Q&A: Kim Deal Talks New Breeders Album
The Pixies bassist on working with Mark Lanegan, her "puny soul," and more. Plus: Hear the band's cover of Bob Marley's "Chances Are."
Kim Deal is stoked, cackling into a cellphone while driving in her hometown of Dayton, OH. With a successful but often tense Pixies reunion tour behind her, and seven years of sobriety under her belt, Deal and her band, the Breeders, have just self-released the Fate to Fatal EP, afour-song gem that features Mark Lanegan singing lead on “The Last Time” — “he sounds like a fucking serial killer!” she shouts.
And with the record, the Breeders are turning prolific, at least by their own standards — in the last year, they’ve released more material than they did in the previous 15.
Deal gave us the lowdown on Fate to Fatal, from tracking down Lanegan to exploring her self-described “puny” soul (“It’s just not big or deep enough”) to covering Bob Marley’s “Chances Are”: “This song isn’t about love,” she says of the acoustic ballad. “It’s about a poker game!”
How did Mark Lanegan end up singing on “The Last Time”? Are you two old pals?
When I first heard the song in my head, I heard it with a guy’s voice singing, which was really weird. A friend of mine, who’s from New Orleans, well, we have these long conversations about music, and one of the conversations was about this Mark Lanegan solo record that he had worked on. So I just thought, “you know what? Can you actually get a hold of that Lanegan guy? I think it would be really cool if he sang on this.” We got in touch with Greg Dulli [Lanegan’s collaborator in the Gutter Twins], who lives down in New Orleans, and he connected us with Lanegan. And Lanegan said he’d be happy to do it.
Where did you record the song?
Well, Kelley [Deal, Kim’s sister/co-guitarist] and I recorded it in January in my basement. We didn’t even have the guys [drummer Jose Medeles and bassist Mando Lopez] come out. But Mark never came. That’s the thing with this technology stuff. I sent him the song one Saturday night, and by the time Sunday was over with, he had sent the file back with his vocal done — exactly, perfectly. And he sounds like a fucking serial killer! He’s not putting it on, either. He just sounds like that. It’s not Broadway. I like it.
The lyrics are about betrayal and depression. Did you write them?
Yeah. And I had been singing them, too, but it sounded high. I wasn’t out of pitch, but I couldn’t do it right. The lyrics are about these moments where you’re just like, “Oh my God” — you’re gutted, taken down in life. When Lanegan sings it, it’s like his pain is so much more than my puny little pain. He has a real soul, a bigger soul than I. But these feelings are epic. I just couldn’t get over the epicness, because my soul just isn’t big enough or deep enough.
You live with your parents and take care of your mom, who has Alzheimer’s. Did she influence the lyrics on “Pinnacle Hollow”? You’re singing about the “ups” and “downs” of life.
Yeah, sort of. “Pinnacle Hollow” was actually named for Pinnacle Holler, the place where my mom was raised in West Virginia. First I was going to name it “Up and Down,” but then I was like, “That’s stupid.” I was staring at the lyrics, and I thought, “There’s no cool name for it.” But then I realized we could call it “Pinnacle Hollow.” It worked, also because, geographically, pinnacle is height, and hollow is a low point. So it was perfect. But boy, she’s doing bad, man. It’s so sad.
The Breeders are self-releasing this album. How do you like your new role?
I really like doing this record business stuff. This is the first self-releasing, but we’ve put out a seven-inch before through fan clubs like Breeders Digest. But this is the first manufacturing for an album. I think I have a knack for it. I really enjoyed it. We might do it with a full-length, maybe. But why do a full-length anymore? I don’t even know if anyone’s interested. I’ve lost the plot.
You have your own house, just down the street from your parents’, where you record in the basement. Do you have tons of unreleased songs?
Oh yeah, there’s tons of stuff that I don’t put out. Some I think are dumb — Kelley really likes one. I have a ProTools thing down in my basement, but I can’t work it. I can’t stop and start the music. And I’ll say things like, “no, the purple one,” instead of calling the line on the computer screen the “guitar track.” Technology is really weird. But what am I going to do — fly people out here and pay for studio time? People have jobs! And this is free!
When did you write “Fate to Fatal”? It sounds like it could fit on 2002’s Title TK.
I know, right?! But I actually wrote it last summer, and recorded it in London. We booked a studio for three days there last September. Seriously, [drummer Jose Medeles] just goes, “one, two, three, go,” and we played the song from beginning to end perfectly, one time through. The lyrics about being a loner, feeling on the outside and not understanding what moves people.
Chris Glass, the guy who designed the logo for Obama’s “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” did the artwork for the album. How did you connect with him?
We’re actually related through marriage. Whew, let me tell ya. My brother’s wife has a brother, who’s married to a woman who has a brother, whose partner is Chris Glass. Kelley and I hand-screened a whole bunch of the album covers at his studio.
Why did you choose to cover the Bob Marley song?
I’ve been listening to the song for like 10 years; it was always on one of my mix-tapes. It’s just so beautiful. But once I really listened to lyrics, I realized that this isn’t about love — it’s about a poker game! This is about when his band was on tour and they were taking dudes for their money. It’s just a good-natured buddy song. It’s not about the things I thought it was about, which kind of bothers me, but I try not to think about that.