Sunday, 3 June 2012
INTERVIEW: ANTON NEWCOMBE (BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE)
Newcombe and his shifting band of acolytes in the BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE have been steadily and stealthily releasing records that that are revered and reviled in equal measure. As one of music’s more outspoken characters, Newcombe cares not for public opinion, nor would he have it any other way. Taking time out from a lengthy world tour, Newcombe spoke with us about his life in Berlin, thoughts on U.S. culture and cynical Hollywood sharks.
AA: The title of your latest LP, 'Aufheben', is a word that has multiple meanings. It can be used to mean 'to lift' or 'to abolish' among others. What meaning did you have in mind when choosing it to represent your music?
AN: I love the concept of destroying something to preserve it. I read a book once about a Sufi institution of learning...maybe it was in Iran hundreds of years ago. At some point a new ruler decided that Sufi art and teaching were against more conservative Islam, so mobs of angry orthodox people were going from village to town to attack and destroy these schools of learning and art and purge these mystical sects. The master of one school, upon learning of a mob heading in their direction, ordered his students to grab all of the texts and art they had created in the compound and take it out to the street and burn it; all of the rugs and tapestries etc. A student said “What? You want us to burn all of these texts and God inspired art?
The teacher said “Yes. When the mob comes, they will think we are a part of their mob, and will keep moving on. We know how to make these things again after it is safe as it is our own work...and we will live.”
AA: Early reactions to the new LP are very positive. Some fans are calling it the best Brian Jonestown Massacre record yet. Is this something you would agree with?
AN: I don't think about things in those terms. I'm pleased that people enjoy it...I hope it finds its way into the hands/ears of those that would enjoy it. I’m very much looking forward to starting on new ideas, new albums. I love progress of any type and I would love to expand on my own art in someway...create more songs in other languages...perhaps do a soundtrack...
AA: A part of the My Bloody Underground LP was recorded in Liverpool. As this site is based here, we are keen to know what your impressions of the city and its people were.
AN: For me the city is all about the people. Love them. I had a falling out with Pete and Peasy (mostly Pete, Peasy is lovely) so I do not visit so much anymore. They were my European management so...you know, I guess I was getting way scary drinking and being wild then recording insane songs with those lyrics and giving it that Paul McCrayfish/Woodenpeg bit. It freaked them out....but no hard feelings. I am a Northern soul - loved the Bunnymen to the death. Will Sgt is a good lad and I have loads of friends from Liverpool. I love people from the city and area. Love the La's, don't care much for the Beatles machine…ha!
AA: You currently reside in Berlin when not touring. What about the city enticed you to move there?
AN: Freedom. Berlin leaves me alone. At the same time I get the feeling that the major players in the western world are falling apart and just plain suck. Capitalism ran amok. I don't get that feeling at all in Scandinavia or Germany. In some ways the UK and the States and a few others…they feel like corporate fascist countries or states in a global thing. I don't like it. Berlin…I don't get that vibe at all and I feel like it will be the last of the western nations to dress up like the Stasi or National Socialists because of their history. I feel safe, happy...and I am thankful.
AA: Do you see yourself returning to live in the US in the future?
AN: I can't say, but I do not like the culture nor the cause or the lies or the mainstream or the politics or the militarism, jingoism, racism...it all makes me want to fucking puke. I've lost all respect for the culture and for the people for not standing up to the bullshit that started after 9/11 and it is embraced by both parties. People are so self-centred, money hungry and lame. I don't want to see it, or see bling or be around that fucking jackass Jersey Shore Kardashian tabloid toilet any more than I have to. Goldman Sachs can have it.
AA: In an interview with the The Quietus in 2010, you stated you were clean and on the wagon. Was this a conscious decision in regards to your domestic life or something you just slipped into?
AN: It was time for me to stop drinking. Simple.
AA: You are currently undertaking a lengthy world tour until August. Are things like burnout and fatigue still problematic or are you experienced enough to deal with it?
AN: It’s hard work. I try the best I can. I'm not perfect. I worry about playing well...
AA: For as long as you've been in the public eye, you've talked extensively about the notion of instigating revolutions and wanting to totally alter people's perceptions of life and the world around them. Do you think that people will ever widely accept such ideas or have we gone too far down the rabbit hole as a species?
AN: I can't really want things for society that they don't want themselves. I find that I lose respect for humanity little by little more each day. I would like to think that I am wrong, but all signs point to the decay of some very vital aspects of human dignity, and that distresses me. My only plan is to carry on with my art.
AA: Some people first became aware of you and BJM as a result of 'Dig!' What were your thoughts on the film? Did you feel you had been ambushed by those making the film or is it something that does not particularly bother you?
AN: Ambush is the wrong word. I feel like I provided access under the false impression that the film makers were honest when in fact they were selfish and shallow. Betrayed is a better word for it.
AA: Rumour has it that BJM will be releasing a total of six albums in 2012?
The what: The world’s biggest band in the world if you have pointy shoes, a stripey shirt and haven’t smiled in 3 years. The Brian Jonestown Massacre bring their mates The Raveonettes to the party and why shouldn’t they? Anton spent a few years in Iceland and Denmark is close enough for them to be besties. Probably.
