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Panda Bear vs. Ariel Pink - The Full Interview

Truth and Speculation

May 07, 2015 Panda Bear Bookmark and Share

To listen to Ariel Pink talk is to hear him thinkthat much becomes immediately clear a few minutes into his conversation with Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear). Ask him a question and what follows is an avalanche of unfiltered thoughts, some seemingly brilliant, others highly questionable, and nearly all of them provocative to some extent. That has caused no small amount of consternation among his fans, especially recently, as Pink used the interviews in the run up to the release of his new pop opus pom pom to (among other things) celebrate the Westboro Baptist Church as free speech advocates, dump on a few legendary artists (Madonna and The Eurythmics), and engage in a war of words with Grimes over whether he’s a misogynist. Always celebrated for his eccentricities, Pink is now ensnared in speculation. Is he a free spirit simply speaking his mind? Is he an insecure artist trying to get attention? Or does he crave the conflict, an unstable man deriving amusement from antagonizing people?

Speaking with Lennox, Pink is anything but antagonistic. Having gotten his first big break as a musician when Lennox and the other members of Animal Collective were so impressed by an unreleased CD-R of his songs that they decided to release them on their Paw Tracks label, Pink appears to be utterly at ease with his old friend. In truth, Lennox is a calming presence, so soft-spoken and careful that it’s hard to imagine him ever saying anything remotely controversial. A father of two, he hasn’t gotten to see Pink much since he moved with his wife to Lisbon, Portugal, a decade ago, and Pink seems to be deeply curious about Lennox’s life as a family man. In fact, the two talk about little else for the first half hour of the conversation, discussing everything from parenting psychology to the evolution of human thought and the nature of language itself. They never get around to discussing pom pom or Lennox’s new Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, but what they do cover is even more revealing. Free from being Panda Bear and “the most hated man in indie rock,” they’re just two guys talking about family, human nature, and the meaning of life, finding more questions than answers.

[Note: A shorter version of this interview first appeared in Under the Radar’s January/February 2015 print issue (Issue 52/Best of 2014). This is the full transcript of the interview.]

Ariel Pink: How are you doing, man?

Noah Lennox: Good. How are you?

Ariel: Good. It’s nice to talk to you.

Noah: It has been a while, buddy.

Ariel: Yeah, man. I love the new track [“Mr. Noah”]. It’s so good. I haven’t heard the record yet, but the new track is incredible.

Noah: Well, thanks, man. I love your record. I’ve heard the whole thing, and it’s awesome. I’m so pumped.

Ariel: Thank you! I’m really pumped, too.

Noah: It’s my favorite one.

Ariel: Oh, that’s great! I’m so happy. It’s mine, too. It’s really one of the few things over recent years that I can say I have good memories of.

Noah: Awesome. I think it shows, as well.

Ariel: Well…yeah. Let’s hope it amounts to something.

Noah: I think it will. I kind of think it’s undeniable.

Ariel: Well, if enough people say that, there’s bound to be a backlash. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed. I mean, who cares about that stuff? [Laughs] How have you been? How are the kids?

Noah: They’re good. They’re getting big. The older one is getting real big. The younger one is still in little kid zone. But Nadja is real big. She’s on the precipice of being a teenager. You can see it coming.

Ariel: Oh, my God! She’s seven years old? Eight?

Noah: Nadja’s nine.

Ariel: Wow! That’s incredible. It’s crazy to think we were touring not long after she was born. That whole tour with [John] Maus, that’s already over 10 years ago. Did you have her when he went on tour?

Noah: We were married. I think that tour was 2007.

Ariel: And they grow up so fast. Ten years is like a lifetimeseveral lifetimesin baby years.

Noah: Well, yeah. They kind of have dog years at that age.

Ariel: Yeah, like every year is longer than the average human lifetime.

Noah: There’s a lot of information being processed and numbers being crunched at that age.

Ariel: But it seems so effortless. They make it seem so easy, and they play you like a fiddle from the day they’re born.

Noah: Well, there are no preconceived notions about anything. It’s all just sucked up.

Ariel: Right. They learn quickly to scream their asses off in order to get mom to come in and give them what they need. Mom, for her part, is just trying to shut the kid up.

Noah: Everything is trial and error, and they just try something and if gets the result they want, they’ll still with that.

Ariel: Exactly! And they learn right away!

Noah: And screaming works very well.

