Saturday 25 October 2014

'That's A Fact, Jack!' - An Interview with Brant Bjork

Here I am about to interviewing one of my all-time fave musicians, Brant Bjork for the 2nd time within 12 months. Last time I interviewed Brant was when he was drumming for Vista Chino. Now Brant is back to promote his brilliant new album 'Black Flower Power' with Brant Bjork And The Low Desert Punk Band.

The band recently completed a short 4 date mini UK tour and I was given the chance to interview Brant before the gig at Leeds Belgrave Hall on Sunday October 19th 2014.

So lets get down to business with one of the coolest musicians around, Mr Brant Bjork.

SL – Hi Brant. Thanks for doing this interview. How has the tour been going so far.

BB – Tour has been great. We're almost done. Got another 4 or 5 shows. Yeah it's all good.

SL – How have the new songs gone down with the crowd.

BB – The songs are going well. Their new songs and it takes time for everyone to understand. The initial response has been really positive.

SL – Your new album, 'Black Flower Power', is a fantastic album. It's one of your heaviest albums so far.

BB – Thanks. Yeah for sure but in terms of emotion and sonics, it's kind of a whole trip. I felt that I needed to make a really mean record.

SL – The album feels like a tribute to your musical heroes such as Black Sabbath. It that something you wanted to do with this album.

BB- It's both, as when I was younger I was attracted to music that was heavy and sounded so emotional. And it had the blues with feeling and because I felt that way. That's what brought me into music like bands such as Black Sabbath and Black Flag. Heavy Music was where it was at with me. These last few years have been exhausting and trying for me. I felt like I needed to go back to  that 13 year old kid inside of me. That just wanted to 'FUCKIN SCREAM AND FUCKIN TURN IT UP'.

Wasn't a whole lot of feeling going on. I assembled this band, a combination of players who come from the same musical background as Rock and Punk Rock. First of all, they're friends. It was going back to basics with the record.

SL – The album is a lot more bluesier as well.

BB – Yeah. Black Sabbath is definitely an influence and one of my fave bands growing up. The were were masters of combining American Blues Rock with British Hard Rock. I am very much an American Musician and this is very much an American Rock Record in terms of what it is with style and stuff. Having said there are a lot of British Rock Bands that I love over the years such as Cream.

SL – Was this an easy album to write and record for.

BB – I wouldn't be as bold to use the word easy, but it really was when coming time to write it. I began writing and I was exhausted, frustrated and angry and I just started writing as I hadn't worked in so long. All this music came pouring out of me. It felt good. But I was keep saying – 'That's Not It'. 'That's Not It'.

It felt like a painful exercise and I was sweating shit out and I finally exhausted myself where I went to my most primal effort. And that's where I said that's it. I wanted that exhausted primal feeling, where I almost kind of given up on something.

SL -Was it an easy decision to sign with Napalm Records.

BB – You know I had been doing things myself for so many years and that was another exhausting thing. I am married and I have kids and stuff. I just can't be quite as hands on and I can't obsess on everything. I have to relinquish a little bit of control for time management. Napalm, characteristically, are a label I assumed I wouldn't be interested in me and vice-versa.

But they had been pulling on my shirt for 4 years and they really kind of offered me deals which is kind of hard to turn turn down. So we looked at the mechanicals of it all and they do really good distribution of music in my main market which is Europe. They got a little funky with my artwork but we managed to sort that out. Other than that, they let me do anything, whatever I want.  It's been a really positive experience, but lets just see when the record comes out.

SL – What inspired you writing the record.

BB – To me this is my version of a Punk Rock Record. It's like Punk Rock in the most basic spirit of that genre. Where the original wave of Punk Rock was really trying to get to the most primal essence of rock and roll music. Also taking action as artists and creative people. So you have bands such as MC5, The Stooges, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and all that original shit was really there.

Along with my love of Blue Cheer, Cream and Sabbath. To me Punk Rock is involving it all. The spirit of Punk Rock is what it's all about. I combine all the stuff I was loving as kid.

SL – I am surprised you come out with a record so quickly, because you had a busy couple of years with Vista Chino. I thought you would of taken a break.

BB – I am one of those musicians for better or worse who cannot afford to take break. I think musically it was meant to be, as I haven't done my own thing for a while. There was a lot of positive element to my turn to Kyuss Lives and Vista Chino. But as a solo artist that's my main focus and my main passion. It was time to open that door again.

SL – You have just done a US Tour with Corrosion Of Conformity, BLAST and Lord Dying. How did that go.

BB – That was fun. That was good. Mike Dean called me up and said - “I have this idea, What do you think?” - I was like that would be awesome to do. I thought it would be a great idea to get people in the States up to date with where we were at. Break the band in. I was surprised as I feel optimistic with people in the States and where they feel rock music is at.

SL – You had Lord Dying on that tour. Totally different sound to yourselves.

BB – Lord Dying. Yeah they were great. That's why it was a such a cool tour as it had all 4 corners of Rock there on that tour. It was great and the crowds were good. We still have some work to do in the States but it's getting better.

