Brutally Frank

Fasten your safety belts for the world's worst interview with indie-rock legend Frank Black

No one ever sets out to conduct the world's worst interview, in much the same way every 10-car pileup on the freeway was once just a bunch of guys and gals on their way to work. Certainly Frank Black should make for a fascinating read -- he's a brilliant singer-songwriter who could take that True Value circular most of us would just throw away and find a dozen compelling song ideas inside. Who wouldn't want to hear a Frank Black song called "Stud Sensor"? Or "Ratchet Socket Adapter"? Anyone for "Ball Peen Hammer No. 2"? Yes, and more, please!

So I must stress that the fault here lies not with our star. Once reputed to be a tough bastard to interview, the former Black Francis has mellowed considerably since his exodus from the Pixies nearly a decade ago.

A combination of things -- keeping company with his stellar band, the Catholics, for three solid albums; ex-bandmate/nemesis Kim Deal vanishing more thoroughly than Chandra Levy; not singing in that high-pitched Peter Lorre voice anymore -- have all factored into a more than accommodating latter-day Frank Black. For this exchange, he rivaled Job in the patience department, gamely dealing with a shorting-out cell phone and politely asking if even the lamest of questions could be repeated. Questions so trite that my brain had to separate itself from my body, almost in protest. Listening back to the recorded interview, I can remember the exact point of departure where my spirit was floating above the telephone receiver looking down and wondering, "Did he really ask Frank how much he liked his record label?"

Frank Black and the Catholics: Set to release two new albums this fall.
Frank Black and the Catholics: Set to release two new albums this fall.
The Catholics have patented a powerful, direct-to-two-track recording approach.
The Catholics have patented a powerful, direct-to-two-track recording approach.

Details

Scheduled to perform on Monday, April 15, with Mike Watt. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Nita's Hideaway in Tempe

But, if I may cite that car-wreck analogy again, lots of people really enjoy a big, twisted, smoking heap of metal. Maybe people like you, who'd love nothing more than to swerve into the embankment, spiral into the ditch and conduct your own world's worst interview.

Keep in mind that it's vitally important that you find an interview subject whose work you greatly admire, otherwise it's not such a tragedy when it all deteriorates into a steaming pile of dung.

Is it really going to make the experience of listening to Ratt albums any less pleasurable knowing that Steve Pearcy thinks you're dumber than a box of pins? Does it really ruin one's day if you and the drummer for Goldfish Don't Bounce never hit it off? Nothing could hurt as much as playing Teenager of the Year or Come On Pilgrim for the rest of your life and remembering "oh, yeah, you're the guy who asked him if he liked his record label."

STAGE ONE: DENIAL

Everything is rosy in stage one; both sides have reasonable faith the interview will go off without a disaster. Recall Don't Look Back, in which Bob Dylan tears every journalist's head off except the one from South African Radio, because he thinks a black man will have more sense than the NME.

And what happens, the South African wastes his time testing his recorder for mike impedance for the next 10 minutes! If the artist is keen to work in some plugs for a current project or tour, it'll happen in stage one. Black's in-town show, a double bill with Mike Watt at Nita's Hideaway, should sell out handily even without the world's worst interview to promote it.

But the fact that there was no new Frank Black and the Catholics album on hand to promote meant there would be little to differentiate this article from last year's interview with Black in this publication, which more than already adequately covered his last excellent CD, Dogs in the Sand, and the whole "recording-live-to-two-track" process the Catholics have kept up for three straight albums. For the benefit of Black's many fans hungry for any new tidbit of information, the following quotes were gathered during launch. The elemental questions have been excised to save time, space and to give you some practice asking them yourself before we careen into Stage Two. Here are Frank's answers:

"I think in September, I'm just guessing. I've got a couple of records coming out. One of them is a long album, it's got about 18 songs and that's called Black Letter Days. The other one's a shorter program with 12 songs and it's called Devil's Workshop. I believe they'll be released simultaneously."

In response to a question about whether this was similar to Guns n' Roses' simultaneous 1991 release of two albums: "No, it's not part one and two. It's just two records with two different lineups. One was recorded in a loft and one was just recorded in a rehearsal space."

"Some of it's kinda country, some of it's kinda funky. I dunno, you just have to hear them when the record companies send out the promos."

"Right now it's the same lineup as Dogs in the Sand except Rich Gilbert's not playing with us at the moment 'cause he's out on tour with someone else."

"On the first Frank Black and the Catholics album, there are two tape edits. And we didn't want to think anything of it. And on Pistolero we did one tape edit. And with Dogs in the Sand we tried to be totally pure, no tape edits. And that's where we remain."

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