Thursday 7 November 2013

Face to Face Interview with Brant Bjork

So here I am on a dark damp wet night in Newcastle entering a bands tour bus to interview one of my all time musical heroes.

I walk past Mike Dean, yes folks Mike Dean from Corrosion of Conformity telling me where I can meet and carry out the interview with – Brant Bjork.

A musical legend telling me where to go and meet another musical legend. Either very surreal or the stuff of dreams coming to life right in front of my very eyes.

We all know who Brant Bjork is. Drummer of Kyuss and Vista Chino. Ex-Drummer of Fu Manchu, Producer, Solo Recording Artist and Desert Rock/Stoner Rock Legend.

And there is me. Steve. Co-Head Honcho of Sludgelord. What the hell am I doing here with Brant Bjork right before the Vista Chino show in Newcastle Upon Tyne at Newcastle Academy 2. The very last show of the UK Tour.

Oh yeah – I am here with my brother to interview Brant Bjork on music, life and everything in between. So this is what happened when I interviewed Brant Bjork.

Q1 – Hi Brant. Thanks for doing this. How has the tour been?

Brant – No problem. Tour has been great man. Been in the UK for little over a week now and the UK has been great to us. UK is always great. I always love coming to the UK to perform.

There always seems to be a more genuine appreciation for Rock Music here in general. Even with my other tours such as the solo tours I always schedule multiple dates as it's always awesome to play live here.

Q2 – Peace has been out for a couple of months now. Been greatly received from fans and critics alike. Have you been happy with the responses so far?

Brant – Yeah it's always nice when people appreciate what you do. It can be a little frustrating if they don't like it. But as an artist you know I have been doing this long enough that it's part of making your work public. I don't create music with the hopes that people will like it. If I like it then that's the most important thing.

So people embrace it then that's cool and people who don't then that's fine too. With this particular record at this moment in time, I'm very content. I knew going in what the record is and how it is in nature. It will appeal to some and not others.

Q3 – The Stoner Rock crowd is loving it and it's great you came back with such a strong album especially after the legal troubles you guys went through with Kyuss Lives?

Brant – It is cool the Stoner Rock crowd are digging it. Yeah it was quite a process and it's something I have never experienced before, which was very tough indeed. Strange experience when your passionate about creating stuff and you have this super negative thing that you have to address simultaneously..

It can really test your spirits. I am really proud of us pulling through this and what we have managed to create. It was a learning experience.

Q4 – Did you think 20 years ago when you left Kyuss that you would be in another band with John?

Brant – No. I didn't. Going back to the days of origins there is no irony that John, myself and Nick put the band back together as we were always on the same page. You literally couldn't have 4 different people in Kyuss. None of us are similar. But spiritually, philosophically and mentally – John, Nick and myself were always close enough to always get along.

But saying that I never thought I would be in another band with John and Nick. John called me up in 2010 – he didn't call me up to start a new band. He said lets put the band back together. We waited for years, hoping, assuming and seeing people becoming more and more familiar of the band and music we created.

The odds were getting less and less as the years went by. And that's what makes Bruno Fevery so amazing. We never guessed we would find someone like Bruno. So much time had passed. It's cool a musician from another generation would be able to learn and influence that style of music and be able to step in.

Q5 – You hit the jackpot with Bruno joining Kyuss Lives as the guitar work on Peace is amazing through out?

Brant – Bruno is the key figure. John called me up in 2010 and said lets get Kyuss back together. I told him I wasn't expecting this. But I had been slugging it out for over 10 years with other records and I needed a break. Wouldn't mind getting back with the band format.

For me Kyuss was something fully not realised. Lot of work to be done. John suggested Bruno and I seen him do the Garcia Plays Kyuss Tour. I said lets jam and see what happens. From the very first jam that day we decided to make new music. We didn't decide to make a new album 6 months to a year as Kyuss Lives. It was done within the first 6 minutes of that jamming session.

