How Bassist Paz Lenchantin Went From Teenage Pixies Fan to Member of the Band

paz-lenchantin-pixies.jpg Popload Festival 2022 - Credit: Mauricio Santana/Getty Images
paz-lenchantin-pixies.jpg Popload Festival 2022 - Credit: Mauricio Santana/Getty Images

Rolling Stone interview series Unknown Legends features long-form conversations between senior writer Andy Greene and veteran musicians who have toured and recorded alongside icons for years, if not decades. All are renowned in the business, but some are less well-known to the general public. Here, these artists tell their complete stories, giving an up-close look at life on music’s A list. This edition features bassist Paz Lenchantin.

On Sept. 8, 1989, the Cure, Love and Rockets, Shelleyan Orphan, and Pixies played to 50,000 fans at L.A.’s Dodger Stadium. It was one of the biggest rock shows on the city’s summer calendar, although The Los Angeles Times was underwhelmed by the spectacle. “Four fairly distinctive groups whose most common shared traits are minor-key modalities and a deliberate lack of stage presence,” the paper wrote. “’Stadium rock’ it wasn’t.”

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But it was a monumental evening for 15-year-old Paz Lenchantin, who watched Pixies play a ten-song set that included “Bone Machine,” “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” and “Where Is My Mind?” “That was my first big show,” she says. “I had to sneak out to see it and miss the first day of school. My parents had no idea I was there. I listened to a lot of Cure and Pixies back then. I just loved it all.”

In her craziest dreams, she couldn’t have imagined that 25 years later, bassist Kim Deal would be out of the band, and she’d be the one selected to take over her role in Pixies. It was the culmination of a long musical journey where Lenchantin played with several prominent bands, including A Perfect Circle and Zwan, and never managed to feel completely fulfilled.

“Charles [Thompson, a.k.a. Black Francis] is the greatest artist I’ve ever worked with,” she says. “I used to be like, ‘This is missing in this band, and this is missing in this band…’ But working with Charles, Joey [Santiago] and David [Lovering] really glued me together and completed me in every way I was looking for. It really is the peak of the mountain.”

Lenchantin was born in Mar del Plata, Argentina, but moved to Los Angeles when she was four. Both her parents are classically-trained musicians, and her father ran an orchestra in Argentina, but they had to essentially start over once they arrived in the States. “My mother was a piano teacher, and my father found work refurbishing pianos,” says Lenchantin. “We had like 20 pianos in our house of all different colors.”

Her mother played concerts while pregnant with her, and Lenchantin learned to play piano at a very young age. “She would sit me on her lap, put my hands over her hands, and just play,” says Lenchantin. “And then I just kind of adapted to it. I really, really enjoyed the piano, but it became a bit much for them to always hear piano in the house, so she recommended I choose another instrument. And so I started playing the violin.”

Los Angeles was one of the centers of the pop-music universe in her teenage years, but her parents essentially banned her from listening to anything but classical music. “They were raising children to get to a level where you had to understand classical music passionately, like a language,” she says. “And anything else was kind of garbage. I literally had Abbey Road cracked over my head since I played it so many times. They were like, ‘Enough!'”

But she picked up an electric bass when she was 13 and began secretly playing it in her closet after her parents went to bed. When she got a little bit older, she’d sneak out at night and hitchhike over to the Sunset Strip to see groups like Jane’s Addiction. She briefly thought about finding work in the film industry even though music dominated much of her life. “I went to school for film,” she says. “But then I realized with a band, you can make videos, or you can make music for films. I realized that music had to be in the cards for me.”

Who were some of of your biggest influences when you were a young bass player?
Paul McCartney. I understood him because I’m coming from classical. There’s this very Baroque kind of influence to the way he plays. He was changing the shape of the chords with his playing. Also, I listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin. I was really, really young, but I liked how John Paul Jones could do a lot of things. He could play [bass pedals] with his feet, and then he’s playing the organ. He would play mandolin. He’s very malleable. Whatever the song needed was what he would do.

What were some of your early jobs before you joined A Perfect Circle?
I did a lot of session work for Hans Zimmer. I was in a band with my brother when I was 15. We played a bunch of places, but I was also very active with this band called Cherry Llama. I played bass and violin. They wanted me to be the lead singer, but I didn’t like being in the front. And so we struggled finding a lead, and eventually just dissipated. But we played everywhere. I also did a lot of session work, and taught piano to kids and stuff.