Ariel: And it’s all for the wrong reasons. It’s not because they’re hungry; it’s because they are upset, and they love the comfort of mom sticking the teat in their mouths. And mom is just sticking the teat in their mouth just to shut them up, not to actually feed them.

Noah: Well, I think sometimes it must be for…

Ariel: Well, it’s also bonding time. But it’s funny that if you coddle to that, they’ll scream until they’re blue in the face until they’re 45 or whatever.

Noah: I’ve seen it.

Ariel: However long it takes, until they stop being cute, cuddly adorable things, and mom is still helping them suck from the teat. It backfires. You know what I’m saying?

Noah: I feel like I’ve seen my kids, when they were babies, how they would react to things and the types of behaviors they would exhibit. It was interesting to then talk to adults and see the same sort of stuff playing out, in very different ways.

Ariel: In everybody’s life. It’s all pre-scripted.

Noah: I recognize that emotion in my kid, but it’s filtered in a very different way. But the impulse doesn’t change, I don’t think.

Ariel: But you recognize it anew, because it has been buried for so long. I think that’s what the joy of having a child isthat recognition, or the shock of recognition, maybe.

Noah: It’s a reincarnation on many levels.

Ariel: I think of that in terms of everything. It has all been pre-scripted, even in the stories that we tell ourselves, which follow from our earliest emotional connections and pre-lingual kind of stuff. Even in the language, I feel like there’s this other body. It’s a body that has the words that we use, that have lasted longer than any one person’s life, and these things get transferred across generations.

Noah: Isn’t it crazy that we attach words to these things that are wordless?

Ariel: I see what you’re sayingthey are wordlessbut the words themselves, since we took them up, we are vessels for them. They have a longer life and a bigger plan. They leave their mark across generations. They have a life that they want to survive. Across generations, certain concepts, they want to stay alive and not die and start over again with the basics. That’s how the human faculty spread like a virus, and it took off without us realizing it.

Noah: Do you think words change over those generations? Do the meanings of words take on slightly different characteristics?

Ariel: They do. But they take on characteristics based on elementary connections. It’s like “Oh, we found a connection. We found a way to know that you and I are talking about the same thing. We have a word for it.” So that gives us a bigger body. We inhabit the same brain now. So what can that advantage give us? Well, since we’re a bigger body, we can harness more power.

Noah: Like Voltron.

Ariel: We can move rocks or beat this lion that is over in the corner. We obviously saw the advantage in being able to communicate and have a syntactical index for all of these different thoughts we could share. That’s something that happens way before we’re five years oldit might have when we’re two years old, when we say our first words. And that’s us reliving the birth of our language. There’s probably hundreds of millions of years of caveman that were stuck at that “da-da” level.

Noah: So all words are an extrapolation of that event.

Ariel: Exactly! Except that it has lasted a lot longer than any individual life, so it has the advantage, whereas biology maxes out at a certain number of heartbeats per lifetime. So we can’t entertain what the thoughts would actually take us to in an individual’s life, past 120 years. Maybe the thought formsthe words and the connections that are madeare not completely linear the entire time. Maybe it’s across one lifetime. Maybe if we could live 300 years we could come to some new conclusions about language that we haven’t have before.

Noah: I hope we get to that point.

Ariel: Well, the thing about it is that we are less important than the languages and this force that is using us as vessels to transmit its longevity and immortality.

Noah: The idea that we’re less important than anything doesn’t seem to be particularly popular nowadays.

Ariel: I know, because individuality is what people are holding onto, but I think it’s a collective thing.

Noah: I feel like that might not be the best thing for the universe.

Ariel: Well, I feel like it’s not part of the universethat’s the funny thing.

Noah: But I might argue that it has been, for a really long time, the message of the universe.

Ariel: What?

Noah: Just survival and looking out for yourself, because everything else is.

Ariel: You could say that maybe, but I don’t feel like that’s been the message. I feel like the message has been one of connectedness. Maybe there’s a separation at this point between the physical realmwhich is everything that has ever been and that we can see evidence ofthat’s all in this universe. All the information we base our science and history and the Big Bang and all of that stuff on, the visual cues that have been left behind in this past, this one physical universe. Even though we don’t actually participate in it in our individual lives, none of that information is ever accessible. There’s a world of information in each brain, and the spirit realm hangs out on the outer edge of the universe, where there’s no information. There’s just a bunch of tiny black holes with infinite amounts of information that you can never really access, but they’re all coagulating in a weird way.

