In 2004, legendary alternative rock group Pixies returned to the stage after an 11-year hiatus and played four sold-out shows at the Brixton Academy in London. With what would be one of the most anticipated returns in rock, the group delighted a venue packed with passionate and dedicated fans as they played through their rich discography.
Now, recordings from their unforgettable return will be available for the first time in a new box set, ‘Pixies: Live In Brixton‘, will release on February 25th, 2022. Each box consisting of eight-disc will also feature a 24-page booklet featuring photographs and new artwork, along with memories and paraphernalia from fans that attended the shows.
I spoke with Joey Santiago, and David Lovering about the upcoming box set, the bands return, and they share some of their fondest memories about playing at this iconic venue.
Hey guys, happy to speak with you!
I wanted to talk with you guys about the Live in Brixton box set that you have coming out, which is packed with content and is a celebration of this wave of shows which marked what is perhaps a new chapter for the band. Along with this being your return after 11 years, what else would you say makes the Brixton shows worthy of being immortalized in such detail compared to some of your other shows?
David: I think Brixton is a special place for us, and London. I’m sure Joe would agree; it’s like a second home. Just the comfortableness of that and everything was huge. Being there at that venue to do four nights was crazy. And to believe we sold out and did that. So that’s what really blew us away, and just being in London and stuff like that. It was a thrill.
Joey: For us, it is just one of those special venues that we play around the world; Brixton is just way up there, if not number one. It has a special vibe. When we reunited, it was inevitable that we were going to go play Brixton. That’s one of the things I had going on subconsciously in my mind; it was like, okay, what are we going to go play Brixton?
To be able to sell out four nights at Brixton, not many bands can say that. That’s a testament to your fans around the world. What emotions were you going through after getting back together and then finally getting back on stage in front of those fans?
Joey: You know, this will sound anti-climatic, but going in a way, it’s just like playing any other show. Well, until we arrive because just the drive over there is epic. We passed Battersea Power Station where Pink Floyd flew the pig over, just this ominous building, so that always gets me. It’s just like, oh man; this is going to be a rock show, isn’t it?
And then going into the venue, I don’t know if I feel this overwhelming emotion, but when going down the steps, yes. Because I am in this sort of trance until walking down those steps, and then the lights go out, and the crowd goes berserk. It’s like no other crowd. That’s when I would say the nerves happen. It’s like, oh man, we are here, we are back. And it never got old on all the nights that we played. It was always the same.
David: Yeah, I would agree with Joe. I mean, this is just what we do for a living. It’s the same emotion-wise from one venue to another. The same with these shows, but it’s just the aura of wow, four nights. But, again, at that time, it was a trip for all of us. It was just like a beginning. We didn’t know what was happening. You get a perspective on it, but not as much because you’re in it, but still, we were there for nights, and it doesn’t quite hit you until you’re finally out there. That’s when the emotions come, and it’s like, wow, this is pretty cool!
Did you feel any kind of pressure of trying to do something different each night or something unique for each show?
David: No, I don’t think so and not sound rudey, but we had such a huge catalog, and even now, we have a bigger catalog than we did in 2004. We have a lot to pull from, and we could just mix up the set. And you know, play some of the traditional classics that we always play. But it was nothing like trying to outdo ourselves every other night. It was just doing what we do and what we knew how to do to the best that we can. There may have been some nights that were better than others, but it was never planned. It is just the way things happened. All the shows were equal, and that’s how we played as we could.
“Once you’ve heard the Pixies, you want to be in a band just like them.”– David Bowie
At times raw and edgy, at times nostalgic and almost contemplative, there is a wide range of emotions on every night’s setlist, and with your albums in general – Was it difficult to come up with the “right” set of songs, and the order to play on each night after 11 years off the road?
Joey: One of the rules of the setlist, is for when we are going to be using acoustic guitars. That way, we’re not switching a lot because this is a technical thing. And when am I going to be switching guitars. That’s one rule. The other rule is emotions. That’s the first and the foremost rule. Sometimes we will start out slow, and sometimes we will just hit them fast. We do have to vary it, and the variation will come from the fact that it is just a live show. It’s such a rare night that we all feel like we inherently nailed it. And it’s a special feeling for us when we do; we go oh fuck, we nailed it!
If you are some guy that was into forensics and analyzed everything and note for note, you’ll just realize that it’s all completely different. It’s not robotics. But there are some bands out there that certainly play like robots. That’s fine and dandy but we’re not one of those bands. But as far as the setlist is concerned, one time we did it alphabetically, and then the second night we did it Z to A. It’s random.
David: We’re just having fun. What’s interesting, Brooke, is this is when we wrote setlist. Now we’ve just developed our thing because, after all of all these years of playing, we don’t have a setlist anymore. We haven’t had a setlist in I don’t know how many years. Our sound guy, the front of the house and the lighting guy all aid us because they have no idea what’s going to happen.
We have the first song, and then from there, we have it like, well these songs go together, and then we might do this, and we might do that. But it’s kinda seamless now, and the shows are never going to be the same because we’re just winging them every night. And I’m not saying it’s half-assed or anything like that. We developed it really well. We cover what we should cover, when and where we should, we do this and that, and that, and it’s all just from the experience of doing it. We’re very conscientious of saving paper when we make our setlist now.
Oh man, but people love those setlists, though!
