Interview with Kim Deal (1997)

“Some bands get to a point where they write for the studio and then they tour after their record comes out as a way of promoting their product. But that’s backwards from the way it should be, if you think about it. I mean, a regular local band gets some songs together, and if they get enough money after they’ve been playing ’em out for a while, then they go into the studio. Why should that ever change?”

The speaker is Kim Deal, singer-guitarist-songwriter for the Breeders; Deal’s band will be playing Saratoga Winners tonight (Thursday) without a new album to pimp. “That’s the way I’ve always liked to do it,” Deal continues during a recent phone interview, words flying out in an engaging, raspy-voiced, stream-of-intelligence blur. “I can test stuff out that way and say ‘Ooooo . . . that lyric line, that’s stupid, I feel stupid saying that in front of all these people, I’m not gonna sing that anymore’ or ‘Ooooo . . . I don’t like anything about this song, I’m never playing it again anywhere’ or whatever. I don’t think about taking stuff on the road first from the standpoint of making an album a stronger product, either, because that would mean all I was doing was making sure I could sell more of them. It’s just about writing songs and playing them and figuring out which one I really like so I can play ’em some more.”

Deal is rediscovering just how much she likes playing her Breeders back catalog as the band’s current tour is their first since they wrapped up the 1994 edition of Lollapalooza. “We needed some time out at that point because we’d done like a year touring,” Deal recalls. “[Bassist] Josephine [Wiggs] was resting in New York and then [guitarist] Kelley [Deal, Kim’s twin sister] got busted for drugs and went into rehab and all that. So we kept waiting and waiting — me an’ [drummer] Jim [MacPherson] did — for the girls to get back so we could go play.

“Then Jim and I got a band called the Amps together with some guys from Dayton, Luis Lerma and Nathan Farley, and we’re still waiting and waiting and waiting. A year passes, we release an Amps record, tour, go out with Sonic Youth and the Foo Fighters, go to Australia, waiting, waiting, waiting. Finally Josephine calls up and says she doesn’t want to do the Breeders any more. Then Kelley says she wants to do her own stuff too. And that was cool . . . but did they have to wait two fucking years to decide? Couldn’t they have just said they wanted out after we did Lollapalooza?” Deal laughs. “But in any event, it was nice when we finally got an answer, ’cause we hadn’t been doing any Breeders songs when we were out as the Amps . . . and the Amps stuff we had was very limited. So it’s nice to be able to play everything again, and we’re playing a mix of all the stuff I like best, from [the Breeders’ 1990 debut album] Pod up through the Amps.”

The current Breeders line-up features all four Amps supplemented by Pod-era guitarist-violinist Carrie Bradley, begging the question as to whether a band without Wiggs and Kelley Deal truly merits the Breeders moniker. “I know some people might think that I’m just using the Breeders’ name for my own gain and hurting Kelley and Josephine that way, like I fired ’em or something” Deal concedes. “But as far as I’m concerned, the real careerist move would have been skipping the Amps thing completely, just replacing Josephine and Kelley right away and getting on with it. So starting the Amps was out of respect, not to say ‘fuck you’ to the girls.

“And I just can’t understand the whole forced staying-together thing anyway, when you’ve got people that don’t even live in the same city any more, that don’t even like each other any more, but they won’t do anything with the band or with the band’s name because it would cut into their sales. Now to me, that’s disingenuous, a real careerist move. To me, that’s not real. So I can’t see us getting shit about doing what’s real for us and not faking that we’re some corporate structure where nothing can change because we’re all so desperate for money. Kelley and Josephine decided they wanted to do other things. That’s great for them. And now there’s no reason for me and Jim to not be Breeders again.”

Deal proudly notes that Kelley has successfully completed the court-mandated rehabilitation that followed her 1994 heroin bust, has been sober for the better part of two years and has returned to her musical pursuits with a vengeance. Despite the fact that the sisters are no longer band-mates, Kim Deal makes no bones about Kelley’s continued importance in her life. “If something ever goes wrong with Kelley again, then everything stops until we fix it,” she states, matter-of-factly. “I mean, there won’t be any fucking around with the band at that point. My sister’s much more important than that.”

That admirable display of filial devotion aside, Kim also makes no bones about how she feels when people confuse her with her twin. “I hate that!” she spits. “I get pegged for a lot of shit that Kelley does. I did not do a record with Kris Kristofferson. I did not record with Sebastian Bach. I am the one who sang with Sonic Youth. I also produced Brainiac and Guided By Voices. I’m even the girl who was in the Pixies. You can’t believe how bad it can get some times: I mean, we did a show in Santa Clara with the current line-up and they wrote it up in the papers but they used an old picture of Jim and Kelley! That shit really gets on my nerves. The first time somebody asked me about doing a duet with Kris Kristofferson, I was like ‘Oh my God! Auuuggghhh! Owwwww!'” Deal descends into a fit of indecipherable distress noises, before tapering to silence. “Whatever. Just remember, if there’s a Deal on a tribute album, it’s gonna be Kelley!”

Instead of working on tribute records, Kim Deal plans to take her band-mates into the studio later this year to record the follow-on to the Breeders’ critically acclaimed 1993 album, Last Splash, which sold platinum on the strength of and buzz created by the Breeders’ Lollapalooza dates. Deal relishes the opportunity to play studio whiz on a full-scale Breeders production again after taking a lo-fi buzz-and-howl approach to the recording of the Amps’ Pacer. “Last Splash was very anal, and I was very anal in how I produced it,” Deal confesses. “I wanted the production to sound like the hand of God just came down and flicked a bunch of the buttons. It was very headphone oriented. I mean, all of the sudden in the middle of a song, the vocals would go like [Deal makes a sound akin to a light saber cutting through a bleating sheep]. I wanted it to sound very manipulated like that, chimes, tapes, loops, whatever. I think the new record will be headphone oriented like that too.”

Does Deal worry about having to match or exceed Last Splash‘s success? “What’s the point of worrying about doing that?” Deal wonders. “Money? Radio play? Fame? I’m not motivated by that stuff. I mean, listen to the radio these days, to these stations that claim they’re on the cutting edge: they play a No Doubt song and a Live song, then go into a Bush song and a Nine Inch Nails song and then they repeat the loop. No Doubt into Live into Bush into Nine Inch Nails and what the hell, let’s add Veruca Salt this week. I’m supposed to try to do something to get a record into that? No thank you!”

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