INTERVIEW: Brian Jonestown Massacre
Interview with Anton (guitar/vocals), Joel (percussion)
By: Alex Steininger
Alex: How would you describe your sound?
Anton: Guitar driven folk rock. We have three guitar players, usually, in our live show.
Joel: It's yesterday, tomorrow, today baby!
Alex: What are some of your musical influences?
Joel: It starts with rock 'n' roll in the 50's, Bo Diddley and stuff like that. We also like lots of 60's stuff, psychedelic stuff, Beetles and all that stuff. Some glam, some punk, 80's, all that stuff.
Alex: What are your band goals for 1998?
Anton: To make it through 1998, and kick back and not move forward in 1999.
Alex: What do you guys do for fun?
Anton: (laughs) Play gigs?
Joel: Make Macaroni and Cheese! Travel around in a van for a long period of time.
Anton: Stay in a van for like 20 hours at a time, meet people, and going new places.
Alex: You've signed to TVT, are they behind you all the way?
Anton: 100%! They're really supportive. Everyone is really enthusiastic at the label about us, and if it was a bigger label I don't think you'd get that. No matter who you are, even if you were someone like Madonna.
Joel: They're real fans of the music, so they're behind it from that angel as well. They all really dig it, and that's really nice.
Alex: What made you guys decide to sign with TVT, especially since they seem to be a more predominately industrial label?
Anton: They're still an independent, a big one, but independent. They were just interested, so we went with them. They do a lot of things on top of industrial. They even do cartoon music. We just started to talking to them, and they were really down to earth about letting us fuck up and learn from our mistakes. They didn't want to push us to be career driven or anything like that. They were willing to let us just be ourselves.
Joel: They dig the band, so they told us to do what we're doing now and let us be totally free. They didn't want us to be something we're not, they liked us the way we are, that's why they signed us, so they wanted us to stay the way we were and not change for them.
Anton: Because we can't be someone else! It's too weird. Besides, if you're trying to be like someone you see on the mainstream level, that's already old by the time it gets out. It's already someone's two year old idea. You just gotta be the best you can be, and that's what we're going to do.
Alex: Do you guys have a favorite city or venue to play?
Anton: I like a lot of cities. I find we have a lot of friends in Portland, so it always makes this place nice. What about you Joel?
Joel: Yeah, it's hard to break it down to just one place. We just played England, and that was amazing. We also played Toronto, and that was just great.
Anton: Yeah, London was great. It was pretty amazing. You see it on TV and read magazines about it, but that doesn't prepare you. It's just great. But all the bars close at eleven, so we...it was fun. Joel and I walked into a pub and they were playing the Sex Pistols and The Jam. It's kinda different, it felt great. To just walk in and hear it, and not have to play it on the juke box or anything, to just hear it out in the open was really a new experience for me.
Joel: It's like going to Seattle and hearing Nirvana or something. It's the home team music.
Anton: Or being in the Bronx and listening to KRS 1.
Alex: So, out of your Portland "friends," does that include the Dandy Warhols?
Joel and Anton: YEAH!
Alex: Then what's up with all this fighting, hype, and all that other B.S.? Is it for fun or is it serious?
Anton: It's kinda fun.
Joel: We're friends, you know, friends like that poke around with each other. The difference here is the press and everyone gets involved and blows it way out of proportion. Instead of you just doing a poke at a friend, here everyone writes about it and sees it. Just because you're bands or something.
Anton: I thought they needed a little bit of their own medicine.
Alex: So there is no hatred, it's all in fun and games?
Anton: I'm not really affected by it now because it's water under the bridge. I do, however, wish we could tour England with them. But that wouldn't happen, I don't think, because they're so career driven. I don't know what to say about them.
Alex: Really, you consider it old? Here in Portland it still gets enough mentions. 'Tonight at Zoot Suite, the band that wrote NOT IF YOU WERE THE LAST DANDY ON EARTH.' It still gets enough press.
Anton: That was funny. When Matt came up with that, that was just funny. We just stuck it right back at them, and I thought that was great.
Joel: It's also sort of satirical. Kind of like what Ray Davies, or the Kinks would do in the 60's.
Alex: What was up with the bullets with their names on it then?
Anton: That was funny, just being funny. I was trying to find out...so much of the press is a tabloid thing, and people want to eat that shit up, so I thought that was funny. I knew the press was like that, all tabloid shit, but I didn't know how easy it would be to tap into that. But I found out. I didn't REALLY feel any animosity towards them, but when they found out they got us canceled from the CMJ showcase. They were like, "you're trying to kill us!"
Alex: Have they got the joke yet?
Anton: I think they're just tired of hearing about it. Think about it, if you were super career driven you wouldn't want people talking about other bands all the time. But the funny thing is we have lots of people in Europe who go to their press conferences and just ask them all sorts of questions about us.
Alex: If you could tour with anyone, who would you want to tour with?
Anton: I would like to tour with anyone that puts on a good show. Just something really driven. What do you think?
Joel: Well, I would really like to tour with Jesus and Mary Chain or something like that. Old school, you know what I mean...coming from the same solar system as us.
Anton: I wish people were more concentrated on putting on good shows. I wish there was great three band package tours, all the time. Like the old days. For the same price you could see three bands you really want to see, rather than having to sit through a few bands you don't want to see in order to get the band you really want to see. People are so worried these days. There's my clothes. I gotta go put on some new pants. You don't mind, do you?
Alex: No, not at all. So Joel, is there road experience that stands out in your mind?