David: I know, I know! And they’re always up on those setlist websites. Even though we don’t print them, there’s always something printed. We don’t give them away anymore now. If anything, we now leave pics and drumsticks on the stage.
Everyone loves it. I’m a concert photographer, and I know everyone wants something from the stage.
Joey: Well, we did make one setlist. I made one for Coachella. Remember that Dave?
Joey: It was a surprise to everyone, and the techs duct-taped the list, and the first song was “Jab! To The Jaw. followed by ‘Kick in the Crotch”.
David: Yeah, I remember that.
The new boxset seems like a massive undertaking, and what would you say made these shows so iconic because each album has been such as success, and all the material is so beloved by the fans because it does seem like the Brixton shows had such an iconic set.
David: Exactly. And the iconic thing of it is the iconic venue and the city of London itself, and our ties to it. We know that city very well, and it has this energy. People are very friendly in London. They’re very English. Until we go out there, and then they go completely nuts’o, and I’m like, this isn’t very English of them. It’s a surprise to us.
Joey: And of course, at that time, it was our management; you gotta give them credit because it was a big thing, and it had to be documented. It was all recorded, and you had to do it because it was the right time. That’s what became of it, and that’s what it was.
One of those Memories that people talk about is about you breaking your guitar, Joey. What might seem like an inconvenience turned out to be something you made the best of. Can you tell us more about what happened?
Joey: Yeah, I broke the guitar by accident, it fell off the stand, and the neck snapped, and the thing just kept feed-backing. I felt like I was lip-synching, and then from there, I just made a real guitar solo out of it. Because I would put it on the stand and play a stick to it, and at that point, I was like, I don’t even have to touch the damn thing. So it would be a true guitar solo in the sense that the guitar was just there. It was just kind of like the guitar was wailing by itself. But that was fun for the audience, and it took me out of the spotlight. (laughing)
Do either of you have any other particular anecdotes or personal memories that make the Brixton’s shows stand out to you?
Joey: Yeah, it wasn’t until after the show that someone in the back had told me that the balcony was bouncing at the end of the show. I thought that was incredibly cool and dangerous.
David: I do have a funny story that I just remembered. one of the nights Chris Martin from Coldplay was there in the bathroom, and I was like hey! Do you Remember me? And he was like, no. and I said to him, I was the magician at your record release party in Los Angeles. (Laughing) I’m not kidding.
Joey: Oh, and there was also one little nook backstage, and all these British musicians were there. Chris Martin was there, and I think the dude from Bush.
Joey: Yeah, Gavin was there for sure, and I actually met him; he’s a nice guy. And he actually lives around the corner from me now. And then there was Blur, like you name them, they were there. I went in there, and I was like; oh! I don’t belong in here. And I booked it and went back to our dressing room.
But you do realize that all those bands you just named have all cited The Pixies as a major influence on their own music?
Joey: Well, there you go, right? That’s the way The Pixies feel in a nutshell. We feel like we don’t belong, and we still don’t understand it. For me, anyway. It just feels like I will never ever belong in a club. It won’t happen.
I graduated in 99, and I grew up on alternative rock. And the Pixies made it ok for us. You were the ones that thought outside the box, did not fit in with the cool kids, and made it okay to be different. And by not being the cool kids, and doing this differently, you ended up being the cool kids.
Joey: I’m glad because alternative to me is like a bunch of disenfranchised kids. They just like wailing along in the wind, asking where they belong. So when we were first starting out, do you remember Dave when we were driving, and we would be like, where the hell’s the venue? And then we started seeing kids walking around, and we looked at them, and we were like, that looks like our fan. Then we would just go, oh, they’re walking that way, so the venue must be that way.
David: Again, this was back in 1986 where there were no mobile phones. All we had was a map of the US while driving around in a van we were renting going up and down the East Coast. There was this innate knowledge where we could figure out and see and know where we were going. And we landed, I’m guessing Joe, we landed about 95% batting average going to the right place off the freeway, and it was amazing.
Joey: Yeah, it’s nice to see those kids that we could relate to. I relate more to the kids than we do to the people backstage.
Yeah, and that’s what is so great. You’ve just become this iconic band. And even when you came to Detroit a few years ago, shortly before Covid happened, I remember not even wanting to photograph the show but just wanted to focus on the music and watch. Everyone is happy and having a good time at a Pixie show. It was an amazing experience.
But I want to thank you for speaking with me today, and do you have anything else to add or say about the upcoming box set?
David: Hopefully, the fans can hear our appreciation, though I don’t know if appreciation is the right word.
Joey: Our excitement. Because there’s something else you can hear in music besides just listening. You can tell we’re excited, and you can just be like, oh man, there really into it. Hopefully, that’s what they hear.
David: I agree. You know, when we came back in 2004 we learned something new. And that was an appreciation. After not playing for 11 years, and you know I love playing drums and getting the opportunity again.
Not that I didn’t appreciate it in the beginning, but you really learn to appreciate it when given the opportunity again. You really have to think about that and the opportunity to do something you love. It just comes forth in the shows when doing that. But I think that’s definitely a period of when that realization hit and is still with me today.
Joey: Well, Dave, you know how the old adage goes. You can’t truly miss anything until it’s gone.
Well, thanks again, guys, and we are looking forward to the boxset and can’t wait for you to go back on tour.
David: Thank you!
Joey: See you in the pit!
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