How did you wind up joining A Perfect Circle?
It was really strange. It happened through film. I was working on Tool music videos with [Tool guitarist] Adam Jones. He did all their music videos, the stop-motion animation ones. I got really into working visually that way. Billy Howerdel was Adam Jones’ guitar tech. Adam said, “Billy is working on some music, and I hear you play bass. Maybe you guys can get together?”

He called me, we met, we became best friends, and we started making music together. Maynard [James Keenan] was his roommate. Tool at that time was going through a lawsuit. Maynard was very bored, and just peeked through the door. “Can I, like, join your band?” That’s when I knew. “Uh-oh. This could actually be something.”

There is an “uh-oh” feeling about success or fame for me. It’s not that it’s not exciting. It’s just a little bit, “I’m not prepared for what this could mean for me.”

You’re suddenly with Maynard and Troy Van Leeuwen and Tim Alexander. These are some pretty accomplished people.
Yeah. Tim Alexander from Primus was the first drummer. We tried different drummers. We even played with [Tool drummer] Danny Carey at one point, I think, for one show. Before Troy, we had Danny Lohner from Nine Inch Nails. He was the first guitar player, but he went back with Nine Inch Nails when we did our first tour. Imagine that. It’s my first tour. I went from playing the [tiny L.A. club] Coconut Teaszer to opening up for Nine Inch Nails on an arena tour.

The first Perfect Circle shows were at tiny L.A. clubs like the Viper Room and the Troubadour. What was it like to walk onstage with that band the first few times?
We first played at the Key Club for all the labels. But how did I feel? Very much in my element. We had David Fincher come to the shows. We finally got signed with Virgin. They wanted David Fincher to make a video for the song “Judith,” but he wasn’t making videos anymore. He already did Fight Club, which is my strange connection with Pixies.

Fincher agreed to direct the video for “Judith.” I spent ten days in stilettos. It’s like one shot in the video. You’d think it took a second. But it was ten days because it’s 35 millimeter, one camera, and 250 edits or something. Every shot is about two seconds long. We had to do this 250 times, exactly the same thing. That thing with my hair going up, I had to do every time, and get it right, and get my hair to stay up.

It was so great. I would not leave the set. I would sit right next to him every day and watch him work. I wanted to do films. And here I am with a master. Afterwards, he was working on Panic Room. He was building the sets. It was originally going to be Nicole Kidman as the lead. He was like, “You should come check out the set.”

I went. I could not believe it. You’re outside in this warehouse studio in L.A. and then you walk in and you’re on the streets of New York. There’s so much detail. You’re looking at tiny cracks of detail on the wall. And then I walk down the hall and see Jodi Foster reading her scripts in really low lighting. It was just so cool.

What do you think Maynard got out of Perfect Circle that he didn’t get out of Tool on a music level?
His relation with the band was very controlled in Tool. A Perfect Circle, he had a lot more freedom. It was almost like the pop version of Tool. It’s Ænima confined to three minutes in some ways. Also, most of his influences are female singers. He loved Tori Amos and the sensitivity of voices like that. In the song “3 Libras,” you suddenly hear this sensitivity in Maynard that you don’t get as much with Tool.

You played the first Coachella in 1999 with A Perfect Circle. That’s now seen as this landmark event, and the start of a whole new era of American festivals.
Maynard bookended it. We opened it with A Perfect Circle, and he closed it with Tool. This is when Coachella was more towards the summertime. It’s in April now, but this was the end of May. You don’t go to the desert that time of year. It was like 120 degrees. The sun was facing the stage. I decided to wear these really tight jeans. I was about to faint.

Did you stick around to see Rage and Beck and Morrissey and the other bands that weekend?
Absolutely. This was before the tour with Nine Inch Nails. We were doing this tiny, little, mini tour that led into that. I don’t even think we were signed yet. I think Maynard didn’t even have all the lyrics to the songs. He was holding a piece of paper and still working on the lyrics.

I remember seeing Chloë Sevigny backstage. She had this really cute bob [haircut]. I was kind of starstruck. It had this energy of L.A. and I felt like a part of it instead of being a spectator. It was nice.

Tell me about making the first Perfect Circle record, Mer de Noms. Was it a fun experience to go into the studio and flesh out the songs you’d been doing live?
Yeah. Alan Moulder did the mixing on that. I’m a huge fan of him, especially his work with My Bloody Valentine. He’s just a master of what he does. This was my first time seeing the production side of music in that kind of high-caliber environment. I ended up working with Alan in Zwan. I started seeing the threads from project to project. He’s a master.

