Q&A: Kim Deal On Her Solo 7″ Series, Making New Breeders Music, And Her Lifelong Obsession With Gear
It is not possible to overstate the importance of Kim Deal. As a member of the Pixies and a founding member of the Breeders, she has made some of the most deeply compelling — not to mention some of the most compellingly influential — music of the past three decades. Though she is not currently playing in the Pixies (a subject that she is very happy not to talk about), she is no less busy than she has ever been. The Breeders recently wrapped up a lengthy tour in celebration of the 20th anniversary their seminal 1993 album, Last Splash. The tour proved to be such a success (and apparently such a good time) that the band — featuring the Last Splash-era lineup of Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs, and Jim Macpherson — are currently working on music together for an all-new Breeders record. In addition, Kim continues to release music in her ongoing 7″ solo series. The fourth installment in that series — two songs recorded with LA musician Morgan Nagler (“The Root” and “Range On Castle”) — was released on April 1. Much like the other singles in the series, Deal’s latest release is a decidedly lo-fi and somewhat scrappy affair — a kind of playful, somewhat insouciant version of what Deal does so well on her full-length endeavors. Still, it would be wrong to think of her singles as somehow less serious or mindfully conceived. Taken as a whole, the eight songs Deal has released so far via the singles represent some of her most sublime and most Kim Deal-iest music to date, not to mention some of the loveliest. After speaking to Deal about her work, it’s easy to see why so many legions of music fans remain obsessed with her. She has an almost workmanlike devotion to music-making and clearly doesn’t give too much of a fuck about the rest of the music business. While so many of her contemporaries have burned out, retired, or simply given in to the easy lure of becoming a nostalgia act, Kim Deal — one of rock music’s most fantastically individual talents — just becomes more and more herself.
STEREOGUM: How are you?
KIM DEAL: I’m good. It’s Dayton, Ohio. But it’s got sun today and little buds on the trees, dammit.
STEREOGUM: Finally. This has been the longest winter ever. I know you guys were traveling so much for the past year or so. Is it good to be home for a while?
DEAL: It is. You know, Josephine lives in Brooklyn with her girlfriend. She just got in a car and drove all the way out here to Dayton. She’s here now. We’re doing some recording in the basement. Me, Kelley, Josephine, and Jim.
STEREOGUM: I actually saw three of the Last Splash shows, which were so much fun. Were you surprised by the reaction? The fans at the shows I attended were VERY enthusiastic.
DEAL: Yes. The people were very, very happy. They were singing along. It was like, “God, you know the lyrics to every single song? Every single lyric?” It was weird. It was really great.
STEREOGUM: It must be cool to basically spend a year touring for that and having this very in-your-face reminder that this thing you’ve made has continued to have this incredible life out in the world.
DEAL: Yeah, it’s really nice.
STEREOGUM: I’ve been listening to your solo singles as you’ve been releasing them. It’s funny because I’ve been listening to these songs from the 7″ singles on my computer and putting them in one playlist, as if they were an album.
DEAL: Do you have a sequence?
STEREOGUM: I think it’s just the order in which they were released. It actually kinda makes sense, listening to them as a record. I understand the appeal of doing one-off singles and the pleasures of that, but it made me wonder if you were ever tempted to just put out a Kim Deal solo record.
DEAL: No, not really, mainly because I’ve always loved bands. Living in Dayton, Ohio when I grew up, there was a lot of Jim Messina or Jim Croce — singer/songwriter stuff. There were a lot of people around town then trying to do that kind of thing. Wait, how old are you?
STEREOGUM: Almost 40.
DEAL: Okay so you wouldn’t necessarily know what I’m talking about, but I’m sure you do. Where did you grow up?
STEREOGUM: I grew up in a tiny farm town in Oklahoma, which is its own type of weirdness. A place like Dayton would be a metropolis compared to the town I grew up in.