SL – So after this tour is that it. Or are you coming back to Europe next year.

BB – No, No. We have already booked some Festivals in April and May 2015 lined up to promote the record. Probably fill them with a couple of dates. Makes sense for the terms of the tour.

SL – You don't have to answer this question. Nick Olivieri recently did an interview where he said Vista Chino is over. Can you tell us what is happening with Vista Chino.

BB – I think that John, Nick, Bruno and I coming back putting Kyuss back together, we celebrated that and it made a lot of sense on every level. When the shit hit the fan and we forced spiritually and conceptionally to change what it was. It changed things and I could tell. When John and I are working together in terms of return to Kyuss, it can work together but outside of that it doesn't really work or make music sense. I prefer to go and do my own thing. I don't see VC happening again. Anything can happen but right now we're not doing anything. I think VC ends part of a journey in what we were doing. Me and the guys in the band should be lucky we were able to squeeze that record.

SL – 'Peace' was a great record to come out with.

BB – I see it as a great adventure and what we wanted to accomplish and I think we did it. I think the story is over.

SL – Would you ever form another new band or just focus on your own thing.

BB – I think that whole couple of years with Kyuss Lives and Vista Chino just made me realise this is what I really want to do. I needed to do this. I need to kind of do my own thing and the way I wanted to do it with this band and this record. It's a perfect representation of me on the road back to home.

SL – You were supposed to release 'Jacuzzi' last year. What happened.

BB – Yeah (Brant laughs) – This record gets a lot of attention. The reality is, I was doing my first solo record for Napalm Records and in the middle of that solo session and this has happened before. Something flicked a switch when recording it and it turned into a whole other different record. It became more Jazz and Funk influenced. I kind of wrapped the session up. I didn't really have any formal idea of what I would do with the record. I had a bunch of songs sitting there all recorded and that's when John called saying:

“Let's get the band back together. Lets do this”

That was really an appealing opportunity and it was perfect timing with 'Jacuzzi'. It's really the sound of me exhausted as a solo artist. I was like 'FUCK' I have been working so hard. So it just sat there ever since. I have been wanting to get it out and distributed by Randy at Cobraside in LA who has distributed my labels over the years. He really wanted to get it out. Then because of my deal with Napalm and because of my work with John. It started to become so complicated. So now I have returned back to my world. I am free now to put it out. Though I was so intent on releasing 'Black Flower Power' as it expresses more about where I am at and hopefully within the next 6 months I will release 'Jacuzzi'.

SL – Last time we spoke we talked about you producing Black Pussy debut album and it's still not out.

BB – I don't know what Dustin is doing as I have spoken to him a couple of times. The music business is really changing constantly as music consumption relies so much on technology now. Technology is always evolving and devolving. So I get the scent that certain musicians and some of the people I know are kind of sitting back to see where things go. 9 months before they drop a bomb. See what windows open and what kind of windows close.

SL – What records are you currently digging right now.

BB – I am proud to say that the record I am loving now as I don't listen to much nowadays is Tom Petty new album 'Hypnotic Eye'. It sounds good and the lyrics are super, super fresh and meaningful. I have never gone on record saying I was a Tom Petty fan. His music is good and he's a great songwriter. For a guy at his point in his career and what's going on right now in the States and to make that record is a pretty courageous thing to do. I am pretty stoked on that record.

SL – Are you more at ease being considered a Stoner Rock Pioneer.

BB – It's funny that, as I saw that online the other day. He said that he played Stoner Rock, Classic Rock and Punk Rock. I was thinking that guy was delirious. I thought it was cool. I know that he's a stoner for sure. I didn't know if he knew what that term was. Though I have started to see the word Stoner being used in high places. I have seen it to describe a Jack White song.

I have seen it to describe so many different things. Stoner Rock in the States has always been considered a low brow word and dirty term. It's finally started to be looked at as a legitimate art form or art style and music style.

SL – You have artists such as yourselves, the Kyuss guys, Fu Manchu and Dave Wyndorf still rocking at almost 58 years of age. Can you see yourself doing for that long or will your retire by then.

BB – It's hard for all us to do what we do and not being part of something we didn't want to be apart of in the 1st place. We always did what we did. Dave always back in the Monster Magnet days and even Kyuss and Fu Manchu, we had a kinship amongst us because we weren't playing Punk Rock, Metal or Grunge. We we're kind of doing our own thing. We were all very different to each other. There was no idea to think there was a term for it. When someone came up with a term to describe our music. We never got to choose what to call it.

Stoner Rock to me means – Non Commercial Rock Music.

SL – Brant, Thanks for doing this interview. Best of luck with tonight's show and the album launch. It's a superb album.

BB – Thanks a lot man.

Thanks to Brant Bjork for taking the time out to talk to me at Sludgelord HQ. Thanks to Mona and Andy at Napalm Records for arranging this interview. 'Black Flower Power' will be available to buy on Napalm Records and from here. You can read Marc's incredible review here

Words by Steve Howe

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