KJN & Edward Ka-Spel | Boyd Memorial Park, San Rafael, 2 August 1991
EDWARD KA-SPEL: Did you like the show last night?
KIRSTEN JANENE-NELSON: Oh yeah, oh definitely — I’ve never seen you before, so I was pretty … overwhelmed, in a sense, because I feel I know the music relatively well, and I’m interested in literature, so the lyrics and the poetry is what I really focus on — But the whole — it was so big; I mean, not the place, but — the whole stage is this big, bursting cloud —
EK: Yeah …
KJN: — and it needs to get out, but it’s better confined — it makes it stronger when it’s confined. It was pretty amazing — I was very impressed.
KJN: I’ve heard at least three answers to how you chose the name Legendary Pink Dots, and I was wondering if you make up a story each time or if there is one real answer.
EK: There is one real answer, I was just becoming really annoyed about giving the same answer over and over again, so we made up some really ridiculous things like diseases and spots growing on Phil’s face in the shape of King Arthur. [laughs] It was basically this old piano we had in the squat where we began — it just had blotches of pink nail varnish on the keys. I mean, the piano came from about 1908 or something, and we were curious about why were they there — because if you press them all together it’s just a very odd discord — a very pleasing one. And we wondered if those blotches of pink nail varnish went back to 1908, so they quickly became known as “those legendary pink dots.” And because we had such a boring name right at the beginning [laughs] — we were called One Day for about a month, so that name tended to creep into our consciousness.
KJN: That’s one of the versions I heard, actually.
EK: That is the true one.
KJN: One person said it was a philosophy of the history of time, or something, and someone else said it was a type of acid.
EK: Apparently it was a type of acid — but I didn’t personally know about this until the band had been in existence for two-and-a-half years … when somebody came up and said: “Have you got any?!” Any what? “Legendary pink dots.” Huh? And then he explained. [laughs] A really peculiar coincidence.
KJN: You said you were called One Day before — were you in any groups before the Legendary Pink Dots?
EK: No, that was the first, really.
KJN: How did you get the whole thing started?
EK: Just three friends. Went to a free festival together — we watched a band improvising at the end of a field at one o’clock in the morning, and we were the audience. And they had a full light show and they were just totally into what they were doing — and that was the moment when we decided: Why aren’t we doing that? It doesn’t matter if there’s three people who get into you — it’s just such fun to do. And we were looking no further than maybe three fans in the world, [laughs] at that point.
KJN: Had you had any musical training before that?
EK: No — no, none at all.
KJN: So you just decided to start it and then learned it along the way?
EK: Yeah, just someone showed me what an “A” was on the keyboard, and we took it from there. I’m not a very good keyboard player — the art is in the composition rather than in the playing. Niels is a fine musician, I think, on the saxophones, and Martijn is a good guitar player. Me and Phil, yeah, we’re … quite philistines when it comes to actual technique. [laughing]
KJN: You’ve written so much — did you realize that you had such creativity before you started? Did you do other things?
EK: I wrote lyrics for a long time. I’d usually just put them away in a cupboard or a drawer. Seemed a shame, but at a certain point you wonder who’s actually interested.
KJN: So then did you go back and use a lot of those lyrics?
EK: Yeah, some things. Only at the start. [pause] Would you like a cigarette?
KJN: No, thank you.
I’m interested in the fact that you are released on several different labels — that’s not something I’m aware of most other bands doing. Why and how do you work that?
EK: With extreme difficulty, really. I mean, we’re really signed to Play It Again Sam [PIAS] — in Belgium. It’s a good label; they treat us very fairly. But we’re also very much an underground band in principle and spirit — and everything like that — which means that if somebody came up to us and said, “Hey guys, I really want to make a single which is an edition of 300 copies, with day-glo covers and [laughs] flowers growing out of it — Would you be interested?” And we would say, Yeah! Great idea! [laughs] Because we can’t resist things like that — and so we do quite a few of these things. [laughs] But it is only the band that is signed to PIAS; as a solo artist I remain completely free — that was the deal I had with PIAS. Because I need the solo career as well — it’s the one thing where I can have complete control over everything — there’s just a side of me that needs that — and with the Pink Dots I like it to be everybody, a pool of ideas — I need that too. And the solo thing was never tied up by a record company — only for two years — and that was like a prison.
