Gird your loins. And your legs- especially if one is wooden. Black Francis might throw it across the room on accident.
“This man in the front was poking me in the stomach with this wooden thing,” Black Francis said over the phone, not knowing at the time that the object in question was someone’s artificial appendage. “I guess he had taken his leg off, and was obviously very drunk, but I wasn’t going to just be prodded by the damn thing, so I threw it across the room.”
Francis is best known for fronting the Pixies, a alternative rock band that formed in the late 80s in Boston, and continued to release albums and tour until the early 90s. After a hiatus, the Pixies reunited in 2004 to play a world tour dedicated to their much-loved album “Doolittle.”
Aside from audience brutality, there are some key things to expect from Francis’s solo performances.
“Playing without a drummer, or just being one lone person doesn’t mean it has to be quieter, or more sensitive. There might just be a more fluid dynamic,” Francis said. “There can be anecdotes, lots of anecdotes, moments of intensity- it really just all depends.”
Many factors go into play when a person gets ready to perform, whether the person is a salesman pitching a product, or a musician with three different performing names and a slew of side projects.
“It just depends on what is influencing you at the moment,” Francis said. “It could be a drink, it could be nerves- hell, my personality changes when I chew gum. There are a lot of expectations people go through in a day, and sometimes we put on our expectation- when we want to.”
Francis’s song subject matter has always has always encompassed a broad spectrum of weirdness. Whores, happiness, a line or two of Spanish, and the occasional unidentified flying object experience have all been subjects of inspiration in his music at one time or another. Some people are wary of acknowledging UFOs at all, much less singing about them for fear of sounding fanatical.
“When you experience some sort of phenomenon, something you’ve seen or you’ve heard- in the moment it’s like, ‘That’s what it’s like! That’s what it’s like to see a ghost’ and then over time naturally you question and you doubt.” Francis said. “I think when you cling to those memories- those are the most questionable experiences.”
Francis paused for a moment and then proceeded to tell me about a friend of his, who is a very nice, good man, who believes in fairies.
“This guy is not the kind of man that people would expect to believe in fairies. But he does. He carries around a picture in his wallet of a fairy. He took the picture himself, in his garden in England. And he pulls it out to show you and is so excited and is pointing at the greenery and of course there’s nothing there, but I’m like, ‘Ah yeah I see it.’ I mean, he walks around with it.”
So there’s the card carrying, photo-holding believer, and then there are those that have had the experience and choose to reflect on it as they see fit, living a life unburdened by the obligation of providing any sort of proof of a life form not yet known.
I ask Francis if he is carrying a photo of the sort in his wallet.
“I only have one photo in my wallet, and I came across it a few weeks ago when I was looking for two checks to deposit in my account, “ Francis said. “It’s a Polaroid of my dad, looking at other Polaroids. The thing is, that he is about the same age in the picture as I am now, and we look frighteningly similar.”
Talk about Polaroids ensues and Francis points out that when Polaroid film was readily available, people often just took pictures of themselves and their friends, in whatever room they were in at the time or whatever trivial thing they were doing.
“Essentially, people just ended up with all these pictures that seem like nothing, but they are just an exact representation of what was going on at the time. And then there are always pictures of people looking at all the Polaroids they just took,” Francis said.
Although Francis has no problem waxing poetic about Polaroids or a time before the iPhone, his true passion seems to still strongly be music.
“Nothing ever made me decide to be a musician. That’s what I do- I don’t need the mental calculations of why,” Francis said. “ I always wanted to be, even before I did.”
Francis likened the experience with children who want to grow up to be astronauts and go to the moon.
“You know, that’s why a person becomes an astronaut. It’s like, “That’s all I ever wanted to do, was to go into space, and now I get to go all the time! And it’s great.” Francis said. “Really, I just wanted to be an astronaut, you know?”
And once you know that, everything will be right. But will it be easy or good?
“What makes something good is that it’s good,” Francis said. “My kids like this YouTube rapper Krispy Kreme- he’s probably 14- years-old, rapping over these beats he made in Garage Band, and it’s not my favorite thing- but what makes something good? Who knows really. That’s what makes it exciting. Saying ‘You and all your stuffy rules- we’re gonna piss all over them.’”
For now, it seems that Francis will always want to continue making music, in whatever style or way he deems fit.
“I do have a couple other interests, and if those started filling up my time, I’d be ok with it, “ Francis said. “I’ve been painting recently and getting into film making.”
Painting is important to Francis, but the idea of it ever going anywhere is more of an elaborate fantasy. Fantasizing about potential fame is fun, apparently even for someone who’s already famous for something else.
“Of course, if I was being asked by galleries and curators to do more exhibits, and they just couldn’t get enough of my shit, that’d be alright,” Francis said. “I’ve really just been trying to develop my very rough painting skills.”
When it comes to the subject matter of painting, Francis is very clear about what he likes and doesn’t like.
“Nudes, mostly nudes. I’ve been painting a lot of the female form, a little of the male form. I don’t like landscapes,” Francis said. “It’s not like I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m doing something completely different!’ It’s very primal. You know, if you were a caveman and you were in your cave and had paint on the end of your stick, what are you going to draw or scrawl on the wall? Animals and human forms.”
Go see Black Francis at Vinyl, before the MOMA snatches him up and turns him into the next Picasso. Or before he changes his mind and becomes an astronaut or whatever else he may want to do and wildly, uncompromisingly succeed in.
with Reid Paley and Brooks
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox
WHEN: Tuesday, May 7
TIME: 7:30 p.m.