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That's partly my fault. Not all the questions were as clear as they could have been. I tried to break the ice by asking why they'd seemingly gone underground in recent years. What I meant by that was, it seemed they'd avoided the media spotlight that shone brightly on them in the mid- to late-90s. Anton's answer was a curt retort, which is understandable due to the way the question was worded, it made it seem like BJM hadn't done anything lately - which is far from the truth. Their last album came out just two years ago.
We didn't read Anton his Miranda Rights. But make no mistake, he's well aware of them. As you'll see, he reveals only what he wants - like the supermodel he'd like to bed - and that isn't much. But every so often, he lets something interesting slip, and that's why he remains such a fascinating figure. The American underground would be a lot less interesting without him. So, here he is, folks. Anton Newcombe is ready to talk.
LAS: It seems like you've been keeping a low profile in recent years. Tell us what you've been up to and what we can expect from you in the near future as far as any new music is concerned.
Newcombe: You are incorrect. We have toured more in the last few years than most bands. Take a look at our website. Factor in that we were also doing in-store and live radio performances. I'm busy now working on the new record, so…
Did you ever consider dropping the BJM name and just going solo?
I have a few offers to release solo records right now, and I am considering them, but the answer is no. It's always been my group as much as anyone's. I've never been the type to try and sell myself as a product or entertainer. Who knows?
So, who is in the band right now and how do feel about the direction it's going?
Same folks. Ricky, Frankie, Dan, the bass man and myself. Like I said, I'm working on the album, We Are The Radio. I'm not concerned with direction. We're just doing what we do.
Was there ever a time when you thought the lineup for the Brian Jonestown Massacre was perfect, that you had the musicians in place to accomplish what you wanted?
Not really. I don't see things like most people, and that is something I have to deal with.
Does it bother you that people are always calling BJM 60's revivalists? I ask that because there seems to be so much more to the BJM sound than that. You've got that modern psychedelic aspect, that sort of shoegazer element - for lack of a better term - and you've also incorporated blues, country and that dark Velvet Underground sort of drone. Is there anything more to throw into the mix at this point?
I think we've been very lucky. We've never been tagged as "retro." We are, in fact, retroactive. Perspectives change. I have a few tricks up my sleeve left.
Between 1995 and 1997, BJM was so prolific, and the records were so adventurous and exploratory. Have you ever reflected back on those times and tried to come up with a reason why that was?
I felt there was something that needed to be said. I volunteered my mind, body and spirit. Another aspect of that time period - that I don't speak of to everyone - was the fact that from our first show in 1990, we had offers on the table. People really believed in our creativity. They were also terrified of our independence. I would tell A&R people at the majors that they had exactly 30 days to do as we said, in regards to a recording contract, or I would release the album as is and swear a solemn oath to never allow their label - be it WEA or Sony, etc. - to have the master. And that is what I did.
Do you think you work better when you take your time in the studio and try to get all the details nailed down, or are you more effective when you get a spurt of creativity and just march in and bang out records in a few days?
Good question. I don't measure my work in those terms. I just do what I do and not look back. All of the recordings have their faults, but how many people make 15 albums and get more popular day by day?
Why is now the right time for a BJM retrospective, and do you think the public is finally ready to embrace the band's sound?
We (Tee Pee, Cargo, Smash etc.) thought it would be intelligent to exploit Palm Pictures and the movie Dig!, just like they are exploiting me. These people have an agenda, and don't really care about the truth. I let Tee Pee pick out some tunes - I own all of the recordings - and fly them up the flagpole. It remains to be seen who salutes. I will say that we are selling truckloads.
How involved were you in choosing tracks and the sequencing, and are you happy with how it turned out?
I had zero involvement. I did, however, create a compilation for a magazine in England called Org. The issue came with a CD that had 22 tracks, 19 of them secret. I thought it would be cool to be reading about a band, and put on the CD and have it just keep going and going with all of this heavy music. I found out that nothing is sacred.
I'd be remiss if I didn't ask about your relationship with the Dandy Warhols, and Courtney Taylor in particular. You two had such an amazing musical kinship and it's fascinating how each of you pushed the other to test the limits of your imaginations. Why was it that you two clicked early on, and why do you think you two had such a falling out?
We are, in fact, good friends. The film tells a story. That story is not the truth. I see him all of the time when I am in Portland, Ore., at my house. We played music for about three hours the last time, in fact. Believe what you want about the movie I guess.
Obviously, you didn't like how the movie Dig! turned out. Were you surprised that it took on this, as you say, "Springer-esque" kind of quality?
I was let down. I felt ripped off and cheated. Ultimately, I think they could have done something important. What a waste.
Do you think you'll ever have that kind of relationship with another musician again, where that creative tension between you forces you to go farther than you would on your own?
I do. I listen to Sune Rose Wagner and the Raveonettes and talk about music. Who knows? Right now, I am challenging myself to do my most important work. It's taking forever but if I have to, I will just make up an album in the styles I always work with and continue my work.
Are there musicians or bands out there right now that you would say have that same drive to be revolutionary?
I don't know. There are bands I like. Primal Scream remains true to form.
Finally, I've always wondered, what do you think a recording session between yourself and Brian Jones would have been like?
I think it would have been wonderful. I also think that Kate Moss and I would have fucked each other into oblivion. So much for dreaming. SEE ALSO: www.brianjonestownmassacre.com
SEE ALSO: www.thecommitteetokeepmusicevil.com
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he'll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.
See other articles by Peter Lindblad.
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