Noah: But is it completely inaccessible, though?

Ariel: Well, it’s bigger than you or I, in terms of the fact that we might not be able to see or experience what anybody else is experiencing in reality. But there’s a forcea psychic forcethat flows through all of us that collectivizes and aggregates all of our experiences via language and the survival of these concepts.

Noah: That’s interesting about music, especially wordless music, in that it can be a form of communication without the words.

Ariel: Sure. You’re right. And I think everything is music. The universe is made of musicfrequencies and stuffand it doesn’t need the words, so to speak. We don’t really need the words; if we weren’t taught them we’d survive just as fine. It’s really just an ego trip, really.

Noah: Or a game.

Ariel: Or maybe there’s something else. Maybe there is something more at play here that we don’t want to admit, and that’s that there is a bigger plan. Don’t call it God or whatever, but there’s a reason why we’ve gotten to the place where music isn’t just the cries of a dog or a wolf or the impenetrable signs of life. Other animals, we give them attributes but we don’t emotionally connect to the things that they’re doing. Everything is habit, but we know they’re emoting. We know that they understand each other…

Noah: That’s what I always thought was so noble about animals. There’s nothing beyond impulse and reaction going on.

Ariel: But that’s also what keeps them cycling back and starting over again and only getting so far and not using things to evolve, not realizing if they just got on the same page with each other and were not so stuck, if there was some way they could transmit wisdom from the past, from the wisdom from an older duck to a younger duck…

Noah: Do you feel like we’ve used our stuff to evolve?

Ariel: Well, we certainly think we have. The proof is in the pudding. We’re talking here on the telephone, and we’re civilized. The world obviously wants to get to the place where we’re connected with each other. We’re starting from scratch. It seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but we’re deducing that we all came from each other and that we’re all the same thing. It’s a real conundrum now. To have a problem with somebody else is to have a problem with yourself. It’s fucked up. We really should love humans instead of being so cynical and hating them.

Noah: I agree with that, but I think that’s the opposite of everything we’ve been taught.

Ariel: It is, but there’s a reason for that. We just don’t know it. I think there are a lot of forces at play that are trying to meddle and negotiate what the terms are for our own inner salvation. We’re trying to bargain our impulses. So I think we’re getting to know the planet and have finally got the place where we see ourselves as part of a bigger body, and we’re delineating the ends of the earth. And we wouldn’t have gotten there without some toil and selfishness and brutality on the part of different nations. These things have to be negotiated. There have to be bodies, and there have to be wars to propel us to that place that’s going to keep it going. It’s not going to be an earthly thing, I don’t think. It’s not like we’re ever going to be saved. The thing is going to have to be saved somewhere else. It’s going to be stored somewhere else once we all die. It’s going to take off on Haley’s Comet or something like that.

Noah: But I assume eventually we’re going to go off the earth somewhere.

Ariel: Well, we’re already off the earth in the sense that we’re all in our heads. We’re not even in the universe. We are off the earth; we’re off the universe. We just happen to be peering in, and there are signs of life all around us, be we don’t necessarily have access to those things. Somehow there is going to be some kind of convergence where we all get the same program, more or less, whether it’s implanted in us or we choose it ourselves. I don’t think either case is the worst or best case scenario. It doesn’t matter. But it’s tending to converge to the point that the more we learn about ourselves and acknowledge that we want to live in peace and want happiness, there’s going to be more of an understanding about it. All the different cultures are going to die in this mass cooling of everything and putting it all on the Internet and everyone having a view into what everyone else in the world is experiencing, maybe at the expense of individuality and variety, but that’s all superficial anyway. It has always been a group effort.

Noah: It seems like somewhere along the way happiness stopped being the goal.

Ariel: Well, that’s because it’s untenable.

Noah: I don’t think so.

Ariel: Well, we just have to change the definition. Obviously, happiness to a person in America is different from happiness in someone in Pakistan.

Noah: Isn’t that just semantics, though?

Ariel: It is, but I don’t think they’d call it happiness. Whatever kind of peace or state that brings us to that…when we’re not crying, essentially. It’s the pleasure principle. We should be fucking screaming babies for the rest of our lives. We start out that way, and something calms us down. We get potty trained. That’s the biggest thing that happens in a kid’s life to that point. That’s when they’ve finally taken the bait of your negotiation with them. “If you don’t like your poo, you’re going to figure it out yourself.” I always think about this. Can a baby learn how to read if it’s not potty trained? If it doesn’t go to the bathroom? It means they are delaying their gratification.