Q6 – How did you get Mike Dean involved as he is from a different musical background to Kyuss Lives and Vista Chino?

Brant – Yeah. I guess it does look a strange choice looking in. For me – Chris Cockrell – original bassist from Sons Of Kyuss – who I was best friends with when I started the band. Our favourite band that time was Corrosion Of Conformity and our favourite bass player was Mike Dean.

Nick was a huge Mike Dean fan. And the whole reason I love Scott Reeder growing up is because he was the Desert Rock scene version of Mike Dean.

Nick came back to the band and the lawsuit shook everyone up. The dust settled and we recorded the record. We were a unit again and everything was looking good. A week before we were leaving for Australia as this was the last ever Kyuss Lives tour. Nick got into some personal troubles again and he wasn't able to go.

At this point between Nick and Scott I was thinking I may as well shoot for the moon and I decided to call Mike Dean. Been friends with him for years. I called him up and he was on a plane within 48 hours. I knew spiritually it was the right decision and that it would be awesome. And it was and still is awesome. There is no drama and our schedules were the same and we committed to this tour.

We will go home for the holidays and see what happens.

Q7 – On Peace you worked more with John than you did on Kyuss. How did that go?

Brant – Yeah. Well my writing partner in Kyuss was Josh. So that's what made the music roll with Kyuss. Plus it was a big part why I was frustrated and left because Josh didn't want to do that any more.

So I knew coming back in 2010 I knew I would have to develop a writing partnership process with Bruno because at that point Nick had already left. John isn't an instrumentalist. He writes lyrics and comes up with melodies. He dabbles with the guitar but he doesn't play. I didn't want to write everything myself. What's the point!!!

Part of my love in the beginning was bouncing ideas off Josh. That was the nature of our relationship. We didn't even hang out or anything. Bruno and I hung out and he came to the desert and by then we were already developing a writing chemistry. We did this by jamming on the tour bus from Kyuss Lives. Fleshing out ideas and bouncing ideas over time at my home studio.

Q8 – You have had an epic career. Drummer, band member, solo artist and producer. Which part of your career has been your favourite?

Brant – It's hard to say. Whatever I am doing at the time is my favourite. There are elements of my solo career are really rewarding and I love playing drums being in a totally organic rock band. This is the sort of band that I thrive on.

There are probably a lot of other things that I haven't done yet that I will no doubt enjoy.

Q9 – You have just finished producing Black Pussy's début album Great band.

Brant – Yeah. I have. I don't know if Dustin has officially mixing the record. The last I spoke to him he was just finishing it up. It's a monster record.

Once they get over to Europe, they are going to turn some heads.

Q10 – Kyuss and yourself included are considered as major influences on the Stoner Rock Scene/ Are you happy with that legacy?

Brant – I hear about it more than I experience it. Every now and a while I see a band and I can detect a slight influence. To be honest it's kind of rare as I don't really go out much. (Everyone laughs).

It's flattering to hear you influenced people to play music. We originally played music because of other people. We were inspired by other bands ourselves. It's always nice to contribute to the inspiration of others. But it's not what fuels me.

It's funny because I don't know where Stoner Rock begins and ends. People might say Kyuss were pioneering this thing but I always think of the bands before us. Saint Vitus for example. They were way before us and they were clearly doing something different.

For whatever reason, Kyuss were doing a thing at a certain time that got people curious. Like a romantic mythological relationship and I understand as we came from a trippy place. Really where we came from and what we doing in late 1980's is probably 10 times gnarlier that people actually think it is.

That's what's crazy about it. We didn't know any different. We had nobody in the desert back then. The one thing that bonded us all together was all the bands were very different and all the people were freaks doing their own thing. We all thought we were on another planet and no one knew we were there and none of us were going nowhere.

Q11 – It seems Stoner Rock scene is growing and younger fans are starting to appreciate bands such as Kyuss, Clutch, Monster Magnet, Fu Manchu and Karma To Burn?

