Tue, 28 Sep 2010 14:14:39
The Pixies are icons of the alt rock generation...before Nirvana exploded and before the term "grunge" was a part of the everyday musical and cultural lexicon. Even the late Kurt Cobain himself acknowledged the sonic debt (of gratitude) his band owed to The Pixies, who certainly weren’t grunge. Rather, The Pixies were certainly left of center, with a distorted, punk rock edge and a distinct ability to be as abrasive as they were melodically motivated. The Boston band, formed in 1986 in Boston, split in 1993 due to battles between lead singer Black Francis and bassist Kim Deal, who went on to enjoy massive alt rock success fronting her band, The Breeders, in her post-Pixies era. Come on, you know you can here that distorted vocal from "Cannonball" in your head right now.
Nevertheless, the band reunited in 2004 to play shows. They embarked on a quick tour where they are playing all of Doolittle in its entirety. The tour wrapped on September 26, but ARTISTdirect scribe Amy Sciarretto tracked down guitarist Joey Santiago while the band was in North Carolina recently to discuss why Doolittle is relevant in 2010, the band's iffy future, recording each show and offering it for sale after the concert and how he isn't fatigued by playing the same songs every night.
You are playing Doolittle in its entirety every night, which is sure delight fans, but what about you? Do you get sick of playing the same songs every night or is it no different than other tours?
I don't know. I haven't gotten sick of it yet! It's too short of a tour to get sick of it, really. There are still challenges, since the sonics of it change from room to room and keeps it interesting.
Why did The Pixies elect to play Doolittle from back to front instead of, say, Surfer Rosa, which came out the year before.
We decided because of the 20th anniversary of the record.
Ah, that makes total sense. Were there any songs that you forgot how to play and had to relearn and perhaps never played life before?
There were a couple that we never played but 'There Goes My Gun' and 'Silver,' which comes off really good live. We had to rehearse them and it took a few listens to learn them again, for sure.
They always says that scent tied to memory so a particular smell can take you back to a time and place; I think it's the same for music. Did prepping for this tour and performing DoolittIe songs transport you to the era during which it was made? Did anything bubble back up the surface?
I remember recording most of that album, yeah. It was still a fresh experience at the time, going to a studio and actually doing pre-production, which we had never done before. It was the first time we did that. Pre-production was key, since it where everything went down to details.
Why do you think Doolittle stands the test of time?
The record had a simplicity to it which was mostly due to the technology, or lack of, back then. There was no Pro-Tools, so we were hitting tape and were limited to 24 tracks and you know, decisions were made based on that fact. We could not do a lot of overdubs and some of the ones we did do overdubs on, we had to see if [drummer] David [Lovering] was playing toms. Then we had to have an extra track, because the mic was not on it. We had the luxury of doubling up. I like the simplicity. I liked being bound to simplicity. There were complicated records then, but I like the limitations the simplicity put on us. It makes you better. It's only a four-piece band, so we don't need a million things going on.
It keeps you honest, to be bound to simplicity. What about Surfer Rosa? Will there be an anniversary tour around that album?
I don't know! We thought of that; we will have to wait till an even number comes along, like 25.
Given the acrimonious split the first time - with the tension between Kim Deal and Frank Black- what made you want to step back into the fray and do the reunion? Was there an initial or a driving catalyst?
There was a lot of curiosity after we broke up. Every two years or every year, people would ask if there would be a reunion and I never thought it would happen. I got the call and thought, ‘This is exiting.' There was an excitement to it. That excitement is carrying on and we get to go to South America next and we had never been there. They will go shithouse. Literally. It's good.
Is the interest and curiosity in The Pixies from old fans during the band's zenith, who are reminiscing about their youth, or is it new fans who never got to experience the band or is it a mix of both? Do you even know?
I don't know if it's old fans, new fans or if the records just stood the test of time. I guess part of it is the way we broke up. People thought it was acrimonious so having us back on stage, people think we may never come around again because of that, which I never know if that is the case or not. It's at that point where I never know.
You are recording the shows on the tour and allowing fans to purchase them immediately after at the show or online. That's a better keepsake than a t-shirt.
It is a nice souvenir for people to have, for the uber uber fans to have it. I have no idea whose ideas it was. The managers, maybe?
Each recording is literally custom and one-of-a-kind, since each show can have kinks and quirks in the set, right?
Some ights I wish I could do overdubs, but I can't, unfortunately. You don't think about it when you are playing. I stop thinking about it because you overthink it and then make mistakes. It's a live show so mistakes are unique and make it a rare recording.
Mistakes make you WHO you are!