Edward Ka-Spel of the Legendary Pink Dots talks about changes and Tear Garden

Since 1980, the Legendary Pink Dots have been creating some of the most inventive, darkly imaginative and emotionally stirring music around. Based originally in London, the Pink Dots relocated to the Netherlands in the mid-'80s, and its lineup has long included both English and Dutch membership. Last year, longtime members Martijn de Kleer and Niels van Hoorn left the band, leaving a core four-member lineup, including the band's charismatic and enigmatic frontman, Edward Ka-Spel, and Phil "The Silverman" Knight.

Trying to track down the band's complete discography would be a heroic feat, seeing as how it's made over forty albums to date, including two of its best albums, 2008's Plutonium Blonde and the newly issued Seconds Late for the Brighton Line.

We caught up with the charming and thoughtful Ka-Spel on the eve of the band's appearance in Denver last night, and spoke with him about the changes in the band's sound since the departure of de Kleer and van Hoorn, and the eminent possibility of Tear Garden -- the long-running recording project Ka-Spel has with cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy -- playing live at long last.

Did you re-create any of those two lost songs that were supposed to be on Plutonium Blonde for your new record?

We were able to recover those two songs, and now they're sitting safe on a hard drive, but we don't know what we're going to do with them yet.

In the past, when you've had a major lineup change, there's been a similar shift in sound. What previously unexplored sonic territory did you discover after the departure of Martijn de Kleer and Niels van Hoorn for Seconds Late for the Brighton Line?

I feel that we were able to be more experimental in our songwriting, which I rather enjoy. Martijn and Niels are a bit more traditional than the rest of us, which is not a knock on them. Now the four of us are on the same page with what we wanted to do with our music.

To my mind, your band finds ways to push its creative envelope in terms of songwriting and the use of instruments other artists might not think to employ or, in some cases, make. Are there particular innovations in terms of sound-making that you're introducing on your latest album?

This time around, I'm making better use of my laptop as a musical instrument. I've always been a bit more old-fashioned with making music in the past, but now I've become much more comfortable with using a computer as a compositional tool as well as with using it on stage.

I heard that Randall Frazier was involved in some way in the production of the new album. Is that true, and if so, why did you have him involved, and how did you meet him?

Randall's a good friend but he did not, in fact, do any work on the new album. We met him years ago, and we played a few times with Orbit Service. He's a wonderful guy, and the new music he's been working on is brilliant.

Last year you released a new Tear Garden album. What was it about cEvin Key that drew you to working with him, and is there any chance we'll ever get to see that project in the live setting?

Oh, I met cEvin Key when I did a solo tour in the '80s, and we hit it off. He wrote to me afterward and told me about some recordings he had been doing on his own, and that he could absolutely hear my voice on them. So I listened to tapes of those recordings on the airplane on a Walkman, and it went on from there.

As for any chance of us playing live: big chance. In fact, last year, I talked with cEvin about that and said we should finally perform live before we're moving about in our wheelchairs. We've been friends for years, and I hope we continue to be friends into the foreseeable future.

Early in the Pink Dots' career, you had a couple of albums that sounded like they were named after cards of the major arcana of the Tarot. Does that imagery or the story contained with the Tarot resonate with your current work?

Back then, we were very much interested in the Tarot, and we would consult the Tarot after recording or after a show to get an interpretation or reading on what we had done and what to do next. But we aren't really influenced by the Tarot these days.

Whenever I've seen you play, you seem to be wearing sunglasses. Is that mostly a pragmatic thing, or is there something that wearing them does for you or for an image you'd like to cultivate?

Actually, those are glasses that are tinted that way. It's really nothing more than the fact that I am light-sensitive and need to wear them.

Not many bands make it to the thirty-year mark while staying consistently interesting. Are there particular things you can point to that have led to the longevity of the Pink Dots for you, and to your engagement with making music in your various projects over the years?

I just never get bored with making music. From the beginning, we've been eating, breathing, sleeping, dreaming music, and it has never stopped.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.