Kim Deal doesn't like talking about the Pixies. The band's former bassist (and founding member of '90s alt-rock pioneers The Breeders) is happy to chat about any number of things — especially music. She's not one of those elusive musicians who's aloof, on guard, or downright hostile when it comes to actually demystifying the process of making music or providing an intimate peek into the personality behind the art. Deal's open about so many things, but remains mum on the reasons behind her decision to leave the Pixies in 2013.
Not that she doesn't have plenty of other interesting things to talk about. Deal just completed a successful 20th anniversary tour of The Breeders’ landmark 1993 album Last Splash, and has even had legendary producer Steve Albini record some brand new Breeders tracks — the band's first in five years. And, of course, her new 7-inch series, Kim Deal Solo Series.
Long before Deal was a music influencer of a generation, she was a teenager in small-town Huber Heights, Ohio, listening to Led Zeppelin and Queen, and trying to figure out how to get started as a rock musician.
"Nobody who was in a band would play with me, but I wouldn't want to be in their bands. Like, they were doing covers of Pat Benatar songs where they change the lyrics, and the man leader singer would sing, 'Put another notch in my guitar case' instead of 'lipstick case,'" Deal says. "And, I found it slightly nauseating with all the spandex."
"You couldn't have a girl on the stage. You also couldn't have a gay person on the stage. Not if you were a real rock band. If you were a pop band, you could," says Deal. "There was no way they were going to take me seriously."
Obviously, she wasn't one to let the unrepentant gender discrimination get in her way. Deal cobbled together an 8-track recorder, a tape machine, some guitars, a drum machine, and any other equipment she could get her hands on — and just made music on her own. Then, she started performing as a duo with her twin sister, Kelley Deal, who later joined The Breeders.
"We did like The Ground Round where we did four sets a night. We did originals, yeah, but we also did an Elvis Costello song. Kelley sang a really good 'The Rose,' by Bette Midler. And, we did all of our friends' weddings and our friends' parents weddings when they got remarried," Deal reminisces. "I was 19 and my face was broken out, and I had a weird hairstyle."
In her defense, it's not like anyone had a good hairstyle in the early '80s. In some ways, Deal's life right now is not so dissimilar to when she was just starting out. She's living back at home in Dayton to help out with her ailing parents, and she has a basement recording studio where The Breeders worked on some new songs earlier this year.
"We went up to Steve Albini's [studio in Chicago] a few weeks ago; and we recorded two songs. Talk about pain-in-the-ass recording on tape, man. But, I gotta tell you," Deal says, "I like the two songs, and we're playing them live."
As for when The Breeders can get together to record a finished album, well, that's hard to say. For one thing, Deal laments the fact that music being available for free means that it's nearly impossible for the band to actually afford to leave their jobs and responsibilities to make a record. There's also the fact that the bandmates who aren't related to her (i.e. most of the band) are also living in other parts of the country.
"There's Josephine [Wiggs], who is a dried-up old hag," Deal lovingly jokes about her bandmate who now lives in Brooklyn, a considerable distance from Deal's Ohio home base. Also, drummer Jose Medeles and bassist Mando Lopez are based in Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles, respectively and are juggling raising families along with making music. "The other guys had newborns, so they actually had to get jobs. They're good dads, and they had to go to work."
In the meantime, Deal has kept busy releasing five in a series of seven 7-inch singles. "Are You Mine?" is a sweet and haunting song inspired by living with her mother, who has Alzheimer's.
The latest single is "Biker Gone," which comes complete with a Lance Bangs-directed video of Kim, Kelley, and former Breeders drummer Britt Walford as funeral home employees presiding over a biker funeral. In case you're wondering: Those are actual bikers in the video, and that's the actual funeral home where Kelley Deal sometimes works.
Despite the fact that Deal is obviously proud of how the video came together, she does admit to being camera shy.
"I think most of my videos earlier, I was completely drunk and that's how I was able to get through it. I'm not drinking any more, so it's excruciating," Deal says. However, it sounds like she wasn't the most uncomfortable person on set.
"You can actually see Britt cringing — it's the first video he's ever been in," Deal explains, reveling in her drummer’s discomfort. "He's cringing all the way through it, it's quite spectacular to watch."
Whether Deal is recounting her musical influences or going through the ins and outs of a video shoot, she sometimes has difficulty keeping the focus on herself. The fact that a conversation about her misgivings with contemporary digital recording techniques can somehow segue into a debate about the artistic merits of prefabricated bands like The Monkees and The Partridge Family is one of the most endearing things about talking to her. It speaks to the same passion for music she had as a teenager, when she would spend an evening arguing over what the best Blue Öyster Cult song was with her buddies. It's that unwavering enthusiasm for talking about, writing, and performing music that has always inspired her to be a compelling songwriter. And, as this recent venture proves, she's just as vital now as she has been at any other stage in her career.