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Pixies’ Black Francis Talks ‘Greens And Blues’ & More

06:01 PM Friday 1/3/14 | |

The Pixies surprised fans today by releasing a new four-track EP without any advance promotion. Pollstar was in on the secret and talked to Black Francis a few weeks ago about the new music.  

You could say that the Pixies pulled a Beyoncé with the sudden release of EP-2, except that the band did it before Mrs. Carter with September’s EP-1. The two EPs and the 2013 single “Bagboy” mark the first new material from Black Francis & Co. since the 2004 single “Bam Thwok.” The band’s most recent album was 1991’s Trompe le Monde.

EP-1 and EP-2 were recorded in October 2012 at Rockfield Studios in Wales, U.K. When founding bassist Kim Deal split with the Pixies shortly after the recording session began, the band got Simon Archer, aka Ding, to fill in on bass on the EPs.

In addition to discussing a few of the tracks on EP-2, Black Francis also spoke to Pollstar about the analysis from the press and fans about the band’s new touring bassist Paz Lenchantin and split with Kim Shattuck.

The Pixies announced in December that Lenchantin was on board as the touring bassist for the 2014 North American, South American and European summer dates.

Less than two weeks earlier Shattuck posted on her own Facebook page that she was “super disappointed” to learn her time with the band had ended. The bassist toured with the band between September to November on its first excursion post-Kim Deal.

Along with EP-2, today the Pixies released a music video for the track “Blue-Eyed Hexe.” EP-2 is available exclusively through the band’s website.

  • Pixies

    Black Francis, David Lovering, Joey Santiago

    ( Michael Halsband)

    | 

I’ve been listening to the new music and I especially like the track “Greens and Blues.”

“Greens and Blues” – I guess I like that one a lot too. …“Gigantic” had become very much a big closer number, either at the end of the set or even sometimes the last song in the encore. A couple other songs could serve that function as well, like “Where Is My Mind,” for example. But “Gigantic” saying the final goodbye to the audience seemed to really work well. … I think there were times when even Kim Deal would tire of having to perform that song once again. “Goodnight everybody, Gigantic!” You start to feel like you’re in some kind of a Broadway musical.

I was trying to write a song that could be that type of song like “Gigantic” when I did “Greens and Blues.” It couldn’t be, for example, too fast or two slow. It had to be a nice kind of medium tempo, it needed to kind of have a big chorus. The chord structure of the verses is very similar to the chord structure of the chorus. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s very similar. “Gigantic” is like that and so is “Monkey Gone To Heaven.” … So that’s why “Greens and Blues” ended up having that kind of quality to it as well because in the back of my mind I was thinking of “Gigantic,” where the verse and the chorus are exactly the same notes, as you will. They’re different feelings, but it’s the same note.

When you recorded EP1 and EP2 in October 2012, did you know right off the bat that these would be two separate collections of music rather than one album?

From an esthetic point of view I think we had set out to make an LP kind of artistic statement, 35 to 45 minutes of music, a dozen or so songs. I think that we have grown up enough with the LP format that it’s very difficult to totally disassociate from that. I think on some level we made an LP but I think even while we were making it we were aware that there was a plan not to release it that way necessarily.

In the track-by-track press you mentioned that with the song “Magdalena” that there are a lot of lyrics that are self-referential to the Pixies. Can you expand on that?

On the surface of it I guess it’s kind of a broken-heart song – I love this girl, she’s no good, she was mean to me. We broke up and now I’m sad. …

“I fell down deep into her eyes, one year just turned into five. Night came and then it was gone. How did you get so strong, sweet Magdalena.”

He falls into this kind of relationship with Magdalena and time just flies by. Suddenly he’s with this woman for five years or longer. There is a sort of science fiction reference in that verse that I just said to you about one day just turns into five. That’s kind of an astronomical reference in terms of how a day is interpreted on another celestial body besides Earth. … The narrative arch of this song is just I met this girl named Magdalena, I thought she was really cool and then she said it was over. She’s so mean. She’s so sweet, yet she’s so mean. I think everyone can understand that story.

