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The Brian Jonestown Massacre formed in San Francisco in 1988 and in the years since, have birthed a new era of psych rock bands across the globe. The band will release, Revelation, their fourteenth LP in May. Our friend Ryan Muldoon at Revolt of the Apes has compiled a list of 10 questions for Anton Newcombe in anticipation of their APF 2014 performance.
What is your earliest musical memory, or perhaps, the first time you can remember being personally moved by music in a way that had a long-term impact on you and your life? Do you believe that you were destined to live a musical life? If not making music with the Brian Jonestown Massacre, have you ever considered what the focus of your life would then be?
My mom use to play music around the house and my baby sitter would as well. My older sister even loved and had great taste in music. Various family member would send gifts of money for holidays and birthdays and by the time i was 2 and a half i had my own mickey mouse record player in my room, i take it because it was un-nerving for a toddler to be using my mom’s stereo. I was born in 1967 and she was in her early 20s so she had an awesome collection of some great records of that era including the great middle period of the beatles. I took most of the good stuff to my room and would play simon and garfunkle until i slept. My actual love of music grew from that kind of stuff, and buying albums with my mom, to stealing my older sisters albums as punk and new wave came about.
I had no idea i could actually play music in a band or anything until i was a teenager with my friends. I really felt like the punk people were idiots and that was empowering to me, i mean when you watch someone like paul mcartney play something perfect on tv or jimmy page or whatever, there’s nothing they do or did that shows you as a child you can ever do it, because you can’t they’re uniqueâ€¦but the garage and folk thing is something else. Music by the people for the people and i was inspired and built on that i think.
What album do you think you’ve listened to more than any other? What are the qualities of this album that resulted in you listening to it so frequently? How has your perception of this album evolved over the years, if at all?
I find questions like this hard to answer. I could tell you that i figured out that side two of simon and garfunckle’s sounds of silence was dark and wonderful and i still think so but there are so many albums i make sure i always have a copy and even buy for other peopleâ€¦like PIL SECOND EDITION /metal box that record is a wonderful synthesis of dub/disco/experimental that transcends the bass, guitar, synth, drums, vocals used to make it but i could name a hundred records as easy as i could just one.
Would you say you’re the type of person who is likely to feel an immediate connection with the music that appeals to you, or are you just as likely to have music â€œgrow on you,â€ for lack of a better term? Can you think of an album or artist who you may have heard for years, but didn’t appreciate until fairly recently? Why do you think that is?
I know instantly what it is that i like or don’t like about music, it’s a set of golden rules i hear in the harmonic nature of it and it’s overall soulâ€¦in any styleâ€¦but i remember hearing psycho candy by jesus and marychain the first time and going “what the fuck is this” and walking awayâ€¦i walked out of the room and down to my room then turned around and said “wait a minute,start that over again and let me listen”. So, i think some of this develops over time, or at least it did with me.
Does the act of being involved in the recording, engineering and producing of so many albums â€“ despite the high quality of those albums, or perhaps, in light of the high quality of those albums â€“ ever threaten to hamper your ability to listen to music as a pure act of pleasure? Are you able to disconnect your mind from thoughts of how the recording could be improved, how you might have altered the sound, etc.?
I try and submerge myself in whatever i am doing, wether its listening to music or making music so they are not related. I also isolate myself from much of whats going on in the world with other people and i like it that way. I mean, i even went so far as to move to berlin, a city in a country where i don’t speak the language or have many friends and just do my work and think about my thoughts and my art etc.
What led you to select the name â€œRevelationâ€ for the upcoming Brian Jonestown Massacre album? What is the significance of that name with regard to the songs on the album? Does the name have a personal significance as well?
