For a moment Ariel Pink steps out from behind the closed door. He seems lost within the cluttered feelings from his estranged childhood, the lauded praise as the godfather of “chillwave” coupled with the scrutiny of his live performances, and his desire for money. His first major release on 4ad, Before Today, retains his signature DIY lo-fi mixture of 60s, 70s, and 80s rock that nostalgically glows over viscerally somber lyrics like “it’s always the same as always / sad tongue tied” from “Round and Round.” Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffit House performs at Bimbo’s on July 10th. SFCritic interviewed Ariel Rosenberg over the phone while he was touring in Portugal.
SFCritic (SFC): Is your glass half full or half empty?
Ariel Rosenberg (AR): It’s half empty.
SFC: Why is that?
AR: I like to appreciate every last drop I have. For me it’s all in the process of going away, disintegrating, and dying. Everything is fucked up and that’s why you got to live life to the fullest. I suppose that’s a glass half full kind of thing too.
SFC: When did you adopt this principal?
AR: I suppose when I was very young I was death obsessed. Those were things that were worrisome to people that I was into it. I think that most of the positive tricks we use in our mind are just sad.
SFC: When you say “worrisome to people” are you speaking about your mother?
AR: If I was a parent I would probably be concerned too because you don’t want that to lead to something terrible. At the same time, it had to do [for me] with divorce parents, a sense of loneliness in the world, a sense of what was true and the whole nature of things.
SFC: Were your parents supportive of you recording constantly at a young age?
AR: My mom has always been very supportive of me. My father has been financially supportive in times when I’ve needed it. I’ve grown up behind a locked door more of less. I didn’t win many favors.
SFC: What does it mean you grew up behind a closed door?
AR: I was very private, insular, and very creative into my own dreamland. I did music in private as an escape from a lot of family hardships and stuff like that, and maybe just social hardships. I grew up with a kind of sense of inadequacy.
SFC: When you’re performing how does it feel to come from out of the closed door? Is Ariel Pink as an artist changing now that he knows he’s performing?
AR: I think the process of making this record is completely foreign to me. It’s a marked change from the Ariel of old, who would have rather than go through all the trouble taken the bull by the reigns no matter the cost.
I think the older [Ariel Pink] was a little more over eager, and excited to vie for affection. I was very desperate to get known. Thank goodness that it happened, because it very quickly, the pride and all of that stuff, drained out of me. It didn’t solve many issues, let’s put it that way.
SFC: How do you feel about your live performances these days?
AR: They’re getting better. There is no booing in the audience like people read in Wikipedia, which hasn’t been the case for years now.
SFC: You’re in quite a conundrum to prove yourself, since you’re music has never been intended to be performed.
AR: I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m trying to survive in the world, only as I know how to do. I can’t make money off recording music. If I want to get a job somewhere, doing something else, leading an anonymous life I could do that. Ultimately, I don’t want to do music unless I’m getting paid for it.
SFC: To survive you have to become a good performing artist.
AR: Well at this point. I’ve been working at it long enough and I feel committed to the process of recording and playing music for whatever the cost that now that I have had some meager tiny bit success, I shouldn’t drop out right?
It has no therapeutic value for me lately. The mystery is lost. I feel like I will always have been better before, the glass half-empty.
SFC: Music has lost its therapeutic value for you, so it’s now about surviving?
AR: If you’re like me you’ll make music anyway, whether it’s good or not. That’s fine and all, but I just don’t want to be somebody who is spreading their seed all far and wide just to fulfill therapeutic needs.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti performs at Bimbos on July 10th. Tickets are $15. Doors open at 8pm. The show begins at 9pm