Brant – That's the thing I have noticed with the Stoner Rock scene. The scene that I grew up was Punk Rock and majorly influenced by. Stoner Rock was this underground movement as well. A lot of people thought Punk Rock would go away. I am sure the Punk Rockers in 1979 said – This is dead. Forget it and we will never see it again.

You might not think Blink 182 and Green Day is punk rock. In their minds they are punk rock. The kids minds they are punk rock. Millions of record sales later. To me Black Flag is Punk Rock. It never went away.

I am seeing that with Stoner Rock – it never went away. A lot of people thought it would as it's a novelty. It was a cool thing. It was a response to the Seattle Grunge Scene and commercial rock scene of the early 90s.

But Stoner Rock will not go away. It kinda seems to grow to. It's not getting huge but it's bigger than the year before that. To me Stoner Rock is non commercial rock. Who knows – maybe one band will be able to turn it into a commercial sound like Punk Rock. Then Stoner Rock will turn into a whole new meaning. We will have to wait and see.

Bands like Monster Magnet – I love. I love Fu Manchu and Sleep. Those were the only bands that was doing it back in the day when Kyuss were doing it.

It's cool that younger people are getting more into Stoner Rock. To me that was one of the main factors with Kyuss Lives. Younger people are getting into it. It's exciting to see younger fans at our shows to fully experience it.

Q12 – Out of your entire career – What is your favourite ever record you have created?

Brant – Yeah. That a tough one. I like different records for different reasons. I think my first solo record. It was really an important record for me. That was a record I didn't anticipate making. I never thought in a million years I would be a solo artist. That was a real breakthrough and accomplishment for me.

Q13 – You have more plans for more records to be released in the future like Jacuzzi?

Brant – Hopefully yeah. I have a couple of records. A solo record that I really need to finish. The basic tracks are done which I last done about 3 years ago when John called me about Kyuss Lives. I had quite a lot of stuff planned out.

I had 2 live records, a studio record and my instrumental record – Jacuzzi. All that I was working on when John called me back in 2010. I shelved it as I was exhausted with my solo efforts. It's very rewarding but it takes a lot out of you. 10 years of my life.

I got married and I was starting a family in 2010 too. So this was the perfect time to be part of a band. We will finish off this tour and I will finish off Jacuzzi and maybe some of the other stuff as well.

Q14 – What can we expect from Jacuzzi?

Brant – Jacuzzi has been recorded in my house in the desert. It's very raw and more of my jazz and funk influences. It's not a rock record. More of a groove record.

Q15 – On this tour you have been mixing Vista Chino tracks with Kyuss hits.

Brant – Vista Chino is just an extension of the Kyuss adventure. We are not trying to shove Vista Chino down peoples throats any more than we are with the Kyuss material. Like I said we see the Peace record as an extension of the trip.

We play 6 new songs and the rest are Kyuss classics. We weave them together. It's fun to do. I enjoy it and the crowd response has been great. The new material sits really well with the old stuff.

Q16 – How did you decide what Kyuss tracks to use?

Brant – We sat down and discussed these things through. We are older and wiser now unlike when we were younger. We were kids, we weren't thinking much about things and that's why it probably was what it was back then.

Now we are like – Lets do this. People dig this one and lets do this one because people like it. A lot of it is because we think the band plays this song really well and we enjoy playing it. We are not in it to butcher a particular song because we think it will be artful or the crowd might like it. Or to be different for different sake.

That was the philosophy going into Kyuss Lives. We were rewarded already. Lets give the fans something they want as they have waited patiently for years to hear them.

Sludgelord – Well Brant. Thanks for your time on this. Really appreciate you taking the time out to talk to us. The best of luck with the tour. Thanks again.

And there you have it. A truly incredible experience that I will never forget.

I want to thank the following people for arranging this interview.

Brant Bjork for taking the time out to talk to us at Sludgelord

Aaron Pickford (DOUBLEADOOM77) and Andy Turner at Napalm Records for arranging interview for me.

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