A Sense of Freedom – John Garcia


john garcia photo 2014



As the frontman of Kyuss, John Garcia helped define stoner rock. Since their breakup he’s had success with the likes of Slo Burn, Hermano, and last year’s excellent Peace (Napalm Records) album with former Kyuss bandmates in Vista Chino. Finally, after 20-odd years in the business, he’s putting out a self-titled solo album. Ghost Cult’s Dan Swinhoe talks to John about how it feels to get a life-long project off his chest.

I heard you put everything else on hold for your solo album?

That’s right. I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time, and I’ve literally have put this on hold myself for years. My former managers didn’t want me to do this, they wanted me to put it on hold, and I got tired of saying no to these songs. I had this collection of songs that I literally looked at every morning. I had this cardboard box that I kept of songs that were very close to me, they were very personal songs that I liked and had a relationship with, and felt bad for them. I was exhausted of saying yes, yes, yes to fucking everything else and I finally had to say yes to this group of songs. And I got to tell you, you talk about a sense of freedom and a feeling of being liberated – those are not even the words to explain how happy, excited and passionate I am about releasing this record.”

I’ve been working very hard on this project for a long time and it feels good to be where I’m at right now and all these other bands, all these other cars if you will, are parked in the garage. The Vista Chino car’s parked in the garage, the Unida car’s parked in the garage. Hermano, Sloburn, all these little projects that I’ve got going, they’re all parked. And this car that I’m in right now is fuelled up and she’s purring like a kitten. And I’m gonna take her out for a nice long drive, and I don’t plan on parking her any time in the near future, and it feels good.”


John Garcia album cover

So how long have you had this solo album in the works?
I’ve been wanting to do this since I was about 18 or 19 years old, and I’m going to be 44. You talk about pent up energy and pent up feeling and emotion- that’s a long time to have held on to some of these songs. I wrote ‘Her Bullets Energy’ while living in Palm Springs with Nick Oliveri, and if someone were to tell me that at 19 years old, “Hey kid, you’re going to release this song and Robby Krieger from The Doors is going to play Spanish guitar on it,” I would have told them, “You’re out of your fucking mind, go jump in a lake, there’s no possible way.” and here we are, me at 43 that song’s about to be released, it ends the record and Robby Krieger is playing Spanish guitar on it. Talk about a special moment that I will never ever forget.”

‘All These Walls’ is a rework of an old Slo Burn demo, ‘Cactus Jumper’. How did you pick which songs to put on the album and which to leave off, and how many are left in that cardboard box?
When I co-wrote ‘Cactus Jumper’ – now ‘All These Walls’- with [Slo Burn bandmates] Chris Hale, Damon Garrison and Brady Houghton, that was special to me. We got together at this little Mexican restaurant in Palm Springs about 5 years ago and I told them that I wanted to put this song on my solo record. For some reason I felt a connection with that song and I thought, you know what, I’m gonna redo this one, this is a song that speaks to me, that’s personal to me.”


I have a total of about 44 songs, and I picked out 14, and only 11 of them made it. So there’s quite a bit more. There’s no rhyme or reason behind this collection. I didn’t get methodical. It just made perfect sense to have this group of songs be sequenced the way that were and have them be given a shot to have new life brought back into them at my age. This group of songs is a collective thing but songs that were very special to me and I knew eventually I wanted to release, and if I ever were to release a solo record this group of songs needed to see the light of day.”

This is obviously a very personal project but you’ve got a cover on there and Danko Jones wrote a song for you – was it difficult to give up places on the record if you’ve got others waiting to be heard?
Danko Jones wrote ‘5000 miles’ specifically for me about 10 years ago. What an honour and privilege to have someone like Danko write a song specifically for me. We always had these conversations when were on tour together of me releasing a solo record and so he took our conversations and recorded this very crude demo while he was on his balcony and he sent it to me. I immediately fell in love with it and there it went on a CD in my little cardboard box, and there it sat. I knew I was going to get to it and eventually I did.”


I’m a fan of songs and I’m a fan of music. I don’t care who wrote it. If I like it, I’m going to most likely cover it. I got a chance to see band called Black Mastiff out of Canada when Vista Chino rolled through town and I fell in love with one of their songs [‘Rolling Stoned’] so much that I had to put it on the record. If I could sing like Philip Bailey from Earth, Wind and Fire chances are there was gonna be an Earth, Wind and Fire song on this record. My next record could be 100% full of covers. If a song touches me and it moves me, chances are I’m gonna cover it and I’m gonna sing it. I personally don’t seen anything wrong with that.”