Noah: I think so.

Ariel: But how many examples do we have?

Noah: What was that movie? That German movie?

Ariel: [The Enigma of] Kaspar Hauser. But he wasn’t reading. Was he reading?

Noah: I don’t remember much about that movie.

Ariel: Reading is more or less a very recent trait that the world got hip to, and it was because at some point the word spread that work was the fruit of our labors, and the quality of life depends on what jobs we get. So the better jobs go to the people that read, and the best chance we have is to teach our kids to read right off the bat.

Noah: What do you think about reading music?

Ariel: Reading music…I can’t even read it.

Noah: I can’t, either.

Ariel: I can read it a little bit. I can strain. But it’s a little bit too exclusive to really matter so much and be a currency of sorts. It’s kind of like the stock market. It’s for those in the know, and for those who are in the know enough to care about it. But it’s not going to ever become a widespread thing because that would undo its only purpose.

Noah: Can we talk about James Brown? One of the last times we hung out, we had a long conversation about James Brown.

Ariel: Oh yeah. Well, he’s amazing. He’s a god among men, and he speaks a universal language, right?

Noah: Now, yeah. I feel like the language he invented is everywhere now.

Ariel: There’s no one like him.

Noah: I think we’d have to admit that rhythm has won the whole deal. I wonder if he forced it in.

Ariel: That’s a good point. I think you’re probably right about that. It’s so interesting, because rhythm was just put to the sidelines, wasn’t it?

Noah: It was an afterthought for a long time.

Ariel: Well, it must have been seen as barbaric, as far as back The Enlightenment or The Reformation, or as far back as the beginning A.D. When we had monks chanting, there was no beating of the drum at that point. It was all solemnness, and that’s what gave rise to the melodiousness and concentration on the non-rhythmic nature of the western canon. But the beat had to be the first thing that came around. It probably came in tandem with speaking.

Noah: Well, of course, we hear the beating of our mother’s hearts. That’s one of the first things we hear.

Ariel: Oh, right. Exactly. It’s interesting to think of us as industrial robots that are actually imitating a human heart. That’s what all the machines are out there. [Laughs] The machines aren’t even machines; the humans are the machines, and we’re just imitating a non-machine.

Noah: I think I could probably make the argument that everything is a machine.

Ariel: Yeah, but at this point we haven’t made the leap to include inanimate objects to be endowed with anything resembling a soul. Other than Teddy Ruxpineveryone believes in him.

Noah: I always thought he was kind of scary.

Ariel: Right! Because that’s what he is. It’s like Chuckythere are signs of life, but we don’t know. I’ve seen more life in the eye of a gorilla than I have in many humans in downtown Los Angelesmore alertness and awareness and consciousness and presence of mind. Absolutely crystal clear and looking you in the eye while eating a banana. It was the most enlightened thing when I saw it that it blew my mid. This gorilla was perched up against the glass and he was lounging with his foot. He was on the floor, and his feet were in front of him, with one foot over the other. We was just lounging and looking at us up against the glass, and his eyes were checking us out. It was so clear to me that he was human and he was over it. He then took a branch off, started shaving it and eating it. He wasn’t chomping on it; he was peeling off the different leaves. It was like he was shaving it like you would a piece of corn, and he was so deliberate about it, not giving a fuck. We’re more like chimpanzees, actually. Chimpanzees are darker than gorillas. They get sour and depressed and really scary.

Noah: I feel like I can trace all sorts of behaviors and trace them to animal behaviors. I guess that’s my way of saying that I don’t feel like we’re that different.

Ariel: We aren’t that different, when all’s said and done. But you tend to realize that you don’t make it any easier for anybody by being a human. If that’s the way you feel, it’s like “Go to the fucking zoo and let him out. Go in the middle of the night and let him go.” You might die, but it would be for the betterment of the universe, because we are basically killing animals left and right. There should be some sort of worm empowerment program for the preservation of the worms, and I’m sure there are. But the point is this: we can’t even get along with ourselves.

Noah: That feels like the first step.

