The king of the new weird America tells us all about mermaids, being a cheeseball goth in high school and what it would take to make him run for office
As part of our States of Independence summer takeover, 50 American indie icons have volunteered to take the Dazed Pop Quiz; a quick-fire Q&A about what they love and loathe about life in the USA. Check back here every day for more from the series.
Does any American musician around today epitomise the phrase “expect the unexpected” more than Ariel Pink? The original “underground” musician – he spent years writing and recording in relative seclusion in the Los Angeles hills – Pink and his band (the excellently named Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti) hit the (relative) mainstream with their last two, critically acclaimed albums: 2010’s breakthrough Before Today, and 2012’s Mature Themes. But though the home-recording savant might now be favoured by the online generation, it’s the off-notes of his irony-laden lyrics and alt-pop sensibility that keeps us coming back for more. Growing up in the shadow of the Hollywood dreamzone – Beverleywood, to be precise – his unique take on common American tropes has given lo-fi musicians a new urgency to aspire to.
A prince of Pop and then some, you can never pin the Pink down – maybe that’s why he managed to turn a Proustian quiz into a meditation on mermaids, McDonalds and high school goths. All with the merest dash of all-American self-loathing, of course.
Which living American do you most admire and why?
Ariel Pink: Ted Haggard. Because he's humble.
Which living American do you most despise and why?
Ariel Pink: Me. Because I'm narcissistic and thats pathetic.
Whose face should be on the $100 bill?
Ariel Pink: Anyone living past the age of 99 should have a special edition of $100 bills featuring pics of them as babies.
What is your favorite quote about America?
Ariel Pink: "It depends on what the meaning of "is" is..." – Bill Clinton.
What three words define the States today?
Ariel Pink: Kung pow chicken.
Who gave you your first break? Do you still talk?
Ariel Pink: I haven't had a break. I talk too much.
When + where you the most happiest?
Ariel Pink: In the past, where I live.
What high school clique were you in? Do you stay in touch?
Ariel Pink: I was known as the "cheeseball goth" by the goth kids. we never talked. I had a girlfriend for most of high school. We didn't stay in touch.
What food reminds you of home?
Ariel Pink: Campbells chunky clam chowder.
What smell do you associate with the city of your birth?
Ariel Pink: McDonalds French fries.
What's the best road trip you've ever been on?
Ariel Pink: Can't recall. They all blend in together.
Where did you first fall in love?
Ariel Pink: Emmanuel elementary school.
What would make you leave America forever?
Ariel Pink: Prison.
What noise reminds you of the States?
Ariel Pink: Ignorant mouths flapping.
What is your favorite American building?
Ariel Pink: The Excalibur hotel in Las Vegas.
Ultimate American film?
Ariel Pink: Small Time Crooks.
Most overrated US tourist attraction?
Ariel Pink: New York.
Most underrated US tourist attraction?
Ariel Pink: Catalina Island.
Favorite slang phrase?
Ariel Pink: Papa bear scratching at the cave door.
What is your ultimate American guilty pleasure?
Ariel Pink: Porn.
Ultimate American album?
Ariel Pink: The American Song-Poem Anthology.
What law would you change or invent?
Ariel Pink: I would make marriage illegal. And mandatory service in the army.
Where in the States would you ride out the apocalypse?
Ariel Pink: Hawaii.
When was your last run-in with the cops? What happened?
Ariel Pink: Next door to my house at La Fuente Mexican restaurant. They sat down to eat.
If you could change one thing about the US, what would it be?
Ariel Pink: No more change!
Which fictional American do you most identify with?
Ariel Pink: Ariel the mermaid.
If you could vote for Obama again, would you?
Ariel Pink: I didn't vote.
If you lost it all tomorrow, what would you do the day after?
Ariel Pink: Run for office.
What will America look like in 2050?
Ariel Pink: Ever read 1984?
Does the American Dream still exist?
Ariel Pink: I'd guess anybody old enough to have experienced the 1950s would say no.