an interview w/ Pixies drummer David Lovering (on rotating bassists, magic, social media, reunions, Rush & more)
Pixie David Lovering @ Bowery Ballroom (more by Dana (distortion) Yavin)
Having released their second EP in under a year (the unceremoniously titled EP-2 just last week), the Pixies have wasted no time in calling up their creative forces. It’s likely a welcome relief for the band to have some news that doesn’t include the words “bassist,” “revolving,” or some permutation of “Kim” in the headline. While rock fandom often (read: justifiably) associates comebacks or band reunions with the tinny sounds of a cash register, this interview with drummer and founding member David Lovering suggests a band that, without regard for their incomparable influence and popularity, simply wanted to get back together and play.
What was the thought process behind you guys getting back together, making new music, and going back out on the road?
David Lovering: I think it all began basically as a little rumor or something like that. Because when the Pixies broke up years ago I would have never thought we’d get back together. If you’d told me we’d get back together I would just laugh at you, you know [laughs]? It was just impossible. Then I think Charles [aka Black Francis] said something on radio, some interview, this was years ago in the UK, and that kind of got thrown out and all of a sudden it just made him maybe think twice about it. So Charles had called Joe, and Joe had said “Hey, what do you think? Let’s get back together,” and then I got the call and then Kim got board, and we all got back together. I don’t know if it was a financial impetus or whatever, but it just seemed time was right, and we had been gone a long time. It just seemed like the fun thing and the right thing to do.
Since you guys first formed in the mid 80s the music industry has gone through what’s arguably its biggest change. How have you as an artist seen that change since you initially helped form The Pixies?
David Lovering: Well, it’s interesting. It’s a completely different ballgame with new material now. It is the digital age, and everything is just song-by-song rather than an album. You also know that when an album is released it only has a seven – or I think it’s like a three or so week shelf life on it, so that’s just the way everything is going. To us it’s all brand new. I gotta say we’re lucky that we have management that’s much smarter than us and can really handle these things. They’ve got it going where we have everything like a big email list, a database, we’re able to put things out on EPs now with the way we’re doing it. It’s working fine, and I’m a bit surprised at how it’s working for us. Again, it’s none of my efforts. It’s all management and everyone who had the greater powers to do all this, so I’m quite amazed at it.
How have you seen The Pixies evolve both personally and musically since the beginning?
David Lovering: I think we’re always the same. We try to keep it just the way it is, because when we got back together in 2004, it was like riding a bike. Nothing had changed at all. Between us. It was all the same. The same people were playing the same way we’d playing the same songs. Now, when it came to the new material, that’s a little different.
Were there creative approaches you guys would have taken in those early years that you’ve kind of moved past now?
No. We’ve done the same thing. In fact, I’ll just say it took three years to record the new material. We actually went – we all flew to Boston once to do a rehearsal, just like the old times like in a rehearsal space and just start writing stuff. It’s funny. It was the first time we did it in like nineteen, eighteen years – it didn’t work. [Laughs] At all. So that was like eh, strike one. So we went back to the old thing where Charles sends us stuff, and we were able to have the veto power of listening to it instead of just working on stuff. We were able to make it happen. It was still the same except that we noticed the rehearsals we used when we were young twenty year olds didn’t work anymore.
You’ve quoted Steely Dan, Led Zeppelin, and Devo as influences for your drumming style. Are you still being influenced by some of today’s drummers?
Eh, that’s a tough one. I really don’t think so. I think all of the things that embedded in me happened when I was much younger. It’s like a resume or times of your life like all those studio drummers and Rush and blah, blah, blah, I think they all had a pretty formative effect on me. That’s stayed with me. Today I do hear other drummers, but it doesn’t really make me change what I’ve done all these years. I still think those earlier things created how I drum, but I don’t think I’m going beyond it. I might just be getting too old for that. [Laughs]
The Scientific Phenomenalist. Tell me a little about the background there. What led to you wanting to do magic, and is that have an equal share of your passion along with the music?
It was. Yeah. When the band broke up, and I just said I’m not going to do music anymore, I became a professional magician. I had done the birthday parties and things like that, but in magic – I’ll just preface this by saying one thing: if you think being a musician is hard, think of being a magician. That’s twice as hard to make a living at. The only way I thing I could dream up was a stage show to make it a little more lucrative. As far as a stage show what I came up with was all my things that I love. You have to be your own character. You don’t want to play something else. So all the things that I loved – which I had an electronic engineering degree, I was into physics and science – and that’s what I did. I built an electronics thing for the show, wore a lab coat, and doing physics experiments where the lines I blurred were out of the magic was in the physics of what was happening. I did that for a while, and I started opening up for a lot of rock bands. I enjoyed doing it, but the Pixies are really busy right now as well as I am with a family and stuff, so it’s been a little tough. Luckily I do have a job that’s paying the bills with the Pixies now. I can kind of relax a little on the financial side of it. [Laughs]
The Pixies will oftentimes be a go-to band in any discussion about the early days of indie rock, and the obvious influence you guys have had on it. That term, though, “indie rock” seems to carry a lot less weight now. Is that terminology useless at this point, or does it kind of serve as an illusion to fans as a selling point?
