Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – The Breeders’ Kelley Deal

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the years in the trenches has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: The Breeders and R. Ring member takes the ultimate test

How many elephants adorn the cover of the Breeders’ 1992 ‘Safari’ EP?


WRONG. Eleven.

Vaughan Oliver, the 4AD artist, was always pushing the envelope and had a long history of putting ‘naughty bits’ on his record designs, so the Breeders text on the ‘Safari’ EP was meant to be the texture of nipple. Apparently! If I was to say to this to Kim [Deal, twin sister and Breeders bandmate], she’d probably roll her eyes and say: ‘Yeah, whatever!’. But that’s the lore so I don’t know if it’s true or Vaughan making shit up!”

Which two The Prodigy tracks include samples from the Breeders’ 1993 album ‘Last Splash’?

“OK, I know this one! ‘Firestarter’ includes us and I don’t remember the name of the other song, but it samples ‘I Just Wanna Get Along’.”

CORRECT-ISH. HALF A POINT. ‘Firestarter’ samples the ‘Last Splash’ cut ‘S.O.S’, while the track that samples ‘I Just Wanna Get Along’ is called ‘World’s on Fire’ from their 2009 ‘Invaders Must Die’ album.

“When I first saw The Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’ video, I couldn’t get over how amazing it was, and was excited my guitar was on something so creepy and threatening. ‘Firestarter’ was played during the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony and I thought to myself: ‘Oh my God, a billion people just heard my guitar!’. We had so many fun moments recording ‘Last Splash’ and playing around. On the song ‘Mad Lucas’, we had Carrie Bradley playing violin and scrawling on it like a cat, but as she’s a professional player, to get her to really fuck it up, we’d tickle her while holding her arms and insisting she hold the note. Famously, I had my sewing machine there ‘cause I was working on a quilt, and we hooked it up to an amp and it features on ‘S.O.S’”

Your hair-metal supergroup, The Last Hard Men (featuring Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach, The Frogs’ Jimmy Flemion and The Smashing Pumpkins’ Jimmy Chamberlin), covered Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s Out’ for the 1996 Scream movie soundtrack. But what is the name of the school in Scream?

“God! I’ve no clue! None!”

WRONG. It’s Woodsboro High School.

“That was fun to do. I knew Jimmy Flemion from The Frogs – he was my date to Dave Grohl’s first wedding. When I was having some ‘recovery time’ in Minnesota, I saw a magazine article about ‘Hair metal bands: Where are they now?’ with a picture of Sebastian Bach, and thought he seemed so dejected and lost.

I felt this empathy towards him, because I had just flamed out of being in the Breeders. I’d just gotten arrested for delivery of heroin and I was in rehab at the time. I was sober and in recovery, which was great, but I felt such sympathy for Sebastian, and reached out to him and we talked. He’d been offered a song for Scream, and suggested we do it together. He wanted to get Slash involved too, so I remember talking to him on the phone! Sebastian wanted to do that Scream song and use the money for us to do a bunch of other songs. It just so happened that Jimmy Chamberlin from The Smashing Pumpkins was also ‘spending time in Minnesota’ so he drummed for us and it was fantastic. I have no idea if Alice Cooper heard our version of ‘School’s Out’. It was pretty weird!”


What numbers did the Breeders’ 1990 debut ‘Pod’ reach in Kurt Cobain’s favourite albums lists in his journals?

“Number 1? Ten?”

WRONG. He listed it as his seventh and then, later, third favourite album.

“Well, that’s fantastic! Touring with Nirvana was amazing. My dad drove the Breeders around in a RV, and I remember one time in Florida I overslept – shock! I’d been out with Dee [Plakas], the drummer from L7, the night before and we got up to shenanigans. The RV had already left without me, so Nirvana were nice enough to let me jump on their bus to the next gig, as I’m telling them: ‘I’m such a loser! My dad’s going to be so mad at me!’ [Laughs] It’s stuff like that I remember about them. At the time, it all seemed normal, and it’s only when I look back on it that I see how special it was and think: I lived through a really cool part of music history and somehow ended up touring with the biggest band in the world.”

Which ‘new rave’ band recorded a version of the Breeders’ ‘Cannonball’ as the B-side to their 2007 single ‘Left Behind’?

“They’re gals from Brazil and they’re so sweet and we saw them at a bunch of festivals and, er, …..CSS?


“YES!! When we [the Breeders] first recorded ‘Cannonball’, we had most of the arrangement down and then Kim borrowed my brother’s harmonica microphone and plugged it into a Marshall and that’s how she got all that distortion and feedback. And that was when the song really came together for me.”

Any other covers of your tracks you’ve enjoyed?

