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29 Jun 2020

Political Persuasions: Caeser Pink and the Imperial Orgy Use a Variety of Media to Entertain, Provoke and Inspire

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Caeser Pink and the Imperial Orgy Caeser Pink and the Imperial Orgy

A name like Caeser Pink and the Imperial Orgy conjures up thoughts of fun and perhaps controversy—and the collective certainly delivers, combining vivid and political stage shows with genre-melding music into a riveting, media-blending experience.

The group’s music is opinionated, and live shows add projections and other media. Clips on the internet show band members, dressed in every color under the sun, walking onto a stage one by one from the audience; one video shows the band chanting about love … with dildos strapped to their faces.

Imperial Orgy came about as Pink’s way to express his creative ideas and feelings.

“I had been doing film for a couple years, and I really enjoyed that feeling of being in front of an audience,” Pink said during a recent phone interview. “The concept was really about freedom—to not be limited to any musical genre and to be able to mix any type of art within the multimedia performance, to just do what I want and not worry about the commercial consequences of that. The name Imperial Orgy comes from a Henry Miller book about Russian royalty before the fall, and it seemed to fit well with Caeser Pink. It wasn’t until after we adopted (the name) that I saw it really made sense for the group and the idea of doing whatever you want musically and artistically.

“I played in a punk band for a few years before I went to college. I lived in a small town in the middle of nowhere, so there was really no direct access to arts. I was doing the best I could to learn about the different arts that interested me. The concept for the group was always about performance art, like theater and dance—a mix of anything we could throw in there, not only to get the message of the music across, but to have different layers of meaning. What’s in the video can add another layer of meaning of what’s going on in the music.”

Pink’s most recent release is a NSFW music video for “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” a politically charged song that critiques supremacist ideology. The video features Pink and his band skewering the views of white supremacists and others—singing, “I don’t wanna live like that.” The video includes the band members and others displaying signs with slurs on them—and even verbalizing some of those slurs—before joining arms and singing the chorus in unison. The timely song and video were actually released before the protests regarding the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

“I wrote that originally as a straight-up Beatles parody, and it was a song that has evolved a lot until I was really happy with it,” Pink said. “It’s definitely a song for the moment, and it has really caused a lot of controversy. Sometimes people don’t really understand it in a live setting, but I feel like the video really gets the point across. … We filmed the video all in one day, and it was a weird experience giving out these slur signs to actors we had brought in. I had a sick feeling in my stomach handing out those signs, but everyone really understood it. There was a moment where I was watching the group singing and dancing with those signs on that even choked me up.

“Live, all the musicians start the song by putting on those signs. We stretch out the song at the end, until it’s just a vocal a capella. Then I’ll start handing out signs to the audience, and have people coming to join the line of all of us wearing the signs and locking arms. That can be a really beautiful moment to witness.”

The band has been no stranger to controversy ever since its debut back in the early 1990s. Religious organizations have protested Caeser Pink and The Imperial Orgy—and even threatened violence toward the group.

“I get death threats all the time over the internet,” Pink said. “Now it’s more personal, one on one over social media, but back in the day, it would be banning us from radio, etcetera. It seemed like whatever we did, someone would ban us. There was a time when I was a kid when it was funny, like Alice Cooper outraging society. Everything has been done now, though, and nothing’s really outrageous except ideas, and that’s what pisses people off.”

The word “eclectic” could describe Caeser Pink’s career, even if it’s a bit of an understatement; the group has produced films, TV shows and even books. He’s even been to space; in a sense: In 2010, Stephanie Wilson, an astronaut on the space shuttle Discovery, took an Imperial Orgy CD, All God’s Children, with her.

“When I was in third-grade, I dreamt of being an astronaut,” Pink said. “I’ve only ever wanted to be two things in my life: a scientist or an artist. I kept hearing that this space thing was gonna happen for years from our keyboard player, who’s friends with an astronaut. It wasn’t until the day of that I realized how cool and unusual this thing is. (Wilson) played an EP that certainly had a message relevant to the world. It was a very meaningful experience.”

If there’s been any constant throughout Pink’s career, it’s the use of satirical humor.

“I’ve always been a big fan of satire humor, and I’ve used it a lot to deal with political messages,” he said. “I always had a theory that when you entertain people, you can open up their minds to different types of music and messages.”

The band has not released much new recorded material in the last decade, but Pink promised that more new music is on the way.

“We’ve really struggled to capture what we do live onto tape,” Pink said. “We have an album officially coming out soon which I feel is going to be the one that really captures what the Imperial Orgy is. It’s been frustrating, but a learning process. It wasn’t until I could really take control of the audio engineering that I could really capture the sound more, and put it in a conceptual way that matches what we do onstage. When you play live, you can do a lot of different styles, and it works for people. When you do that on a recording, it gets very tricky. For me, it was a matter of just forgetting about genre and throwing everything together, and tying it by concepts and messages.

“Genres are a prison that other people place on you, and when it gets in your mind, it controls how you play.”

Pink talked a lot about success during our chat, so I asked him what his definition of success was.

“One of the jokes I say is, ‘When you’ve had so many failures, they look really great put all together,’” Pink said. “What is important is trying to reach an audience and getting your view out there. However, we have a lot of musicians, and they gotta eat. It would be lovely to be able to pay those people what they deserve, and to be able to tour on a wide scale.”

Pink said the group, of all things, is getting ready to start a Roku television network.

“It could be a total failure, or it could bring in some money that would allow us to do things like tour,” Pink said. “It’s a mix of an arts variety show, live performances and more. Our old television show from 2002 will also be on our channel, alongside a live-stream option. The station is called The Imperial Orgy Underground Arts, Music and Culture. When we did our TV series, digital editing was a very hard thing to do, but we managed to reach all over the world and build a network with many public access stations.

“We also formed a nonprofit organization and sponsored an art gallery in Brooklyn. Every weekend, there are group shows of young artists and music. We’re thinking of broadcasting those performances and interviewing the artists on the network as well. We’re not only doing our own thing, but we are promoting artists whose work and messages we take to heart. If artists support each other, everybody rises.”

For more information, visit www.iomusic.org.

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