Every so often, you are introduced to a band that completely changes your conceptions of what music can sound like. For me, the Legendary Pink Dots is one of those bands. I first heard their music about 15 years ago and have consistently enjoyed their musical output since then. They are one of the few bands that you can pick up just about any of their albums and find a wonderful mix of dark humor, powerful poetry, and superb musicianship. Led by the man alternately known as the Prophet Qa-Spel, or simply Edward Ka-Spel, and Phil Knight (AKA the Silverman), the current lineup also includes Martijn De Kleer Niels Van Hoorn, and Raymond Steeg. Their live show is one of my favorite concerts of all time. In short, they are one of those bands that you cannot say enough good things about. The prophet took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us.
Chain D.L.K.: You are certainly a band that should need no introduction, but take a moment to introduce yourselves.
Legendary Pink Dots: “This is Edward, who sings…”
Chain D.L.K.: What did you all do before joining Legendary Pink Dots?
Legendary Pink Dots: To be honest my life was pretty unfocussed. A string of jobs which I failed in…even tried my hand at journalism but my skin was not thick enough .I had the feeling (probably rightly ) that all employers wanted to ditch me as soon as they decently could.
Chain D.L.K.: How do you describe your music? You’re one of those bands that I am always at a loss to explain to friends – I just say psychedelic neo-folk experimental and then find something to play for them.
Legendary Pink Dots: Just PinkDots… Actually I don’t try. Better to give them an address on the internet and go there if they choose to… Never been fond of categorization.
Chain D.L.K.: Because of the massive back catalogue, what would you recommend as a starting point for someone who has never heard any of your music (in addition to Plutonium Blonde)?
Legendary Pink Dots: For me “All the Kings Horses”, “Crushed Velvet Apocalypse” or “Hallway of the Gods.” Just my personal faves at this time.
Chain D.L.K.: You’ve been doing this for almost three decades now and I enjoy material from all of them. Tell us how your sound has evolved over the years and where you get inspiration.
Legendary Pink Dots: I think we become better, braver musicians as time rolls on and that brings with it a sense of freedom. In those early days I was a little obsessed (Sometimes) with avoiding mistakes. Now I laugh about it, distort the distortions, shake the hand of God even if He’s only waving.
Chain D.L.K.: In addition to the voluminous output from Legendary Pink Dots, there also seems to be a lot of material from side projects. Tell us about the various solo projects or related bands of the members and what’s happening on that front.
Legendary Pink Dots: I’m still making solo albums and enjoying them .There’s also Tear Garden with Cevin Key which really has a new life plus collaborations, here there and everywhere.
Chain D.L.K.: You’re currently on tour and your live show is one of my all time favorites. I saw you in Portland OR when you recorded the Live at La Luna video for Soleilmoon (you guys were my first interview – Thanks!) I loved Niels playing two saxophones at once and the completely reworked version of “A Velvet Resurrection” blew me away. Any surprises for this tour?
Legendary Pink Dots: Well the tour just ended, but after challenging the audience with lots of new songs we dug up a few old chestnuts at the end which nobody seemed to be expecting.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us about the best and worst nights so far on the tour.
Legendary Pink Dots: Worst night was at Tempe .One of those factory evenings where we were kicked out of the club so another band could be herded in …band and audience treated not so well. For the first time ever I’d say the LAST night of the tour in San Francisco was my favourite. Many friends, a full house, margaritas lined up and perhaps one of our finest performances.
Chain D.L.K.: With such an extensive catalogue of songs, how do you choose what to play every night and how different is the setlist from night to night?
Legendary Pink Dots: We have to pretty much prepare one set-list and improvise within the borders it imposes otherwise it’s difficult to really focus. The performance can vary wildly from night to night but it’s all about mood, interpretation and quality over quantity.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s talk about the new album. First off, what prompted the move to ROIR? For quite some time I’ve thought of you as a Solielmoon band.
Legendary Pink Dots: ROIR is a fine label. Good, kind caring people who like music. Still, our back catalogue stays with Soleilmoon as we really still enjoy working them too- they just decided to concentrate more on mail-order and the Dots does need CDs in stores. We also work with Beta-Lactam Ring Records extensively as we love this label too. It’s a good situation and heartening how all the labels get along with each other.
Chain D.L.K.: The new album seems to be a bit darker than I expected. For example, “Torchsong” is pretty heavy. This disc has a lot of variety – “An Arm and a Leg” reminds me of some of the harsher Tear Garden stuff while “A World With No Mirrors” is hauntingly beautiful. Any particular tracks you’d like to talk about? I think I speak for most people when I ask, “What the hell is a zonee?”
Legendary Pink Dots: Maybe my favourite song is “Cubic Caesar.” It has a serious power, and live it tended to take off like a rocket. But this is an album I can listen to and enjoy even after working on it for a year (that’s rare- normally I need much more time).
Chain D.L.K.: You’re one of the few bands that have managed to have this kind of longevity, so let’s throw out some questions for the aspiring musicians reading this. How have you managed to keep going for so long with a constantly changing lineup?
Legendary Pink Dots: It’s not a constantly changing line-up. Quite a few people came in and then left the Dots in the earliest days, but the current quintet know each other for close to 20 years now. Advice? Just do it for the right reasons… you KNOW what they are.
Chain D.L.K.: Any cautionary tales from touring?
Legendary Pink Dots: A full-on rock’n’roll lifestyle will mean that you will not tour for very long unless you are extremely wealthy. Never touch MacDonald’s.
Chain D.L.K.: Any other advice for bands who want to be you when (or if) they grow up?
Legendary Pink Dots: They should be themselves.
Chain D.L.K.: Now to some fun questions. When you are not listening to your own music, what do you listen to? Who should we check out?
Legendary Pink Dots: Listening to Death in Vegas, Un Festin Sagital, and an obscure electro acoustic composer names Steve Moore in the last days.
Chain D.L.K.: For each of the members of the band, if you were not in music, what would you do for a living?
Legendary Pink Dots: Starve.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the last good book you read?
Legendary Pink Dots: Damn, the title escapes me, but it was by Milan Kundera. (Editor’s Note: Kundera is best known for his book, The Unbearable Lightness of Being).
Chain D.L.K.: What hobbies do you have besides music?
Legendary Pink Dots: None.
Visit Legendary Pink Dots on the web at:
[interviewed by Brett Lunceford] [proofreading by Brett Lunceford]