In the shadow of the massive success of his former band, Pixies frontman Frank Black has been diligently recording under his own name since 1993. His latest, Fast Man Raider Man, was released earli er this summer. It marks his second stint recording in Nashville with a who's-who of session musicians, including Steve Cropper and Spooner Oldham. In the middle of a supporting tour, Black chatted with Street about the solo life.
Street: Talk a little bit about the sound of the new record. It's a pretty far cry from the Pixies stuff that you've done. Have you seen yourself going in this direction for a while?
Frank Black: No, I don't really have a lot of vision. I write songs - there's probably more similarity between all my songs than there are differences. But I suppose when you play with different people, things take on a different sound. Certainly knowing that I was going to play with this type of musician, I dipped into some other songwriting styles. But, you know, at the end of the day I just consider it all rock music. I just write songs every season - whatever that means - and then start booking recording sessions with various people. I just don't really operate from the point of view of having all kinds of ideas of what something should or shouldn't sound like.
Street: It's interesting to hear you say that you're basically just writing rock music. A lot of the feedback I've read, certainly from the last two albums, has been that you get identified with a country sound or folk.
FB: People are so caught up with subgenres, and Nashville always has a stigma among rock people. It's not really a country album. I know what a country album is - I'm not a dum-dum. Turn on a country radio station. Does my record sound like that? No. Does it sound like a Johnny Cash record? No, it doesn't sound like that either. What is it? I don't know. It's a typical Frank Black, hodgepodge, potpourri of various styles. [Laughs]
Street: It seems like your solo output has been pretty consistent, even in the midst of all the craziness of the Pixies reunion. Did you ever consider putting the solo stuff on hold?
FB: I'm ready to make a record right now. I don't even need songs. I like making records. I have no problem with it - whether I'm prepared or unprepared, whether we have a month booked or three hours booked. It's what I do. Same thing with playing gigs. I'm pretty much ready to go play a show on tour whenever. I don't need to switch my paradigm or anything - I'm in the paradigm, I'm a rock musician. There's no difference between playing with the Pixies and with some Motown guys.
Street: Has the success of the Pixies given you more leeway in terms of what you can do or mess around with in your solo career?
FB: Definitely. It floats my boat. If it wasn't for the Pixies catalog, I wouldn't be in business doing what I do. I'd be, I don't know, on a book tour trying to promote my new book - My Life as a Pixie. Thank God that's not happening.
Street: You guys started out as one of the quintessential indie bands. Do you hope to see change in the music industry?
FB: I'm still staying in the same hotel by the same freeway ramp that I've been staying at for 15 years. I'm still playing guitar in recording studios and making records. And I'm still struggling - well, working at what I do. It's not like things have changed so much for me. A lot of people get caught up . especially with this internet thing. I think people want exciting things to happen in their lifetimes, in their generations. People are constantly looking for that revolution. "It's all gonna change now!" "It's all gonna be different now." I'm always a little bit, like, "Yeah, whatever." Is it really gonna change that much? When the revolution really comes, let me know. I'm waiting. I don't know - I'm a bit of a naysayer.
Street: What's the story with that? I know there's been a lot of rumors about a new Pixies album, more tours. Is there anything in the works?
FB: Uh . not really. Just more rumors.
Street: What about for you? Do you have any plans?
FB: I'm always working on a record. I'm working on a record right now.
Frank Black will perform at World Caf‚ Live (3025 Walnut St.) on October 19.