Q&A: Joey Santiago on New Pixies Riffs & Wikipedia's Shortcomings
The Pixies' victory lap continues widening almost a full two decades
after the band last put out a new album. After originating in Boston in
the late '80s and creating a hook-filled rock boilerplate inspiring
everyone from Nirvana to Surfer Blood, internal tensions tore them
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apart. Now, the core of frontman Black Francis, bassist Kim Deal,
guitarist Joey Santiago, and drummer Dave Lovering is whole, and a
never-ending tour commemorating the 20th anniversary of beloved
Doolittle album continues two years after the milestone was reached.
"This is probably the biggest production that we've done," says
Santiago. The current leg of the tour -- dubbed "Lost Cities" because it
hits locales the Pixies have never played -- arrives at the Orlando
Calling Festival on Saturday. New Times caught up with Santiago at home
just before the tour began.
County Grind: Have you sustained a lot of damage to your body from attacking the amp during performances over the years?
Joey Santiago: My fingers would just bleed, but that's nothing, you know. I'm just whacking the shit out of my strings, and it hits the pick guard. But, no. Nothing really. If anything, the guitar's taking the abuse.
What part of the legacy of the Pixies is the most important to you?
That we're still relevant. Our records will probably never go out of print. And people are buying more vinyl now than actually CDs of ours. It's not disposable music. We were lucky enough to find our niche. That's the vibe that people get from us, that we sound honest. We don't sound contrived at all. Not to say that any band does, but it's more apparent in our music.
That, and "Wave of Mutilation" and the rest of Doolittle is integrated into the Rock Band videogame?
I suck at Rock Band. I tried songs [other than ours] that are there. It's too push-button. I don't have the patience for it. You know, if I'm going to do that, I'll just learn the damned song on the guitar.
Have you heard a lot of other artists' covers of the Pixies over the years? Like, one of my favorites is TV on the Radio's version of "Mr. Grieves."
Yeah, that is mine too. That's the only one that comes to mind. It's a cappella, right? Yeah, I mean, that's that nut of it. That's the obvious reason why. Weezer did a good one of "Velouria." A really offshoot take of it. I like those. I like the weirder versions of stuff.
How does it feel to have an opening band that obviously looks up to you like Surfer Blood?
It feels good, I guess. We've played with people that we really like, U2 and stuff. You probably wouldn't be an opening band if you didn't like the headliner. But it does feel good, you know? I don't really think about it. Do I get flattered? Maybe a little bit. We played with Neil Young at a festival and was like, "Oh my God. He's right next door. The room next to us." There's always an admiration every time you go out, I guess.
What about the entire books devoted to the legacy of the Pixies?
I haven't read it. But yeah, it's pretty cool. It's only cool when I see it at the bookstore. It's just like, "What?" There it is. I'm like, "What the hell is this?" They better get their facts right.
Are there any misconceptions?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. On fucking Wikipedia or whatever. I think it's got that I come from a wealthy family in the Philippines. Blah, blah, blah. Not true. And I mean, there's no middle class; we certainly didn't fall to the lower class. It's the haves or have-nots down there. We were lucky to be on the former one.
That one seems to stick out personally.
I hate it. I fucking hate it. [Note: We could not find any of this information on his Wikipedia page.]
What do you have to do now to prepare for a Pixies tour?
I have to practice for practice, because we only do one day of rehearsal. I don't want to sit around and go, "I don't know that one. Let me learn that for a second. Hold on, guys." I'm just briefly running through stuff. I'll go verse, chorus, "Oh yeah, I remember that." We haven't played out in like four months or something. Obviously I don't play the Pixies every day.
When you're sitting around playing the guitar by yourself, how often do you come across just a riff that you think would be perfect for a new Pixies song?
Oh God, you know, hardly ever. And when I do, I forget it.
Featuring the Pixies, the Killers, the Roots, the Raconteurs, Kid Cudi, Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Kid Rock, and others. Saturday, November 12, and Sunday, November 13, at Citrus Bowl Stadium, 1610 W. Church St., Orlando. Tickets cost $85 for a single day and $150 for both days. Visit orlandocalling.com.
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