It's a new Deal for Kelley

June 06, 1996|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

In a lot of ways, Kelley Deal owes her new album, "Go to the Sugar Altar," to her family. Specifically, she owes it to the fact that they intervened in her life and forced her into a drug rehab program.

At the time, she was pretty well-known in alterna-rock circles for having joined twin sister (and former Pixies bassist) Kim Deal in the Breeders. Thanks to the single "Cannonball" and a slot on the Lollapalooza tour, the band's 1993 album "Last Splash" was an early alterna-rock crossover hit, lifting the Breeders out of the underground and into the mainstream. For a moment, it looked as if the quartet was headed straight for the big time.

Then, in November of 1994, Kelley was arrested in Dayton, Ohio, after accepting an air freight package containing four grams of heroin. A plea bargain promising treatment for chemical dependency staved off jail time, but it wasn't until her family forced her into the Hazelden clinic that Deal was actually able to kick drugs.

Although she resented their intrusion at the time, Deal now realizes how lucky she was. "In this 12-step program I'm in, they talk about there being three places people end up, other than sober," she says, over the phone from her parents' home in Dayton. "That's institutionalized, incarcerated or dead. And from what I can tell, it seems true."

But Deal was doubly lucky, because she didn't just end up sober. She also came out of rehab a songwriter.

Why hadn't she tried her hand at writing before? "I think I had been dependent before on the fact that Kim wrote the songs, and it just never even occurred to me to write them," she says. "Or if I would sit down, nothing would just jump out.

"So it was just a matter of having the time and not being around somebody who was doing it already, and also being sober enough to focus on a train of thought. I think it was those three things together that pushed me along the way."

Deal wasn't about to squander that momentum, either. Immediately after getting out of rehab, she and guitarist Jesse Roff (whom she met at Hazelden) went into the studio and began work on the tracks that would become "Go to the Sugar Altar." At that point, Deal's band -- which soon included drummer Nick Hook and bassist Marty Nedich, with guitarist Steve Salett eventually replacing Roff -- was calling itself Solid State, but when it turned out that a New York band already had claimed the name, the quartet became the Kelley Deal 6000.

Deal released "Go to the Sugar Altar" on her own label (it can be ordered through her Web site at http: //www.kelleydeal.com) and is happy to be in control of her own commercial destiny. But there are still those who wonder if she has a future with the Breeders.

Not to worry, she says. "At the time, I didn't really have a choice," she says, referring to when she first got out of rehab. "I was not invited, and the Breeders were definitely on hiatus. I don't think Kim even wanted to think about touring with me, because I don't think she thought I could stay sober. Or would stay sober. She just didn't know. And she needed to get her own life going, so that's why she's touring with [her new band] the Amps.

"So it's all tied together. The reason I'm able to even do my own band is because I'm sober, and Kim would only want me if I'm sober. What I'd like is to do both of them. And right now, I can do both of them. I am invited back in the Breeders, which is great. So we'll see what happens."

Pub Date: 6/06/96

Kelley girl

When: Monday, 8 p.m.

Where: Fletcher's, 701 S. Bond St.

Tickets: $7

Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets, (410) 276-9777 for information

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