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Frank Black
Review- Frank Black By Nick Kelly
Temple Bar Music Centre, Dublin


::: LIVE ::: Vicar Street, Dublin ~ February 9th, 2008
Mini-Album "SVN FNGRS" - Irish Release 29th February 2008

New album “Bluefinger”
Features the Single "Threshold Apprehension", “Captain Pasty", & the New Single “She Took All The Money"

OUT NOW on Cooking Vinyl

New Video for "I SENT AWAY" from the Upcoming Mini-Album "SVN FNGRS - Click Here...gettin' back to basics!!

In February I will be on tour in Europe promoting my debut Black Francis release BLUEFINGER. It is the first release under my old Pixies moniker. All of the 11 songs are inspired by Dutch rocker and painter Herman Brood. The record will be performed in it's entirety with the sessions line-up of me on vocals and guitar, Dan Schmid on bass, and Jason Carter on drums. Absent from the line-up is vocalist (and wife) Violet Clark, who happily left a recent West coast swing of the tour after discovering she was pregnant with our 5th child!

I am in contact with Brood's management about using some of the many images from the late painter's works in my nightclub show, and I look forward to having the show colored by his vision. The record would not have been possible without him!

In the weeks leading up to the tour, I will be utilizing blogs and forums like and my own official to discuss with fans not only what OTHER songs I might perform ESPECIALLY for their town, but also to investigate best locale for me to take my espresso, best Thai food, best bar for pre-show cocktail, best place to score heroin (just kidding!), etc. Also, I will be running a paparazzi photo contest of yours truly patronizing your local hot spots, and announcing precise locations for my 'pre-core' performances. You see, I despise performing the much debased encore, and so on this tour I will be performing solo acoustic 'pre-cores' at pre-determined meeting points (maybe YOUR kitchen!); and, yes, I will be taking Pixies requests; good enough for Herman, good enough for me.

-Black Francis
Oregon Territory

Irish Release 29th February 2008
Cooking Vinyl

Cooking Vinyl has agreed to release my latest session (thank you CV!), which I have called SVN FNGRS, on 29th February 2008. It was written, recorded and mixed in six days, and on the seventh day Mark Lemhouse did artwork. The band for the session was myself, of course, on guitar, vocals and harmonica, Jason Carter on drums, and Violet Clark on bass. The session was produced Jason Carter. There are seven (7) songs clocking in at 20 minutes and so I suppose it qualifies as a mini-LP under the old formats. No one seems to know or care what the current format models are (a very weakened LP on compact disc continues to rule the roost by default), which is WONDERFUL; so let's just call it music and pay whatever price your Google research turns up. If you want it for free you can usually find some tracks for free download on my Myspace page or on my own The production is sparse in terms of the band, which, by the way, seems to be a kind of 'Black Francis' thing that has been developing ever since I went back to the old stage name, but is much more produced in terms of the vocal layering of my own voice, perhaps along the lines of TEENAGER OF THE YEAR. I won't bother you here with what the damn concept is, but let's just say the theme revolves around a lot of NASTY sex, NASTIER death, and beautifully strange birth. It was a coincidence that the whole 'finger' thing turns up again; management asked for a digital b-side for a BLUEFINGER track and what they got was this seven fingered thing which is not related to the HERMAN BROOD concept, although I assure you he would approve of all this nasty business. I have made a video for the song I SENT AWAY (one of the birth songs) and you can see it on youtube and other places, so I guess that qualifies as the first single as released by the impatient artist. I believe the more pragmatic record company is releasing another song (THE SEUS - Charles Normal re-mix) as ITS first single and I'll make an internet vid for that one, too, as soon as I finish recording the digital b-side for THAT (maybe I'll do a self indulgent symphony - note to myself: symphony wiki - written in 10 minutes); DAMN! That espresso this morning was BLACK and STRONG! BLACK & STRONG & LONG! MUDDY BLACK WATER! My brain is exploding...

