For nearly three decades the Netherlands-based Legendary Pink Dots have thrived in the weird and wonderful outer reaches of psychedelic rock, weaving a dense, and often times esoteric catalogue of ethereal and experimental musings. The band, under the direction of enigmatic frontman Edward Ka-Spel, has cranked out scores of albums that wander through formless, textured atmospheres, psychedelic folk and industrial-leaning pop songs that sway from sinister to serene. Their performance at The Earl on Sat., Nov. 1st is billed as “an evening with the Legendary Pink Dots,” which will span the group’s dark, rich legacy, leading up to their latest CD, Plutonium Blonde (ROIR).
Despite the group’s far-out leanings, Ka-Spel has consistently held the reins as the mystical and prolific frontman who doesn’t fit the profile of the Songwriter with a capital “S.” But his place is stamped in history as an artist who pushed the boundaries of the craft to develop a voice and style that are distinctively his own.
The Legendary Pink Dots were born in London circa 1979 if I’m not mistaken. That’s a time and place that’s lauded as an era when punk and new wave / power pop came to a head, giving us great songwriters like Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe et. al. What was your relationship to those scenes?
Actually it was August 1980. To be honest it was a fertile time in London but I cannot say we had much connection with Elvis Costello or Nick Lowe etc. They’re fine songwriters for sure, but we tended to listen to Joy Division, This Heat and Throbbing Gristle at that time. The latter of which really showed me that you didn’t have to be a virtuoso musician in order to make vital music. That’s encouraging when you are just starting out.
How do you separate your solo work from the LPD’s?
LPDs’ dynamic is very very much to do with the ideas and concepts of Phil (The Silverman) too, and how we collaborate after all of these years. The beauty is that the music continues to bound forward like an excited kitten. I think there’s a big difference between the Dots and my solo records, especially the recent releases. Dream Logik 1 and 2 follow a very peculiar path which really could only be taken by an individual.
Do you prefer vinyl over CDs, and do you pay attention to the overall presentation of the music with the intention of giving your listeners something more that they can’t just go download?
I grew up with vinyl and still there is this nagging feeling that it isn’t real until it’s etched on black plastic. I confess, I DO prefer this medium.
The press release for Plutonium Blonde says it’s your “most commercially appealing album to date…” I disagree. “Rainbow Too” is a classic LPD number that could have been plucked right off of Crushed Velvet Apocalypse or The Maria Dimension. And the opening number, “Torchsong” really gets the blood pumping. Was it your intention to put together something with a little more commercial potential?
Certainly not. I haven’t read the press release as I stay away from that kind of thing, but we simply set out to take lots of time to make an album that we find deeply satisfying. No corners cut… A roller-coaster ride. I’m proud of it but I have no definition for the word “commercial.” If it is commercially appealing it’s an accident.
What is this “Zonee” that you sing about in the song “My First Zonee?”
A zobile zhone…
Your songs often address topical things but you aren’t obvious about the subject matter. There’s a lot to them in terms of personal and political narratives, but the ideas are obscured. Is this an intentional part of the songwriting process for you?
Sure. I’m no dictator or preacher. I let people fill in the spaces for themselves, and I will always leave those spaces. We seem to be living at a time when too many people are keen to tell us what to think, what to believe in, whom to fear (ah there’s a key word…). I remain fearless in this respect. I hope some of it rubs off on those who listen.
by Chad Radford
October 29, 2008 – 11:16 AM