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THE LEGENDARY PINK DOTS – Interview with Edward Ka-Spel at Sonic, Lyon,21/04/2011 (english version)

par Dariev Stands › mardi 7 juin 2011

On Thursday, 21rst of April, the Legendary Pink Dots played a gig in Lyon, on the Sonic barge. You couldn’t escape that gig if you were visiting our website : the flyer was on the homepage for over a month. The band was on a small but welcome french tour, supported by the promising [bleu]. For those of you that couldn’t make it (it seems the gig was sold-out, or very nearly), here’s an interview of Edward Ka-Spel, singer, storyteller and frontman of the band since their beginnings now more than 30 years ago. An interview that I tried to shape as different, knowing Ka-Spel’s reluctance to deliver the secrets of his chiaroscuro poetry. That’s why I opted for a “music buff” theme, since the singer regularly displays his long-lasting passion for all kinds of weird and challenging music, from Gabriel-era Genesis to Spiritualized, going through italians prog-rockers PFM (which we also love here). Take a look at his “beautiful things that came our way” section on the band’s mailorder website (terminalkaleidoscope.com), a section that turns out to be a real shedding of light on totally unknown albums gleaned through years of gifts given by record sellers or fans. Just for the sake of not departing from custom (and because I may be one of those fans myself, who knows), I thus gave 3 cd’s to the band. But first of all, let’s talk about the concert...

The Dots, on that night, played what may be called by some a “difficult” gig, considering the amount of epic and enchanting songs in their repertoire. This set was focused on their last album (the mysterious Seconds late for the Brighton Line) and their ambient facet, sometimes even reaching soundscapes bordering on noise music. The result was all the more efficient in a physical way : since the surprising departure of Niels Van Hoorn and Marijn de Kleer, Edward and Phil have total freedom of action to make machines roar, with a increasingly deep and granular sound. Hauptbahnhof 20:10 annouces a series of very ambient and aerial pieces, but the concert takes a psychoactive turn from Torchsong on. The opener from 2007 album Plutonium Blonde, combined with the sweltering heat of the venue, capsizes our brain cells as we enter a sort of tropical trance. That’s when the five immortal notes of New Tomorrow are delivered... I turn my head on the side to see the crowd reaction to this old favorite ; a young blonde lady, sitting on the top a bench on the side, stares at Ka-Spel during the whole song with eyes so sad that she seems a refugee from some holocaust... As if she shared with him an unwavering link, some painful memory that he alone would be able to expel. Great moment.

Let’s have a look at the setlist before the interview itself : The Unlikely Event / Rainbows Too? / God and Machines / Russian Roulette / Hauptbahnhof 20:10 / Cubic Caesar / Soft Toy / Choke / Someday ? / Torchsong / New Tomorrow / Rappel: 2 songs from Seconds late that I don’t remember

Ka-Spel immediately recognizes me, even if we just exchanged 2 mails a couple of months ago. As soon as a musical discussion starts, his enthusiasm is significant : this man is an incurable music lover ! This interview is full of surprises, inevitably too short and done while the support band was doing the soundcheck...

King Crimson - The great deceiver

Were you a music fan and/or record collector before being in the band ?

Yeah that’s how the friendship with phil began, we used to get together listening to records because had a fairly uncommon taste in music. At that time, we tenmpted to look for like minds, it was very hard to find people who liked that.

I’d began record collecting for a few years before the Pink Dots

So before the late 70’s...

Oh yeah, since the early 70’s I collected records...

What kind of music surrounded you as a teenager, in the 70’s, and did you change your tastes when the band was formed (since it coincides with a particularly fast-changing time in english music, punk rock, then industrial music, new wave, factory records, and so on...)

My taste certainly never really changed, it broadened, it took in more things... I mean, the music I grew with as a teenager was definately the german bands, like Ash Ra Tempel... Pink Floyd was very important, David Bowie was hugely important... All these people played a really big part in what I eventually did; but when punk rock came along, at first I wasn’t so crazy about it, I liked the image and the energy, but I wasn’t so crazy about the music, but that developed into something with the other bands like Wire, Joy Division and This Heat, I loved that. And that was really broadenedt it for me. And what I actually really wanted to do was form a band for myself.

