INTERVIEW WITH EDWARD KA-SPEL, MAY 25, 2000, AT WZBC NEWTON.
Jon Whitney: Hello, Edward, are you there?
Edward Ka-Spel: Yeah, I’m there.
JW: Oh, excellent. We finally got some juice here.
EKS: Oh, that’s good.
JW: This is Jon Whitney speaking with Edward Ka-Spel on the phone here at WZBC. Howare you doing tonight?
EKS: I’m . . . just getting ready to, um, thrill old London, Ontario, with our particular talents.
JW: So this is the second night of this tour . . .
EKS: Uh huh.
JW: How was the first night — how was your opening show?
EKS: Well, it was . . . It was hard, because it’s a new set that we’re playing and so there’s a lot of things to iron out. And we had quite a tense time in the days before it in that we arrived in Ontario but our equipment didn’t and, um, it finally turned up just a little while before the show. So it was an enormous relief for everybody, but I think the tension worked its way into all of us. So, yeah, we did it. The crowd liked it but, you know, we were quite critical of ourselves. You know, we usually know it can be a lot better.
JW: I heard a lot of positive things about your performance as well as Mark Spybey and Dead Voices on Air.
EKS: Oh, that’s excellent. Yeah, I thought Dead Voices were superb, actually.
JW: Yeah? How long has each of your sets been?
EKS: Well, um, the actual Pink Dots set tends to be around an hour at the moment – it may extend. But the encores are long, because we’ve resurrected the “9 Shades to the Circle,” and “Premonition 13,” yeah.
JW: Excellent. Yeah, the last time I saw you do those two was in 1995, on that tour.
EKS: Yeah, I mean, we missed it a lot. And then Martijn rejoined the band it was high time to bring it back. There are certain differences in the Pink Dots — to start, Martijn’s playing the violin here or there as well, so it’s — you know — he’s not the virtuoso that Patrick was, but he’s actually really very good. There’s a lot of odd little twists and turns this time, but we’re still working on live versions of the new songs from A Perfect Mystery.
JW: Yeah, how many tracks are you playing from the brand new album?
EKS: What was it . . . I think it’s 4 or 5, um, it’s 5 with a possibility of another 2 that we’re still busy with, but they’re in their very embryonic stage. So, potentially, you could play a lot, but, um, some things have to pass a certain quality area before we make some public.
JW: So how about A Perfect Mystery? What are we to expect from the brand new album?
EKS: Uh . . (chuckles) . . to be honest I think it’s the best album we’ve ever made. And I don’t say that lightly. You know, I really feel strange after 27 albums and making such a clichéd comment (mockingly), “and, yeah, but this one’s the best!” But, you know, I honestly believe it this time. I’ve listened to it quite relentlessly since we finished it, which is rare. You know, normally I have to stay away for a month– but this one, not — there’s a certain spring in its step. There’s a joy in this album.
JW: Right. Now is, uh, Raymond — was he working on this album?
EKS: No, Frank.
JW: Oh, Frank — Frank was producing this album again. OK. We have somebody else here in the studio who has a few questions — Danny? Say hi, Danny.
EKS: Hullo, Danny.
Daniel McKernan: Hello, Edward. Can you hear me?
EKS: Uh huh.
DM: OK, just making sure. Uh, yeah, I just wanted to ask you about some of your new techniques that you were using on this album — just, like, you’ve evolved a lot over the past 27 albums, and just what we should look forward to in the sound in this one?
EKS: Now, well, there’s a lot of live playing on this album. And a lot of processing– almost three-way processing. In terms of producing, a very live sound in the studio where musicians are playing together and simply committing it straight to tape. You know, you’d have Phil working on sounds that I was making or he was making, and then you’d have Ryan processing the totality of the sound and what you get is a lot of things that never, in fact, could be repeated. And maybe that’s why I like it so much: it feels very spontaneous. And, basically, that’s what it was. You know, I’d say at least 75-80% of the album has this spontaneous feeling about it. the band wrote it together — every song, fully, playing a big part in it. And what we have is, actually, I think, quite a different sort of album.
DM: How long did it take you to record it, overall?
EKS: Ummm, I think it was two months. It always takes longer than you think it’s going to take. But, umm, it was about two months.
DM: Did Mark Spybey work with you at all on this or was he just, uh, doing his own thing?
EKS: Oh, yeah, he was busy with his own music during this album. We wanted to, but it just never worked out. Our schedules, you know. In spirit, it would have been perfect, but it just couldn’t work out.
DM: Is he going to be doing anything with you, on stage, with the Pink Dots’ set?
EKS: Ummm, we’re talking about that. I don’t know that it’ll be as early as Boston because we’re still working things out ourselves at the moment. When, I think, the set becomes settled and we know exactly what we want to play, because it always changes over the early part of a tour. And there is an idea, indeed, to maybe bring Mark into it as well, you know, for a song or something like that because it would be just a bit of a perfect marriage I think.