You played bass on “Sleeping Beauty.” You were on either violin or backing vocals for the rest of the album, though.
It’s very important to me that the musician I am onstage is also on the record. This was a little bit of a conflict that I had with that, to be honest. I understood it. I knew this was Billy [Howerdel]’s project, but I also wanted to move forward.

And Billy Corgan also saw the bass I was playing in A Perfect Circle. He went, “Paz, this is not your bass.” I went, “Well, it is my bass.” He said, “Did you buy this bass?” I said, “Actually, Billy Howerdel bought it for me.” It was the best bass I had up to that point. It had a bunch of knobs. He went, “I think you need to find your bass.” That’s when I really discovered my own sound. That was very important to me.

So you were disappointed you didn’t play bass on most of the record?
There was no outward disappointment. It was inside for me. I was so honored to do anything. But for me, as an artist, I need to grow. I started going, “I need more. I need more. I need more.” And by this time, I had traveled around the world. I had experiences. Also, everyone else had other projects. And now Maynard was going back with Tool. I was like, “I’m ready to keep going.”

The first real Perfect Circle Tour was opening for Nine Inch Nails in 2000. What was that tour like?
I was very, very, very, very nervous. But then I became just very, very nervous and then just nervous. And then I was fine. It eventually felt right. Stage presence is something that helped me get inside of my body. I was in the music. And Maynard had a lot of stage presence. His movements were very musical. I started playing with that. It got me less worried about, “Did I get the note right?” When it becomes more moving parts, it all becomes one. Once you get rid of stage fright, it becomes fun.

The worlds of Nine Inch Nails and A Perfect Circle were pretty dude-heavy. Did you ever feel at all like an outsider?
It wasn’t just the bands. It was the crew! And I was like 26. I was the kid in every scenario. There were challenges, for sure. But Trent Reznor was a sweetheart. He loved my violin playing. He wanted some strings. I introduced him to my sister [Ana Lenchantin]. She started working with him.

I loved that crew a lot. Everyone was very, very nice. They helped me a lot. They were like brothers. You want to stop asking your own band about stuff, so you start asking other people.

During this time, you also made your debut solo album, Yellow mY skYcaptain. It’s fantastically avant-garde.
Yeah. A lot of people were asking me if I did anything else. I made it all myself. I started burning CDs and giving them away. And then I sold it to my fanbase on MySpace. I had a lot of curious, specific-for-me fans. So on my own, I just started to sell them this record.

Were you a fan of Smashing Pumpkins in the Nineties?
My brother [Luciano Lenchantin] was a big fan. I listened to Gish because he did. Billy Corgan was one of his favorites. When Billy Corgan asked me to join Zwan, I told my brother. He was very proud of me. It was almost like I had to do it.

How did that happen?
We were on tour with Smashing Pumpkins. We played a lot of the same festivals where Smashing Pumpkins were headliners. Foo Fighters were there too, I think. Dave Grohl was dating [Pumpkins bassist] Melissa Auf der Maur at the time. I remember Dave Grohl being around. I don’t know if the Foo Fighters were also involved. But Smashing Pumpkins were on the bill with A Perfect Circle.

Billy was looking for musicians. If I can say this, he had D’arcy, the blonde. He had Melissa, the redhead. And he was like, “And now, the lone brunette. I must have her!” And he did [laughs].

Zwan started in 2001 as a smaller unit. How did he ask you to join a few months after they started?
It was actually [Zwan guitarist] Matt Sweeney who asked me. I was friends with Matt through Melissa Auf der Maur. We became friends during this time. She was really, really sweet. She was like an older sister, since she’d been doing this longer than me at this point. She had tips. She’s a photographer, and she was doing shows in New York. The show was Sept. 5, 2001.

She was like, “Stay with me. I have a spot.” She was living at the Chelsea Hotel. She’d just broken up with Dave Grohl. I booked a flight home for Sept. 11, 2001. I went to the top of the Chelsea Hotel with Melissa and we watched the Twin Towers collapse together. I ended up staying in New York for two weeks, trying to help the workers or whatever was needed. I donated blood.

