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
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
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?