Joel: The last tour...there are way too many to mention. One time we had this van, and it threw a rod. We coasted it into a gas station in Butts County, Georgia. We had to camp out behind a garbage dumpster, hiding from all the red necks and everything. I mean, we don't know anyone in that part of the world. And that took us three days, and finally a friend came and helped us out. We rented a U-Haul, and we were staying in the back of this fucking U-Haul. Then our next gig was is New Orleans, so we drove there, and there was a lightning storm. First thing we did when we got in town was get drunk, and then we played our show and all that. That night at the hotel we were trying to sleep, but there was this lightning going off, and we couldn't sleep. It was striking across the street too. And for the last tour was just one thing after another. Every town was something else. This one has been a lot smoother though. But we're glad to keep going, because people had this idea that we couldn't do it. They thought we'd implode or something. We would never be able to survive a whole tour, so this one has been going pretty good.
Alex: But on this tour you've had some band members dropping and mishaps like that?
Joel: Yeah, yeah. Well, it worked out kind of nice. We had this other drummer...
Anton: We've got a new drummer from Portland, his name is Eric.
Joel: Now we've got it taken care of, yeah, but our old drummer...you see, this cat wasn't really of our nature, and he couldn't hack it. By New York City he was out of there. But it was cool, because Marty here from Swoon 23 knows a lot of our songs from watching us play every night, and at our next gig in Toronto he jumped up there and played with us. Then we met this cat up here, who we're going to have come down to LA with us when we're done, and he'll do a tour with us in three weeks.
Alex: Is he going to be a permanent member, or is he just a replacement?
Joel: It's hard to say, you know, because we've had so many. It's just too hard to tell. It's never a question of you're in or you're out, because I've never been told I'm in the band and its been five years. You just kind of do it.
Alex: What do you enjoy and hate about the music industry?
Joel: What I really hate is the state that it's in now. Music has been taken out of its true form. Back in the sixties it was all about youth and the kids. Everyone would go nuts for one thing, and then radio and everyone was forced to play it. Now days it's the opposite. I mean, it's kinda like every band is the Monkees these days. People give the Monkees so much grief, but every band these days is just like them. They're all formulated, fake, contrived bull shit. So I hate that, it's kind of a drag. It's time for a musical revolution. Back in the sixties you had Pat Boone and that shit, and things got so damn square that everyone went, "What the fuck!" Then Elvis came along and everyone was singing about fucking. I think it's about time for that. If it doesn't happen now it's never going to happen. People are just getting too complacent.
Alex: Hey, they're doing a good job of pushing the music onto us. What the radio wants us to hear, we hear. It isn't right, but it's the way things are.
Joel: Yeah, and who can blame them. They're businessmen and they're making money. It's not like it used to be where photography, music, and all these different forms of art stuck together. They came hand in hand, and it really helped push the scene forward. Now days it's not like that.
Alex: People also need to start supporting independent music.
Joel: Yeah, that's right. We also need bands that go out and tour, and try just make it happen. Like back in the Fillmore days. Three or four bands would hit the road together and just make things happen. Now days it's not like that. It's us and then them. It's a drag.
Alex: If you could change one thing in your band's history, would you change anything?
Joel: Nope! No regrets!
Alex: That's the way to do it. So, what are the highest and lowest points the band has experienced so far? Like getting signed to TVT being a high point?
Joel: That's whatever. Getting signed to TVT was nice and all, raising the stakes, but that's not really a high point. A high point is just being able to keep going. Progression, going up, because the last thing you ever want to do is fly moderate or go down. It's been a steady up clime, and that's great.
Alex: Any low points? Being stabbed in the back, or anything like that?
Joel: Yeah, we go through all sorts of stuff. But that's that. Especially Anton and I, we've had to live together. Now the band has had the same house for the past two years, we all live together and it's a family thing. It's not like we all have our jobs and go to a practice space twice a week and play. We're living it. We gave up on jobs, lived on the streets, and did whatever it took to make it go down. I think if you're going to ask for something like being in a successful band, that's a big thing to ask, you're going to have to pay some serious dues. It's an all-or-nothing thing. I mean, it's like having brothers and sisters. You fight with them all the time, but you have to go through the downs to get to the ups.
Alex: What made you want to be in a band?
Joel: The Beetles! I loved them as a kid, and my mom went out and bought me the red and the blue double album, and what really turned me on was there was "Two Strawberry Fields" and "I Am The Walrus," which were audio cartoons. It was animation through the ears, and it blew me away. I was like an eight year old kid, and it was fucking amazing.
Alex: What goes into good music making for you personally, and then as a band?
Joel: Being inspired. Anton's the chief songwriter, but I know what's good and what I like. So we work together, and that's what is so righteous about this. We share opinions and all decide on everything.
Alex: What do you want the listener to get out of the music?
Joel: I don't know. Whatever they want. There is no grand message or politics. It's just art.
Alex: Let's talk about your new album that is coming out, correct?
Joel: Yeah, it's coming out on the 27th. It's called STRUNG OUT IN HEAVEN. It's a bunch of songs, and it's our first one for TVT Records.
Alex: Is there any theme or anything conceptual behind this album?
Joel: No, we tend to have several things on at once. We just completed an EP which will come out in a couple of months, but this one is just a bunch of songs we threw together. We've got something a bit more conceptual in the works.
Alex: Let's talk about the full-length. Tell us a bit about it.
Joel: The first single is called "Kids Today," and it's kind of an acoustic number. It's coming out on the 12th, kinda soon.
Alex: Is there a video for it?
Joel: No, we're not going to be bothered by that kind of thing. Unless there is a demand for it, then we'll do it. If we get approached to make a video, I'd love to do one, but we're not going to make one and hand it to someone and go, "Here. Play us!"