Frank Black

Frank Black’s World Is Loud, Chaotic, and Extreme. He’s Also In The Pixies.

Q: Do the Pixies still fight? Is this the same group, in terms of personal dynamics, or have you matured as a band and as individuals?

A: I suppose when we get mad at each other it doesn’t last very long, which is nice. When we have a blowout, if Kim and I lock horns and she yells at me or I yell at her, it’s cool the next day. We move on, whereas in the past there was this ugly thing and the ugly thing was added to a pile of other ugly moments and other ugly experiences and we became stuck. Now we get unstuck. We still chew each other out but it deflates pretty fast.

Q: Is that because the band has a smaller footprint in your life?

A: That could be true. It’s perspective. This doesn’t really mean anything compared to my family.

Q: Maybe there’s a life-is-short element, too.

A: There is a life is short element. And there usually isn’t any drugs or alcohol involved, either, so there’s that. There’s more clarity all around. People just aren’t smoking dope and being young.

Q: Do you get the same thrill as you used to from being in the Pixies?

A: We feel really lucky. We’re staying at nice hotels. We walk in like Tom Jones and don’t do sound check. We’re constantly hitting each other and going this is pretty good, huh? This is a lot better than it used to be, right? We’re constantly going, yes! This is so great.

Q: A lot of bands are demoted, later in life, to the county fair circuit or whatever.

A: It doesn’t really feel like we’re playing old songs, really. It feels like we’re on tour.

Q: Some people equate looking forward, rather than looking back, with real creativity. Where do you stand on that? You’re playing songs that are 20, 25 years old. Does playing old material felt like a worthwhile endeavor?

A: Um, yeah. Certainly the customers seem like they’re really happy. It’s pretty satisfying, I suppose, in general. It gets a little boring sometimes. Creatively, you know. It doesn’t feel dead. By the end of a tour, because we’re not having to prove ourselves to anyone, really, there’s a tendency toward shtick sometimes in a show. It’s a guilty pleasure, I guess. If we do that thing at the end of a show, the audience always loves it. You can go “aaaagh” and they go “aaaagh.” For an indie rock band from Boston that’s a really difficult thing to even contemplate. I’m always surprised when I run into certain people or bands that are like, gosh, they’re not talking to the audience very much. And I’m like, are you kidding me? Have you even seen Lou Reed? Have you ever seen the Swans? You probably didn’t go to a Swans show at the Rathskeller in 1986, did you? You don’t get it. They’re all doing their goofy showbiz stuff and don’t understand that people like me from that era are passionate about music in a different kind of way, it’s a different aesthetic, and people don’t understand that aesthetic sometimes. They’re confused. They think you’re being difficult or aloof or something. Do you understand what it was like then and why people presented their art in the way they did? They shed a lot of stuff and said no, we’re going to try to do something that’s more pure or interesting. I get frustrated.

Q: But you’re also concerned with keeping the customer satisfied.

A: My grandmother totally understands. She loves the whole Miles Davis turning his back to the audience. She gets it. She doesn’t say he’s not being a good entertainer, I paid good money, why doesn’t he try to kiss my butt? Some people get it and some people don’t.

Q: It seems like you have one foot in 1986 at the Rat where you couldn’t care less about presentation and the other in 2011 where you’re thinking about making your fans happy.

A: I accept all of it. When I see somebody doing a real showbiz thing and they do it well I go, touché. I wish I could do that. I wish I could break out of my shell and do that stunt you just did. Look how happy everybody is. Especially if it’s done well, with a certain level of artistry. If it’s not just mindless pandering. But when someone has got attitude, I totally get that too. They’re ticked off and being confrontational. They’re being anti.

Q: What about integrity. Has your idea of integrity evolved?

A: I suppose. I probably appreciate people that express their integrity in different ways than I do. They’re not trying to be anti. They’re trying to embrace pop or they’re trying to embrace show business. A lot of young post punks in the ’80s, they sometimes like something that’s a bit showbizzy but it’s because it’s ironic. It’s nice to appreciate something and not just because it’s ironic, because it’s so uncool it’s cool. I appreciate more that there are people with a totally different aesthetic and that’s just how they play. Those are their rules. I worked with this guy Pete Yorn and the kind of stuff he does is not exactly the kind of thing I do. I probably thought he was a little more concerned about what the audience thinks of him than I am. But I got it wrong. It’s his aesthetic. It’s right down the middle of the road, and that’s just the vocabulary that he resonates with. It wasn’t about him trying to figure out how to be successful. That’s the way that he is and he’s really true to it and he’s really good at it. He was making a record and I was trying to help him and I realized he’s not pretentious, he’s not trying to cater to anybody, he’s true to his thing. His thing is just different than my thing. That’s all. He’s good. I’m a little less quick to judge something in art, even it it’s not my thing.

Q: Do you ever write a song and think this would make a great Pixies tune?

A: Not really, no. I’ve tried. I’ve tried to have a couple different streams, this is going to go to this and this is going to go to that. But it doesn’t really feel that way.

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