So, if you were to Google Magdalena, as I did … I knew I wanted to write a song about this girl named Magdalena but what do I really want to say? … It turns out there’s this place called Magdalena 318 – it’s an asteroid that moves within our own solar system. So when I discovered there was a place called Magdalena 318, my song became Magdalena 318. It wasn’t just about Magdalena, it was about an asteroid.   

Now why the hell would I be writing about an asteroid? The reason is because the producer of our album, Gil Norton, has been going on and on with his own science fiction narrative arch since we began this process of recording a new record or whatever- “Charles, you’ve been away in outer space. The Pixies have been away from earth for 20 years. You’ve been away on the Planet Of Sound, making your Pixies music. No one’s heard you for 20 years and now you’re back, stepped out of the capsule and this is what our record is about. It’s about showing that you guys have been together with the band for all these years, somewhere else, somewhere otherworldly and doing your thing. And now, whatever development you’ve experienced there, wherever you’ve been there, outside of Planet Earth, that’s what this recording session, that we’ve been doing now, needs to represent.”

So that’s Gil Norton’s narrative. … Joey and I initially struggled with it but we understood it.

That’s Gil’s personality … He’s like a moviemaker. He likes to have this story that he’s kind of clinging to almost. Especially if he’s working with musicians and songwriters who aren’t exactly … real narrative. We’re not big on straight narratives … it’s a little more abstract, a little more artier. So I think as a way for him to deal with that he kind of projects his own narrative on to what we’re doing…. Otherwise he can’t really do a lot with our abstraction. He gets it, I’m sure, but he can’t really participate until he kind of makes sense out of it in his own head.

So, anyway, when I discovered that Magdalena 318 was a celestial body – of course! – I was like, “OK, there’s my Planet Of Sound. There’s a celestial body where Joey and I and David and Kim have been residing for these last 20 years, doing our thing.” And so, just by adding that one little number – 318 – into my song, the whole song becomes this big double entendre. The whole thing becomes multi-layered. On the surface it’s a song about a boy who met a girl. Underneath it, it’s about a band that’s on an asteroid in outer space, making music for 20 years, away from their home planet.  



I found a video online showing the Pixies playing “Blue Eyed Hex” and “Greens And Blues” at a gig in Los Angeles in September. How did the songs go over?

People seemed to be somewhat curious about them because they don’t know them. … They clapped when we played them, nobody left. But I’m not sure what people really thought about it. I’ve come to not have too many expectations about an audience’s reception of material that is new or material that has not been heard yet. You just kind of have to do it.

It’s only after years have gone by, really, that the music achieves some kind of new status. That’s the arch of your art when you’re an indie artist, when you’re a cult artist. When you’re a pop hit maker, the arch is different - it’s more about releasing something that becomes a big hit immediately and suddenly it’s everyone’s reference in the now, in the moment. That’s how it is for hit makers. But you know, I don’t really play that kind of music, I’m not in that kind of band, never have been. People love “Where Is My Mind” – I can tell you right now that people did not love “Where Is My Mind” in the same way in 1988 as they do now. It’s taken time for that song to [evolve] into some kind of a new stature.

If you do end up recording another EP or another album, would you consider recording with Paz or another female to get those female vocals in the songs?

Well, yeah! I mean I think that’s probably our first choice because if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t see us out there trying to tour with women musicians. We didn’t use one on the record because we had to kind of make a judgment call at the time very quickly. We needed someone then and there and we happened to have a friend who lived up the road, a great bass player, who happened to be a dude.

And we didn’t want to put some woman under too much pressure and ourselves under too much pressure, like, “Hey, would you come play on our new record right now and you might be the replacement bassist right now but we don’t know? …”

It’s just a lot of pressure, you know what I mean? It’s a lot of pressure for anyone to come play bass for us. It’s kind of like, “Maybe I’ll keep playing with them, and maybe I’m won’t.” When you’ve had the same lineup for years and years and years, any person who’s stepping into that position knows that it’s a tricky situation. It’s definitely a lot of pressure coming from the band, coming from the audience, coming from whoever. … But whatever. Nobody can help it. The audience can’t help it, the band can’t help it.

Everyone is analyzing it – can we keep this baby going? Can we keep this band alive, even though somebody left? What’s it going to be like? Is it right? Have they made the right move? Are they playing the right songs? Are they playing the right songs in the right order? My God, the analysis that goes on is ridiculous.

