Legendary Pink Dots……Live in Enger 1998 and an (account of an) interview with Edward Ka-spel and the Silverman!
Interview by W.Kabsch
On the 6th of February in 1998 there was a concert of the Legendary Pink Dots in Enger (in the Forum). The Forum is a little club; inside it’s better than it looks like from outside. Admittance was 9 p.m. and there were around 100 people. We (my friend Thorsten and I) had the opportunity to talk with Edward Ka-Spel, the singer and keyboarder, before the show. After the show we also talked with the keyboarder and soundmonster (this word is a compliment!) Philip Knight aka The Silverman. Both were very friendly and patient. Unfortunately our small recorder didn’t work, so we can not write down it all word-by-word now, but we hope that doesn’t matter…
Before the show and after the dots finished eating we sat with Edward in a small and dark adjoining room. Ryan (aka Twilight Circus) was also there but sleeping… First we asked Edward how he came to the music. He told us that he always liked music, especially the German Krautrock-bands like Can or Faust. The Dots simply started making music without learning to play any instrument. None of them is a perfect instrumentalist, but that doesn’t matter. It is not necessary. Music is just a way for expressing their own moods and feelings. Edward compared making music with painting. The Dots try to paint acoustically, that’s why the different albums sound so different.
We came to the theme apocalypse, ’cause this seems to be an important topic for him. He doesn’t mean this whole thing in the sense of the bible. The world is always in a process of change, but this process is going faster and faster. He includes political changes like the dissolution of the USSR. This would confirm his conception of the apocalypse as not being “the end” but real changes in the human society. His apocalypse has nothing to do with the bible; he didn’t write it.
To come back to musical themes we asked him about the intention of re-releasing lots of old tape-releases. He told us that the main reason for “Stained Glass Soma Fountain”, “Under Triple Moons” or the upcoming “Chemical Playschool 3&4” is to keep this stuff safe. He likes these old songs, he thinks they are the best they’ve ever made and they shouldn’t get lost. But they try to re-release only the really good songs and they try to avoid double releases of the same song. With the CDs “Chemical Playschool 3&4” and “Basilisk” they’ll finish this topic. They plan to use the CD-Rs instead of tapes for some releases. After publishing the CD-Rs “Ancient daze”, “Live 85-88” and “Live 89” they will not burn other live shows or old tapes on CD-R, but new material. A five-day session is already recorded (it arose similar to the well known “Four days” where Philip and Edward needed four days for an hour of music for a friend, because of the great demand they decided later to release it official). There is also an experimental album by Edward waiting to be burned on CD-R.
Then we went to PIAS: Since The Dots moved from PIAS to Soleilmoon the purchase of CDs in Europe is difficult and expensive. Edward knows this problem and regrets it (and he mentioned that buying the CDs at the show is cheaper for the fans and better for the dots). But PIAS has offered them a “really good” contract which they unfortunately have signed. They got more money for the actual releases, but no more money for the back-catalogue. This quarrel lead to the change to Soleilmoon and PIAS stopped making any advertisement. The numbers of sold (old) records decreased and decreased, especially “Shadow weaver” and “Malachai”, which got a thick layer of dust while standing in the shelves. Also the audiences at the shows in Europe became smaller. With the change to Soleilmoon and the US-tours they can compensate this loss. That leads to the question if The Dots will move from Holland to the USA forever. Edward agreed that they think about it. He’d like to live there for personal reasons, the people in America are more open-minded. There’s the prejudice that Holland is the most tolerant country in Europe, maybe in the whole world. But that’s not true. Although Holland is proud of this image, it *is* just an image. Many people are offending and mobbing each other, even The Dots are suffering, especially Edward himself is very sensitive in this relation. In the 80s The Dots were kind of famous in Holland, “in the 80s they were good, but in the 90s – who cares”.
At most one show each year in Holland is worthwhile for them now, then they often play in Nijmegen. That’s another reason for living in the USA: There are 500 up to 1300 people at the shows, in Europe there are sometimes less than 100. Only in Poland and the Czechian Republic they can play in great halls. Another comparison between USA and Germany is the number of sold “Hallway of the Gods”. In the USA more than 5000 were sold, in Germany 360. They really think about not touring through Europe, ’cause they (each of them) get only 25-50 DM (that’s 15-30 US$) for a show. They get 1500 DM from the club and have to pay bed, catering, gas and a few coins is all what’s left. But they don’t want to disappoint us European fans.
We wanted to know something about the technical things and the relation between technic and acoustic music. The Dots are no guitar-rockband, they are no synthie-popband, but they are also nothing between this contrasts.