Ariel: First step is to get along with ourselves, then comes not eating cows and maybe not eating trees. One thing at a time. I feel like we give up and we start thinking about all these other animals because we give up on humans. We’re very misanthropic. We’re so bummed out about the state of humanity that we say, “Fuck humanity. I’m going to be a miserable cat lady.” That’s a way of not dealing with a problem and letting it continue, because we’re not accountable and we can’t negotiate with ourselves. It has been screwed up. We’re confused.

Noah: Do you feel optimistic, in general?

Ariel: Yes. I’m a totally optimistic person. I’m not a depressed person, let’s put it that way.

Noah: I feel optimistic, but I don’t know many people who are.

Ariel: I know. Isn’t that interesting? I used to see myself as sort of a lost soul, and I know you probably felt that way, too.

Noah: At certain points in my life.

Ariel: We’re definitely way too sensitive, you and me. We’ve got a case of the oxytocin overload. Too much estrogen. But you’ve got lots of man in you.

Noah: Gosh, I don’t know.

Ariel: [Laughs] But I think the sooner you get bummed out about things, the quicker that it turns around in the favor of something else.

Noah: Sometimes it’s a mixture of both.

Ariel: Well, I think there are stages. I think you have to feed your kid a line of bullshit, and give them the reassurance they need to get over their helpless stage when they’re really young. So you have to plant them with these great values, like, “Yeah, your mom and I love each other, and we love you! And you were made special, special. And we knew exactly who you were, and that’s why we did it, because you are you!”

Noah: Do you think that’s a destructive part of the process?

Ariel: They end up using it against you later, because they have these values that are so idealistic. You give them all this promise, but it’s like a fairytale. So then, being a teenager, they’ve separated and their individuality has come into its own, and they see themselves as different from you and they see the flaws in their parents. They see their parents don’t actually believe any of the things they’ve said.

Noah: I think it helps, as a parent, to say, “I don’t really know, but this is what I think.” I think that sets you up pretty well for later, because sometimes you don’t know what you’re talking about necessarily.

Ariel: But maybe that’s Dad’s point of view and not Mom’s. I think as men we’re sort of cut off from the stems of empathy in the same sense that women have it.

Noah: I don’t think that’s true.

Ariel: Well…we don’t even know if we are the parents ourselves. We just basically believe.

Noah: Okay…

Ariel: I guess we can see the offspring and recognize ourselves in them. But I didn’t do that. My dad didn’t not recognize me, but there’s every reason to doubt that he was actually my dad. And that happens one out of four times. That’s a statistic we don’t know about, and we don’t want to shine too much light on it, because it opens up a whole other can of worms. But to have something grow out of you is to have something be you. So having a childfor a mother it’s like they have themselves, whereas [men] hope that’s the case, but it’s a stretch of the imagination to put it in place. I don’t know at what point we gleaned that if we did this, then nine months later, this would happen and it would be us.

Noah: Well, presumably, for a child the relationship that is the strongest is with its parents. And because of that, they can’t help but be some sort of reflection of the parents.

Ariel: Right. They’re not a reflection of their parents, per se, but if they make it to adulthood they are liable to repeat their parents’ mistakes, even by specifically rebelling against their parents and trying to do things their parents didn’t do.

Noah: Either the lessons are deemed sound or they are revolted against, right?

Ariel: But in revolting against it, they end up perpetuating another kind of thing.

Noah: Well, now we’re going back to waves and generations.

Ariel: Right. It travels in generations and this is a bigger thing. It skips generations. One dad will be ambitious and rich and successful, and his child will be poor and spoiled and misanthropic, and should he have a kid he’ll realize he doesn’t want to be like his dad and emancipates himself from those clutches. All of these things are indicative of the cycle of trauma we never get to the bottom of. We perpetuate the things that go on beneath our awareness. Those are the things that make the world turn…. As soon as a girl is menstruating, it’s on. That’s where we’d be if we hadn’t civilized ourselves. That’s where the difference is, and it’s like we’ve forgot about that.

Noah: But now it’s like we’re back to where survival is the end-all, be-all. That’s what sex is about, right?

Ariel: Survival?

Noah: Well, sex is about perpetuating the genes or the person.

Ariel: Well, the genes, I do believe, make a mark. But I think the person part is really what’s important, as far as we’re concerned. We live our lives outside of our mother’s womb, so we learn pretty much everything from our environment. We’ve got more exposure to the environment, and we’ve got more time to learn and develop with our brains and with the environment to develop these things than any other animal. A gorilla is born able to climb onto its mother’s back, never having to make eye contact.