You recently gave an interview where you said splitting with Kim Shattuck wasn’t “that big of a deal.” Although she seemed surprised by the news, what I was wondering – was she actually fired or was it always a plan that she would just play those specific tour dates in 2013?

Well, we never said anything about her being fired. Actually, she didn’t even say anything about being fired. She said, I believe, if I’m quoting her correctly, she said on her Facebook page that she was “disappointed that she learned that she wasn’t going to be working with us anymore.” So, I mean, we never said anything about it. She decided to say something about it on her Facebook page. NME and whoever else started to say a lot of other stuff and use a lot of other language to make it all sound much more hostile than it was. And so, that’s what we’re dealing with right now. And I did an interview where I said it was “no big deal” but that’s a little bit taken out of context. What I was referring to was the fact that you know, a band that’s been around for a really long time loses a member and they decide to replace a member. You know it takes some time to sort it out and decide whether or not you’re with the right person…. It’s not that big of a deal to work with someone and then say “You know what, this isn’t working out, so we’re not going to work together anymore.”

The problem with doing interviews is that a lot of publications tend to want to like basically set out asshole bait for me [laughs] so that I get all wound up and I start to … I like to talk very blunt, I like to talk the way that I talk. I don’t like to act like I’m in a f**king legal case or something where I have to say everything just the way that my lawyer said I have to say it.

Yeah, that would be pretty boring.

Yeah! And I feel like I’m doing the journalist a disservice too because they can tell when I’m carefully choosing my words – “Well, if I want to answer that question I think …” And I start to feel silly because of course we’re not in a legal case, we’re just talking about rock music.

But the problem is that publications like NME or whoever, they like to extract the quote that is going to look the most soap opera-esque and put it out of context in bold letters over the article. And then that becomes part of some sort of mythological story or script. And then you can’t shake it.

Then it becomes – they use the word “fire” – “Kim Shattuck Is Fired From The Pixies.” Then what happens is because her name is Kim and the last one is called Kim, they start to go, “Oh, this band has a habit of firing bass players.” Then it’s like, oh, not only have we fired Kim, but we fired the other Kim.” Which of course, none of that happened. …

Then I’ve got all these people messaging my Twitter account going, “You f**king arrogant asshole! How dare you!” They’re all emotionally involved because they liked Kim Shattuck and they’re like, “Look, we just got over the fact that you got rid of Kim Deal and now we’ve gotta get over this! What’s wrong with you, you prick!” You know that I mean? And it’s turned into this thing.

And meanwhile, the band, we’re just like, “Geez Louise.” [laughs] It’s like, what are we going to do, what are we going to say? Everyone’s watching us. Meanwhile, of course, none of this is about music. I don’t know. Whatever, it’s fine. Ultimately I’m not that wound up about it. It’s show biz, I guess what it is. I’m not complaining, I’m just talking about it.

When Paz was announced in December it was made very clear that she would be the touring bassist for North and South America and the European summer dates. David had a quote where he said, “Working with different bass players is very new for the band but we’re having a lot of fun doing it.” Do you think down the line you might work with other bassists?

Well, what he’s responding to is the fact that other people want to overlay their agenda on us. I mean, they say, “Oh, you’re working with a new bass player. So, is this the replacement? Is this going to be the replacement for Paul McCartney in the Beatles? Please tell us.” I mean, it’s like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on. We’re not the Beatles. Stop.” …

We’re a rock band and somebody left. We’re trying to find the right person. I don’t know if this is going to be the right person. Really? Do you really want me to have to start talking about this? The other person that potentially is going to work out is going to read this, you know what I mean? And the person that didn’t work out is going to read this. ... That’s what David is responding to and that’s really what I’ve been responding to. David is much better about choosing his words carefully. I’m much more about going like “Hey, no big deal! F**k it!” That’s because that’s my personality.

I was talking to my husband, whose favorite band happens to be the Pixies. He was excited about Paz joining as the touring bassist because she can sing in Spanish. That should work out well for performing the Pixies songs that include Spanish lyrics.

That is true. We thought of that when we originally played with her earlier in the year.

We played with a few people this year. We didn’t tour with all those people. We didn’t take our picture with all those people. … We had to start somewhere, you know what I mean?