Anyways, during this time, Matt Sweeney was around. We were helping. We became friends when I was in New York. He told me he was working on a project and that he wasn’t sure if David Pajo was the bass player or just another guitarist. Zwan were playing in L.A., and I went to their show at the Roxy. They were staying at the Chateau Marmont. I went there afterwards and Marianne Faithful was there. They said, “Come up to our room.”

She was just sitting there. I didn’t know it was an audition. I was just there because they told me to come up. Everyone was passing around a guitar. “You play a song, you play a song.” And then Marianne Faithful was like, “Oh darling, why don’t you try something now?”

They gave me a guitar. I just happened to be obsessed with these bossa nova, Brazilian chords that week. I learned the song phonetically and had it perfect. They passed me this guitar. I just did it for the first time in front of anybody. They were like, “Fuck you! We were playing ‘Hotel California!'” [Laughs.] Anyway, I joined the band.

Did you feel torn about leaving A Perfect Circle?
Very torn. They weren’t active. There’s this whole other backstory about why I joined Zwan. I don’t know if you want to hear this. It’s a little bit long.

Sure. Go ahead.
I didn’t know if I was going to join Zwan or not. James Iha joined A Perfect Circle. We did a little switcharoo. He’s kind of passing by and going, “[Whispering] I wouldn’t maybe be doing that.” A lot of people were like, “Be careful.”

At this point, Billy is the sweetest. He’s trying to lure me in, and he’s doing a very good job. I was already learning from him, especially about art. He’s a big art collector. He had this amazing collection of Henry Dargers all over his house, and books on Henry Darger. I became a big fan, and read all these books about him.

We started doing little shows just to test out songs, but I still hadn’t quit Perfect Circle. We weren’t quite sure. Next door to the venue in St. Louis, there was a library that was shutting down. They were selling everything in their collection. I went in and there were a lot of dusty books I didn’t know about. And then I saw this coloring book that looked really interesting. I ended up buying it.

I looked at it and realized this is very similar to how Henry Darger would do his paintings. He would trace his Vivian Girls. He didn’t know how to draw, so he would trace from this coloring book. I bought it for 30 cents next door to this theater.

I asked Billy, “Do you think this could be an original coloring book that Henry Darger used?” He was like, “Let me see.” And then he grabbed the bible of Henry Darger’s entire works. He put it on the table and we both flipped the book at the same time, the little coloring book and his bible. And we turned it to the exact same page of a little boy chasing a butterfly. It was the exact same.

It was this magical, twilight thing that said, “I’m supposed to be here.” That’s how I really function in everything I do. There needs to be a moment that says, “This is a sign. This is where you need to be.” We high-five each other and I say, “OK. All right. I’m in.”

There was so much buzz around Zwan in those early months when you went out and played tiny venues. Did you feel all that electric energy around the group?
I wasn’t so much interested in that. I was interested in work and as growing as an artist. I was working with David Pajo, Jimmy Chamberlin, Matt Sweeney, and Billy Corgan. I learned a lot with those guys. With David Pajo, I ended up joining [his band] Papa M. That brought me into this whole world of records with Drag City that was Silver Jews and Bonnie Prince Billy. Joanna Newsom was just getting signed. It allowed me to work with different kinds of artists, which is what I wanted.

It must have been great to work with Jimmy Chamberlin.
He’s such a great drummer! Listen to the snare, and the way he pushes and pulls. It’s a lot of listening. With Josh Freese, I could put in a metronome. He’s perfect. He’ll work around the beat, but it’s solid. Jimmy was like wind. He was flowing in this other way that changes the way you play. He’ll push the beat. It’s more like jazz.

With Billy fronting the band and using the same drummer from the Pumpkins, it was sort of inevitable the group would sound like the Pumpkins. It’s sort of hard to get around that.
Yeah. But I was also a vocalist. Matt was doing more twangy guitars, so that changes that sound. And there was one song that was him and me singing the whole way. That is a change from the Pumpkins, besides that one song [“Daydream”] that D’arcy sang. There wasn’t any backups in the Pumpkins. It wasn’t part of the sound. That’s that’s important. With Pixies, people were like, “Why do you need a girl?” It’s because the vocal is part of the sound as an instrument, and it’s female. It’s a female perspective in the lyrics.

Tell me about recording the Zwan record, Mary Star of the Sea.
What can I say? The thing is, I had two very disciplinary parents that were like, “Practice! Do this!” I do fine with dictatorships, in a sense [laughs]. Billy was very controlling, and I was OK with it. It’s like a fetish, like how people like being whipped. It’s not that I like being controlled, but it doesn’t faze me. And I can always learn something out of it.

