Ariel Pink’s 10th album, pom pom, further extends the eccentric enchantment of his LA-reared weirdo-pop and seedy psych rock. The orchestration is busy, but the action works within the tamped cassette fidelity. This is Ariel’s first full-length to be released without his band, Haunted Graffiti. Songs on the album such as “Sexual Athletics” and “Exile on Frog Street” were written for Ariel by the late Kim Fowley from his hospital bed. Azealia Banks appears singing backup on “Nude Beach a Go-Go,” while a separate version of the song was recorded for her album Broke with Expensive Taste. Ariel was unable to do this interview because he was in a plane on the way to Australia. So I pulled (many) strings and spoke to Hangover and Birdman star Zach Galifianakis by phone instead. I thought he was in the Florida Keys, but it turns out he was in an undisclosed location in the state of California.
Why do you think Ariel Pink called the album pom pom?
If you don't ask me a more interesting question than that, this interview is over.
Have you ever held a weed whacker over your head and waved it around at the sky on full blast for an extended period of time?
That's getting there. Can you give it a little more?
Have you ever walked into an asparagus convention wearing a camo Snuggie and started weed-whacking the light switches and the walls while screaming "VEGETABLES FEEL"?
See? Was that so hard? An asparagus convention is a vegan thing, right? Vegan people sure are strange, man. Okay. You want to know what it is about pom-poms that's so powerful? Look at them. When cheerleaders are going up and down doing cheers, pom-poms are the fireballs of life. Think about it. Think about the big bang. When cheerleaders do the "Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate," they're really appreciating life. It's not just about you and me, man. We're all just piccolo players in the marching band of life, playing in the half-time show for the big tuba player in the sky. We're all on this big flint rock together.
I wanted to talk about Ariel Pink's song "White Freckles." So much is going on. How do you think he makes it all work, sonically?
What, some guitar and some '80s laser sounds? And Arial Narrow or Bold or whatever font he named his band after, singing like he's Bowie? Are you going to say it's lo-fi? God, please. This must be the third song I've heard this year about LA tanning culture. You want to hear a song with a lot going on, check out Eddie Van Halen on "Eruption." I listen to it every morning as I'm getting out of bed. It aligns all my shocklates. Did you know that whole thing was an accident?
The "Eruption" guitar solo is an accident? I thought it was one of the more technically difficult solos ever recorded.
Actually no, it isn't. It's the sound of Eddie Van Halen's jeans rubbing up against his guitar strings. He was inhaling drugs and cocaine off the floor in the studio and was holding his guitar, which was on. Somebody hit record. He had no idea it was happening. In music, they call that a happy accident.
How do you think Ariel is getting his sounds on "Not Enough Violence"?
He's playing with some '80s hipster toys and trying to sound like the Cure. It's a pretty good song for an ironic LA hipster song. Listen to the words: "Carnage, violence, carnage, violence. Not enough violence, you're fertilizer on the body farm." If we're talking about farms, I'll take Spinal Tap's "Sex Farm."
I was hearing A Flock of Seagulls in that song. Are you a fan of A Flock of Seagulls?
I don't really know them. But I can tell you I probably don't like them. Can we talk about Tommy Lee? From Mötley Crüe. Have you ever just watched Tommy Lee play the fucking drums? Then you think about him and his wife, what's her name from Babe Watch, and their sex tape. Then can we talk about Nikki Sixx's soul patch? Also from Mötley Crüe. Soul patches have meandered their little ol' way in and out of face-growth style throughout the years. But not his. Not Nikki Sixx's. His soul patch is an on-ramp to Rocktown made out of hair.
What kinds of things do you think about when you listen to Ariel Pink?
I think about how many neck tattoos the Blink-182 drummer has, and how he sort of scares me. I mean, he couldn't fit another tattoo on his neck if he tried. I also think about a business I want to start, giving dune-buggy rides in the dunes. I've just always liked dune buggies. And then the other business I would start, piggybacking off that one: drone ice-cube delivery for the people in the dune buggies. Drones with ice trays would fly around delivering ice throughout the dunes. I'm sure it'll be hot out there. Next question, please.
Do you ever listen to music to get you ready to act?
No, not really. I listen to recordings of people blowing those plastic soccer fan horns. The methuselahs—80,000 people blowing methuselahs. It's a terrible, terrible sound. I don't see how those guys can play soccer with all that bullshit going on. For some reason, it clears my head [laughs]. I also think about surfing, even though I've never once surfed in my life.
You mean vuvuzelas?
I mean surfing. I'm not going to sit here and argue with you.
What do you do when you're by yourself?
I count raisins.
How do you make yourself cry in a scene? You cry convincingly.
I think about surfing. It's always made me cry. Imagining what it would be like. The way gravity pulls water toward the earth. I also think about Leonard Nimoy.
What are your favorite Mötley Crüe lyrics?
I'd say the ones about not feeling the reefer. "Don't feel the reefer, come on baby/Don't feel reefer, baby take my hand." I also think it's pretty cool that they sing about Gollum from The Hobbit. "Gollum, the evil one, crept up and slipped away with her, yeah."
Any parting words for Ariel Pink?
Yeah. Look for my ice-cube drone. First one's on me. He should have capitalized the Ps in pom pom. Why make it difficult like that? Eat your oatmeal. Feed your guppies.