Blown to hell, crash: they're the Last Splash
The Breeders are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their breakthrough album – Last Splash, the album that contained the mighty ‘Cannonball’ – but the thing that makes this tour particularly special is that we’re getting the line-up that made the album. Mainstays Kim and Kelley Deal are there as usual, but the rock-solid rhythm section features drummer Jim Macpherson and bassist Josephine Wiggs.
The Breeders were originally a vague idea for a side project by then-Pixies bassist Kim and Throwing Muses’ guitarist Tanya Donnelley. Wiggs met Kim when her band, the Perfect Disaster, supported the Pixies in London, and she was the first person Kim thought of recruiting when work began on 1990’s magnificent Pod (famously cited by Kurt Cobain as his favourite album of all time).
The following year’s Safari EP was the first Breeders release to feature Kim’s twin sister Kelley – and the last to feature Donnelley, who left to concentrate on the briefly successful Belly. By this time the Pixies had split, so Kim recruited Macpherson as the Breeders’ first full-time drummer and the new-look four piece started work on their game-changing second album.
Last Splash became a massive worldwide success (and got the band a berth on the Big Day Out tour in 1994) and the future looked bright. However, when Kelley was busted for heroin possession and sent into rehab in 1995, things fell over.
“It did a little bit, yeah,” Wiggs sighs. “We were going to take time off anyway because we’d been touring more or less continuously for two and a half years, and Jim had two small children so everybody agreed that we should have some time off. And then in the meantime there was the whole business of Kelley getting arrested – and Kim just carried on making music, because that’s what she likes to do. So it did just shatter into pieces.”
All of the members did other things: Kim recruited Macpherson for the Amps, Wiggs formed Kostars with members of Luscious Jackson, and the newly-clean Kelley formed the Kelley Deal 6000. By the time Kim, however, was keen to use the Breeders name again, eventually recruiting Kelley back – but with Wiggs in country duo Dusty Trails and Macpherson having joined Guided by Voices, it was a largely new line-up that made 2001’s Title TK. Was Wiggs ever given the option to return?
“I do remember getting a phone call from Kim saying that she was thinking of doing stuff as the Breeders and did I want to do it,” Wiggs says, choosing her words carefully. “And at that time all the signs – as I’m sure you’ve read about, ad infinitum, about what was going on [Kim’s increasingly heavy drug use] – led me to say no, I didn’t want to do it.”
Kim quietly went to rehab herself in 2002, so it was a clean and sober pair of Deals that made Mountain Battles in 2008 before Kim reunited with the rest of the Pixies for several enormously successful world tours. Again, it seemed like the Breeders might have fallen permanently by the wayside – and then came the announcement of the Last Splash 20th anniversary tour.
“We’d not really been in contact until about 2005, when it was the 25th anniversary of 4AD Records and they were putting on a series of events in London,” Wiggs explains. “And a bunch of bands who’d be signed to 4AD were going to perform, and [the Deals] got in touch with me and said they were doing two shows and was I interested in playing those shows.
“It wasn’t all of us: it was Kim and Kelley and the drummer from their then-current line up [Jose Mendeles], but it was really fun: fun to rehearse with them, fun to play with them, and fun to play those songs – which, of course, I never imagined I’d ever play again. And we had such a great time, and it was so nice to see them sober, that I think it put in the back of our mind the seed of the idea that we could play together again sometime.”
The 20th anniversary of Last Splash provided the impetus, and Macpherson jumped at the opportunity to regroup. So how did it feel with all four members playing together for the first time since… what, ’95?
“Ninety-four,” she corrects me. “It was surprisingly like riding a bicycle. Even after the first rehearsal we all looked at each other and Kelley said ‘oh my god, it sounds just like the record.’ And of course Jim showed up note-perfect: he was like turning on a machine. He didn’t make a single mistake.”
And with everyone getting along so well, and enjoying playing those songs so much, and rediscovering that rare and precious chemistry… well, you know…
“Well, you do start to think ‘well, maybe we should think about doing a new record’. It would be a different thing from revisiting this record, where we’re focussing on playing well and having a nice time. A new record is a different animal.”
Though now that Kim’s quit Pixies, she has less commitments on her hands these days…
“Well, yes. So there’s time,” Wiggs says with a smile in her voice. “We shall see.”
The Breeders play at Release the Bats, Westgate Entertainment Centre. Sat Oct 26, noon-12am. $150.