KJN: What is D’archangel?
EK: That was a name that seemed to be riddled with bad luck. [laughs] It was what I called myself for a while, when I worked with someone else. There were a few shows under that name, all of which were complete disasters — so I thought: “No more D’archangel — it’s cursed, that name.” So I just went back to plain old Edward Ka-Spel from then on.
KJN: I would say that you have different approaches in writing Pink Dot songs versus solo work. Do you agree?
EK: Yeah, there is a difference, I think, in the solo albums — especially when you take something like Khataclimici China Doll — the solo albums are gradually winding their way further and further out — and the next one [Tanith and the Lion Tree] goes even further out. They’re always pushing barriers, the solo albums. Pink Dots do push barriers, but usually they move at a slightly slower rate. Some solo albums I think can completely alienate some people. Take “Der Khataclimici,” for instance — I know people to this day who just cannot stand that track. [laughs] It’s one of those things where it was an experiment I remain proud of.
KJN: About the fact that you are so prolific, that you’ve written so much — basically, How do you do it?
EK: You see, I don’t think we’re that prolific, really. I mean, if you’re really committed to something, if you really believe in it passionately and you enjoy doing it so much — maybe forty or fifty songs a year is not so many.
KJN: Do you have an idea of how many songs you’ve written?
EK: No clue, I don’t keep count — I’ve never been any good at filing systems. [laughs]
Note: By the year 2000, when the band had been in existence for twenty years, Edward’s lyric total for the Pink Dots, The Tear Garden, and solo albums exceeded 500 songs.
KJN: Do you write all the time?
EK: Yeah. Yeah, I’m always busy with ideas.
KJN: So is it on a daily basis — you get an idea and write it down — or do you go through periods of time —
EK: Lyrics come in bursts. Sometimes I will not write a lyric for a month or two, and then on one day I will write maybe four sets of lyrics — and that will carry on, it will gain a momentum over a few days, and suddenly I’m finding that I’ve got a deluge of lyrics there. Music comes … yeah, pretty constantly. I’m always dreaming a track —
KJN: How do you keep track of everything — I mean, do you just get an idea and then run and write it down or record it?
EK: Yeah, there are probably as many lost ideas as there are [laughing] recorded ideas.
KJN: Do you think maybe the lost ones come around again or are they lost forever?
EK: Sometimes they’re lost forever. I have a horrible habit of writing lyrics down on the back of envelopes — and then I lose the envelopes. [laughs and sighs]
KJN: You’ve released albums as well as older cassette releases. How many cassette recordings do you have?
EK: Cassette releases there’s been masses of — pretty much as many as albums. [About thirteen at the time of this interview.] And they’re completely just cassette releases — which are like albums in themselves — with different material from the albums.
KJN: So how can fans keep up with all that?
EK: With extreme difficulty, I think.
Note: The Pink Dots have to date rereleased selections from their cassette releases on CD, including: Basilisk, Stained Glass Soma Fountains, and Under Triple Moons.
KJN: Is the catalogue in the Legendary Pink Box complete?
EK: No, very much abridged.
KJN: Is it possible to obtain a complete one?
EK: Yeah — friends of ours, actually, helped us out — because they said, “Well, you’re never going to do it, so we’re going to do it for you; we’re going to make up a Discography Booklet” — I mean it is literally a sixteen-page booklet — and they printed it up and they kept it up to date — and we just give it away in the mail. [pause] Yeah, it was great for us — I mean there were things in there that I’d forgotten about. [laughs] I don’t have our complete discography — I mean I don’t have a complete set of Pink Dots tapes, for instance, back home, ’cause some are lost — and some compilations the guys never even sent a copy … that’s really bad.
Note: a current discography is available at legendarypinkdots.org
KJN: How many compilations are you on?
EK: I don’t know.
KJN: Somebody was joking that it seemed you were on every one you could find.
EK: In the early days there was some truth to that — now it’s very rare.
KJN: Is that just an approach to get your music spread as far as possible?
EK: Not really — it’s that somebody will come up with an idea for a compilation and I thought: Oh, this is a nice idea, and we just do something for it. But we were burned too many times on the compilations. You get an opportunist who wanted to put out a compilation and get the Pink Dots track on it so it would sell reasonably well and then not send you a copy. We only ever asked for maybe six copies of the record, just as payment for it. And they couldn’t even come up with one. And so now we’ve got to know that person really well before we do it.
