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As the first artist that was not Animal Collective to release an album on Animal Collective's Paw Tracks imprint, L.A.'s Ariel Rosenberg spent the past decade reissuing his stock of eight-track bedroom recordings under the guise of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. Those albums ranged in refinement from lo-fi to no-fi and had the feel of a long-lost Guided by Voices tape that you might find ground into the side of the road.
The recordings give the feeling that, rather than trying to convince everybody, Rosenberg is happy to breed a small cult of true believers who are just as devoted to his mysterious personae as they are to his music. With his newest release, Before Today, that may no longer be possible, as he's signed to a major indie label, recorded in a God's-honest studio and laid down the best album of his career. We caught up with Rosenberg recently and asked him about the new recording.
Westword: Before Today is the first album that you didn't self-record, your first time in the studio, is that right?
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Ariel Rosenberg: That's right.
What was that experience like? Was it difficult having more people with their hands on your product?
Yeah, it was challenging, but it was good. It was a change, but not that big of a change. I'm used to working with people. Contrary to popular belief, I'm no stranger to collaboration. It was more of an exercise in diplomacy, in making a few compromises here and there, but I don't mind that.
Are you surprised that music broke for you the way it did? Did you have something else in mind when you went to art school, or was it always going to be about music?
For my thesis project when I went to art school, I actually sold my first album, The Doldrums, at a kiosk for the gallery show — that was my artistic, kind of rebellious stance there. I was extremely defiant, I didn't like the gallery system, and I don't like the art world; I think it's pretty much a joke. I can appreciate the music world a little bit more; it's more of a way to make a living in a little way, and people understand what they're paying for. No slight to Damien Hirst or anything like that, but I think art is a con job...which is cool, which is cool. I'd need to do a few cons myself if I was trying to make a living in that industry for that long.
You mentioned The Doldrums. Most of your early work culled your back catalogue of songs written in the '90s and early 2000s. When did you start writing music?
I started when I was about eight or nine, but I was kind of just playing stuff around the house. I didn't really learn how to play anything until, uh...well, I still don't even know. I've been writing songs longer than I've been playing them, so it goes back a ways. I've always had an interest in music, but I still feel like an outsider. I'm just happy to be making music, happy to be a part of it.