Former Pixies frontman Black Francis returns to Henry Miller Library.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Almost exactly a year ago, with his bald head blown up and projected on a nearby movie screen that gave it the look of a distant planet, Black Francis began a generous set of music at Big Sur’s Henry Miller Library with “Los Angeles,” the multipart song that in 1993 announced the start of his solo career following the breakup of his legendary alt rock band the Pixies.
Later in the evening, Francis (real name: Charles Thompson) told the crowd about his near death experience earlier in the day while driving his Cadillac down Highway 1. Then he launched into a cover of The Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Wheels,” a number about the road and mortality. Before the night ended, Thompson spiced his set with a hearty dose of Pixies songs including “This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven,” “Velouria” and “Where Is My Mind?” The audience gobbled it all up enthusiastically.
Reached by telephone in Australia, where he was preparing to perform two sold out shows with a reunited Pixies, Thompson’s memory of the Big Sur gig has nothing to do with the music he performed there.
“I stopped at a little Mexican grocery store somewhere in the hills of L.A. to Big Sur and picked up a norteño band kind of suit,” he says. “Big shoulder pads, you know. Black and gold, you know. I never wear stuff like that onstage, but I did that night in Big Sur.”
Since the performance at Henry Miller Library, the prolific musician has finished and released a new solo CD titled Nonstoperotik. One aspect of the album that stands out compared to his other work is Thompson’s unabashedly sexual lyrics on songs like the self-explanatory “When I Go Down On You” and the title track, which features the lyrics: “I cannot hide/ All this tension/ I want to be, to be inside/ That’s my intention/ Inside of you.”
Thompson admits that the subject of sex was handled in a different manner on Nonstoperotik. “It’s not against my nature to get into the sexual in one of my songs,” he says. “I just usually don’t do it in such a direct way.”
Though some of Nonstoperotik was recorded in what the press notes call a haunted London studio, Thompson believes that the studio’s resident spirits didn’t affect any of the album’s songs. But when the musician explains the influence behind the English-pastoral-folk-sounding “Rabbits” from the new release, things get – probably unintentionally – spooky. He says he was attempting to conjure the “atmosphere” of a melody coming out of a kid’s plastic music box. “One of my kids has some sort of musical toy in their pile of toys,” he says. “It just spontaneously started to play one time.”
On this visit to Big Sur, Thompson will be joined by his frequent collaborator Eric Drew Feldman, a musician who was a member of Captain Beefheart’s band and the former keyboard player for the experimental rock group Pere Ubu. “I feel like I’ll be better prepared for the atmosphere this time,” Thompson says. “I almost felt a little overwhelmed by it. I mean it was great, but it was surprising. It was so still and quiet. The stars. It was beautiful.”