Kim Deal

Kim Deal
Kim Deal
Background information
Birth name Kimberley Ann Deal
Also known as Mrs. John Murphy
Tammy Ampersand
Born June 10, 1961 (1961-06-10) (age 50)
Dayton, Ohio
Genres Alternative rock
Occupations Musician, Songwriter
Instruments Vocals, bass guitar, guitar, drums
Years active 1986–present
Labels 4AD
Associated acts Pixies
The Amps
The Breeders
Notable instruments
Fender Stratocaster
Fender Telecaster
Gibson Les Paul Goldtop
Fender Precision Bass
Music Man Stingray
Gibson Thunderbird
Aria Cardinal Bass

Kimberley Ann Deal (born June 10, 1961) is an American singer, songwriter and musician, best known as the bassist (and backup/lead vocalist) of the alternative rock band the Pixies and the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for The Breeders. Deal first joined the Pixies in January 1986 as the band's bassist, adopting the stage name Mrs. John Murphy for the band's releases Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa. Following Doolittle and the Pixies' resulting hiatus, she formed The Breeders with Tanya Donelly and Josephine Wiggs. After the Pixies reconvened in 1990, Deal felt increasingly sidelined by the band's frontman, Black Francis; this led to the Pixies' breakup in early 1993.

Deal then returned her focus to The Breeders, who released the platinum-selling album Last Splash (1993). In 1994, the band went into hiatus after Deal's identical twin sister, Kelley, entered drug rehabilitation. During The Breeders' eight year break, Deal adopted the stage name Tammy Ampersand and formed The Amps, who recorded a single album, Pacer in 1995. She resumed her role as The Breeders' guitarist for their third album Title TK in 2002, and reunited with the Pixies in 2004. The Breeders released their fourth studio album, Mountain Battles, in 2008.[1]



Youth and college

Kim Deal was born in Dayton, Ohio.[2] Her father was a laser physicist who worked at the nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.[3] Kim and her identical twin sister Kelley were introduced to music at a young age; the two sang to a "two-track, quarter-inch, tape" when they were "four or five" years old,[4] and grew up listening to hard rock bands such as AC/DC and Led Zeppelin.[3] When Deal was 11, she learned Roger Miller's "King of the Road" on the acoustic guitar. In high school, at Wayne High School in Huber Heights, she was a cheerleader and often got into conflicts with authority.[4] "We were popular girls", Kelley explained. "We got good grades and played sports".[3]

As a teenager, Kim Deal formed a folk rock band named The Breeders with her sister. She then became a prolific songwriter, as she found it easier to write songs than cover them. Deal later commented on her songwriting output: "I got like a hundred songs when I was like 16, 17. [...] The music is pretty good, but the lyrics are just like, OH MY GOD. We were just trying to figure out how blue rhymes with you. When I was writing them, they didn't have anything to do with who I was."[5] The Deals bought microphones, an eight-track tape player, mixing boards, speakers, and amps for a bedroom studio. According to Kelley, they "had the whole thing set up by the time we were 17". They later bought a drum machine "so it would feel like we were more in a band".[6]

Following high school, Deal went to seven different colleges, including Ohio State University, but did not graduate from any of them.[3] She eventually received an associate degree in biology and took several jobs in cellular biology, including working in a hospital laboratory and a biochemical lab.[7] Deal met John Murphy, an Air Force defense contractor who had recently moved to Dayton, through her brother, Kevin; Murphy and Deal then started to date. Although Murphy was not a musician himself, he wrote the song "Hoverin'" with Deal. The couple married on Memorial Day, 1985, and moved to Murphy's hometown of Boston, Massachusetts in January 1986.


Deal became the bassist and backing vocalist for the Pixies in January 1986, after answering an advertisement in the Boston Phoenix for a bassist who was into hardcore punk band Hüsker Dü and folk music icons Peter, Paul and Mary. Deal was the only person to respond and arrived at the audition without a bass guitar; she had never played the instrument before.[8][9] She claimed her sister had a bass back in Dayton and that she had no money to get it. Frontman Charles "Black Francis" Thompson lent her $50 for the airfare and Deal returned with the bass guitar.[10] She joined Thompson and lead guitarist Joey Santiago, who had formed the band a week earlier.[11] To complete the lineup, Murphy suggested they hire David Lovering, a friend of his, as drummer; Deal had already met Lovering at her wedding reception.[12][13] For the release of the band's first recording Come On Pilgrim (1987), Deal, whose day job was as a receptionist at a doctor's office, adopted the stage name "Mrs. John Murphy", following Thompson's decision to name himself "Black Francis". She chose the name as an ironic feminist joke, after conversing with a lady who wished to be called by her husband's name.[14]