Momma covered ‘Divine Hammer’ live. When I saw a clip of it, I thought: ‘God, they made that look easy!’. They did a really good version of it and made it look effortless.”

What is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode that the Breeders appeared in called?

“[Gasps] I know it’s about a Letterman jacket but I don’t know the name! Shit!

WRONG. You played the songs ‘Little Fury’ and ‘Son of Three (Viva)’ in a 2002 episode titled ‘Him’.

“We’d played a show in Mexico City and flew straight to LA, landed and went immediately to the studio to record that, so when I watch that now, I’m like ‘Damn, ladies!’ Everybody looks so burned. But in in a way that adds to vibe of how weird the Bronze [the club in the show] is. We were massive fans of that show – and horror in general. If anybody has a horror movie who wants us in it, let us know!”

At the Breeders-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Minehead in 2009, who did you confuse Wire for?

“I thought they were Gang of Four! I wasn’t sure if I was going to share this story because it’s so deeply embarrassing, but at least some healing can happen now! And it’s so insulting for me, this pipsqueak, to go up to fucking Wire, who are icons and go: ‘Y’all ain’t what I thought y’all were!’.”

CORRECT. Did they find it funny?

“I can’t even remember what I actually said to them to make them say: ‘You’ve got us confused with Gang of Four’, because I wasn’t naming songs so I don’t think they knew right away. By the time I realised it, I went into a blackout situation so can’t report on anything that happened afterwards!”


What is track eight on your most recent R. Ring album, ‘War Poems, We Rested’?

“This I will know! ‘Volunteer’?”

WRONG. It’s ‘Embers on a Sleepwalk’.

‘War Poems, We Rested’ included a format with a poetry collection inspired by the songs featuring contributions from artists including Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis and actor Amber Tamblyn…

“The album was all tracked, recorded and mixed by the time COVID hit, so while we were doing the artwork, we asked singer and poet Matt Hart to write liner notes. He came up with the concept of sending one track to each of his poet/artist friends and collected the responses in a cool booklet. It was interesting to see how each one incorporated the song into their poem. As R. Ring, Mike [Montgomery] and I have always tried to do strange things.

We have a friend, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who’s a vegan cookbook author who used our song ‘Salt’ for her YouTube show; then we released it as a single [called ‘Make It Vegan!’] which included a chilli recipe and hot pad that I’d crocheted. Those are the kind of releases we do.

Similarly, when skateboarder Kristian Svitak’s videos kept getting taken down from YouTube because they used Devo’s ‘Smart Patrol/Mr DNA’, we redid the song with him in the studio then released it as a CD single with plywood that we sanded down and added grip tape to one side. We like to release music with an additional conceptual artistic element.”

You mentioned your love of crochet again, and once released the book Bags That Rock: Knitting On The Road With Kelley Deal Ever knitted anything memorable for your peers?

Steve Albini’s wife Heather [Whinna] is a huge fan of Grease, so I crocheted her hand puppets of the entire cast of that movie. I did a good job with those!”


Who were the two other guests when the Breeders appeared on Late Show with David Letterman for the first time in 1993?

“Was it a swimmer named Summer something? No? I have no clue.”

WRONG. It was actor (and Jamie Lee Curtis’ dad) Tony Curtis and actor, humourist and writer Calvin Trillin.

“Now that you say that, I do remember saying ‘There’s Tony Curtis in the elevator!’ to the band as the doors were shutting. I live in Dayton Ohio so I don’t see actors rolling around, so that was pretty cool.”

‘Breeders’ is gay slang for heterosexuals. But can you guess what these other terms are? A half-point for each correctly identified. 


“Oh I know this one! We’re talking about the bear family, where you’ve got bears and cubs and an otter is a bear with no hair? Like a cub – he’s still pudgy but with no hair?”

WRONG. But so close – it’s a slim, hairy gay guy.

“Damn! I didn’t know otters were hairy!”


“Oh my God! [Laughs] Don’t know!”

WRONG. It’s having sex with somebody who looks like you.

“[Laughs] That’s great! How cute is that?! I’m learning something today.”

Kai Kai

“No idea! I should have just passed this round! [Laughs].”

WRONG. It’s when two drag queens hook up. Any plans for new Breeders music?

“We’re always doing music, and we’re going to be playing some shows for the 30th anniversary of ‘Last Splash’, and I wish we could announce the other stuff we have coming up, including songs from that time that were not released – there’s one song in particular that has a guest star that’s very exciting.”

The verdict: 2.5/10

“Considering I didn’t think I’d get any right, I feel like I’ve aced this!”[Laughs]”

R Ring’s album, ‘War Poems, We Rested’, is available now via Don Giovanni Records