07 Jun 2004
Back in '91, Andy Barding was a young man with hopes and dreams and a dictaphone. Lucky for him that he bumped into Kim Deal, and nabbed the last British Pixies interview. "I get too weird, you know," say she.
Can there be any greater thrill for a young Pixies fan with brooding journalistic ambition than to nab a Pixies interview? I bumped into Kim Deal in the streets of Brixton on the afternoon of June 26th, 1991 - the afternoon of the band's final official UK gig (though a secret show did follow a couple of weeks later).
She was looking for a phonebox, I was looking for a Pixie. I gave her a fanzine and a cigarette, she gave me an interview. We went to the Canterbury pub, across the road from the Academy, and while I plied her with fags she spoke about the upcoming 'Trompe Le Monde' album and life as a Pixie and fledgling Breeder. As she guzzled her pint, crouching low over the table to speak into my microphone, she demolished my weekend cigarette supply. The more fags I gave her, the more she talked. That girl could smoke - and she could talk too.
The resulting interview was published in Rock A My Soul fanzine shortly after, along with a great Black Francis interview that Geoff Bell had conducted in the dressing room of the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden. These two are the last of the British Pixies interviews and have not been published outside of the fanzine. Listening to the tape again after 13 years, it's really not a bad little exchange. I'm pretty pleased. This is how it went.
Tell me about the new album, Kim. Has that been recorded yet?
We're still doing it. Gil (Norton), our producer, is convinced that if he doesn't get it done by July 15 somebody's going to be hired to assassinate him because it's cost something like �1m.
It doesn't have any singles on it. Well, 'Planet of Sound', but it says "fuck" - that's not a real single. You could release it as a single, you know, but it's not going to do it - you know what I mean?
I was surprised to hear that on the radio, with that very rude word in it.
Yeah. A lot of the time the DJs didn't notice it.
Can you take me through some of the tracks that are likely to be on the album. 'Motorway to Roswell' - is that likely to be there?
Yeah. And 'Subbacultcha'... that's one of the ones from The Purple Tape.
What's all this with Black and UFOs?
I don't know. It fascinates him. I have no idea.
Has he got loads of books?
He's got books and stuff, he gets Omni and those series books. You know, Magic Places. He was into the sky writing... not sky writing, you know when you look down on a field of corn and there's earth lines. There's some neat pictures.
How did Bob [Santiago- Joey's brother] get in on the band?
I think the main reason was because Charles wanted to be more Nick Cave-y in a way, to not have to play guitar every single song. To kinda scare people a little bit, you know. It would be fun on stage if he wasn't trapped to the mike. You know, take the mike off and sing - I think that's what he wanted to do. But he's not really doing that, he's playing all the time and Bob usually just plays the acoustic songs, just to fill it out more. But he's nice. He turned 21 on the tour.
Is he going to be a permanent Pixie now?
Can you tell me about any of the other tracks on the album? Any titles?
Um... 'Trompe Le Monde'. That's probably the name of the album. It's the first song on it and it comes from "trompe l'euvre" - to fool the eye, to trick the world. Um... 'Trompe le Monde', 'The Sad Punk', 'Alec Eiffel'... you've got the Eiffel Tower, architecture (laughs). The little chorus at the end is "Oh Alexander, I'm...something like leaning, or sitting (starts to sing) underneath the archway of aerodynamics. Oh Alexander, I'm sitting beneath the archway of aerodynamics..."
What about the new tracks you've been playing live, what are they?
Um... 'Motorway to Roswell', 'Planet of Sound'...
The one 'bout extinction, is that 'The Sad Punk'?
Yeah, I like that one. It has a rhyme in it that says something like... what is it? It's a really good line... "He got struck by a bullet and he melted into fluid". I like the way "bullet" and "fluid" rhyme. It just sounds right [laughs].
How about the others?
'Subbacultcha'. We said that one though, didn't we? 'Palace of the Brine'...
What's that one about?
You know Salt Lake? It's a salt lake near [laughs] Salt Lake City? There are these little briny shrimp. Supposedly nothing can live in the lake because it is so salty, but these little briny shrimp do. The words are cute now, and it's such a lame thing to sing about, but he makes it all make sense. He says something about, um... wait, let me think of it. [She sings again]: "In a place that they say is dead, in a land... something, something, I count about a million heads. All the time, there's a motion."
There's more. 'Planet of Sound', that's new. That's going to be on the album. 'Head On', the Jesus and Mary Chain song. that's going to be on the album.
What did you think of the Crystal Palace gig? You were playing to a lake.
Boy! That was weird. But did you see the guy jump into the water?
During 'Where is My Mind'. Very funny wasn't it?
It was, wasn't it? [laughs]. And did you see them bring out that big plastic blanket?
Yeah, was that for him?