For Surfer Rosa (1988), Deal sang lead vocals on the album's only single "Gigantic" (About this sound sample ), which she co-wrote with Thompson. Doolittle followed a year later, with Deal contributing the song "Silver" and appearing on slide guitar. By this time, however, tensions began to develop between her and Thompson, with bickering and standoffs between the two marring the album's recording sessions. This led to increased stress between the band members.[15] Murphy commented that during the sessions, it "went from just all fun to work" for the Pixies.[16] Exhaustion, from releasing three records in two years and constant touring, contributed to the friction, particularly between Thompson and Deal. During a post-Doolittle tour, Thompson threw a guitar at Deal and she was almost fired from the band. Santiago, in an interview to Mojo, later explained:

Kim was headstrong and wanted to include her own songs, to explore her own world. The way I think Charles saw it, the band made pizzas, not cookies. Before we made Bossanova, we were even going to fire her, after a gig in Frankfurt, where we found her hanging out in her hotel room, with no intention of playing. [...] In the end, Kim realised it was Charles's bag, that he was the singer, but they kinda stopped talking after that.

Deal was also late to a number of shows, which annoyed the band and Thompson in particular.[17] The tension and exhaustion culminated at the end of the US "Fuck or Fight" tour, where they were too tired to attend the end-of-tour party. The band soon announced a hiatus.[18]

The Breeders and Pod

During a 1988 post-Surfer Rosa tour of Europe with Throwing Muses as part of the Pixies, Deal began to write new material. As both bands did not have plans for the short term, Deal discussed possible side-projects with Throwing Muses guitarist Tanya Donelly. After rejecting the idea of creating a dance album together, the pair decided to form a new band.[19] Deal named the band The Breeders, after the folk band she formed with Kelley as a teenager, and they recruited Carrie Bradley, violinist and vocalist in Ed's Redeeming Qualities, to record a short demo tape.[20]

The Breeders' demo was sent to 4AD head Ivo Watts-Russell, who immediately signed them to the label. The Breeders allowed Deal to become more active in songwriting, and their debut album, Pod (1990), containing mostly Deal-written songs, was recorded in Edinburgh, Scotland by Steve Albini. Pod, and especially Deal's contribution, was praised by contemporaries; Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain later named the album one of his favourites and remarked: "I wish Kim was allowed to write more songs for the Pixies".[21]

Bossanova and Trompe le Monde

The Pixies reconvened in July 1990, with Francis, Santiago and Lovering moving to Los Angeles, California without Deal. After returning from Edinburgh after recording Pod, Deal came close to being fired from the band; she flew to Los Angeles to meet the other members face-to-face, but the rest of the Pixies felt unable to tell her.[22] The recording of the band's next album, Bossanova (1990), went ahead; however, Thompson wrote all of the album's original songs, with Deal feeling excluded from the process.[23] A week before the recording of Trompe le Monde (1991), the band's final studio album, Thompson fired Deal from the Pixies. After some persuasion, Deal was allowed to return. The recording sessions were fractious, as the band were hardly ever together during the process.[24]

With Bossanova and Trompe le Monde, Deal's contribution to the band's creative output became less and less. Even the band's producer, Gil Norton, noticed this, and later said: "There was one song, 'Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons', that I thought was perfect for her to sing. [...] Francis changed his mind and he didn't want her to sing it. [...] He was still annoyed with her so he wouldn't let her sing".[25] She rarely sang on the band's songs during this time; a vocal contribution to "I've Been Waiting for You" (sample ), being one of her few. However, Deal did sing on Trompe le Monde, on songs such as "Alec Eiffel", but did not write any material for the album.[26]

Last Splash and The Breeders

A year after the Pixies breakup, Deal's identical twin sister Kelley joined The Breeders on lead guitar and the band released its second album, Last Splash, to critical acclaim and considerable commercial success. The record went platinum within a year of its release.

At the height of The Breeders' popularity in the mid-1990s, they scored a number of MTV hits, including "Cannonball", "Divine Hammer," and "Saints". The band also released the vinyl-only "Head to Toe" 10" EP during the summer of 1994, when they appeared on the main stage of Lollapalooza. Although the band went into stasis in 1994 when Kelley Deal entered rehab for heroin addiction, they never officially split up, and in 2002 released Title TK (TK is a copy-editing expression standing for "to come" and is often used when editing drafts to indicate missing information).