The relation between acoustic and electronic instruments (or between natural and artificial) is somewhere around fifty-fifty, but the majority depends on the mood. Phil told us that the album “From Here You’ll Watch the World Go By” (from 1995) is more guitar- oriented (that’s the influence of the former member Martijn) while “Hallway of the Gods” is more electronic. Phil also told us that he almost never uses the MIDI-technology. On stage he earlier felt like a bird in a cage, not able to improvise. He now uses MIDI only during the recording-sessions, on stage he does not. But that doesn’t mean you can hear no samples live 😉
We tried to find out something about the new album. Edward told us that it also will be a concept-album – with “also” he meant that “Hallway of the Gods” already was a concept-album, but with a very strange concept. Phil told us that it will be more up-tempo and quite different from “Hallway of the Gods”. It will be available in May or June (they’ll finish recording in March and then it has to be manufactured and delivered).
We spoke about and CZ and the net – Edward likes the possibility to communicate with people all over the world and he likes the fact, that people are talking to each other free of prejudice. He reads the discussions on CZ, but he rarely writes to the list, ’cause he doesn’t want to be impolite as being “Big Brother”. They dropped the plans to make an own homepage, cause nobody of them is familiar with that stuff and they would have to spend to much time for it.
At the end we came to Pink Floyd (we are both fans of Pink Floyd) and wanted to know his meaning about “The Wall”. He normally listens to the older albums, but he thinks this is a milestone of rockmusic. He likes the lyrics and the combination with the music. He also likes Radiohead and Spiritualized – their last album also is a milestone.
The whole conversation was in a cosy atmosphere and Edward invited us to speak with him in Hamburg again. That’s a typical and great thing with the Dots: They like and search the nearness to their fans. We will follow his invitation in Hamburg.
The show: At first Ryan aka Twilight Circus Dub Sound System entered the stage. If you know what dub is, you know what kind of music he played. His music is very percussive and full of strange electronic sounds. And he wore a shirt with his motto: FREAK. He is a positive mad guy, always smiling and running around between drums, bass and keyboards. During the last song he made a booming advertisement for his CDs. Twilight Circus is not comparable with The Dots but very FUNNY.
Twenty minutes later the complete dots entered the stage. They opened with “Spike” (from “Hallway of the Gods”). A good rhythmical beginning. Then they played “Just a Lifetime”. Niels was absolutely brilliant, he’s the optical highlight on stage (although he’s not worse acoustically). We payed special attention to his outfit: A coloured patchwork-pyjama and his typical red kind of cap. Third song was the 12-minute-piece “Andromeda Suite”. This is, contrary to the studio-version, a highlight in every show. After the first intense part they (all!) played a longer part of the quiet middle of the song before they blew the noisy clouds away with the powerful ending. “On High” was for calming down a little and to spare the ears. Then came “Love in a Plain Brown Envelope”, the oldest song they’ve played (from 1984), but this version was the best we ever saw with Edward singing more manic and mechanic than human, with Ryan driving the drums, with the guitarist (I don’t think that it was Atwyn or Martijn) strumming his solo and with Niels spitting out his lungs. “Destined to Repeat” and “Harvest Babies” were again songs from “Hallway of the Gods”, the first was the only real ballad in the set, but they celebrated it. Then came a version of “Saucers” (we’d like to call it “Version Apocalypse”:-). Most of it was improvised, after the thunderstormy sounds at the beginning they developed an intense version, not comparable with the two studio- versions. Then they played a strange new song with waltz-rhythms full of samples from older songs, we recognized “In Muenchen steht ein Hofbraeuhaus”, a popular Bavarian song. After this Ryan pulled his cap upon his face and they played “A Velvet Resurrection”, for two or three minutes, Ryan played drums without seeing what he hits. This version was also a very powerful one, but that wasn’t the top: The next song “Hellsville” was played in a furious version, never heard before. It was powerful, speedy and full of samples from older dots-songs, especially from “Window on the world”. We were frightnened The Dots would damage their instruments. Their last regular song was the classical live-thing “City of Needles”. The groovy rhythm was supported by Ryan’s drums and they all jammed like hell… Just before the PA exploded they jumped off the stage and left while a high squeaking loop came out of the speakers.
A new song (introduced as “Zoo”) was their first encore. It was an up-tempo song with dub influences, but like any other song we heard the bell and grabbed – oops: quite different from all other, but quite dottish. We are curious about their new album! The second and last encore was “Citadel”. Niels wore glasses with spots at the frame, went to us and blew everybody directly in the face. Edward also jumped off the stage and cried “Come to Daddy” to everybody who didn’t escape. But then this very powerful and rough show was over and we have to wait for Hamburg…