‘Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?,’ were you on that record?
No, no one in the band apart from Anton was on that record. Anton and I did do some recordings in Manchester, we did a track which I thought was going to be on the record, but it didn’t make the final cut and it’ll have to be on the next one.
That’d be exciting to hear.
Yeah, it’s a pretty good track. I think you’d like it, it’s kinda like Public Enemy meets My Bloody Valentine with some eastern flair.
It seems like with this album and the album ‘My Bloody Underground,’ Anton has been experimenting a lot. It really contrasts with the live shows, which focus on a lot of the older material.
Yeah, well you know, it’s hard to translate what he’s been doing recently into a live situation with the band. So, we just kinda go with what works and what we know people want to hear.
It’s definitely working, in any case.
It sends an interesting message out — that you don’t have to pander to the usual mode of promotion that most people get caught up in. It’s “all about the new record.” Sure, you have a new record, but big deal [laughs]. There’s a whole other thing you have going on in a live, sort of human, situation that appeals and has its own sort of trajectory, aside from the recorded output of him. There’s kind of two things going on concurrently with Anton as an artist and it’s interesting and it’s a good thing to present to people that he can do it however the fuck he wants, instead of following these rules of the entertainment industry.
I noticed that the official BJM site is nothing but these strange experimental videos that Anton has been making.
Crazy, weird, abstract videos — you can’t help but wonder how he even got it off the ground.
Pretty fascinating stuff.
It’s all somewhat mysterious to me, and I kinda like that way, so I haven’t asked too many questions [laughs]. I’ve just kind of accepted it as the reality of the situation.
You were a founding member of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, what’s it like being back in the band after you were not in it for such a long period of time?
Well, the dynamics are different because when I left the band originally I was leaving “our” band, but when I came back to it I was coming back to “his” band. So now I’m in “his” band, whereas in the past we were in “each other’s” band, or at least that’s how it was perceived by everyone. So with a 10 year break, and gaining some wisdom over the years, I was able to sort of understand it more clearly and accept it as it was. . So, it’s fine and better in a way because I don’t have as much emotionally invested in it — it’s not connected to my ego so much in the same way. I’m just doing a job with my friend. If it happens to be his band, then that’s fine ’cause in that time I was gone that’s how the band was redefined and I respect and admire and accept that. So, I’m sort of there to make sure his vision comes across in the right sort of way, because I’m sensitive to his creative nuances and what it is that makes what he does special.
So would you say your relationship with Anton has been pretty consistent now?
We’ve had our ups and downs, but that was a long time ago. And, yeah, he and I are very consistent over the past 7 or 8 years. We’re pretty solid with each other. Arguments are rare, if they even occur at all, and if they do then it’s for a moment and we get over it and on to the next matter. He’s definitely the person I feel the closest to and the most accepted and understood by, so I’m more inclined to interact with him than anyone else. So, I have a very great relationship with him. I’d say he’s gotta be my best friend in a lot of ways as a result of everything we’ve been through together and the way that we accept and understand one another.
Does it help that the full lineup of the band is now solidified for the last few years?
Absolutely, there’s an undeniable level of consistency that has never been there before and we’ve had it now for quite a while. Having Joel there and Matt there, we’re an 8-member band, but half the guys in the band are original members, and that’s a meaningful thing for us — a sort of strange full circle thing going on. There’s definitely some magic on our side, I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s just there and we just kinda work with it.
So you’re playing All Tomorrow’s Parties later this year?
Actually, we’re not playing All Tomorrow’s Parties. We were booked to play it but it just ended up being a difficult thing to agree to. We never actually confirmed before they announced it, for a start. And then trying to work out the money and trying to book more shows around it in the area to justify going through the trouble of getting there — we just had to can it in the end — we couldn’t make it a viable [and] realistic situation.
I know you played it a couple years ago.
We have, and this is now the 3rd ATP in a row we’ve had to turn down. We were offered the ATP in Australia by Nick Cave, but apparently the money wasn’t good enough, and then we were offered it again by My Bloody Valentine in England, same situation, and then this one in New York is basically the same thing. The money doesn’t make it a viable situation. I hate the fact that money has to be an issue, but under our circumstances, it’s a prime factor because Anton’s living in Berlin, I’m living in Australia, and everyone else is living all over America and it costs a lot of money just to get in the same room together.
Do you guys rehearse much?
No, hardly at all. If we do rehearse, it’s for a day or two at the most and it’s only in preparation for a tour. If we’re touring, we’ll meet in Los Angeles first, rehearse for a day or two and then we’re off to wherever we’re going. We’ll do the tour and then we’ll have two to three weeks off before the tour begins. We won’t bother rehearsing again, we’ll just pick up where we left off. We’ve got a huge year of touring here in 2010, and we’ve had about two rehearsals before it all commenced. It’s not like we don’t need to, we just can’t. It’d be nice to have more opportunity to play together in a room rehearsing ‘cause there’s so many songs and so many ideas — lots of things we can do — but we just never really have much of an opportunity to get around to making it come to life.
There’s a lot of songs in the catalog, does that limit you in what songs you can play?
Well, honestly, it does and you can only get away with rehearsing at sound check so much, you know [laughs]? We’ve actually done that quite a bit and we have brought a couple songs into the set that way, but it’s not standard practice.
How many Jonestown songs can you play at a moment’s notice?
Oh, probably 40 or 50 or so. We sort of stick to the same 25 for the most part, just for the consistency and knowing that we’ll get through it properly. That’s the only thing that we do that everyone else does, but we don’t do encores or anything like that, we just sort of start and finish. Encores are a little bit too ‘show-biz’ for us.
After the tour, is there anything planned?
Nope, we don’t have anything scheduled after California. We might take some time off. We might even take up to a couple years off actually, so we’ll just see. There’s talk about an Australian tour, but that’s not til March or so, and I’ll be there anyway so that’ll be easy for me to do.
You’re a big fan of The Church, Steve Kilbey and Marty Willson-Piper. Was playing with them a dream come true?
Sort of, I mean, if there was ever a dream that came true for me, that would be it, working with Kilbey and Marty Willson-Piper. To me it’s like working with John Lennon and George Harrison, although they’re dead, [but] it’s that kinda thing though for sure. It took me some time to get over it and accept it as a normal thing and now I can’t imagine not playing with Steve or Marty. I haven’t done so much [with] Marty lately, but Steve and I have really struck up this great creative relationship and we definitely have plans to do more in the near future. It’s a real special thing for me and it’s very humbling.
Fantastic, it was great talking to you. Thank you very much for the interview!
Lovely. You’re welcome!
Pick up The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s new album Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?