Catching Up With... Frank Black

Music Features Frank Black
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The man born Charles Thompson is many things to many people.Francis as Pixies frontman, he took up the name Frank Black for his staggeringly prolific solo career. Only recently has he decided to reassume the name that brought him acclaim. Paste caught up with Thompson while he was gearing up for a summer of shows with Stone Temple Pilots, and he gave us the skinny on his old band's recent reunion, why he doesn’t really care too much who he tours with, and just what "Black Francis" means to him.

Paste: What made you want to do gigs with Stone Temple Pilots this summer? It seems like an odd fit musically, or maybe that they should be opening for you.

Black: Yeah, I guess I’m not too concerned necessarily with the "fit" of a band I’m playing with. I feel like that’s something that music critics are more concerned about than the musicians. You know, we’re both rock 'n' rollers, we’ve both been around for about the same time. I may not know them personally, but we’ve probably been through the same things—doing shows at holes in the wall, riding in a cargo van to the next gig. We both know where we’re coming from. At the same time, it’s frustrating being the opening act, because you know that they’re there to see the headliners and not you. It pays well, though. Unless it’s a serious mismatch, I’ll never really say no to playing a decent gig.

Paste: What made you want to take the Black Francis name again last year? Is it a name recognition thing, a throwback to the time you spent with the Pixies?

Black:recognition. You may have lots of people who know you as Frank Black, but there’s an army of fans out there who know you as Black Francis. But it’s risky, because it’s a name I haven’t used in about 15 years. It’s a personal thing too, because I feel like there’s a different energy when I use the name.

Paste: Like you’re adopting a persona, or approaching performing differently?

Black: Well, I’m about to get into some spiritual mumbo-jumbo here. It has nothing to do with me having a different mentality or doing anything in a different way. It’s more about things that no one directly does, but just change because of the name. And my energy will be different. I’ll be… I guess artsy-er is what it is. I’ll feel like I’m back in that garage, college-rock mindset.

Paste: Your most recent album, Svn Fngrs, was more of a mini-album without being an EP, or maybe calling it a concept EP is better. Is that something you’re going to be doing in the future, or was it more of a one-off thing?

Black: It’s something I hadn’t really tried before. When you’re on a major label, you’ve got execs and A&R guys who tell you that you’re going to release an album at this time, and it’s going to be advertised this way, and that you’ll sell a million copies out of the box! That’s never really how I imagined it back when I was a little kid and I wanted to be a rock star. It’s like, I’ve got music, and I want to release it, and I don’t want to have to think about not putting something out at a certain time because it’s going to be competing with something else. I always thought it was about the music, you know? The Pixies had a gold record, but it took years for it to sell that many. It’s not the sort of record that you can sell 100,000 copies in the first week.

Paste: How would you say you rate yourself as a musician then?

Black: That depends a lot on when you ask me. You know, sometimes when you’re not touring and you’re just sitting at home it’s real easy to get negative on yourself. Yeah, sometimes I’ll stop and think to myself, “Oh man, I’m not king of the hill of college rock any more, where did I go wrong?” I don’t know if I like the idea of rating myself at all. I don’t like to get too wrapped up in what other people, reviewers, whatever, say about me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m always glad when someone cares enough to pay attention to what I’m doing.

Paste: A couple months ago you said that the reunion with the Pixies was effectively over. It was really well received though; why do you think it didn’t work out?

Black: It didn’t work out? I thought it went pretty well.

Paste: So, it wasn’t really you guys getting back together forever, you just wanted to do a couple shows and then take a break again?

Black: Yeah, I don’t think I ever saw it as a reunion really; we just wanted to get back together, play some songs, and see how we felt about the whole thing. We’re on hiatus again, but we’re not broken up. I could definitely see us doing something again down the road, it just depends how everyone feels about it. Who knows?

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