Sam Pink writes good books and makes rad paintings, sure, of course, of course. Big deal, right? Novels? Come on. Paintings? Yeah, ok. Poetry? Easy shit. Getting your poems set to some sick tunes? Nothing to it. I mean, who doesn’t just continually crush it at all of the above?
Well, listen up – and this is important – most people fucking don’t. Most people can’t write highly detailed, absurdist narratives about unclogging toilets or watching a homeless guy eat a hot dog. Most people can’t paint or draw terrifying neon ghost demons captioned with nihilistically empowering aphorisms. Most people can’t write poems about putting a witch hat on a stupid piece of shit woodchuck. And you know what? Most people especially don’t listen to cool-ass music.
So I take it all back. Sam Pink puts the rest of us to shame. It’s like, hey, is anyone else even trying? Can someone get a fucking mop and bucket so Sam Pink can finish mopping the floor with rest of us tasteless, untalented hacks?
Pink’s hilarious Rontel got me and my wife safely through a freak blizzard Christmas road trip. His beautifully abstract painting done with your parade and just about to begin mine is my infant daughter’s favorite high-contrast thing to stare at. And now, dear reader, now I am able to package up some Pinkian magic and deliver it right to your headhole. This is my interview with Sam Pink. You’re welcome.
You tweeted a while ago about listening to Windhand, and your twitter bio is what looks to be a reference to Dopethrone by Electric Wizard. Is it fair to say that stoner/doom metal plays a role in your writing process?
I listened to the self-titled Windhand album, the one with the purple haunted house image on the front, while drawing most of the drawings for Book of Ornaments. I like the tone/feeling of those kinds of albums. The Dopethrone reference is from that song ‘I, Witchfinder,’ which always gives me a charge listening to it. I like the ‘albino’ character. I listened to a lot of Bongripper while writing The Garbage Times.
Was there a similar writing soundtrack for White Ibis?
I listened to Black Magic Cannot Cross Water on repeat in Florida around the time period of White Ibis, mostly while painting. It’s the album I think of most when I think of Florida.
Now that you’re back in the Midwest, do you miss anything about St. Pete? Do you fear the winter?
I miss Florida for sure but this is my homeland. Walking down the street at night while it’s snowing, St. Pete never has that. Much love to Tampa, St. Pete and Miami though.
Both Sleep and Electric Wizard have gone on the record saying that they put a lot of attention to the production and sound on their albums that people might not appreciate on first listen, especially due to the minimal nature of the music. I feel like your writing is similarly sparse but heavy. Is there any parallel here? What is something about your process that people might not assume or realize?
That’s interesting, I’ve always thought Dopethrone only sounds good on headphones. I’m pretty deaf and not that interested in the production aspect of things. Maybe that’s the link for me/writing. I agree about the stripped thing though. My process is a lot of stripping.
Is there an album you could nerd out about enough to take a whack at writing one of those 33 1/3 books?
I’ve never read one of those but I think I know what they are. I’d have to think about that, but probably. That sounds cool.
You’ve written about playing drums before, and you’ve done some other musical projects, like Young Family. What’s your musical background? Do you feel like it has informed your approach to other art forms?
Yeah I started playing drums when I was 9. I reached my artistic peak when in sixth grade, I was unanimously considered ‘better than the guy from Nirvana.’ I love playing the drums and feel like it’s one of the only things I’m really really good at. It has definitely informed my writing process. It has naturally (and after the fact scrutinizing) helped me create pleasingly rhythmic sentences. When I’m editing, I read the sentences and drum them out with my teeth.
Have you ever considered noting that you’re better than the drummer from Nirvana in your author bio?
Yes, and from now on I will.
Can you tell me a little bit about how the Your Glass Head Against the Brick Parade of Now Whats recording with Be Softly came together? I am floored by that record and try to play it for everyone who will listen.
That recording came together after someone in England emailed me about using recordings I’d put up on Soundcloud, of the entire book. Thanks a lot for listening to it/showing it to people. I really didn’t do anything. I just recorded myself reading it to put on Soundcloud and then those guys did all the composing/recording/arranging, which is so well done.
Yeah, Be Softly totally rips on that record and the music fits so well with your delivery. I thought it had to be coordinated from the start.
No, they did everything, which is amazing. I mean I recorded that shit on a crappy computer with just the computer mic and put it on Soundcloud and they engineered it. They’re great musicians too. Much love and respect.
Back to doom metal – what is your best memory associated with Conan’s Blood Eagle?
My best memory is listening to it on repeat in a backroom in my apartment in St. Pete while painting.
What’s your worst memory associated with Conan’s Blood Eagle?
NOT HAVING THAT SHIT ON 11 FOR EVEN ONE SECOND BROTHER!
Does your painting/drawing process differ from your writing process? Do you let the image uncover itself or do you set out to capture something specific?
Yeah I’d say it does. I actually think I’m naturally more inclined to visual art. Writing is more of a long process and takes a lot of thinking. For visual art, I almost never know what the image is/going to be, but rather feel guided towards it, whereas with writing I have an idea in mind and do a little exploring around it, but try and stay true to the snapshot.
How do you define a snapshot for a story? Is it generally anchored to a specific conversation, or a particular feeling or physical space, something else? Is there a thematic anchor behind the stories in your upcoming collection, The Ice Cream Man and Other Stories?
Not really sure. Something ‘comes to me’ or clicks with a moment I’m in and then I just trust that. I tell people I’m not a good writer and they think I’m being fake modest or whatever but it’s true. I just, I guess, know what situations to pick, and then edit them really well. There’s a lot of themes in The Ice Cream Man and Other Stories but I only detect them after it’s close to done. More like themes within each story though, and not entirely. But entirely, too.
You have three books coming out soon – one of stories, one of poetry, and one of art. Do you recommend any particular soundtracks to pair with these fine beasts?
I don’t have a soundtrack to recommend. I actually don’t listen to music while reading at all. Sometimes while writing, but less and less. Probably be cool to listen to music with the art book. Maybe Black Earth by Bohren and der Club of Gore.
Your writing has this powerful sense of whimsy and earnestness in the face of doom and darkness, especially The Garbage Times/White Ibis. While Sleep encourages us to “drop out of life with bong in hand,” I feel like you’re more of a “drop into life (with bong if offered)” kinda dude. What advice do you have for those of us struggling to find the good in the world?
My advice is either view yourself as the good in the world, or just give up. Stop waiting for the good to arrive and just summon it in your mind and let it flow past the edges of your body into the world.
Sam Pink is a kick-ass son of a bitch. Better drummer than the guy from nirvana. A dancer, a romantic, a guard dog, a rattlesnake. Book of Ornaments coming this xmas and 99 Poems to Cure Whatever’s Wrong with You or Create the Problems You Need coming this spring. Fuck you.
Zac Smith lives in Boston, MA. His writing has appeared in Hobart, X-R-A-Y Lit, Philosophical Idiot, Soft Cartel, and other cool-ass online journals.
Photo: Devyn Waitt