The Legendary Pink Dots - Biography
By Scott Feemster
The Legendary Pink Dots are an experimental/psychedelic band based in The Netherlands that have released over 40 albums and have been in existence for over 25 years. They remain mainly a cult band, with a devoted following of fans across the world. They continue to tour and record frequently.
The Legendary Pink Dots, ( or The LPD, or The Dots), were started in London in 1980 by core members Edward Ka-Spel, (real name Edward Francis Sharp), and Phil Knight, (a.k.a. The Silverman) from the ashes of an earlier band called One Day. The band's unusual sounding name reportedly comes from some mysterious pink dots that were painted on the keys of one of the band's keyboards. The painted keys didn't make up any particular chord or scale and the reason for the dots remained a mystery. The early version of the band included Ka-Spel, Knight, bassist Roland Calloway, keyboardist and vocalist April White and guitarist Rik Chevrolet. The band has always been fond of changing members names to different whimsical choices over the course of their career, which seems to add to their cultivated sense of mystery and confusion. This early version of the band produced a form of twisted, almost gothic synth-pop on what sounded like low-budget drum machines and keyboards. Their first releases were mostly cassette-only collections on small labels, including Dots On The Eyes (Cassette King)(1981), Kleine Krieg (Mirrordot)(1981) and Only Dreaming (Mirrordot)(1981). These were followed by Brighter Now (Soleilmoon)(1982), Apparition (Ding Dong Tapes)(1982), Curse (Soleilmoon)(1983), Basilisk (Third Man)(1983), Legendary Pink Dots (Inphaze)(1984) and The Tower (Soleilmoon)(1984). After recording The Tower, White and Calloway left The Dots and the band started to enter a phase of becoming more experimental and incorporating more elements of psychedelic music, sound collage and even hints of 20th century classical composition and musique concrete. It was also during this period of time that the band pulled up stakes and moved their base of operations to Amsterdam. The group kept their ties with the British music underground while they established new ties with their peers in Europe.
The LPD's 1985 album Asylum (Cacciocavallo/Soleilmoon) was produced by Steven Stapleton of ambient/sound-collage band Nurse With Wound and reflected the band's widening of their sound, while keeping their already trademark keyboard-based sound and Ka-Spel's demented vocals and twisted lyrical subject matter. The album was a double album, which seemed to show even more ambition on the part of the group. The Dot's next album was Island Of Jewels (Cacciocavallo/Soleilmoon), released in 1986. Island Of Jewels seemed to be a transitional album in that it was the last album by The Dots to prominently feature drum machines and continued to refine some of the ideas and methods started on Asylum. Island also featured shorter, more concise song structures than were featured on Asylum. As many of their albums would feature different “feels” for each side of an album, (this was, after all, when vinyl albums were still prominent), so Island was split between the first part or side of the album being more experimental and the second side more lyrical and pop-based. The Dots followed Island with Any Day Now (Play It Again Sam)(1987), an album that continued the band's mixture of latter-day progressive rock with industrial, pop and experimental elements. The album is also notable in that it prominently featured member Patrick White's lyrical violin work. The Dots released a live album Dot-to Dot (Teddy Bear Music) in 1988, and also began work on a series of experimental, mostly cassette-only releases called the Traumstadt series. The band would release 5 volumes of the series over the next couple of years in addition to producing their more song-oriented albums and touring regularly. It would be a fair observation to say that The Dots didn't let grass grow under their feet.
The LPD's released The Golden Age (Play It Again Sam) in 1989, followed by the double-album length The Crushed Velvet Apocalypse (Play It Again Sam) in 1990. With Crushed Velvet, the band's always latent psychedelic leanings came further to the fore, as they incorporated songs using sitars, drones and Indian percussion instruments as well as their usual battery of varied instruments built around the base of keyboards and Ka-Spel's twisted vocal delivery. A more experimental release, Four Days (Mirrordot) was released as a limited edition in 1990, followed in quick succession by The Maria Dimension (Play It Again Sam) in 1991, and the two-part Shadow Weaver (Play It Again Sam), the first volume released in 1992, the second volume, subtitled Part 2: Malachai, released in 1993. The latter albums showed the band expanding it's sound somewhat by incorporating more acoustic-based songs and even dub influences into it's already wildly eclectic style. With the line-up of the band being somewhat stable, The Dots continued touring and releasing albums at their frenetic pace throughout the 90's, including From Here You'll Watch The World Go By (Soleilmoon)(1995), Nine Lives To Wonder (Soleilmoon)(1995), which included contributions from Skinny Puppy member cEvin Key, the re-issued It's Raining In Heaven (Soleilmoon)(1995), Ancient Daze (Terminal Kaleidoscope)(1997), Hallway Of The Gods (Soleilmoon)(1997), Nemesis On-Line (Soleilmoon)(1998), and the compilation Sing While You May (Poi Poka Mozhesh)(Brudenia)(1999). (A side note regarding Nine Lives...; Ka-Spel had been involved with the project The Tear Garden with Skinny Puppy member cEvin Key since 1985, and the pair released four albums between that time and 2000.)
The Dots entered the new millennium with their psychedelic/gothic/progressive sound at full strength, and released A Perfect Mystery (Caciocavallo) in 2000 as well as the live album Goodbye, Milky Way (Caciocavallo), which documented a 1994 performance at the famed Amsterdam venue Melkweg (Milky Way in Dutch). A compilation album of tracks by The LPD's as well as some of their side projects, (including Mimir, The Tear Garden and Karolinek), called Kollabaris (Terminal Kaleidoscope) was released in 2001, followed by Synesthesia (SPKR), and the companion albums All The King's Horses (Caciocavallo/Soleilmoon) and All The King's Men (ROIR) in 2002. Synesthesia marked the first album without longtime drummer and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Moore, who went on to work on his own dub reggae project, Twilight Circus Sound System. This would leave the band a quartet, consisting of Ka-Spel, Knight, Martijn de Kleer, and Niels van Hoorn, with engineer Raymond Steeg considered an auxiliary member of the band. All The King's Men was notable in that included a storyline running through the album of a man on an airplane that was about to crash trying to reach his wife's cell phone, only to get her voice-mail. The story was written in early 2001 before the events of September 11th of that year, and the story bore an uncanny resemblance to some of what happened on that fateful day. The Dots hardcore cult followers saw it as a sign that Ka-Spel was indeed some kind of prophet, (he had been calling himself The Prophet Qa-Spel on record off and on for some time), but it seems the story was just a strange coincidence. The Dots followed up the companion albums with The Whispering Wall (ROIR) in 2004, Malachai (Big Blue) in 2006, and Your Children Placate You From Premature Graves (ROIR), also in 2006. Your Children... received glowing reviews and was seen by both critics and fans as one of the band's best and most concise albums. The album featured the group's trademark psychedelic strangeness welded to darker, more electronic-based forms mixed with van Hoorn's saxophone and various acoustic instruments scattered over the top. Of course, over the top of it all, was Ka-Spel's high-pitched, twisted vocals, singing and reciting more tales of dread and whimsy and seemingly every gradation between. After the release of Your Children..., the band embarked on their 25th anniversary tour.