The Legendary Pink Dots | An interview with Edward Ka-Spel
The Legendary Pink Dots are one of those bands that defies any coherent explanation; they are the purest in surreal psychedelia. Lyrically the comparisons to early Pink Floyd are apt, as Edward Ka-Spel travels a plane of existence perhaps only tread byUncle Syd himself. Together the pink man (Ka Spel), and the Silver Man (Phil Knight) compose music than mixes and transcends genres unlike anything you have or may ever hear.
So needless to say, I was in awe while at Death # Disco—before the sold out Berlin Pink Dots show, when I had sat down backstage with Mr. Ka-Spel to discuss the new record 10 to the Power of 9, and the many other releases and reissues being released an unbelievably kinetic pace…
Post-Punk: So with 10 to the Power of 9, as per your summation of the record, I have become stuck upon thinking about the oligarchies, and those who control the world lately…
Edward Ka-Spel: When you start thinking about it, there it is. Especially distortions in the media. I have access to the Western news, and the Russian news. My wife is Russian, so I see the picture quite fully; most of the aggression is coming from America.
Post-Punk: I agree somewhat. Although I am not the biggest supporter of Putin (I had a Russian girlfriend for 3 years, and we would argue back and forth about him), look at what we are now dealing with in the US. The country has elected those who want to go back to the 50’s, who want to go back to the Coldwar…they want to go back to that common enemy.
Edward Ka-Spel: I know…! It’s Orwellian…the enemy that is far away and the war that is far away but perpetual. Some people find comfort in that.
Post-Punk: I suppose the best way is to unite people through fear, and if you can do that, it is easy to placate them with all the toys they can be placated with. Unite people through the fear of Ebola or the fear of Arabs…
Edward Ka-Spel: They will find an enemy where ever they can find one. I am living in London at the moment, so I have to deal with the British…
Post-Punk: It’s amazing the resurgence of conservatism there as well. Seems like people want to go back to the Thatcher years.
Edward Ka-Spel: I think it’s actually worse. At least under Thatcher you kind of knew what she was all about. It’s very clear, disgusting, vulgar, and crude. But Cameron is a very weak man, who will say whatever it takes to get the vote, usually the bigot vote.
Post-Punk: The bigot vote is the big ticket! I think we live in the year of the bigot. Also a time where there is too much anger and taking offence towards everything
Edward Ka-Spel: Yes. I hate fundamentalism. Whether it be Christian Fundamentalism…Muslim Fundamentalism, it disgusts me. I feel like it’s base stupidity. It’s going back, It’s regressing.
Post-Punk: I think people focus too much on religion and not the culture, which is often confused for being one and the same with the Religion. I think Arab culture is very beautiful when it is separated from all the religious Dogma, This is the same with all cultures, and when you throw the Dogma on top of everything, you really miss the way people truly live.
Edward Ka-Spel: But there are people in influential positions, who like nothing more than to spew out Dogma, and whip up all that hate.
Post-Punk: We could probably do the whole interview talking about politics, dogma, and bigotry. However, this is just what I was getting from 10 to the Power of 9. Sometimes it can be difficult for me to trace a coherent narrative based upon the surreal nature of your work. And it’s a lot of work that has be put out there. You just released something on Halloween, and you have a new solo record… The Victoria Dimension
Edward Ka-Spel: The Victoria Dimension…
Post-Punk: But…wait…going back for a second to all the hate and political turmoil…do you think there is still “hope”?
Edward Ka-Spel: Sure. If you give up hope, you might as well…you know. You have to have hope. I also have a 5 year old daughter, I foresee a future for that little girl, which means I have to believe in the future. There are a lot of good people, good things, there is a lot of beauty in the world still. It may be a bit hard to see it sometimes, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not there.
Post-Punk: Maybe it’s our emotional states clouding our vision.
Edward Ka-Spel: Maybe it’s just a stage the world has to go through. People need to learn; you can’t lean on a man in the sky, or some sort of politician and ultimately you it comes down to yourself—you are the governor of your own soul. You can’t hide in any thing, or any body, or behind any Dogma. Ulimately it always comes down to yourself. believe the purest state is a kind of Anarchy.
