Glass speaks to Ariel Pink about his new album Dedicated to Bobby Jameson

ARIEL Marcus Rosenberg is better known for his stage name Ariel Pink. Characterised by his avant-garde style and lo-fi psychedelic pop, he belongs to a niche scene in music that shares both values and fans. Growing up in LA, Pink gained a comprehensive knowledge and obsession with music working in a record shop. Since then he’s gone on to produce 11 albums and a handful of collaborations. Glass spoke to him about his new album Dedicated to Bobby Jameson to find out more about the record and learn about the protagonist who features in the album title.

Ariel PinkAriel Pink

Who is Bobby Jameson and how did you find out about him?
My friend Giddle Partridge tipped me off about him and pointed me in the direction of this Youtube videos with him on his webcam, and he was addressing the viewer and complaining, and it’s quite recent footage of him, so he’s just going off in a very upset fashion and he’s disturbed and something is really bothering him and I couldn’t help but relate to it a little bit. Then I went to his blog to find out more about him because I couldn’t believe he’d escaped my radar all this time, and his story has all the makings of a great season on some Netflix show. His story is jammed packed with so many great little colourful subplots that caught my attention.

What’s his blog like?
It’s like an unpublished autobiography. It’s weird because he’s not a writer, but he’s just telling you and pulling you by the collar saying, “Listen, what the fuck happened to me? You guys don’t give a fuck about anything that happened to me. Let me explain to you one more time in clear detail so there’s no misconceptions about what happened”. His attention to detail is impressive and he seems to remember stuff that happened 40 years ago in perfect detail like it was yesterday.

Is it a strange concept that people might only find out about him because of you?
The thing that I love about it is if anyone already knows anything about him, like if there’s a Wikipedia entry on him, it’s all from his mouth. In the end he got to tell his story, and his versions of the events have become the only source and fact on it. I can’t change that.

That’s rare, because lot of interesting musicians have had their stories told for them.
Exactly, so that’s total redemption. I know that I won’t have that sort of luxury because there’ll be some sort of consensus about the version of events that happen with me if there’s anything to write about. He’s like the anti Sugarman. Bobby seems saner to me than Sugarman, not that Sugarman seems crazy but the weird thing about Bobby Jameson is, the person he’s describing in the 1960s is 20 years of him being a crackhead – the kind of guy that talks to themselves on the streets and thinks rock and roll stardom is around the corner for him which damaged him.

Why do you think his story has never had much exposure before?
People thought he was dead for 30 years before he resurfaced online. No one saw him on the sidewalk or on the street. He just gave up the dream to become a hells angel and live in a trailer park and went off grid. He only went online to get his story across and then shuffle off again.

When exactly did you find out about him?
June last year. I missed him by a year. I seem to be the grim reaper for all these old guys that are about to kick the bucket.

Who else?
There’s Kim Fowley on the last record. His record with me was the last thing he was involved with. Literally, those songs were wrote on his deathbed with a colostomy bag hanging by his side. I’m kind of like the angel of death in a way. I get the feeling that I’m there at the bingo sweepstakes award ceremony for lifetime achievement awards for discarded rock and rollers of times past. There’s a lot of references to mortality and religion in the record with tracks like Time to Meet Your God, Feels Like Heaven, Time to Live and Death Patrol.

You also mentioned that you relate a lot to Bobby himself. From whose perspective are you singing from?
I have a fascination with death to an unflattering degree. I mean in my first record The Doldrums, the cover is me shirtless in a graveyard just hanging out.

Isn’t that verging on glamorising death?
I don’t glamourise it but I like how off putting certain things are and it’s also very trite and juvenile. It seems to be a recurring thread in pop music and in rock music and in all music. It’s the mystery that seems to be part of everyone’s career and some point when they finally ask intimate questions, but that’s not this. This is a kind of fun loving good time record.

It’s strange you say that because the first track is really industrial and dark compared to the others. Did you have a plan set out when making this?
No, no, no. I don’t know how to make a concept record, but you put them in a certain order and put a title on it and a drawing and all of a sudden you can fill in the blanks and make the associations yourself. I don’t even end up doing that much work. You start off with somebody dying and you can see their live in reverse or something.

How very Romeo and Juliet!
Yes, foreshadowing.