Black Francis
Eugene, Oregon

Svn Fngrs tracklisting :
1. The Seus
2. Garbage Heap
3. Half Man
4. I Sent Away
5. Seven Fingers
6. The Tale of Lonesome Fetter
7. When They Come To Murder Me

"Frank Black 93 – 03"
2-CD Set (includes bonus disc of live tracks and demos)
Irish Release Date: June 1st, 2007 on Cooking Vinyl
“There is totally a narrative arc to my solo career,” says Frank Black, speaking on the eve of the release of this solo career - surveying compilation. “It sounds trite but in basic language this is what’s happening on these songs: it’s me breaking away from the Pixies and finding myself as a solo artist, finding a band again and forging that together, then losing it and my marriage, and finally getting my obsession with two-track recording out of my system. It’s a total arc.

“As compilations go, it has less in common with The Best Of Blondie, The Beatles 1962-66, The Beach Boys 20 Golden Greats and Rolled Gold than it does The Best Of The Residents! I felt a little sheepish when my manager suggested a Best Of: I’m not exactly known for my hit records. But then, I didn’t get into this to have hits. I did it to be a maverick, to be underground, to be part of that world as opposed to the Top 40 world. I wanted to be an artist and a musician, not to get invited to parties. It’s about being true to yourself.

“But I’ve got a big back catalogue, and so for the uninitiated "Frank Black 93 - 03" is a good place to start. It just sounds like a regular Frank Black album because all my records are schizophrenic in tenor – fast song, slow song, country song, punky song. Although it’s boring to say, ‘I think it’s very representative of who I am as an artist’, it really is!”

::: Tracklisting :::

(From Frank Black):
1. Los Angeles
2. Ten Percenter
3. Czar
4. Old Black Dawning

(From Teenager Of The Year)
5. Abstract Plain
6. Calistan
7. Speedy Marie
8. Headache
9. Freedom Rock

(From The Cult Of Ray)
10. Men In Black
11.You Ain’t Me
12. I Don’t Want To Hurt You

(From Frank Black And The Catholics)
13. All My Ghosts
14. I Gotta Move

(From Pistolero)
15. Bad Harmony
16. Western Star

(From Dog In The Sand)
17. Robert Onion
18. Hermaphroditos

(From Devils Workshop)
19. Velvety

(From Black Letter Days)
20. California Bound

(From Show Me Your Tears)
21. Massif Centrale
22. Manitoba

("hidden track")
23.Threshold Apprehension

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Writing songs and playing pong, Frank is the frontman of the Catholics.

Well, it really is difficult to start a page on Frank Black without mentioning the Pixies, but we'll skip over that and head straight for a factoid that will surprise and amaze you:

Frank Black performs background vocals on Alan Merrill's Merrilly Christmas CD, released in 2001.

Yes, you read that correctly. Frank, would you like to comment on this contribution? We're assuming it is you, since it appears on your Artist Direct page. Bravo!

And y'all thought he was just about being the Big Daddy of the Catholics, didn't you?

Seriously though, we love Frank, and seem to be absolutely fascinated by his life and influences. Frank was born Charles Thompson in 1965 in Long Beach, California. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jean Black. They have two dogs and three cats. One of the dogs is black, believe it or not, but on the flip side, the other is white (is he the 'b-side' dog??!!). Frank is currently restoring a 1986 Cadillac. He's also trying to build an escape-proof dog kennel, which apparently isn't going very well, according to the fact that one of the dogs has escaped from it! As far as influences go, he's been known to mention Iggy Pop, Pere Ubu, Husker Du, David Bowie, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and The Velvet Underground, among others.

Frank's contributions to the forum can be located under the alias "frankusblackus", so go ahead and check them out! We are so completely thrilled to have him join us on this journey in cyberspace. Frank, keep on rockin' because we just can't get enough of you and the Catholics!

A couple of other notes:

All of the artwork for the FB&TC's albums is created right in Frank's home on their computer. Frank and Dave Philips appear with their wives in a film called "Low Budget Time Machine", which according to sources is due to be
released sometime soon! Take a look at the links on the forum, and you can see Frank made-up as a mutant, and also see Jean Black in costume too!
Frank appears in the recent documentary "Gigantic" which is a tribute to They Might Be Giants.

