Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Anton Newcombe comes with a certain reputation.
Leading the Brian Jonestown Massacre for more than two decades, the American-born / Berlin-based artist matches nigh-on peerless space rock with stunning mood swings. At times, it can seem that through pouring his heart and soul into his music that Newcombe can be incapable of accepting criticism; backing himself into a corner, the songwriter can often seem prickly, defensive evasive.
But not today. The voice on the other end of the phone crackles with enthusiasm and – despite the odd ranting conspiracy theory – Anton Newcombe is a welcoming, open soul. Hell, he even signs off by sincerely wishing we meet again “because you seem like a good and decent person”.
Aw shucks...
Of course, he’s got every right to feel confident. New album ‘Aufheben’ is an overwhelming artistic success, finding a rejuvenated Brian Jonestown Massacre setting their controls for the heart of the sun. We begin, though, with Berlin.
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To begin with, you’re in Berlin now - how’s the city?
I love Berlin because it leaves me alone. I don’t speak German, so I’m oblivious to the advertising and if I should even catch small talk it’s incomprehensible.
Do you spend most of your time in the studio then?
Well, yeah, I come out everyday. I don’t live in my studio, it’s set up like.. with even bunk beds and a shower and a kitchen and everything, it’s like a two storey auto garage sort of thing.
Why did you move to Berlin in the first place?
A few reasons: in the UK, anywhere, if you walk into the street... the minute you leave your door life is going to intrude on you. If you go to a party someone is like “oh, so how do you know Sue?”or “I’m Jim, I work for Mojo magazine..” blah blah blah blah blah. In German culture it just doesn’t happen. That’s one side of it, plus the city has everything, it’s cheap, the art and everything, it’s international, it’s all right there if you need it.
You’ve got a point. Do you feel more free in Germany then?
Well I am because I’m an artist of means and I just go about my business. So I have a very good life and I love this culture and I love the people. It’s safe for women and children where I live, and that’s important to me. Whereas the high street in Cardiff on a Saturday, it’s anybody’s guess if you’re going to make it home. So it’s a totally different thing.
It is clear from this album as well that you do love British music, you’ve got ‘I Want To Hold Your Other Hand’ and ‘Blue Order/New Monday’.
Well that’s a quick story, see Bernard Sumner and whoever...Graham Cox? The bass player, Bad Lieutenant, they lifted my whole fucking riff. That’s not just a guitar lead, it’s a specific twelve string melodic motif from my song ‘When Jokers Attack’. He even played a twelve string, played the exact same notes. I thought that was not cool at all, to not even say “I like this other group” or something. So do you know what I did? Algorithms, baby. Now and for all time that dumb ass mother fucker, check this out, he can’t get away, you type in their biggest hit ever and you get my song. Because I’m a real group, I’m really on iTunes, I’m really on Google, so for a thousand years from now I’ll get paid every time somebody...there’s a possibility I’m married to that song now, just because the way a computer works, because they can’t pay Google to say; a search engine to say ‘not buying Jonestown Massacre’. See, so it’s just a scramble of worlds. Plus, there’s another whole side to the illumination aspect of it, like for instance in Free Masonry the first three steps equal the blue lodge and the blue order. Then, that is like a solar cult, with a solar deity, hence illumination and light. But then the more Julian Cope people, their all into the moon and the Goddess, that’s the other cult. So it’s like the Blue Order - the sun guys, and the moon people.
To talk about the album, let’s start with the title ‘Aufheben’, what made you choose that?
Believe it or not I was reading the Economist, a left wing intellectual political magazine from the UK, and this person brought up some word, and I think it was in regards to the power position that Germany now has within the continent, but they go, “How scary is it that they have this word with multiple meanings that are all contradictory?” When I looked at it I thought wow, that is interesting. But when you apply that word to German culture in the last century, it means to abolish or destroy, to pickup and preserve. So tearing apart something to save it. If you can imagine that in relation know they had the East Germany intergration back in...the whole culture, the history of national socialism, they had to tear apart this society to build it up to save it. I love that.
