Describing the Pixies – and what the band has done for American music – is a virtually pointless and impossible task. If you get it, you get it. If you get it and if you live in the Milwaukee area, you'll likely find yourself at The Rave Saturday night for the Pixies' "Doolittle Tour."
As you might guess about the shows in this tour, Black Francis, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering perform all of the songs from the 1989 classic "Doolittle" and its related B-sides. Doolittle, the band's third album and the first to hit Billboard's album charts, includes iconic tracks such as "Debaser," "Wave of Mutilation," "Here Comes Your Man," "Hey" and "Gouge Away." The show's set list also includes "Weird at My School," "Dancing the Manta Ray" and "Bailey's Walk."
The Pixies perfected the "Doolittle" extravaganza during the past 20 months, having first launched it in the UK and Europe in the fall of 2009, playing to sold-out crowds in Ireland, Scotland, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris, as well as four shows in London. The band then brought it to America in November 2009, playing to multiple-night sell-outs from Los Angeles to Chicago to New York, then again in the fall of 2010 where it criss-crossed the country, also to capacity crowds.
OnMilwaukee.com had the privilege of talking with the humble man responsible for the guitar riffs that help to define the Pixies' signature sound: Lead guitarist Joey Santiago.
OnMilwaukee.com: The Pixies have played Milwaukee several times. What are your impressions of Milwaukee based on your visits here?
Joey Santiago: Let's see ... I've been to the magic club there. Yes, it's a secret. It's in an alley. Dave (Lovering) is a magician, so, he finds these things. It's literally in an alley. They play a prank on you prior to letting you in.
OMC: Oh, you're talking about The Safe House!
JS: Yes! That's a magic club, isn't it?
OMC: Well, it has a spy theme more than a magic theme, but OK.
JS: Oh ... it was the vodka goggle, I guess. Also, I remember thinking how pretty it was. I remember talking to Charles (Thompson, aka Black Francis) about that. You've got that Riverwalk ... I like that.
OMC: I've read that you have felt self-conscious at times about being the lead guitarist of the Pixies, yet your guitar playing greatly shapes the sound of this band that's critically acclaimed and has been embraced by fans for decades. Why would you feel self-conscious?
JS: I dunno. I just don't see why people make such a big deal out of it, ya know? I guess the way I play is very innate in me; it's the only way I know how to play. It's like people congratulating you on the way you walk.
OMC: At the end of "Monkey Gone to Heaven," Black Francis says, "Rock me, Joe." Did that just stick during a take once, or is there a little backstory to it?
JS: No, not really. I believe ... that in every record that Charles has made – and here's a little trivia – there's a reference to me. "Bossanova" has something; I forgot what he did exactly. In the song "Trompe le Monde," (on the 1991 album by the same name) there's something there.
OMC: What is your favorite song on "Doolittle," and why is it your favorite?
JS: Oh, I would say, "Hey." It's very soulful.
OMC: So, what's next for you after this tour?
JS: I'm probably going to do a film, you know, a score. I haven't done one in a while. I'm gonna hunt down the right one for me. I'd like to work with Judd Apatow; I've worked with him before, and I think we did a pretty good job. (Editor's note: Santiago scored Apatow's "Undeclared.")
OMC: Last question: When you're in Milwaukee this weekend, will you be going to The Safe House again?
Joey: Sure, yeah. Probably.
Velia Tarnoff counts among the loves of her life her daughter, her husband, her friends, writing, developing theories, dancing, live music, Southern California, black coffee and red wine. She's happiest when she can put as many of those together as possible. WWith more than 20 years of experience as a radio reporter and public relations professional, Velia is a natural communicator who loves to hear stories, to share stories and to tell it like it is.
Velia earned her B.A. from the UW School of Journalism and is thankful for every moment she spent on that wonderfully wacky campus.
And, in the interest of full disclosure, Velia is the wife of OnMilwaukee.com Publisher Andy Tarnoff.