The Breeders' Wiggs refuses to let the bass get buried
Sometimes, it seems like the bass player in a rock band gets little respect. Although the bass is an integral part of a band's rhythm section, the sound often gets buried in favor of guitar and vocal parts, especially in studio recording.
That's not the case with Josephine Wiggs of the Breeders, who formed the band with vocalist and guitarist Kim Deal in 1989.
To promote their latest album, "All Nerve,' the Breeders – Wiggs, Deal, her sister and guitarist Kelley, and drummer Jim Macpherson – will perform at The Rave on May 9 as part of a lengthy national and international tour. Milwaukee post-punk-influenced band Dorth Nakota will open the show.
Wiggs said the Breeders toured for about a month last fall, performing a few songs such as "Get in the Car" and "Nervous Mary" from "All Nerve."
"It was a bit of a teaser tour, really," noted Wiggs during a recent telephone interview. She added that the band didn't want to play the entire album live due to bootleggers uploading songs on sites such as YouTube.
Wiggs in part credits record producers and audio engineers, especially Steve Albini, for her stripped-down and prominent bass sound. Albini produced the Breeders' critically acclaimed 1990 album, "Pod."
"He likes a minimalist approach – the foundational things, not just bells and whistles," she said.
Wiggs' bass lines are recognizable on songs such as the band's 1993 hit "Cannonball," off their most successful album, "Last Splash." The album was produced by Deal and Mark Freegard.
Wiggs, born in 1963 in Hertfordshire, England, played cello at an early age. At 13, encouraged by her sister's boyfriend, she picked up the bass.
"I was immediately drawn to the bass. I took to it straightaway," she said.
Wiggs cites British post-punk bands The Cure, Gang of Four and Joy Division as some of her musical influences. She is also a fan of classic rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. "They're kind of at the apex," she said.
She moved to New York in 1994 and currently resides in Brooklyn, a place she's happy to call home despite ever-climbing rents.
"It's hard for someone who is marginally employed like me, but that's where my friends are. I've got great friends. I really do," said Wiggs.
Although she does own a car ("It's sitting somewhere in a friends' yard in New Jersey," she chuckled) Wiggs prefers to bike – she owns five. She said she would like to get a folding bike to bring with her on tour to explore different cities.
"If I had one, it would be easier to see things," she said.
Besides being a biking enthusiast, Wiggs is a vegetarian who has never eaten a piece of meat.
She said fans of the Breeders can expect a mix of songs at the show, including new and back-catalogue.
"The set list is determined by what guitar is used in what – it's mathematical," she said. "Obviously, we've got way more songs than we can play in one-and-a-half hours."
Wiggs is looking forward to returning to Milwaukee to perform.
"I like the vibe. There's a really great bicycle shop there – Ben's Cycle," she said.
The Breeders and Dorth Nakota will perform Wednesday, May 9, at The Rave at 8 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit therave.com.
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