There will be more on Frank added soon, so keep checking back!


“It was exciting doing my first solo album, although I was under mild stress of various kinds. There was the big impending break-up of the Pixies, and I had just purchased my first home and the previous owners had a dog which left fleas behind, so my drummer and engineer were getting eaten alive. It was very embarrassing. Meanwhile, I’d decided to take up jogging early on in the making of the record, so one day I’m warming up on the beach, stretching, and my knee pops. It was so painful I couldn’t even walk. While I recorded the record I was using a wooden cane from an antique store. The muscles in my left leg atrophied, literally withered away; which was freaky.

“Apart from that it was fun. I was making music in a way that I’d never done before, because in the Pixies, we didn’t know anything about making records, at least at first. I was the big boss and I took over – even poor Gil Norton who produced the last three Pixies records could hardly get a word in because I was like, ‘NO, I WANT TO TRY THIS!’ So making this first solo record came with a sense of relief that I was out of the Pixies organisation, because I could experiment and learn how to do things in the studio without rubbing everyone up the wrong way. On the last Pixies record, the producer – everyone – was in my way. I was so headstrong about everything. But making my first solo record, everyone was, like, kindred spirits: for example, there was Eric Feldman, who I respected a lot and was similarly experimental.

“Some of the album was planned – I’d started to record some music at Eric’s apartment in San Francisco, and they became templates for the record. But a lot of the lyrics I’d compose at a café down the road from the studio, off the top of my head, right before I had to sing them. If you write on caffeine and sleep deprivation and no preparation whatsoever, you do risk failing. But you can also stumble onto these happy accidents, and they’re really magical.

“But I hadn’t recorded a single lyric and the boss of 4AD, Ivo Watts-Russell, was flying in to hear what I’d done. So I stayed up for two days straight recording vocals to prepare for his arrival. I fell asleep in this hammock that my ex-wife had bought and I had that super-white froth on the mouth that a dog might have. But there was something about that whole experience that was beautiful and fun. One of the main tracks that I finally sang was Los Angeles, which became the best-known track from the record.
“For better or for worse, I had to finally start writing more personal songs. Not that the Pixies songs didn’t have narrative or meaning, but a lot of them, especially the early ones, were
nonsensical or freeform and I didn’t really work hard on the lyrics, I just winged it. But I got burned out on Jabberwocky. I wanted to write songs with a focused subject. So for this album I wrote a love song to the Ramones, another one specific to the UFO subculture of the modern world … they were songs with meaning.”

“Some people say this is my best solo record. I really had writer’s block in terms of the lyrics, though – not the music. I was on a roll with this new guitar player, Lyle Workman, and he didn’t require any rehearsal; the same goes for the drummer, Nick Vincent. Between those two and Eric I had this really experienced band, and I could compose songs really quickly - chord progressions – and they would deliver me renditions that I found palatable. And that was very exciting to me.

That’s why there are so many songs on the album. But I did have writer’s block with the lyrics – I used to drive up into the hills of Malibu in my Cadillac, listening to music, playing my guitar. It was an excuse – that’s why I kept writing music, because I couldn’t write lyrics! I’d keep showing up at the studio, and they’d say, ‘So, have you got any lyrics?’ and I’d say, ‘No, but I’ve got a new song!’ Finally, the engineer and co-producer, Al Clay and Eric Feldman, said we couldn’t spend any more money recording backing tracks, so without asking me – it was genius on their part – Al and Eric one day composed lyrics to one of the songs, trying to be me – some spacey science fiction topic. They were very sheepish about it. They said, ‘We just want to stimulate you.’ Well, I sure as fuck was stimulated! I was horrified! ‘No way – this just sucks!’ I was mad! Was I annoyed because I was so easy to pastiche? Maybe I wasn’t yet aware of my own clichés or the image that people had of me… It was creepy, or disturbing, or something. It got me so fast up in the hills of Malibu! The first song I wrote was Freedom Rock.