Post-Punk: Yes. But it is amazing that those who live outside the imposed society, especially creative people—they find each other and build their own communities. It intrigues me that for someone who has had such a long career, you have fully embraced bandcamp and use it to reach out directly to your fans.
Edward Ka-Spel: I really love Bandcamp, I must admit it. With it you are able to present yourself as you really are. On a whim—I can create something over a couple o days and post it, fresh as a daisy, like the Halloween Special—a then take it down a few days later, because it’s not Halloween anymore.
Post-Punk: I love this limited edition culture, where the music is appreciated more, and a band puts something on sale, only sells a set number of copies, then It’s gone. “It’s at his house”, reminds me of a recent interview with Henry Rollins about the state of the music industry.
Edward Ka-Spel: Things like that are like “Let’s celebrate this moment” and the moment is gone, it can’t return—and it WILL NOT return. It’s free—so why not? But the actual back catalog, I want to try to get it all on there.
Post-Punk: I saw that Asylum has been reissued, I am really excited about that.
Edward Ka-Spel: That’s really beautiful—It’s wonderful how that was done. I was knocked out, I could not believe when I saw that CD.
Post-Punk: The first time I heard The Legendary Pink Dots, I was working at Tower Records on South Street in Philadelphia. One of my managers would often play Scott Walker (a few years afterTilt came out), Bowie’s Low, and Pink Dots records on the store sound system. As a gift he then made me a mix tape withCurse, The Tower, and Asylum on it—I’ve been a fan ever since! I get the sense that many people were introduced to Pink Dots in a similar fashion.
Edward Ka Spel: Word of mouth…
Post-Punk: I was looking at a journal entry that Amanda Palmer wrote on her website on how she became a fan of The Legendary Pink Dots through this older friend of hers…and now she is now this icon—and you were one of her biggest inspirations!
Edward Ka Spel: Yeah, I know Amanda well. We will possibly be recording soon. We were meant to earlier this year, but she couldn’t make it. She’s been very busy, new book and all, but I talk to her every couple of weeks.
Post-Punk: I don’t know Amanda well, but I do know Brian Viglione, we have hung out a few times back in New York when he moved there. He is a wonderful person.
So, what else do you have coming out down the line, anything else exciting?
Edward Ka Spel: There’s A Star Too Far with Randall, it’s called The Service. That’s due out in December. There’s The Maria Dimension Vinyl boxset, that’s almost there. Yes, for a small band the rules have changed in a way. Not many people buy anything anymore. That’s the sad reality of it. So you have to have the special editions, and sell a little bit here and a little bit there, and hopefully, at the end of the day, it’s enough to make ends meet. And it does, and I never expected to be able to to that, 35 years into the band. I’m grateful for that to be honest.
Post-Punk: I am trying to find a good analogy for this, but I suppose you just simply have had an intimate relationship with your fans…
Edward Ka Spel: I consider them friends, I never call them fans!
Post-Punk: And there you have it, and most people had to scramble to do now. Not take people for granted and really connect with them. You’ve never had to make that transition, especially with Bandcamp.
Edward Ka Spel: That’s the good side of the world, especially with the internet age—it’s indeed a global community. There are a lot of good people out there, and they are connecting. It might be through the “evil” Facebook, or something like that, but that’s the good side of it. I am not on there very often, but with the Bandcamp, that is very personal, and I take it very seriously and have a lot of pride in it.
Post-Punk: It’s really amazing what you are doing. Putting out so much new material, and reissuing so much of your body of work. One last thing before I let you go. Do you still keep in touch with cEvin Key? I think last Tear Garden record, “Have a Nice Trip” was a couple of years ago.
Edward Ka Spel: I think the last time we recorded something was in 2008. There needs to be something more. With cEvin, we were having lots of contact recently, when the whole Netwerk thing came up.
Post-Punk: Will we be hearing from Lisa again?
Edward Ka Spel: That’s just basically my alter ego, which will be appearing again I’m sure. I mean—these things always do…