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IN CONVERSATION WITH – Brant Bjork, Low Desert Punk – May 2014

| 30 May 2014 | Reply

IN CONVERSATION WITH – Brant Bjork, Low Desert Punk – May 2014
By Shane Pinnegar

A casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that Brant Bjork is a restless man. The multi-instrumentalist formed – and named – Kyuss with his Palm Desert, California, buddies John Garcia & Josh Homme. Following the latter’s refusal to play Bjork’s material after they struck it big with the Blues For The Red Sun album, Bjork walked away from the band in 1994, going on to play with Mondo Generator, Fu Manchu and others, variously on drums or on guitar.

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Bjork’s since released solo albums, fronted Che, formed his own band Brant Bjork & The Bros and more recently reunited with Garcia as Kyuss Lives. That experience went sour quickly when Homme legally protested against the use of the name (even though it was originally Bjork’s suggestion), and a court upheld that they could play under the moniker but not release music. This Vista Chino was born, who toured Australia with the Big Day Out earlier this year.

Now Bjork is back with another new band: The Low Desert Punks. They’ve been hitting Australia up over the past week and they’re playing the Barwon Club in Geelong, Melbourne tonight, and The Astor Rocks in Perth on Monday. Prepare to rock.

Shane: You’re heading out with your new outfit The Low Desert Punks. Tell us about the new band.

Brant: Yeah, well, It’s really exciting. I’m fired up and I assembled a new band – Tony Tornay on drums, Bubba Duprey on lead guitar, Dave Dinsmore on bass – I’ve known these guys for years. We’ve been dear friends for years. They’re actually my heroes.

It’s a rock band. It’s a really, really good, gnarly, heavy rock band. We’re in the middle of recording our new record, which is super, super awesome and we’re going to take a break from the new record to come down to Australia and break in the new band. I couldn’t think of a better place to do it – we’re really excited.

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Shane: I’m assuming that you’re singing and playing guitar?

Brant: Yeah, I’m back on guitar and singing.

Shane: Excellent. You said you’re recording the new album at the moment – is that what we’re going to be hearing from the band on this tour?

Brant: We’re going to come down and we’re going to primarily focus on some of my old songs. But we’re going to be bringing down some new tracks, too, because we want to start breaking them in and kind of give people a taste of what the new trip is… so yeah, a little bit of both.

Shane: It sounds like your primary influences for this band are really primal: The Stooges and Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison. That sounds pretty awesome.

Brant: Yeah man, well – those are my influences from when I was a kid, man. Those are my main, true influences and I’ve since taken those avenues and gone into all different kinds of music throughout my life and all different kinds of artists. A lot of those bands and artists have indirectly or directly influenced what I do as a musician. It’s kind of like a return to form, kind of like a root-of-the-fruit thing. This band is about me kinda going back to when I was 13 and just celebrating my first love.

Shane: Rock and roll!

Brant: Yeah!

Shane: Low Desert Punk was a song off your Jalamanta album in the mid-90’s, and it became the name of your indie label, so what’s the significance of you using that name for this new band?

Brant: Low Desert was a concept I came up with years ago – late-’90’s/mid-’90’s. And y’know, I cut my teeth on punk rock. It was a scene in the desert that I was part of and that’s where I kind of developed my whole trip with music and doing bands and my musical creativity. It all came from punk rock and punk rock, man, has evolved – depending on who you talk to, it’s evolved over the last 20 years, 30 years, some would say 40, whatever – for me, it’s been an important part of my artistry.

In the desert, there was a certain type of punk rock that was happening, that I really… I just really loved. It was a really primal, very pure representation of what us people in the desert believed punk rock could be, which was like an authentic thing, man – a purity, an essence and an art form, for sure. And it’s desert style.

So you know, I celebrated that concept in song and then later, I used it to represent me putting out my music years ago. But now, I feel like it’s a real appropriate name to represent this band, because that’s where I’m at. That’s where I am and that’s where I’m at and that’s what I believe this music should be. It’s just the way it is with punk. It’s another way of saying, ‘rock and roll, man.’

