Articles: Hello Goodbye 9: Joey Santiago & the Pixies

Interview by Martin Aston
Mojo, November 1997 (December issue).
Transcribed by C. Gourraud for Alec Eiffel

Joey Santiago

HELLO - September 1986

Charles [Francis] and I were suite-mates rather than room-mates at the University of Massachusetts. Like me, he'd gone to college in the hopes of starting a band. He had this knack of writing original songs - his early tunes were much more innocent-sounding but bits of them eventually made it onto record, like the riff to U-Mass and the opening riff to Levitate Me.
I was fiddling around with a few people which didn't amount to much. I'd been playing bluesy, stupid stuff, but one day I bumped into this perpetual student type of guy who showed me how to figure stuff out like what note was important on what chord, and I just caught onto something and started writing these cheesy chord progressions.
That's when we decided to drop out of school. It was a pretty ballsy decision, but we had a lot of self-belief. We moved up to Boston, and put an ad in the Boston Phoenix, which said, "Looking for someone influenced by Husker Du and peter, Paul, And Mary" - Kim [Deal] was the only answer. She wasn't just cool and enthusiastic, she was perfect because we wanted a female bassist who could sing harmonies. We tried a couple of drummers and almost used Kim's twin sister Kelly, but she was too busy with her career. Our first practice was at a reharsal space in Boston, around Kenmore Square, downstairs from a bar. We worked on about 10 songs, stuff like The Holiday Song, Caribou, and Here Comes Your Man, and songs that didn't last, like Boom Chica Boom. I thought we sounded too strange to sell records; all I knew was, I was having fun, and it was better than school.

GOODBYE - January 1993

Kim was headstrong and wanted to include her own songs, to explore her own world. The way I think Charles saw it, the band made pizzas, not cookies. Before we made Bossa Nova, we were even going to fire her, after a gig in Frankfurt, where we found her hanging out in her hotel room, with no intention of playing. But our lawyer convinced us to try and work it out., to give her a warning or something. You know, I blocked that incident out of my head, that was too heavy for me. Kim couldn't believe I'd be party to it but I told her, she didn't seem happy, so why hang around? In the end, Kim realised it was Charles's bag, that he was the singer, but they kinda stopped talking after that.
As it turns out, the last show we ever did was in Vancouver, at the end of a tour, and we all just went home. Everybody was under the impression that we were taking a year off, like sabbatical, but it never came to that. Charles started doing his own album, as Frank Black, and Kim started doing The Breeders. Three or four months later, Charles called, out of the blue, at my girlfriend's house, to say he was splitting the band, and that he had faxed Kim and Dave [Lovering]. You'd really have to ask Charles why he broke it up. I think he'd tell you that it was normal, that bands don't last forever. Maybe he just liked being Frank Black rather than Black Francis, or felt he had to move forward. But I'm sure the tension between Kim and Charles had something to do with it.
Charles hasn't even discussed the stuff since: it's not his style to analyse. It wasn't like we ended up fist-fighting or arguing constantly, it was more unspoken tension. Kim phoned me and said, "Did you know that the Pixies just broke up?"; and I replied, "I'd be more surprised if we got back together." I never talked to her about it either, even when The Breeders came through town. But then we never talked about stuff. Maybe that's a Boston thing. I was shocked but what could I do? I thought it was premature because I really thought we could do more. At least our contract said so! But ending that abruptly was weird.


Last Updated 12-19-97