We wrote about 200 songs. It was something ridiculous like that. We wrote so many songs.

You’re credited on “Settle Down.” That’s a great one.
Thank you. It was an honor to play that on Saturday Night Live. When he chose that song, it was the first and only time I’ve played Saturday Night Live. It was all up to Billy, and he chose that. I think that was one of my highlights of life, to have a song that I co-wrote be on Saturday Night Live.

What’s it like to stand on that stage and know the whole country is watching you?
There’s not a big audience in the studio. But if you start thinking about the ones you don’t see, then you start freaking out. You can’t mess up.

You were OK with the band being a dictatorship. How did the rest of the band feel about that?
I’m a special person in that department. I definitely don’t want to do anything like that again. I was the youngest one in the situation as well. I had a lot of “teach me, teach me” in me. I do well in that.

The guys didn’t do so well?
There were a lot of disagreements in that area.

You did a huge world tour in 2003. The schedule was pretty brutal. How did that go for you?
I’m going to just be blunt: If anyone is in the ring with Billy Corgan, it’s Billy Corgan. He’s been competing with himself since Siamese Dream came out. It was really affecting him. He was able to sell 16 million records in the CD era. Now we’re getting into another era. This era is not about that.

This was the Napster era.
Yeah. The Napster era. That decline was affecting the 16-million-record people that were in the ring with themselves to make a better record. If a better record means how much you sell, it’s going to start to feel humbling pretty soon, no matter how good you are. I think that era was affecting him.

He’s spoken many times about the breakup of the band. He said, “The music wasn’t the big problem, it was more their attitude. Sex acts between band members in public. People carrying drugs across borders…”
This is so Billy-esque [laughs]. He also liked conflict. His thing was, “If we’re going to fight, let’s just do it in the media.” And he has a voice in Chicago with the Chicago Tribune. That’s the way he communicated with people. That’s how he broke up the band. He didn’t communicate to us we were broken up.

He really trashed the band. He said he “detested” everyone and they got huge egos and spent all this money on lobster dinners and whatnot.
He wanted us to fight back. At this time, my brother just killed himself. It was that same day. He knew that. My brother’s band opened up for us. He knew that, and was talking about family. I can’t remember. But I didn’t read the article. It was told to me later since I was dealing with family situations.

If anything, I was relieved at that point. I had to take care of a lot of things. My brother was my best friend. Billy knew that, and he did this anyway. I didn’t care. I was in another place. It took a lot of healing. I wasn’t prepared in that state to be any major band for a while. I started to do a lot of Drag City touring. I had to figure out how to get my footing back into the world of music.

You were in two pretty big bands back to back, and did the whole world of festivals and touring. It’s not all fun and glamour.
There’s definitely no glamour from my point of view. It’s a job that I love.

Have you spoken to Billy Corgan at all since this time?
The only beef I have with Billy, to be honest, is that he never gave me back that coloring book. I’ve been asking for him for that coloring book. He was like, “Let me get this appraised.” He took it to his art dealer and was like, “Fuck! I cannot believe what you scored!”

Afterwards, when he broke up the band, I tried to get ahold of him, but he changed his number. I couldn’t find him. I found an e-mail, but he’d changed everything.

In my dreams, I was like Kill Bill. [Laughs.] I was like a ninja. I was like, “How do I get this coloring book back?” And then coincidentally, I did run into him. The Smashing Pumpkins were getting back together. I was in Topanga. This was just months ago. The story has been going on since then.

I had this image where we’re both holding this coloring book and I’m like, “It’s mine!” But then I run into him in Topanga one day while ordering coffee. The thing about Topanga Canyon you have to understand is the pace of being there. If you order a cup of coffee, you kind of go outside and stare at the sun and let the ladies make your cup. It might take a while.

And so I order my Americano and go outside. It’s like 9 a.m. or something. I’m standing in the sun, and all of a sudden I feel this shadow of shade over my eyes. It was like an eclipse. I look up and there’s Billy Corgan. He’s like, “Hi!” He’s very, very tall. He’s like six foot four or something.

I was like, “This is the moment!” I was trying to tap into that Kill Bill thing. But we sit down and start talking. He talks about his children. He’s a dad. He’s Billy as a dad. He’s a proud dad. It was really nice to see him. As we’re talking, I was like, “So, about the coloring book…” He’s just like, “I lost it.” But you had to have something to know you lost it. How do you know you lost it? But that’s the story of my Kill Bill moment over coffee [laughs].

