The Playlist: Pixies
With their unique approach to indie music in the late ’80s – combining surf rock with catchy pop melodies and elements of noise – the quartet created enduring anthems such as “Gigantic“ and “Where Is My Mind?“.
In celebration of the band’s sixth album, Head Carrier, guitarist Joey Santiago reveals five tunes that had an impact on the legendary Pixies sound. Get the new album here: pixiesmusic.com.
Jimi Hendrix - “Purple Haze“
“Jimi Hendrix was the main reason I picked up a guitar. Watching footage of his shows, it seemed like the guitar was part of his body. I love his debut album [Are You Experienced], especially this song, mainly because of the opening chord [E7#9], also known as the Hendrix Chord. It’s the secret ingredient in Pixies songs like “Tame“. The chord sounds strange; you don’t know whether it’s asking or answering a question.”
Neu! - “Super“
“Guitarist Michael Rother started this band after his split from Kraftwerk. You would expect synthesisers, but instead you get proto-punk. This song is energetic, it’s aggressive – they’re screaming throughout the song – and, most importantly, it’s simple. They use only two chords, but it’s not missing anything. Genius! I always say that if you use more than five notes in a riff, you’re not working hard enough.”
Jack Nitzsche - “The Lonely Surfer“
“I’ve never been a surfer, but listening to instrumental surf rock from the 1960s when I was young had a big impact on my guitar style. One of my favourites is this one by Jack Nitzsche, who is mainly known for his [production and arranging] work with Neil Young and The Rolling Stones. The baritone guitar and the horn section sound like a big wave coming at you – it’s majestic and beautiful.”
Them - “One Two Brown Eyes“
“What I love about this garage-rock song is the interplay between vocals and guitar. When the singer [Van Morrison] says, “Gonna cut you down to my size,” the guitar reacts with a noise that sounds like a knife cutting into something. I’ve used that semi-scoring technique in many Pixies songs, like “Dead“. The lyrics reminded me of the shower scene in Psycho, so I created a riff that sounded like the iconic string stabs.”
Canned Heat: “Poor Moon“
“This gem is almost 50 years old and it still sounds fascinating to me, especially the backing vocals. They sound strange, like Kermit The Frog talking gibberish. It’s similar to what we did on our song “River Euphrates“. Apart from that, I love the tremolo guitar – it’s one of my favourite effects. It sounds like someone’s turning the volume knob up and down, like the sound evokes an ocean wave.”