Everyone Is Getting It: An Interview with Pixies
Pixies. Photo: Travis Shinn
In a time when bands seem to pass their prime almost as quickly as the band formed, it’s mind-boggling to really grasp the idea that there are certain groups that can tour for as long as they want and a consistent fan base will always be there to greet them with open arms. Thirty-one years ago, four kids from Boston started a band, probably unaware that they would go on to be one of the most influential bands around, obsessing the minds of bands like Nirvana up to on-tour band the Orwells. Prior to their show at White Oak Music Hall on Sunday, FPH spoke to Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago about the band’s latest release, their reunion, and crossword puzzles.
Free Press Houston: The band is set for a global tour, and it’s quite massive. Are those still as fun for you personally, or has it started to evolve into a bit more of a task?
Joey Santiago: It’s a little bit of both. It depends what’s going on. I mean, it depends on my mood, you know? Sometimes it’s a vacation, sometimes it’s work.
FPH: It’s been a little over a month on this tour and you’ve already played Japan, Australia, and even a stop in Africa. Where is it that the Pixies get the most love from fans? As in, are you guys Cheap Trick to anywhere?
Santiago: Well, basically Europe is a lot more acceptable to us. And obviously places that we haven’t been to. For example, South Africa was wonderful. We have never been there before that latest show. We got to play in front of 18,000 people. And, you know, obviously England — we call it our second home, especially London. They embrace us well there, the English. But everywhere is starting to catch on! Everyone is getting it. We’re part of this history, you know?
FPH: I’ve read that you have brought along a new stage setup with the help of production manager Simon Foster and lighting designer Myles Mangino. Why did the band feel it was necessary to change something like that up and what are the biggest differences between the old and new layout?
Santiago: God, I guess we just delegate that shit to people, you know? We trust them. As long as it’s moody and all of that stuff it’s fine, you know? We’ll only make a comment when there is something obviously wrong and we haven’t done it yet. As far as changing it, it has to change. Things need to revolve all the time, we feel that. It makes the lighting director’s job more enjoyable.
FPH: I also understand that the band isn’t using a setlist right now. When doing that, or perhaps not doing it, rather, does it honestly change the vibe of the show?
Santiago: Nah, but at the same time, you have a bunch of people in the same room. There’s one common thing shared: the vibe the crowd provides. It will go according to the size of the room — if it’s big, we’ll start off with something more eerie, that way the soundman can pile in the room. Some rooms really don’t work out, because the sound doesn’t absorb fast enough. It just depends on mind-reading what people want. And it also keeps us on our toes and entertains us. It’s a win-win situation. We, the audience and band, both get entertained by the change every night.
FPH: How important is this particular record to you? What was your personal goal for the release?
Santiago: It was to be raw and embrace it, not running away from what I really am. There’s a fine line between growing and having that sound. The sound is really simple. To me, it’s innate. I just have to tap into that rather than just do something that I’m not ready for.
FPH: Did you feel as if the latest album, Head Carrier, had to prove something with the departure of a founding member and the arrival of a new one?
Santiago: The only goal in the studio is to entertain ourselves and make good music. Everything else is really secondary.
FPH: Let’s talk about Paz. How did you guys meet her? Was it a matter of seeing her at an A Perfect Circle gig and deciding she’d make a great fit?
Santiago: No, it was just a recommendation from an agency I used to be signed to. I called them up and they were like, “Oh, there’s this new sheriff in town, and her name is Paz.” I was like, “Oh, who is this person? Let’s give her a shot.” So we gave her a shot. I have not actually seen A Perfect Circle live. When the Martini’s were together I don’t think A Perfect Circle was even around. So I’ve never really seen her live, but her reputation preceded her.
FPH: Being that there was quite a hiatus for the band, you came back strong, while most reunions are usually flops. Did it go as smooth as you thought? Were the fans just as excited to see the Pixies this time around?
Santiago: We went in a room, the three of us, Kim, David, and I, and we had an agreement that, if we sounded like shit, we would just shake hands and go on our merry way. But, you know, we were shocked that we have the same feedback. We were still the Pixies, we still had the sound. I mean, we have the same guitars and amps. It was pretty funny, actually. We really can’t help sounding like this, can we?
FPH: I recently interviewed a band and your band was brought up; they even have a video inspired by Black Francis. Being that you guys are a big inspiration to so many, who are some bands, perhaps even recently formed, that keeps the Pixies motivated about the future of the music you enjoy?
Santiago: Well, there’s so much music out there — I was never the guy to listen to current music. I pride myself to having this filter of old music, listening to old stuff and making it modern. The new music out there, I just don’t — it’s not a purpose. Also, we’re lucky enough that the Pixies has its own language, and we like it. We like the new stuff we’ve made it. It’s fun, it’s a puzzle we’re playing around with. We’re lucky with all of that. But as far as listening to music for enjoyment, it depends on my mood. Sometimes it’s silly, sometimes it’s serious. I go from jazz to Billy Preston, you know?
FPH: What is it that gives you entertainment on the road then? Is there a podcast we should know about? A book? Even a show on Netflix?
Santiago: Oh, crossword puzzles! That’s about it. I love puzzles. I try to keep up - geez, I don’t know! I wake up and I don’t know what I’ll be like. I think that’s enough of a challenge.
Pixies perform at White Oak Music Hall (2915 N. Main) with Public Access TV on April 30 at 6 pm.