Next week, the reunited Pixies will embark on what could be the final leg of their now 2-year-old Doolittle 20th anniversary tour, making their fourth trip across North America — they’ll play 19 “lost cities” in the U.S. starting Oct. 27 — to perform the classic 1989 album in its entirety, its accompanying B-sides and an encore of old favorites.
In advance of that trek (see full dates here), Slicing Up Eyeballs caught up with guitarist Joey Santiago to talk about the Pixies’ ongoing reunion, the Doolittle show itself, the group’s well-documented influence on Nirvana, the band’s love-hate relationship with “Here Comes Your Man” and what the Pixies have planned next (nothing, it turns out, although Santiago and his bandmates have kicked around the idea of taking 1988’s Surfer Rosa on tour).
Santiago also confirms the Pixies have discussed making a new record, but that the idea of going into the studio remains in the “chit-chat phase.” The guitarist, however, is all for it: “I’d like to give it a shot, just to see what we’d come out with. Certainly, we don’t have to put it out if it sucks.”
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity:
SLICING UP EYEBALLS: So you’re about to head out for what is, by my count, the fourth North American leg of this ‘Doolittle’ 20th anniversary tour. Did you guys ever imagine it would go on for so long?
JOEY SANTIAGO: Not really. I thought it was going to last a year, and that would be it. But it’s been pretty enjoyable. I like the production a lot. And the crowd appreciates it, and, you know, we like doing it.
EYEBALLS: I saw it here in Denver on the first leg, and was quite impressed with the production — different short films to accompany each song on ‘Doolittle.’ How involved was the band in that part of the show?
SANTIAGO: We really didn’t have any input. The band, we came up with the basic concept, and then we just had people run with it. It tends to put more pressure on them — or more freedom, depending on their personalities.
EYEBALLS: Any of those films stand out?
SANTIAGO: You know, there’s one, for “There Goes My Gun,” that’s interesting because these hats are flying, these UFOs, and it’s actually from an antique Nazi propaganda film. So that’s kind of cool, you know.
EYEBALLS: How much of the crowd response to these ‘Doolittle’ shows is a testament to the album itself? Do you think it would be the same if you were touring ‘Surfer Rosa’ or ‘Bossanova’?
SANTIAGO: I don’t know. I mean, Surfer Rosa would be the second choice — although my favorite album we’ve done is Bossanova.
EYEBALLS: Why’s that?
SANTIAGO: It’s very melodic. Just the production of it. I just like the meaty low end, and, also, I think the guitar parts I had were just more flowing and melodic.
EYEBALLS: It really has that surf rock feel, too.
SANTIAGO: Yeah, exactly. That’s where the melodic guitar comes from.
EYEBALLS: You say ‘Surfer Rosa’ would be the second choice, but have you actually discussed following this tour with ‘Surfer Rosa’ shows?
SANTIAGO: We kicked that around, but we’ll see. We kicked it around for a while. But it’s not at the planning stage — or maybe it will never happen.
EYEBALLS: Since reuniting, you’d already been playing a lot of ‘Doolittle.’ But has doing the whole thing, in order now, given you any different appreciation of the record?
SANTIAGO: You know, we’d never played “Silver,” and I didn’t think it would go over. But it actually goes down well. I enjoy playing it.
EYEBALLS: Why didn’t you play that one originally. Didn’t think it would work live?
SANTIAGO: It’s not that it wouldn’t work… I don’t know. Certain songs, you get bored. In the beginning, we just never played “Here Comes Your Man,” just because it’s not representative of the band’s sound. And we actually turned down TV shows because that’s what they wanted to hear us play. We just didn’t want to be misrepresented. We’re known for that song, and it’s not at all what we generally sound like.
EYEBALLS: Twenty years later, do you have a different relationship with that song?
SANTIAGO: You know, I like it. I like playing it… and that’s about it. Yeah, it’s fun to play, actually.
EYEBALLS: So obviously this tour is somewhat preordained — you come out, play the ‘Doolittle’ B-sides, then the record itself. Anything different planned for that encore set this time around?
SANTIAGO: Each of us gets a turn on choosing the songs we want, so there are four shots at it. And there are two regular ones that we kind of have to play: “Gigantic” and “Where Is My Mind?” Those are like our staples.
EYEBALLS: Have you had much time to do film-score work with all of this Pixies touring over the last few years?
SANTIAGO: Not really, not really. I tried it on the road the first time, just so I could stay out of trouble, but that didn’t really work. I haven’t done it for a while, because the schedule doesn’t call for it. Three or four months later we’re on the road, you know what I mean? And I made a mistake — I had to leave during “Weeds,” like during the last four episodes, and the didn’t like that. I had contracted for that, so it kind of sucked. I didn’t get the next season, I think because of that.
