“I try to not make deals with the devil. I am the devil!”
To borrow a line from David Bowie’s 1975 number one hit ‘Fame’,
‘Fame, it’s not your brain
It’s just the flame
That burns your change
To keep you insane’
The notion of ‘fame’ in the music industry is a highly contentious and widely-debated one. It evokes a question about what it means to have more fans, more money, more ego, more spotlight, and fame is the very first word that comes to my mind when Ariel Pink is concerned.
It’s a theme that seems somewhat up for debate in the mind of this unconventional genius. Just under a year has passed since he released his last album, ‘Dedicated to Bobby Jameson’, the title of which refers to a Californian musician tipped for stardom in the 1960s. While Jameson garnered a cult following, he retreated away from the music industry on the back of a series of unfortunate struggles, only to resurface online 40 years later with an autobiographical blog telling the story of his rendezvous with fame. The blog grabbed the attention of Ariel Pink and he felt that naming the album after someone else, one Bobby Jameson, would divert attention in the other direction.
‘Dedicated to Bobby Jameson’ carries the clear-cut essence of Pink’s reverb-heavy dream-pop. His unique brand of bedroom psychedelia is a harmonious concoction of folk, punk, kraut-rock and funk. The semi-concept album has at least a touch of David Bowie’s magical theatre in there too, with a hint of John Lennon. Interestingly, Lennon happened to collaborate with Bowie on the creation of ‘Fame’.
The record received widespread acclaim from critics and fans, so I ask Ariel what sort of effect he feels it’s had on his career.
“At least it’s being appreciated,” he tells me. “And new fans are getting turned on hopefully. I don’t see my lifestyle or career changing all that much ever really.”
In recent months, two fellow musicians have independently claimed Pink would have been as big as Bowie in another era.
Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon released a song in April called ‘The Mark Kozelek Museum’, the lyrics read”
‘Ariel Pink ain’t your run-of-the-mill indie rock
If it was 1975
He’d be a household name
And we’d be neck-and-neck
He’d be David Bowie famous
And I’d be Neil Young famous
Selling out arenas
But that ain’t the case here
“It’s kind of flattering,” Pink replies to my mention of the song. “I don’t agree with that sentiment, but hey, to each his own. Anything that draws attention to me in that way makes me kind of squeamish to be honest.”
The Strokes’ frontman Julian Casablancas made a similar remark just a month previous in an interview with Vulture. He said that Ariel Pink is analogous to Bowie and that “in another era, he would’ve been much more popular”.
He continued to confess that he strives to build a world in which “Ariel Pink is as popular as Ed Sheeran”. All this talk of bygone times had me thinking. What if Pink had the choice to exist as an artist back then? Would he step into the hypothetical time machine?
“I wouldn’t choose to perform if I had the choice. Take me back to the 90s please.”
The endorsements from Kozelek and Casablancas reminded me of a tweet Pink posted in May. It simply read, ‘wish i was more famous’. Did he though?
“I was being facetious. Of course, I don’t want to be more famous. I’m too famous as it is!”
Another brief reply. Was he being short with me or merely concise? It was beginning to become clear that the journalistic rumours about Pink were somewhat true. Artistic merit aside, he’s not always an easy man to interview. He once told The Guardian that one of his tactics is ‘to never stop talking once he starts, so the interviewer cannot ask any questions’.
Not a tactic being used in our conversation evidently.