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Baker's Dozen

Planets Of Sound: Joey Santiago Of Pixies' Favourite Albums
Laurie Tuffrey , May 22nd, 2014 10:43

With Indie Cindy out and their headline slot at Field Day on the horizon, Joseph Alberto Santiago, Pixies' lead guitarist-cum-noise implementer, rocks us with his 13 defining records

Photograph courtesy of Andy Keilen

It's an obvious enough statement, but as much as Black Francis' lyrical fixations about incestuous union and alien-army activity in the New Mexico desert, David Lovering's powerhouse drumming and, formerly, Kim Deal's hammering bass and aerial backing vocals, the perfect counterpoint to Francis' demented howl, Joey Santiago's guitar lines, sinewy and twisting, edged with fury and seemingly untethered to his fretboard, are fundamental to the Pixies' sound. On Surfer Rosa, they were harsh and brittle, buzzing leads struck by metal picks at the behest of Steve Albini, running through to the interstellar walls of sound on Trompe Le Monde. They are, as he says - paraphrasing Francis, he's quick to add - the way to "Pixify" a song, "when the Pixies really become the Pixies".

As Santiago explains, "I'm more influenced by the sonics than the melody line itself", and this texturising effect is unfurled all over Indie Cindy, the band's excellent new album, their first in over 22 years. In some senses, the record surveys their output to that point, going from the astral reverb-drench on 'Greens And Blues' recalling Bossanova's surf guitar escapades to the bone-dry, Surfer Rosa-era riffing of 'Blue Eyed Hexe', culminating in the strobing, melodic guitar army of 'Jaime Bravo', which wouldn't have sounded out of place on Trompe Le Monde.

In spite of this maddened, molten quality Santiago's guitars have, he deploys them with consummate cool. Watch his solo on 'Vamos' from their 1988 set supporting Throwing Muses at London's Town And Country Club (included as an extra on the Pixies DVD they released to mark their reunion, already, incredibly, a decade ago in 2004), and he wrings the feedback out of his guitar, plays it with a beer can and shakes cracks of reverb from his amp, all with a determined calm. As it transpires, that gig was a landmark moment for Santiago. Talking about returning to London for their sole UK date, headlining Field Day's second day on June 8, Santiago says: "I'm excited. London is our second home; when we arrive we go, "Ah, we're home". It's where we started, where we played the Town And Country Club and we thought we were a big deal. I got out of the subway and was going to the gig and people were scalping tickets, and I thought, 'Fuck, we made it!'"

Talking through his Baker's Dozen, Santiago greets each choice with a gleeful, almost surprised tone, as if the albums had been plucked out of thin air and not read from his own list. Some, like PiL's Album, get enthusiastic blasphemy - "Jesus Christ, that album is just stupidly good!" - while others get by a breakdown of their sonic make-up, pointing up Steve Reich's atonality as an influence on the music he wrote for the U.S. TV series Weeds or voicing some learned reverence for French pop scientist Jean-Jacques Perrey's Moog experiments. All, though, get the same fervent, wide-eyed appreciation, summed up in a frequently-deployed question: "How good is that?!"

Pixies headline Field Day on June 8 in Victoria Park, London; head to the festival's website for full details and tickets and get hold of Indie Cindy and see the rest of their tour dates at the band's website. Stay tuned for a Pixies Beyond The Hits next week and click on his image below to begin scrolling through Joey's choices