Style.com recently had the chance to chat with Black Francis of the Pixies before their performance at Glastonbury Festival 2014. Francis spoke about the band’s return to working with producer Gil Norton, who had worked on the band’s entire discography before their initial 1993 breakup. Click here to read the full interview.
So Indie Cindy. Was it always a given that if you were going to record something new that Gil [Norton, who produced the band’s previous three albums] would produce it?
It probably was a given on some level between Joey [Santiago] and myself because he was kind of the guy that we knew, and he’d been trying so hard to work his way back into our situation. What he didn’t understand was that our situation as a band was dysfunctional enough that really what producer we were going to work with was the least of our concerns—we were just trying to get the four people in the same room together in agreement to jam or rehearse or have new songs or whatever. We tried to do that, and it was a total failure. It was at that point that we decided that in fact we could press forward, but the only way we could press forward was if we had Gil involved because Gil is a very positive guy. He’s not a yes man at all—he has his own agenda. And I say this with lots of love and affection, but he’s basically really sweet and really nice and he’s trying to manipulate you the whole time into doing what he wants you to do. Sometimes it’s a little bit of a battle working with him because he has such strong, passionate feelings about the way that he thinks things should be. But at the same time, he’s very diplomatic, professional, the glass is always half-full, it’s never half-empty. He doesn’t lose his cool. It’s nice because basically he’s a swell guy to hang out with. I think we always wanted to work with him, ultimately. When the difficulties the band was experiencing proved to be too much even on our own in the rehearsal room, we got him involved and we got it done. We lost Kim Deal in the process, but that was sort of to be expected. Which is fine. We totally accept her for who she is and we don’t really have a problem with her. She just couldn’t stick it out.
When I heard the new EPs, I think the first thing that came to mind was that they were noticeably shinier than stuff you’d done in the past—more poppy. Was that a concerted effort, whether by Gil or by you guys?
That’s basically the kind of producer that he is. We don’t have a problem with it. Our tendencies tend to be less shiny, but because we tend to be a little bit “scruffy” or whatever, which is why people like us, I think, and I think it’s valid to be scruffy, but it’s also valid to be scruffy and have someone force you to put on a tie and a jacket. Gil is the kind of producer who says, “No, you’re not going to go to dinner looking like that. You’re going to put on a jacket and you’re going to comb your hair and you’re going to shave and you’re going to brush your teeth and you’re going to look nice and you’re not going to embarrass me.” We sort of accept that. His way is valid also. That’s what some people I think don’t understand about the Pixies. They think that scruff is our real, most natural state or whatever, which I think is kind of true. But there’s nothing invalid about subjecting your natural state to someone else’s natural state—that’s what a producer does.