Pixies/Frank Black

Written by Jeff Keibel on Sat, 22 Nov 1997 04:55:45 -0500.

From Rocktropolis, the slowest god damn site on the web:

"I have severed my relationship with American Recordings. I am now a free man." So states Mr. Frank Black, solo artist and former leader of the influential Pixies, in a manner as succinct as possible about his present status as free agent. There's no animosity, no drama, no rage.

Black, whose 1995 album The Cult of Ray was his only disc released on Rick Rubin's label, is now semi-actively seeking stateside record companies. "I'm all set with Europe and Australia," says the singer from his Los Angeles home. "I'm going with Play It Again Sam, which is a Belgian company, and Shock, which is based in Australia -- they're more of a licensee than anything else, but that's cool."

Black has already recorded a new set of songs, titled Frank Black and the Catholics, that's ready to go. "The Catholics tape was what precipitated my battles with American," he says. "They're obligated under my contract to put it out, but because I opted for a rougher, liver sound, they balked."

The album was done live to two-track in a Burbank studio favored by Tom Petty, among others. "I got tired of slicked-up, lifeless-sounding music," Black adds, "and wanted to go to a no-bullshit approach, but anything that isn't glossy freaks the record companies out, so out I went."

Black is also preparing a real treat for his cult of die-hards, a remixed collection of solo B-sides from all three solo discs. "This isn't just me putting out music that's been available as a repackaging," says the singer. "I'm going into the studio for six days, and after I'm finished, I'll probably put it out myself. What the hell, why not?"

His attitude about the recent Pixies double CD, Death to the Pixies, is less sanguine. "One of the people at our old label, 4AD, called it 'used cars' and I agree. I can't really see the point of putting out material that all of the fans have already, and if they're only buying it for the live disc, that's odd. Although the venues where we recorded the in-concert stuff were good. I haven't listened to it myself."

Black calls his recent hiatus from the recording/ touring cycle "a necessary break. I had to learn to be patient, and it kind of made me want to tour again. Absence has made my heart grow fonder, and I was wearying of the whole process." The singer also wistfully spoke of doing a tribute band to his current favorite, Del Shannon, and of the fact that he's been rather fortunate in his career. "Never made a record that didn't make money," he says. "And I'll always have a gig, I think my fans have stuck with me, despite the radio not playing my music, and I really appreciate that." -Johnny Angel

...Toronto published, nationaly distributed rag Exclaim! (Nov. issue) provided these choice Frank Black quotes:

"We (Pixies) dealt with a couple major labels in North America. In Europe, we exclusively dealt with independent labels. What's the difference? I don't know. Basically a record company dude is a record company dude. Those fuckers were just a pain in the ass."

"I made money on all those records, but you know I had to work for it. I didn't sell millions ans millions of records, but I did very well. I can tell you, if I made money, they made six or ten times that amount - those fuckers make you pay for everything. I'm not faulting them, I signed a contract. i'm not even really criticizing them. I'm stating it for what it is."

...and finally, the Nov. 20th issue of local rag Now has this to say about "Death To The Pixies"...

Released as both a single-disc comp and a fanciful box packed with an extra disc recorded at a 1990 Uterecht gig - the task of selecting tracks that might explain how a group that sold so few records could weild so much influence among their peers has been left to someone named Chris Staley.

If the name doesn't sound familiar, it shouldn't. He's not the 4AD label boss who signed the Pixies; that would be Ivo Watts-Russell. Neither is he one of the Pixies session performers, nor is he a past member of the Pixies - any of whom would probably be in better positioned to assess the group's net worth than the mysterious Mr. Staley.

According to PolyGram, 4AD's Canadian distributer, Staley's qualifications for being given the executive responsibility for compiling "Death To The Pixies" are that "he works for 4AD's US office" and "he's a really big fan."

[snip] ...regarding Frank's present crumbling record deal:

"It's the usual record company baloney. I'm staring into the trickle down of American Recording's troubles. I've been talking to Rick Rubin through my lawyer."

"We've started breach of contract action. Everyone who wasn't dropped from his label, including myself, the Jayhawks and others, are attempting to extricate themselves from their contracts and get whatever might be owed."

It's about as bad as this type of situation can get. The people at American don't return phone calls. Apparently, they've been in a meeting since March."


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