Edward Ka-Spel of the Legendary Pink Dots was very obliging to spend some time chatting with us before an amazing recent show. He was personable and witty. The odd thing was that the robe he was wearing blended exactly into the fabric of the booth where he sat. Just like a chameleon, he became one with his surroundings and one with his admirers, spending a good two hours indulging us, like friends.
Before turning on the recorder, we found that Ed's birthday is January 23 and that the band acquired their name from a spot-causing disease which came out of a three hundred year old organ they found and used for their early recordings. Well, the spots from this disease formed the exact shape of the legendary King Arthur on one of the band members. This was also the precise time when they were trying to come up with a name for themselves, and somebody noticed what legendary form these pink dots took, and the rest is...
Ed: I was lying completely.
RAD: You were lying completely? Well tell us another good one! So how did you really get your name?
Ed: The thing is, it's not really known generally that the Legendary Pink Dots -- it's assumed that we started in London -- actually, we came from a very small hamlet in Moldavia, which of course didn't have any street-lamps so it was dark all the time. But, as the population in this small hamlet of Moldavia evolved, they developed their own personal lights to light the streets -- which were fluorescent pink lights.
It was so remote, this hamlet in Moldavia, that very few people would ever find it. One day--you know, the story got around, of course, but nobody really believed it was true--some hitchhikers from the furthest reaches of Georgia sort of stumbled onto this hamlet in Moldavia and saw the locals walking around with these fluorescent pink spots all over their faces and finally someone said, "Those are the legendary pink dots!" And we were just rehearsing in a room nearby, and, that's how we got the name.
RAD: Wow, so you used to have those dots, but you don't anymore?
Ed: As soon as you left the perimeters of the village, they just dropped off, 'cause of the street-lamps.
RAD: And that is how you got your name.
Ed: I always like to make up these fantastic stories, 'cause you know, I thought the real story about street-lamps in Moldavia was kind of a bit boring.
RAD: Yeah, it was. The one you told earlier was a lot more interesting. So you're not from London, then, like people thought.
Ed: No, we're from Moldavia. It's a very small corner of Moldavia where everybody speaks English. It's got a certain Moldavian dialect, but it's definitely English.
RAD: Can you still speak with that dialect?
Ed: Um, not really; I've forgotten over the years.
RAD: That's too bad. So then, after that, did the band move to the Netherlands?
Ed: Well, first of all, we walked to London. It took several years. We spent a few years in London and finally moved over to Holland in 1984.
RAD: So, why do you have the motto--often written inside your albums--"Sing While You May"?
Ed: It has to do with a personal philosophy that if you compare the planet to a drowning man, if you would just look at the acceleration of the events in the last hundred years, it's as if the planet sees its entire life flashing before its eyes, before it might just go into overload and saturation. This is such a significant time for the planet, such a significant time to really, I'd say, cherish ...
RAD: I was curious about your involvement in some of your other side projects. I read an interview with Christoph Heemann. Is there a collaboration between you and Christoph coming out soon on the Streamline label?
Ed: There's the "Khataclimici China Doll." There's a lot of extra material on it, about half an hour's worth. They were pieces I've made that I handed over to Christoph and just said, "Do what you will with them." I really liked what he did with them.
RAD: So he's reworking them?
Ed: No, just making his own treatment.
RAD: I read a couple years ago about you doing some work with Steven Stapleton for a project.
Ed: Steve is currently working with some stuff that I sent him a couple years ago. It will be ready quite soon.
RAD: One thing I like about the Pink Dots and your solo work, is that it creates a world that doesn't really exist, yet seems so real. Do you feel like you've created a world that just exists in your imagination?
Ed: It depends on your definition of reality.
RAD: What's your definition of reality?
Ed: I don't have one. I've lost all grasp of what reality actually is.
RAD: Maybe there isn't one. What do you feel your solo releases allow you to do that you don't get to do as the LPD?
Ed: They allow me to be a megalomaniac. And I don't want to be a megalomaniac with the Pink Dots, because we're a band. I'm glad it's a band, and all members have input. But I can be a megalomaniac with myself.
RAD: So do you feel like you lose some control as the LPD?
Ed: I never really wanted to be in control, because how can that be a positive effect?
RAD: The Mimir project -- is that an ongoing project? How do those sessions work?
Ed: That was recorded in a weekend.
RAD: What's behind Mimir? What's the working criteria?
Ed: Improvisation. But it's Christoph's interpretation of that improvisation. The second CD -- when Phil and I had heard it -- it had been recorded a while before, but we just couldn't think where these pieces had come from, but there we were playing them, and it was Christoph's skill in editing and processing.
RAD: The "Shadow Weaver" projects, for some reason -- I made a very strong connection between those and the Asylum period.
Ed: So did I. Asylum was a very, very hard time for the band. We almost split up. We were almost murdered by this manager at the time who literally broke us. And people in the band were acting real strangely. I was living on a floor. I mean, it was a really, really hard time. And so when we recorded that album, we threw a terror ruse... "Shadow Weaver" is the first album we recorded after the death of Bob, our guitar player. It was an incredibly sad time -- and, especially on number one -- both were recorded parallel. "Shadow Weaver" I has really just a very desolate sense.
RAD: So there have been high points and low points.
Ed: Sure. "Maria Dimension" was a very high point. There are always tensions, but we're always friends, as well. It's what keeps it alive.
RAD: So what's the mood for "From Here You'll Watch the World Go By?"
Ed: I can't say, really.
RAD: To me, it seems lighter.
Ed: You've got to get into the lyrics. It's a shame the lyrics weren't put into the work more...
RAD: Are there things about this album that you think should be different?
Ed: Oh, there are always things -- different mixes. The song "Friend", which is really one of my favorites from the album, we could play it live and it's much better. Some of these things we've only played once.
RAD: Do you get a vacation after this tour?
Ed: I've managed four beautiful days on an island in North Holland -- no phone, no cars, no TV. sets.
RAD: Now is Elke your wife? Girlfriend? Elke Skelter -- will she be on that island?
Ed: She's in Berlin. We've split.
RAD: In which city do you end this tour?
Ed: Mexico City.
RAD: Do you have a lot of fans there?
Ed: I thought we had about ten or eleven. Maybe we'll be surprised. It's really shocking to play Mexico. I'm serious, I'm not joking. I know we don't sell too many CD's in Mexico.
RAD: Oh, I was wondering, now, on a lot of your albums, there are song titles or little phrases that are in some strange language. Can you tell us what that is?
Ed: Ah, it's just me being stupid, really.
RAD: So it's all just made up!
Ed: It's made up. It's what you read into it.
At this moment, the club was bombarded with very loud music, so we could not record anything further, but Ed stayed to chat with us about being a vegetarian and to tell what his mindset was behind certain Pink Dots songs. (For example, "The Plasma Twins" -- "something very sick!") Nils Van Hornblower, the Dutchman of the band, came over to us, in a fabulous blue velvet shirt, and offered everyone fireball candies. And despite great fatigue, the Legendary Pink Dots gave their all this night. The crowd demanded encores, so they did three. During one, Ed told the funniest tale about Horatio the cockroach, recordings of which may be available by contacting Squid here at RAD. In a final, chaotic blow-out at the end of the last encore, Nils leapt into the audience with his saxophone and traveled the entire venue, blasting into people's faces. What an experience.