Prolific Desert-Rock legend Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Vista Chino, Fu Manchu, Brant Bjork’s Low Desert Punk Band) is releasing a new studio album. The self-titled affair will release via Heavy Psych Sounds label on April 10th and is said to be more straight forward rock, and that Brant sang and played every instrument. He also worked closely with guitarist Bubba DuPree (Void), and both 2016’s Tao of the Devil and 2014’s Black Power Flower were constructed around the Bjork-led Low Desert Punk Band. The album was recorded and mixed by Yosef Sanb Yosef Sanborn in Joshua Tree and mastered by John McBain (ex-Monster Magnet). You can hear the first single, ‘Jungle In The Sound’ right now and pre-order the album at the link below.
Two acts, two guitars, no drum kits and three leather sofas. This might well be the most sedate gig London’s Camden Underworld has ever seen. Former Kyuss frontman John Garcia is back in the capital, but this time on a short unplugged tour billed as “An Evening With”. So instead of a full band we have leather sofas and War Drum’s Ehren Groban playing acoustic.
Despite the name suggesting otherwise, Bellhound Choir is a one guitar project from Denmark. The perfect kind of jam for a hot sunny beach around a campfire, and a fitting warm up for the night with Christian Hede Madsen’s smooth baritone and sparse guitar create a mellow combo of dark country and blues.
Where some metal musicians – for example Zakk Wylde – are known for their acoustic leanings, this is new territory for Garcia. Going unplugged allows the former Slo Burn/Hermano/Unida/Vista Chino frontman to show off a more sensitive side to his vocals in a way that’s only occasionally been hinted at on record. He’s always had a quality voice and a back catalogue filled with stoner classics and the stripped back sound allows Garcia to take centre stage from the comfort of his leather recliner and shine.
We get a few cuts from the new self-titled Garcia album; tracks like ‘The Bld’ and ‘Her Bullets Energy’ work well as mellow campfire numbers, but much like on record it’s the jumping riffs of the Danko Jones-penned ‘5,000 Miles’ that stand out as one of the best. The original numbers penned for this tour and potentially new album are a more straight ahead mellow acoustic numbers, but ‘Phototropic’ shows off Groban’s skill with an acoustic guitar; employing a series of loops to really build the layers of the song into something special, while his solo spot shows off some real Spanish classical flair.
Unsurprisingly it’s the Kyuss numbers that get the biggest cheers of the night, culminating in a one-two of ‘Green Machine’ and ‘Space Cadet’. Still sounding fresh even after 20 years, the old classics translate well to acoustic. Garcia still has a great set of pipes on him, but despite being a good show, the trouble with finishing on such a high note, however, is that it brings up that eternal question: when the hell are we going to get a proper Kyuss reunion?
WORDS BY DAN SWINHOE
More artists have come up as part of the forthcoming Guitar Hero Live video game, out this fall.
Halestorm – “Love Bites (So Do I)”
Tenacious D – “Tribute”
Beartooth – “I Have A Problem”
Pearl Jam – “Mind Your Manners”
Rise Against – “Tragedy + Time”
Soundgarden – “Been Away Too Long”
Anthrax – “Got The Time”
Architects – “Gravedigger”
Chevelle – “The Clincher”
A Day To Remember – “Right Back At It Again”
Songs already announced for the game include:
Deftones – “Diamond Eyes”
Marilyn Manson – “Disposable Teens”
The Black Keys – “Gold on the Ceiling”
Blitz Kids – “Sometimes”
Killswitch Engage – “In Due Time”
Mastodon – “High Road”
Bring Me The Horizon – “Shadow Moses”
Of Mice & Men – “Bones Exposed”
Trivium – “Strife”
System of a Down – “Chop Suey!”
Black Veil Brides – “In The End”
Rage Against the Machine – “Guerrilla Radio”
Judas Priest – “Breaking the Law”
Pantera – “Cowboys From Hell”
Royal Blood – “Little Monster”
Vista Chino – “Sweet Remain”
Marmozets – “Move Shake Hide”
Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Higher Ground”
The Pretty Reckless – “Going to Hell”
Alter Bridge – “Cry of Achilles”
Ed Sheeran – “Sing”
Fall Out Boy – “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)”
Gary Clark, Jr. – “Don’t Owe You a Thang”
Green Day – “Nuclear Family”
The Killers – “When You Were Young”
The Lumineers – “Ho Hey”
My Chemical Romance – “Na Na Na”
Pierce the Veil – “King for a Day” (feat. Kellin Quinn)
The Rolling Stones – “Paint it Black”
Skrillex – “Bangarang”
The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure”
Sleigh Bells – “Bitter Rivals”
Alt-J – “Left Hand Free”
Broken Bells – “Leave It Alone”
Stoner rock legend John Garcia has been extremely prolific of late. In addition to touring with Kyuss bandmates in Vista Chino, John has found time to record his first solo record which he is in town to promote.
