The Sentimentalist- Edward Ka-Spel


The Sentimentalist, Volume IV Issue XV: Summer 2004

I met Pink Dots’ co-founder and vocalist Edward Ka-Spell at the Brew House Art Space in Pittsburgh on the fifth night of their thirty-city American tour. Clad in Indian drawstring pants, sandals and a pullover cotton shirt, Edward seemed not at all harried by the delays the band suffered in transit from Milwaukee, nor did he seem particularly interested in the spread of food and booze laid out on the table in the dressing room. Gracious, soft-spoken, in some ways shy and retiring but also warm and intense, he is very aligned to the persona we know from the albums: wry, wistful, vibrantly vulnerable, forever on the verge of tipping into otherworldly poetry. And the band’s show that night almost transcended words, so charged and layered, so emotionally evocative, so textured and rich. Hearing and seeing them play, you tend to expand until you feel you’re floating, even as your guts are caressed, then rearranged.

SENTIMENTALIST: The discographies one sees seem a bit sketchy. Can you tell us how many albums you’ve done? With the Dots? And solo? Or with side projects?

EDWARD: I can’t, really. I’ve never counted them.

SENTIMENTALIST: Is it something like 45 Legendary Dots albums now?

EDWARD: Who knows. I really don’t know. It’s in the double figures, but I can’t tell you how many.

SENTIMENTALIST: How do you find time to make so much music? Do you ever sleep?

EDWARD: Yeah, sure. But I mean, it’s what I do. It’s not like I’m really doing anything else. There’s going to be a lot of music made, if it’s what you live and breathe. If it’s how you occupy your time and you love it as well, you know, it’s not just a job or something. I mean, you do do it for the love of it. If I wanted to make money, I wouldn’t do this. Frankly, I’d do something else. But it keeps me alive, and for that I’m grateful. And I just can’t stop, there’s a thirst–I have to do this, I think I would just wither away and collapse if I didn’t do this.

SENTIMENTALIST: There’s a story floating around, very enigmatic, about a night at Stonehenge and the inception of the band.

EDWARD: It’s true. To be exact, I went to the Stonehenge Free Festival with Phil [Knight] and April [White], the other two original members of the Pink Dots. We were each staying in separate tents. And in the middle of the night, maybe three or four in the morning, we all got up simultaneously, which is very strange, and we could see there was music at the other end of the field. We walked indeed through the mist, and there was a band playing there. I have no idea what the band was. But this band was totally into what they were doing. It was magical. With a full light show going and everything. And we were the audience. Just the three of us. It was just one of these strange bonding moments. We never spoke to the band afterwards. they played and played as if they hardly noticed us. But we sure noticed them. And when they finished playing, we all went back and talked about it a little bit on the way back to the tents, and basically crashed out in our tents again. Within the week, the Legendary Pink Dots was formed. When i think back, it was one of those truly magical things. I’m not saying there would not have been a Legendary Pink Dots without it, but it certainly gave it the push that we needed.

SENTIMENTALIST: You made a comment somewhere about playing in London four years ago, that they embraced you at last; you said you thought you might cry. That it felt like ‘coming home.’

EDWARD: That was a bit like coming home. It was very, very special. I must admit, I am reminded of my origins very strongly if I play in London. The humor is the same. The level of communication with the audience is really very high indeed. I’m English. I’m a Londoner. I love the city, and I love going back. But I don’t really live there.

SENTIMENTALIST: One thinks of writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. They left America for Europe to see America better.

EDWARD: I can see why. With that sense of isolation, you can focus so totally into what you’re creating. Because you do not have the distractions, you do not have the small talk, that obligation to relate to everybody around you. So I do indeed have a very small circle of friends in the Netherlands, and those friends are either in the band or directly related in some way to the band. And it’s a very small world, but I’m kind of happy in that small world.

SENTIMENTALIST: Your new album The Whispering Wall is just out. Is there a “concept” attached to or involved in this one? Are there overarching themes or motifs, like we’ve seen in other albums you’ve done?

EDWARD: I cannot say The Whispering Wall is conceptual. It’s just an album of this time, recorded at this time. So it’s not conceptual beyond that fact. Although there is a second album as well, which is just as new, recorded parallel–that one’s a little more conceptual. It’s something that in some ways was worked on over the last two years and came to a conclusion right at this time. But what is sure is that both relate very much to the now, the world that we live in, a very strange, confused load of madness that we find ourselves under at this very moment.

SENTIMENTALIST: So we sing while we may, to paraphrase the Dots’ motto?

EDWARD: It’s all a part of it. Be glad you live now. Be glad you witnessed this. However sad the planet may seem, there’s never been a more dynamic, exciting time to live in. And I’m glad that I live now. Sing while you may. You don’t know how long you have, but at least clasp and cherish every moment.


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