In Music

Black talk: OMC chats with The Pixies' Frank Black

Milwaukee Pixies fans can rejoice: They get the chance to see the reunited band not once, but twice in less than a year. OnMilwaukee.com talked with Pixies frontman Frank Black about his latest solo album, the upcoming Pixies show at Summerfest, buying clothing in Milwaukee and the secret life of bees.

OMC: The sound of this new album ("Honeycomb," due out July 19) is decidedly Americana. What made you move in this direction?

FB: I'd been talking about it for a long time with my friend, Jon Tiven, the producer; 10 or more years. It's all part of the palette. Everything's part of the palette. Lately, I've been listening to medieval music ... troubadour music. It's just as relevant as anything. It's all music, it's all notes and chords and feelings and attitudes. It's all potentially part of the palette.

I don't know if it's so much about a certain Americana sound ... it's more like, if you go to Nashville ... or that part of the county ... and work with people of a certain age group -- older -- there's a lot of prowess there. Not only because they're older, and they've been doing it for a while, but because the standards are very high in their circles. It's also about that.

OMC: There are rumors about a second disc due out from these sessions.

FB: No, but I started working on another record, also in Nashville with some "older fellers." Levon Helm (from The Band), Ian McLagan (from Small Faces), (Motown musician) Bob Babbitt. But I don't know when it'll come out; I'm still at the mercy of record companies.

OMC: You seem to really love words, love language. Especially sort of obscure words. Why did you choose to name this album "Honeycomb"?

FB: Well, it needed a title. It's just part of the format. (Takes on caricature voice) "Well, I don't know. Let's look at the song list and see if there's anything that sounds 'title-y.' Hmmm ... Frank Black's 'Honeycomb.'" It almost begs to be called "Honeycomb." From a PR point of view... "Frank Black goes to Nashville and comes forward with 'Honeycomb.'" It's a little singer/songwriter-y. Having said that, I think "honeycomb" is a nice word. It's not like calling it "Heartland." I mean, what does that mean? A bunch of gobbly-gook. But what does "honeycomb" mean? Well, honeycomb is this, like, waxen chamber that bees deposit their food in. It's just another whole thing. The secret life of bees. That's not homespun.

OMC: "Honeycomb" is your first solo release since 1996. Why the break from solo work?

FB: Timing, I guess. The other band (The Catholics) has been working for the better part of 10 years, and we were kind of burned out on the whole thing. It looked like the Pixies thing (another reunion tour) wasn't gonna happen at the time. I had just gotten a divorce; I was living in another city by myself, alone with a lot of time on my hands. So, I suppose I just could have used the time to contemplate, but contemplating contemplation was like, "AHH!" So, it was just, like, "Let's do it."

OMC: The Pixies recently played in Milwaukee (in November at the Milwaukee Theater). Do you have any impressions of the city?

FB: I like that old hotel downtown where we stayed (The Pfister). It has a nice men's clothing store in the lobby. I bought a nice shirt there. It's black. Double XL. I didn't get any impressions of Milwaukee the last time I was there, other than the hotel I was staying in; but my impressions of Milwaukee are from years of going there. I like Milwaukee. I like the smell of the beer factories. I like the older buildings. I don't think I ever even walked over to the lake to look at it, but you can feel the presence of the water nearby, you know. I like it; it's sort of a small version of Chicago. That kind of vibe.

OMC: What do you love, and what do you hate, about reuniting the Pixies?

FB: I love the money. And, well, I hate being away from my baby.

OMC: Yes, congratulations!

FB: Yeah, I don't like being away from my little baby, Jack, at all. (He's 6 months old.)

OMC: You've renamed yourself a couple of times. What's that been about?

FB: Just because I can. You've got to have a stage name. Especially if you're not born with a name like "Elvis." I'm not going to be "Charles Thompson" on the marquee. It just doesn't do it for me.

OMC: What are you most proud of: your solo work, your work with The Catholics, your work with the Pixies? Which expresses you the best?

FB: It's all the same; it's all the same career. It's hard to say which I like the best. I kind of just put things in alphabetical order. You know what I mean? I like to do set lists in alphabetical order sometimes ... just to break free of the chains, you know? (Sarcastic, then very animated) "First, we're gonna get 'em with this, then we're gonna work 'em with this, and then we're really gonna knock 'em out with a left, one-two." You know, it's just like, it drives me nuts after a while. I should be able to perform any song I've ever written; it's my responsibility to entertain the customer as best I can. And, you know, it shouldn't have to rely on a sequence. I shouldn't even have to be playing a song; it's the idea of entraining, of being an entertainer.

OMC: So, based on that answer, can you tell me what fans might expect from your show at Summerfest on July 7? How might it be the same, how might it be different from your show in November?

FB: I don't know. A lot of people say we're a lot more "muscular" than we were at the beginning of our reunion tour. So, I'd imagine we'd play a little differently, but our whole thing is about trying to be consistent. Trying to be true to the records. I don't know that we'll be doing anything that dramatically different. Well, we are playing with Weezer, so there's a little bit of a "battle of the bands" thing going on there. They're a popular band, so I'd imagine we'll be trying to play what we consider our "A-list" of songs. I'll probably, you know, suck in my gut a little bit. Wear a nice shirt. Maybe I'll go back to that clothing store in the hotel, see what they've got this year. I don't know, a new black shirt or something.

OMC: Anything else you want to add? Anything else you want people to know?

FB: Well, I'm here, I'm still in "show biz." I love to play, I love to perform, I love to record. I wouldn't trade this job for anything. I can't imagine ever being bored by music.

The Pixies play the Marcus Amphitheater alongside Weezer, Thursday, July 7.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | July 7, 2005 at 10:16 p.m. (report)

Oldster said: The Shepherd had about the same interview with Black last week and Journal had a similar one today too. The dude has a good PR machine, I'd say. Wonder if the show was any good? They seem washed up.

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OMCreader | July 7, 2005 at 5:22 p.m. (report)

Newbomb Turk said: I don't mind some of the Frank Black solo/& the Catholics stuff, but his new "Memphis style" album sucks beyond any form of measured vacuum pressure.

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OMCreader | July 6, 2005 at 4:39 p.m. (report)

Funki said: Old Feller!

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OMCreader | July 6, 2005 at 2:58 p.m. (report)

andy p said: Frank Black seems a little washed up with his new songs lately, and the band "The Catholics". I'd rather hear the Pixies songs.

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