KJN: So you’re saying that the songs on compilations are created for each compilation itself?
EK: Usually, yeah — that’s how we prefer to do it. Sometimes … PIAS released a compilation called Generate, and they just simply took a truncated version of “Blacklist” without telling us — we didn’t like that so much — and Nettwerk did the same with a Tear Garden track, “Ophelia.” I mean, I much prefer to give something that is for that compilation, and not just something that’s lifted from a record — that’s band policy. I mean, with the 12″ EPs that we’ve released — we never wanted them to come off the album. So they’re always separate, with three different tracks that were not on the album. They’re only combined on the CD version. So when people buy a 12″ and suddenly they find that the three tracks on the 12″ are on the album that they bought — I mean, that’s not fair.
Note: Many tracks that previously appeared on compilations have been rereleased on various Chemical Playschool CDs.
KJN: Tell me about the Chemical Playschool cassettes.
EK: Well the first one, One & Two, that was recorded after we were in existence a year, and it was meant to document that first year of existence. We made 25 copies — they all went to America with a distributor called Eurock, who really helped us in the early days. And, um, then we accidentally jammed over the [laughing] master tape, and it was lost for about six or seven years — even we didn’t have a copy. Then someone tracked one down — and sent us a copy of it — so we were able to rerelease it and it was like: Aaahh! Finally we can hear it again! [laughs]
Three & Four was a real … yeah, it was an extremely ambitious and altruistic thing — in that we would make 83 copies of Chemical Playschool Three & Four, this three-hour-long extravaganza — which were each hand-equalized as well as run off — every copy was listened to and equalized — and each with handmade covers. And we’d sell them for £5 each, which was literally the price it cost to make them. What we forgot about was the postage — and so [laughing] for every tape we sold we lost a pound on. And people were saying, “Aagh, you bastards … Why 83 copies? Aagh, it’s terrible! Aagh, no …” So we took it up to 120, still losing a pound [laughing] each time we made one — and then we thought: We’ve got to stop it! [laughing] We’re losing a fortune on this! We never thought of increasing the price … And ultimately we rereleased it and made it a price where we actually made a little bit from it rather than lost every time. [pause] It still goes — it’s like an old war horse. The best cassette release was Chemical Playschool Three & Four.
KJN: How often do you listen to your old things?
EK: Not so much — it comes in bursts. Usually when we’re about to record something, it’s nice to refer back to what you’ve done. I mean, there’s certain albums I’m very, very proud of in Pink Dots — Curse I’m very proud of — and The Tower — and Asylum. Any Day Now. And the last two [Crushed Velvet Apocalypse and The Maria Dimension]. But there’s some I have trouble with as well — Island of Jewels I find a very disjointed album. Take any track individually I think it’s okay — but taken as a whole, I think it’s a bit of a mess … You learn it in retrospect — and I believe you should always learned from your mistakes as well.
KJN: Where are you from, originally?
EK: East London — Dagenham. We were a completely English band until 1988 when four people left the band — and then we converted to half-English, half-Dutch. I mean, it was because we were living in Holland that the four people left the band, I think, really. They missed England — they were sick of wondering where the next meal would come from, which I suppose I understand, in a way.
KJN: Why did you move?
EK: A lot of reasons, really. I had a Dutch girlfriend at the time. We were ignored in England — greatly. Holland was the first country to actually embrace the band. It was an adventure, and it was the make-or-break: I want to live off of creating — I don’t want to support the band just through doing a normal job — which I always had trouble with and rarely lasted very long in any one job. And that was the test — I move; there’s no way I can get a job in Amsterdam, because I can’t speak the language — so it forced me to step over a hurdle.
KJN: Are you funded by the country?
EK: No, not at all. There’s a lot of bad blood over there — they don’t even accept us as a Dutch band. They won’t give us any support whatsoever.
KJN: So why is it that you stay … I mean, you can survive on the band?
EK: We survive on the band, now, yeah. For the last two or three years.
KJN: Only just that?
EK: Yeah. I mean, before that we were surviving, but [laughing] it was another kind of survival. We were going without food and things like that to make it work. It was quite a scary time. But gradually you always saw it improving, that was the thing, and that always gave you the hope to just push on.
