In this month’s col­umn Martin Cooper looks at the style of alt-in­die he­roes, The Pixies – those mis­fits who in­flu­enced a gen­er­a­tion of mu­si­cians.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

In­flu­en­tial alt-in­die he­roes The Pixies get the Martin Cooper treat­ment this month with a look at Black Fran­cis and Joey San­ti­ago.

The Pixies formed in 1986 in Bos­ton, with Black Fran­cis on rhythm and vo­cals, Joey San­ti­ago on lead, drum­mer David Lover­ing and bassist Kim Deal. Fran­cis and San­ti­ago met at Univer­sity where they wrote and re­hearsed in be­tween stud­ies.

Their styles ranged from hard rock to surf and psy­che­delic. Al­though they weren’t a huge com­mer­cial suc­cess dur­ing their ini­tial ca­reer, they were highly in­flu­en­tial on bands such as Nir­vana, Ra­dio­head and Bush.

Fran­cis dis­cov­ered punk af­ter a child­hood lis­ten­ing to clas­sic 60s pop and early prog such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer. He says The Bea­tles’ White Al­bum was a big in­flu­ence, and that he took his knack for writ­ing short, snappy songs from Buddy Holly. Gui­tarist San­ti­ago cites Hen­drix, Wes Mont­gomery and Ge­orge Har­ri­son as in­flu­ences. The band de­lib­er­ately ad­ver­tised for a fe­male bass player and Deal was the only one to re­spond.

The Pixies were no­ticed by pro­ducer Gary Smith while play­ing sup­port to Throw­ing Muses. Their demo took three days, con­tained 17 songs and cost a pal­try $1,000 to record. The Pixies signed with in­die la­bel 4AD in 1987 and their first mini-al­bum Come On Pil­grim in­cluded eight of the pre­vi­ous songs. The leg­endary Steve Al­bini pro­duced the fol­low-up, Surfer Rosa, which was par­tic­u­larly well re­ceived in Europe where it won Melody Maker’s Al­bum Of The Year. Af­ter tour­ing the al­bum they recorded a fol­low-up with a big­ger bud­get and pro­ducer Gil Nor­ton at the helm. They also opened for U2 on their ground­break­ing Zoo TV tour. The band took a lengthy hia­tus in the early 1990s, re­turn­ing in 2004 to play sold-out tours.

We’re in the key of C (C-D-E-F-G-A-B), but with sev­eral notes and chords out­side the key. In fact, there is a real ‘ma­jor meets mi­nor’ feel,

Bb Eb due to the and ma­jor chords, for

Eb- Ab-Bb). in­stance, from C mi­nor (C-D- F-G-

There is no solo as such, but the parts are melodic and play to the needs of the tune. The tried and trusted ‘quiet-loud’ for­mula may be a cliché now, but The Pixies were a huge in­flu­ence on Nir­vana where this ap­proach came to the fore. The chords on the no­ta­tion over the oc­taves at the end are there as a guide to the over-arch­ing har­mony.

NEXT MONTH Martin tack­les the tech­nique and feel of The Win­ery Dogs’ Richie Kotzen

I co uld ne ver get over the fact that The Pixie s formed , worked and sep­a­rated wit hout Amer­ica tak­ing them to it s heart

David Bowie

Joey San­ti­ago and Black Fran­cis on elec­tric and acous­tic gui­tars

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