Wow. That’s amazing. Anyway, your second solo record, Songs For Luci, was a beautiful tribute to your brother.
I was in Kentucky by then. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to learn how to fiddle. Right after he died, I had this gathering with all his friends. I took his 1981 F-150 Ford truck and rode to Kentucky with a fiddle and a banjo. Not kidding. I found this house for rent very close to where David Pajo and Will Oldham lived. I started going to Nashville. I made a record with Silver Jews, David Berman. He was like, “I want you to play fiddle in my band.” I was like, “Why don’t you call your neighbor? You neighbor probably plays better than me. This is Nashville.”

But every day, I would record stuff. And then my friend started a label. He heard this little demo I had done. I didn’t want to put it out. But he did a very special pressing of it and put a lot of care into it. Every single record was silk-screened. It was very thick vinyl. It was a nice way for me to pay tribute and have my healing and be able to come back to California and get back to the bass, back to the basics.

How did the Pixies period of your life begin?
I did work with Joey Santiago before A Perfect Circle. I got a call from Joey for his side project, the Martinis. I was one of the girl bass players in town back then. It was me and Rachel Haden. She was the other girl bass player that was approachable. We were like, “Do you want to take this one? How about that one?”

I had a lot of people in common with Rachel. They wanted Rachel for this one, but she couldn’t do it. So Rachel led Joey to me. I played a tour with the Martinis with Joey Santiago. And then 17 years later, I get a call from him about the Pixies.

What did he say on that call?
It was actually an email from Josh Freese, because Joey knows Josh. He asked Josh, “What’s she like on the road? We’re looking for someone, but it’s very hush-hush. Don’t tell anybody. It’s either her or someone else. We’re not sure.”

Josh said, “Listen, Paz. I don’t know what you’re up to. But if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for me. I’m the biggest Pixies fan there is.” I said, “Yeah, I’ll do that.”

I was surfing a lot at this time, and doing my own projects. I had just finished another record with a friend of mine, Josephine Foster. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I was trying to figure out my next path, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be in the States. I love to surf, and I was in France for a while.

I got the email there about the Pixies. It was more like an audition where I’d play 10 songs, and it would either be me or Kim Shattuck. I was like, “Okay.” And then I saw the magic signs. I only do things when If feel like, “This is the thing that’s supposed to happen.” But I still hadn’t gotten the part yet. I was surfing in Southern California. I was hungry and went to go eat my lunch. I was watching this guy surf and he lost his board. He didn’t have a leash. I went into the water to save his board, and brought it to the sand.

It was this nine-foot longboard. I turned it around and it said “P-I-X-I-E-S” all across the board. I’m like, “OK. That’s what you call a sign.” I’m waiting for the call back. I was like, “I know I got it. I know I got it.” But I never got a call.

And then I see, “Kim Shattuck is the next bassist in the Pixies.” I’m like, “Wow. That’s weird.” It wasn’t because I’m better or anything. I had a sign, but I didn’t get it. That doesn’t work for me that way. It’s always on point. I wasn’t disappointed I didn’t get it. I was disappointed the sign didn’t work [laughs].

The sign was just a little early, though.
Yeah. And then six months later or whatever, after they did a tour where it wasn’t working out for whatever reason, energy-wise, they called me. I was like, “Oh. The sign was right.” They were like, “I don’t know if you’d still be interested. Sorry.” They were kind of apologetic. I was, “Of course I’ll do that! Yeah!”

What did you admire about Kim Deal as a bass player and vocalist back in the day as a young Pixies fan?
I respected her then, but I have almost more respect for her today because there is something about the flipping and the pulsing. Her bass lines are like Picassos — he can create one line and it’s a bird. You look at it and you go, “Wow, with one line I can see a bird.” The simplicity of that, the art of that, is really beautiful. It was such a joy…and I say “was,” since now it’s so embedded in me.

When they asked me to play with them, I was surfing and I had hurt my leg. I couldn’t surf. They asked me to learn about 25 songs for this tour. I couldn’t surf. I couldn’t do anything. And so I just locked myself in a room and learned every single song that they ever did. When we started playing, they were like, “What songs did you learn?” I was like, “Just call them out.”