KJN: What’s the music scene like in Amsterdam?
EK: A wasteland. An absolute wasteland. It’s better in the town that I live in now — which is a small town called Nijmegen. And there’s a little Nijmegen underground scene, which is nice. I mean, for a town of 100,000 people there must be 200 or 300 bands — it’s crazy. But most of them are just rock bands. But it’s okay there — I like it — I’ve made some good friends there.
KJN: How long have you lived there?
EK: Nijmegen — 1988 — there two-and-a-half years … Yeah, I was in Amsterdam before that, solidly, but then they knocked down the house we were living in. It was a squatted house — no rights. [laughs]
KJN: How would you say your music’s evolved?
EK: It’s difficult to say because the intentions behind it have always been exactly the same — which is just the intention to explore, and explore in an emotional way rather than in a clinical way. [pause] I think we’ve simply become better players — we can command … yeah, we can pin down the actual playing side far better than in, say, 1980. That way it’s evolved, because I think greater technique does offer greater freedom. But, spiritually, I’d say we’re exactly the same as on the first day.
KJN: How would you say your lyrics have evolved?
EK: Again, it’s really hard to say. Maybe … I’m better at expressing myself. I was a very, extremely shy and lonely person who had terrible trouble expressing himself at all before the Pink Dots. And the Pink Dots has forced me and taught me to relate to people.
KJN: I heard an interview from 1987 in New York where you said, regarding the stream-of-consciousness approach to your writing, that you just wrote what you thought and left it at that — didn’t go back and change it —
EK: Yeah, basically that’s still the same. Sometimes I’ll cross out a word here or there or swap it with something else — but the lines remain in their place. And sometimes I may take a wrong alleyway, and I’m going down this alleyway and I’m realizing actually this is an alleyway that’s going nowhere. [laughs] And so then I’ll just take a different alleyway … But it will always be stream-of-consciousness.
KJN: Concerning the self-confessional side to your lyrics, do you ever regret having exposed certain parts of yourself?
EK: Sometimes … well, I mean The Lovers was a bit like that in that it was a relationship that simply didn’t work out — and I’d virtually declared it to the whole world. And I’ve lived to regret that here and there … I mean, I was in love for the first time in my life — and I’d told everybody — and some people won’t forgive you for that, if it goes wrong. Some people judge you. And I think it’s unfair to judge, ’cause I’m only human. It’s as if everybody else can change their partners like hell — but I can’t, because I’ve done that. To some people … And there are many reasons why things did go wrong.
KJN: I was thinking of “Obsession,” songs like that — I mean, I myself have written some things where later I regretted that anybody else read it. So I think that’s wonderful — to be able to say what one is thinking and just get it out without worrying so much about what other people think —
EK: Yeah, you have to get it out, I agree. It does the soul the power of good.
KJN: What is it like performing things? From the show last night I would say you kept your most personal ones out. Do you perform the more personal songs?
EK: Well sometimes, yeah … I mean, “Even Now” we were performing regularly — which is absolutely raping the soul, a song like that. And “Love Puppets” we performed for two, three years. But I don’t ever want a song to become tired — we tend to change things around quite a lot. I mean, tonight we will play certainly a different kind of set from last night — ’cause it’s fun to change things around.
KJN: You didn’t play a few that I was hoping to hear.
EK: What were you hoping to hear?
KJN: Well, definitely “Just a Lifetime.”
EK: Well, no, we overplayed it last year — we did it for two years in a row.
KJN: Except you didn’t come here …
EK: Yeah … you see, you miss all the Europe tours.
KJN: And “I Love You in Your Tragic Beauty” I really, really wanted to hear.
EK: That’s hard, because — I don’t know if you heard about our tragedy this year. Bob, our guitar player, died — who played the acoustic guitar, who played the sitar — he died of cancer in March 1991. And, it was … yeah, it’s a long story. We were on the road as it happened — we were in a position where we had to tour — and Martijn stepped in the band a weEK before we went on tour, with Bob giving us lots of advice: “Look, this is the situation, this is how I am. Don’t tell Martijn what he has to do, don’t tell him he has to play like me,” which made it even more heartbreaking … So we toured Europe under a terrible cloud. Now Bob’s wife is with us, she’s managing the group now. ’Cause it was his biggest wish to go to America. And the first time when we came, his visa alone was denied. The second year, all our visas were denied. And the third year he didn’t make it. So we’re playing a lot for him.