JW: Now let me ask about another project. You have a new Tear Garden album coming out later this year? Now how was that, recording that again?
EKS: That was a very long distance recording, really, I mean — there was a lot of jetting back and forth from L.A. to Holland. When it was first finished . . . I wasn’t completely sure, but now, I’ve heard it more, and, actually, it’s a bit like Angel Blind. It took a while, but when it got there I actually think it’s a nice album, yeah.
JW: OK. And there are still rumors about that Tear Garden tour . . .
EKS: Yeah, it should happen. Yeah, November is the plan.
DM: Will that be throughout the US and other European dates?
EKS: There’s just a handful of European shows planned. The first two are actually about 90% there, in Yena (?), Germany, and Raymond(?), Germany. That’s at the beginning of September. And, yeah, the US months is for November. About November the 4th, onwards.
JW: We also have the brand new solo album from you, Red Letters, which has been getting some great reviews as well, too. How do you decide what songs become Edward Ka-Spel solo songs and what songs become Legendary Pink Dots?
EKS: Well, Red Letters was a bit of an exception to all the others in that it was recorded over a very short space of time. In the middle of last year — I was home alone and just plowed in to making a new album, beginning to end. Because normally I’m taking bits and pieces from everywhere over a space of a couple of years and some things wind up as Pink Dots songs and others solo pieces, and there isn’t really a . . . hard and fast way of deciding. It depends on how the rest of the band maybe reacts to a piece of mine. But all of these pieces were conceived as solo pieces and executed as solo pieces. And I think the whole thing took maybe three weeks to a month. And it’s a very very focused recording — and album I had to make, really. It very much summed up my feelings during that period.
JW: It’s a different album from a lot of your other things. A lot of new electronic things on there that I’d never heard you use before on your solo project.
EKS: Uh huh, yeah, there’s actually quite a lot of synths in now as well. And I’m busy on another solo album which goes quite far in an experimental direction.
JW: Is this that ultra-limited LP only thing that’s coming out later this year?
EKS: There is, um, elements of that in that album, but the actual focus is on a new CD– possibly even a double CD.
JW: Oh, wow. Well, I don’t want to keep you very much longer because I know you have sound check to do. I understand that you guys have a lot, a whole ton, of merchandise this time around. You’ve got a lot of CD’s and a lot of special things with you?
EKS: Yeah, if it all gets delivered in time, yeah. I mean, is A Perfect Mystery in the stores there yet, by any chance?
JW: I haven’t seen it, no.
EKS: It wasn’t in Toronto last night, and, well, we had forty of them (laughs). They all went.
JW: How about the Farewell, Milky Way?
EKS: That should be in Boston. That should be the first show where it’s available, if everything goes to plan. You can never quite tell, but if it goes to plan, that will be there.
DM: I heard that you weren’t doing very many old things from your albums. What’s the oldest that you go back on this tour?
EKS: Oh . . . .I think “Evolution” might be the oldest song that we’re playing this tour. Um, or “Disturbance” as well.
DM: Is it more because you’re doing more of the live thing now with all the five members?
EKS: There’s a lot of improvisation. We tend to call upon songs that can develop and change, uh, because that keeps it fresh and alive. To play a song like “The More It Changes,” which is a fine song in itself, but play it forty times, and really, you wind up going through the motions or something like that and that’s not really what it’s about. Just leave it to the CD and enjoy it for what it is there, you know.
JW: I like the way you sometimes revisit old things and make them new and make them modern in part of the new band. I really like that.
EKS: Yeah, me too. And we have been working on an arrangement of “Poppy Day,” with violin, which I don’t know if it will be ready for Boston. We’ve only tried it once. But it sounded very pleasing when we did it. And so, like, that’s something that’s waiting in the wings — there are a lot of songs that are waiting in the wings at the moment. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to pull them together in sound check. It was unfortunate last night since we were under such pressure that we didn’t really get that chance to, you know, stretch ourselves before the show itself, with the equipment turning up late. And the next few nights maybe we do . . . stuff that will happen in the sound checks.
DM: Also I heard that there’s a book coming out, Love and Loud Colors, that’s going to be a lot of your prose and poetry. Do you have a lot involved with that or are you mainly just handing things over? And are you writing new material for it or is it going to be alot of older . . . ?
EKS: Oh, well, Kirsten, who is making the book — we’re in touch a lot. But I very much leave it in her hands, how she presents it, because I’ve seen her work and it’s really very tasteful, and very good. And I just know it’s in good hands.
JW: So speaking of things in hands and stuff like that, I have a question about the –it might be a tender subject, if you don’t want to talk about it that’s OK — the old Play It Again Sam catalog. Is it coming out soon? Is it going to be released throughSoleilmoon or is there anything holding it back?