Noah: That stuff is really interesting to meall of these things that young animals and people seem to know about things. Where does that information come from?

Ariel: Those are the things that we don’t know and do not acknowledge, and those are the things that actually run the show. We think we can make informed decisions and learn from our mistakes and fine-tune things.

Noah: Sometimes I feel like there are two brains operating inside of me, one which I don’t have any say over, and one that is a little more malleable.

Ariel: Right. That’s the key. The one that is more malleable isn’t even that much more malleable. I just feel like we don’t really progress beyond age five, and we have all the faculties and powers that we’re ever going to use in our adult life, and we just have to learn the vocabulary and the experience to learn to navigate it. But we don’t really have any new powers that are tacked on. We just stopped there, and we’re like, “We’re cool here. We’ve got such a huge advantage just with a three-year-old brain.” We figured it out for humans, but we didn’t figure it out for everything, and that’s why we’re retarded, as well, because we’re stuck in our three-year-old brain that’s had all this time on the planet. And every lifetime, it’s like “You’ve been a three-year-old for 70 fucking years.” That can only help you so much. That’s why I think the old tales and lessons and…

Noah: Proverbs?

Ariel: Yeah, proverbs. The stories. They all go back to the same kind of thing. As a kid, you don’t really care or see the importance of these things, but as you get older you see how very few options we do have in this malleable form. It’s like a choose-your-own-ending, but it’s the difference between a radio wave here or a radio wave there. You’re not going to soar to great heights thinking one thing over another thing or not thinking one thing over another thing. You might create an advantage for you in the human realm, but it’s not in and of itself anything important.

Noah: But do you think any progress is possible? I certainly feel like a happier person now than I was 20 years ago.

Ariel: I think so, but I think it’s played out in measured steps across many, many, many generations. That’s what I’m sayingthat personality that’s getting all of that information about everybody and is outlasting us and being transferred in lessons from one generation to the next is transmitted without even thinking. You talk to your wife, and your kid happens to overhear it, that’s this other thing that has a life of its own and has its own power. We’re just the receptacles that it feeds itself through.

Noah: Do you feel like any of your songs address any of this stuff?

Ariel: I think all of our music does, man.

Noah: I think mine definitely do.

Ariel: But that’s talking about it on a totally different level. That’s more when we want to dazzle and pat ourselves on the back and feel good about ourselves as humans, and we have these moments where we point at a stereo and go, “Wow! Did I do that? Oh my God!” And we’re so amazed at the human ingenuity that’s at play. There are so many phenomena that are blowing our minds.

Noah: That’s okay. It’s not wrong to be proud of yourself, right?

Ariel: No, it’s not, but it’s a way that we feel better in the course of having these other feelings about ourselves at the same time. I feel like it’s necessary. It’s necessary that we have a sense of pride and wonder and have a reason to live. When we actually feel like, “Wow. This is an amazing thing. This is a great project. I’m so happy to be here.” That’s the goal, right? The more we feel that, and the less we feel of the opposite, the better.

Noah: That makes music just seem like a diary, just jotting down notes.

Ariel: It’s a record. And it’s a language, too. It’s what gets transmitted from one generation to the next. It’s like a growing organism. My chillwave baby has grown up, and it’s not chillwave anymore. It has graduated into a misogynist clown man. [Laughs] But you think about all these different types of expression in music, all around the world, for the serious-minded and for the religious and for the atheistic, and there’s all sorts of things being transmitted there.

Noah: But the purpose always seems to be the same.

Ariel: Well, these are positions that are trying to transmit their dominance. They’re trying to make an impression.

Noah: I sometimes wonder if it’s all an attempt to occupy the one part of the brain that is sending out impulses.

Ariel: Yeah, the right side of the brain.

Noah: It’s some sort of way of…

Ariel: ...neutralizing it.

Noah: Yeah, “neutralizing” is a good word for it.

Ariel: Yeah, putting us in trance states to make us extremely hypnosis-prone. It’s like a call to arms, like, “When you get the cue, that’s when everyone stands up with their marching orders, and the Stepford wives walk out the door.”

Noah: That’s a dark way of seeing it.