KJN: That’s ironic, given the song itself — “tragic beauty.”
KJN: If you had to describe your music, what would you say?
EK: Yeah, I’ve never liked to do that, actually.
KJN: What if someone asked who had never heard your music and had no idea —
EK: Well, I usually say: Imagine the most emotional and psychedelic music you’ve ever heard — sort of how you wanted psychedelia maybe to sound like, but never quite did.
KJN: Hmm … yeah, I see it as colorful — kind of shining colorful — like your album covers. By the way, who designs your album covers?
EK: Oh, this guy from Brussels. He was the house artist for PIAS, but he really connected very well with us — I like his work — and he likes the music. It’s a good combination, I think.
KJN: It’s wonderful to be able to create a visual representation of a sound — to actually capture that.
EK: Yeah, I think he’s very talented.
KJN: Do you do other forms of art?
EK: Me, no no. Two left hands as far as painting is concerned — I wish I could, but I really can’t.
KJN: Have you ever tried?
EK: Oh, my girlfriend’s always nagging me about that — she says, “You can do it if you want to,” but I know I can’t.
KJN: Not even photography, or video, or —
EK: Collâge — I like making collâges. I did a couple of the cassette covers off the Chemical Playschools and things like that, but I would not say that I’m good at it — I just have a lot of fun doing it.
KJN: Where would you say you’re hoping to take your music in the upcoming years?
EK: Hmm … I’ve no idea …
KJN: It just sort of happens?
EK: It just sort of happens … As long as the hairs on my spine keep tingling, then I’m happy. If they cease to tingle at some time, then I’ll stop.
KJN: In terms of predicting trends, where do you think the state of music will go in the future?
EK: It seems to have diversified greatly recently — I mean you’ve got the new psychedelic bands, which aren’t really psychedelic at all — and you’ve got your heavy, rhythmic dance bands — I must say they all tend to sound the same. [laughs] There’s a few exceptions, I think — I mean, there are other bands that I think are wonderful, have kept their credibility — like Coil, and, I must say, Skinny Puppy — I don’t class them in that sort of big-beat thing because there’s pain in that music. It’s real emotions going on, it’s not an image that’s being put up front. There will always be bands that will retain their own character — there always have been. It’s just that some of them tend to get shoved under the carpet, as the bigger record companies try and formulize everything — but they never ever succeed and that’s the great hope.
At this point in the interview two little girls who had been in the playground nearby passed us on the steps we perched on, uttering “Excuse me,” and “Run, Sheila! Cover up your tracks!”
KJN: You mentioned “psychedelic” as a description of your music. What influence do drugs have on the band?
EK: Actually, very, very little when it comes down to it. I went through a period when I wanted to try everything once — but by “everything” I exclude the hard drugs — I never wanted to touch those. Basically I had to sample everything, really — some things I liked, some things I didn’t. But I do not indulge in drugs very much at all — not for the last three years. I’d just break down if I did that — my body can’t take it.
KJN: That’s interesting, because in terms of the way you create and the types of creations you’ve made — it seems to me that it would take a very intense mindset, which I would think most people are not capable of. So that says a lot if, without the help of drugs, your creations can be so intense.
EK: No, I certainly can’t write lyrics or make music under the influence of drugs at all.
KJN: Do you think it influences you in terms of when you do turn to write?
EK: The experiences I had — I mean, I’ve only ever taken acid twice in my life, contrary to rumors. The first time was a really interesting time, the result of which was “You and Me and Rainbows” with The Tear Garden — a piece I stand behind so much. But I never had the feeling like: I have to taste it again, straight away. It was always: That was a curious experience — maybe I’ll try it again, experience it again, in maybe a year. That’s as far as it goes. It’s not something I need, really. I suppose the things I saw and the things I felt played a part in some creations — but certainly not generally.
KJN: How did The Tear Garden get started?
