I feel a little lighter and more relieved. Less concerned. Now
I can kind of have a drink and a smoke and get on with it, y’know? – Brant Bjork
Brant Bjork is a Southern Cali avatar of sorts, a sort of living symbol of the rock n
roll spirit. As the founder of Kyuss and through his own solo career and the sadly
short tenured Vista Chino, Bjork has always helped capture the attention of fans
wanting something more earthy and real in their music.
His latest venture Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band have returned in force
this year with second record Tao Of The Devil (Napalm Records).
You can hear Brant’s influence in so many bands these days. It was awesome to finally interview one of the cornerstone personalities of the scene and remember not to take for granted the hard work and vision of one of the founders. Plus there was a great new record to discuss!
Read the chat BELOW.
The first question is kind of silly. For awhile now I have felt like stoner or desert
rock or what have you is the heavier kind of music you can maybe age the most
gracefully in. Punk or metal old people are cool. I mean, sometimes you want to tell
them to give it up, unless it is someone really rad like Saxon. Not that there is an
expiration date on art or a punk spirit. But, the bluesier or more stoner rock genres
kind of seem to make people cooler the longer they do it (haha).
BB: (laughing) That’s an interesting perception. I can’t speak for any band that
refers to themselves as stoner or desert rock. Speaking for myself, I totally
understand what you’re saying and to some extent do agree. I play my particular style
of music because it represents where I’m at in my life and where I aim to go. There is
a huge amount of freedom and that’s what it was always rooted in in the first place.
To be free to explore and just be musical. So, y’know…I don’t refer to my music as
anything but rock. It’s just music. I’m free and just going for it, a journey. I
wasn’t into the idea of playig music in a band that’s a particular “genre” for that
reason. What happens when you are 69 years old and play in some crazy, fuckin’ gnarly
band that demands that you…(laughing) I don’t know, dude!
It’s interesting what you were saying about the journey, considering the album title.
Tao Of The Devil sort of implies it is a path or way of life. A road map or guide to
your sort of lifestyle. The “Stakt” video imagery also made me think this.
BB: That’s funny. That’s cool. I never looked at it that way. I always try to have fun
with my titles and provoke thinking and imagination. Tao Of The Devil is about trying
to get people to think outside the box.
I was gonna say, you don’t seem like that devilish of a guy. You just seem like
an…awesome dude (laughing).
BB: (laughing) Well that’s it, man. I think the devil gets a bad rap. Maybe he is a
pretty cool guy, man. Just a dude who wants to do his own thing and have fun.
That’s good copy. I wanted to ask…Black Flower Power was a great play on words. I
wondered how you’d top that. But, uh…how has the reaction been so far to the new
material? “Controller Destroyed” from the last Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk
Band record was intense. This record seems a bit more laid back. It still has some
great heavy riffs and some good groovers. But it also has, like…you talk about
wanting a better world “for you and me” on the last album, but this one almost seems
like it is trying to create better vibes in general, does that make sense?
BB: Yeah. Absolutely. Black Power Flower was a record all about the expression of a
primal sound. The ambition wasn’t in the arrangements. It is pretty standard stuff,
not in a bad way. But it had a purpose of direct expression. I think we captured that
and did that. With this one it is kind of that relief period you feel when you feel
like you “got it out”. I feel a little lighter and more relieved. Less concerned. Now
I can kind of have a drink and a smoke and get on with it, y’know?
Speaking of which, are you actually a hot shot pool player like in the new video?
BB: (laughing) Hardly. I’m not a real pool player. I played some as a kid at the youth
center and shit, but I’m not a pool player. Not at all.
Hey, well…you sold it well! I wanted to ask, do you feel like each record sort of
has a direction it wants to go? You sort of answered that already, but…each record
is sort of representative of the way time flows, I guess.
BB: Yeah, every record is an organic process. The creative process…we have a concept
and idea. I can be very controlling and have an ego like everyone else. You want to
control the concept. But then the concept will try to fight me and want to be
something else. I’ll get pissed off and frustrated and wrestle with it. The record is
usually what finally comes out when we make friends and that’s what it is (laughing).
It’s the truth.
Tug of war, man. Of course also it makes a difference how much is democratic and
whatever the group dynamic at any given time.
BB: Of course. When I’m by myself I play all the stuff and it is an entirely differet
battle and the results are different too. But when I have a band like I do now, I
really enjoy that democratic spirit. I enjoy being part of a band. As a solo artist I
deliberately put myself into the spirit of a “band”, because I like that camraderie.
Sure, and it keeps juices flowing. You or J Mascis are people who do really well on
their own but also it has to be good to bounce creative energy off other people.
BB: For sure, man. It’s no fun to always shoot hoops by yourself. You want to get some
guys and work on other things. When I’m in a band I can geek out on a particular
thing. I can settle into working on vocals or my rhythm guitar playing.
Hey, is “Humble Pie” like your official origin story now (laughing)?
BB: That’s, Bubba DuPree my guitar player…that’s one of his songs musically. I
really like his songs. He just really had a rock n roll feel and arrangement. The way
he puts riffs together, I haven’t heard anyone do that as well as him in a long time.
So I was challenged because I had to put words and vocals to someone elses riff that
was such a fuckin’ great riff! It was challenging but we rolled with it and that’s
what came out. It came out alright!
That’s one of my favorite tracks as it ties in a lot of the vibe of the record, this
sort of forward motion of the moving road. Am I correct you have some European stuff
BB: Three weeks of dates in selective countries in November. All the countries I’ve
been going to for many years. We have a nice fan base over there, so things work out
real well. New record, new trip to Europe.
BB: Well, it’s work, man. The idea of it is rooted in vacation and you strive for that
(laughs), but it’s still work. Travelling in a rock n roll band. It’s work, baby.
I was in Europe for the forst time a month or so ago. Every tenth or eleventh person I
saw had some kind of rock shirt on. And I saw maybe three police the whole time I was
there! Whereas a regular Friday night in Upstate, NY every other car is a state
trooper hunting DWI money. It was so much more laid back in Europe that there seemed
to be less going on because there was less tension!
BB: You’re perceptive, dude. The first time I went I had the same experience. We’ve
been conditioned to think we have the best of what the world has to offer. Then you
get off the plane and start mixing in the Scandinavian world and you don’t realize how
as Americans we are wound up so fucking tight. Animosity rooted in just being America!
I always go through an intense decompression when I get to Europe. I come back home
and it is sweet to come back home to my family and stuff but you sort of get your fire
back because you’re coming back into it.
Also it seems like maybe countries are smaller so more people come to rock shows from
all over each country or Europe. There are still rock fan in the States but I feel
like Europe they aren’t as fairweather.
BB: It is different. A lot of it is the fact that European mindsets aren’t so focused
on “winners”, blindly loyal to whoever is the most popular on Billboard. “They sold
the most records so they must be the best cuz we’re into the best here.” That kind of
mentality is where a lot of American’s heads are at because of marketing and
consuming. When you get to Europe they celebrate options and …ideas.
BB: Creativity for creativity’s sake. They worked hard all year and want to spend it
on exploration and fun. It’s not a competition.
How did it feel moving forward with this chapter of your musical career?
BB: I hit it hard as a solo artist non stop for many years. Around 2010 I was super
burnt out. That was around when John Garcia called me and said ,”Let’s put the old
band back together and have some fun.” I thought, “Fuck, I could certainly use that.”
That was fun while it lasted (laughs). Then it turned into a fuckin’ super bummer!
After the dust cleared I was super excited to get back to my solo work, like the
feeling you have when you know you are going home.