KEXP Q&A: Joey Santiago of Pixies

photo by Dave Lichterman

Here Comes Your Man: when Joey Santiago, guitarist for Pixies, answers the phone, he is immediately warm and friendly. Where is My Mind? Well, in utter disbelief that I’m getting to chat with the guitarist for one of the most influential bands of my time.

It was Santiago who first met Black Francis, née Charles Thompson IV, as students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1984. (“It’s Educational.”) After the band broke up in 1993, Santiago continued to lend his distinctive, angular guitar stylings to Frank Black solo albums (as Francis then referred to himself). And when Pixies came back together in 2004, the guitar lines were as sharp as ever.

Earlier this Spring, the band self-released their fifth album, Indie Cindy, a collection of EPs they released from 2013-14, and a return to their dynamic form. We caught up with the legendary guitarist from his home in Los Angeles during a short break from the band’s extensive world tour.

I’m so glad that you’re getting some home-time because I wanted to mention, after I saw the Pixies’ documentary, Live Quiet Loud, I thought, you have the cutest kids in the world.

Thank you! They are with me all this week.

Do they like the Pixies? Or do they think it’s scary that Uncle Charlie’s yelling all the time?

You know what, they love the Pixies. Their favorite album is actually the new one. I played my nine-year-old son “Where Is My Mind,” and he said, literally, “It sucks.” He might be kidding, but, you know, I really don’t think he liked it. I don’t think he knows who the hell I am really.

You’re just Dad.

Yeah. I mean, they know, I am Dad. I’m 99% Dad.

Now, you yourself were about nine years old when you started playing guitar, is that correct?

Nine years old, that would be fourth grade. Nah. More like seventh grade, you know? Like everyone else when they hit puberty and want to impress girls.

You picked up the guitar.

Yeah, you pretty much have to.

Who were you inspired by or idolizing as a guitar player at that young age?

You know, I actually liked Billy Gibbons, and right now I’m actually into The Moving Sidewalks, his early psychedelic band. I also like Robin Trower and Jimi Hendrix, stuff like that. Most likely though, I loved The Beatles.

Wow, you were a sophisticated pre-teen!

We had a library that allowed you to take out albums, so they’re not going to have the kind of stuff that’s going to be on…

Like a Black Flag album or something?

Yeah, yeah. Well, they might have had that.

So, you’re obviously very known for your guitar style but, since David took lead vocals on “La La Love You,” will there ever be a song with Joey on lead vocals?

Well, you know, Charles wants me to sing, but I’m like, you know, I have microphone phobia. Microphobia!

Microphobia!

Yeah, he wants me to sing at some point. But, I don’t know. I don’t know.

We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

Pixies just released their fifth album, Indie Cindy – their first in 23 years. They’ll be back in Washington on Friday, October 3rd, playing the INB Performing Arts Center in Spokane.

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