The Amps and other projects

During this eight-year hiatus, Kim Deal kept busy by forming, recording, and touring with The Amps.

After a few gigs where Deal went by the moniker Tammy Ampersand, The Amps released their single LP, Pacer. The record had an enthusiastic reception from reviewers, but was commercially unsuccessful.

She also produced music for other groups, most notably fellow Dayton band Guided by Voices (one of the songs on Pacer, "I am Decided," was written by the band's lead singer, Robert Pollard).

Deal contributed her voice to the Sonic Youth single, "Little Trouble Girl", from their 1995 album Washing Machine, and to the intro for The For Carnation's "Tales." She also contributed backing vocals to the song "Sunset Strip" on Courtney Love's solo album America's Sweetheart.

Pixies reunion and beyond

In 2004, Kim Deal returned to a newly-reunited Pixies and toured North America with them. One notable performance included a live taping for the public television program Austin City Limits in October 2004. The Pixies also played the Coachella Festival in Indio, California in 2004 and headlined Lollapalooza in 2005 at Chicago's Grant Park. The Pixies also toured the UK to massive acclaim including a headline appearance at the Reading and Leeds Festivals.

They recorded a new song, "Bam Thwok", which was written solely by Deal. This marked a conciliatory gesture on the part of Thompson (now going by Frank Black), who frequently would deny Deal the opportunity to write in the early Pixies days.

In 2003 Deal moved from East LA to her Dayton, Ohio hometown to care for her mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The Breeders released their fourth full-length studio album, Mountain Battles, in early April 2008.

Kim and The Breeders released their third EP, Fate to Fatal, in April 2009.


Bass guitars

Kim Deal generally plays four-string solid-body bass guitars and always uses a pick,[27] particularly the "green Dunlops with the little turtle on them",[28] although since the Pixies' reunion she has also been using custom green Dunlops with "KIM" written on them. She prefers having old strings on a bass.[28]

  • Aria Pro II Cardinal Series — The Pixies' first bass belonged to Kelley,[28] and is heard on Come On Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa and seen on the Town & Country live video. It later reappeared in the Kelley Deal 6000.
  • 1962 Fender Precision Reissue[27] — Acquired for use on Doolittle on Gil Norton's insistence.[28] It appears in the video for "Here Comes Your Man". On the Bossanova album, the Precision was used on "Dig for Fire" for its "lazier, growlier sound" that was "not as boingy-boingy-sproingy".[27]
  • Music Man Stingray — Added in time for Bossanova "because it was active and had a different sound" and became her main live bass "because it was a little less country-sounding than the Fender".[28] The instrument was afterwards played by Josephine Wiggs in The Breeders and Luis Lerma in The Amps.
  • Steinberger headless (but full-bodied, two-cutaway) bass — Bought during the recording of Trompe Le Monde because the other basses were out of tune on the higher frets. Deal described it as having a "weird, organ-y sound".[28]
  • Gibson Thunderbird — more recently, her favorite bass that she did not use on the Pixies reunion, feeling she had to "sound like the records".[28] It is seen played upside-down (left-handed) by Mando Lopez in The Breeders.


When playing acoustic guitars for rhythm, Kim Deal prefers distorting their sound through Marshall amps, particularly liking the resulting low end.[29] She also pointed out that it almost doesn't depend on the acoustic guitar used.[30]

  • Seagull acoustic[31]
  • 1958 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Reissue — Also played by Joey Santiago up through Surfer Rosa (before he acquired his own) and then by Kelley Deal in The Breeders.[30]
  • Fender Stratocaster[31] — The particular model Deal plays is a 1991 Strat Ultra. Kelley Deal also has the same model, which she received as a Christmas present from her sister in 1991.[29]
  • Fender Telecaster has occasionally been played by Kim in The Breeders' live performances since at least the Last Splash era. She was also shown using the guitar on the tourbus in the Pixies' documentary film loudQUIETloud (2006).
  • Gibson hollowbody — Borrowed for use on Last Splash.[30]