EKS: Oh, there’s nothing holding it back. The plan is to begin reissuing in the States after the tour. You know, because there is so much around at the moment — like the new album, and the Farewell, Milky Way album — and this takes a lot of preparation and a lot of work. And Charles at Soleilmoon likes to take time with each project. A lot of them just rush something out. Which, [taking time] I believe is the right way. Otherwise it becomes a bit of an overload. I mean, it’s also all coming out on SPV Poland as well with different covers, and hopefully Polish translations of the lyrics as well. But it all should become available, again. I mean, it needs to be because there are certain albums that are just completely unavailable now for some time. Like The Tower, and . . . .
JW: And Crushed Velvet Apocalypse, I know people are searching long and hard for that.
EKS: Yeah, The Golden Age as well — The Lovers — I mean, they’ve all disappeared. So it’s, yeah, they will come out again. I’m sure.
JW: So it’s been twenty years since you’ve started.
EKS: Almost, yeah.
JW: Yeah, I mean, what does that feel like — do you feel as fresh? I mean, it’s just an amazing thing to think about. Twenty years, I mean, that’s incredible.
EKS: Oh, it feels great. I mean, I still absolutely love it and enjoy it. And I’m still discovering things, and as long as I’m discovering things, that’s what counts, I think. If it was a case of everything intending to sound the same, or if I was repeating myself a little too much without — I mean, sometimes I repeat myself but it’s quite a deliberate ploy. But if I found that I was doing it accidentally, that would really be the time to ask questions. It feels good. The band feels very good at the moment. I’m enjoying this line-up.
JW: Right. Are there any more future plans for any more Edward Ka-Spel solo sets, or Silverman solo sets, or even Twilight Circus solo sets in the upcoming future?
EKS: Ummm, I’m leaving that a little bit to, uh, the moment, really. There’s a possibility in that last show on San Mon Island that there’ll be a Silverman set. Possibly an Edward and Silverman improvisation of special things. That’s something I’d like, but then it would be an improvisation. It wouldn’t be a solo set of solo songs. It would be, let’s see where this takes us — let’s set up and play and find out where we go because that’s actually the most glorious feeling of all.
JW: Alright, well it sounds like people are starting to play the drums behind you.
EKS: Oh, they’ve been doing it quite some time.
DM: What are some of your favorite cities to show up in? To do shows in?
EKS: Ooooo, ummm . . .
JW: Remember you’re on the radio with Boston right now.
EKS: (Laughing) Oh, Boston, absolutely, yeah . . .
DM: (Laughing) And I’m from New Orleans.
EKS: Oh, and New Orleans, yeah. Actually I do like New Orleans, wonderful. Actually I do; I am fond of that place. Umm, Austin. I always like playing in Austin. Umm, I think Denver, Seattle . . .
DM: Do you find that the crowd is a little bit different here than in Europe?
EKS: Yeah, well, you can’t really say Europe, really, because within Europe each country is so remarkably different from another. I mean, I love playing in a country like Poland, in Europe — it’s just, the thrill . . . The people are great.
JW: Yeah, you guys are pop stars in Poland.
EKS: Oh, we aren’t pop stars but we have a very dedicated following that seems to understand us very very well there. We just connect somehow with Poland.
JW: Do you think that any of your international success over the last few years has been in part due to all the people connecting on the various mailing lists and the news groups and the websites and all those things?
EKS: Absolutely. Beyond any measure of a doubt. You know, we’ve noticed our popularity go up in places like England. Quite markedly. And it’s not to do with any type of publicity in England, it’s to do with basically more and more people getting online there. In fact our London shows last year were the best shows of the year.
JW: That’s pretty strange because you haven’t played London in a long time. A very tough crowd.
EKS: They were marvelous. It was so emotional. We could have played forever in front of these people. It was just so . . uh . . I almost cried, especially at that first London show. It was like . . . coming home.
JW: Are there other places that have been traditionally very difficult to play that you’ve found to be absolutely amazing now or maybe were great before and just have sort of changed or something — any big changes in places?
EKS: Paris isn’t what it was. I mean, still a big crowd comes along but it’s just not what it was. Brussels is excellent. The odd little Dutch show that we played, which, I mean, even playing once or twice in Holland, I used to really dislike it because we’d have this rather bored audience that just wouldn’t even notice you. They’d just be talking about, uh, what they bought in the supermarket during the week. That’s changed now, to, actually, a very supportive audience. Uh, some places just always are great: Prague, that’s another city that — I don’t know, we mean something there. A lot of people turn out and they get so much behind it.
JW: Well it’s a great experience, I mean you’re very personal . . . .
[CLICK — Here’s where Edward’s calling card runs out.]
JW: I think we lost him. Did we loose him? OK, well it looks like we’ve lost contact. Umm, the phone is cut dead. His calling card probably ran out. We’ll see if we can get him back on, if not, well, then I guess that would be it for the interview.