You guys have finally started releasing new material. Why now? When we got back together in 2004, it initially was just gonna be a year touring, and it just kept going and going and going. People wanted to see us around the world, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. Then Doolittle came around, where we were gonna do the album front to back. That was just going to be one tour, and that turned into two tours and by this time it was already 2011 and we had been touring seven years—longer than we were initially a band.
All that time we always thought of doing new material, and everyone was onboard, but it was just too much work with the touring. And then we started doing demos, and it took about three years until it actually came to fruition. We went to Wales to the recording studio and just started doing the music, and there we go, it’s all done now.
At some point during the reunion tours and the Doolittle tours did it start to feel like a nostalgia act? A little, in a way. There was a point later on during Doolittle that we were touring through Canada, and in certain Provinces in Canada the only venue that’s around is a casino, and I made a joke, “Hey, looks like we’re a casino act.” And even though that was tongue-in-cheek, it made me think, “Oh, we really should do something new.” We were lucky to be touring for eight years just on our old music, and it was going good and we were very fortunate, but I think any band could wear it out at that, so we decided we wanted to do new music.
I read you had tried twice before to write new music without success. What happened then and how is now different? I think at that point, maybe about four years ago, we figured we’d go into a rehearsal studio like we did in the old days. That’s how we all did it growing up in Boston, just being a baby band—we were all in the studio, just jamming. So we flew up to Boston—actually a city just outside called Somerville—and it just didn’t work (laughs). It was just nothing like the old times.
So what it is [now] is Charles [Thompson, aka Black Francis] will come up something on an acoustic guitar and present it to us, and then we just hash things out.
How has it been for the band since bassist Kim Deal left? It’s been interesting. I mean, the first gig without Kim was interesting, because she was something visually that was off to my left, the rhythm section. That’s all I knew as far as being in the Pixies. So that was a little weird, her actually physically not being there. But now we have Paz [Lenchatin] playing bass, and it’s a whole different animal. She is a virtuoso—she’s really, really, really good and I gotta tell you, she’s making me play better (laughs). I gotta really mind my playing. So, it’s going good. I’m enjoying it.
How do you think the band now stacks up to the band with Kim? Um … Kim was definitely a beloved figure while we were onstage—everyone loved Kim. And, we’re missing that, so I can only say physically right now we’re missing her, that characteristic of it. We do have Paz up there, who is another female. She is still fantastic at what she does and she has the personality up there too, but we’re definitely in detrimental of that area of Kim’s personality, of the way she was up there. But we’re trying to do the best we can without it.
You guys have put out two EPs since September. Is this the band’s new model—shorter releases in higher frequency? Yeah, it’s turned into it. Originally we were just going to do an EP, and then we had recorded so much material we decided to release two EPs at staggered times. It’s been working out quite well, and it’s only because we’re fortunate enough that we have a website and we have a fanbase. So it’s been working out very well and in our favor without having a record company. And as a magician I love the surprises, so it’s all good and its fine with me.
The new EPs, especially “What Goes Boom” or “Blue Eyed Hexe,” those songs, to me sound closer to the hard-rock elements of Trompe le Monde. Was that intentional, trying to continue with that sound? No, nothing was intentional on it. It was just what Charles came up with in this day and age. [Producer] Gil Norton told us before we were writing new material, “Just imagine that you’ve been off the planet Earth for 20 years. You don’t know what music is like, you don’t know what exists—just take it from that angle.”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t get my head around that. What do you do with that? So that’s what we had to deal with, and I don’t know if anyone came up with an interpretation of that but this is what we came up with, the songs and these EPs.
I like the concept of shorter releases—you can capture a sound or emotion for four songs and move on. Our songs are short, pretty much, and you can equate that to the EP. If you like it you want more, and if you don’t like it, it’s over before you know it. (laughs)
You mentioned being a magician. Can you tell me a little about the background there? It was, oh gosh, 15 or 16 years ago—I went to a magic convention … and I saw a trick that just blew me away. And from that point on, I took classes, I bought videos, I bought books I joined the Magic Castle, I slept with a deck of cards for a period of eight years. I worked and worked and worked until I started doing magic shows and parties and stuff like that. I had given up drums, and I was just trying to be a professional magician.
You always hear these things about the starving musicians and how hard it to make a living being a musician. Well, just imagine how hard it is to make a living being a magician. So I came up with a stage show. I was an electronic engineer before the Pixies, so I was into electronics and physics and science, and I built a lot of electronic gear for the stage show. I wore a lab coat and started doing physics experiments that got into magic but you didn’t know where that line was drawn. Weird things were happening with common objects and science stuff, and I enjoyed doing that. I did it for a while, opened up for rock bands, and then eventually the Pixies got busier and busier, so I’ve got that on hold right now. And the only type of magic I do now is close-up magic.
Do you appreciate Las Vegas’ style of over-the-top magic spectacles? I do appreciate all the showmanship, but I don’t think anything beats a close-up show. I do love Penn & Teller for what they do and Mac King; he’s got a good family-friendly show, which is very funny. But close-up magic is my favorite.
PIXIES with Best Coast February 23, 8 p.m., $37. The Joint, 693-5222.