The concepts of love and intimacy are prevalent throughout Black Francis'…
- Posted on May 10th 2012 4:00PM by Dan Reilly
You went in a different direction on this album. How did that happen?
Clark: The songwriting process was totally different. If people remember the last record, we were tag-teaming like four-hour increments in the studio, layering out ideas on top of each other in real time. Our children were much younger and I think one of them was a newborn. It's all a blur. Crazy times. This time, however, Charles was involved with his Pixies Doolittle tour quite extensively. I had a lot of freedom to set the framework, and decide the direction for this record. I put a lot of stuff down while he was out on tour, and got to develop ideas more fully before he came back. There's kind of a clarity, an intention of purpose, an organization to this record, that couldn't exist last time because of the way we were working.
Last time, you both admitted to the sessions being a little tense. How was it on this album?
Clark: So much better. We gave each other more freedom. It was literally like a relay race before. We would go into the studio and do as much as we could in a short amount of time and the next person would be pulling us in the van with the kids and jumping out. This time I would give Charles a chance to get in the studio for a whole week. Several days in a row developing ideas and trying things out before I would even come in and assess anything. More breathing room, more time, freedom for each of us, but less intense collaboration. I think we were able to relax more in this process.
So how did it work with him being on tour?
Clark: I was more able to obtain a steady flow of work because I wasn't on the Doolittle tour. Because of that, I became the de facto producer and everything was crystalizing around my vision. Charles relaxed into that, because then it was no longer a power struggle. He was able to focus on being creative and having fun. His work became better.
Was it a balancing act, working on this and touring with the Pixies?
Francis: I don't know how much of a balancing act it was, but certainly Violet would give me shit back from before, because she would've been working on stuff and she was looking for my input and I think she was wanting me, as the producer, to deliver stuff that was more uptempo and a little more aggressive, and whenever I would go to the studio I'd be in this really mellow space. I couldn't really meander about the piano, doing faux classical things, and she said, "Great. Another slow, moody thing from Charles." I enjoyed being the subservient band member who was not necessarily pleasing the leader/producer and going, "Whatever, man. That's what I did." There are only a handful of those tracks on the record.
Clark: They create more of a downshift moment, so that the album has highlights, loud moments. There's more range, but do you think you were doing that because you were going out and doing Doolittle night after night, screaming?
Francis: I've never analyzed it. But it could've been that coming off a club/arena tour. It's loud with rock fans, Marshall amps and stuff. Probably when I got home, I was in more of a quiet, cozy space, not wanting to be all zipped up on rock 'n' roll.
So you want to take a break from that?
Francis: I'm always looking to rock out. But it isn't really about rocking out versus being mellow, in terms of your personal satisfaction. In the end, you just want to be good. When you look at something that's really good, it might be Iggy Pop or it might be Leonard Cohen. Whatever it is, you want it to be really good. I look forward to being good, however it happens. Right now we have some art space in the same building as our office, we've been enjoying a new relationship with a cinematographer in the area. We're trying to get into our artsy headspace and creating content for film.
How far along on those projects?
Francis: We just shot our second installation, so-called "vlog" you know. We're doing a combination of blog video content and artsy DIY music videos. Either doing a track from the record, or we had a lot of remixes that we had done for the record. In particular, there's one by this guy that's called the Gloom Prohet, he did nine or 10 tracks for us. We're making visuals for some of those tracks. Obviously its not an MTV world anymore, but it is a YouTube world, a website world. There's not necessarily going to be a big splash every time you release content onto the internet, but at the same time the people that are selling your records, concert tickets, people are always looking for more content, another angle, as you know.
Clark: More than just content. We're really interested in it, and it delights us to go this visual rout. More than I would say playing clubs.
I have to ask, do you get annoyed by the constant comparison of this to the Pixies?
Francis: I don't really compare it -- it's just my life. When I'm in some interview situations I'm asked about the Pixies and what their plans are, but it's not like I have to do three hours of interviews every single day. With the Pixies I really don't do interviews for them anymore, I stopped because there's not really anything to talk about at the moment. I always do interviews in regards to my solo records or with Grand Duchy. I'm asked and I accept it as part of what you folks are looking for to balance out your piece.
It's due diligence.
Francis: Is it a nice break from the Pixies? For sure. Especially because the Pixies, while we perform, we haven't done anything new in a few years I would say, like 20. I really appreciate those songs, they've done me and my family good financially, but it's like, "Really? 'Where Is My Mind' again? 'Gigantic' again?" Yeah, I do get a little bored of all that occasionally. It's repetitious to sing those songs year after year after year. I always appreciate it, but especially by the end of the tour, I'm begging to get off.
A colleague of mine interviewed your Pixies bandmates, and they talked about Bono begging you guys to record new material. What was that like?
Francis: I was not there at the begging scene. I had heard about the begging. Even Bono was bored!