And I really felt like for a lot of reasons Kim Shattuck was the right choice to play with. For a lot of reasons she was the right choice. And you know what, we played some shows and the shows went really well.

… At some point, someone like me just goes, you know what – it’s actually none of anybody’s business. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s none of anyone’s business. … We’re not trying to create trouble here. We’re just trying to play some music. …

People have all these ideas about what we’re supposed to do and what we’re not supposed to do but none of those people are in our band. All we can do is make a decision based on what we feel and hopefully it’s the right decision.

In your press materials David mentioned the band had five songs going into the studio and wrote another seven there, so based on that, will there be any more EPs?

Oh yeah, there’s lots of new music. We recorded lots of music. We wrote more music … and demo-ed more music than we even recorded. …
 
So now we finally let the cat out of the bag – we’re releasing new music. We’re still calling it the Pixies even though Kim Deal left. People can either buy into what we’re selling or not. We’re not trying to put any pressure on anybody. We’re not trying to shove it down anyone’s throat.

We have a fan club and we give them first dibs on things like certain tickets and certain limited-edition things … We’re just trying to be a good band. We’re not going to always do it the way that everyone else wants us to do it but what are we supposed to do? Have a board meeting every time we want to write a song?

I mean, you could. That would be a fascinating band. To say, “OK, all of my fans out there … whoever wants to buy into this, $2,000 a share. We’re all going to divide the profits and before we record any new music or whatever major endeavor we do – a tour or a record or whatever – we’re all going to have a big board meeting in New York City. We’re all going to sit around and talk, hash things out.

That would be a long meeting.

Yeah, that would be a long meeting. And guess what? It wouldn’t work.

  • Pixies

    Joey Santiago, Black Francis, David Lovering

     

    (Michael Halsband)

    | 

Pixies’ North American itinerary for January-March:

Jan. 15 – Toronto, Ontario, Massey Hall     
Jan. 16 – Montreal, Quebec, Metropolis     
Jan. 18 – Boston, Mass., Orpheum Theatre     
Jan. 19 – Port Chester, N.Y., The Capitol Theatre     
Jan. 21 – Newark, N.J., Prudential Hall     
Jan. 22 – New Haven, Conn., Shubert Theater     
Jan. 24 – Philadelphia, Pa., Electric Factory     
Jan. 25 – Pittsburgh, Pa., Carnegie Music Hall     
Jan. 26 – North Bethesda, Md., Music Center At Strathmore     
Jan. 29 – Richmond, Va., The National     
Jan. 31 – Durham, N.C., Durham Performing Arts Center     
Feb. 1 – Asheville, N.C., Thomas Wolfe Auditorium     
Feb. 2 – Nashville, Tenn., Ryman Auditorium     
Feb. 4 – Atlanta, Ga., The Tabernacle     
Feb. 6 – St. Louis, Mo., Peabody Opera House     
Feb. 7 – Columbus, Ohio, Lifestyle Communities Pavilion     
Feb. 8 – Detroit, Mich., The Fillmore Detroit     
Feb. 9 – Chicago, Ill., Riviera Theatre     
Feb. 11 – Kansas City, Mo., Arvest Bank Theatre At The Midland     
Feb. 13 – Denver, Colo., Fillmore Auditorium     
Feb. 14 – Aspen, Colo., Belly Up Aspen     
Feb. 15 – Magna, Utah, The Great Saltair     
Feb. 17 – Vancouver, British Columbia, Orpheum     
Feb. 18 – Seattle, Wash., Paramount Theatre     
Feb. 19 – Portland, Ore., Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall     
Feb. 21 – Oakland, Calif., Fox Theater     
Feb. 22 – San Jose, Calif., City National Civic Of San Jose     
Feb. 23 – Las Vegas, Nev., The Joint @ Hard Rock Hotel / Casino     
Feb. 24 – Phoenix, Ariz., Comerica Theatre     
Feb. 25 – Albuquerque, N.M., Kiva Auditorium     
Feb. 27 – Houston, Texas, Bayou Music Center     
Feb. 28 – Dallas, Texas, South Side Ballroom     
March 1 – Austin, Texas, Austin Music Hall     


For more information please visit PixiesMusic.com.


 


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