EYEBALLS: Creatively, how does that differ from writing songs with a band?
SANTIAGO: You kind of have more freedom writing scores, just because there isn’t any rule, like I have to change here because they want me to hit a certain moment. You’re just freed more. There’s no real temp. In generally, there’s just more freedom.
SANTIAGO: Yeah, that was more like an art project, where I think we had a year off and we just wanted something to do. There was just too much time off. I approached him and said, “Hey, Dave, you wanna do this?” And he said, “Sure.” It keeps us in the loop. It was just a silly thing, I mean, I think it’s silly. But people enjoy it.
EYEBALLS: A couple months ago, when you were doing press for the last leg of ‘Doolittle’ shows, you said you felt it was time, at this point, to get into the studio. Is that actually being kicked around?
SANTIAGO: I guess I was just thinking about it. We had just discussed it for a while. It was in the discussion phase. I just said, “Maybe it’s not such a bad idea. Let’s do it.” But we’re just still in the chit-chat phase of it. We’re not really doing much with the thought.
EYEBALLS: But it sounds like you’d like to make a new Pixies record.
SANTIAGO: Yeah. You know, I’d like to give it a shot, just to see what we’d come out with. Certainly, we don’t have to put it out if it sucks.
EYEBALLS: There’s been so much coverage of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind,’ and a lot of it has referenced the Pixies, and used Kurt Cobain’s famous quote that, with “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” he was trying to write a Pixies song. Were you aware of that connection at the time?
SANTIAGO: I think so. I would say they were heavily influenced by us, and kudos to them for what they did with it. We got influenced by people, other bands. You know, so, anybody could take any influences at their own risk.
EYEBALLS: Did you listen to Nirvana much at the time?
SANTIAGO: Not really. Bands I hear that are influenced by us, I don’t listen to. I don’t know why — it’s just a silly loop, you know. You listen to it, and, hey, it sounds like us. I like it, and I’d like to sound like that.
EYEBALLS: If I’m not mistaken, ‘Trompe le Monde’ was released the same day as ‘Nevermind.’
SANTIAGO: Yeah, I think so. That’s when we first hear it. Actually, (Nevermind) reminds me of “U-Mass,” that song. For some reason, it’s just kind of the same feel. But when I heard it, I didn’t go, “Those fucking bastards.” I didn’t say that. It wasn’t like, “God damn them.” It was great. Now people were saying all over the place that they got influenced by us.
EYEBALLS: When you first got back together in 2004, you did that run of little club shows. My wife and I drove to Boise, Idaho, to see one of those shows, and it was an amazing experience. Did you have any idea you’d still be doing this in 2011?
SANTIAGO: Yeah, actually. And you know, I’m still pissed because when I was in Boise, I saw a Gibson SG that I didn’t buy. It was a ’60-something. It was worth more than something. It was one of those rare finds, like, “What the fuck, don’t you guys know about eBay?” They could have sold that thing for a while lot more. But like an idiot, I didn’t buy it.
EYEBALLS: What’s your memory of those first club shows, the warm for the reunion?
SANTIAGO: I loved it. You know, that’s where we belong, really, in the truest sense. The fans were so appreciative.
EYEBALLS: I’ve never seen a crowd like it. Every person was in the venue well before the opening band started. It was just crazy.
SANTIAGO: Oh, yeah. They wanted a good glimpse of Kim. Me, I’m pretty stoic. Fuck it. That’s my role. That’s who I am, you know. I’m not going to pretend. Sometimes Charles wishes I was more outgoing, you know.
EYEBALLS: So any plans for the Pixies after this ‘Lost Cities’ tour?
SANTIAGO: No, we don’t have any plans at all after this. We just don’t. They would actually tell us now if we had plans for six months later. It takes us a while to get the machine rolling, with the cargo and the crew that’s from England. We’re hiring English people.
EYEBALLS: Importing workers.
SANTIAGO: They know how to say “fuck you” in a very kind way. A very cool “fuck you,” if you will.
PREVIOUSLY ON SLICING UP EYEBALLS
- Pixies bringing ‘Doolittle’ back to U.S. for 19-date ‘Lost Cities’ tour this fall
- Milestones: Today is Joey Santiago’s and Kim Deal’s birthday; watch Pixies in 1991
- Milestones: Pixies’ ‘Doolittle’ released 22 years ago today; watch full 1989 concert
- Milestones: Black Francis is 46 today; watch Pixies’ full 1988 Town & Country gig
- Pixies to bring ‘Doolittle’ tour to Canada, three more U.S. cities in April, May
- Download: Pixies’ full 2004 Coachella reunion set for free