Instruments Played by the Pixies

Some of the press extracts below were once posted by Edmond Hum on Subbacultcha mailing list.

Musician Magazine - December 1990

Reported by Edmond Hum on Subbacultcha mailing list.


Charles Thompson plays Fender Telecasters. His favorite is a modern, Japanese made model - so it's not a true Tele - but he also has a vintage 1968 Tele and a Fender Mustang from the '60s. On tour, he puts his Telecasters through two Marshall JCM 800 Lead Series amps, and a Vox AC30.


Kim Deal plays a Fender Precision Bass and a Music Man Stingray. For the Pixies' current tour she just got a Trace Elliot amp but it's the new series and I don't know what the number is or if there even is a number on there. I have four 10" speakers on top, and the bottom I think is a 15". In addition to that I really am a sucker for Peavey Combo 300s: They're punchier, and I like that percussive sound.


David Lovering plays a five-piece Pro Prestige Custom Kit; white, I only play white kits. He has three snares: a wooden Tama and two metal Bradys. I have to say that I use Zildjian now, but I also have Sabian and Paiste cymbals. It's all held together by a Pearl cage that Kim refers to as David's Neil Peart drum cage.


Joey Santiago is a strict Les Paul man. He favors a 1960 reissue Gibson gold-top Les Paul, but he also has a Gibson ES-335 that he uses in the studio for a cleaner sound. He also owns an old Fender VI six-string bass that the Pixies use in the studio. Onstage, Joey is using a Pearce GR-8 amplifier on this tour. It's a small company from Buffalo that our manager turned me on to, he says. The amp has a pointed, drilling sound that I like: kinda like a Peavey but more sophisticated.

Guitar Player - April 1991


"I usually play a white Japanese-made Fender Telecaster with a whammy. I took the locking nut and bar off - I just push and pull on the bridge. I have a real '68 Tele, which is nice for recording but doesn't sound as good through the big loud Marshalls, and an old Fender Jaguar, all original. Besides Marshalls, I use Vox amps. My only pedal is a T.C. Electronic line driver/booster, which is great because it has a built-in noise gate. We all use those orange Dunlop picks, though Kim sometimes uses a green one. Joey and I both use GHS boomers strings." B.F.


"I have three Gibson Les Pauls, all new reissues, and I use them for almost everything. I also have a '65 Gibson ES-335. I recently got a Pearce amp; before that I used Marshall, Vox, or Peavey. My only effect is a little boost pedal. I recently got a Roland GP16, but I need to mess around with it, because all the programs sound too processed, too unreal." J.S.


"I have a new Music Man Stingray bass and a reissue '62 Fender Precision. The Music Man is great - sound men and engineers love it. But it's not right for some things; 'Dig For Fire' started to sound too much like a dance song, so I used my Fender for the lazier, growlier sound. It's not as boingy-boingy-sproingy. I always play with a pick. I use a compressor live, but only because sound guys seem to like it when I have one onstage, even if it's on bypass. I don't know what kind - it's black with red lights. I use SWR or Marshall heads. I hate my cabinets - a Gallien-Krueger 4x10 and another one that says 'Joe's Light' on it, which has an 18. In the studio I beg them to let me use my amp. They say, 'Okay Kim, here's your channel right here.' Then it's always, 'Let's try just the D.I. alone for a minute, Kim. Hey, sounds great!'" K.D.

Musician Magazine - February 1992

Black Francis uses a Soldano head. And the Pixies currently all use Marshalls. "Kim, our bassist, actually has a Peavey Combo. I play two Telecasters onstage. GHS .010 strings are easy to find, so I stay with 'em. We have a fake 12-string thing we do - read about it in Musician, actually. Keith Richards was talking about getting rid of the high E, he drops the E to B. So if I break a high E, I'll leave it off for a while. Sounds cool."

"We have a few songs - Allison, The Happening, Stormy Weather - that are tuned up a half-step, capoed up like the Who, just for fun. And we've got to keep going back to those guitars that are tuned up a half step because they ring better."

Informations from Jon Sleeper Stewart

"The last guitar roadie the Pixies had (in Europe at least) was a very cool guy called Scotty who recently told me that the distortion pedal used on Trompe le Monde was a BOSS Super Distortion. At least I think that's what it's called, but you can identify it very easily as its the only orange distortion pedal boss make. Plug it in and you'll hear the sound immediately.

Scotty also told me that when they toured the album he had to work seventeen guitar amps simultaneously. They were stacked across the back of the stage most gigs, with the drums having to be positioned stage left or right for reasons of space. I never saw them on that tour, so I'm taking him at his word here, but I know it's based in fact as I've worked with him myself for some time now." (reported by Jon Stewart)

Guitar Magazine - December 1997

Santiago's Humbucker Armageddon
In The Guitar Magazine (December 1997)
Transcribed by C. Gourraud for Alec Eiffel

It's been a fair while since the Pixies' demise, so Santiago is understandably a bit groggy about the specific gear he used during his time with the band. Quiz him about the guitars he used, however, and a grin spreads across his face. 'Les Pauls,' he states. 'All of them!'
But humbuckin' rock devices weren't originally in the plan; when the Pixies began Santiago originally wanted to procure a Tele, only changing his mind when his guitar-playing compatriot beat him to the punch.
'Charles already had a Tele so it didn't make any sense to have two, or even another Fender guitar,' Joey explains. 'So then I borrowed Kim's Les Paul goldtop for a while - she had a really nice one, but she took it back. I think she was afraid I was going to damage it...'
The Pixies man swiftly bought a goldtop for himself, and although he used a number of other Les Pauls - including a white Les Paul Custom, a sunburst Les Paul Special, a Les Paul Junior and a red, Bigsby-fitted Gibson 355 used largely for his clean sound - the goldtop swiftly became his main, most trusted guitar. Santiago's in no doubt as to what it brought to the Pixies' sound. 'Meat!' he declares emphatically. 'Fenders are much more high-end and squeally... I love humbuckers.'
Happily admitting to being 'not much of a tech', Santiago chose for the most part to not fiddle with his beloved LPs, keeping them virtually stock. 'I did take the pickup covers off, though,' he admits. 'Someone told me that if you expose the pickups to dust, they sound better. And they do.'
Santiago employed a Peavey amp when he first started out; 'but once we started to have bands supporting us, I realised they had a sound that blew us away - and they were playing Marshalls,' he complains. 'So one time when my Peavey was getting fixed up I went out and bought a Marshall 4x12". I was looking for a warm sound that could be cranked up. I didn't know about vintage Marshalls at the time, but I got what I wanted.' Although he made use of delay, tremolo and distortion, the Pixies' man claims the mainstay of his sound came from two simple tactics: swapping between pickups and rolling down the tone control.
What, nothing else?
'Oh yeah,' he teases. 'Changing the colour of my lead!'

Last Updated 01-27-98