“The album took hold when I began to incorporate, in a science fiction way, the history of California – there are lots of references to LA in the past and in the future. This geography that started on [the Pixies’] Bossanova began to take hold. Kind of like – if Lou Reed is always about New York, I was LA; kind of, ‘I am California!’ California became my fodder. So there’s lots of history, politics, geography, people – like Mulholland who brought water to LA. Well, if it was good enough for Roman Polanski, it was good enough for me.”

“Men In Black continues with the sci-fi stuff. I Don’t Want To Hurt You Every Single Time is my attempt at writing a straight-up Elvis Costello-ish love-gone-bad song. I really like You Ain’t Me – the inspiration was, frankly, probably a little bit about a former band member [laughs] … I write it around the time of her big hit [The Breeders’ Cannonball] maybe I was feeling quite cult-ish – no pun intended. It was a combination of being in a more cult-ish place and growing weary of the music business and all the hands I had to shake. Not that I had to compromise the music, but starting with the Pixies there were all these worries about getting to the next level of success, trying to make expensive videos: ‘You gotta get on MTV, you gotta get on the radio’ … I never got into the business for that.

“All that stuff started to bum me out, so Cult Of Ray is me not trying to speak to an audience at all. It’s very internal – ‘I’m just going to make a record and take as long as I want, I’m going to spend as much money as I want and be as unprepared as I want, I’m going to produce myself and do it all how I want to do it.’ So You Ain’t Me was a kind of an ‘I’m not what you want me to be’ song, even if it’s quite cryptic.

“We did a video for Men In Black and experienced a Men In Black phenomenon in the desert! I’m up on a hilltop watching the cameraman filming the actors dressed as Men In Black when out of the blue, over the hill, over our heads come this giant enormous black helicopter with no identifying markings on! I’m going, ‘Woah! It’s the Men In Black!’ So I start thinking they’re tracking me – like, ‘The CIA has got a file three-feet-thick on me!’”

“The band who played with me on Cult Of Ray was the band on this album. We needed to make a demo tape for Rick Rubin. I’d signed to his label, and I was still fairly headstrong at this point. We were rehearsing across the road from Rubin’s studio of choice in LA, Sound City, and the studio manager let us in, so we wheeled our stuff over the street to this place where Nirvana recorded and Tom Petty did Damn The Torpedoes – this old haunted analogue rock’n’roll place in a rough warehouse district of the San Fernando valley. Somebody suggested we play everything live and record it on a two-track machine because we didn’t have much time, and we wouldn’t have to waste time mixing stuff down, to get it done in time for the demo.

“By the second day, we were all grinning at each other because it sounded so good, so rock’n’roll. By the third day, Rubin didn’t stand a chance – we’d recorded our great record, all live. I was thrilled. It was so raw – we’d started to get raw on Cult Of Ray, but that was 16-track. I enjoyed having less tracks to work with. Eric Feldman wasn’t with me at this point – it was just two guitars, bass and drums. I loved the sound – it was tough, macho, and we did it in a weekend. I said, ‘What the hell is Rick Rubin going to do with this that we haven’t already done?’ Scott the drummer said, ‘Suck all the heart out of it! Make it all perfect and ironed-out and more commercial but without the same vibe.’ In the end, Rubin said he thought it was a really great demo but not a great record. And maybe that’s what it is. But the people in the band had all come from this postpunk background, they were used to making records cheaply and not worrying about selling them and getting on the radio – it was very anti-commercial. So for us to make a record in a weekend, it was, like, we related to that. Fuck the snare drums – this was rock music! So that became my thing for some time to come – live to two-track, right up to Show Me Your Tears [2003], even though we’d get more countrified by then. It became almost this religious thing: taking a stand as the whole world became more involved with digital technology. I didn’t want anything to do with that.”

