: According to brainwashed.com, Ka-Spel has put out no fewer than 145 albums — 88 of them with his band, 57 of them solo. How is that even possible?
“Hmmm … I admit I never counted,” says Ka-Spel, whose Anglo-Dutch band is deservedly adored in psych-rock, goth and experimental music circles. “I guess they must be including licensed albums in Poland and Russia and compilations, but even I’m a little staggered by these figures.”
Album No. 146 came out last week. Plutonium Blonde, released in America on the Roir label, has a typically expansive range, from the cinematic-sounding “Rainbows Too?” to the unsettling spoken word/electronics of “An Arm and a Leg,” with a few Syd Barrett-worthy stops along the way.
Ka-Spel says it’s hard to place the album in the context of his previous works.
“We took a year for this one,” he says. “Dotted every quaver. Painfully perfectionist. Each new album is an entity by itself. Still, it’s undoubtedly Pink Dots, and I consider it uplifting at what we’re being told is a dark time.”
Of course, this comes from a man whose band marked its 25th anniversary with Your Children Placate You From Premature Graves, an album Ka-Spel once described as being about immorality and mortality. “There is no end,” he said at the time, “just a darkening endless horizon … ”
A Brit who came to the Netherlands in the ’80s, songwriter-vocalist-keyboardist Ka-Spel formed the Dots with Phil Knight, aka the Silverman, on keyboards and electronics. Rounding out the group are Martijn De Kleer on guitar and Niels VanHoorn on (you guessed it) horns. The sound is at times daunting, but tempered by frequent shifts in dynamics, a sophisticated sense of melody and the strangely soothing effect of Ka-Spel’s vocals.
The group also has ties to the industrial music scene, Ka-Spel having recorded five albums with Skinny Puppy’s cEvin Key in a side project called the Tear Garden. (OK, that makes 151 albums.) They also recorded for the now-defunct Wax Trax label, home to Ministry, Revolting Cocks and other industrial-strength artists.
“No criticism intended, but I never listened to Ministry,” admits Ka-Spel, whose influences tend to go back a bit further. “I have a soft spot for a lot of prog-rock. King Crimson changed my life. Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator sound as great to me today as they did in my tender years.”
When Ka-Spel isn’t listening to the music of others, he can always tune in to the sounds inside his head: “There is always music playing: Awake, asleep, it never stops. Sometimes it’s thrilling, sometimes it irritates, always it’s …. there.”
Happily, Ka-Spel can express it. And while the Legendary Pink Dots may not offer something for everyone, they surely offer everything for someone.
“I liked the comment that there’s a market for the Pink Dots and it exists in a very remote corner of the island of Sardinia,” says Ka-Spel. “I really should go there one day.”