DEAL: [laughs] Oh my god, ok. So anyway, all I wanted to do was be in bands. That’s all I wanted to do. I was so bummed out because rock bands do not want girls in their band at all. There were just no girls in the bands in Dayton, Ohio. Even Pollard from GBV would say “no bleeders.” And he’s acting like he’s joking but everyone knows he’s not joking. “No bleeders in the band.” So I always just wanted to be in bands and no one around here would play. So I wasn’t really drawn to doing solo stuff. It just always seemed like it wasn’t the cool thing to do. I wanted to be in a band. It never really occurred to me [to go solo]. And then … well, the industry changed and the band lineup of the Breeders that did Title TK and Mountain Battles and Fate To Fatal — the longest lineup for Breeders there’s ever been, with Jose and Mondo — they eventually had families. Jose moved to Portland and has a beautiful drum shop called Revival. It’s really nice. I walk in and I want, like, five of the sets immediately. Mondo, the bass player, lives in East L.A. still. That’s where I lived when I was playing with them. But he has a kid and Jose has a kid. And now the industry doesn’t pay enough for a small band like the Breeders. It was expensive getting us together to work. They need a day job. They have sons.
STEREOGUM: That makes sense.
DEAL: So I always had a studio, even when I was a teenager living at home. I had a Tascam 38 8-track. I would make my own cords and solder them. I’d buy a spool of cable and make my own cords. I had all these patches that I created and it got ridiculously complicated. I still kind of do that all the time. Right now I’ve got a 338 quarter inch thing, you know they look like a big four-track Tascam? They break all the time. It’s consumer grade, man. It always breaks. It never really works. I ended up getting that and it’s driving the Tascam 16-track half inch, so I’m really liking that. I’m using the 338 as a pre-amp for recording onto the 16-track … wait, what was my point in talking about gear? All I want to do is talk about gear. I’ve got the sweetest microphones here at my house and I can talk about them all day. But anyway, my point is that I’ve always done this. The first 7″ single kinda happened when I went to Australia. I was on a tour and just stayed late and got into a studio in Melbourne. It was the first time I went into the studio and thought that this was something for Kim Deal. I just didn’t know what it was.
STEREOGUM: I know for a lot of artists the whole rigmarole involved when making a record with a label and then waiting around for it to be released and doing all the promotion stuff … it can be really tedious. It must be nice to make something at your own pace and then just immediately put it out.
DEAL: It’s true. Mountain Battles was the last thing I did on a label. Then Breeders did something in 2009 … we did an EP and I pressed that and put it out on my own, which was called Fate To Fatal. That was the first thing that I had done like that. I really enjoyed it. I’m such a dork. I liked the manufacturing, getting the mothers mastered and cut, and then getting into line at the pressing plant.
STEREOGUM: For Fate To Fatal didn’t you guys make, like, a million screenprints for the sleeves?
DEAL: Yeah! We hand screened them with Chris Glass, with Wire and Twine in Cincinnati. He did the artwork. It looks killer.
STEREOGUM: I love that part of the process. I’m not a musician but I’ve helped many of my friends assemble 7″ singles or print T-shirts. Something about it appeals to me. Maybe it’s the OCD part of it.
DEAL: Probably, yeah. You know, I had these ideas for songs. Some of them I had recorded. It was back in, I think, 2011 and I was going to go to Portland and then Los Angeles. I was going to get players and record some stuff. I thought, “I’m going to go where the players are!” because there are none of them in Dayton, at least not too many. I go and hit Jose; he’s up in Portland. And Manny Nieto, who came up there and recorded me. I had also gone to Jackpot and recorded with M. Ward. Jose had introduced me to M. Ward. He was nice. And then I went down to LA … and that was the end of summer in 2011. Some of the songs I really liked and I ended up recording one of them at Five Star, which is a 24-track studio. But for some of them I liked the demo version where the drums were done on a 4-track. It didn’t make sense to try and force them all together. How would I possibly have different players on each song? Totally different players, totally different recordings and different instrumentation and different fidelity quality? It didn’t make sense. Recently somebody told me that Mike Watt did something like that — where it was all different like that and that was sort of the theme. If I were smart maybe I would’ve done that — just presented an album’s worth of tracks that were all done differently and recorded differently and with differing sound qualities. But I didn’t think of that. I thought that it’s not going to be a good listening experience, mostly because of the different recording qualities. I wasn’t giving people the benefit of the doubt. I guess people listen to all sorts of things now.