Summer 1996 (or 1993?)
Permission Magazine issue four interview by Jayson Elliot P = Permission magazine E = Edward Ka-Spel
P: What did you bring back from the record store?
E: Let’s see…Syd Barrett bootleg, Miles Davis, and a much neglected but brilliant man named John Bender – a real genuis from Cincinatti, from the start of the 80’s. Wonderful, but nobody knows him – this cost me like, $2.99. He’s very personal electronic. Electronic but with soul.
P: It’s difficult to find a lot of interviews with you – why is that?
E: I think, generally, most bands are basically seeking interviews and publicity; whereas the Pink Dots are the diametric opposite of that. (laughs) We tend to try and avoid interviews!
P: Does it bother you to do them?
E: Well, you get misquoted a lot of the time. Um, yeah, I suppose we’re kind of proud of our underground heritage. You know, if someone comes to us and asks, then normally we’ll say yes – but we certainly won’t seek out interviews.
P: How interested are you in reinterpreting things for people, such as when someone asks what a certain song meant?
E: That’s the hardest question of all, becuase even my own interpretations of some songs change. I see things that I didn’t see at the moment I concieved them. I think it’s a normal way of things – I do like people to interpret the songs themselves as well, to fill in their own shades and colors.
P: How personal are you in your songwriting? You are known for your wonderful storytelling, but at the same time, it feels very personal.
E: It *is* very personal, whether it’s about myself, or whether it’s about people I know – there’s also a lot of personal fantasy that goes into it.
P: What about, for example, a song like “The Hill”?
E: The Hill was one I didn’t write. One of the few that I didn’t write – that’s Patrick, our violin player.
P: How many members of LPD also work with the Tear Garden?
E: Ryan and Martyn, and Phil.
P: We had a chance, a couple of issues back, to speak with Cevin Key about the Tear Garden- one of things I was asking about was tour plans for Tear Garden, and he explained how difficult it is, with all of the work you each do with your other bands. Where do you see the Tear Garden going as a band?
E: We saw Cevin just a few days ago when we were in Vancouver, and we hung out together as we always do. We are talking about trying to tour – I don’t know what will happen, but everybody is very, very anxious to tour the Tear Garden. This is a project we all love – but exactly when it will happen is really in the lap of the gods.
P: Do you think the Tear Garden will affect the Legendary Pink Dots at all?
E: It has already!
P: What if the Tear Garden were to get bigger than the Pink Dots?
E: If it gets larger than the Pink Dots? No, it won’t affect it – the Pink Dots goes on. I love both – I love the Tear Garden as a project, I don’t see it as ending, I just see it going on, and being every bit as enjoyable as it’s always been.
P: Lyrically, do you approach the two bands any differently?
E: No, no exactly the same.
P: On your solo work, how do you differentiate yourself from the Legendary Pink Dots?
E: Well, the Pink Dots is five personalities – five very different personalities.
P: So you don’t regard it (LPD) as your sole vision at all.
E: No, I think that the Pink Dots is a band, and should be seen as a band, If I dictated, sort of everything has to be done my way with the Pink Dots – and there is also that need inside me – then there would be no solo projects. But it would be much less of a band. I don’t like bands that are one guy and a bunch of session musicians. You see it through, you hear it. You know that everyone in the Pink Dots *cares*.
P: And the Tear Garden, will the lineup stay the same as it is now? Are you planning to make that the permanent cast?
E: Who can tell? I couldn’t say, really. I mean, it will always be myself and Cevin, sure, but outside of that, who knows?
P: You have a new single out now, right?
E: Sheila Liked the Rodeo, yes, it’s from the same sessions (as Last Man to Fly). It’s more than a single, really – it’s practically a new album – it’s something like 50 minutes long.
P: Can you tell a little bit about that song?
E: “Sheila Liked the Rodeo?” Well, in a way, that was a last minute song in that Cevin and Dwayne together had prepared the music completely, they played it to me on the last two days of the sessions – the sessions lasted a month – and said “could you write some lyrics, do some vocals on this?” I said I’d give it a try, and took the track home for the night, there in Vancouver. I just came back in and put the vocals on the next day. I didn’t hear it again until about a month ago – “so that’s what they did with it, huh? That’s great!”
P: Is that one of the ways you’ve stayed so prolific, writing on the spot like that? How many albums have you had out in the last 9 or 10 years?
E: I don’t know, I’ve lost count.
P: I know it’s just a huge number.
E: It is a lot, yes.
P: How do you manage to do quite so much?
E: I don’t really know. It feels quite normal, I don’t feel like I’m going at an incredible speed. It’s just like a natural thing, we like to play and to record. The only thing that actually stops us releasing more is that we tour so much.
P: This is the first time you’ve been here for a while, isn’t it?
E: Two years.
P: Didn’t you have some problems getting into the country before?
E: Well, in 1991, I think, they turned down our work permits. It was political. Wax Trax, who we were with at the time, weren’t members of the union, and there was this thing of trying to force Wax Trax into the union, and therefore the Pink Dots into an American union, which makes no sense. It all turned into a political fight, and we were the losers.
P: How different is the music industry between America and Holland?
E: I have very little connection with the industry at all. I don’t like the record industry. I find I get very allergic when record companies start talking about how many *units* they’ve shipped of this or that – I just don’t really care. People talk about promoting you there, blah blah blah – it’s boring. I want to make music, I don’t want to worry about shifting units.
P: So long as you still have the money to keep making music, yeah.
E: We just get by. It’s tough sometimes – this is a tougher year.
P: When was the last time you had a job?
E: Nine years ago. But the first year was very, very hard. It was like, starvation, eating every other day, things like that. But I wanted to be here, I won’t complain about it – it’s been a good experience for me.
P: Could you tell me a little more about the first year, and before that? When the Legendary Pink Dots was forming, and what you were doing before?
E: Well, the Pink Dots began as just like a little dream. There were three of us – there was myself, and Phil, and a girl called April. We went to the Stonehenge Free Festival, and it was like a very laid back, low-key affair. I recall that we saw a band whose name we didn’t know, at 3 o’clock in the morning, at the end of this field, and there was nobody else there, just the three of us watching. In a way that was the birth of the Pink Dots. We just had this sort of collective feeling, “We want to do this too!” So as soon as we got back from the festival I bought a really cheap synthesizer and primitve drum machine, April had an old piano, and we just started playing, sometimes fifteen hour sessions. It was quite obsessive!
P: What was the first thing you wrote?
E: A song called “voices.”
P: Did the name for the band come about right away?
E: No, it took a while. It was a random idea. It was becuase there were pink blotches on the piano keys. And these ‘legendary pink dots’ were talked about long before the band actually termed itself The Legendary Pink Dots. I don’t remember who said “that’s a nice name for a band.”
P: Before the three of you decided to form the band, had you done any music previous?
P: What had you been doing?
E: Just a variety of jobs, really. I *was* writing –
P: Do you still write outside of music?
E: Well, at times –
P: Anything that you would publish?
E: In time, maybe. There’s lots of ideas floating around, but I just don’t find the time. It’s mostly short stories and things like that.
“tonight i’m dressed in black i mourn the death of colour” -LPD