It's been 10 years since the Pixies reunited, but it's taken over two decades – 23 years, to be exact – for the celebrated alt-rock band to release a follow-up to their last full-length record, 1991's Trompe le Monde.
At first, the group avoided the issue of tackling some new music, and then came a couple of false starts in the studio. Finally, last year, there was the gnashing track Bagboy, which gave way to three smashing EPs released in quick succession. And come April 28, all of the EP cuts, along with Bagboy, will be issued as Indie Cindy, which effectively puts the Pixies' album embargo to an end.
“I guess we were sort of dipping our toes back in the water with the EPs," says lead guitarist Joe Santiago. "But the other reason for releasing the album piecemeal was to lengthen the lifespan of the music. A lot's changed since we did this in the '90s. An album just doesn’t do anything now – it can be out there and only be coveted for a short period of time. So extending the release in this way made a lot of sense to us."
Santiago spoke to MusicRadar from a tour stop in Lima, Peru, to talk about the new album, working with longtime producer Gil Norton, how he and Pixies frontman Black Francis work on guitar tones, and whether he likes being called an "anti-hero" on the axe.
I was talking to Andy Summers recently, and I called him a guitar "anti-hero." You're in that category, I think. You don't go in for long solos, that kind of thing...
“That’s actually flattering if you call me an ‘anti-hero.’ There aren’t enough heroes out there, but still we need the yin to go with the yang, you know? I remember a big pow-wow at our hotel one night; everybody from Lollpalooza was there band-wise. I got to meet Kim Thayil from Soundgarden. We took a picture – me and Charles [Thompson aka Black Francis] with Kim in the middle – and Kim said, ‘Here’s to the unproficient guitar players!’ [Laughs] We loved that.
“Guitar technique never interested me. I've always been in love with sounds. There’s a lot of people who have technique already, so I’ve just never been interested in that. From day one I was just interested in sonics. I remember one time my guitar was out of tune. I kept hearing this one note that wasn’t in harmony – it was shaking, but I loved it. A friend of mine said to me, ‘Dude, that’s out of tune, you know.’ And I said, ‘That’s right, and I don’t care. At least one string’s in tune.’ [Laughs] That’s kind of the way I feel about it all.
With a lot of guitarists, you can pinpoint their influences right away – probably because they mimic other players so much. Your influences are difficult to spot. I hear some surf guitar, more of a traditional approach to sound.
“Well, that’s good, I guess. Yeah, there’s the surf thing, definitely. The Shadows, Link Wray, The Ventures – I listened to The Ventures a lot in the latter days of college, when Charles and I were about to drop out. I liked the fact that that one word, ‘surf,’ describes the music. There’s a song called Jack Knife by Like Wray – ‘surf like a jack knife.’ And there’s Run Chicken Run – obviously, that sounds like a chicken. Then there’s Apache and all that stuff… Even Hawaii Five-O sounds like this big surf’s comin’ at you. Well, maybe it’s because of the visual, but it does sound like that. I just like the description of that one word: surf. I use that, too, in the Pixies. I take one word and I run with it.”