1995 - On the Road With Frank Black

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On the Road With Frank Black

This last fall, as many of you are aware, we did the first big swing through the States supporting "John Henry." I also had the distinct pleasure of touring with my friend, Mr. Frank Black. Frank has a very different attitude than most musicians about touring. He really likes the parts most people hate. He loves the physical act of driving, and is always willing to explore what's out there on the road, even if it means blowing off sound check. He always drives his own car instead of being on a tour bus, or in a van with bandmates. Consequently, when you tag along in his car you're in his world, and leave the touring party and all its obligations very far behind. Frank and his significant other, Jean, have traveled extensively across the states on Pixies and Frank Black tours and have acquired an impressive knowledge of most cities' cultural oddities and culinary treats. They travel with a radar detector and a CB, and are always down for stopping in the all-night truck stop to pick up some budget cassettes of some unknown singer. Frank never got out the police radio on this tour, but I've seen him use it in LA.

I first ran into Frank back when he was working under the name Black Francis in the Pixies in the late '80s, around '87 I guess. They Might Be Giants were on one of our first tours after the release of the first Bar/None album. We were doing a show with them in a bar in Boston called Green St. Station. I remember their sound check and Frank singing in Spanish, and the excitement the Pixies were feeling as they had just been signed by 4AD in England. I regret I didn't get to see the Pixies show that night. What I did see walking in was the third act on the bill�one of the more disturbing pieces of performance art I've ever witnessed�right before I saw my parents in the audience.

Later They Might Be Giants did a press tour in the UK where I got to spend a few days hanging out with Frank at the Columbia Hotel. The Columbia is one of those places that actually lives up to its reputation as a "Rock Hotel." The bar is open very late, which is unusual for London, and it is often populated by a cast of characters directly reflecting that week's NME cover. Frank and I commiserated over the odd set of concerns one has doing interviews all day, and exchanged phone numbers.

Over the years we made a point of checking in with the other in New York or LA, or if our tours crossed paths. We finally had the chance to work together when he asked me to direct the videos for "Los Angeles" and "Hang On to Your Ego" off the first Frank Black album in the beginning of �93. Our bassist, Tony Maimone, came off of our tour and joined his, and John and I ended up performing "Spy" on stage at the Academy in New York with the Frank Black band. A very rough version of the song got recorded with them for a live radio broadcast at Electric Lady.


  • This letter is from early 1995.