No. I thought it was. I thought these guys are really weird, they're going to actually wrap that man in a plastic bag or something. But the monitors were getting a bit wet from the drizzle, so they just needed something to keep the wet from the monitors.
What was it like playing to an audience that were miles away on the horizon?
It was weird. I went out and saw Ride. I stood by the soundboard, and they were, like, this big [makes very small finger and thumb gesture].
Well, you were that big on stage as well!
Yeah, yeah. This pub was louder than the show. We would finish a song and it would be just... dead silence! A couple of times we could hear some clapping. But it was weird, it was really weird. It was written up in the papers that it was really good, which was really weird.
But the press were down the side?
So maybe they heard it, yeah. But I know some people who stood there who said that the sound was really bad, and all you could hear was the bass and the kick drum, you know. But it was definitely louder than standing out front.
The bloke who did manage to swim across the lake - what did he do when he got to the stage?
He just, like, gave up, you know. That was the point, it was great! The water was only, like, this high [intimates a couple of feet].
You've done some strange gigs in your time, haven't you? I read about one where you were only separated from the audience by a piece of string.
Uh, I dunno. there was one really weird one in Birmingham at Burberries Disco. That was really weird. We had to get a large load of crew to hold the PA up, because the stage was getting smaller and smaller and smaller. And the pit was rocking. And we were like this high off the ground [demonstrates about a foot], and this far from the crowd [another foot]. But that was a great one.
What do you think of the places you're playing this time, like G-Mex and Crystal Place?
It's weird. It's funny, you get really nervous because there's so many goddamn people. But it's really weird.
Where's home for you?
I live in Ohio with my sister. Joe doesn't live anywhere now, he has to pick out a place. And David lives in LA, and Charles lives in LA. I bet Joe ends up moving to LA. But you can't just say you live somewhere - you have to actually... live there! For a little bit anyway, right?
What does your sister do?
She's the one who got me interested in music in the first place. She came home from a drive-in movie and she was on acid and she had seen this Led Zeppelin film, The Song Remains the Same. So I was talking to her in the backyard smoking a cigarette when you're not supposed to. And she told me about this movie, and it was really interesting. So we decided that we were going to be rock stars and sing, and be just like in the movie.
The Rock 'n' Roll lifestyle. Loads of drugs?
Druuuugs! I guess there are. But there were drugs before I was in a rock band, you know. Rock music is always around, but I wasn't always in the band. I'm sure there's a connection there... it depends on what it is. I smoke pot, I like hash.
Have you ever done any acid?
Ever done any while you're playing?
No. I don't even smoke pot before we play, I never have. I drink too much, but I don't smoke before we play. I get too weird, you know.
Do you like coming to England?
What do you like about it?
Or where you just being polite?
(Laughs) The weather, the weather is beautiful. Usually because we're on tour, and it's fun and exciting. People buy me a beer and tape whatever I say, which I like. Which is fun (laughs). In America, they don't know who the Pixies are really. They do, but... well, you know what I mean. And especially in Ohio. They know who Wilson Phillips are, but they don't know who the Pixies are. They know who REM are, but they have never heard of the Butthole Surfers. American teens don't like us. They don't understand us at all. They like the big heads in the 'Here Comes Your Man' video, but they wouldn't get 'Debaser' or 'Un Chien Andalusia', no, they wouldn't get it.
You did a hell of a lot of gigs to support "Doolittle".
God! It was like 129 shows or 149 shows. It was so many, it was so many. It was fucking WAY too many. God! That's all we did that year! Every single goddamn night. But it was good, because we went to a lot of places that we'd never been and we thoroughly covered Europe.
Did you make lots of money?
No. we don't make lots of money. You don't make lots of money touring unless you're Michael Jackson or somebody huge. The only way bands like us, or maybe the Inspiral Carpets or, like, The Muses or something like that, makes money is on Tshirts. Um... could I have another cigarette?
If you had to jack one in, would you stay with the Pixies or Breeders?
If I had to pick one? Oh, Pixies probably. I'm not a quitter.
Why did you decide to get involved in the Breeders?
To sing more. To sing.
You don't think you get enough chance to sing with the Pixies?
Probably, I do. Nowadays, it seems I sing too much during the shows, because every time I sing I have to put this earplug in my ear, so I can hear the parts - because I usually sing harmony, you know, so you have to actually hear the notes instead of screaming - you know what I mean?
How come you haven't been playing 'Gigantic', because that's your big chance to have a go?
I don't give a shit! We played it every single time before. We're not doing 'Isla de [Encanta]', which I really like to play. On the last tour we did it every single night. And it's a nice break, it is.
Are you surprised that you're liked in England?
No. I like us.
Because we're a bunch of eccentrics really, aren't we?
Dirty-minded little sonsofbitches - that's why you guys like us.
