ALTERNATIVE ROCK After 12-year break, The Pixies succeed without record label
The band will start a tour of the United States and Canada on Sept. 4.
TOKYO (AP) -- The Pixies, pioneers of alternative rock in the 1990s, are back after a 12-year hiatus and riding a whole new wave of success.
But according to lead singer Charles Thompson, they'll be doing one thing differently this time around -- they won't be rushing to find a label.
"Record companies, schmecord companies," Thompson said. "Who needs 'em?"
Reflecting the changes in an industry trying to keep pace with fast-evolving technologies and the fickle tastes of the fans, The Pixies' much-awaited reunion is taking place not in a studio but at small live houses and multiband extravaganzas from Winnipeg, Canada, to Ljubljana, Slovenia.
And instead of working up new material, they are focusing on selling tickets, T-shirts and CDs mass-produced on site at the venues.
"The record business is really bad right now," Thompson, a k a Black Francis, said in an interview with The Associated Press after performing recently at the Fuji Rock Festival.
"That's not where the money is. The business is with the real customers, the fans. They're the ones who say, 'OK, we'll come and see you perform.' That's who we're trying to connect with."
So far, The Pixies seem to be connecting pretty well.
Their first 13 reunion shows this spring sold out quickly and their 18-country tour of the United Kingdom and Europe was well-received by the fans and critics.
On Sept. 4, the four-member band -- Thompson, bassist Kim Deal, guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering -- will embark on a three-month tour of the United States and Canada.
As part of their new approach, live CD recordings have been produced at the performances, and most have been briskly snapped up by the fans.
"It's a revenue stream," Thompson said. "I'm not saying we could sell lots of records if we sold them out of our garage or the Internet, but you know what? We might. It's a crazy time."
While the band hasn't been completely averse to recording, they are doing it on their own terms.
Called "Bam Thwok," their first new song in 13 years was arranged and rehearsed at Santiago's home studio and recorded in March at Stagg Street Studios in Los Angeles. Instead of going with a more traditional label, they opted to make the song available on Apple's iTunes Music Store. Price: 99 cents a pop.
"I never really was much of a believer in the album anyway," Thompson said. "Singles are what people relate to."
But Thompson said making more studio records -- singles or albums -- isn't what The Pixies have in mind, at least for the time being.
"In terms of getting a relationship with a company going, we don't have any need, because we don't have anything for them to sell," he said. "If and when we do have something, we're probably going to proceed a little cautiously. They're all trying to figure out what they're next move is. Between the Internet and record stores going out of business, it just seems better to stay away until things settle down a bit."
Here's the situation
Though the woes of the record companies -- their fight against Internet piracy, plunging sales, hard-to-predict trends -- are well known, Thompson says that, from the performers' perspective, the changes in the industry aren't all bad.
"At the end of the day, the record company always needs content. They need artists. Right now, they need artists more than we need them," he said.
"We're in a situation where we don't have to make records anymore to be asked to go into a studio and make music. Because of all the cross-marketing that goes on these days, it's like everyone's getting called to make songs for a movie, or for a web site, or a commercial."
Thompson helped found The Pixies in 1986, when he and Santiago dropped out of college in Boston. Melding an eclectic mix of musical styles, they released their first album, "Surfer Rosa," two years later.