Pixies’ Joey Santiago on playing with Pearl Jam, new music and Ian Brown’s conspiracy theories

The guitarist talks to NME about hopes for Hyde Park, the impact of COVID, new album plans, and the Presidential race

Some of us dream of skipping out into the brave new dawn of the post-vaccine world and immediately joining in the nationwide street rave. Others envision the European trip of their dreams, or throwing themselves into the biggest global right-swipe bonanza the world has ever seen.

Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago, on the other hand, just wants to let his inner Iommi run free once more. “I wanna do some heavy metal riffing whenever I can just to express my freedom!” he says, and his first opportunity might well be the rescheduled BST Hyde Park show they were due to play this July supporting Pearl Jam, now set to occur on July 9, 2021 (a second Pearl Jam gig on July 10 will feature IDLES in support). To band and fan alike, such an announcement marks the first speck of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel made entirely of banana bread.

“It’s a big deal that bands are planning on going out because it gives people hope,” Joey tells NME. “It gives people the psychological thing for the future, that it is going to be OK and they’re preparing to be amongst a crowd, because everyone’s kinda scared now.”


Pixies, 2019

In the meantime, Pixies are set to release a limited-edition double A-side single drawn from their sessions for 2019’s ‘Beneath The Eyrie’, featuring a cover of T Rex‘s ‘Mambo Sun’ and a new track called ‘Hear Me Out’ featuring bassist and co-writer Paz Lenchantin on lead vocals. There’s an eighth album in the pipeline too, so we caught up with Joey to talk new music, lockdown karma, Trump’s bunker, aristocrat-only gigs and Ian Brown’s conspiracy theories…

Hello Joey. How are you dealing with the pandemic?

“I’m getting antsy and cranky. I cycle and I play a bit of golf – I know that’s like a four-letter-word now with that fucking President, he’s made a bad name for it but a lot of people play in my group, and I’m a full-time dad. I’m toeing the line and dealing with it fine, I guess. I’m starting to miss a lot of things actually. Beforehand I was fine with it, like ‘this is cool, it’s like me being on a tour and I don’t wanna do one thing’. Now, [I’m missing] the museums, the botanical gardens, all that stuff. I haven’t talked to [the other Pixies] for a long time, but they seem to be dealing with it fine.”

Has there been any Pixies activity during lockdown?

“We’ve completely taken the time off. It’s a little bit [of a relief] but we tour so much, we’ve been touring quite often over the years and this break is – I wouldn’t say quite depressing but it’s time to go, get out on the road. My kids are demanding too much of me. I need to go, like, a thousand miles away from them and get some relief.”

Are you optimistic about touring returning to normal next year?

“At the moment it will depend on the vaccine. This is a concern of mine. Once everyone gets vaccinated it’ll be a good thing, but it seems like the anti-vaxxers out there should have an ID. Everyone should have a little thing on their ID card if they got vaccinated and the ones that don’t, hey we could let you in but you’ll have to go into this little room where you can spread your disease around.”

Let’s talk about Hyde Park. Have you played with Pearl Jam before?


“No, but we have done Eddie Vedder’s festival in San Diego, which was great – a great location, great guy. Just a normal dude. I know that’s weird to say, everyone’s normal, but he’s a normal dude. Very casual. I say that because I’ve met some assholes amongst the trailers.”

Pixies’ Joey Santiago and Black Francis

Will you be playing a lot of shows in 2021?

“Yeah, we will. According to our manager he said he’s got about 75 per cent of our tours in line, so we’ll see about that. We plan on touring our planned six weeks that we were supposed to go out this summer. Am I optimistic about it? I’m expecting the worst, hoping for the best. That’s the best that I can do.”

Have you considered doing any online gigs?

“I would be up for that. There was this one band that my daughter saw play at a theatre and they filmed it and a bunch of their friends paid up and watched it. We should do that, but Charles lives across the country and I don’t know how I’d react if there was some guy who just refuses to wear his frigging mask.”

Is ‘Hear Me Out’ further evidence of bassist Paz Lenchantin becoming more of a key songwriter in the band?

“Yeah, she’s integrated well. She’s got the talent and she’s got the tact too, she did it very, very naturally, going to do some songwriting. There’s a lot of good trust there.”

Did the pandemic scupper your album recording plans?

“We started to in New Zealand and then the outbreak started happening and we had to leave. We did do the whole planned five days in the studio in Auckland, so we have those, we have some good stuff there, the beginnings.”

What does the new material sound like?

“It’s so raw right now. My playing sucks, it’s really embarrassing, I can’t even listen to it. It’s atrocious. Other than that everyone’s pretty damn good. Everyone’s got to change their stuff in the end anyway, y’know? The beats aren’t there yet, I’m sure Paz isn’t happy with it but she’s not embarrassed about it like I am. I’m the only one embarrassed about it at the moment.”

Have you got any predictions for the US election?

“I think someone’s gonna be hiding out in a bunker refusing to leave. It’ll be apropos because we have found someone in a bunker before, way back when, the last war, and it’s probably gonna happen again. Once again, I’m hoping for the best. The last debate showed everybody how ridiculous that guy is. I played this game with my girlfriend, I said ‘I’m gonna watch the last half in the mindset that I’m voting for Trump’. I became that guy, I pretended I was driving a fucking big truck with oversized wheels that never goes off the road, it just means I’m angry, I’m gonna ramp right over people, that kind of mentality. I gotta say man, he did it, he catered to his audience. Big bully.”

Are you concerned Trump might try to thwart the result?

“He’ll do it unless he wins! If he wins he’s gonna say it was fair! Oh yeah, it’s only fair if he wins. That’s the dangerous thing about this, he’s not gonna argue if he wins, are you kidding me? He’ll argue if he loses, and that’s a problem. He’s setting up something very dangerous. He didn’t even say anything about the white supremacists [during the debate]. I think Biden should just say this right now: ‘I am not gonna do the second debate unless he publicly denounces the white supremacists’, and put it on Trump. Put it on him if he’s gonna actually denounce that, something that we fought World War II about, come on.”

What do you make of Ian Brown and Van Morrison’s ideas that the pandemic is a ruse to control us and get chips in our arms?

“That the virus is some kind of conspiracy? What the fuck! I’ve heard about it but I didn’t know that Van Morrison and Ian Brown would jump onboard with this. A chip in the arm? I have no idea but instead of carrying cellphones, which is a chip that you’re putting in your pocket, they put it in your arm? I wonder if he has a cellphone or a flip-phone because man, I got news for you – that is a chip.”

Pixies play Hyde Park with Pearl Jam on Friday July 9. Tickets are on sale from 10am on Saturday October 10 here. New double A-side ‘Hear Me Out/Mambo Sun’ is out October 16. 

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