I’ve read that you loved Neu, Can, Faust and the krautrock bands... Did you stay away from more “popular” rock music in the 70’s, such as english prog-rock, or glam for example ?

I, personnaly, hear some glam influences in early Pink Dots music... Not only Berlin-period Bowie, (il me coupe “Bowie for sure!”) but also his earlier glam stuff, and T-Rex too, Roxy Music...

Yeah Roxy Music for sure, I love Bowie & Roxy Music, absolutely. The First two Roxy Music albums, I think they’re classics, I still listen to them and I love them. And David Bowie basically I grew up with. I just love his music since... ever... He’s probably my biggest personnal hero I guess, so yeah, he’s there (laughs).

I first thought about that while listening to The Tower... I thought that would be interesting because maybe some of your goth fans never heard about Roxy Music at all...

Oh! They should...

Because you’re sometimes classified in the indus genre, and the pink dots are much broader than that...

Yeah of course, it’s much wider actually

Nurse with wound - spiral insana Nurse With Wound - Second Pirate Session Alain Bashung - L'imprudence

Were you one of the rare few to buy NWW’s first two albums when they came out, and did you get the now famous NWW list ?

Oh, I never had all the records on that list, no. I’ve been interested in a few and Steve of course, being a personnal friend for many years, made me listen to a few records through the years, and on some occasion he would give me a record, but there’s still a lot there that I haven’t listened to...

I think it’s impossible...

And you know, it’s not everything that is to my taste either. Steve has his own taste as well, which also mutated and broadened.

Speaking of NWW, what are your favorites from his disturbing discography ?

I love Spiral Insana, that’s a really great album

I think you’re gonna like what I have for you...

...Some of his later music is really nice, Bacteria Magnet... Actually there’s a lot, a lot of things... Second Pirate Session ! THAT is amazing, the double cd with the doll’s head on the front, but actually there’s a lot to discover, it’s full of great music...

You’re a very appreciated band among the “gothic” and “industrial” crowd, but when one reads your interviews, or simply listens to your music, it appears that your influences are more psychedelic than straightforward “dark”... Is there a particular gothic or industrial band that you relate to ?

I must be honest, I never really got into gothic... Not completely my taste, I’ve just recently been introduced to some of it... But yeah, I’m probably much closer to psychedelic...

Did the release of “Music to play in the dark” by Coil in the mid-90’s influenced you in any way?

I know it only a little bit, I know their early albums, I’ve just heard it once a couple years ago for the first time...

You worked with Jim O’Rourke in the band Mimir, did you liked his work before he joined you ? His was quite an obscure musician in the at the time (Mimiryad was released in 93)

I knew him from the beginning because of his friendship with Christoph, so it was great to finally work with him... and I loved it to be honest

You already mentioned the residents in interviews, is it because you just love their music, or do you have a special relationship with them ?

Oh, Because I guess I love their music, especially that first few albums, just so completely timeless, they defy description , they create a world that so unique, it’s like listening to a kind of David Lynch music for your ears. Things like Meet the Residents... I personnaly like them less as they went out, they went into a kind of formula. Not to put them down, but the really twisted stuff is what I really like...

French music, now… I’m quite proud that you seem to be found of Magma, how and when did you get into them, and is there any other french artists that appeals to you ?

Oh sure! And Lard Free, and Heldon, and Ilitch, that is a lot of french music that I love...

Magma I discovered them in 73, basically because of a review, I thought ‘I gotta hear this band’... I took me like 10 listens of MDK, I didn’t like it first but it kept drawing me back... And so I played it again and again and again... At a certain point I must have played it more than 100 times and I was litteraly obsessed with it, and with the whole band and Christian Vander ... But you know, from there, I supposed I got into Gong... Gong and David Aellen were very important... I wanted to hear a lot more French Bands, there really is a sound... Especially the parisian bands, like Heldon, or indeed, Lard Free...and a bit later on, Ilitch, one of the must underrated bands...

Ilitch ?

Thierry Müller... Like Vladimir Ilitch Lenin. It’s one of the most important records ever for me, and it might even be the most important french record : 10 Suicides. But Thierry reformed it recently, and you know what : it’s still great !

