Pixies Drummer Hints at Surprises to Come
Ten years on from the Pixies reunion no one ever thought would happen, we’re suddenly being hit on a semiregular basis with new Pixies material no one ever thought we’d get to hear.
Granted, the Pixies of 2014 are notably absent bassist, co-vocalist and — with apologies to frontman Black Francis — most-beloved band member Kim Deal, who abruptly left the quartet to concentrate on her own reformed Breeders outfit last June, just as recording sessions were getting under way for what would become the first official Pixies releases since 1991’s Trompe le Monde.
Reviews of both last September’s EP1 and last week’s EP2, each stealthily released without fanfare as downloads and limited-edition vinyl singles for sale at www.pixiesmusic.com , generally haven’t found critics in as charitable a mood as they were during the Pixies original, fabled 1986-1993 run.
Still, the remaining Pixies — Francis, guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering (joined on their current North American tour by A Perfect Circle bassist Paz Lenchantin) — have sold-out tour dates booked through to the spring, so they’ve nothing to complain about. The EPs aren’t all that bad, either, just burdened with the impossible task of living up to the Pixies legend 20-odd years later.
The Star spoke to Lovering about the present-day Pixies’ difficult position in advance of their show at Massey Hall on Wed. Jan. 15.
It can’t have been an easy decision to record again.
We got back together in 2004, and at the seven-year mark, we all thought to ourselves: “Are you kidding me? We’ve been together longer now than we were initially as a band.”
We were lucky to have a fan base so, we were able to tour full-time and people wanted to see us, but after a while we thought it would be nice to do something new. And obviously there’s some trepidation about doing that, but we’re at a point where it’s been 10 years and we don’t want to become a nostalgia act because it has that connotation.
Were things well underway when Kim left?
She was all in. We were all there in Wales recording, and after we did about five songs, she just decided she was just done with everything. So it was a bit of a shock. We wished her well, and there was a point where we didn’t know what to do then. “Do we just give up? Give up the Pixies?”
We were already about halfway through recording — I think it was another three or four weeks that we had recording there — so we three guys put our heads together and decided “let’s just forge ahead.” Joe and I took up double duties on vocals in order to fill in that missing Pixie with Kim gone, and we just moved ahead.
How do you even begin to pick up where you left off 20 years ago?
When we decided to do new stuff, we hired Gil Norton. Gil did three of the last Pixies records. He’s the “fifth Pixie.” He just adds a certain element, and he’s wonderful to work with. And he said to us, as we were writing all this new music and stuff: “Imagine that you’ve been away from the planet for 20 years. You’ve been off Earth. You don’t know what music exists, what’s out there (today).” That’s hard to get your head around. I don’t know how you interpret that, but we did.
I remember being struck at the first “official” Pixies reunion show in Winnipeg in 2004 and subsequent reunion gigs that you guys were probably a better band, musically speaking, the second time around than you were originally. Would you agree?
I definitely think we’re playing better. I know, myself, that I’m playing better this time around. I don’t know what it is or why because I’m much older. I shouldn’t be playing better, I should be playing slower. When the Pixies were around the first time, back in the ’80s, when we broke up I played with a couple of bands and did some session work, but I couldn’t top the Pixies, so I just gave up drumming. I hadn’t played the drums in 12 years or something like that.
It wasn’t until late 2003 or 2004 when we were talking about getting back together that I actually sat down at the drums again. And when I did, I realized “Oh, wow, what did I do?” This was something that I loved that I just completely forgot. So since 2004 I have a different outlook or investment in the drums. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it back in the day, but now I really, really count myself fortunate that I get to do this as a job. All of us are playing better because we all realize the position that we’re in. It’s wonderful to play live, and that makes you play better.
I didn’t realize you’d given up the drums.
Back in 1992 or 1993, everybody in the Pixies was buying guitars, so I bought a brand-new drum set that I never played. It went into storage because I already had a kit I was using and that drum set sat in storage all the way up until 2004. And when we got back together in 2004, it was not only the first time that I got back on the drums, it was also the first time I got to play those drums that I’d bought and that sat in storage for all those years. And that’s the same kit that I’m using now. I’m not gonna give it up. It’s working fine, so that’s the one.
Weren’t you doing magic for a while?
Yeah, I was in a position where I gave up the drums and I wasn’t doing music, so I became a professional magician. The funny thing about it is, if you think being a musician is hard, being a magician is a million times as hard, as far as a financial thing. It’s not easy to make a living as a magician. But it was fun. Magic is a wonderful thing.
So are you guys sitting on a wealth of new Pixies material, then?
Well, as EP1 and EP2 suggest, Ben, there may be an EP3 and other surprises down the line. As a magician, I like the “surprise” factor. That’s what we’ve been doing, so I’ll keep it at that.