Black Francis of the Pixies Has Answered Your Questions

Come on Pilgrim is the greatest debut album by anyone, ever. Discuss. mungoslut

I will partially agree, at least to appear humble. But seeing as I’m not so humble … I was listening to Murmur by REM a lot just before Come on Pilgrim and that was hugely influential on me as a songwriter. I’m going to be cocky and say: we were even better than Murmur.

I’ve had many a pub argument where I defended my position that I’d take the Frank Black back catalogue over Pixies. Which are you most proud of? SpoctorDooner

I suppose I’m most proud of the Pixies catalogue because that’s what I’m known for. I’m glad for the paradigm of an actual band where everything has to go through a strong filter with a certain amount of compromise and humility. That can be difficult to deal with when you’re a young, cocky rock musician and still an idiot.

What was it like performing with David Bowiealyslinn

I was very nervous. There were all these other greats, like Robert Smith, Sonic Youth and Lou Reed, so I certainly felt the most junior. But Bowie and his band were very gracious and accommodating. It was his 50th, and what are you going to give someone like that for their birthday? So I re-recorded [Bowie track] Fashion, but using the original lyric, which I understood was “fascist”. My friend John Flansburgh from They Might Be Giants brought some musicians to a recording studio in New York the day I sang with Bowie. I burned two copies: one my ex-wife probably still has, and the other copy I gave to birthday boy.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen? Porcinho

I used to have this dog who was fixed, so it didn’t have any testicles. And I had this cat who was also fixed, so it didn’t have a lot of sexual energy. They’d hang out on my bed with me, and often, when I would wake up, the cat would be performing fellatio on the dog. It’s not necessarily what you want to see before you’ve had your morning coffee. I won’t tell you their names because I don’t want to embarrass them. They read all my press.

No one in Pixies ever speaks during a concert  not even a thank you. What’s the thinking? thejungpretender

I have nothing against people who talk between songs. I’m just not very good at it. You become very self-conscious when someone’s tuning their guitar or there’s a pause in the show. It makes you nervous, so you ramble and make stupid jokes into the microphone. I’d listen back to early recordings; most of the time you couldn’t understand what I was saying, and if you did understand, it was stupid, so I just felt like an idiot. Kim [Deal, former Pixies bassist] was much better at talking to the audience, but when we got back together, she fell out of habit. Now it’s a better psychological place for everybody: for me, for the show, for the reverence of music and the gathering of people.

How do you manage to keep screaming night after night? Have you ever shot your voiceeightyseventh

I used to blow it out a bit when I was younger, so I took singing lessons from an opera guy in LA, who taught me an old bel canto opera trick: to look like you’re delivering 100% while actually giving 40%. If you’re wearing an operatic Viking costume for four hours, that’s a long time to be belting it out. It’s the same in a rock band. I’ve learned how to hide the appearance of restraint.

Please elaborate on the inspiration behind Monkey Gone to HeavenVirke7

I guess it’s loosely inspired by the so-called human dilemma of existence, our existential problem on whether we can survive as a race. But it’s told without any agenda or judgment and mixes in some very loose biblical, sing-songy things because, you know, “The devil is six and God is seven” rhymes with heaven. It’s a nursery rhyme with mythological folk imagery. In oversimplified evolutionary terms, we are descended from apes and monkeys, so they are the animal we metaphorically most relate to because of this evolutionary kinship. So that’s why it’s not a bird or a fish gone to heaven.

Do you believe in God? SimonBlackFromPoland

Well, as my father used to reply to the same question: we could probably talk about that all day long.