You've been propositioned a lot have you?
Mainly by journalists. No, not really. I'm lying.
Do you like recording, or does it get to be a bit of a drag?
Oh no, I like it. It's always fun, it's always great.
How do you go about writing the stuff, or does Black do all that?
He brings in a chord progression. He usually doesn't bring in anything more than that, and we'll just work it out until it sounds like cool music, and then he'll go home and write something appropriate, whatever he wants to sing about, over the top of it. He used to come in with more set ideas about the song and stuff, like there was always a point to them or something. But with 'Bossanova' and this album it's been more, y'know: "Here, this is the song." And he plays four chords, y'know (laughs).
Do you get scared over Pixies gigs?
I used to a lot, but not any more.
What are your favourite Pixies songs?
I like 'Isla De...' a lot, and I like 'Vamos', and I like 'Levitate Me' and 'I've Been Tired'. I like the other ones too, but those are my faves... actually my favourite recording is 'Levitate Me'. On 'Surfer Rosa', I think I'm the only one that likes 'Oh My Golly'. I really like that song. I like them all. I always liked 'Cactus'. This album is not a good recording or anything, but it's... you know what I mean. I like 'Euphrates', I like them all.
On 'Doolittle', probably I like 'No. 13 Baby', until Joe's little guitar comes in at the end. And then I like 'Debaser' a lot. 'Wave of Mutilation' I like, but I don't like the intro... it was weird, we started it in a weird way, I think.
And then, on the Planet of Sound' EP I like 'Theme from Narc' and 'Build High'...
People kill our B-sides, but we don't have that bad B-sides... And look at this! [Kim scours through the discography in Rock A My Soul]. 'Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)', that's the B-sides for this, if you know what I mean? That's not bad! 'Into the White'... that's a good song isn't it? That's not a bad b-side is it? And 'Bailey's Walk'... it's different. 'Manta Ray'... 'Weird at My School' is a really old song of ours, I've always liked that. 'Dancing the Manta Ray', I thought that was okay. I like it when the bass comes in... doo doo doo, doo doo doo.
Anyway, so we don't suck on our B-sides. A lot of people would just remix the original song!
You don't seem to be playing a lot or your surfy-type stuff this time around.
I think we did so many of those, like, that was our set the last time. Of course we're doing 'Here Comes Your Man' and 'Monkey Gone to Heaven', because these are bigger audiences. If you agree to play places that size, you should at least agree to play the songs people came to see. If we were playing at the Mean Fiddler or something like that, then we would play pretty much whatever we wanted. We wouldn't feel obliged to play the ones we've been playing every night for a while.
Can you imagine playing Crystal Palace and not doing any of anybody's faves? I've see shows like that... you know, Van Morrison... fucking hell! He did not play a single song I recognised! I know a couple of them... not everything, but...
I think, generally though, people who go to Pixies shows would know all your stuff...
Yeah, they would. We don't go for singles and have the rest as album filler. Every song is a filler, you know, in a good way. It has as much importance as every other song on the album. We never go, "Okay, we're got two singles. What are we going to do to fill this other blank space? Let's do something."
Apart from 'Planet of Sound', are there any other singles on the album?
No, but then 'Planet of Sound' isn't a single either. It's a good song, and I like it that it was released as a single, but do we get to play it on Top of the Pops?.....Nooooo!
Were you asked to play Top of the Pops?
With 'Velouria' we were in the running, but Bananarama got it.
What's with the idea of the 'Velouria' video? You were running through a quarry in slow motion!
Fucking hell! Whose idea was that?
It's not worse than any other shit. Just because we didn't have a ten second drama cut in every ten seconds...
It must have been quite a low budget thing. Did it cost you much to make?
You know the guy who does Snub TV? Pinko? He just came up to us in Manchester, where we were rehearsing and there was a quarry there. We had to think of something because everybody was giving us all this shit because we didn't have a video to go with the single. I was like, "Oh fuck, sorry. We didn't get it organised." For the push you have to have music and you have to have a video now. So we just gave them something. But we thought it was good... the slow motion thing.
Are there any Pixies tracks recorded that have not been released?
Yes, yes. Definitely.
Can you tell me about them?
No. Because we're trying to work those out, because we're doing another album straight away. that'll be more surfier, like "Bossanova". We've got a lot of recorded material, like Guns 'n' Roses. Not enough to make this album and not enough to make that album. We've done sort of seven eighths of this album and two eighths of that album... see what I mean? We've done more than an album's worth of stuff, but not enough for either of them to come out. It's weird, isn't it?
Kim Deal is now, once again, a Pixie. Andy Barding no longer smokes.
For further information on Pixies, go to www.ilovepixies.com
Interview extracts originally published in Rock A My Soul fanzine, summer 1991. (Get in touch, Geoff!)