They just started calling songs out, and that’s still how we do them today. [Charles] will just call them out. We don’t have a setlist. We just talk to each other. But going inside of Kim’s head as a bassist was my first experience doing that, and trying to be as respectful to that as possible.

You’re playing her parts when you do the older songs, but I imagine you want to bring yourself to the music as well.
I want to do it like the records. Sometimes I’ll hear live shows where she isn’t even doing it exactly like the record or there’s differences with the harmonies or some of the notes she’s hitting. I’ll also use live things she’s done. I do a combination of things. I only use my bass, and it’s a great bass for that sound. I’m always picking. There is going to be little, tiny nuances that I’ll hit, just playing so much with David Lovering and hitting these notes. And then, of course, there’s all the new material we play as well. That takes up a lot of the set. Everything that I’ve played from this point has been influenced by her playing.

You started as a touring member, but they eventually made you a full member of the band?
Yeah. It’s kind of like a relationship. You don’t go into a relationship thinking it’ll be temporary. You go in thinking, “I want to make this work.” And they’re going in like, “I’d like to make this work too.” That’s day one. There’s not an exit. There was never a cutoff. There was just one thing at a time, like any relationship.

Making Head Carrier must have been a nice experience since it was your first time recording an album with them.
Yeah. The first show I did was in Northampton, Massachusetts in January 2014. Our rehearsal time was just spent playing the songs once. And then Charles wanted to record a single. That was “Women of War.” That was the first time I met them. We were supposed to be rehearsing. He was like, “You got this. It’s fine.”

We just kind of brushed though the songs. I was like, “Are you sure? We barely…” And he was like, “I’d rather spend the time working on this other track.” I think maybe he was testing me. I guess everything is something of a test. He was probably like, “How does she work in the studio?” This is literally day two of rehearsals. We made “Women of War.” That was really exciting. When that came, out, I was super excited.

At this point, I still wasn’t in the band. But I was like, “If I’m on a record that came out, that’s good enough for me. It says Pixies on it and I’m singing and playing bass. That’s good enough for me.”

“All I Think About Now” from Head Carrier is really beautiful. Can you tell me about that song?
That song came from another song I didn’t hear right. I made a recording of Charles playing some chords from afar. When I played it back, it sounded like different chords. I was hearing these different things. When we went to play that song I was like, “Wow, that’s not what he’s playing at all.” And I created these chords.

I went back to my room where we were creating Head Carrier at RAK Studios [in London]. I took it upon myself to finish that thought. I presented it. I was so nervous. I was like, “I’ve been working on these chords. I don’t really play guitar, but I know a little chord changes.” I was so nervous that it wasn’t coming out right. He was like, “Just tell me the chords.”

And so I wrote out the chord chart, and he really liked it. I came up with a bass line for it. And he was so positive and gentle about it. “Keep going. Let me write the lyrics. What do you want to this song to be about?” I said, “A letter to Kim.” He said, “OK.” And he went upstairs. The next morning, he came down. He hadn’t changed a thing with the song when usually he really works on it. I was so nervous because it was me by myself. I’m way less nervous now about these things. When I’m nervous, it means that I’m challenging.

I imagine you were much more confident when it came time to make Beneath the Eyrie.
Yeah. I love that record. I loved working at the studio in Woodstock. It was a church. It’s called Dreamland Recording Studios. We had this cabin near there. We would just sit in the kitchen and laugh and make food. It was a lot of fun. It’s very romantic for me. Now it’s like, “Send me the file, I’ll throw bass on it.” You don’t have this connection we had as a band making that record. We went in without too much material. We were writing. We were in the snow. It was near Christmas time. It was really wonderful.

Then the pandemic hits and you couldn’t really tour it. It must have been nice to finally make Doggerel, the Pixies album you released this year, after all that time.
I was very sad to not tour Beneath the Eyrie. I felt like it was even better than the last one. We just felt confident, and we were cut off at the very beginning. And so making this record, I had this philosophy of, “When you lose something, you should replace it with something even better.” That way, the energy is switched.

This is definitely the best record I’ve done with Pixies. I’m more proud of this record than any record I’ve ever done.

“Dregs of the Wine” is a great song.
I love that song too. The album sounds like an album. You want to start it from the beginning, flip the record, and hear it all the way through. It’s not necessarily about one song. It’s really the whole thing. There’s classic Pixies. “Haunted House” has so much fun in it. I played the Moog that sounds like a theremin.