  • Peavey 300 Combo, 1x15" speaker[32]
  • Trace Elliot bass head[32] — Deal said of the amp: "It's the new series and I don't know what the number is or if there even is a number on there."[33]
  • Trace Elliot 1048H bass cabinet, 4x10" speakers[32]
  • SWR heads[27]
  • Marshall JCM 900 head[30][31]
  • Marshall cabinets
  • Gallien-Krueger cabinet, 4x10" speakers[27]
  • "Joe's Light" cabinet, 1x18" speaker — Of this and the Gallien-Krueger she commented: "I hate my cabinets."[27]
  • Sears Tremolo amp with the word 'Marshall' pasted on it.[31]


  • dbx 160X Compressor — "I use a compressor live, but only because sound guys seem to like it when I have one onstage, even if it's on bypass."[27]
  • Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion pedals — Used by both Kim and Kelley.[29]


Kim Deal uses the All Wave philosophy of recording. To record All Wave one must use no computers, no digital recording, no auto-tuning, or any other mainstays of contemporary production. The philosophy carries through the entire production and mastering process, including mixing, editing, sequencing, post-production and the exceptional step of an all-analog direct-metal master for the vinyl LP. This process was used on The Breeders' Title TK, the Off You EP, and Mountain Battles.

Deal commissioned the All Wave logo in an effort to identify recordings that follow this method of recording, and possibly start a movement.[34]


Musical tributes

Dandy Warhols' released a tribute song, "Cool As Kim Deal", on their 1997 album …The Dandy Warhols Come Down.

Japanese rock group The Pillows released a tribute song, "Kim Deal", on 1999's Happy Bivouac. The line "Here Comes Your Man" appears at the end of their song "Backseat Dog", and immediately precedes "Kim Deal" in the track listing.

Boston band Francine released a tribute song, "Pop Warner", on their 2000 album Forty on a Fall Day. It references some of her work with the Amps. French indie rocker Julie Peel covered Deal's "Divine Hammer" for a split single released by indie label American Laundromat Records in December 2006. The label also released an entire Kim Deal Tribute in April 2008.

Jim DeRogatis' book Staring At Sound states that The Flaming Lips song "Kim's Watermelon Gun" is a "song that paints an impressionistic portrait of [...] Kim Deal", whom band member Steven Drozd befriended when they met at Lollapalooza.

Television appearances and videos

She also contributed to Ultra Vivid Scene's "Special One" single (1990). In the video for that song she cheerfully knocks Ultra Vivid Scene's singer Kurt Ralske off a bar stool (near the end of the video, she slaps his face). She also appeared in the BBC's Seven Ages of Rock documentary series and talked about the style of The Pixies' music, and its influence on other musicians.


  • Frank, Josh; Ganz, Caryn. (2005). Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies. Virgin Books. ISBN 0-312-34007-9.
  • Sisario, Ben. (2006). Doolittle. Continuum, 33⅓ series. ISBN 0-8264-1774-4.


  1. ^ Pitchfork Media interview
  2. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 4
  3. ^ a b c d Glickman, Simon. "The Breeders biography". 
  4. ^ a b Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 5
  5. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 6
  6. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 8
  7. ^ "The two Kims – Kim Gordon; Kim Deal interview". November 1995. Retrieved 2007-12-02. [dead link]
  8. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 15
  9. ^ Sisario, 2006. p. 14
  10. ^ Biel, Jean-Michel; Gourraud, Christophe. "A Pixies History". Alec Eiffel. Retrieved 2006-08-29. 
  11. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 13
  12. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 18
  13. ^ Sisario, 2006. pp. 8–9
  14. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 56-7
  15. ^ Sisario, 2006. p. 53
  16. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 115
  17. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 133
  18. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Pixies > Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2006-09-10. 
  19. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 105
  20. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 106
  21. ^ Melody Maker, "Kurt Cobain of Nirvana Talks About the Records That Changed His Life". August 29, 1992.
  22. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 135
  23. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 138
  24. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 149
  25. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 151
  26. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 152
  27. ^ a b c d e f g Guitar Player, April 1991
  28. ^ a b c d e f g Leigh, Bill, "The Pixies' Kim Deal Turns A Modest Approach Into A Big, Big Sound", Bass Player, November 2004
  29. ^ a b c Guitar Player, November 1993
  30. ^ a b c d Guitar World, January 1994
  31. ^ a b c d Musician Magazine, September 1993
  32. ^ a b c guitargeek: kim deal of the pixies Retrieved on 2008-04-08.
  33. ^ Musician magazine, December 1990
  34. ^ "The Breeders". Retrieved 2010-05-15. 

External links

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