On various albums or recording sessions when i have found myself confronted with not knowing what i should do to make up new ideas, sometimes you can get in a head trip, you know? You wonder if that’s all there is inside you or something and your not working on music, your working on stressing out and mental problems about having to make a record or paying for a studio or whatever. Well, it can be easy to party or get fucked up, to let loose, to trip out, to go someplace you’ve never ever been before bio-chemically and report it all back to the squaresâ€¦but here’s the thingâ€¦i can’t do that anymoreâ€¦you’re listening to or reading the words of a cat that has no more lives. I’ve had my opiate phase and i used booze to stumble away from that and my head is no longer able to handle psychedelics, and you know what? I’ve done enough to have learned everything i need to know about viewing things from the other-sideâ€¦so here i amâ€¦when i go into my studio everyday, every time it’s only me. I’ve used up the songs i can remember that maybe didn’t get used but were good ideas for later. I’ve dusted off everything long ago and moved on. Its just me and my workâ€¦so i sit there and i start from nothing and i keep trying until it comes again, like an old sailor waiting for the wind to fill his sailâ€¦i wait. I know it, that’s just the way it works. All of this is my revelation
Your duet with Asia Argento, â€œNo Le Sacre Du Printemp,â€ was absolutely one of the finest musical moments we had the good fortune to hear over the past year. How did this collaboration come about? If you could wave a magic wand and make it happen, who would you most like to sing duet with?
Thank you. She’s a great woman, so smart and alive. She’s the kind of person i wish that i grew up with as a teenager, an old soul sister, you know? I heard a remix of a tim burgess song she worked on and i just flat out asked her via twitter if she wanted to record some tracks in berlin with me and she said yes. We did some very strange songs, very darkâ€¦then right as she was about to leave we did that and she worked super fast. It’s so funny, because i didn’t know her film work at all, but my wife was like, “oohh i like her”.
I’ve been remixing people here and there and i try and talk people now and then into recording with me when they are in berlin. As far as collaborations, i’m open minded. I would like to find some scandinavian hippie girl in the future and make a neo acid folk album, something really beautiful with strings and all and just send her out on tour on her own. Create a project or something.
While many artists seem content to use Twitter as little more than a promotional channel, you’ve managed to use it as a channel for authentic communication and collaboration. Any thought on why Twitter has turned into such a productive channel for you? Similarly, you’re one of the very, very few artists who seem to have no qualms whatsoever about letting your fans in on the creative process as a whole. What has been most surprising for you about the ability to spread your music and ideas in ways that simply weren’t invented in the earliest days of the Brian Jonestown Masscare?
It gets weird at times seeing the people that only use twitter and social networking as a way to push things. It’s like, listen to this, check out this, buy thisâ€¦it gets overwhelming when you are following a few of these accounts because you are bombarded. I like the informal, where you can share things and interact with whoever every now and then. It’s like, we’re headed on tour for 45 daysâ€¦it gives me something to do everyday, make a little advert or flyer and post it. I may write or record a song or two every month with some other artist and i can share that stuff and people can listen through their smartphone to a rough mix and be aware of it. Its not like i’m selling it or asking them anything. My whole reason for doing this is because its there. Nobody knows what the true power of it is and what it means to a group like mine because we are unique and really our own thing and this is all new to everyone. What i do know is that many of the people that i deal with in these many countries speaking all of these languages happen to write for publications and work in the industry, its a good way to get the buzz out and stay connected and once again, because i am interested in so many thing there’s something for them when they follow my feed as i am just sharing all kinds of stuff, even other unrelated bands and events just for the hell of it.
Do you have any particularly fond memories of your time at Austin Psych Fest in 2012? Are there any bands playing this year that you’ve not yet seen play live, but hope to do so while in Texas?
For me the best part of the whole festival is getting to spend some time with the black angels and other people and bands and i’m sorry the fans may not get as much of that close up contact but its good to be in the same place for a few days haha.
As far as the 2014 festival, it looks like a real cracker and a little bit overwhelming to me as i am an old man and i want to be fresh for our set. I have loved the zombies since i was a baby haha. To tell you the truth i’m a little worried that there is too much for me to do.
Jack Kerouac â€“ who we heard once played tabla with the BJM â€“ said the following:
â€œI want to work in revelations, not just spin silly tales for money. I want to fish as deep down as possible into my own subconscious in the belief that once that far down, everyone will understand because they are the same that far down.â€
I think that is beautifulâ€¦it’s so easy to dismiss his wanderlust and the beat generation but it had it’s moments of greatness. I mean that is more inspirational than anything i ever read out of the mouth of henry ford.
What’s next for the Brian Jonestown Massacre?
After austin psychfest we head to europe for 47 showsâ€¦then i work on my first full on soundtrack for a movie called “moon dogs”, it’s set in the far north of scotland and from what i have seen of the shots this is going to be fucking beautifulâ€¦but hard to understand. 🙂
Catch BJM at APF 2014 May 2 – 4. Tickets and camping passes are available for purchase HERE.