Do you like the recent Magma stuff ?

I find it really interesting... I feel closer to the early stuff but It’s still absolutely great

I have a friend, she saw it like 10 times...

There’s so much passion there... It’s such a great band, great musicians, passionnate...

Any plans to reissue other albums than Crushed Velvet ? Is there possible to imagine a vinyl reissue of it , or other late 80’s/early 90’s albums (I think the original covers were so magical, and it’s so precious when the music lives up to such great artwork, quality-wise) ?

There are some plans for these to come out on vinyl, that’s for sure... I was speaking a lot with Chris, of Beta-lactam ring, he’s actually beginning a bit of a reissue series just later this year. Atomic Roses is going on vinyl, and that should open the floodgates... Cause it’s all disappeared now...

I’m trying to buy them second hand, but I’m having trouble finding some of them...

Oh we should get in touch, I may have some... you’d be surprised...

I see more and more people getting curious about the Pink Dots, on internet, but also from talking to people in record stores. What albums would you advise them to get in particular ?

I know you’ve answered such a question before, and it influenced me, personnaly, when I wanted to get into your music, but maybe your opinion has changed, and I’d like to have Phil and Erik’s answer to that question, too, which may be interestingly different...

I would actually now say : start with Seconds Late for the Brighton Line, it’s such a great entrance. I know that, you know, bands always promote the new album, but I actually believe it. It’s such a great door. It’s one of the best albums we’ve ever made. It feels so very fresh and vital, it’s new stuff, we’re gonna into interesting areas, there is an energy to it that I think is really great, very special...

Edward, you’ve said several times your love for Radiohead… Does Phil and Erik like them too ? And what do you think of their recent albums ?

Not as much as I do... No, I’m the one who’s really fanatical about them. Nothing comes close to the sound of Thom’s voice, I love Thom’s voice. Not everybody agrees with me... Same as my voice

Yeah, I think there one of the one vital, interesting bands.... There is none better really, they go where other bands fear to tread. Especially when you’ve reached that level of popularity, that’s a particular coach....

Yeah, they were very important for me in high school... The best music you could get before the internet came... Erm, now the inevitable lame Top 5 records question...

No ! (smile)No top five... I mean probably, if I have... People asked me “what is actually your favorite band”, well I really thought about it and... I’d probably say King Crimson. There’s so much they’ve made, I still listen to their records made 35 years ago, and they’re that vital, electric, and constantly searching...

Do you know the “Great deceiver” box set ? It’s incredible....

I have it, yeah...

You seem to often play in “unusual” cities, such as Avignon, which doesn’t get many concerts from foreign artists, and even french ones, from what I know... Is it a choice of yours or doest it just turn out that way when you’re looking for dates ?

I have a good friend living in Avignon...I justs turns out that way, we have to go where we’re wanted.

Do you remember if the Avignon show, for 25th anniversary tour, was a success ? Did you play in Nice often ? and do you generally get a good audience response in southern europe (southern france, Italy, Spain, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia, Romania ?)

We played in Cannes, but not Nice... Our best places to play are where we finish this tour, this is Moscow and St Petersbourg. Poland is very strong, Czech Republic, the west coast of america, New York... We like to play southern europe, the crowds are not massive, but the ones who comes are always great people. What a nice bunch of people..

Guernica

The interview ends as bleu, the excellent support band, starts pounding heavily on their drumset... I then give to Edward my 3 gifts to the band : a cd-r compilation burned by myself, Alain Bashung’s “L’imprudence”, and the self-titled album by Lyons duo Narcophony, of which the central, 26-minute piece, “Petit Buddha”, is a cover of Nurse With Wound’s Spiral Insana for string quartet. Useless to say Edward was surprised... He didn’t know Bashung, of course, but seemed familiar with several artists on my compilation, including Neutral Milk Hotel and... Jun Togawa ! Hard to tell which one of the two was more surprised that the other knew, but anyway, Ka-Spel says he loves her records with the band Guernica, which are close to a 30’s/40’s aesthetic that he likes. So do we. We’ll probably review Jun Togawa’s records in the future, so watch out !

Mots clés : legendary pink dots english version

Dernière mise à jour du document : jeudi 16 juin 2011

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