Frank Black, Black Francis, Frank Black Francis. Under those stage names, Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV has split his creative mind between tenures playing unlikely rock star as frontman for the Pixies and playing clubs as a stylistically varied troubadour. The latter is how he will appear Valentine's Day at Mercy Lounge. For such an enigmatic musical figure, the man himself is quite a candid raconteur. Here he talks to the Scene about his multiple musical personalities, his love for in-studio spontaneity, his perspective on the Pixies' successful second coming and his next record, which he plans to write with singer-songwriter Reid Paley and record with some Nashville cats in Music City this week.
What is the plan for the current record you're recording here in Nashville?
Well, I'm going to be in Nashville for a couple of days. As is the style of a lot of people in that town, people are accustomed to working quickly. Last time I was in Nashville, [Reid Paley] met me there. We wrote a bunch of songs and recorded them. There isn't much planned, other than we have an opportunity to do some hotel-room writing and some last-minute spontaneous recording, which is sort of my favorite type of writing and recording. I prefer it.
Given your various monikers, would you say you have multiple personalities as a songwriter?
Totally, yeah! ... I don't like to write one kind of thing, I don't like to record one kind of thing. It's not even that I'm such a jack-of-all-trades — I'm not. Some people are really comfortable with a very singular kind of vision, and that's really valid also. A classic example of that would be, like, Phil Ramone or Johnny Cash. I'm not against that. But that's not where I'm drawn to. Maybe I should be, but I don't know what it is. I'm happy being a little more all-over-the-map. ... People get bent out of shape when someone that isn't country tries to do country, or someone that's country tries to do rock. Whatever, man, I just like music, you know, and I'm not too hung up about it. I'm really serious in terms of the fact that I like music, but I don't really think it's that serious.
Did doing the Pixies reunion and revisiting that catalog have an effect on your solo work?
I wouldn't think so. ... When I'm making music, or performing music or writing music, I'm just very much about what I'm doing at the moment, and it doesn't require different hats really.
Did that desire to want to be in the moment make it difficult to sing Pixies songs every night?
The last Pixies tour where you were playing Doolittle was really long. Did that much nostalgia take a toll? It might be a nostalgic [thing] for certain members of the audience, but it's not really [nostalgic] for me. It's part of my repertoire, my canon of songs; it's what I do. It's not like in 1989 I was trying a different kind of music altogether, or something that was about the moment in fashion. It's hard for me to think about it in terms of nostalgia. I think that it's all gotten so blurry anyway with all of the different pop genres. Everything is essentially so derivative that I think it's pretty rare that you get a totally new form of popular music.
But I think most rock fans would say that the Pixies were innovative within the parameters of traditional rock instrumentation. Does it feel that way having been in the band?
I like the Iggy Pop quote: "It's all disco."
Since playing live with the Pixies isn't a nostalgic thing, are there any current plans to record new material with the band?
I'm not at liberty to discuss that particular subject.
There is speculation out there of a Pixies appearance at Bonnaroo this year. Just cough once if they're true.
[No cough.] I cannot confirm or deny. It is not currently on my calendar schedule [laughs], so it probably is a rumor. But who knows! Who knows! The Pixies' big reunion, which was so many years ago now already, was a big rumor, started by me just as a joke, and it ended up turning into the real thing.
Looking back on it, because the band was so much bigger when it came back, how different was the Pixies experience the second time around?
Well of course, it was enormously satisfying to my ego. At the start of that process, I, among other members of the band, had started to have families. ... It's nice when you start to have kids and it's like, "Hey! You just got a big raise too!" It's sort of like, "Awesome! Yes!" It's fantastic. It could have gone the other way.
If there were a band that you could reunite, who would it be?
How 'bout the Talking Heads? That would be nuts. I don't think I ever got to see Talking Heads perform live.
When they played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions 10 years or so ago, they sounded great!
Yeah! I think they would be good. I would say either them or Minor Threat.
Will it surprise you if the Pixies are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Have you ever thought about it?
Sure, I've thought about it. I don't know if I would be surprised. I wouldn't be shocked. I wouldn't be shocked if we didn't, either. ... I'd go. I'd play. I'd do my thing.
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