Is there a link between the religious references and Bobby? Was he a religious man?
That’s coming from me. I was thinking about what people don’t want to hear about in the morning from a rock and roll record, and what would be off putting and I came to the conclusion that it was a song about God. Everybody’s eyes glaze over when they fucking hear about God. They don’t know how to take it. I’m basically prodding them and almost daring them to not listen to the record. I’m trying to turn them off like “think about God!”

Do you think that will actually turn people away?
They don’t like thinking about God. It’s one of those things. Especially atheists, they don’t want to think about it.

I’m sure atheists have thought about God quite a lot.
It’s in the Judaic sense and the Muslim sense. It’s just like time to meet your God, time to meet the lord thy God, time to get with God, time to face the firing squad, time to meet the wrath of God, time to meet the face of God, time to get with God, then there’s a bit that goes Allahu Akbar.

Is that actually a lyric?

Ariel PinkAriel Pink

As long as you’re not offending anybody.
That’s the point. It’s a big deal, and if you aren’t thinking about it then you should get with yourself. It’s not as simple as just not believing it. If life is what you make it, y’know. That kind of thing just comes out naturally. Call me the devil’s advocate ironically. I’m kind of like the turd in the punchbowl. There’s always a perverse angle of mine. It’s a way of not really disclosing too much. I’m always trying to keep the topic off of me.

You made the record yourself in your room. Was that tricky after having worked in a studio for the last few records?
No, I should have done it a lot sooner. I don’t even know why I left in the first place, but in that  time I’ve learned a lot and it’s definitely not what it used to be in my room, and it wasn’t just me. I had two engineers coming over every day, but it was in my house so there was no punching clock or no sense of “oh we gotta make the most of this time”, I could be more around the clock with it, and I didn’t have to adhere to anybody else’s schedule or wait for someone to open the door.

Tell me about the music video for Another Weekend.
That’s Chalino Sanchez. He’s another fallen guy.  If you know him, his lyrics are basically about guns, girls, drugs and weapons and it’s like a gangster cartel thing. He was like a big, big star in that community and he’d ran away from the USA and Mexico after killing the town bully as revenge for raping his older sister when he was 10 years old so, he murdered the guy, comes to California, got a job like selling oranges or whatever and starts making this music. He’s the only musician that I know that has a story like this.

So … he was on stage in Coachella and a drunk audience member takes out a gun and shoots him. Now, Chalino gets shot, doesn’t die, but happens to have a gun on him and shoots the guy back and kills the guy who shot him, and then he has to go into hiding and then he was found somewhere in route 66. I mean, this is in the 90s. So if you don’t have an ID and you’re a non entity then you’re invisible. Even if you’re not a criminal, you’re forced to live the life of a criminal. You could be whoever you want to be.

You have a history of visual arts experience. Did you have any creative input in the video?
Oh yeah. This is kind of a sore spot but, I wanted it to be a direct reference to one of Chalino’s videos. I wanted everything the same to the point where you swap us out of the suit. It’s close enough that people who know get it but it sort of got botched up. I wanted the video grain to look like it was a third generation video copy of the Chalino video, with the same colours and the same outfit but instead it turned out to be a little bit different, but that’s what happens when you work with directors.

Who sings on Kitchen Witch?
Her name is Charles and she’s a musician and director. She’s my girlfriend. I love her voice. She also sings on Heaven.

You were called Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti but now you’re just called Ariel Pink. Why is that?
The more I explain it the less simple it gets and there’s no clearing it up. It’s a lot like Bobby Jameson actually because his name was never consistent throughout all the releases so people didn’t see him as being responsible for the whole thing. So, it’s the same thing with me – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti was a solo project that I had and that was never the band. It was a band but Michael Jackson had a band and no one asked whether he was going to have the band or not. I made the mistake a long time ago of responding to Ariel Pink enquiries.

I should have said “no”, because they thought that I was Ariel Pink. I’m not Ariel Pink, I’m not a character so I just told my booking agent “we can’t have this happen”. Then when we started touring I got a band and people were used to seeing me as Ariel Pink so then they were like, “Oh so now Ariel Pink is with the Haunted Graffiti now”. The Haunted Graffiti doesn’t exist. It’s my solo project. I didn’t intend to spend every tour cycle having to explain this.  

by Katrina Mirpuri

The album is available now via Mexican Summer.

Watch the video for Another Weekend below.

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Glass Music Editor

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