LPD Interview, 10/27/95, Cleveland Ohio
The following is a transcription of an interview I conducted with Edward Ka-Spel when the Dots played in Cleveland a few weeks ago.
The circumstances of the interview were rather a surprise — I had actually intended to interview a friend (not connected with the Dots) at the show, and had asked the bouncers if it was alright if I brought a tape recorder in. The query climbed its way up the chain of authority, and got mangled on the way to where it became a query to interview the Dots themselves. But Edward said Yes to it, so I suddenly had ten minutes to think up what to ask a band I’d been listening to for the last seven years or so!
In spite of my lack of any preparation, I think it went fairly well. I tried to shy away from “where does your band name come from” questions in favor of less surface oriented ones. Hopefully you’ll also be pleased with the results.
– Mark G., O.P. [Original Prankster]
LEGENDARY PINK DOTS INTERVIEW October 27, 1995 @ The Phantasy, Cleveland
ECC: This is really fairly surprising because I had really just asked one of the bouncers… well, I wanted to interview somebody else, a friend of mine here who I interviewed before but lost the tape and I was simply asking if I could bring the tape recorder in to interview him and they misunderstood and thought that I wanted to interview you — but I thought, well, why not? So… they let me. And here I am! So I hope you don’t mind the extra interview…
EKS: No, not at all.
ECC: Great. It’s really a great opportunity too, because I have been listening to your music for a long time and while I hadn’t expected to [interview you], it’s really a great pleasure to. I hope you don’t mind if this seems a bit off the top of my head, but that’s exactly what it is. The destination for this interview: I do a lot of writing on the Internet, and I don’t know if you get to use it much at all…
EKS: …we’re not on the Internet, not as a band. There’s the Cloud-Zero, but that’s run by someone in Montreal — er, Ottowa…
ECC: Would you happen to know who? Is that Greg Clow… [Sorry Alan; shoulda known better… Edward’s awe-striking aura, don’tcha know]
EKS: Greg’s very busy with it, but it’s Alan Ezust who set it up.
ECC: I guess I should probably ask you — both you and I will be appearing on a compilation he’s putting together, and he says you’re a bit delinquent in getting your submission to him! [You’re welcome, Greg. 🙂 ]
KS: Oh, yeah, well… that’s the deal with… the general turbulance in my life…
ECC: I’m sure he would’ve hammered me if I hadn’t asked you. Alright, let’s start a little ways back. I’ve got many things you’ve been involved with, both on CD, record, and tape. Things go way back, quite a ways back, even to a number of Staaltape releases on cassette, things like that. Did you start out as a tape trader? As one of the cassette culture?
EKS: I’ve never really looked at it as cassette culture, really. We made cassettes in the very early days because that’s all we could afford to do. I’ve always believed that it doesn’t really matter what the format is, that something appears… it’s all ultimately plastic. But it’s the music that’s on it… we released, a few years ago now, Four Days… but I’ve really nothing against it at all. Y’know, it’s… just down to what we have to say. How it comes out is irrelevent.
ECC: Has what you’ve had to say changed from those early days until now?
EKS: Probably — because we all change.
ECC: How have you changed?
EKS: Hopefully I’ve grown a bit. I couldn’t say from the inside.
ECC: Do you have a particular idea or concept that you think was best expressed through your music? One particular thing you’ve been best able to express?
EKS: Um…it changes. I always liked thinking that the most extreme thing you could ever do is to paint your own soul, in glorious detail, even if it embarasses you and makes you extremely vulnerable. I suppose there are always things people like to keep hidden. I don’t particularly wish to hide everything; I wish to try to reveal it… that’s in the lyrics.
ECC: The lyrics have always normally seemed to deal in more of an allegorical way of revealing yourself.
EKS: They have their twists and turns.
ECC: Do you use other ways to reveal yourself as an artist? Do you paint?
EKS: Naw, I can’t paint at all, really. I collage… and I write, and do a little written word.
ECC: Do you send those to other publications?