Was it different recording as a solo artist as opposed to a band?
Yeah it was, because each musician was hand-picked for a specific song. I’m not a guitar player, my guitar playing is very primitive, but my ideas come down and if I give my ideas to Dave Angstrom [Hermano] like I did with ‘My Mind’, it turns it into something that’s special. There’s not just one group of guys that I worked with, there’s 10 or 15 guitar players and it was an honour to work with every one of them. Dave Angstroms, Eric Belt, Danko Jones, Robbie Krieger, Nick Oliveri, Chris Hale, Damien Garrison, Mark Diamond [The Dwarves]. These are great players and I’m very honoured to play with them in the studio for this collection of songs and I think record would not have been nearly as good without these guys.”
Was it hard to get that continuity throughout the album?

The conducive part of it was obviously my voice and the percussionist Tom Brayton. Those two pieces made it more conducive because all these collection of songs were from spread out throughout my career from 20 years old to 10 years old to 5 years old to a couple of years old so it had to flow, so we tried to make it sound it wasn’t recorded in different eras. It was a very conscious thing what we wanted to sound like something with flow, and conscious of keeping it simple.”
That’s where the producers and the passion came in. the musicians were just as passionate about the songs as I was, as the producers were, so that made it really, really easy to go in and record. Again credit where credit is due, Harper Hug and Trevor Whatever at Thunder Underground made it all happen. I couldn’t have done it without them. It’s great to have producers that are equally passionate about the songs and the music as I was.”

How long did recording take?

It took a year in the planning to due scheduling the players, but start to finish, once we started tracking it took about 30 days. I could have stayed in there for another month but at some point in time you lift your hands up. At that time we were going, “What about this other mix, what about this mix,” and we were thinking if we keep on finger fucking this thing we’re gonna ruin it, and I think at the end of the sessions we looked at each other we went, “Ok, let’s just get it out.”

Does the personal nature of the album mean there more pressure or less pressure than normal?

Super excited is not the word. I feel like I’ve got handcuffs off me. Not like I was being held hostage by anybody else or another band, but in a way like why haven’t I done this before? A big monumental moment is upon me and I’m basking in it. I’m nervous, but it’s a good nervous. I’m exposed, not under a cloak of a band name, but just my own first and last. But there is an excitable nervousness back behind it. It’s good, if I wasn’t nervous about it, I would be worried.”

Some people are not going to dig it, and it’s not their thing, and that’s alright. I’m not looking to change the face of rock and roll with this record, I’m not looking to become a rock star, I was never one to begin with, I don’t want to be one, and I’m not backstage thinking I am one. That doesn’t interest me. What interests me is creating and being on stage.”

It’s been about a year since Vista Chino’s album Peace came out – was worth all the legal troubles you had about the name now you’ve got some hindsight?
Let’s reword it- would I do it again? No. Because the shit I had to go through behind the scenes – I don’t want anybody to go through that. If I would have known the amount of hurt and heartache that I was about to embark on, no fucking way I would have done it. Absolutely not a chance in hell, I would have went in the other direction and never looked back.”

But we did it. All the shit we went through, we pulled it off and nobody was going to stop us. We were on a fucking mission. There was no question about it, we knew we couldn’t just say, “Ok, later, I’m done.” We knew we were on a mission and had to do it, there was no turning back. We were on a strict hard-core mission to get that record done and we did.”

Is it still hard to think about?

I don’t even think about it anymore. All of that stuff is in the past fully and I’ve moved on a long time ago.

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John Garcia – John Garcia

John Garcia album cover


As the voice of Desert rock, John Garcia‘s CV is pretty impressive. He’s fronted a fair few classics with the likes of Kyuss and Slo Burn and shown he’s still got it following last year’s almost-Kyuss album with Vista Chino. But up until now he’s never struck out on his own.


Now after more than 20 years John Garcia the solo artist has brought out a self-titled album (Napalm). Featuring guitarist Robby Krieger of The Doors and recorded at his Horse Latitudes studio in Los Angeles, the album features songs that Garcia has collected through the years but never released. The results are a bit of a mixed affair all in all.


Opener ‘My Mind’ is a belter, Garcia’s gritty and instantly recognisable vocals cut across simple but dirty guitars with a huge chorus that sticks in your head for days. But unfortunately the album rarely gets as good again. A cover of Black Mastiff‘s ‘Rolling Stoned’ follows and has an enjoyable stoner vibe but is largely uneventful, and ‘Confusion’ lacks any kind of drive.


