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Interview: The Pixies


Two decades ago, David Lovering — the drummer who provided the crucial dynamics to the music of alt-rock icons the Pixies — gave up his drum kit completely.

The band, one of the most influential artists of the 1980s, had just broken up, and Lovering couldn’t find any musical project to top what he just lost.

So naturally, he became a magician.


It’s maybe one of the most unusual stories in rock: Lovering spent years performing magic at birthday parties and stage shows. And it apparently changed his life.

“When I do shows with the Pixies, I’m up there and it could be, like at Coachella, in front of 200,000 people — and I’ve never been nervous,” Lovering told Pop-Break in a phone interview recently. “I’m sitting behind a drum set and I have three other people in front of me. When I did my first magic show in front of 10 people, I never sweat and panicked and shook so much in my life.

“It’s built up my confidence,” he added. “I was a shy guy, but magic has given me a confidence now, where I can do public speaking and everything else in that kind of nature. That’s one thing magic has given me that I can’t say enough about.”

Lovering returned to his drum kit in 2004 when the Pixies reunited. And a lot’s happened since then. They toured the world. Bassist Kim Deal left in 2013 (Paz Lenchantin has since taken over). Last year, they released Indie Cindy, their first album of new material since 1991. Now, they’re touring the U.S. — even opening for Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant on a handful of dates. And they’re apparently working on new music.

Pop-Break’s Brent Johnson spoke with Lovering about the new songs, sitting on a plane with Plant — and, of course, how he got into magic.

FROM LEFT:  Joey Santiago, Black Francis, David Lovering. Photo Credit:  Jay Blakesberg
FROM LEFT: Joey Santiago, Black Francis, David Lovering. Photo Credit: Jay Blakesberg

What are you playing on the tour? The last record? New stuff?

We’re kind of finishing up Indie Cindy — the leg of it. Places we didn’t play with Indie Cindy.

And the idea is: We wanted to do something we hadn’t done since 1986. The way we honed new songs was playing them in clubs and stuff in Boston. And we’ve never had that opportunity really since then. So we thought: ‘Why don’t we try this medieval? Write a bunch of songs, like we did in L.A. a couple of weeks ago, and pick a few that are good and debut them and just really hone them.

Does that mean there’s a new Pixies album in the future?

Yeah, we’re going to see how it works. We loved doing Indie Cindy. We loved to be back in the mix. So that’s a possibility. We’re just seeing how it goes, and we’re very happy so far. It’s a possibility.


I’ve always wondered: What do you call your frontman? Black Francis? Frank Black? Charles? He has so many different stage names. But you actually work with him. How do you refer to him.

Well, I’ve known him as Charles ever since day one. (laughs) So I call him Charles.

How does the songwriting process go? Does he bring in a song and then you guys work it out?

Yeah, that’s been pretty much it since day one. Charles writes all the music and usually comes in with an acoustic guitar. And we just start jamming on it. Joe [Santiago] adds his guitar, and we add the bass and drums and just work on it.

Pick up a copy of Indie Cindy (Deluxe) by Pixies here

Was there ever a song he brought in and you were absolutely floored right away?

Oh gosh. Let me think. (pause) That’s tough, because when I first joined the Pixies — when we started as a band — I thought, ‘I like the songs,’ but I was in the vein of Rush and Zeppelin and stuff like that. These songs were completely different to me. I thought they were good, but I didn’t think much of it.

As we did each album, the songs were consistent and stuff like that. And I just came to expect it. They were all good songs. Even today, I just come to expect it.

Where was the last place you heard a Pixies song played in public?

I think it was during the Super Bowl. They were running that Acura commercial with ‘Where Is My Mind’ behind it. I didn’t learn about this until I went down to L.A.  to do the rehearsals. I thought somebody covered it. But no, it was really Paz [Lenchantin], our bass player, playing violin; Paz’s sister, Elena, playing piano; and Joe was playing guitar. (laughs) It was news to me.

The end of Fight Club, of course, features the original version of that song. Is it weird to hear music you made in major places like that?

Photo Credit: Jay Blakesberg
Photo Credit: Jay Blakesberg

I mean, it was weird at first. Because that was years ago, and we weren’t in a lot of movies. The only movies I knew we were in Married To The Mob and then Pump Up The Volume. And then Fight Club. So it was all surprising and cool to hear it actually in a movie. Especially the placement — the scene and all that.

But nowadays, I guess we’re in more movies. Especially all those Judd Apatow movies. He has a lot of Pixies. It’s kind of commonplace now. But I’m still floored by it.

Do you see a younger fanbase at your shows — a new generation of fans?

Yes. Back in 2004, when we first got back together, we were playing Coachella. And this was the first time in the reunion where I looked at the sea of the audience, and they were all young kids. They weren’t even born when we did our initial albums. Yet, they knew every word to every song and they were singing along.