EKS: No, I usually just keep that all under the Pink Dots umbrella.
ECC: How have you kept that division between your solo work and the Pink Dots’ work?
EKS: Well, the Pink Dots is very much a band. It’s not me, and a few musicians surrounding me, it’s a band where everybody has a say and everybody speaks in a direction. It’s a dynamic moving collective, and I think that’s very good. I do have a need in me to do things very rigidly as well my way, and the only vehicle for that is a solo career running parallel with the Pink Dots. Shouldn’t get in the way of the Pink Dots, the Pink Dots is still more important I think. But it’s a basic need in me.
ECC: You said the Pink Dots were more important. In what ways are they more important than your solo stuff?
EKS: Well… It’s not such a one-dimensional view… there are other views coming in, and sometimes I think strength can be seen in numbers, numbers of ideas.
ECC: But you’re implying that your own work is one-dimensional?
EKS: I think so, yeah…! I mean, maybe that’s not the right term, but it’s very much a solo trip. I don’t expect everybody to connect with it, because it can be very self- indulgent. But I need to do it.
ECC: To express your inner self?
EKS: Sure. I need it.
ECC: Just so I can understand a little more: is the touring Pink Dots the same as the “at-home” Pink Dots?
ECC: What are the current members.
EKS: There’s Neils on the saxaphones, flutes, instruments; Phil, who was there from the beginning on keyboards; Martyn plays guitars, drums; and Ryan on bass guitar and drums as well. They switch bass… a bit of switching of instruments tends to go on these days in the Pink Dots’ life.
ECC: Have you had trouble translating your studio Pink Dots to the travelling Pink Dots?
EKS: I always feel a bit disappointed with the album after we play live for a while, because live it tends to really spread its wings.
ECC: You feel there’s more energy at a live show?
EKS: We tend to be very live, yeah. Used to be the other way ’round, but it’s very strong now.
ECC: Do you play at home very often, or do you usually just play on tour?
EKS: We play very rarely in Holland, in fact. It’s not our best country at all. Our best places tend to be… well, America goes well… but um, odd countries, like the Czech Republic, and Poland, and Russia… we do very well in these countries.
ECC: Why do you suppose that is?
EKS: Um… I don’t really know… I really don’t know! It just seems to strike a chord with people there.
ECC: Do you think what you do is very “European”?
EKS: I don’t think it can really be stamped with any particular nationality at all. I wouldn’t want it to be either.
ECC: You’ve had some difficulty, or at least I’ve heard stories that you have, in getting into the US to play.
EKS: That was only one year, actually. This is our fourth time.
ECC: When was the last time?
EKS: Two years ago.
ECC: I didn’t realize it was so recent.
EKS: Yeah, we didn’t play in Ohio at all.
ECC: I’m from Columbus, which is in the middle of Ohio, and just about any tour skips Columbus in favor of Cleveland or Cincinnati.
EKS: I think I played in Columbus once… with Skinny Puppy…
ECC: Yes, I was at that show actually — you opened solo for that. It was a fun show! Long time ago too… Well, let me just close by asking you what’s in future both for the Dots and for you as a solo artist.
EKS: Well, after we finish the tour we’ll start a new recording… yes… always hard to talk about the future…going to a few exotic countries next year… going to Mexico this tour… go to Russia for the first time next year… yeah, I mean, it’ll just keep winding it’s unique little path.
ECC: What do you see more as the psychology, spiritual, or expressional future of both projects?
EKS: Well… they simply go the way they go. I wouldn’t wish to give it back. Every album is made in the particular mood within the band, and it’s very truthful that it doesn’t pay any attention to outside influences at all; what may be fashionable or popular in the lands.
ECC: It continues on as a self-fulfilling system.
EKS: Absolutely. That’s the only way.
ECC: I have one last question. Why do you wear sunglasses all the time?
EKS: They’re not sunglasses.
ECC: What are they?
EKS: They’re real glasses!
ECC: They’re shaded.
KS: Um… I just like them that way!
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