Pixies frontman Black Francis - a.k.a. Frank Black - doesn't explore the depths of consciousness quietly: His songs writhe and scream their way out of a sludgy soup of sex, death and other primordial desires, making you wonder if he was raised by wolves or banshees or acid-dropping psychoanalysts.
The star's actual upbringing involved more Bible camp and folk music than psychic mayhem until the work of Iggy Pop, the Cars and David Lynch transformed him from college kid into id-rock luminary. Last week I spoke with Francis about his early encounters with music and the avant-garde, as well as Grand Duchy, a new collaboration with his wife, Violet Clark.
Did you and Violet start Grand Duchy with a certain sound in mind, or has it been more of an organic, let's-see-what-happens sort of project?
My agenda is just to make music. I'll have 10 ideas cooking for a while, then pull the trigger on one of them. It's not like, "Behold, I will be working with Blabiddy Blah-Blah on a project entitled X!" I'm way too disorganized for that.
What do you think you might be doing now if you weren't a musician?
I'd like to imagine I might be some kind of writer. I'd rather not think I'd be a real estate agent or something like that. That's where I was starting as a teenager - the idea of being a writer - but ultimately the music won out.
Are you a big reader, then?
I'm not a big reader: I'm a sham. There you go. [Laughs.]
I thought you might say you'd be a filmmaker in another life, given your appreciation for David Lynch. What was your first encounter with his work?
When I was at U-Mass, Eraserhead was the film on the midnight-movie circuit. I also remember seeing a short film called The Grandmother, which was being shown in film classes around 1984.
How does Lynch's work shape what you're doing now?
I think there are lots of defining things that influence you very early on - a particular film, a particular style - and they sort of become your blueprint. I think his stylings are just part of my blueprint, this kind of creepy, surreal mixture of the beautiful with the disturbing.
What's one of your newer influences, musically speaking?
Mick Jones, who used to be in the Clash, has a recording outfit called Carbon/Silicon, a garage-rock-with-samples sort of thing. I think I've taken a few cues from them lately.