As a whole there is less of a stoner groove and more of a fuzzy 70s hard rock feel about the album. While some of the slower songs work, ‘Flower’ and ‘His Bullets Energy’ show off Garcia’s soulful yet raw vocal style, these quality numbers are outnumbered by the more laidback ones, meaning there often feels like a lack of urgency to the record as a whole.


Despite the fair share of average moments there are some real highs. The stomping Danko Jones-penned ‘5000 Miles’ is probably the albums best song with its bluesy gallop, while ‘All These Walls’ (a re-recorded version of a Slo Burn demo) and ‘SaddleBack’ are brimming with the kind of energy that’s lacking elsewhere.


While not up there with his classic releases, John Garcia is a solid if unspectacular affair with some real moments of quality but plenty of uninspiring ones too. Fans will lap up another helping of Garcia’s impressive vocals, but anyone hoping for another dose of Kyuss-inspired psychedelia will be disappointed.


john garcia photo 2014



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Roadburn Festival Part II: Live at 013 & Het Patronaat, Tilburg NL


Day three: today we get just what I longed for after yesterday: more traditional heavy Roadburn fare. We start off with the bone crunching Noothgrush. Though not the mellow I was looking for they were very good. However, I didn’t get caught in their more abrasive deathy-sound and soon wandered off to catch some of Monster Truck. They pretty much play trucker hard rock, and if you have no idea what to imagine when I say that, think the kind of hard rock, burly, manly tough truckers would sing along to while driving down the long lonesome roads on long distance hauls. This was proper manly stuff, and very entertaining. After their set in the stuffed Greenroom I wandered outside to catch some air, meaning to go see Circle. However I got completely sidetracked and since I also wanted to see Windhand returned to the main hall to see them play an amazing set.

Windhand are rare, as they have a female vocalist, and not one who does overly female vocals. You could be forgiven for mistaking the deep throaty voice their vocalist has for a man singing and I’m not sure if they’d mind. Their stage presence is completely introverted, and they shamble and shuffle around in trance of their one performance, hardly seeking a connection with the crowd they play for but with them it doesn’t matter. It’s actually better, and makes you feel a bit like a voyeur if you actually watch them instead of dragging into the music, eyes closed slowly swaying side to side.



Today has been a day of good intentions getting sidetracked. I meant to see Scorpion Child, but ended up missing them and going to see Yob. Ah Yob,’s 5th set at Roadburn, 6th planned for tomorrow. What can we say but what Yob say themselves? Yob is love and right they are. The sound these three can produce is staggering, not just in sheer volume of the bass still audible in a restaurant across the street from the venue…), but also in the layers they produce with just three people. The drums pounding on while the bass crashes against the walls of the venue like cliffs, and the guitar heavy yet clear and melodic in her higher registers. The vocals are a refreshing snip through all the heavy being more a high end scream. The most incredibly thing about Yob though is the atmosphere and vibe they give off. You may be forgiven to think they make sad, angry and melancholy music, but really all the vibe is very mellow and even spiritual, taking you on a journey you never expected to go on. After their set we’re back to the theme of the day: meant to but somehow it slipped. I meant to see Indian, who played an incredible set, I heard, and had a que outside the door of Het Patronaat that stretched about 20-30 meters, I meant to see old man gloom, but decided I needed a bite to eat at that time. I meant to see Horisont, but instead went to catch some of the Icelandic Momentum. What to say of these guys… confused. For the first two three songs I didn’t quite know what to think of them, it was pretty straightforward doom, with some proggy bits, but nothing fantastic. And then their vocalist switched from grunts to clean, with harmonies that made no sense and just… no. I’m a stickler for clean vocals, if you do them, invest the time and training to do them properly, or else leave them to someone that can, or leave them out. They may grow and become better or may realize what style they want (it still felt very confused and in search of a solid style), but I walked out at that moment in search of something less wincing on the ears. This as it turned out was Loop. Here again I’m not sure what to think of them they were good, yes very good and technically excellent. But I’m not sure if the music is my cuppa tea. It felt a bit too 80s for me, and if I do retro I tend to lean more towards 60-70s than 80s. in any case after having tried to form an opinion on them for a while I gave up and went to see some of the Vintage Caravan again. They were again packed and again excellent, but the claustrophobic conditions in the stage 01 meant I didn’t stay long. I sincerely hope they get called back on a roomier stage another year or I can see them somewhere a little less crowded and enjoy them properly. Now here’s a pickle. Harsh Toke, Horse Latitudes, A Storm of Light and Glitter Wizard, playing the same time slot. These four bands are all over the board, but that doesn’t make choosing easier. Horse Lattitudes is properly heavy oppressive stuff, and A Storm of Light is best put in the more conventional sludge side, with some post core influenced I’d say. Harsh Toke is a proper party band, but loud and heavy enough that no-one goes “weak!” They’re psych rockers, but not in such a way as most are. While the riffs and notes are complex the dreaminess is kept in check by some good steady bass and drums, making it much less bewildering than most psych rock and definitely a very good band. After a bit of them I go see Gliytter Wizard though. The moment these Americans were put on the bill I knew I had to see them. A party band, these guys manage to 70s psych rock n roll with glitter touch (bare chests, sequined open black vests and magnificent moustaches) without becoming so terribly cheesy and well… glittery all balls are lost. The absurdity of this band however cannot hide they play incredibly good music and while it’s doused in a good dose of party even the musical connoisseurs of Roadburn seem to really enjoy these glitter wizards. And then off we go to the after party, heavy metal disco with Alan Avrill from Primordial spinning 80’s metal discs for our enjoyment, and while drunken shenanigans are a plenty, the foyer is definitely much more crowded this year than other years before. Maybe we need to move this party back to Het Patronaat?



