INTERVIEW: THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Twenty five years is a long time if you play an active part in the ever-changing music industry. If a band makes it this far they may find themselves lacking inspiration, failing to stay relevant, or slowly accepting that it’s probably time to release a ‘best of’ album and call it a day. The Brian Jonestown Massacre straight up refuse to be one of those bands.

Very few bands can bring the same achievements to the table that they have in their quarter century history and manage to come out fairly unscathed. With 15 studio albums, a similar number of EPs and a Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary film under their belts, BJM are still going strong.

The driving force behind the psych rock legends is multi-instrumentalist Anton Newcombe. When you’re the leader of such a resilient group – one that’s survived countless line-up changes, rocky working relationships and even addiction – what keeps you inspired? “I enjoy making art, I hate rock stars and the industry and all of it, I think it’s really hard for people to grasp that I’m like one of those jazz guys – I play for myself – and I do really well, but I am not using this platform to screw supermodels or buy houses in London, I’m in it until I die.”

Considering the band have been around for longer than I have, it’s always interesting and humbling to discover what it was that drew them to create such a psychedelic style of music. Quite frankly, they aren’t faking it, as Newcome succinctly puts it:

“I was born in 1967…I’m not playing dress up or make believe.”

The psych scene is undergoing somewhat of a resurgence, with a number of artists that cite The Brian Jonestown Massacre as an influence. Newcome agrees with Andy Votel (notable DJ, producer, and co-founder of the Twisted Nerve record label), in that psychedelia is about mind expansion. “Andy Votel has said ‘let’s be honest, most of this is just indie rock’. I tend to agree – psychedelia to me is mind expanding – so even music with wah wah is just fluff, some trippy hip-hop with odd sounds and a piss poor message isn’t really fitting the bill for me.” With so many psych artists citing the band as a source of inspiration, surely it must be somewhat daunting for the seven-piece? “I create for the joy of creation…the by-product is that other might enjoy it.”

It’s statements such as these that make BJM such a rare find in the world of music – one that currently seems dominated by scrawny, laddish indie quartets whose lexicon doesn’t stretch much further than ‘birds’ and ‘beer’ and ‘bants’ – a group of artists who play for the sheer joy of creating and performing music.

Aside from preparing to head out on tour, the Newcastle-leg of which takes place at Riverside on Friday 10th June, Newcombe’s been busy with new material. “Right now, my focus is on tour. I did two remixes for Primal Scream before I left, and recorded a lot of music…but that’s on the back burner, so to speak.”

The band have a reputation for tumultuous stage antics to go with their mind-expanding music. In the unlikely event you need any further encouragement to purchase a ticket, let Newcombe persuade you further, in his own inimitable style. “We are one of a kind and really good now, and I think that’s starting to set in.”

The Brian Jonestown Massacre play Riverside, Newcastle on Friday 10th June.


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