Matt Hollywood’s on this album, do you two just have a certain chemistry that brings out something musically out in you?
Well I taught him how to play guitar and we taught each other how to play music and really make a band, even though we have an interesting notion of stability and roles that everyone plays in this business. So, there’s that psychic thing that twins have, it’s almost like that. I have an idea and he automatically knows the sensibility and then we’re both boiled down to “I don’t want you to be singing that topic.” I write like Mozart, literally it comes like a lightening bolt and I can hear a symphony. I go what is that sound in my head, and I go what is this song I am singing? Oh, it’s mine, I better get to work on it. Most of the time that’s how it really happens.
You really have taken to the internet and you use the web to kind of communicate with people. What is it as a format that you really enjoy about that?
Well I’m interested...the words to the song...“I use the enemy, I use anarchy,” to quote Johnny Rotten, right. I’ll use fucking anything. If you’re sitting there making a BandCamp and your big fucking plan is to add Johnny Marr on Facebook as a means to furthering your career by pestering him with your fucking BandCamp, you don’t have a fucking plan. All that BandCamp is - putting your fucking demo up on BandCamp doesn’t magically make it an album. I hate to tell you, the internet didn’t bring that to anyone, and that’s only for fools that believe that. Just because the Daily Mail talks about who Wayne Rooney fucked doesn’t make you a star just because they print it, that reflects the taste of pigs that eat slop. It doesn’t mean anything. In fact, the more they print about stuff, it just lowers the bar so low that you should feel good about yourself if you're doing anything you enjoy, because you’re doing more than all the people just reading about other people losers fucking and what car they smashed. But, check this out, right on. Get him, he’s pissed! So, I can’t remember what the question was.
It was the internet.
The internet! Instead of making BandCamps alone, if you were to...I make these tunes with my mates - whatever they are, you can define how you want - me and my mates make videos to them, you can check out that. And we play down at the pub. So you’re doing all these different things instead of like “listen to my record on my BandCamp,” I’ll just put that with the rest of my one million unanswered emails. So do everything that can occur to you, do it just for the joy of doing it. That’s something, then you can at least look anybody in the eye on planet earth, whether it be the NME or your mom and you can say “I’m doing all kinds of stuff, mom.”
Are you looking forward to getting back out on the road or would you prefer to just sit in Berlin and make music?
I want to do...what a fucking hypocrite, right, I’m talking about pestering Johnny Marr on Facebook like the young ones, I want to pester Simon Pegg into making a decent movie and me getting all my mates that I know and making an insane soundtrack that will define our technological generation. A skill level. Drag everyone into it. Tweak it, remix it, do just mad stuff, so when you’re sitting in the theatre and the movie is already compelling, then it wouldn’t even matter...
Hollywood’s not in the movie business, their in a billion dollar of anything business. They don’t give a rat’s ass about quality, the best idea they can is going to rip off Guy Ritchie or whoever. Anybody who’s got an idea or formula. That’s the best you’re going to get, ripping off somebody else. Could you imagine a compelling film? Like it was cool watching ‘Trainspotting’ when they kick in the Iggy song and all that shit, it’s genius. Could you imagine something you’d never heard before that kicks your ass even further into gear? Fuck, this is our time, thank you. So, that’s what I want to be a part of as a mature.. I don’t have any reasons to be a teenager, like that’s not what it’s about. Who’d want to be a fucking teenager, Jessie J’s a fucking muppet. Fuck it. I want to make dope shit!
- - -
'Aufheben' is out now.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre have also lined up a few British shows, dates are as follows:
6 Scotland T In The Park
7 London Shepherds Bush Empire
8 Manchester Ritz
9 Birmingham Academy 2
Click here to buy tickets for The Brian Jonestown Massacre!