I think it’s the same thing. I don’t think much has changed. Back then it was called college radio, and back then even college radio – even though there may not be a lot of it these days – there’s still probably college radio. Even with the record companies going down, there are still local bands that have that college vibe, and I think that’ll never change. I think there’ll always be that. I think we’re all in the same boat now as far as making money. You’ve just got to be different or something to do it. I think that with the digital age, whether you’re good or not, we’re all given the same thing.
There’s definitely been a shift in focus with the digital age as so much now revolves around the spectacle surrounding an artist or band rather than the art they’re creating.
It’s all the social media. In fact, when we first started this tour we had an Instagram account, a Vine account, Facebook, and Twitter. And what we were doing is while we were doing the rehearsals for it and then actually being on tour, we would just post little things for the fans to see. It was quite fun, too. The only thing I thought was great about it was that it engaged you to be clever. Rather than just abuse it and be loud, you had to really think to do something that people might appreciate, so it wasn’t just senseless promotion. That was nice about it. We were all able to do funny kind of clever things. That kind of fell by the wayside now, but we’re gonna try to pick it up on this next leg. It’s amazing the impact of that. Just all the information that can be given because of this.
Now you guys have Paz Lenchantin on bass. What led up to the issues with that specific position in the band where you guys arrived with the current lineup?
When we were in the lurch when Kim Deal left it was a tough decision. Basically, no one can replace Kim Deal. It would be impossible to do. Kim Shattuck, we had actually hired her for the European tour, and that had finished a few weeks ago, and then we had worked with Paz in the past, probably around the same time we were looking at trying to figure out the bassist. Paz is just wonderful. She’s gonna take over for the next portion of it. It’s just what we’ve been doing and hopefully it’ll be good.
When you say Kim is hard to replace it is more or less a matter of not replacing but finding someone to bridge that gap?
We definitely want someone who can just be a personality, I think, and especially on the feminine side. Just the same formula that we’ve used. I think if we had a guy up there, it wouldn’t be the same. We couldn’t pull off the Pixies thing. It’d be a little too masculine. The feminine side gives it that Yin and Yang. Like I said, no one will be able to replace Kim Deal. It’s impossible, but we’re doing the best we can with it.
Are there any plans for a new Pixies full length?
I’ll just say – EP-1 suggests there’s more. Maybe when the totality of all the more comes together it’ll constitute a full length. [Laughs]
What do you think the biggest challenge facing a band in 2013 that’s in the same creative position the Pixies were in close to thirty years ago just starting out?
That’s a tough one. I can’t think of any impediments because everyone has the same opportunity. You can find a club. You can do recordings. You can do everything to get your self promotion in a way. There’s really nothing hindering you. The only thing that would maybe hinder you would be the quality of what you’re doing. That’s the only thing I can think of. You’ve got to be unique and different. That’s the only thing that sets bands apart and music apart. And of course it’s gotta be good. The uniqueness and difference will set it apart, though.
Is the current cultural and social climate more conducive now to those artists who take risks and strive to be different than it was when the Pixies first started?
Yeah, it could be. Again, it’s different. Everyone wants to hear something different out there. For example, I think Rush is being accepted now because it’s cool, and they’ve been around for such a long time, and somebody’s gotta give it up for them. [Laughs] I think the Pixies are kind of a different band. It’s gotta be something where it’s just a little different. It can’t be the same as everything else because it’ll never get noticed.
Pixie David Lovering @ Bowery Ballroom (more by Dana (distortion) Yavin)
When you first picked up the drumsticks to where you are now, what’s that journey been like for you, David? What initially inspired you, and what keeps you going?
When I was younger I picked up the drums as just a fun thing to do. When I was really into it I took lessons and everything. It’s funny. I loved drumming, but I wasn’t that crazy into doing it. I loved playing drums, and it was fun playing these songs, but I was never that invested in myself as a drummer. It was just getting by. It’s totally changed now. Now, I’ve changed the way that I hold the drumsticks, and I’ve gone back to a traditional grip, and I gotta say it’s taken me forty plus years just to figure out how to setup a drumset properly just in terms of ergonomics just so I can really utilize everything with the least amount of effort. It’s not that I’m getting old or anything. It’s just more comfortable. This happened since we recorded the new material and this last European tour. I’m actually playing better than I have been in my life, and I’m enjoying it a lot more. It’s like a renewed fire. It’s become very easy to play and incorporate other things that I could not do in the past. It’s been wonderful.