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Shane: You’ve assembled a lot of bands over the years – you’ve been a part of Kyuss, Mondo Generator, Vista Chino, Fu Manchu, The Bros, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Does it inspire you to play with different people all the time and keep mixing things up?

Brant: Yeah, it does. It depends on what I want to express within myself. Sometimes I’ve got the music or a vibe or an energy inside me that’s really into me and it needs to be directly expressed just with myself.

Then there’s vibes within myself. I’m like, ‘hey man.’ It’s like… I come from playing in bands, like I said, the whole punk rock spirit. The real spirit of rock and roll, it’s like, bands! You get your buddies together and you start a band and, like, the word of the day is primal. It’s a real primal thing, man.

And, you know, it all depends on what I’m feeling, what I want to do. Right now Vista Chino is on hiatus, so right now I’m really in the spirit of being in a band. I didn’t want to just come out and start expressing a certain something on my own and get deep into the solo thing. I’m really in the spirit of a band right now, man. This is all fresh music that we’re recording, and then this band I assembled, just knowing that I wanted to celebrate going back to that spirit of being in a rock n’ roll band.

Shane: You keep using that word, ‘primal’. It’s got to build a lot of expectation – I mean, this is the sort of stuff, which for me especially, being an old rocker, this is the sort of stuff I want to hear. I really want to hear what you’ve done with this.

Brant: [laughs] Yeah, well, ‘primal’ is like… that word can be used in many different ways and it has many different definitions, I’m sure, but for me, primal is just like, really authentic. It’s really true to the spirit and soul of the source, and with no apologies and accepting really what it is that you naturally do. There’s no bells or whistles, there’s no fabrications, there’s no fucking… there’s no patch, there’s no posturing, there’s no premeditated kind of jumping-out-with-a-cape-on, kind of thing. It’s just what it is, man.

To me, that’s what the whole primal thing comes from. You know, when you mentioned The Stooges, it’s like, they were a great example. They had such a realness to them – it’s almost scary, and I liked that. When I was younger, I liked bands that scared me a little bit, you know, like Black Flag and The Stooges and even The Ramones, one of my ultimate bands. That shit’s kinda scary, man, because it’s so pure. It’s like, ‘you’re fuckin’ crazy, dude,’ and there’s no apologies there – that’s the only thing those guys could have done, on the planet. That’s heavy, man, you know what I mean?

Shane: Totally. So, you were out here with Vista Chino for the Big Day Out Tour earlier this year. How did that go for you?

Brant: That was great, man. I had a great time. I enjoyed the shows. The band was on fire and we performed really well, and then the crowds were great. There was maybe one or two too many days off for me – but even saying that, I really can’t complain because let’s be honest… too many days off in Australia – that’s actually a beautiful thing! It was awesome.

Shane: Did you get out and be a tourist or something?

Brant: Well yeah, every once and awhile, I will do… but no, I’ve been to Australia so many times, I feel comfortable enough where I don’t feel the need to like, go out and look under rocks or anything, man. I just do my thing, hang out. I feel great, very comfortable there, you know.

Shane: We really enjoyed the set in Perth, but John’s not exactly chatty on stage, is he?

Brant: No, No – he’s not much of a talker. He’s got a pretty intense mindset when he performs, he just kinda gets into his whole trip. He’s an intense dude, just in general. He’s not a real… I don’t know how else to explain that, but he doesn’t waste words.

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Shane: Definitely not. When we last spoke in September, I think it was, before the Big Day Out Tour, I asked if you if you’d dragged your generator out into the desert, and done any jamming like in the old Kyuss days. You said you’d been thinking about doing that. Have you had a chance to make that happen yet?

Brant: We haven’t. We haven’t, man. I’ve just been so busy, man. I’m married with kids now, so I just don’t have a moment to spare, but that is definitely on the list. That is definitely something that I want to get to this year and definitely this band – if there was ever a band that it would totally be proper to get out in the desert and rock, it would be this band. Let’s see, maybe tonight I’ll talk to the guys and see if we can conjure up something.

