Ariel Pink is a fucking mess. A beautiful one, but a mess all the same. That’s part of his appeal. Over the course of his 12-year career, Pink’s peculiarity and eccentric inclinations have always demanded centre stage. This, as you can imagine, means he’s an absolute head fuck to interview. He contradicts himself at every corner, he uses metaphors that make no sense, he goes off on pointless tangents and he laughs with a dry cackle when detailing his own mortality. “It’s not illegal to be an asshole,” he told Pitchfork in September. True. Even if it was, you doubt that Pink would adhere to the rule. He doesn’t want to be interviewed, but he’s contractually obliged to promote his album. He’s trying to catch me off-guard. It’s working.
“I didn’t have to deal with the public, the press, stuff like that, it was nice,” he laughs when reflecting on the earlier stages of 2014. “I spent most of it recording and playing music. They’re all very pleasant memories. I was off in my own world. It felt normal.” The result of this time spent recording is pom pom, Pink’s latest opus, following 2012’s Mature Themes. While it may be Pink’s first full studio album released under his own solo moniker without his band The Haunted Graffiti, the record is his most collaborative to date, featuring joint ventures with the likes of the legendary Kim Fowley, Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce and LA punks The Germs.
“I recorded the album over about nine months with various players and in various locations over various times,” he details. “It was always very casual and in non-committal circumstances. The cast became so large. I made sure that I worked with impunity so that I could play with as many people that I wanted. I wanted it to be like I was landing a ship somewhere and I was the leader. Call me the biggest slut on the planet. It was very natural for me to be in this frame of mind, to be so promiscuous with my talent.”
Clocking in at a behemoth 17 tracks over 68 minutes, pom pom is a melting pot of obscurity. Ranging from beat-driven pop (Put Your Number In My Phone, Dayzed Inn Daydreams), dirty punk (Goth Bomb, Negativ Ed) and gobbledegook surf (Nude Beach A Go-Go – a collaboration with Azealia Banks), the record is the perfect embodiment of Pink’s mantra of eclecticism.
“I really wanted to go out with a bang and utilise the resources at my disposal,” he notes, referring to the fact that pom pom concludes his current three-album contract he holds with revered independent English label 4AD. “I felt like they were squandered on the last record.
“The record label would have liked the album to be as short as it could be so that they could maximise profits from as few tracks as possible,” he laughs. “That’s why albums generally only have about ten songs, five songs a side. iTunes won’t pay for any extra tracks beyond that. For the label, the last seven tracks on the record is akin to their money being spent on nothing. That’s fine with me. I’m glad they’re throwing their money into a rabbit hole like me. I’m happy for them to spend their money on something that’s as useless and arbitrary as my music.”
If there’s one thing that his label is happy about though, it’s the fact that Pink has spent the majority of the year in the limelight, for better or worse. He made a claim that Madonna requested to work with him as her career had been on “a downward slide” since 1983 (a claim which her management refuted as she has “no interest in working with mermaids”), he’s also voiced his adoration of the loathsome Westboro Baptist Church and he’s compared the online backlash towards his own misogynistic comments to the 1994 Rwandan genocide – himself in the role of Tutsi. He’s the biggest troll in the music industry. He’s trolling us. We hope he is.
“I’ve also been generating a bit of press over myself, the record label is very happy about that,” he laughs. “They own the record. It’s not like I’m doing any of this for myself.
“It’s a really strange thing that some people, some long-time fans, might be believing that I’m pandering to the industry. That I’ve sold out, or that I’m trying to do things differently to how I’ve done them before, or that I’m trying to seek a larger audience. All of that stuff might be true. I’m doing things how they come most naturally to me and that’s more the point.”
Next month will see Pink return to Australian shores for the first time since 2012. “It’s certainly not going to be a circus show, or anything like a set with high-production budgets or an extravaganza like that,” he notes. “It’s gonna be some people playing some music, hopefully with some good lights, I don’t know. The people who are playing on the record are by and large going to be accompanying me on the tour. If you’re coming, expecting psychedelic visuals, like snakes coming out of our guitars, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you close your eyes I’m certain that you’ll be able to enjoy the record in a whole new way.”
Janurary 24 — Sugar Mountain Festival, Melbourne, VIC
January 25 — The Brightside, Brisbane, QLD
January 27 — Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney, NSW
January 29 — The Bakery, Perth, WA