Interview with Brant Bjork
24th-26th April, 2015
Interview by Neil Neighbour
Photography by Anna Dumpe
While London’s Desertfest 2015 was in full swing, Metal-Rules.com team had a great opportunity to catch up with the Godfather of Stoner Rock himself – Brant Bjork (formerly known as the drummer of Kyuss, now the frontman of Brant Bjork and The Low Desert Punks).
Just moments before performing on the Main Stage at Desertfest 2015, we asked the man himself about the search for a heavier sound on his latest release Black Power Flower, his thoughts on festivals like Desertfest, his endless love for music and surviving in the music industry throughout the years.
Hello Brant, it’s a pleasure to be able to talk to you today! How is Desertfest 2015 going for you so far?
So far, it has been great. We only just arrived from Berlin Desertfest tho, so I’m looking forward to what London’s got to offer today.
You have played in London many times, either with your solo project or bands. How do you like it here and is London in any way special to you?
Yeah, I love playing London. This city has always been a great gig for me. There’s only one London after all… There might be others, but this is the one that really counts.
How do British fans differ when compared to fans anywhere else around the globe?
I think that everywhere you go, the people in the crowd will always have different temperaments and they reflect to the performance differently. Especially when you’re travelling through Europe, because on nightly-basis you get to experience different cultures and personalities depending on the country you’re in.
But the British… They’re always just a jolly bunch of people, you know? The crowds here are always enthusiastic, loyal and they love to have a good time. It’s definitely a lot of fun to be playing over here.
Your latest album Black Power Flower is possibly the heaviest material you have released to this date. Was it a conscious decision to go for a heavier sound on the new album or did it just happen naturally?
That was an absolutely conscious decision before I recorded the album. In fact, the main idea behind the whole
recording of Black Power Flower was all about this ridiculously heavy guitar sound. I wanted to kind of ‘tip my hat’ to that pre-heavy rock sound of the late 60’s and make my modern-day version of it and accept wherever my effort of that ends up. But in the end, it was all about achieving the goal and producing that ridiculously heavy sound.
How did the writing process differ from doing your solo and previous work to having the Low Desert Punk band behind you?
The record that I’m currently working on is way more collaborative than Black Power Flower. This time I am way more influenced by Dave Dinsmore’s and Bubba Dupree’s playing and writing, as this time we’re all writing stuff together.
Black Power Flower was something that I kind of already had written out, so when it was done, I just brought the guys in to the studio to perform the tracks. We got together, rehearsed the material and performed the tracks together live.
Do you find working with other artists more inspiring and influential than focusing on your solo stuff?
Absolutely. Philosophically, as a musician, I lean closer the the jazz artists. You know… For me it’s all about bringing in talented and creative musicians, collaborating and helping to pull, what I feel is, their inherent and natural gift, and vice versa – that whole process is what inspires me the most. I’m still learning a lot from the musicians I play with. And that, for me, is really what it’s all about.
When going through your back-catalogue, Jalamanta is still the album that stands out as a genre-defining classic. Tell us a little about how did you master that awesome bass tone that’s so significant on Jalamanta?
That’s kind of funny, as the concept for the bass sound on Jalamanta is the same as the guitar sound on the Black Power Flower. Basically, I kind of had this bass sound in my head and I wanted it to be the ‘main character’ of the record. Its interesting, really… First of all, I have this old bass guitar that I don’t travel with, it’s just a 68 Telecaster bass that I bought years ago and that’s kind of my studio bass. And I plug that fucking thing direct! Right in the board! (Laughs)
Simple as that – that’s exactly what that sound is. And really, what the idea and the sound of Jalamanata is all about is not being afraid to push the limits and the bass sound to a new level.
How do you decide on the set-lists for your shows? Do you tend to change them up a little bit every night while on tour?
These days I tend to improvise a lot less on the placement of songs in the stylise. I just kind of like to set up a group of songs and get my improvising out within the songs.
Jalamanta came out 16 years ago. Are you still as proud of it today as you were when it was released?
Yeah, of course. I’ve got an all – analogue studio in the desert, which is Jamalanta studios, so it kind of represents the album as a turning point in my career as a musician. It represents the time when I finally was able to do my own thing in my own way. I haven’t listened to the record, at east in it’s entirety, in a long time, but I’m still very proud of it.
After everything you’ve been through and how long you’ve been in the music business for, has there ever been a time when you just wanted to give it all up?
I mean… Yeah… Well, it’s not easy being an artist and that’s who I see myself as. I think of myself more as an artist rather than a musician. And there are obviously moments when it gets rough. You enter storms and you just gotta wait them out. You gotta fucking pitch up a tent and just deal with it, man! You wait for the storm to eventually pass, so you can get back out in the sun and get back to work.
But, in the end of the day, I think that’s gotta be the nature of anything you do with passion.
Are there any bands that you’re looking forward to check out while you’re here at Desertfest 2015?
I’ve never seen EYEHATEGOD before and I’ve always heard good things about them. But to be honest, I’d be happy just to see anything. I’m just really excited for the event itself and I feel like a lot of things are changing for rock music at the moment, so it’s really exciting to be a part of it.
We obviously know you for being a drummer, a guitarist and playing every single instrument on Jalamanta, but which instrument is still your ‘first love’ that enjoy playing the most?
Well, my first love, obviously, was the drums, but I don’t really have a favourite instrument anymore. It just depends on what I need to do with it at that moment in time. I do like the guitar though, because it’s so portable. You can just carry around with you and make music wherever you go. I dig that.
When you first started out as a musician, did you have any idea how much impact your work will have on the rock music scene and how important Kyuss was going to be for the development of a new music genre, that we know Stoner Rock?
Well, my personal goal back when we just started the band that later became Kyuss was to just go out in the desert and play alongside Mario Lalli and hope that maybe he’d like us. That’s as far as I thought it would ever go. So it’s been quite surreal of what it all has become, as we had no plans or intentions of ever going beyond the desert.
It has been a great pleasure to talk to you, Brant! Thanks for your time with us today and we’re looking forward to your show tonight!
Cheers, guys! Nice talking to you and enjoy the rest of the festival!