“This was also very raw-sounding. It’s all pretty rockin’. We didn’t really get into country till the next record. But this was raw – not lo-fi, just as kick-ass as we could get it. Bad Harmony was another love-gone-wrong song, but a lot tougher than I Don’t Want To Hurt You. Western Star – not musically, but certainly lyrically the latter is like Calistan or Los Angeles: a strange, desert-oriented landscape with science fiction references and even a reference to David Bowie. It was futuristic in its rant, even though I don’t recall what I was ranting about. I tend to go into a lyrical trance. Western Star definitely was the most popular song on that record when we played live, and the whole "you soy un pistolero" ("I’m a gunslinger") thing - I suppose I was feeling like a gunslinger! We were driving around, four guys, no soundman, no crew, carrying our own amplifiers, playing small clubs, deliberately trying to play smaller and smaller towns: ‘We want to play in El Paso! Find us a gig in New Mexico!’ It was exciting. After the Pixies I maybe felt a little stung: the spoilt boy who suddenly was nobody. But after a while I got into it. Like, ‘YEAH! I don’t give a shit about being popular; I’m making records, driving around in a van, hanging out in
truckstops, playing nightclubs, I’m live to two-track... We’re so tough!’ It felt really good. ‘I’m a gunslinger! I’m a bad-ass!’ We could load our equipment in and out faster than anyone. We even stopped doing soundchecks! We plugged the amps in in the afternoon, came back at midnight, had no setlist, played as long and hard as we could … It was kind of meditative: ‘we will rock, we will rock, we will rock, we will rock. We will load our vans faster than anyone else, we will drive further than anyone else, we will play clubs that no one else will play…’ We became like these Buddhist monks who walk, standing and then lying down, till they develop these nodes on their bones. It wasn’t like any particular philosophy: ‘we’re straight- edge.’ It was just music, but stripped away, no bullshit.”


“There were a couple of minor complaints that we were rocking out but the records weren’t very produced. That kind of upped the ante for me: kind of, ‘fuck you!’ But I did wonder how we could get them more produced: ‘I know, we’ll ask some of our friends to come in and sit in on the sessions. We’ll have a nice twinkly guitar here, add some percussion there, and some piano to sweeten it up – but rather than overdub it all, we’ll have a seven- or eight-piece band.’

“We’d been getting ready for one of our macho van tours when Rich Gilbert brought his pedal steel guitar along to try out in this rehearsal space in Rhode Island. And as soon as he played that magical instrument it was like, ‘Wow!’ It was as though some beautiful woman had walked in the room with a big harp; a heavenly sound, the sound of not just country music but western music, early rock’n’roll. It’s so big and cinematic. So he tried it on all the songs and suddenly this other guitarist and pedal steel player Dave Philips was there and Eric Feldman returned to the fold on keyboards and Joey Santiago and Moris Tepper were there … Rich started switching instruments in the middle of recording, to create even more lush sounds. And for the most part it worked. It was recorded again in Sound City, and it was a hell of a lot bigger and lusher than the previous two records; it wasn’t so DIY and punky. We liked it.”

“The whole California thing became an obsession. We had been recording in the township of San Fernando, which is populated by Latinos and where people automatically speak to you in Spanish. And Sound City was quite nearby, so we’d go there with our burritos and eat them at the Catholic Mission. It was a very serene place. I’d also become obsessed with another love-gone-wrong song by Del Shannon called Sister Isabel. So I’ve got these obsessions with the song, with the history of LA, with live-to-two-track, and it all came together on this thing where I decided I needed to do the recording on the run, using a mobile studio! I wanted to record in California proper – in 22 Californian Missions, starting in San Diego, up to San Francisco. Half of these Missions are in towns you’d be familiar with; but the other half are in rural areas. San Francisco and LA were all built on the Mission system – from the sweat of Indians and the brute force of the Spanish military and Catholic church. I became obsessed with the El Camino Real – the royal road – that goes through these Missions. I wanted to play all of these Mission towns, and to record in them, using non-digital equipment like vintage amplifiers. So I spent six months with an engineer in this disused studio space in Sound City, building my own mobile studio. We’d rent a truck and load it up, get a location and set it all up.

