Frank Black Battles Label Over Unreleased LP

Though 4AD Records will release a retrospective Pixies collection in

October, it seems that former lead singer Frank Black has become the

Rodney Dangerfield of rock 'n' roll of late.

And like the comedian, these days, he says, he gets no respect.

Black, who recently exercised an escape clause in his contract with

the UK label Dragnet, could be on his way out of his contract with his current

U. S. label, American Recordings, according to his manager, Ken Goes. In fact,

Goes calls recent dealings with the Rick Rubin-founded label "the most

uncoordinated and ridiculous" negotiations he's ever been involved with.

"It's the classic situation," Black said, calling from his home in California.

"The A&R guy [Marc Geiger] who signed us left the label. And it seemed at first

like the new guys wanted to work with us. But I had doubts about that just based

on their performance with my last record [The Cult Of Ray]." As it turns

out, Black said the situation got so bad, he "could see them hiding in the bushes

waiting to shoot."

The problem began when Black submitted his latest recording, Frank

Black And The Catholics to Rubin in June. The album, recorded live

on a two-track within the span of three days, is, in Black's words,

"very raw."

According to Goes, Rubin refused to release the record, but

gave Black verbal permission to license the album to another label.

However, Rubin has since reneged on that agreement, Goes said.

Heidi Robinson, a publicist for Rubin and the American Recordings label,

said that "The label has no comment" on the Black situation. Marc Geiger

could not be reached for comment.

"Rick had a history of allowing artists to license certain projects,"

Black said. "So we didn't think it would be a problem. But he changed his mind.

[The agreement] was reneged in the sense that American wanted to renegotiate my

contract. Thus, my career is basically on hold."

Black's manager contends that American's tactics forced him to reevaluate his

relationship with the label.

"We were negotiating to leave the label," Goes said, "but then it

looked like they wanted to put it out. And then everything changed. At

this point, it's hard for me to speak about it, because I really don't

know what's going on.

"So we're in limbo with American Recordings," he added. "It could

eventually be released, it might not be eventually released. The

situation has changed from week to week."

Black said the new recordings met with skepticism in the UK as

well, which forced him to drop his contract with Sony Records. (Ironically, Sony

subsidiary Epic Records distributes Black's former UK label, Dragnet Records, in

England. Until recently, Dragnet owned the rights to Black's distribution

outside North America.)

"I mean, I didn't give them Metal Machine Music," joked Black,

referring to an unlistenable Lou Reed album from the '70s.

"But their argument was that they couldn't get it on the radio. I was

like, 'no shit, Sherlock, I've never been able to get on the radio in

Europe.' "

But there's no hard feelings, Black said. "It's all business. Obviously,

the suits are running everything now. I got that quote from Paul McCartney."

In the meantime, a recent radio industry workshop in Boston might prove

to be Black's saving grace. Jonathan L. Rosen, a writer for the industry

trade magazine Virtually Alternative, played a track off Frank

Black And The Catholics at the "Jukebox Jury," a blind music sampling

session. The track, titled "All My Ghosts," has manager Goes' phone ringing off

the hook, he said -- with labels such as Mammoth and The Work Group on the other

end. Black, however, won't be able to deal with these labels until a

final agreement is made with American.

Meanwhile, there's still Death To The Pixies, the

half-live, half-greatest hits compilation being released by 4AD Records in the

U. S. in October. Black said he hopes 4AD will sell a boatload of the discs,

but he doesn't want fans to misinterpret his feelings about a Pixies

reunion.

"It just doesn't interest me," he said. "I've graduated from that

particular class. It's like being asked if you want to go back to the

10th grade, and you're like, 'No, I'm in high school now.' "

Black will, however, graduate to the Internet later this year, with a

weekly radio show. Although it's still

in the planning stages, he said he hopes it will be a weekly music

hour, as opposed to him standing around playing music.

"Because I'm not an entertaining, deejay kind of guy," he said.