EK: Cevin was a Dots fan. Before Skinny Puppy actually existed he sent me a letter with a photograph of all the Pink Dots cassettes and records that he had. From the letter I thought: This is a nice guy, we’ll get in touch with each other. And I was invited to Vancouver for four solo shows — by then Skinny Puppy was existing, about the time of Bites — and we met, we immediately got on, and it seemed logical that we should go into the studio together. And doing that made us want to do it more, because it really worked in an excellent way. And we’ve just remained really good friends, for years — and we’re doing another one now, when the tour finishes. Both of us are totally looking forward to it.
KJN: So there will be future releases?
EK: Yeah, I think the next one [The Last Man to Fly] will come out in December, as we record it in August … oh, it is August … we start recording it in a weEK! [laughs]
KJN: I understand you have connections with Death in June and Current 93.
EK: Death in June I don’t know so well. But Current 93, yeah. David Tibet’s an old friend … a dear old friend.
KJN: Have you done projects together?
EK: Actually, no. Steve Stapleton I’ve worked with — he’s one of my oldest friends … he’s Nurse With Wound. But each of those three bands is actually very different, even if they share members sometimes.
KJN: What about the MIMIR project?
EK: That’s another thing that I’d love to continue because again it’s a thing of friendship. It’s logical that we should make something with HNAS because we’ve liked each other’s music for a long time — and we visit each other all the time. He doesn’t live so far away, Christoph — HNAS — and we often get together.
KJN: What are some of your influences in terms of musical or literary or artistic in any way?
EK: Literary I’d say none — I actually very rarely read because I’m so busy working all the time. Musically I think a lot has tended to maybe creep in there — because I use to love the old German bands, first of all — that’s the first music I listened to, like Faust and Can. Because they always just went so far — and … yeah, you don’t need drugs when you listen to some of that, [laughing] because you’re floating off there, a big smile on your face. I mean, as far as their being influences, I just wish that the Pink Dots had the same effect on others as those bands have on me.
KJN: Well, I think your effect is a strongly positive one — sometimes mesmerizing, I would say — I mean, personally. So, I think you’re succeeding …
KJN: Do you sense that you influence others?
EK: Here and there, yeah.
KJN: Do you hear yourself in others’ music?
EK: Oh, quite a lot has cropped up — often in a lot of new bands, a lot of contemporary bands — I’ve noticed things here and there. I’m quite complimented by it … Though, I heard one band that got an extreme amount of praise heaped on them and grew far bigger than the Pink Dots quite suddenly, and I could have sworn that they’d been listening to The Tower, endlessly. And that’s a bit shocking when that happens — when you’re being ignored and another band that seems to have lifted whole reams of ideas from you is being elevated. But, I mean, that’s not the band’s fault, really, that’s the media’s fault.
KJN: Plus, I would say your approach is much more about musical integrity — I see you as closer to your audience than a lot of bands, who get separated from their fans by the nature of the music business.
EK: Absolutely. We don’t seEK out the media.
KJN: In your writing I’ve noticed various moods — from strikingly intense to serenely calm. Do you go through different stages on a regular basis or do you go through longer periods of time when you feel softer about things or more painful about things?
EK: It tends to go up and down like a yo-yo. [laughs]
KJN: On a daily basis?
EK: Maybe not on a daily basis — but I have periods like that where it seems to be on a daily basis … Yeah, I tend to be a happier person than I was years ago — a calmer person.
KJN: What would you attribute to that?
EK: The Dots itself — I’m very pleased with it. My home life is nicely settled now — I’ve got a lovely girlfriend [Elke Skelter] of several years who comes with me on the tours and … it feels good. Yeah, things like that — they’re pieces in your life that you need. There are still the down periods as well, of course, but then everybody has those.
KJN: I have a difficult-to-phrase question regarding different intentions I’ve noticed in your songwriting. In your lyrics I see all-encompassing themes as well as more specific or personal expressions. And within the music there is a contrast as well, of more electronic and modern musical styles on one hand and more classical instruments and styles on the other. So ultimately you end up with diverse approaches joining together in a combination of extremes. Is this intentional? Do you see yourself as trying to encompass everything?
EK: We try and encompass everything — yes, that’s for sure. But the music itself is actually very unpremeditated. It’s just what feels good, or what you hear at the time before you record it.