Selim Lemouchi’s Enemies: Even when the clouds appear over the realm of Roadburn and it’s permanent inhabitants, it cannot break the unity. Selim Lemouchi and his Enemies was scheduled to play the afterburner until tragedy struck and the ex-Devil’s Blood singer took his own life a mere 1,5 months before the festival. The loss was raw and very real, but the organizers didn’t erase him. Instead they let the band, his enemies as he called them, play a tribute of over an hour fro their fallen leader. A big empty space in the center front of the stage symbolizes the loss and emptiness left behind as the whole of the room turns silent as the grave and the musicians play which such raw emotion it’s hard to bear. Projected images of Selim himself on the background add to the feelings that whirl through the main room. A heavy start to the last day, without the music itself being as “heavy” as some of the programmed bands.

selim roadburn



To mellow us out after such an intense moment of grief for many attending, we have Avatarium. The gentler sounds of this doom band is a proper transition from something so intense to another very heavy show to come. The crisp clean female vocals of the band are exceptional in their opening number ‘Moonhorse’. The overall sound of this band is more towards Candlemass, but also Anathema’s older work. The sadness and mournfulness with a glimmer of hope depicted in the gentler, melodic patches of the music, after which the doomy storm of heavy bass and guitars pick up again prepare us for the onslaught that is to come; a second set by Yob.



He general consensus among all Yob fans (me included) that I chatted with was that their second set was better than the first, though both were very good. The thunderous waves of bass interlaced with melodies and vocals cutting through like clear knives is amazing with this band, especially with the energy they portray on stage. And while deep dark an oppressive, the mellow, happy gleaming beauty of this band rings through, as watching an ocean storm taking form and battering against the rocks. It is however a band that you need to fully immerse yourself in and then learn to ride their waves of bass to fully enjoy. Sit down, relax, close your eyes and let them move you and take you along.

Having already seen the new keepers of the water tower play during the per-sale party, I skipped them now, but their set was as magnificent and moving as it was then. The gentle psychedelics, combined with heavy riffs, beautifully harmonized drowning vocals and almost watery lights get everyone nodding. Their musical en technical prowess is more than adequate and these guys are definitely a band to go see when you can if you like the trippier side of heavy. Up next is Triptycon. What to say: bam! It blows you away and smashes your skull inside your head. Excellent set really and expertly done but again not really the thing I go for. Definitely one to cross of the “need to see” list, just didn’t move me the way some other bands do. Just a matter of taste. Having seen Harsh Toke the day before I decide to mellow out a little outside the room. I grabbed a glimpse of Mourne who were… immense. Immense, overwhelming and excellent, but a little heavy on the last few hours of an experience so intense as Roadburn. In the end I ended up watching Lumerians, and words cannot describe their show. They make very trippy atmospheric psychedelic… stuff that’s incredibly danceable, yet mellow and a perfect closer. And what appeared on stage can be described as wraiths or spectrals… they all wore long white hooded robes, obscuring the bands features, playing bent slightly forwards and sometimes a glimpse was caught of glowing eyes: L.E.D. -lights used inside the hoods as eyes of these spectral creatures. It gave an excellent extra dimension to a band that was more than enjoyable. And with them the last bits or Roadburn wither away and disappear, not to be seen until next year. Hugs were exchanged, goodbyes were said and sleep was needed. And right away the homesickness for Roadburn starts again. Just a year to go.


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Words and photos by SUSANNE A> MAATHUIS