That was 2004. Now, it’s 11 years later, and we did Coachella again. And it’s not just Coachella — it’s everywhere. It’s the same scene. And it’s not those kids that were 12 and 13 that grew up in 11 years. It’s still 13-year-old kids coming to our shows, as well as the people who are my age who are older who wish it was a seated venue. (laughs)

I would say, along with The Replacements, The Smiths, and The Cure, you’re one of the most influential alt-rock bands of the 1980s. There’s even a phrase ‘Pixiedust’ — which is a way to describe a song by a band, like Nirvana or Radiohead, that was clearly inspired by you. Do you hear the influence? Do you hear a new band and go, ‘Oh, they sound like us’?

No. When people tell me, ‘Oh, this band sounds like the Pixies,’ I have a very hard time discerning it. I even have a hard time telling when there’s a Pixies song on the radio. People have to tap me. (laughs) I’m not kidding.

One thing you guys are always credited for popularizing is the soft-loud dynamic — soft verses followed by loud choruses. Was that a conscious thing?

Photo Credit:  Jay Blakesberg
Photo Credit: Jay Blakesberg

It just happened. I think a lot of our songs are characterized like that, but it’s just a few songs that do that. It wasn’t a formula, and it’s not a formula we keep. It’s just something that we did and happen to have.

Do you remember the first record you ever bought?

It was a 45 of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ by The Rolling Stones.

Did you give up drums completely after the Pixies’ breakup?

Yes. After we broke up, I did some studio stuff. But after doing a bunch of stuff and playing in another band, Cracker, I kinda gave up. It was just because nothing really topped my time with the Pixies. I really enjoyed that. And I just thought, ‘I can’t drum anymore.’ So I put the drums away. They had been away since 2004, when I got the call about reuniting.

At what point did you say, ‘Now I’m going to try magic’?

I had given up drums and I had a lot of free time, and I had a friend — a musician named Grant-Lee Phillips — who was a magician when he was a kid. And he asked me to go to a magic conference in Los Angeles. This was around 1994.

And at this magic conference, I saw a magic trick that blew me away. And from that point, I just had to buy every book and every video, take classes, and do everything to learn magic. I spent years doing it. It’s a fun thing.

You’ve even performed at birthday parties, right?

I did. When I first started doing magic, I was doing birthday parties and just little shows around town — stuff like that. And you’ve heard the term ‘the starving musician’? Well, it’s ‘the dying magician.’ Because it’s not the wisest career choice to make money and a living at. (laughs) So after doing birthday parties and stuff like that, I came up with a stage show — just something that is me, my love of electronics and science and physics. I became like a scientist on stage, doing all science tricks and physics tricks, with a line drawn where magic was happening but you didn’t know it.

Did the kids or maybe the parents know you were in the Pixies?

I think in some ways, yeah. I think that’s what got me a lot of gigs.

Do you still do magic now?

I do. My favorite is close-up — that kind of one-on-one street magic. I do it backstage or at restaurants or for whomever I meet. I don’t force it, but if it’s right, that’s my favorite. It’s much more powerful.

Photo Credit:  Jay Blakesberg
Photo Credit: Jay Blakesberg

You said you were a Zeppelin fan, and now you’re touring with Robert Plant. Is that surreal?

Yeah, it’s unreal. We met him on a plane when we were touring Europe. And I didn’t even know it. I was sitting a few feet way from him, and a conversation started talking about football — soccer. It kept going between myself and Joe and the manager. And I didn’t realize until a little while later that, ‘Oh my God, this is Robert Plant.’

And this conversation went from the plane to us landing to us taxiing to us walking out of the plane and waiting for baggage. The conversation went on and on. And he asked us what we do. And we said, ‘We’re the Pixies.’ And he said, ‘Oh, Boston’s finest.’ When he said that, I could have dropped right there. It was amazing. What a gentleman. What a joy of a man to be around. Just a nice guy. That made it so extra special.

Months and months later, our manager gets a call asking if we’d open up for him. And we just can’t so no to that.

Is there at all a possibility of a reunion with Kim Deal in the future?

I don’t know. When she left, we just wished her well. That’s all we could do really. I don’t know. But we’re happy right now with what we’re doing with Paz. Paz is fantastic.

Is there a Pixies song you’re most proud of?

Oh gosh. That’s a tough one. (pause) I think there’s only one song I love playing a lot. It’s a song called ‘Tame.’ It’s kind of a fast song. It’s just really, really fun to play. And I think I get the biggest kick out of it — actually making it through to the end alive. (laughs)

Pixies perform this Saturday night, May 23rd at The Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park, New Jersey with John Grant and TV on the Radio. Click here for tickets.

Brent has worked for a variety of publications, writing on a variety of topics. He covered James Madison University sports for The Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va. He wrote a weekly music column for The Trenton Times. He contributed a chapter on the Rutgers University rock scene to Rolling Stone’s college music guide. He’s currently working for New Jersey Advance Media where he covers Chris Christie and the New Jersey Statehouse. When not working, he’s the lead singer in New Brunswick rock band The Clydes.


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