I’ve always been interested in the UFO imagery that pops up throughout your oeuvre. I remember an interview where you spoke about a UFO sighting on the American Great Plains when you were a kid.PeterSaucer

The best reference I can give is a Frank Black and the Catholics B-side called Le Cigare Volant, which means flying cigar. There’s a delicious Californian wine called Le Cigare Volant, very similar to Châteauneuf-du-Pape – my favourite wine, although I don’t really drink any more. If you do drink, I recommend Le Cigare Volant from the north of Santa Barbara. Anyway: the flying cigar is the classic description of unidentified flying objects, and I did observe a flying cigar with my brother when we were quite young. It was broad daylight, very slow moving, very close to us and had no markings. I recount the story in more poetic terms in song.

What would visitors from another planet make of your music? Kevink2000

I imagine they would probably deduce a lot of information about who I was as a specimen of my species. They’d figure out how old I am, what sex I am, probably my age. But I expect they might find the music a little more distressing.

Have you discovered any music in the past few years that has really inspired you?
PhilClements

The new Sleaford Mods album that came out last year is really fucking great. I listen to that a lot.

What’s your favourite album by the Fall? TheFall2007

I Am Kurious Oranj.

I was fortunate to go to two of your Brixton Academy shows when you reformed Pixies in 2004 – perhaps the best atmosphere of any gig I have been to. What are your memories? radiofour

The first memory that comes to mind is that we were going to do all of our big numbers, including Hey, but I wasn’t really convinced that I was playing the guitar riff correctly. Fortunately [Pixies guitarist] Joey Santiago’s brother Bob, who has performed with Pixies, was at the first show and said: “Yes, that’s because you’re playing it wrong,” and showed me how to play it. So I’m grateful to Bob for steering me on what was a potentially a small thing, but kind of a big thing too.

Know any good jokes? eendean

Here’s one I learned from my grandfather. What’s the difference between a duck? One leg is both the same. I don’t understand it either.

What is a debaser? JonBroster

I guess it means: one who debases. A debaser. It was an attempt to introduce a new word into the lexicon, but I don’t think it’s been successful, else I would have heard about it.

Kim Deal once gave a 16-year-old me a pair of your shoes after a gig in 1989. Do you want them back? ismightier

I appreciate the offer but they probably have value to the person who has them. They might be vintage by now! A Japanese clothing dealer once offered me $500 cash on the spot for my tennis shoes, but they had more value to me as a pair of shoes that day. You don’t walk around the big city in bare feet. I was like: “I need my shoes. Sorry.”

Are you friends with Kim Deal or do you guys hate each other? POlskiBus

I mean, we’re always friends. You don’t be in a band together and not be friends. I don’t recall when I last spoke to her, and I’m not very good at Christmas cards. We did a lot of tours together, we wrote together and we made all those records together … but nothing is for ever. You’re sort of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you don’t get back together, people say: “Oh, that’s a bit sad. What are your memories? What are your regrets?” And if you don’t break up and stay together, everyone says: “Oh, are you guys still together, doing that same old shtick?”

Have you ever written a song that made you think: “How will I ever top that”? JamesDonnelly

Oh, sure. Every time I write a song that I’m pleased with. I’ve put together about 40 songs for the current Pixies record. A couple of times I even surprised myself, but I think it’s a common experience in songwriting. You write something that you’re pleased with and your first thought is: “I just wrote the best song I ever wrote.” But to say “I’m never going to write another song that good” would be quite an epiphany, so I’m not inclined to make that kind of statement.

Have you ever felt like saying: “Fuck this shit, I’m going to live in a cabin in the woods”? HomerGoetznutz

Sure. We all have our fleeting thoughts of: I never want to do what I do all the time ever again. I think we mean well when we speak to ourselves in that way, but it’s easy to have these kinds of epiphanies that aren’t necessarily that accurate.

Where is your mind? upyerbum

The mind is less debated than the existence of soul. The mind seems to be finite, with a beginning, a middle and an end, and then it leaves ghosts and residue. The mind is not in your brain; it’s reported by your brain, so the notion is that it’s not actually your brain, but it’s not your soul or your so-called art either.

 Pixies Live in Brixton, an 8LP/CD box set, is released on 25 February

 

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