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In his own words, Frank Black looks back at the transient spell that inspired him to form Pixies

When I was in college, I was really restless. I wanted to get out of my hometown and just travel, everywhere and anywhere. One day while I was at school, someone walked into my Spanish class and said, “Anyone that would like to go to Puerto Rico for an exchange programme, sign up here.” It was like joining the army or something. I said, “I’m gonna do it!” I didn’t know anything about Puerto Rico, but I decided to live in San Juan for six months.

I liked it there. It’s kind of a crazy place – a place where I learned about salsa music, a place that totally expanded my musical mind. But I didn’t speak Spanish well enough to be taking the classes I was taking, so I was just failing. All I did was go to the beach and go to the movies, or hang out with my Puerto Rican friends at the café. I was enjoying it but I wasn’t really doing anything other than hanging out.

It caused me to ask myself what I was doing with my life. So I decided I was going to travel around the world. I asked my dad to give me some money to buy a plane ticket where you always keep going in the same direction. It was a cheap ticket, you can basically go around the world for $500. I planned to go to New Zealand, because Halley’s Comet was passing by. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s kind of romantic or whatever, I’ll go do that.’

Before leaving, I was hanging out with a friend and we sat down like you would with a therapist. I just started talking out loud. I said, “You know what I’ve always wanted to do, actually? I just want to be in a band. That’s all I really care about.” So I wrote Joey [Santiago] a letter and said, “Meet me in Boston and we’ll start a band.” He wrote back saying, “I’ll see you there.” And that was it, that’s how this whole thing started.

Beneath the Eyrie is out now via BMG. Revisit our 20 Questions feature with Pixies’ Paz Lenchantin.