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Ariel Pink

Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Charlotte Robin

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Ariel Pink is probably the most divisive artist that pop music gave birth to for a long while. Considered by many a wizard in the pure DIY tradition, a versatile indie mastermind, he is regularly the target of blistering smear campaigns due to his sometimes uncontrolled gabbing. The latest one being an odd ménage a trois with Grimes and Madonna that played in front of the world.

Ariel Pink ! How are you doing, man?

Good. I arrived 5 minutes ago. So for the moment, I’m fine. 

As a music digger, did you dig into vintage French music too?

Actually, I know Dutch and German music better… Ethiopian too. But, I like Serge Gainsbourg, Michel Polnareff but also more underground bands like Banana Moon, Gong and Magma

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Well, is it okay if we talk about this controversy that occurred about you on Twitter lately?

It’ll be your fault if they make an article out of it because of something I said. If I said something bad, just keep it out. (smiles)

The media called you the most hated man in indie rock lately… Do you think it’s deserved?

I love it. It’s a really great title. I think it’s very strange that it’s the mainstream media that calls me that. I don’t know who’s the most loved person in the indie rock either.

I know. It’s Sharon Van Etten.

Sharon Van Etten? Really? Man, I don’t know, it must be something different every week. They have too much love for everybody. That’s the real problem in the indie world.

So you claim your right to be evil.

I’m Darth Vader on the Dark Throne. I’m the most evil that there is.

Tell us something kind you did lately to prove them wrong.

A day before that controversy, I was in Staten Island in a public school with a bunch of little kids. I was like Bill Cosby. It was really good, they sang the songs amazing. They sang Jell-O, Picture Me Gone. They have a great teacher. They played the songs in different countries. I think they’re bigger than I am.

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Ok, I think they don’t have the right to call you evil from now on.

Yeah, you can tell it to those Nazis… like Grimes. But don’t say that I called her evil, or retarded or stupid… I had no problems with Grimes until she called me a misogynist. Nobody forced her to say that and I didn’t deserve it. She went out on Twitter to say that what I said about Madonna was indicative of the misogyny that women face everyday in this industry. She just got jealous because of my time with Madonna.

If it can help you feel better, I never saw a misogynist dressed as the Pink Panther…

There’s no misogynist here. It’s offensive to me. I think I’m the victim here, as somebody who got maced by somebody. There was no support for me. Now, I know what it is to be a woman wearing a dress in the sidewalk. She’d never have attacked somebody that she was afraid of. She knew I was harmless.

Madonna’s manager called you a « mermaid ». Did you take it as a compliment?

I think it’s a good way of dealing with it. Madonna probably never heard of this stuff. I think her people took care of it. 

Despite what happened with the Madonna thing, do you intend to continue your slow movement towards the mainstream, working with acts like Azealia Banks or Sky Ferreira? 

Yeah, of course! If the mainstream wants me, I’ll go!

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Even if they take themselves too seriously? You know, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen in the indie scene…

No-no-no-no-no, this happened in the indie scene. For example, there was this article written by a man who has nothing to do in his day, has nothing to live for… You know, a journalist. I was promoting Pom Pom and he took a little part of the interview and turned it into “Ariel Pink claims to work with Madonna”. This guy was clearly indie, it was a tabloid thing.

Let’s talk about something else, tell me about your relationship with Christopher Owens. How did you meet? Could you imagine at the time he could write songs and sing?

Yeah, I met him at one of my shows in 2004 in San Francisco. Not long after that, I met him again. He played me some of his songs at his house, before having even recorded them. He was not officially an artist at that time. I was like “that’s it. It’s a full package. It’s done. Go and win an award.” I wasn’t surprised at all of his success afterwards. 

Do you really think that music was better before?

No, I don’t think that. I just think there’s more music to select from what’s been than what is  happening right nowin the Top 40.

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How do you see yourself aging in this business? Will you continue to live in the cycle of releasing albums, then touring, then releasing other albums, etc… Or will you detach yourself from it? 

I don’t want to tour much longer if I don’t have to. I want to stay home in my boxer shorts and play keyboard and watch TV by myself like in the old days. But still making a living out of music, releasing albums or making music for commercials.

Last year, you did amazing photos for Saint Laurent. Can you tell us how you met Hedi Slimane?

Through Christopher Owens, I think. He might have turned him on to me and then Hedi got in touch with me and came to my house one day. He took a lot of photos that day. The next time I did photos whit him, it wasn’t even a planned thing. He was shooting my girlfriend at the time, Geneva Jacuzzi. And he just took me aside, gave me that leather jacket… And it became a commercial for Saint Laurent.

Is fashion an environment that you feel close to?

No, but if they want to model, I’d really be happy to do that. I never thought of myself as a model, but I like to play this role.

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