Ariel: But that’s what hypnosis is. That’s what we do. We do it in an unconscious way. That’s why we do all that we do, I think. That’s a dark way of seeing it, but that’s…if you think about it as individuality and autonomy and your own decisions as being the most important thing that you have in your life. And if you do, that’s selling yourself short, because you don’t see yourself as a part of the bigger organism.

Noah: When you’re writing your music, do you feel like that’s maxing out your happiness?

Ariel: When I write my music nowadays, man, I’m reluctant to do it on my own. Not because I can’t do it, but because what I like is the process of making it, creating it, building it, and including as many people as possible in it. Sharing the joy in bringing something out. I know it might seem like it’s my ego trip, but I could easily stay at home and do this stuff, and it would have better results or whatever, but it wouldn’t make me half as happy doing it.

Noah: Isn’t involving other people and wanting other people to share in the joy the ultimate antithesis of everything we were talking about earlier?

Ariel: I think me being happy isn’t the ultimate goal. It’s small peas. My happiness, even though on a limbic level it’s probably the most important to me, it’s not the goal. Nowadays I can only be happy if I’m making other people happy. That’s an about-face on everything that I was raised on and into adulthood. My individuality and sense of identity is forged on that stuff.

Noah: I think everybody is, kind of.

Ariel: Yeah, but most people don’t get the kind of satisfaction or the feeling that they matter enough to actually graduate to the point where they know how to be grateful and satisfied with themselves as individuals. You get to realize that at certain points throughout your life, and it will come back and wax and wane. But when you get into a family situation, your ego is pretty much out the window.

Noah: Completely.

Ariel: This is maybe a biological stage I’m going through for lack of actually having a child and a family, other than my parents and my sisters…. I need my own family.

Noah: You’re going through the same transformation.

Ariel: I’m trying to make my own family. I’m trying to raise something. My family is already a broken family. My family broke up a few times, and it was mostly because I was so grateful for having a family that I made myself negligible in the whole thing, and it bit itself in the ass. So what I’ve realized, for me, that what I need to do first and foremost, is that I can’t waver. I have to own it. I have to live by example, and it’s not the same kind of family, but I have the family of the world. I have to accept that people have their opinions about me, and I have to accept that I also want to do well by them. I actually do want to convey somethingconvey happiness and create joy and have something positive in my name to be remembered by.

Noah: Well, that’s pretty good.

Ariel: Although it might not seem that way… [Laughs]

Noah: When’s the last time you talked to John [Maus]?

Ariel: Just yesterday. He finished his doctorate. He’s been working on that thing for a long time, and he sent it to me to read. Essentially, I make music for John.

Noah: I think of him, because I feel like he’d have a lot to say about this record.

Ariel: He was the first fan, before there was anything to be a fan of. If I’m being honest, he gave me all the confidence that what I was doing was right and nurtured me. Anything that I might hope to feed off of narcissistically, in terms of trying to get everybody’s approval or piss everybody off, all of that is moot. I gave up looking to John for my kudos, because he kept going back to this era when we started being friends, and he holds it up to this crazy degree in his mind. He always reminds me off it, like, “Yeah, Ariel, Before Today, that’s okay, but what about “Crying,” man? What about “[Only in My] Dreams”? What was that? That was like a tear in the fabric of the universe!” I got used to the fact that he didn’t like my [new] shit. I’d still send him stuff, but I had to find my own sense of confidence and my satisfaction elsewhere. We always got along and always talked, but this has been a running thread and not the focus. But when I sent pom pom to him, I’d given up any kind of notion that I’d hear back from him with any kind of positive message. I was basically like, “Here. Whatever.” But to hear him come back gushing made all the difference to me. It sealed the deal. I was happy about it before, but I was even happier after that. I don’t know how much of that is real or whether he’s lost it or I’ve lost it, but I appreciate those things and I realize how much I owe it to the people who supported me initially and gave me the belief in myself.

Noah: Because you wouldn’t be here otherwise, man.

Ariel: I really wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t be doing anything, and neither would you. All of us wouldn’t.

Noah: Well, Ariel, I really appreciate you talking to me, man. It’s good to hear your voice again. It has been a long time.

Ariel: Of course. And it’s great to hear that you’re in good spirits, because I know you’ve had some tough times, too. You can call me anytime you want. I love you guys. The Paw Tracks thing is the most positive thing in my experience in the industry. That’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Noah: Well, thank you. It was certainly our pleasure.


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January 12th 2018

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