Shane: Fill a cooler full of beers and get out there, eh?

Brant: Yeah, for sure, man. That’s sounds perfect.

Shane: Well I was wondering if you’d considered, at some point in the future, doing your own version of The Desert Sessions – going out and doing your own thing? You’ve got your studio there right next to the desert now. You should probably have all the equipment.

Brant: Yeah, yeah. It’s interesting, my property and my studio, where I’m at right now, we’re literally only about a half a mile from Rancho De La Luna, where we did all those desert sessions – well I only did 2, but where they were done. Yeah, I think, conceptually, that was a pretty cool concept and the results that followed were pretty cool.

I honestly haven’t thought of going that far into that kind of thing but I’m certainly keeping this in mind and see which way the wind blows, in terms of organising people for specific projects – but I think right now, I’m just focussed on what I’m doing.

But I have been very open with my studio, in terms of letting people know, ‘hey man, I got an all-analog studio. If you’re in the spirit of things, if that’s your trip, you want to come out to the desert, make some organic rock and roll, give me a call. Let’s sort something out.’

Shane: Now, I don’t want to get too intrusively personal, so tell me to shut-up if you’re not happy to talk about it, but I recently found out that you were a foster child from a troubled mother and a biker Dad, and then were adopted, and that’s how you came to grow up in Palm Desert. Did you reconnect with your mother, at a later stage in your life?

Brant: I did. I did. We reconnected years ago and we’ve had a tight relationship through the years and I actually had her live with me for a while. She’s had a rough life. She’s battled heroin addiction. She’s been in and out of jail and did a prison term. She’s a person that’s been beat up.

I talk to her every once in a while now, but for better or for worse, she’s a person that… I gotta take in small doses, because she lives in a dark world and I can’t get too close to that because it’s can be pretty heavy emotionally and otherwise, so I kinda take her in small doses these days.

But it was awesome to meet her and hang out and develop this relationship, and knowing her, I learned a lot about my story and where I came from and stuff, so it was very enriching that way, in that sense.

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Shane: Did the experience of being adopted and then finding that background out, has that fueled you artistically in any way?

Brant: Yeah, well, about the time I found her and we hooked up, I just really hit rock bottom. I wasn’t doing so well and I was kind of bummed out. I was ready to give music up. I kind of thought, you know, music is a pipe dream. Maybe I don’t really have talent. Maybe this just isn’t my thing. I just was really bummed. It’s all I’d ever done, though, skate-boarding and music. That’s it.

I didn’t really know what else to do, so that was kind of why I sought her out. I was like, maybe I should go find her and maybe I could ask her some questions. Really, very quickly, she was like … ‘well, I was really into music and I used to put headphones on my belly when you were in there and I’d play Hendrix and Allman Brothers and some shit,’ so it was like… I was like, ‘wow man..”

So, she said, ‘No, music’s your trip, man, for sure’

And then -this is all speculation; I don’t know if it’s a fact – but one of my family members was… her great grandmother was a Musselwhite, so there’s someone in the family trying to convince me that I might have a real distant relationship with Charlie Musselwhite! But like I said, that’s never been confirmed but it’s a super rare name and they happen to come from similar areas, so it’s like, who knows? Maybe that’s where the music comes from. I don’t know.

Shane: The fact that your Mum told you straight out, to stick to your music – that’s pretty beautiful right there.

Brant: Yeah, if kind of saved me in a lot of ways… I mean, if that was the only thing she ever said, and I never saw her again, it would have been life-changing because I literally had sold all my records and sold all my equipment and was like, I’m just going to go try and go find something else to do. It really… that was when I really started focusing on playing solo music. It kind of made me say, ‘Hey man, I’m going to do this’ and started making my own music.

Shane: That’s fantastic, mate. We have her to thank for that, so thank you.

Brant: Right on.

Shane: Cool man, I’m running slightly overtime. I better get off the phone because you have other calls coming in. Thank you very much for your time and we’ll be looking forward to seeing you for start of June in Perth.

Brant: Alright. Good deal, man.


Category: Interviews

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