Before we are greeted by the voice of the desert, it is time for support acts Komatsu and Londoners Steak to strut their stuff.
The former possess some huge riffs but are let down by vocalist Mo Truijens who, despite his best efforts, drops a couple of notes. ‘Lockdown’ is the highlight of their set; all pounding drums and throbbing bass but it is an efficient not spectacular performance from this Dutch outfit.
Steak features Desertfest organiser Reece amongst their number. So it is little surprise that they deliver a convincing take on the genre. Dishing out waves of fuzz from recent opus ‘Slab City’, their set is a swaggering assault on the senses which will win them many friends amongst the faithful gathered here tonight.
Garcia and company are fired up. The set blends John’s solo material, the inevitable Kyuss classics and some charming rarities which are lapped up by the rabid crowd. ‘Tangy Sizzle’ features some punishing low end bass and a fantastically tight rhythm section capable of improvising exquisitely without indulging in showboating.
New single ‘Rolling Stoned’ garners a similar reception to ‘Inch Man’ delivered with that trademark howl but the real highlight is how John delves further into his catalogue as opposed to re-hashing Vista Chino’s recent touring set.
Crowd energy is constantly high but pop of the night is reserved for Slo Burn classic ‘July’ with Garcia visibly impressed by the number of fans who know every word to even this obscure gem.
The solo material allows Garcia to flex his songwriting muscles, demonstrating his capability outside of working with the colossal talents of Messrs Homme and Bjork. The fact that new Vista Chino material is looming on the horizon will make it very interesting to see if John’s solo work has any impact on the direction his main group will take.
A true legend of the genre, Garcia brings the sand and spirit of the desert to a cold English night.
WORDS: ROSS BAKER
PHOTOS: LUKE DENHAM PHOTOGRAPHY
Brant Bjork and The Low Desert Punk Band is releasing their new album Black Flower Power on November 17th via Napalm Records. Listen to the album here.
The former Kyuss and current Vista Chino drummer is handling guitar and mixes Stoner Rock, blues and Doom into a feverish hazy brew. Bjork has previously founded recording labels (El Camino and Duna Records), worked as a producer, and collaborated with LAB (featuring ex-Bl’ast members), Fatso Jetson, Fu Manchu and Mondo Generator (with Nick Oliveri)
Known for his work with Kyuss in the 1990s and more recently with Vista Chino, Brant Bjork, likewise his bandmate John Garcia, will release the solo album Black Power Flower under the flag of Brant Bjork And The Low Desert Punk Band, via Napalm Records.
Without wanting to compare artists and albums, Brant Bjork also wished to create more personal music with this new album, but on the contrary of John Garcia, Bjork goes more stoner and more traditional within the genre than Garcia went on his solo endeavor. ‘Controllers Destroyer’ opens the record in a conventional way with fat riffs accompanied by reminiscences of the doom sound, but ‘Stokely Up Now’ gets a rockier orientation giving the song a wider soundscape not being so muddy and somehow claustrophobic as usual. However, both directions aren’t always kept away from each other since the track ‘Budha Time (Everything Fine)’ is a fusion between stoner rock and rock’n’roll: if the strong guitar is doing its role in a supportive manner, a cleaner one is constantly breathing solos.
The album also has room for experimentation outside the stoner regular sonority as we have twin-guitars in ‘Ain’t No Runnin’’ and some guitar effects like wah-wah in ‘That’s A Fact Jack’ alternating with heavy riffs and a strong drumming work offering more vigor to the chorus. And finally, a shy desert psychedelic passage is delivered in the last song ‘Where You From Man’ because of the repetitive and somehow hypnotic canvas personalized by the well-paced drums and the several effects played in the guitars.