We did this record very different from the other ones. Charles had his songs structured and he pretty much had the shapes of them done. We could really focus on that, versus trying to come up with more songs. This is the first record where Joey takes some lyrics. He did his first co-writing with Charles.

You guys didn’t play “Gigantic” in concert for many years. Tell me about deciding to bring it back.
In the beginning, it was kind of like, “We should respect that was Kim’s moment.” When the Breeders started to play it, we were like, “If they’re allowed to play it, we should play it.” [Laughs.] It’s a valid point.

It would be so easy to just play the old songs forever and not do anything new, but it’s clearly important to all of you to carry on as an active band.
I’m just going to put it this way: Nostalgia itself has a potency. There’s no way to compete with nostalgia. That’s just something that will take you back. The power of taking someone back to their high school years, or whatever it is, can never be replaced by something new, no matter how good it is.

You always need to keep that in mind. Playing these songs live…they need to be played, because that’s how you start creating. We need to start creating the nostalgia for the new songs as well. They need to have a track record too.

I imagine the songs talking to each other. “[Deep voice] How long have you been onstage? I’ve been played this many times. Oh yeah? This is a new kid. We’re giving to give them a little trouble.” Sometimes songs go to jail for a little while. They get bullied [laughs]. But then after a while, you’re like, “That song is starting to shape up and have a lot of stage time.”

You’re right. If you play “Hey,” people go back instantly to 1989. Any new song, no matter how amazing, cannot compete with that on an emotional level.
There’s senses in music. It’s a sixth sense, just like a smell. You can smell something and be like, “This is the smell of my grandmother’s house.” Music does that as well. It’s a language that is going on without us understanding it that well. It can take us through time.

It can remind you of a road trip. You feel the sunshine and the the presence of the buddy you went camping with when you played that record nonstop. That is the power of music that’s there.

Have you ever met Kim Deal in person?
One of my favorite things on the planet is rare types of relationships, not the common ones. I have a relationship with her unlike anyone else on the planet. I don’t have to meet her to have this relationship. If I do meet her, that’s fine too. But I love the relationship that I have with her. There’s just as much love with it. The relationship is through my craft. It’s very special.

I think she’s very happy in the Breeders. I imagine you don’t worry about her coming back and taking your job.
Worry is not not necessary…I’m always happy with whatever occurs. But she’d have to learn my songs. I definitely don’t think that she would want to [laughs]. I think that she’s content, and everyone is happy with this situation.

If the band gets inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is ridiculously overdue, than maybe all five of you can play together for one night.
That sounds wonderful.

Tell me your future goals. Do you ever think about making another solo record?
I am more interested in working with directors and film. I just did this podcast for Surfer’s Journal. After that podcast, I heard that surfers really liked it. I was talking about the relationship between surfing and music. They asked me for this other one to compose an original soundtrack for their next season. One of their interviewers is Kassia Meador, who is an amazing pro surfer.

I recorded it at a studio in my house. It was very fun. I want to do more things like it. I want to collaborate with directors in one way or another on more music.

You’re in a pretty good position. You’re in this great band, but you have downtime to take on projects like that.
Yeah. The problem with that is that I should rest at some point, because touring does take a lot of energy. I have a hard time doing that because I love what I do, but I need to make sure that I rejuvenate and there is rest involved before major touring.

You’re about to head overseas for a big one.
The next one is Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The one we just did was three months. That was pretty long. South America was short. It’s just good to rest. I need to tell myself that.

This is somewhat random, but they really need to put out a big Zwan box one day. There’s so much music that nobody has ever heard.
I know. Billy has it all. Also, we can’t really find this record anywhere. He kind of took it out.

It’s not on Spotify or anything.
That’s more his control. Maybe one day he’ll put something out and give peace to whatever built up…

He says he can’t listen to the record since it makes him too angry. He especially seems to have issues with David. But it’s been 20 years now.
I feel more sad for him, whatever he has going on that makes him have anxieties. I don’t know. I think it’s a good record. I forget about that. Once in a while, a song will come up and I’ll be like, “Oh yeah!” I love a lot of the guitar work on it. The 12-strings, the lyrics, it’s all really beautiful. It has a Byrds twinkly sound to it.

Billy produced the record. I think that might have been a challenge. If there had been a producer taking hold, I think maybe it would have been a little less…I don’t know…one person controlling the situation.

Wrapping up here, what do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?
I mean, the Hall of Fame sounds amazing [laughs].

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