The Raveonettes never really impressed me much on record and live when they played at Laneway a few years back. Sure everyone knows Love In A Trashcan but are they more than just a one-hit-band? The answer is yes, they were great. Lots of noisy feedback and dreamy vocals swished through a haze of white noise. Good shit. I was impressed at the level of shoegaziness (that’s a word) these cats played at. Will I go back and listen to their albums now? Most definitely. I could probably pad this out more but it’s been a few days and I’ve been cold.
There’s been a lot said about Anton the last few years and of course those early days of drug debauchery will always loom over the band’s heads but the reason they became so notorious was the music first and foremost. The craziness and partying was just an added incentive to the legend. These days the band have sorted themselves out, Matt Hollywood and Joel Gion have been back for a few years now and all is well. Even their last album Aufheben have received great accolades so they’ve never seemed more close knit.
But so what, it’s all about the live show. Seeing eight dudes on the tiny OAF stage bust into Panic in Babylon with its Paint It Black vibes and 4-guitar harmonium is pretty special. Anton stands side of stage and lets most of the other guys lead which is fine, it all blends together perfectly. New and old, you got it. How about Not If You Were The Last Dandy on Earth, Who and Walking Up To Hand Grenades.
In true BJM fashion there’s a lot of tuning between songs and strange banter from Anton, although it’s nothing like that legendary 2004 tour. There’s the usual crew taking vocals with Matt taking on Oh Lord and Joel on I don’t know what. But as he’s easily the most replaceable member he may as well earn his keep.
For the encore they play Straight Up and Down, or as some people call it ‘The theme from Boardwalk Empire”. They don’t just charge through it, they stretch it out to 15 minutes of pure droney feedbacky wall of soundy goodness. And that’s the good shit that makes me feel funny in my pants.
Verdict: I will certainly go back and listen to The Raveonettes and Brian Jonestown Massacre are still kings of their genre. Good work.
Reviews — 24 May 2012
Tuesday 22nd May, 2012.
A bizarre mix of hipsters, stoners and middle aged men huddled
together outside The Astor, comparing denim jackets and smoking
perfectly rolled cigarettes. The vibe was relatively mellow as the crowd
poured through the theatre doors and draped themselves over seats,
gathered on the floor and slunk into the dark corners of the room.
Gracefully arriving on stage, THE RAVEONETTES
instantly battered and bruised the crowd with uncomfortably loud
feedback that caused bones to vibrate and skin to tingle. We were going
to be killed, and we were willing to die. The trio delivered with quiet
confidence and sincerity, choosing to make very little conversation and
let the music speak for itself. Their intoxicating, almost hypnotic
brand of Trash Pop didn’t just speak, it screamed.
Review by Jade Lane
Raveonettes set was faultless and they owned their space as they roused the crowd with ‘Beat City’, complete with ear splitting feedback that seemed to force it’s way into the spaces between the audience, connecting everyone. The soft, dark, dream pop of ‘Lust’ had the crowd blissfully subdued, but the moment was short lived and the abrasive garage noise was back in the form of ‘Aly walk with me’. It was the necessary slap in the face of the collective conscious, awakening us from our fuzz induced coma. Sune and Sharin shared vocal duties and managed to create a heavy, full sounding set that delicately hung somewhere between melancholia and mayhem. The drum machine was a little loud and completely drowned out the sound of the actual drummer, who may as well have been playing a biscuit tin with a pencil. That being said, The Raveonettes still absolutely killed it.
Anticipation and excitement saturated the air as the masses gathered, waiting for the BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE to appear. There were those who had obviously seen Dig!, whispering amongst themselves about who they thought Anton would kick in the face and there were those who know better. With a 20 album back catalogue and years of touring, the Brian Jonestown Massacre have emerged as a highly evolved pillar of stability. The lights dimmed, the 8 members arranged themselves on stage and the onslaught began.
Anton was pleasantly docile; positioning himself at the far left of stage and allowing fellow band mates the spotlight. Joel took up the centre space, where he milled around banging his tambourine, shaking his maracas and generally being a dude. There was very little in the way of banter but no words were needed as they proceeded to show us why they are, in their own words, the best band in the world. They kicked things off with ‘Stairway To The Best Party in the Universe’, a track from the new album ‘Aufheben’, and the room instantly stank of weed. The joint in question made it’s way around the room as the crowd really pulled together, playing a game of pass the parcel until the security guards caught on and kicked out the last guy holding it. Bit uptight, but the band laughed and everyone carried on without him.
Perfectly balanced, the sound was impeccable. BJM have grown into such a dynamic, tight knit group who understand the sort of organised chaos it takes to keep it all together; and they do it seamlessly. They jumped between mellow, strung out tracks like ‘Anenome’ and the innocent playfulness found in ‘Wisdom’ and ‘Servo’. ‘(David Bowie I Love You) Since I Was Six’ had the crowd doing all kinds of odd interpretive dance but the pace was picked up and the real grooving began when Matt Hollywood sung the brilliant ‘Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth’. As the prodigal son of BJM, he really owned it.
With such a huge back log of tunes, they played hit after hit and the two hour set seemed to come to an end all too soon. The lights went down, the reverb resonated throughout the theatre and the band were gone.
True to the premise that you should not be a bloody sell out, there was no encore.