Brant Bjork is on Aussie turf dishing up a hearty dose of desert rock to fans across the nation. He’s got a new album out dubbed Tao Of The Devil, but that’s not all you’re going to hear at one of this iconic rocker’s solo live shows.
Chatting with Music Feeds, the multi-instrumental ledgehammer — who’s been in more big-name bands than you can poke a drumstick at, including but not limited to Kyuss, Vista Chino and Fu Manchu — gave us the low down on what we can expect from his current run of Aussie shows, including what fans should bring with them to ensure a maximum good time.
Bjork also gave us a brief history of the Southern Cali desert rock scene (and its associated hallucinogens), while flashing back to what it was like growing up in such a unique and awesome place.
Catch our full chat with the great man below, and check out his remaining run of Aussie shows here.
Music Feeds: So you’ve toured Australia a few times now — including with Vista Chino at the very last Big Day Out — what are some of the things that stick out most in your mind about that tour?
Brant Bjork: Ah, good question. I’ve not thought about that tour often, I’m not sure that I’ve thought much about it since [laughs]. I think that was the last – if not one of the last – tours Vista Chino did. And my memory of that particular tour was of us just sounding like a really good band, just playing very well. I felt like we’d arrived at a place that you arrive only after you’ve been playing for some time, and Bruno the guitar player, Mike Dean on bass and myself, we were really cooking. And I think there was a bittersweet thing happening in Australia because I think we had come to the knowledge that we weren’t going to perform much more after that – if at all – you know? And there was a little bit of sadness because we were really cookin’.
MF: Which is kind of poetic because it was the final ever Big Day Out as well. So just on Vista Chino – has there been any talk of doing anything more with that project any time soon?
BB: I have priorities at the moment, which is clearly my own music with my own band. But I have spoken to [bassist] Mike Dean and Nick Oliveri and I’ve spoken to Bruno [Fevery, guitar] on a number of occasions about Vista Chino.
I haven’t talked to John [Garcia, vocals] about it at all since, but I’ve talked to the other guys and we’ve all mentioned to one another that we were sad to see the band basically stop, and that we were all collectively into the idea of, you know, creating some fresh music with Vista Chino.
But all of that was said with the idea and understanding that we all have our own careers and own music. Vista Chino was never meant to be a full-time thing to anyone.
MF: But never say never?
BB: [laughs] We weren’t expecting it to be born to begin with. So of course, anything’s possible, yeah.
MF: So you’re back here this month for a stack of shows. What would you say are three things fans should bring with them to a Brant Bjork show to ensure maximum good times?
BB: Oh wow. Well… bring your dancin’ shoes, cause you’re gonna have to do some dancin’. Bring a friend, because no one likes to be alone. And bring an open mind.
MF: And what can we expect setlist-wise from this tour, will you mainly be focusing on stuff from the new record or is it going to be a mix of songs from across your very prolific career?
BB: We’ll be focusing on the new record and simultaneously focusing on some of the older stuff as well. Not too much from the middle era, but we’ve got the top and the bottom covered. But we’re really excited about the new record, not just because it’s our new record but because it’s material that this band collectively spawned. We feel really good about expanding on that material so that’s naturally kind of like the foundation of what we do in our live set. You know, we decided to not try and stuff a number of songs into a particular tour to try and contain the whole catalogue, we deliberately wanted to pick a handful of songs and focus on them all year, to kind of let those songs evolve cause we like to jam them a lot live. We’re really letting things really stew.
MF: So you’ve been making music for twenty-five years now… what are some of the ways you’ve seen the desert rock scene change and evolve over that time?
BB: Well the desert rock “scene” – and it’s hard to know what any one person is referring to when they say that – I personally happen to have my own experience and definition of what “desert rock” means, and for me, from about the mid 80’s to about the early-to-mid 90’s was when there was a real vibrant music scene in the desert where I’m from. And, like any musical movement from any particular place – whether it was London or San Francisco in the late ’60s or New York in the mid ’70s – I mean, these scenes literally lasted for a very short period of time. So the desert scene, from 1988 to 1990, that’s really when things were just really pumping, at kind of a peak. And it was just never that again. So there’s an element of an extension of a particular moment in time.
MF: Can you share any memorable experiences you’ve ever had in the desert?
BB: Oh god [laughs]. I wouldn’t even know where to begin and end. I mean I grew up in a desert, everything you can imagine a young kid experiencing, as part of going from boys to a man, right? Everything you can possibly do in the desert, we did.
MF: Have you ever taken peyote? I’ve heard that can be an… interesting experience!
BB: I’ve never taken peyote. But I have a lot of friends who have, and most of them are a lot older than me. I think it’s something that was way more common in the ’60s, actually the early ’60s. So by the time the cultural revolution of the late ’60s started to happen, I think acid kind of took the place of peyote. And of course mushrooms. One of the funnest things I ever experienced was mescaline, that was something. I didn’t find it to be like some crazy acid trip, it was just really cool.
MF: Have you ever been to The Outback here in Australia?
BB: I haven’t, you know, I’ve been to Australia so many times but I’ve not ever really experienced it. I’d like to someday. It’s just when I get down there I come in and I do my shows and then I quickly get out, I have to get back home or back somewhere else. So I haven’t really been able to stay in Australia to have any of those kinds of experiences, but I’d like to.
MF: Lastly, I just wanted to pick your brain about Kyuss. As far as that band goes, do you see any kind of future? I know you guys have had more than your fair share of drama over the years but I guess if Guns N’ Roses can get back together then it seems like anything’s possible?
BB: Absolutely, anything is possible. I mean, the impossible and the unthinkable’s happened already — we got back together and had an amazing run.
Josh [Homme] is just… he’s not an easy guy. And I’m not saying that I am either, we are who we are. But, you know, he has his own perspective on what Kyuss is and what it should be… and it’s hard to move forward without the original guitar player, [who’s] not wanting to participate and [wanting to] keep you from doing it.
People forget that Kyuss was around for a short period of time and it broke up, and it broke up for [laughs] the same reason it broke up the second time!
It’s a band that wasn’t really built with any kind of foundation for longevity, to begin with. It’s almost as if to say we were lucky we got the record that we got out of it. [But] anything’s possible, you never know.
Brant Bjork’s new album Tao Of The Devil is out now. Brant Bjork concludes his Australian tour with a show in Brisbane tonight.
Brant Bjork Australian Tour 2017
Supported by Sean Wheeler
Friday, 12th May 2017
Crow Bar, Brisbane QLD