the bjm would like to thank the good people of berlin for helping us sell out club lido,
the concert has now been upgraded to the columbia hall.

w/ special guests the THIRD SOUND

thank you & we'll see you soon.


Delivering killer blows

Peter Krbavac
The Brian Jonestown Massacre's frontman Anton Newcombe shuns mainstream and makes a point of telling it like it is
''I was thinking about something,'' Anton Newcombe announces, preparing to wander off on another tangent. ''Think about how obscene and absurd it is that they use rock music to advertise and sell cars. When I buy an automobile, I'd want it to be safe, dependable and long-lasting. Every rock musician that I admire and idolise, like Jimi Hendrix, was unsafe, irresponsible and burned out,'' he says chuckling.
''Basically, rock'n'roll is supposed to represent something that is the opposite of all the qualities that you look for in an automobile,'' he continues, ''but at some point it became suitable. I'm more interested in the opposite perspective. I don't particularly want to sell soap and I'm not concerned with moving units or that other stuff, reaching the lowest common denominator.''
Newcombe, the frontman and driving force behind US psych-rock band the Brian Jonestown Massacre, is one of the more amiable and forthcoming interview subjects you are likely to encounter, eager to chat until his slowly draining phone battery renders his voice a digital mush. Unsurprisingly though, given his restless musical tendencies, the man does have a habit of only vaguely addressing questions presented to him before veering off into his own pre-occupations. Today, mainstream American television seems to be vexing him.
''I'm banned from American television, basically,'' he says. ''I was invited to play David Letterman and Conan O'Brien like five times and then there was always word, 'No, you can't do it.' There'll be trouble no matter what. I speak my mind.''
Not that these missed opportunities are of much concern to Newcombe.
''There's nothing on TV I want to watch anyway,'' he says. ''I don't really look at mainstream media or accolades as being representative of anything. I heard that Tame Impala has got a lot of recognition in Australia. See, that's a good situation, getting some credit where credit is due, but in America it's just not that situation. If Nicki Minaj is performing for 25 minutes on the Grammys, it's a symptom of a completely diseased culture.''
Though Newcombe is now based in Berlin, Fly's interview finds him in the band's studio in Los Angeles, where the group has assembled from up and down the US East Coast - and guitarist Ricky Maymi from his adopted home of Perth. Even founding member, bassist and songwriter Matt Hollywood - who quit the Brian Jonestown Massacre after an infamous onstage scuffle that saw a sitar bear most of the brunt - is back in the fold.
It was this incarnation of the band that recorded the recently released 12th LP Aufheben. The album is a wide-ranging beast, focusing less on guitar-driven tunes and more on groove-orientated, warped instrumental workouts with tinges of exotica and kraut rock.
''Lazy journalists will just pick the Take it from the Man record and go 'These guys are prostrating themselves at the temple of the Rolling Stones,' '' he says, sighing.
''I never really view this strictly as a retro project, I always thought of it as a combination of things.
''Our music doesn't owe as much to black music as the Rolling Stones does, at all,'' Newcombe says. ''It's not primarily a blues-based thing: none of the composition is. It owes more to some other kind of sensibility that weaves in and out of that.''
In fact, Newcombe says he sees his band as more of a ''folk-music situation'', citing Bob Dylan's musical bowerbird-like tendencies as an example.
''He took all of these influences from black, white, country to blues and put them together in this mix-match as his own,'' he says. ''Even when he was electric, his eclecticism, his tastes, his personal take on everything, it's very much a folk perspective - not just folk with an acoustic guitar, it's 'of the people'. Like an expression of the everyman. I think we do the same thing for psychedelic music. I approached it very much like a folk thing. I saw other people of limited means playing music and said 'I can do this, too'.''
Newcombe says he didn't want to be a rock star or any of the roles that come with that title.
''I was more interested in learning how to play, playing music with my friends, booking our own shows, making our own records and creating some sort of scene. It was much more akin to some sort of counter-culture bohemian folk thing, that happened to be electrified.''
When Newcombe talks about working on Aufheben and the group's other albums, it appears his methods are as free-form as his conversational style. As he describes it, the whole recording process seems to be done on the fly.
''I tend to write whatever I feel like just to make music,'' he says. ''Then I get inspired, that leads to some sort of manic work ethic and you just get into a big cloud and create a whole bunch of stuff. Then you have to try and figure out what would be suitable for some sort of a record.
''I want the music to reflect some sort of full-spectrum human emotion, rather than to go in and say 'I'm anticipating there to be full-scale civil unrest in this next summer of 2012, so here, I'm going to make this edgy record','' he says.
Newcombe says he doesn't actually have any goals when he enters the studio.
''Every single time that I start a project, to be honest, I don't go in with ideas so I have to confront that. You have to question yourself, you're like 'f---' - pardon my language, it's just a manner of speaking - but literally sit there and go 'f---, have I run out of ideas? Can I still do this?' ''
It is surprising to hear Newcombe, one of today's more prolific musicians and a man with a seemingly endless supply of creative energy, questioning his abilities.
''No, I have self-doubts like almost anybody,'' he says. ''Probably more so.''
frankie in perth

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