It seems that after a controversial period between the attempt to re-ignite Kyuss and the lawsuit by Josh Homme (QOTSA), the ex-members of that iconic band are at last enjoying the fruits of their work and reaching the success they deserve for the long time career they’ve built with sweat. Now, let’s wait for another Vista Chino album…
Stoner rock firebrand Nick Oliveri is well versed in the art of reckless abandonment. Since his departure from Queens Of The Stone Age and Kyuss Lives! (Now Vista Chino) Oliveri has terrorised stages the word over playing bass with Cali punks Bl’ast and his raucous one man unplugged show.
‘Leave Me Alone’ see’s Nick in full stoner punk mode working through the full on rawk aspects of repertoire from the bar fight frenzy of ‘Human Cannonball’ to vicious barrage of ‘Come And You’re Gone’ which recalls the bombast of Turbonegro, Nick O grabs you and does not let go.
At a lean and trim nine songs ‘Uncontrollable’ does not mess around. There are no build up’s, excess jam sections save the somewhat pointless yet pretty acoustic segue way of ‘Leave Me Alone’ itself which soon gives way to the anarcho blast of ‘The Void’. It’s familiar territory but an approach which plays well to Nick’s strengths. Those familiar with his work as Mondo Generator will know what to expect. A pull-no-punches knock down drag out affair which provides plenty of shout along hooks.
Several of Nick’s mates have got it on the act too with Blag Dahlia of The Dwarves, Kyuss Lives! Bruno Fevery and Mötorhead’s Phil Campbell all putting in an appearance to support their good buddy and while the tempos tend to wonder off, this is grass roots punk rock with a true DIY ethos and real character.
Sure there is none of the pop nous of Nick’s work in QOTSA this is a blunt instrument by which stoner rock’s Oliver Reed delivers a sermon of true punk rock zeal.
Tailor-made for the live arena the album remains up-tempo save the mid paced riot of ‘Robot Man’ complete with sirens and lyrics referring to the swat team, perhaps a tongue-in-cheek reference to one of Nick’s more infamous brushes with the law of late when he held police at gunpoint from his home after a neighbour reported a disturbance at his residence.
Oliveri is a true hellraiser in the classic mould, but where his reputation for destruction may proceed him the bloke can pen some good tunes.
Nick Oliveri on Facebook
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.”
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.
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.
And then there were ten! We are slashing our list of 2013 heavy music Albums of the Year down another bunch to albums #10-#6. As voted on by the global staff of Ghost Cult Magazine, these albums represent some of the best releases of last year.
Intelligent, difficult, challenging, aggressive, unique extremity from Big Phil.
Issue 10: “If you love the vitriolic harshness of classic middle-era Pantera albums, Superjoint Ritual and his other work, you will be thrilled to hear the sound of the Phil of old rise again. This album will speak to a primal place deep within you, and it will have you speaking in tongues.” Read the full review
Kyuss (minus Homme) return with a chilled out fuzzy purpose.
Issue 13: “Given that no other band of their ilk has ever come close to bettering the Kyuss sound, this was hardly ever likely to go wrong, and with the likes of Garcia and Bjork at the helm, Vista Chino are a blast from the past that are surely here to stay, and one that any self-respecting rock fan should thank his/her lucky stars for. Welcome back gentlemen!” Read the full review
Discordant Death metal masterpiece
Issue 12: “Gorguts are one of the best technical death metal bands out there, and Colored Sands is a very welcome return which easily measures up with other entries in their discography. The best thing about Colored Sands is that they haven’t attempted to recreate any part of their discography, yet it is still resolutely, undeniably, Gorguts.” Read the full review
Psychedelic sludgers bring the rock on their 6th album
Issue 10: “Filtering a psychedelic and shoegaze like warmth and expression through their distinctive sonic mastery, the band has created an album (that) will enslave a new breath of fever fuelled recruits to their continuing artistry and imagination.” Read the full review
Progressive, extreme, inventive and avant-garde
Issue 13: OCTOBER ALBUM OF THE MONTH “Das Seelenbrechen translating to “The Soul Breaking” in English, sees Ihsahn pushing further into the realms of Avant-Garde experimentalism. Aided by the fine gents in Leprous, Tveitan has crafted an increasingly bold complex concoction of intricate time changes, free jazz passages and snarling extreme metal.” Read the full review
Written and compiled by Steve Tovey