“The location where we recorded Black Letter Days was a loft in a very hip building in Japantown: we’d record and break for Japanese food – it was heavenly. But I could tell because of the noise we were going to get kicked out of the loft, so we moved the gear – it took six hours to break it all down. So it’s 4.30 in the morning and we’ve exited this building, and the rhythm section and guitarist and I go over to this big industrial rehearsal space across town where I and then the Pixies rehearsed and we kept recording. People say the record is dark-sounding and not very clear: part of that is because of the concrete floors of that space, and part of it is because it sounds like rock music.

“I wanted to release two records simultaneously. I didn’t want to do one and then release another three months later. And it didn’t seem right to put all the songs together on the same record, first because of the different sounds, second because of the different line-up of the band. Also, I didn’t want to sit on the songs for a year. I just don’t have the patience for that – maybe that’s my flaw.
“We spent a lot more time making Black Letter Days, and I’d demoed a lot of the stuff with people from Beck’s band or whoever happened to be passing by. By the time we got round to recording the demos with The Catholics, there was all this forethought – it was a more prepared record than Devil’s Workshop which, by contrast, featured more blasts from the past, scraps of music from years before, nuggets of music or chord progressions that I cherished but never got round to recording.

“The general consensus is that Black Letter Days is the better record and Devil’s Workshop is the dark horse. Both albums have their fans, but I think the variety – even though it has fewer songs – is greater on Devil’s Workshop.”

“There’s a little too much emphasis on production these days, I think. Rock music isn’t about the killer drum sound. Records don’t have to be beautiful sounding. Not everything has to sound like a Steely Dan or Roxy Music record – and I love Steely Dan and Roxy Music! Devil’s Workshop is the least popular of The Catholics’ records, but it’s my favourite.”

“We needed another location and the realities of moving the gear around from farmhouse to abandoned schoolhouse set in: it was expensive and difficult. So we decided to find a more permanent location, like the loft in Los Angeles, and I found an empty studio in Hollywood. We had Van Dyke Parks sitting in one night and other people came and went – I was into the idea of an entourage, like The Rolling Stones or something, hanging out and jamming. We were working with two different producers – Nick Vincent and Stan Ridgeway – and they had different styles. I was thrilled!

“The flipside of all this was that everything was falling apart in my world: the band was falling apart, and my marriage was falling apart. In fact, when I was cutting a lot of these songs, my ex-wife said, ‘Charles, these songs are sounding a little bit… what’s up? Are we in trouble?’ and I was like, ‘Oh no no no no no! They’re just songs.’ But, of course, she was right. And while I may not have been consciously writing these things, subconsciously I was.

“And the band was breaking up, like I say. These records weren’t chartbusters, and being in Frank Black And The Catholics was becoming precarious. The band had grown bored of the two-track method, and they figured that if I worked with a producer and recorded in a multi- track way with overdubs and stuff in a proper studio, I would make a more polished, produced product, which is fair enough.

“I really like the record – I was feeling sad and happy: happy because I was able to incorporate what was going on into my art, which felt good. I felt sad in new ways, too: more human, part of the human race, going through these intense experiences and having a very long relationship end. It was heavy but I wasn’t alone because I was in therapy. The title came from a song that didn’t end up on the record, about showing your emotion, partly to an audience.

“My screaming with the Pixies was more primal. It was the expression of someone who’s confused. Show Me Your Tears is about expressing emotion but it’s more poignant, it has meaning, and it’s not hiding behind abstraction. Massif Centrale was a prophetic song. It described what I was going to do in my life in the near future: ‘I’m going to skip out the States and go to France and find a new woman and live in Massif Central which I find lonely and haunting.’ Because that’s how I was feeling: happy and haunted and lonely yet full of life. I didn’t make it to France, though – I met this chick in the middle of Oregon and that’s where I am today. So as you can imagine, the song has a lot of meaning for me.”

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