The Pixies recently announced a Northampton, MA show to kick off their tour on 1/13. That tour also hits 1/19 at Capitol Theatre (tickets) and 1/21 at NJPAC (tickets), and all the places listed below:
Pixies — 2014 Tour Dates
01.13.14 NORTHAMPTON, MA CALVIN THEATRE
01.15.14 TORONTO, ON, CA MASSEY HALL
01.16.14 MONTREAL, QC, CA METROPOLIS
01.18.14 BOSTON, MA, US ORPHEUM THEATRE
01.19.14 PORT CHESTER, NY, US CAPITOL THEATRE
01.21.14 NEWARK, NJ, US NEW JERSEY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
01.22.14 NEWHAVEN, CT, US SHUBERT THEATER
01.24.14 PHILADELPHIA, PA, US ELECTRIC FACTORY
01.25.14 PITTSBURGH, PA, US CARNEGIE MUSIC HALL OAKLAND
01.26.14 WASHINGTON, DC, US STRATHMORE MUSIC THEATRE
01.29.14 RICHMOND, VA, US THE NATIONAL
01.31.14 DURHAM, NC, US DURHAM PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
02.01.14 ASHEVILLE, NC, US THOMAS WOLFE AUDITORIUM
02.02.14 NASHVILLE, TN, US RYMAN AUDITORIUM
02.04.14 ATLANTA, GA, US TABERNACLE
02.06.14 ST. LOUIS, MO, US PEABODY OPERA HOUSE
02.07.14 COLUMBUS, OH, US THE LC INDOOR PAVILION
02.08.14 DETROIT, MI, US THE FILLMORE DETROIT
02.09.14 CHICAGO, IL, US RIVIERA THEATER
02.11.14 KANSAS CITY, MO, US MIDLAND THEATRE
02.13.14 DENVER, CO, US FILLMORE AUDITORIUM
02.14.14 ASPEN, CO, US BELLY UP TAVERN
02.15.14 SALT LAKE CITY, UT, US THE GREAT SALT AIR
02.17.14 VANCOUVER, BC, CA ORPHEUM THEATRE
02.18.14 SEATTLE, WA, US PARAMOUNT THEATER
02.19.14 PORTLAND, OR, US ARLENE SCHNITZER CONCERT HALL
02.21.14 OAKLAND, CA, US FOX THEATER
02.22.14 SAN JOSE, CA, US SAN JOSE CIVIC AUDITORIUM
02.23.14 LAS VEGAS, NV, US THE JOINT
02.24.14 PHOENIX, AZ, US COMERICA THEATRE
02.25.14 ALBUQUERQUE, NM, US KIVA AUDITORIUM
02.27.14 HOUSTON, TX, US BAYOU MUSIC CENTER
02.28.14 DALLAS, TX, US SOUTH SIDE BALLROOM
03.01.14 AUSTIN, TX, US AUSTIN MUSIC HALL
03.29.14 – 03.30.14 SANTIAGO, CHILE LOLLAPALOOZA CHILE
04.01.14 MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY ROCK N’FALL
04.01.14 – 04.03.14 BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA LOLLAPALOOZA ARGENTINA
04.03.14 – 04.05.14 BOGOTA, COLOMBIA FESTIVAL ESTEREO PICNIC
04.05.14 – 04.06.14 SAO PAULO, BRAZIL LOLLAPALOOZA BRAZIL
29.05.14 – 31.05.14 BARCELONA, SPAIN PRIMAVERA SOUND
05.06.14 – 07.06.14 PORTO, PORTUGAL PRIMAVERA SOUND
08.06.14 LONDON, UK FIELD DAY
15.06.14 ARHUS, DENMARK NORTHSIDE
20.06.14 HILVARENBEEK, NETHERLANDS BEST KEPT SECRET
20.06.14 – 22.06.14 SCHEESSEL, GERMANY HURRICANE
20.06.14 – 22.06.14 NEUHAUSEN, GERMANY SOUTHSIDE
25.06.14 ZAGREB, CROATIA INMUSIC
29.06.14 DUBLIN, IRELAND MARLEY PARK W/ ARCADE FIRE
30.06.14 CORK, IRELAND LIVE AT THE MARQUEE
05.07.14 WERCHTER, BELGIUM ROCK WERCHTER
06.07.14 HEROUVILLE-ST.CLAIR, FRANCE BEAUREGARD