KJN: It’s interesting that you say that, because even though I think in a lot of ways you do encompass a great deal, I wouldn’t necessarily think it was intentional —
EK: The world isn’t black and white. There are so many shades in between. And I’m not a person who ever wants to force his opinion on people. I’m allergic to people preaching to me or throwing slogans at me. I mean, yeah … some of these slogans might be absolutely correct — I mean, things like racism, for example. It is shit — absolutely, 100 percent. But you know that — you don’t need someone hurling at you, “Racism is shit!” You know? What does that achieve? It’s better to color it in, to almost empathize with the alien mentality — and then twist it. Because I think you make more of a point that way — and you might get the guys who think in these … foul ways … to actually think about themselves.
KJN: I know exactly what you mean — I’ve experienced that recently regarding feminism —
EK: Yeah, that’s what “The Death of Jack the Ripper” is all about. That was written against a wave of … in the industrial bands I was noticing so much horrible sexism — the most violent and awful descriptions of abuse of women. And I thought: Right, I hate this, but I’m going to have fun with it. The women are going to get their own back in this song.
KJN: That’s so great. Thank you …
Concerning the use of subject form in your lyrics — I was wondering about how you sometimes use the personal pronouns “we” or “you” and “I” — I guess “You and Me and Rainbows” would be an example — versus “they” or “he,” as in a story about someone else. Is there a pattern for which one you use, or is that just how it comes out?
EK: That’s just how it comes out.
KJN: Are there some stories about a “he” where it’s really more personal, where it should be an “I” but you’ve projected onto someone else instead?
EK: Sometimes, yeah. “Lisa” is me, for instance. It’s a kind of alter-ego — a side of me that is very, well, kind of destructive, kind of innocent, and gets into the most ludicrous situations. But I changed the sex to protect the guilty.
KJN: I was thinking of the imagination in a lot of the lyrics — and the fantasies and stories. One friend told me they all seem to be little stories that never really seem to resolve themselves —
EK: Yeah, because that’s how things usually are —
KJN: But some of them kind of do — “Princess Coldheart” seems to. And some of them are so like children’s stories — even “The Collector” I think of as a children’s story, really. I guess the music contributes to that, being so colorful, so playful.
At this point we realized Edward needed to get back to the club for soundcheck, so we continued talking while walking to the car.
KJN: What about your dreams, or your nightmares? I noticed there are recurrent themes in your lyrics and I wondered if you have recurrent dreams.
EK: I have recurrent dreams, yeah. I have some very heavy dreams sometimes, even last night — that was the night when the bomb went off, last night in a dream, and it was horrible. Happily that doesn’t happen too often. Sometimes I have fantastic dreams — like sitting on a window ledge with nothing but a void beneath you, watching twin moons, and planets whizzing around them, and you’re aware that This Is Significant and you don’t know how and you’re a little bit scared and a little bit thrilled — but you don’t know why.
KJN: I’ve noticed you have a constant theme of isolation — specifically, I’d say, in “Hotel Blanc.” What’s behind that song?
EK: It’s very much a side of me — it’s very, very personal. This was how I certainly was maybe all the time before the Pink Dots began and it’s how I still am occasionally because you never quite lose it. It lives with you, it follows you around … You’ll notice how many songs I write about parties and how I hate them. [laughs] I still feel that way — I can’t help it.
KJN: Tell me what you like about dolphins —
EK: Dolphins? I think they’re some of the most beautiful creatures … to exist. I mean, that was about: What does it take to be perfect — what is the most perfect thing that you can think of. And it was between the dolphin and the tree, [laughs] ’cause I like trees too.
KJN: In a previous interview you said statues —
EK: Statues? Yeah, but there’s irony in statues. You see statues are humanmade creations — they’re the human beings that could never be. I don’t really think statues are perfect, partly because they are humanmade.
KJN: — because I read that you previously said statues are perfect and beautiful and can do no wrong —
EK: Yeah, they’re innocent, as well —
KJN: One last question in closing — What do you mean by “sing while you may?”
EK: “Sing while you may” is basically my optimism in action. This is a very special time for the planet. We’re witnessing things speed up incredibly, rapidly. I mean, it can be that we are literally on the verge of the end of the world as we know it — I doubt that, if I’m honest. What I do know is this is an extremely exciting and sometimes scary period of time to live in, and I say enjoy it — cherish it — be glad you live now — sing while you may. It may not be for very long, but then again it may be for ages. [laughs]